Coastal Flooding Zones and Brooklyn Waterfront Development

Whether or not the media overhyped Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene (the hype was indeed justified for the once-in-a-generation flooding event in upstate New York and Vermont), the storm did bring New York City’s planning for potential flooding into the broader public consciousness, and perhaps helped to foster a new kind of awareness of Brooklyn’s intimate relationship with its watery perimeter. The map above, created by WNYC’s web guru John Keefe (you can find the original interactive, “zoomable” version here), vividly illustrates Zones A, B, and C, areas of varying threat gradation from hurricane storm surge. Zone A, the area most likely to flood with storm surge from a hurricane of any intensity, includes the recently developed “Gold Coast” of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, as well as all of Red Hook and Coney Island, two other “hot zones” of current and future development. (This zone was under a mandatory evacuation order; it would be interesting to know how many denizens of the new high-rises complied.) As climate scientists and meteorologists almost universally concur that we are entering a new phase of more violent weather events and rising seas, could Irene serve as an urgent reminder that future waterfront development needs to take these contingencies seriously? And might the city’s evacuation zoning have some sort of impact on the real estate market? Or will these concerns quickly evaporate as Irene’s media cycle expires?

Irene prompted an even more granular analysis of storm surge effects in the NYC metro area and Long Island by Steven Romalewski, the Director of the CUNY Mapping Service, which you can find at his blog, Spatiality. His August 30 entry is password protected, but there are some other great resources here.

Gribbles and Shipworms! A Cleaner NY Harbor Creates a Problem for New Waterfront Parks

Make sure to check out this fascinating article in today’s New York Times about the cleaner water in New York Harbor enabling the return of two sea creatures–gribbles and shipworms–that snack on the wooden pilings supporting several new waterfront parks that are under construction, most notably Brooklyn Bridge Park. Mitigating the problem has added millions to construction costs.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe is quoted in the piece, pointing to the irony of the situation: “We literally have a clean harbor, but it’s causing incredible devastation to the physical infrastructure of the waterfront, and it’s costly to repair and replace.”

We Have a Winner!

The BWRC took part in City of Water Day on July 16 on Governors Island. We sought the public’s input on important issues facing Brooklyn’s waterfront and offered a prize for the best suggestion. Nancy Cardozo of Brooklyn submitted the winning suggestion:

Preserve existing working waterfront, grow and encourage industries that will need, train and hire skilled and unskilled workers, balance with recreation and environment. Piece of cake! Floating pools!

She also had this to say:

Any place where water meets land fascinates me, and I find the way humans have modified that intersection of elements to meet their needs especially complicated and compelling.  I’m interested in restoration of screwed-up waterways, but  especially in noticing the ways that nature takes  back these post-industrial zones. 



Congratulations, Nancy! She and her guest will enjoy a Hidden Harbor boat tour of Newark Bay.

Oct. 26 Conference: The Waterfront – A Brooklyn Model for Preservation and Change

The Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center is excited to be co-sponsoring a morning conference at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall on Wednesday, October 26, that will feature a wide array of speakers on the theme of preservation and change along Brooklyn’s shoreline. The BWRC is co-sponsoring the event with the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College and the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems.

The Center’s two research fellows, Sapna Advani, who is director of planning at Chelsea West Architects, and Jonathan R. Peters, who is Professor of Finance at the College of Staten Island of CUNY, will present original papers based on the research that they have been conducting under the Center’s auspices. Advani’s paper will discuss the design opportunities and problems facing the borough’s waterfront in the present and near future, with a particular focus on the Sunset Park neighborhood. Peters’s paper will analyze the economic forces that challenge Brooklyn’s “working waterfront,” with an emphasis on the transportation issues that are crucial to the retention of waterfront industries. Both reports will be distributed in a joint Newman Institute/BWRC publication featuring photographs by City Tech Professor Robin Michals.

Other speakers include Nicholas Brooke, the chairman of Hong Kong’s Habourfront Commission; Richard Hanley, Director of the BWRC; Bonnie Harken, the co-chair of the American Planning Association’s Waterfront Committee; Roland Lewis, the president and CEO of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance; Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz; Jack S. Nyman, director of the Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College; and Seth W. Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

For more information, see the Newman Institute’s page for the event here.

Register for a seat at this free event here.

The BWRC celebrated City of Water Day – were you there?

The Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center joined hundreds of other organizations and thousands of other supporters, fans and enthusiasts of NYC’s waterways on Governors Island this past Saturday for City of Water Day. We spent the day gathering fascinating stories and valuable input from dozens of people about their thoughts, hopes, opinions, and best anecdotes about Brooklyn’s waterfront. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table to share your thoughts on the Brooklyn waterfront. The winner of our contest for the best suggestion on the waterfront will be announced later this week.

Have a suggestion, an opinion, a thought or an anecdote to share, or a favorite waterfront spot to reveal? Let us know in the comments!

Research Fellows and Program Coordinator Appointed

The BWRC is delighted to announce the appointment of two research fellows and a project coordinator!

Sapna Advani is our research fellow for preservation and urban design.  Sapna is currently Director of Planning at Chelsea West Architects and has over fifteen years’ experience designing and planning complex urban projects in New York City and internationally. She holds a Master of Architecture and Urban Design from Pratt Institute, and a Bachelor of Architecture from Sushant School of Art and Architecture. As research fellow, she will present an original paper on waterfront planning and preservation at the BWRC’s inaugural conference in October. Her paper will describe opportunities to create reinforced connections between diverse communities and industries along the waterfront’s frontage through programmatic, ecological, recreational and cultural insertions, creating a prototype for a truly holistic world‐class waterfront destination.

Jonathan R. Peters is our Research Fellow in Economics for the BWRC. In October, he will present an original paper on current and historic economic conditions of Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront. Dr. Peters is a professor of finance in the Business Department at The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York and a member of the Doctoral Faculty in the Ph.D. Program in Earth and Environmental Science at the CUNY Graduate Center. He is also a Research Fellow at The University Transportation Research Center at The City College of New York. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the City University of New York and his Masters in Economics from Hunter College. His work on public-private partnerships was published in 2006 by the New York State Department of Transportation. He has previously published in The Journal of Applied Finance, Transportation Quarterly, Business Horizons, Public Works Management & Policy, and most recently in the Transportation Research Record. He currently conducts research in the areas of regional planning, road and mass transit financing, corporate and public sector performance metrics, capital costs and performance management.
Dr. Peters grew up on the waterfront in New York City in a family with strong ties to both the recreational and working waterfront. His family has been active in the New York City Maritime Community for over 130 years. Dr. Peters is the brother, son, grandson and great-grandson of ship captains who work/worked in or out of the Port of New York. He currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Noble Maritime Collection on Staten Island.

Brendan P. O’Malley is the BWRC’s program coordinator. Brendan is a doctoral candidate in the History Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. His dissertation examines the state agency that oversaw immigration into the Port of New York from 1847 to 1890, before the opening of the Ellis Island Station and the establishment of federal jurisdiction. He has given papers at several academic conferences, and recently organized a panel on state power and immigration that was accepted for the Organization of American Historians’ 2012 annual meeting. He has also delivered public talks at the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library. He is co-editor of Home Fronts: A Wartime America Reader (New Press, 2008) with Michael S. Foley. As Program Coordinator at the BWRC, Brendan plans and promotes the Center’s events, facilitates outreach to relevant organizations and businesses, and assists the Director in cultivating the Center’s research agenda.

Welcome, Sapna, Jon, and Brendan!

Calls for Research Fellows

The Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center seeks applications for Research Fellowships that will begin on May 1, 2011. Each fellow will undertake a project that will include original research and result in the publication of a research paper and a presentation of that paper at a Brooklyn Waterfront conference on October 26, 2011. More information about the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center is available here.

Research Fellow in Architecture, Preservation, or Urban Design
There is much to preserve and much that can be changed along Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront, and much is being preserved and much is being changed. The Research Fellow, focusing on issues of architecture, preservation, and urban design, will study and provide a detailed overview of the models of preservation and change that are occurring in this area. The fellow will look at industry/manufacturing, housing, open spaces/recreation, maritime  industries, and cultural initiatives. The fellow will explore the reuse of existing structures and the construction of new ones. He or she will study City plans and zoning and projects that are stalled, planned, or under way. The fellow should put Brooklyn’s development in an historical or international context and formulate a series of conclusions and offer topics or areas for further research.

Research Fellow in Economics, Economic History, or Development
Economic forces contributed to the need for the change that we see along the Brooklyn waterfront and that change has had economic effects. The BWRC fellow who receives this appointment will be asked to put the changes that are occurring along the Brooklyn waterfront in an historical context, showing how processes like the containerization of cargo or the globalization of manufacturing have had profound economic effects on the area.Alternatively, the fellow might examine how a convergence of other forces and circumstances resulted in change and how current economic conditions are affecting the shifts that have been under way in housing, industry, and recreation. Whichever approach is taken, it will be important to explore the economic effects, positive and negative, of preservation efforts along the waterfront. Here too, the fellow should put the Brooklyn waterfront’s development in an international context and formulate a series of conclusions and offer topics or areas for further research.

If you are interested in applying for one of the Center fellowships, please submit a two-page narrative explaining how you would approach the project. Narratives should be accompanied by a CV and one letter of recommendation. All materials should be sent to Center Director Richard E. Hanley at rhanley[at]
These fellowships are open to faculty of institutions both inside and outside of CUNY. They are also open to accomplished scholars outside the academy. Non-CUNY employees will receive a $5,000 stipend; for CUNY employees, alternative compensation arrangements will be made.

Download this announcement as a PDF here.