Oil spills into East River after Con Ed transformer failure

May11 Con Ed

Con Ed substation in Manhattan (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A failure of equipment at a Con Ed substation in Brooklyn has led to a so far unknown amount of oil to leak into the East River.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been responding to the problem since it was reported on Sunday afternoon, though as of Tuesday afternoon, it was unclear if the substance, dielectric fluid, was still leaking into the river in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The fluid, which is used to insulate transformer cables, is a kind of mineral oil, so “It’s not like sludge or petroleum,” said Coast Guard Public Affairs Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy. However, she added, “It’s still not native to the environment it’s leeching into.”

Additionally, while the Coast Guard is not aware of just how much of the oil has been spilled so far, she referred to the failure of a Con Ed transformer that led to the incident as “catastrophic.

“The transformer is caput,” she added.

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Man found dead in East River

East River

The East River (pictured in 2012). (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel.)

By Sabina Mollot

A man was found floating in the East River at around East 14th Street on Sunday afternoon, and as of Monday morning, police said they believe they know who it is.

While they wouldn’t release the name of the individual prior to his being officially identified by a family member, police said they are pretty certain it’s a 24-year-old homeless man with a history of depression.

A police source added that no criminality is suspected at this time. However, the investigation is ongoing and the NYC Medical Examiner is looking into the cause of death.

The man, after being pulled out of the water by the NYPD’s Marine and SCUBA Units at around 2:30 p.m., was taken to the Skyport Marina on East 23rd Street, where he was pronounced dead.

UPDATE on Tuesday: A woman who said she was the man’s mother told Town & Village her son “was a good person.”

The woman, who didn’t want to give her name, added that she last saw her son a month ago. “He was always helping everyone. I raised him to be a gentleman and he was a goodhearted person. We will all miss him.”

City proposes reconfiguring 2 playgrounds as part of East Side flood protection plan

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Asser Levy Playground (pictured) and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground will be impacted by the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. (Photo courtesy of Parks Department)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The city has been exploring options to redesign Asser Levy Playground and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground, since both will be affected by the construction of flood protection along the East Side of Manhattan from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street.

Earlier in the month, representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency discussed the proposals at a community meeting held at Washington Irving High School.

Carrie Grassi, the deputy director of planning for the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, mentioned how the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project will run adjacent to both parks and construction will disturb activities there.

However, since the city is only in the concept design stage with the project, Grassi said that decisions for all aspects aren’t necessarily final yet. One such instance is the placement of the floodwall as it approaches the Asser Levy Playground. One configuration has the wall bordering the park along the FDR Drive, turning along East 25th Street and connecting with the floodwall that the VA Hospital is working on.

“But some feel that would be too imposing,” Grassi said.

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July 4th fireworks go on, despite rain

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Fireworks as seen at Waterside Plaza (Photo by Edward O’Rourke)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, July 4th, New York City’s annual fireworks show dazzled viewers along The East River as Macy’s also celebrated its 40th anniversary of putting on the skyward display. This year, four fireworks barges were positioned between 23rd and 37th Streets with another double barge downtown. Despite on and off rain which turned into a downpour not long before the show began at around 9:30 p.m. the crowds came out, though their numbers were rivaled by all the police officers patrolling along the East Side. At Waterside Plaza, where residents get a front row seat to the spectacle, over a thousand people lined up outside to watch. The property, where holiday festivities also took place outdoors on the plaza, was sealed on Monday other than to residents and their guests. Many more spectators, despite the weather, gathered alongside the car-free FDR Drive for a still closeup view.

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ST-PCV TA will hold meeting on planned E. 20th St. ferry landing

The East River Ferry service that was launched last year recently served a million riders. Mayor Bloomberg announced that he and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will be launching a survey to help improve the service.

The East River Ferry

The city is planning to expand existing ferry service on the East River and citywide, and a new ferry landing is to be built at East 20th Street. The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association has invited officials from the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to fill residents in on the project. The new landing would be part of the Lower East Side route, a stop between an existing stop at East 34th Street and another at Wall Street/Pier 11.

The Tenants Association is holding an open meeting on Thursday, January 14 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the VA Medical Center atrium conference room, 423 East 23rd Street east of First Avenue.

Questions are encouraged, such as:

What impacts will the new facility have on noise and pollution? Will ferry passengers crowd local buses? What effect will the ferry landing have on the new storm barrier design? What impact will the landing have on pedestrians and bicyclists in Stuyvesant Cove Park? What new commuting options will be available to Stuy Town and Peter Cooper residents?

 

 

Elevated park option for East River waterfront

Those in attendance at the  meeting last Tuesday sat at tables while the pros and cons of each option for the project were discussed. (Pictured) Guests seated before the presentation began (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Those in attendance at the meeting last Tuesday sat at tables while the pros and cons of each option for the project were discussed. (Pictured) Guests seated before the presentation began (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

 By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Neighborhood residents recently learned that the East River may be getting a new elevated park along with flood protection. The discussion about the park took place at the most recent workshop for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, held at the Stein Senior Center last Tuesday. Representatives from the mayor’s office and BIG U, the winning design firm in the Rebuild by Design competition in 2013, said that this type of flood protection was one of the most popular with residents, according to feedback from the community at the previous workshop in May.

Carrie Grassi, senior policy adviser at the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, also discussed the three options for flood protection in the area along the East River between 14th and 23rd Streets, which includes a berm, which would have a park on top, a flood wall or a deployable, and noted that community members saw the advantages of all three depending on the area.

The area along the river from 14th to 23rd is known as Project Area 2 and Project Area 1 extends south from 14th Street to Montgomery Street. The workshops have been split along these boundaries to focus more on the specific needs of each area.

Grassi noted that there is a need for compromise when considering different characteristics even within each designated project area and the specifics of each kind of flood protection, and they’re hoping the workshops will help find the right balance for Project Area 2.

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Ideas for waterfront by Stuy Cove include cafes, elevated park

Area residents listen to a discussion about potential use of the waterfront at a meeting at Washington Irving High School. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Area residents listen to a discussion about potential use of the waterfront at a meeting at Washington Irving High School. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The coastal resiliency project backed by the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency has announced new possible plans for the waterfront by Stuyvesant Cove Park, with ideas including cafes or an elevated park.

The Tuesday evening workshop held at Washington Irving High School was more interactive than the previous gathering, which was mainly a presentation from ORR director Dan Zarilli and Jeremy Siegel, a project designer with the consultant team of Big U and director of Rebuild by Design.

Rebuild by Design was launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and held a competition for resiliency ideas, which resulted in the Big U project to protect the coastline known as the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.

ORR senior policy advisor Carrie Grassi said this week that there was a short gap between the end of the contest and the beginning of the design process, but the project is now gaining more momentum.

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Pols announce upcoming workshops on East Side Coastal Resiliency Project

Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez; Chris Collins, executive director of Solar One; Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Council Member Dan Garodnick at Solar One (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez; Chris Collins, executive director of Solar One; Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Council Member Dan Garodnick at Solar One (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney gathered with local politicians and community residents at Solar One last Friday to encourage participation at upcoming workshops that will help design the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, a plan that was designed in response to the damage wrought on Lower Manhattan as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

“Sandy demonstrated that the time for complacency is over,” Maloney said on Friday. “Sea levels are rising. That suggests that we’re going to be seeing a lot more flooding, but now we have an opportunity to seize the moment and remake Manhattan’s East River coastline from Montgomery to 23rd Street into something that protects us from future storm surges.”

President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy rebuilding task force created the Rebuild by Design initiative in August 2013 and held a design competition for coastal resiliency projects. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development selected the BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) Team and their project that will protect the Manhattan waterfront from West 57th Street, around the tip of Manhattan up to East 42nd Street. The first phase of the project will focus on the area in Manhattan from Montgomery Street to East 23rd Street.

HUD awarded $335 million in federal funds in June, 2014 for that specific phase of the project, to create a protective system for that area of Manhattan. The project is meant to shield the area from flooding as well as provide more access to the waterfront, more open space and other environmental benefits for the community.

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Woman found dead in East River at 23rd Street

The East River by Stuyvesant Cove Park, pictured on a frigid day in late February (Photo by Edmund Dunn)

The East River by Stuyvesant Cove Park, pictured on a frigid day in late February (Photo by Edmund Dunn)

The body of a woman was found in the East River on Sunday afternoon at 23rd Street.

The so-far unidentified woman was described as black and in her 40s to 50s. She was found floating face down after police got a call at 2:40 p.m. about a body in the water 15-20 feet from the shore line. At that point the water was about five feet deep. Emergency responders pronounced her dead at the scene. There were no signs of trauma to her body but as of Monday afternoon police did not have information as to how she died. An investigation is ongoing.

CW sues insurer over Sandy claims

 

Workers in the repair and cleanup effort in Peter Cooper Village in November, 2012

Workers in the repair and cleanup effort in Peter Cooper Village in November, 2012

 

By Sabina Mollot
It was 28 months ago when the wrath of Hurricane Sandy caused the East River to rise 14 feet and barrel its way into Manhattan’s East Side. In Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, the gushing water caused unprecedented damage, destroying the management office and flooding basements and garages. But according to CWCapital, its insurance company has still not paid over a third of what the owner believes is owed for the damage.
The suit, filed last Thursday, said Lexington Insurance Co. has only paid $60 million of the repair costs and estimated losses that the owner has claimed were actually over $95 million. Adding insult to injury, the insurance company is also trying to bring the entire amount, including what has already been paid, to appraisal.

In its complaint, which is over 100 pages long, CW said the insurer, despite having its agents examine the damage on site, has “capped what it was willing to pay, regardless of the costs of repair.” Additionally, “Lexington simply ignored PCV/ST’s pleas for payment while at the same time, acknowledging that they were covered.”

The suit, which was first reported by Law360, noted how employees on the property immediately started work on the repairs to minimize the inconvenience to residents, which CW said served to minimize business interruption losses.
CW had hoped to get the insurer to agree on a $100 million settlement but Lexington and agents for Lexington from an insurance industry adjuster called Vericlaim “rebuffed those efforts.”

14th Street between Avenues B and C during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (Photographer unknown)

East River water buried cars outside of Stuyvesant Town when Hurricane Sandy hit. (Photographer unknown)

CW said it has since refined its estimate to reflect newer information and now believes the actual costs from repairs and losses amount to $95,296,483. The owner said the insurer has been provided with access to the property’s employees as well as the related documentation. “PCV/ST has responded to reasonable, and many unreasonable requests for information by Lexington and Vericlaim,” CW wrote.

CW also wrote that the refusal to pay the full estimate is the result of an “incomplete” inspection that was conducted in 2013 by an insurance industry construction consultant called Wakelee Associates. “Based largely on Wakelee’s results,” Lexington informed CW that the loss and damage amounted to about $60 million. Close to $53 million of that has actually been paid out, which, with the $7,500,000 deductible, reflects Lexington’s $60 million estimate.

CW also said some of its costs have been challenged in cases where equipment had to be replaced rather than just repaired. CW defended its actions though, citing in one example the property’s heat controls. The system had controllers that were destroyed in many buildings when Sandy hit. A different type of system was then installed since the original one was no longer commercially available.

CW gave some other examples of not receiving all it believes the property was owed, including in work relating to replacement of all the buildings’ cast iron drain pipes, which had all gotten clogged with water and debris. When dozens of onsite plumbers couldn’t unclog them, contractors had to be hired to saw through concrete basement floors, which meant additional costs to replace floors, drywall, tile and other property. A year later, Wakelee “took the position they could have been unclogged,” said CW, adding that there were no objections when the work was being done. CW said Lexington also accused the owner of having a “premeditated plan” to replace them.

Workers clean out an Avenue C garage in November, 2012 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Workers clean out an Avenue C garage in November, 2012 (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The document went on to list other things CW was stuck footing all or some of the bill for such as replacement of steel window and door frames that had been exposed to river water and had corroded, work at the old management office, now converted into apartments (specifically installation of equipment and furniture), damaged fire mains, asbestos removal from buildings, reimbursement for employees’ cleanup/repair work (since they were diverted from their regular duties to do it) and income loss from laundry rooms, garages and the fitness center.
CW is also attempting to block Lexington from pursuing appraisal.

A spokesperson for CWCapital said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation, and a spokesperson for Lexington didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Community Boards 3, 6 create task force on waterfront resiliency

Kayakers fill the East River by Stuyvesant Cove Park during an event last June. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Kayakers fill the East River by Stuyvesant Cove Park during an event last June. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community Board 6 and 3 recently formed a joint task force to offer guidance on how new features along the East Side waterfront can be incorporated into a recently-funded project focused on waterfront resiliency. The new task force met for the first time this past Monday to discuss preliminary ideas for the project and is composed of 11 representatives, including members of CB3, CB6 and various community stakeholders.

CB6 chair Sandro Sherrod, who is also chairing the task force, said that while construction isn’t expected to begin until at least 2017 and the project is currently in the conceptual design phase, the task force is planning to have additional meetings and invite the public to look at different options and various design elements.

The project, which is spearheaded by the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR), is known as the BIG U and is the result of a design competition that was held by Housing and Urban Development in which participants came up with ideas on how to fix areas that were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. HUD approved $335 million in funding for the project last October.

The BIG U in the project refers to a ten-mile long protective barrier to be built along the east side of Manhattan from East 42nd Street down to the Battery, then looping in a U shape up to East 57th Street. Instead of typical flood barriers and walls, the project proposes to include seawalls, raised pathways, parks, locally appropriate berms and mechanized operable barriers. The plan splits the project into three distinct zones, one of which is the area between Montgomery Street on the Lower East Side and East 23rd Street.

The “zone” from Montgomery Street on the Lower East Side along the waterfront extends to East 23rd Street but this area is split into two different parts. The first project area includes the region below East 14th Street, which includes a number of NYCHA developments on the Lower East Side that were badly damaged by flooding, currently has more concrete design plans than the second project area but the task force will be working with the BIG U team to solidify ideas for the area north of East 14th Street.

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Boaters float ideas for East River Waterfront

Kayakers paddle around at an event at Stuyvesant Cove Park in June.  At a recent Community Board 6 meeting, Council Member Dan Garodnick answered questions from community residents about ideas for improvements at Stuyvesant Cove Park and said available funds would be most conducive to a kayak launch. Other suggestions for utilizing the East River waterfront were also brought up. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Kayakers paddle around at an event at Stuyvesant Cove Park in June.  (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Local waterfront organizations attended CB6’s Land Use and Waterfront committee meeting to provide options for East River access.

At the committee’s October meeting, City Council member Dan Garodnick called on community members and organizations to come up with suggestions for how to use the $1 million in funding that his office has secured for East River access so representatives from waterfront groups returned in November to offer their proposals.
Stuyvesant Cove Park has served as a launching point for kayakers for the last three summers and representatives from the Watertrail Association, Long Island City Boathouse, Urban Swim, the Lower East Side Ecology Center and Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance have been working to provide easier access to recreational boating on the East Side.

The area of the East River around Stuyvesant Cove Park has a natural beach, which has made it an adequate launching site for kayaks when the tide is low, but one of the main problems is access to the beach itself.
During the summer when free kayaking events are available, there is usually a cooler for kayakers to step over and a ladder to get down to the beach, making it difficult and precarious to get to the boats.

“It gives people the impression that they’re doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” Nancy Brous, of the Watertrail Association, added.

Ted Gruber, a volunteer with the Long Island City Boathouse, was skeptical that any of the proposals would be implemented by next season and suggested that an interim solution be used in the meantime.
“It would be a lot better if we had an opening in the fence we could use to get to the beach,” he said. “This is something we think could be achieved before the next season.”

Brous outlined the plans for the eventual kayak launch that would potentially be functional by the summer of 2016 and which would include permanent storage for boats, a floating dock and educational space.
Gruber emphasized that storage space for boats is crucial because it increases the number of volunteer hours to have to transport the boats back and forth between other storage facilities and the water.
Steven Leslie, a resident of East 24th Street and Second Avenue, created a Stuy Cove Kayaking listserv and has been working on programming to get residents involved with the water. He said that the educational space is a key part of getting children and students interested in the water quality and environment.

“We could liaise with local schools because the park is already a place where a lot of students come for educational activities,” he said.

The committee ultimately proposed a resolution to support the plans for a floating dock and a 3,000 s/f structure with an educational component, as well as the interim solution of moving the gate to make the beach more accessible.