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.

Continue reading

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.”

July 4th fireworks go on, despite rain

edward1

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Local bird’s-eye 4th of July

Fireworks, as seen from Waterside, lit up the night on July 4th. (Photo by Tobias Batz)

Fireworks, as seen from Waterside, lit up the night on July 4th. (Photo by Tobias Batz)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, July 4th, with four of Macy’s barges lined up from 23rd to 37th Streets over the East River, residents at Waterside Plaza enjoyed a particularly enviable view of the fireworks this year.

Throughout the evening, with access limited to residents and their guests, between 5,000 and 6,000 people lined up along the outdoor plaza.

Thousands more lined up just north of Waterside’s towers along the car-free FDR Drive. Another fireworks display took place further downtown near the Brooklyn Bridge. Before the sky filled with the familiar flash and boom though, at Waterside, festivities also included a barbecue on the plaza for residents and various kids’ activities.

During this time, Town & Village spoke with residents to ask about what July 4th has been like there over the years.

Continue reading

Fireworks viewing spots, street closures on July 4th

(Photo by Sabina Mollot)

(Photo by Sabina Mollot)

With the July 4th Macy’s fireworks show on the East Side this year, it may be viewed in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn from any area with an unobstructed view of the sky above the East River.

The public viewing sections for Manhattan will be the elevated portions of FDR Drive with the following entry points:

From Houston Street to midtown: Houston Street, 23rd Street, 34th Street and 42nd Street.

From Lower Manhattan: Broad Street ground level, Old Slip upper level, Pearl and Frankfort.

ADA /Special Needs Viewing Area:

FDR Drive southbound lane at 16th Street and Avenue C or 34th Street (top of ramp) and Vietnam Memorial Park

Stuy Town and Waterside alerts:

Waterside Plaza will be holding a party that’s closed to anyone who isn’t a resident or a guest with a wristband. Wristband access only times are 12 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Deadline to register for wristbands is 2 p.m. on July 2.

Additionally, the NYPD will be closing streets to traffic around Stuyvesant Town. CompassRock issued a notice to tenants saying 14th, 20th and 23rd Streets from First Avenue to Avenue C will be closed to vehicular traffic from 6 p.m. to midnight. Peter Cooper Road and Stuy Town’s Loop Roads will also be closed from 6 p.m. to midnight. Avenue C and the FDR Drive will also be closed from 5 p.m. to midnight. During this time, entrances to Stuy Town will be staffed by Public Safety officers so residents will need to have their ID ready. Gates to Peter Cooper entrances will also be closed from 6 p.m. to midnight but Public Safety officers will be on hand to allow residents access. Guests of residents will be asked which residents and apartments they are visiting. Garages will be inaccessible from 5 p.m. to midnight and playgrounds will be closed at 6 p.m.

UPDATE: We didn’t hear from anyone in time to include this in this week’s issue of Town & Village, but Stuyvesant Cove Park will also be closed during the fireworks, according to a Solar 1 staffer, except for a ticketed event held by Zum Schneider at the north end of the park.

Letters to the Editor, June 25

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Unanswered questions about sanitation garage

To the editor and our community,

This is an open letter prepared for comments regarding a DEIS for the sanitation garage planned for the Brookdale site in our neighborhood.

This consolidated garage will be a big industrial facility located in between to two public hospitals, the NYU Dental School and just a few blocks from at least two large middle class apartment complexes and several schools. I believe we in this community are owed detailed, scientific explanations of New York City’s plans to handle various industrial activities within and around this garage.

1) The trucks will be washed with some regularity. Assuming this will take tons of water and chemicals to disinfect, how will this be handled? Assuming it will go into the sewer system, can the existing sewers handle these copious amounts? Are you planning to dig and expand the current pipes? For how many blocks? What sewage treatment plant will receive this? Will any of this go into the East River when there are storms? Are there any VOCs (volatile organic chemicals) used in this process and how are they handled?

2) A garbage truck has many moving parts and at least one hydraulic system. They will be repaired and/or serviced in this garage.  Such processes have to use petroleum products and benzene or similar solvents. Again, how are any VOCs handled? Please describe how waste from these repairs, refittings etc. will be handled.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Con Ed employees win industry award for East River fish protection project

Workers install equipment in the East River that reduces the plant’s impact on the  marine life. (Photo courtesy of Con Ed.)

Workers install equipment in the East River that reduces the plant’s impact on the marine life. (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

By Sabina Mollot

Two Con Ed employees have been recognized for developing a system that protects the fish in the East River from the utility’s steam and electric plant operations.

Gary Thorn, a section manager in Central Engineering, and Brian Brush, senior scientist in Environmental Health and Safety, were the winners of an industry award called the Technology Transfer Award from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

The pair led a $36 million project to design a system of five screens with fine mesh panels to filter fish, eggs and larvae from the water cooling intake at the East River generating station off East 14th Street. Additionally, while the work had initially been expected to be completed by the end of 2014, it wound up being done over a year ahead of schedule, by the end of 2013. The project started in 2006 with testing and site evaluation and review of technologies.

“A lot of the early work consisted of collection of data like how many fish there were,” said Brush. “It was a good deal of fish, but it’s importance to distinguish that when we say fish the technology also protects eggs and larvae and they’re more abundant than actual fish.”

The screens, along with a fish-return system, reduce the plant’s impact on the river. The fish-return system uses a low-pressure spray to gently remove any aquatic organisms trapped on the screens and return them to the river.

Continue reading

Letters to the Editor, Nov. 27

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Remembering the Ave. C sanitation garage

Dear Town & Village,

I am writing about your October 9 page one article, “CB6 offers proposal: sanitation garage could go near Con Ed.”

It went on to say, “(there’s) a plan that presents the possibility of building the facility near the Con Edison plant at East 14th Street and Avenue C.” (That’s where the big gas tanks used to be; Stuyvesant Town was – out of what used to be known as “The Gashouse District” and is now a sports field for Little League baseball and soccer.) For Community Board 6 it would be an alternative to building a garage the Department of Sanitation wants to build at East 25th Street between First Avenue and the FDR.

Once upon a time, there was a sanitation garage on Avenue C between 16th and 17th Streets and it was there before STPCV was built. It was enormous, taller than ST buildings and it was large enough to hold several ST buildings with space to spare. From my parents’ window, you could see ST buildings, Playground 4, the FDR Drive, the East River and “the building.”

It was referred to as “The Sanitation Garage” or “the building” because there was nothing designating its name. That was just one of its mysteries. All anyone knew was that sanitation trucks (called “garbage trucks” then), snow plows and other snow removal equipment and other vehicles for various city uses parked there. You rarely saw a vehicle enter and never saw a vehicle leave. They made very little noise entering the building’s steep ramp. No one I knew ever saw a vehicle leave it. There was never a light on in any of its windows.

The only sign of life in it ever were yellow painted block letters on 23 of its many thousands of windows spelling out “Welcome, Colonel John Glenn.” This was in 1962, after he became the first American to orbit the earth. He was in New York for a ticker-tape parade and the FDR Drive overpass by it. My guess is he didn’t see it while playing handball in Pat’s Park.

The sign stayed on its windows until the building was town down in the 1980s.

I remember thinking, “they shouldn’t tear this building down because they don’t build them like this anymore and they’ll need it sometime in the future.” It would have solved the problem of building a new one on East 14th and Avenue C (and eliminating the sports field there now) or building a new one on East 25th Street.

If a new sanitation garage is built on East 15th and Avenue C, it might outlive STPCV. In 2065, there may not be an STPCV. Who knows what the future holds?

STPCV might be bought up, leveled and replaced by higher-priced high rises. Its tenants may find the sanitation garage not “befitting” their neighborhood and pressure the powers that be into building one some place else (possibly East 25th Street). Then they would have a lovely field at East 15th and Avenue C worthy of their children’s need for a large sports field.

A cautionary tale,

Richard Luksin
Minneapolis, MN

Continue reading

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.

Bellevue gets $380M for Sandy rebuilding

Bellevue Hospital (Photo courtesy of hospital)

Bellevue Hospital (Photo courtesy of hospital)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Bellevue Hospital Center will get a $376 million slice of federal money to cover the cost of putting right damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced last Thursday that the city has secured $1.6 billion in federal aid from FEMA to repair the city’s public hospitals damaged during Hurricane Sandy two years ago.

With its share of the cash, Bellevue will install flood-proof elevators, storm pumps and a flood wall.

“The entire New York Congressional Delegation came together to fight for these funds, and wisely sought resources not just for repairs, but also for mitigation,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, in whose district the hospital is located.

“Bellevue is an important facility and it sustained substantial damage and had to be evacuated during Hurricane Sandy. We are taking the necessary steps to be sure that doesn’t happen again.”

According to Bellevue authorities, much of the damage caused by the 2012 superstorm has already been repaired and the fresh FEMA funds will reimburse HHC for those repairs and mitigation work.

Many pieces of critical equipment, such as electrical switching gear, have been relocated out of the basement to higher elevation on the first floor and the hospital has installed removable flood barriers at the two loading dock entrances facing the East River.

Continue reading