on the waterfront
The Observer has been reaching out to urban planners for the past few days now to discuss the issues with our waterfront development in the face of storm surges and rising sea levels. One of the very first people we called was Vishaan Chakrabarti, the director of Columbia’s Center for Urban Real Estate and a partner at SHoP architects. (You can read what others had to think in a story in today’s print edition, as well as in posts still to come.)
Mr. Chakrabarti previously served as director of the Department of City Planning’s Manhattan office, so he was around when much of the waterfront planning by the Bloomberg administration, and the thousands of condos that came with it, were taking shape. Mayor Bloomberg, at least before the storm hit, was fine with things proceeding as they were on the waterfront, with little investment in new protections and infrastructure, while former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, who helped hatch many of these plans, wants more of both.
Mr. Chakrabarti has taken a more urgent stance. “The thing we as a city have to understand is, we’ve been promoting all this waterfront development, and most of that waterfront development is happening in the zone that is getting evacuated right now,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’re talking about thousands and thousands of housing units. It’s fine for that housing to be there, but we have to figure out a way to protect it all.”
But Mr. Chakrabarti also has a simple solution. Well, if the world’s largest floodgates would qualify as simple.
Planes Trains & Automobiles
We knew getting to work was going to be miserable today, but the gridlock is almost hard to fathom. It seems like people have given up wheels altogether in many spots and have just started walking.
For all the complaints about the city’s planned bike share system, is there any better way to get around right now? Social media is already flooded with reports of horrendous traffic—see the Instapic at left from The Times’s Sam Sifton, Journal transit reporter Ted Mann reports on Twitter that “City without subways: Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn is a titanic clog of traffic in the morning rush.”
“The deli will be open for breakfast shortly,” announces Mile End. “No MTA & heavy traffic delays slowing us down.” The Times has a pretty handy graphic of just how horrible it is.
The only thing thicker than the traffic is the tweeting and Facebooking about it. And the reports of multi-bus, multi-hour commutes, sans subway, are piling up.
This reporter will be riding his bike, and he can’t help but wonder if a lot more people would be, too, if they had the chance.
Special correspondent Ian Lamb tried to pitch in at Bellevue, but not being a doctor or a generator mechanic, he was turned away. Here is his report from the Middle to Lower East Side of Manhattan this afternoon.
There’s no power anywhere on the East Side until 42nd street. Drivers were surprisingly civil but it weirds me out. Every few blocks there’s a crowd of people who have found cell service; otherwise there is none. It’s all very 28 Days Later.
The whole of lower/downtown/LES manhattan was really creepy this morning. The weirdest thing was driving without any traffic lights or traffic cops. Everyone was being very respectful though, everyone stopped at every intersection. No animosity between pedestrians and drivers, for once. I think everyone was just in shock, though, because by the time I was driving out of Manhattan, everyone was back to being assholes.
Superstorm Sandy has been full of dramatic events, from the fire in Breezy Point to the flooding of all those tunnels, the explosion of the Con Edison plant, submersion of the Rockaways… it has been a terrifying 24 hours. But perhaps no moment typified the New York-iness of this storm quite like the crane accident at One57. Where but here would you find a death-defying incident 1,000 feet in the air involving a home for the world’s billionaires?
With that in mind, many New Yorkers have been wondering just what the fate of the crane boom that has been hanging precariously for more than a day would be. According to the Department of Buildings, inspections reveal that the crane should be safe for now, but given the difficult conditions from the storm, it has been very difficult to inspect the damage directly.
“Our engineers have been on the scene all day now with the crane,” Tony Sclafani, the DOB spokesman, said in a phone interview. “Up until this point, they have not been able to access the building due to high winds. But last night, two inspectors made their way up to the 70th floor, floor by floor, step by step, to make sure all the connections to the crane were secure. They were accompanied by firefighters along the way.”
The Mysteries of Brooklyn
We already know Mayor Bloomberg favors waterfront development, come hell or high water—literally—and so, too, does his former development czar Dan Doctoroff, now head of Bloomberg LP.
It was Mr. Doctoroff, in his capacity as deputy mayor for economic development, who thought up many of the schemes that have led to new apartment towers on the waterfront in Williamsburg and Hunters Point. Thousands of units have been built, tens of thousands have been planned. Mr. Doctoroff still believes that is a good idea, so long as appropriate measures are taken.
“I am obviously a believer in waterfront development,” Mr. Doctoroff said
“We all live in the area, I’m 10 minutes away, so it just seemed like why not,” Kenn Lowy said yesterday afternoon, sitting inside the small lobby of the Brooklyn Heights Cinema. This reporter had happened by two-screen indie theater in search of a sandwich while waiting out the storm at OEM HQ. Not even the bars were open, though the Chinese Restaurant and the Gristedes further up Henry Street were. The cinema had been showing movies there since 1971, and Mr. Lowy was not about to let something like a hurricane shut him down.
“We were open last year, for Hurricane Irene, and we got a lot of people in, so we figured we would do it again,” he explained. “People get cooped up inside their houses, they get cabin fever, I think it’s good to get out if you can. It’s all locals, though, everybody’s walking. We’re not getting anybody from Park Slope. Nobody wants to get stranded.”
Most of the Dumbo neighborhood, nestled between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges in Brooklyn, is situated in low-lying areas. Its primary artery is Main Street, where shops and restaurants sit at the entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The majority of this area is located in evacuation Zone A, so while most residents had already left their buildings by the time the devastating hurricane hit last night, most of the businesses and apartments located in these low-lying areas flooded pretty badly.
Looking for opportunities to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy? Many organizations are looking for volunteers.
We’ll keep this list updated as we learn of additional opportunities.
Mayor Bloomberg just announced at his morning press briefing, which is still ongoing, that at least 10 New Yorkers have died as a result of Hurricane Sandy. “There are 10 in the city, and we expect that to go up as more information comes in,” the mayor said.”I want to extend my condolences to their families and ask all New Yorkers to keep them in their thoughts and prayers.”
The mayor said that despite problems at numerous hospitals in the city last night, none recorded any fatalities. He also said there are roughly 6,100 people in city shelters. The top priority, the mayor said, is getting the MTA back up and running as well as power.
“We expected an unprecedented storm in New York City, and that’s what we got,” the mayor said. “While the storm has passed, it is still dangerous out there.”