New York National Public Radio Affiliate WNYC recently reported on an initiative of The Pratt Center for Community Development to “flood-proof” a bungalow community in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Due to poor sewer connections and an unusual site layout, the neighborhood was inundated during fall 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. The almost 200 homes stand about four feet below street level and are accessible via narrow passageways rather than roads. Residents are rallying behind plans developed by Deborah Gans, a Pratt undergraduate architecture professor working with the Pratt Center for Community Development. Gans’ design would elevate the homes to improve access and drainage, and make them less vulnerable to future storms. The overall plan of raising homes collectively will need to be agreed upon by all the residents of each block.
Pratt Center organizer Elana Bulman discussed the project’s challenges with WNYC: “It is dealing with individual homeowners who are thinking, ‘Okay, what does this mean for me?’ And then you are also trying to convince everyone that this is only going to work if everyone pitches in and has the same vision for their block.”
The most popular idea is to build a boardwalk that is level with the surrounding street, elevate houses as much as eight feet above street level to comply with the new flood maps, and then raise the sewage system. This universal elevation would improve stormwater and sewage drainage, save residents money on flood-insurance costs, and eliminate the need for steep staircases in front of homes. Residents are open to the idea.
“They realize they want it to be an integrated solution,” Gans told WNYC. “They do want to raise their houses. And they also want to raise how they get to them.”