A Hunts Point flood protection plan has received a $20 million federal grant.
The proposal, developed by the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and OLIN, a landscape and urban design group, was a winner of a competition run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which called for proposals to protect vulnerable coastal areas.
Richard Roark, a landscape architect with OLIN, said Hunts Point was chosen as a location for competition design because it was an answer to the question “What is the most vulnerable and valuable to our region?”
Hunts Point is home to New York City’s Food Distribution Center, which creates over 25,000 jobs, $5 billion in annual economic activity, and feeds millions of people in the tri-state area, said Paul Lipson.
The market is in a flood zone, he said, and if the markets were ever shut down because of a flood or power failure, the effects could be devastating.
Roark said that in addition to offering flood protection, the design team also took the neighborhood’s environmental concerns and health problems into consideration.
“There’s no cookie cutter solution,” said Roark about the community’s needs.
Lipson said the design team came into the community very willing to listen, and as a result the proposal ended up being a combination of solutions Hunts Point residents have been talking about for years.
“It was as grassroots as possible,” said Lipson.
Roark said a key component to the flood protection plan are the levees that wrap around the peninsula. But what is unique about the barrier is that it will connect and add usable greenspace in the neighborhood, he said, as well as function as a research lab for living barrier methods.
Another key component is a clean energy micro-grid, Roark said, which in addition to providing back-up energy for the markets will also provide energy for refrigerated trucks waiting to unload, so that they don’t need to idle and produce unnecessary exhaust.
“It’s about infrastructure that’s useful 100 percent of the time,” Roark said about the proposal.
Winning the grant is just the first of many steps for the Hunts Point plan.
Roark said that if all the components of the plan are executed, it would cost upwards of $800 million.
A statement from Department of Housing and Urban Development said the $20 million is intended “for continued robust planning and study related to the future of the food market and a small pilot/demonstration project (to be selected/identified by the City).”
Roark said the competition win and grant is a great start for the ambitious plan.
“It’s enough to ensure this stays active and moves forward,” he said.
“What we have now is a road map,” Lipson said about the proposal. “Because its a regional food source, we have to believe city, state, and federal officials will step in.”