At a town hall meeting in Brooklyn Tuesday night Rep. Nydia Velázquez said her goal is protect one of the city’s most vulnerable flood zones.
“We saw what happened after Sandy and we have to make some tough choices but we’ve got to look at what is the best option,” said Velázquez.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented a tentative flood protection plan along Newtown Creek in Greenpoint – a 3.5-mile long body of water connected to the East River, located between Brooklyn and Queens.
The plan includes 17-foot sea walls along the Greenpoint waterfront as well as a 130-foot long storm surge gate at the mouth of Newtown Creek. But activists say the project poses a major risk.
“The gates are not gonna prevent sea level rise, they’re not gonna address increased rainfall, all of these contribute to flooding,” said Willis Elkins, the executive director of Newtown Creek Alliance.
Newtown Creek not only poses a flood threat, but an environmental one as well. In 2010, it was named a Superfund site — a designation given to locations polluted with hazardous materials.
“For me it is very important that we do not compromise the cleanup of the superfund by building 15-foot walls that could have an impact on the Newtown Creek,” said Velázquez.
Activists said they want to see more environmentally friendly solutions to combat rising sea levels that would support the creek’s ecosystem.
“A natural solution is a wetland or a berm that is using natural features to prevent water from going in a certain direction and provides additional ecological benefits that are snarly needed in a place like Newtown Creek and will benefit the community as well,” said Elkins.
The public commentary period continues through March 7.
City and state officials will then need to approve the plan and Congress must agree to fund it. Army Corps anticipates that construction will begin in 2030 and be completed by 2044.