NYC Flood Zone Site Visit - Spanish Harlem

I visited the southern part of Spanish Harlem, which saw extensive Sandy damage (which was mostly contained within the 2007 flood zone). This area is interesting for two reasons:

  • There is a significant difference between 2007 and 2013 (FEMA proposed) flood maps in the area (blue vs. yellow on the map).
  • There is vast wealth disparity across just 2-3 blocks: If you walk east on 108th, the first two blocks, between Central Park West and Park Ave, are extremely prosperous. The five blocks east of Park Ave are dominated by 9 NYCHA properties, including roughly eight complete city blocks along 108th that saw signficant Sandy damagesite_visit-1
  1. The first interesting thing I saw on the walk was on the fanciest block I visited: 108th between 5th and Madison. The alley between buildings was concave (and looked newly designed maybe?), as pictued. Not sure what the pupose of this is, but it helps explain why that single block is part of the new flood zone while others are not. Would this design have been the same if builders knew that their building could be a in a future version of a flood zone as a result?
  2. 107th was a quieter street, but it became more commercial as I traveled east. Lots of buildings under construction here, and some street art dedicated to Puerto Rico in the wake Hurricane Maria. It stood on front of an empty lot that saw damage from Sandy.
  3. 108th runs in the the Clinton NYCHA development, which covers 107-109th and 3rd Ave to the river. This area actually feels very open because the street doesn't run through and the buildings themselves are tall but sparse. Everything between the buildings is concrete and flat. I talked to a few security guards (well... they talked to me to figure out what I was doing there). They were around during Sandy and said the there was, indeed, lapping water on the concrete. They also said things would have been worse if not for the "natural levies" provided by the most Easternly buildings (not actually part of the NYCHA development) that form an unbroken barrier to FDR/the river.
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