Friday, April 24, 2015

Important Information For All Gowanus (And Red Hook) Residents Who Got A Letter From FEMA

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Gowanus Canal overflowing its banks during Hurricane

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Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez’s letter to the FEMA Administrator regarding 
the National Flood Insurance Program and its process for reopening claims.


In the past few days, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent out letters regarding updated flood maps for New York City to all property owners in or near the Special Flood Hazardous Area newly identified by the federal agency.

The Agency encourages everyone to identify their property's flood risk by checking the Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps. The maps can be accessed here and here.

In the letter, FEMA stresses that the maps are only preliminary. A public comment and appeal period began on March 31st, 2015 and will continue until June 28th, 2015. During this period, homeowners can challenge FEMA's new maps by sending technical and/or scientific data regarding their individual property.

After FEMA evaluates all challenges and appeals, the new maps will be incorporated and flood insurance purchase requirements will go into effect.

Clearly, this is an important issue for homeowners in both Gowanus and Red Hook.  The  information created by FEMA has generated more questions and has left many owners confused, as they are trying to navigate through this process in a relatively short time period.

FEMA has held a community meeting in Red Hook two weeks ago.  After residents called for a similar meeting in Gowanus, FEMA and the City have just announced that they will be happy to organize an informational  meeting in the Gowanus/ Carroll Gardens area.
That is good news.  I will be posting information on the meeting as soon as a date has been set, so stay tuned.

Above also please fine Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez’s letter to the FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate regarding the National Flood Insurance Program and its process for reopening claims.
Her office has been very helpful in this matter.

A few days ago, I was contacted by Antony Gemmell, Staff Attorney for New York Legal Assistance Group, a non-profit organization which provides free legal services to people who were impacted by Superstorm Sandy.
Gemmell let me know that New York Legal Assistance Group "offers advice and representation on a wide range of legal issues related to Sandy, including flood insurance."
Please avail yourself of the organization's services by contacting NYLAG's Storm Response Unit (SRU) client intake team at (212) 584-3365 or stormhelp@nylag.org.

If you received the FEMA letter because your property is either is zone A or Zone X, you need to take the time to understand what all of this will mean. This has some very important ramifications beyond getting flood insurance.




Thursday, April 23, 2015

Red Hook Is Celebrating Earth Day On Saturday With A Community Clean Up, Food, Music, And Planting Activities

Red Hook is celebrating Earth Day on Saturday, April 25th with a community clean-up and with a fair.
The clean-up starts at 11 o'clock in front of the library at 7 Wolcott Street. The fair begins at 1 pm at the NYCHA Farm at Red Hook Houses (located at 8 Wolcott Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231).

Wearable Collections will have a table at the fair, so drop off your clothing, shoes, and textiles for reuse!



A View From Gowanus: Rainbow On Earth Day

(photo credit: Linda Darling
This amazing photo was taken last evening at about 6:30 pm after a rainstorm by local resident Linda Darling, who took it from the third floor of a building at Union and Nevins Streets in Gowanus.
Thank you so much for sharing, Linda.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Picture Of The Day: Just For A Moment

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Magnolia blooms at their peek a few days ago.  
The rain was not kind to them and most have already fallen to the ground.  
But for just a few days, the flowers were magnificent.
At the corner of Smith and Carroll Street.



"There Is Hope!": Christopher Swain Did Indeed Swim In The Gowanus Canal

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Courageous or foolhardy?
With quite a bit of delay, but true to his word, clean water activist Christopher Swain began his much publicized Earth Day Swim in the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal at deGraw Street. Onlookers had lined up on the Union Street and Carroll Street Bridge, and apparently, there was quite a crowd waiting for him at the Whole Foods site.

With a police boat as escort and a support member of his team, Swain slowly swam through the fetid water, protected by a yellow drysuit. It was surprising to see that he had no face mask.

As he emerged from under the Union Street Bridge, he turned around to the crowd, waved and shouted "There is hope!"

The US Environmental Agency has warned anyone against coming in direct contact with the water. The police seems to have tried to talk Swain out of this swim as well. There were quite a few officers at the launch site talking to hime before the swim.

Swain, who previously swam the entire lengths of the Columbia, Charles, Hudson, Mohawk, and Mystic Rivers, as well as Lake Champlain, and large sections of the Atlantic coast of the United States, used today's swim to draw attention to our threatened waterways.

In the past few days,Swain has declared in the press that this event was "to call attention to the slow-moving federal cleanup of the canal and its surrounding neighborhood."

It seems very strange to me that Swain has never attended an EPA Community Advisory group meeting, nor seems to acknowledge the fact that the EPA has made incredible process since declaring the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site in 2010.

Also, he did not mentioned that a remedy for the clean-up has already been signed into law by the EPA in september 2013 and that the federal agency has worked as fast as it is possible to move the clean-up along.

In any case, one can only hope that Swain will be fine after his encounter with the waters of Gowanus.


***Update***
Apparently, shortly after getting into the water, Swain got out at the Whole Foods Gowanus store, just 2/3rd of a mile down the canal, stating the obvious: "It's not safe to swim in here."

9th Street Bridge Over Gowanus Will Be Closed Nightly Till October 2015

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Craig Hammerman of Community Board 6 just sent around the following notice regarding the temporary nightly closing of the 9th Street Bridge.

"We were just advised that the 9th Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal will be closed nightly from April 24 through October 19 due to construction work that the MTA contractor has to perform on the Culver Viaduct above the bridge.
For the entirety of this closure the B61 will be detoured nightly (10pm-6am) between 2nd Avenue and Smith Street. The westbound B61 will take 2nd Avenue to Hamilton Avenue to Smith Street then rejoin the route at 9th Street. The eastbound B61 will take Smith Street to 3rd Street to 3rd Avenue then rejoin the route at 9th Street."




Monday, April 20, 2015

Picture Of The Day: After The Rain

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Smith Street from President Street, looking over downtown Brooklyn.



Did You Get A Letter From FEMA Regarding Updated Flood Maps And Your Property?

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Last week, quite a few of my friends in Gowanus received letters from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding updated flood maps for New York City.
All those who own property in or near the Special Flood Hazardous Area newly identified by FEMA should have received the letter above.
The Agency encourages everyone to identify their property's flood risk by checking the Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps.
In the letter, FEMa stresses that the maps are only preliminary. A public comment and appeal period began on March 31st, 2015 and will continue until June 28th, 2015.  During this period, homeowners can challenge FEMA's new maps by sending technical and/or scientific data regarding their individual property.
After FEMA evaluates all challenges and appeals, the new maps will be incorporated and "flood insurance purchase requirements will go into effect."

What exactly will all this mean for residents in the footprint of the new flood hazard areas?
A Gowanus property owner just reached out to me late last week and sent me some questions that she has forwarded to our public officials regarding this matter:

Where can people find information on how to challenge the proposed maps? Are there any resources available to help people understand the challenge process?

Challenging this designation would require a surveyor or engineer. Are there any resources to help a homeowner with this?

Since people have just received notice of the proposed map changes they have lost at least two weeks of a 90 day comment period. Can this be extended?

Are condominiums and cooperatives treated differently or the same for insurance purposes.

Is there a difference between Zone X and "shaded" Zone X and if so what is it?

Is there some information available about flood insurance affordability?

When can lenders require flood insurance in Zone X?


Obviously, there is quite a bit of uncertainly regarding this matter. Below are just some links that may help.

Here are the flood maps from the FEMA site:
http://floodmaps.fema.gov/prelim/PrelimData/New%20York/Kings%20County/prelim_issue_date-2013-12-05/FIRM/3604970211G.pdf
Here is another site which is a bit easier to use:
http://www.region2coastal.com/view-flood-maps-data/what-is-my-bfe-address-lookup-tool/

For background and information on how to object to the proposed flood maps here is the link to the notice that was published in the Federal Register:
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/03/16/2015-05852/proposed-flood-hazard-determinations#h-4



To Celebrate Earth Day, Activist Christopher Swain To Swim The Length Of The Gowanus Canal

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areal of the top of the Gowanus Canal courtesy of Eymund Diegel
 (photo courtesy of Christopher Swain)

What better way to draw attention to our threatened waterways than to swim in the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal. To mark Earth Day 2015, water activist Christopher Swain has announced that he will be swimming the entire length of the US Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site on Wednesday, April 22 at 12:30. The swim will start roughly at Douglass Street, in the Eastern Effect Parking Lot.

From a press release for the event:
"Wrapped in a yellow drysuit and exposure protection gear, Water Advocate and Swimmer Christopher Swain will emerge from the contaminated soup of the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site, on Earth Day, to call for an accelerated cleanup of the Canal.

Swain’s goal is a Gowanus Canal that is safe to swim in every day. Swain will swim the entire 1.8 mile length of the Gowanus over the course of the day, from the Flushing Tunnel down to New York Harbor, navigating through industrial waste,  fuel slicks, sewage, and trash. Swain is thought to be the first person in history to attempt to swim the entire length of the Gowanus Canal."


Swain previously swam the entire lengths of the Columbia, Charles, Hudson, Mohawk, and Mystic Rivers, as well as Lake Champlain, and large sections of the Atlantic coast of the United States.

***UPDATE***
EPA Region 2 just posted the following warning on its Facebook Page:
"As a reminder, EPA strongly advises AGAINST swimming in the Gowanus Canal.
Take a look at our color coded document that provides information about ways in which people might be exposed to contamination from the Gowanus Canal, and suggestions about how people can avoid or limit such exposure
."



16 Dogs And 4 Cats Found New Homes At Yesterday's 'Bark Avenue Adopt-A-Thon'

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Just like last year, the second Bark Avenue Adopt-A-Thon' in Carroll Park was a huge a success.

The free educational event to save the lives of city’s shelter animals which too place yesterday, was heartwarming and inspirational. It brought some of the city's best rescue organizations together in one place to shine a spotlight on just some of the many awesome dogs and cats hoping to be adopted.

The result? Yesterday's adopt-a-thon matched 16 dogs and 4 cats with caring humans who will give them a forever home.

How cool is that?
Thank you to Sean Casey Animal Rescue Inc., Animal Care And Control of NYCASPCA, Second Chance Rescue NYC, Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue, and Ready For Rescue for all the hard work you do. And a special shout out to all the volunteers who foster and take such good care of these lovely animals.
And a big round of applause to Marion Fiore, who organized the event.

If you were one of the people who adopted a feline or canine yesterday, please keep us informed on how things are going and consider sending PMFA a photo at pardonmeinbrooklyn at gmail dot com.

***Update***
Just heard from Marion Fiore, the organizer, that the number of dogs who were adopted as a result of yesterday's event is up to 17.  Of course, the organizations listed above can be contacted at all times if you are thinking about opening your home to a wonderful animal.


Music, Dance And Fun: Saturday Evening's "Spring Sing" Karaoke Party In Carroll Park Was A Blast

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Friends of Carroll Park volunteers Bruce Mc Donald and Glenn Kelly

Bravo to all those who stepped up to the mike to participate in the "Spring"Sing Karaoke Party in front of the Robert Acito Park House in Carroll Park this past Saturday evening. The event was sponsored by Friends of Carroll Park to bring together friends and neighbors of all ages for some music and dance.
And it was a blast.

Roberto Williams of Lion's Roar Karaoke once again brought out his catalog of over 10,000 songs, so that there was something for everyone and every taste. 

A big thanks goes out to Bruce McDonald, Friends of Carroll Park volunteer, for organizing the event.