Downed Tree - Carl Schurz Park - Manhattan, August 31, 2011. (Photo:© Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge.
Thursday, September 01, 2011
NYC Parks' "Hurricane Irene Recovery" Update
Today, the Parks Department re-opened city beaches with the exception of the hard-hit Staten Island beaches at Midland, South, Wolfe’s Pond and Cedar Grove, where water testing by DOH continues, and sections of Rockaway, where erosion and boardwalk damage have limited opportunities for swimming.
All nature centers, recreation centers, outdoor pools, marinas and zoos are operating on a normal schedule and all Urban Park Ranger programs have resumed.
“While Hurricane Irene may have weakened somewhat as it hit New York City, it still packed a hard punch, leaving thousands of trees down or damaged on streets and in parks,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “With almost 9,000 calls received by 311 about tree conditions across the five boroughs, Parks Department staff is working hard to inspect, assess, and address the conditions. We ask the public’s patience as we work to clear streets and remove trees from houses and cars.”
As of today, Parks has received approximately 9,000 storm-related 311 calls – more than 1,000 new calls within the last 24 hours alone. Over 6,000 inspections have been completed and over 2,300 emergency conditions have been addressed. The damage to trees within parks has not yet been calculated, but is projected to be an additional 1,000 trees down and tens of thousands of limbs down. Tree service requests for storm-related damage can be reported through 311 or at www.nyc.gov/parks.
The final determination is not yet available, but there may be less damage to trees from the impact of Irene than after last year’s tornadoes of mid-September, when 4,000 trees were downed in 15 minutes. We will soon know if we meet or surpass that number. While that damage was concentrated in Staten Island, Queens, and Brooklyn, Hurricane Irene’s eye swept directly over the city with tropical storm-force winds and created widespread damage and flooding rather than a narrow band of destruction. Two years ago, a microburst downed over 500 trees in Central Park alone, with hundreds more affected in Riverside Park, Randall’s Island, Pelham Bay Park and on streets in a matter of minutes. This time, many parks and playgrounds along the Bronx River were flooded, as were parts of Staten Island, including Willowbrook Park.
Preparedness for the storm made a significant difference in the efficiency with which needs were addressed and continue to be resolved. Parks’ Forestry division, both staff and emergency contract crews, were housed in parks facilities in advance of the storm to prepare and in order to quickly address priority conditions despite power outages and curtailment of mass transit. This in combination with the Office of Emergency Management’s coordination of several agencies, including DEP, DOT, Police, Fire, Con Ed, and Sanitation, all of whom have made it possible to expedite what otherwise would have taken weeks instead of days.
In the first 24 hours after the storm ended, Parks staff, along with SCOUT and the National Guard, completed a field survey of all primary roadways citywide. At that time, there were 966 primary street blockages reported. As of 10am this morning (9/1), Parks has confirmed through re-inspection that 696 of these primary roadway issues have been resolved (72%). The remaining 270 issues are being re-inspected today. We estimate that at least 75 of these are already cleared and complete, approximately 80% in total. Our forestry crews will focus today on resolving the remaining primary street blockages.
New Yorkers are urged to continue to exercise caution in using parks and playgrounds citywide. Many have suffered severe tree damage and flooding, and inspections and assessments continue. Areas within these public spaces are cordoned off where necessary.
Hurricane Irene will be remembered as a major storm and has caused significant flooding affecting fascia boards on boardwalks, the breach of a sea wall berm in Staten Island at Wolfe’s Pond Park as well as a sea wall on the Shore Parkway promenade in Brooklyn. Parks along the waterfront were flooded, with storm surge hurtling sometimes as much as four feet of water in places such as Barretto Park and Soundview in the Bronx, where the Bronx River tripled in size, and completely covering Orchard Beach and Rockaway as well as Staten Island beaches. The surge covered boardwalks, shifted sand, and crept into the adjoining neighborhoods.
Small parks and large shared the destruction, with big parks such as Prospect Park and Central Park losing an average of 30 to 40 trees each. Tompkins Square Park lost a beloved 100-year-old elm. And even tiny Bleecker playground and its sitting area lost three trees.
In city playgrounds across the city where flooding occurred, safety surface rubber mats floated but remained on site and will be reinstalled during the clean-up.
A Walk In The Park - August 29, 2011