NYCHA construction begins five years after Sandy

Carlos Menchaca, Shola Olatoye, Nydia Velazquez, Lily Marshall, Frances Brown and Felix Ortiz on the roof of 791 Hicks Street.

“It is a great day for this community,” Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez said at the groundbreaking for the construction of Red Hook East and West. “Here we are in a path to recovery. In that sense, we have to make sure the rebuilding we do is one that is built to last.”

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), along with elected officials, came to Red Hook last month for a ceremony signifying the start of the much anticipated roof replacements for Red Hook East and West buildings. This will be the first stage of a massive project funded by FEMA to improve conditions at NYCHA, which comes five years after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the neighborhood.

On the morning of September 5, NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye along with 7th District Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz for Assembly District 51 and Red Hook Councilman Carlos Menchaca “broke ground” on the roof of 791 Hicks Street of a $63 million roof construction project. Red Hook East Tenant Association President Frances Brown and Red Hook West Tenant Association President Lilly Marshall also made their way up to the roof.

The plan is to replace all 28 roofs of the Red Hook Houses by the end of 2019. Replacing the roofs will benefit more than 6,000 residents who will see fewer leaks and a better quality of life than with the roofs they have.

“The people of Red Hook deserve better and I am glad that the administration recognizes that it is about time to move forward in everything that needs to be done in Red Hook,” Ortiz said.

Sandy caused a lot of long-lasting damage to the Red Hook East and West complex and this is a first major step in the rebuilding.

“Today we are moving closer to repairing that damage {from Sandy} by building back stronger with storm resilient technology so that NYCHA residents will be safer in future storms,” Olatoye said in front of 791 Hicks Street.

She went on to say that this project that will be beginning very soon will ensure that NYCHA buildings will be safe in extreme weather events.

“Our Sandy work proves that with sufficient federal funding, public housing can provide safe stable homes in weather events,” Olatoye said. “In Red Hook, we are investing $500 million to repair all roofs, install a new heating and hot water system, as well as structural reinforcement, flood protection and full backup power new playgrounds and improved retail spaces.”

This $550 million investment in the Red Hook Houses is part of NYCHA’s Sandy Recovery to Resiliency program to build back stronger than ever. This project will transform the developments into resilient sites that can effectively withstand future weather challenges.

Olatoye also added that $6 million has been invested into the Red Hook Community Center.

Carlos Menchaca, Nydia Velazquez, Felix Ortiz and Shola Olatoye at the ground breaking ceremony.

This is an unprecedented investment in public housing and Councilman Menchaca wants to make sure that the project is done in the right way.

“The community remembers for such a long time about how much investment has come in but let us not forget that this investment will be the largest of its kind ever to public housing in the country,” Menchaca said. “Nowhere else are we getting almost half a billion dollars that is coming here, but we want to make sure that it is done right. .”

This project, which is in the Capital Projects Division of Recovery and Resiliency, will install new security cameras, door security access systems and replace the exterior site lighting fixtures and bulbs.

Replacing the roofs at Red Hook East and West is the first phase of an almost $550 million investment in the Red Hook Houses, which is part of NYCHA’s Sandy Recovery to Resiliency program. The program will build the Houses back to be stronger than ever and transform the developments into resilient sites that can effectively withstand future weather challenges.

KPF Contracting Inc was hired to do the construction. They will repair and replace vital infrastructure, and will flood proof to protect against the impacts of climate change, like rising sea-levels. They will also install stand-by back-up generators.   

“We have an incredible team at KPF that is one of the best and leading designers in the world,” Menchaca added. “We need to continue to hold them accountable throughout the rest of the process, and I am confident that with your support and with you being in the room and making your voices heard that we are not only going to get new roofs but that we are going to get the jobs that we deserve.”

Congresswoman Velazquez voiced some disappointment that according to her the country is better prepared to respond to a nuclear threat than the nation is to respond to a category five storm. She thinks that we need to learn from Sandy and what has now been happening in Houston.

“I am so happy that my bill passed out of the committee thanks to the leaders in Red Hook that helped me draft this legislation based on our own experiences,” Velazquez added. “Shola, I want to thank you for your incredible leadership, and the residents and the public engagement that has taken place here. I am so thrilled that we were able to secure the federal funding. It took us a while as you know.”

“When natural disaster strikes the federal government must show up and provide the leadership to make families whole,” the Congresswoman said. “We are ready to start the construction of the 28 roofs in these buildings and the senior center. That will be a great addition.”

The Red Hook roofs project will provide new roofs, and will repair and/or replace the parapets and railings at all the 28 high-rise residential buildings within the Red Hook East and West development. These 28 buildings are home to more than 8,000 residents.

“It is like anything else, if you have a strong roof and a strong foundation, then you can take care of the rest inside,” Ortiz said. “We need to prevent the water from continuing to leak into the apartments. I have been to many apartments that have a lot of mold, a lot of paint is falling apart, and I think that is because of the water leaking from the top of the roof.”

According to NYCHA, the new roofing is a top-of-the-line liquid-applied roofing system with a 30-year warranty. The system will provide a better building insulation, reduce the amount of heat retained by the roof and eliminate water intrusion.

“We are very happy that we were able to secure funding for the roofs together with the federal government,” Ortiz said. “I think this is a step in the right direction.”

The second stage of the timeline of improving Red Hook East and West includes basement restoration and flood protection. This stage will begin in early 2018 and be finished at the end of 2019.

The third and fourth stages will both begin in 2018 and be finished by the end of 2021. The third stage will include boiler/generator plant building located on Clinton Street and W 9th St to provide heat and power for the whole East and West development. The third stage will also consist of new MEP annexes above the FEMA flood level.

The fourth stage will include an overall site restoration.

Some of the development improvements during the encompassing project will include replacing the playground including nine lily pad play areas and three larger destination play areas, restoring the retail spaces at building 29 and upgrading the above apartments, constructing elevated courtyards to provide flood protected building entries and replacing the underground electrical wiring system.

According to NYCHA, they will also be removing hazardous materials and cleaning crawl spaces, replacing and/or repairing the doors, fixing the door frames and hardware damaged by water and replacing electrical conduits and plumbing pipes damaged by water in the basement areas.

Additional building improvements will consist of replacing building entrances and improving the back water valves on sewer/storm plumbing lines.  

Another mission of the project will be to make the area more resilient. They will dry flood proof areas that are below the FEMA flood level. They will build new boilers and generators and install them above the FEMA flood level.

From an energy perspective, they will be installing backup power generators and will be taking additional site wide energy and sustainability measures. This step is awaiting Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approval.

This massive NYCHA construction project is all scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.

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