Testimony by Carter Craft at Public Hearing for Hudson River Rebuild By Design Flood Control project

March 17, 2017

delivered March 16, 2017, Debaun Auditorium, Stevens Institute of Technology

As the co-chair of the Citizen Advisory Group for the Hudson River Rebuild By Design project, I should preface this by saying we as a group will be submitting more comprehensive feedback on the draft EIS in writing before the April 10 deadline. For tonight’s hearing I wanted to make four points:

1. Never in my lifetime did I ever think I would have the opportunity to participate in a project like this Rebuild By Design project. This project brings the potential to do so_much_good for so_many of our neighbors. We need to keep the momentum going. But we also have to keep in mind, this isn’t about parking spaces, it’s about the health and safety of more than 60,000 people who live in a vulnerable area.

2. As we look ahead to a Record of Decision we need to look at an implementation strategy that will allow us to implement flood risk reduction measures in smaller increments. We need an adaptable strategy, one we can build on in the future. To start, perhaps we need to focus on a strategy that will protect us from a 50-year event, maybe a 30-year storm event. The Purpose of this project as stated on page ES4 is to reduce the flood risk in the study area.  Under section ES 3.0, however, we talk instead about “minimizing” the flood risk from coastal storm surge and rainfall flood events.”

We should not railroad ourselves by having a Record of Decision that forces us to design and build something that we cannot afford.   As was just stated in the introduction tonight by the Engineering consultant, “there is no limit to what could be found once we start construction starts.” It was also pointed out that there has been little geotechnical investigation to this point. We don’t know what’s under the ground in most places.  But knowing Hoboken we can guess it will be full of surprises, including some unpleasant and very expensive ones. [For example, anyone remember the 1600 Park project? To preserve the flexibility we need moving forward I think we need to change the word “minimize” to “reduce” on line 2 of Section ES 3.0.  In our CAG comments to the Draft Scope on October 7 2015, we did not ask for the risk to be “minimized”, but we did ask specifically to establish the purpose as the development of a “Comprehensive Strategy.” (page 1, paragraph 3). If if IF we can eventually afford to “minimize” risk that will be great, but using the term “reduce” will allow us to take some actions even if as design proceeds we realize we cannot afford to “minimize” the risk.

3. As stated under ES 3.1 this project is supposed to be a “comprehensive urban water strategy.”  This project is not supposed to be a coastal hardening strategy or a lets-protect-the-people-on-the waterfront strategy. In our CAG comments on the Draft Scope of October 7 2015 we specifically asked for a clear goal of “protecting vulnerable people” (page 2, paragraph 4).

We need to move towards a Record of Decision and final design that will, yes, make investments at the water’s edge in the V- or wave impact zone, but also make investments in smaller water management projects around the city such as at schools and parks. In our CAG Comments on October 7, 2015 we specifically asked to include near-term projects and at various scales (page 3, paragraph 2). These smaller local projects are the types of places where this story of flood and climate change risk needs to be told. [Every green infrastructure installation can become a small outdoor lab for many, classes of students if we engage our teachers.

New York State, for instance, is committing $2M in funds for these types of educational and research projects, calling them “social resilience.” Why do we still talk about these elements of Delay/ Store/Discharge as things we will do “if we have money left over?” We all know that we won’t. And without any elements of the program that engage everyday people and young people, we will fail to build any social capacity to fund, operate and maintain this overall system as we all know we need to.]  More local projects, even small projects, will enable more people to understand that though they may live far from the river, they still live dangerously, dangerously close to sea level. Yes, these smaller local projects can help reduce immediate and local flooding risk as well as create added and valuable co-benefits of cleaner air, a greener city, and less summer heat.

4. Last I just want to publicly say I think the process has struggled to engage the diversity of Hoboken. Looking at this crowd tonight most people live in the comfort of higher income brackets. To fulfill the Rebuild By Design vision of an inclusive process, one that serves society as a whole, we really need to open up the tent a little wider, get out into the community more, and into the classrooms.  What we design and build over the next 5-7 years our kids will be stuck paying for, and they are not being prepared for this enormous responsibility. As a Hoboken taxpayer and North Hudson Sewerage Authority Ratepayer I am not sure I am prepared either.

These are enormous and very expensive decisions we are expected to make, and therefore we should make sure we build into the Record of the Design the flexibility to make the smartest choices as new information becomes available in the design stage.  Thank you. ###

October 1: 8th Annual Hoboken Pizza Derby!

September 27, 2016

Join us on Saturday, October 1 for the 8th Annual Hoboken Pizza Derby! This family-friendly party is hosted by the Community Church of Hoboken at 6th and Garden Streets. This year’s menu will offer more than two dozen different pies to be sampled! From savory to saucy, there is the widest sampling of Hoboken’s Tastiest Pies. (Of course we order some simple classics for the kids too…) Take a look at last year’s menu here.

Here is how it works: waves of Pizzas are ordered simultaneously. As the arri
vals come in we record the fastest delivery time. The Heat Troll then administers the infra-red heat gun to gauge whose arrives the Hottest. As in previous years, everyone gets a scoring sheet which lists ALL the pies we are ordering.

Score as many as you taste in categories of: consistency of crust, tastiness of sauce, freshness of toppings, and flavor of cheese. It’s a friendly competition, even when the delivery people bump into each other at the front gate! Pizza, non-alcoholic beverages, and dessert is included for your donation.  This year the proceeds are shared between the Church’s Capital Renovation fund and the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse. Discounted tickets are available in advance via brown paper tickets.

Games! Sauce! Action! (AND, the best Climbing Tree within One Square Mile! (supervision required) Advanced Ticket prices are $30/ adult and $10 per child. Special family pass is $60 in Advance for up to two adults and two kids. Day-of prices are $35 per adult and $12 per child, with the Family Pass at $75.00. Thank you for your past support and hope to see you at this year’s event. Nominations to the Menu are now being accepted.

Celebrating Where Hudson River Park Began: Monday, August 1, 2016

July 26, 2016

Of course, nothing is that simple. The beginning of Hudson River Park goes back well over 40 years. It could have been the passage of the Clean Water Act, as our society began to appreciate and take steps to protect wetlands and marine habitat. It could have been the fall of that fateful dump truck that crashed through the elevated West Side Highway, a crash that snarled traffic, then the Courts, and public discussions for well over a decade as the Powers That Be debated “What now?” with this highway and the precious 400+ acres of piers, river and riverfront alongside…

TRP at 30But to me, Hudson River Park began when a pioneering marine biologist (the enthusiast-kind, not to be confused with the PhD-kind) decided the time had come to create a place on the Hudson where people could come and see for themselves what lives beneath. Coming up on Monday August 1, we invite you all to join us as we celebrate Cathy Drew and her now 30 years of creating, shaping, and stewarding The River Project, the original education center on the Hudson River, which she called “The Estuarium.”

Were it not for Cathy’s pioneering efforts in the 80s, perhaps there would be no Estuarine Sanctuary along the west side of Manhattan and no beating blue heart of the Hudson River Park. Or no region-wide movement to bring back the oysters. It’s hard to imagine what there wouldn’t be, as by now a whole generation of activists, stewards, and leaders have taken the initiative to create their own unique programs and places all over New York City and beyond. So many of them learned from, and were inspired by, and have emulated and imitated this pioneer for so many things alive, aquatic and wonderful.  Join us!  Details are here:

“This summer The River Project will mark 30 years of extraordinary and unique contributions connecting the people of New York and visitors from around the world to the marvels and mysteries of the Hudson River. On August 1, 2016, we will recognize this achievement in an evening of celebration on and under the River. We invite you to join us for a special 30th anniversary dinner cruise aboard the Hornblower Hybrid.
Of course, like every River Project party, the event will feature the creatures of the Hudson River, live from underwater at Pier 42. Laurie Anderson will add special music.
On this occasion we will honor three special friends of the Harbor’s wildlife: Congressman Jerry NadlerBorough President Gale Brewer, and Author Paul Greenberg.

Cocktail Hour 6:00 – 7:00 PM (dockside)

Dinner Cruise 7:00 – 9:00 PM (departing and returning to Pier 40, Houston Street on the Hudson River)

Tickets Available here

for more info on the River Project visit here.

Sandy+3 – the View from Garden Street, Hoboken

October 29, 2015

harbor 5
An embarrassment of rebuilding riches have emerged from the pile of sludge and unusable earthly possessions that superstorm Sandy left in her wake. Hardening of hospitals, protection for public transit, rebuilding of residences from single-family units up to large housing projects, are all underway across New York and New Jersey. There is a lot of progress. However, some of the cultural trends established in 20th century ‘Merica, unfortunately, are still proceeding unchecked. Before we pat ourselves too firmly on the back we need to better balance our approach to resilience.

The vulnerabilities that we face from superstorms and from climate change in general can be divided into two categories: physical and social. The approach that seems most embedded in our society’s collective response to Sandy (and perhaps to Katrina before) is very much focused on the physical: it’s the storm doors and gates to secure openings, it is the walls and the dunes to keep the water at bay, and it’s the pumps to get the water out after it comes in.

+2 sandy 4But in this focus on the physical we seem to be relegating some of the greatest successes from Sandy’s wake to a backstory that risks disappearing from our collective memory. In our town, part of that strategy to reduce social vulnerability was the burst of growth that our local Community Emergency Response Team enjoyed. In other places like the Rockaways it was more of a crowd-sourced response such as Occupy Sandy, in others more community-focused such as that catalyzed by the Red Hook Initiative.

At the myriad meetings happening every night about rebuilding, the debates are ongoing. Rigid walls or living berms? Where should the alignment be? How much freeboard? There is much, much less discussion about the spectrum of social mechanisms that can help communities work together. If CERT, as an outgrowth of our Emergency Management framework, is at one end of the spectrum of “Organizations” then perhaps Occupy Sandy is at the other. There are many, many hybrids in between. The more communities understand the range and the specific roles to play, the more they can organize now, enabling them and all of us to be better prepared before the wave breaks over us next time.

With our focus on rebuilding now, we suffer a similar myopia when it comes to better understanding and planning for the long term maintenance, operations and stewardship of these new infrastructures. What will be the maintenance budget and where will those funds come? We should know better by now. One need only look around the U.S. and see how many bridges from the last 100 years we have that are clearly not in a state of good repair. Now, instead of patting Congress on the back for shaping a short term Budget agreement with the President that barely gets us through the next election, we should be castigating everyone in Washington for their failure to adequately fund infrastructure and especially infrastructure maintenance over the past 30 years. Rebuilding after Sandy it looks like we are just adding more infrastructure to this pile.

But money is only part of the problem. The best way to address this larger issue of physical resiliency is by proactively cultivating greater social resilience. We cannot forget that in an area-wide emergency situation it is not possible for our emergency services to respond to everything, as we are so accustomed to them being able to do. But an educated, engaged and empowered new generation of citizens can help meet the range of needs that arise. In addition to just rebuilding, we need to teach and inspire more self-reliance and more activism. We need more residents who know how to shelter in place. Then these neighbors are better equipped to be, on a practical level, the “first” responder to a neighbor in need.

To get to greater social resilience we need to understand that bureaucratic approaches with large NGOs and agencies don’t always function well at the neighborhood level. They aren’t necessarily a comfort for every community. Do they help fill important needs? Of course. But we need more CERT, Occupy, and the whole spectrum of community approaches including faith-based, civic, tenant, block and other more organic approaches.

We have to remember that a viable long-term recovery leads to a suite of finished projects in a state of good repair that we as society can ably fund and staff. The protections have to be spread around based on need, not just ability-to-pay. This level of operations, maintenance and stewardship demands a much larger and more diverse labor force to effectively manage the hard- soft- and everything-in-between types of infrastructure we are rushing to rebuild.

Finally, let’s not get lost in the debates over hard “versus” soft infrastructure. We need more of all of it. We debated this on the sidewalk last week in front of the New School. “With all this green infrastructure,” said an old friend, “are we really just creating more jobs for landscapers?” The answer is, well, yes. But we also have to take a step back and realize that an expanded labor force that better understands soil, sunlight, rain events and extreme weather brings big benefits. These people become the roots of resilience on every urban block, by the bioswale, in the community garden and up on the green roof. With focused education, engagement, and empowerment this becomes the generation that takes us from outsourced maintenance contracts to overall better, and more local, community stewardship. It will yield a more resilient society.

Still not convinced about the benefits of social resilience? Think of it this way: all the hardware in the world won’t save ‘Merica if we don’t better equip and engage our people.

Backup generator feed into Emergency Operations Center, Hoboken City Hall 2012

Backup generator feed into Emergency Operations Center, Hoboken City Hall 2012

Power supply feed into the Emergency Operations Center, Hoboken City Hall, October 2012

7th Annual Pizza Derby a Saucy, Cheesy Success!

October 6, 2015

Pizza-Derby-Fundraiser-Logo-2015This year’s Pizza Derby raised almost $2,000 for two great Hoboken communities.

As event organizer and sponsor Outside New York is happy and proud to share 100% of the proceeds between annual host The Community Church of Hoboken and Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse, two of our most favorite places and communities in town! This year’s event net almost 50% more than last year. (WOOOT!) Thank you all for your support!

We must give BIG, BIG thanks to our donors:

  • A&P
  • Classic Harbor Line
  • The Craft Family
  • Empire Coffee & Tea
  • 14th Street Garden Center
  • Mauseth Design
  • Resilience Adventures
  • 10th & Willow

and of course BIG, BIG thanks to our supporting pizzerias

  • The Brick
  • Giovanni’s
  • Mario’s
  • Napoli’s

And none of this could happen without our event volunteers!

Malky Adelman, Ila Christian, Jeremy Christian, Julyne Christian, Stephanie Craft, Joe DelGiodice, Kay Gimmestad, Patricia Gouris, Rev. Marvin Krieger, Hamilton Mackwan, Frank Merle, Eli Rivera, Don Sheffrin, Gerard Sova

See you in 2016!

Updated: Urban Assembly New York Harbor School Seeks Consultant to Develop “Marine Master Plan”

April 2, 2015

flupsy and bldg 134 - afterupdated July 21, 2015

The New York City Department of Education has released an RFP for a “Marine Master Plan.” The RFP announcement is available here:  http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/DCP/Vendor/RFP/Default.htm

  • RFP TITLE: Planning and Engineering for Urban Assembly New York Harbor School (UANYHS)
  • RFP NUMBER: R1059
  • NEW RFP DUE DATE & TIME:  May 12, 2015 August 6, 2015 by 1:00 P.M. ET
  • PRE-PROPOSAL CONFERENCE:  April 20, 2015, at 2:30 P.M. ET   held May 1, 2015 at 2:30 P.M. ET

“The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), on behalf of the Office of the Division of School Facilities seeks proposals to provide marine and engineering services. These services will result in a 3 year requirements contract tentatively commencing in 2015/2016.  One contract will be awarded.

“Proposals must outline a plan to provide to develop a Marine Master Plan for the UANYHS. As part of this work, the firm will be asked to produce routine structural assessment reports and sub-surface investigations at three locations affiliated with UANYHS. Proposer must possess at least three years’ experience in providing the required services while satisfying all the provisions in Section 2 of the RFP.

In order to access this RFP you will need to register as a potential NYC DOE vendor.  “Login to the Vendor Portal to download RFP R1059.  If you cannot download this RFP, please send an e-mail to VendorHotline@schools.nyc.gov with the RFP number and title in the subject.  For all questions related to this RFP, please send an e-mail to mprocope@schools.nyc.gov with the RFP number and title in the subject line of your e-mail.

October 25 Tour – Hoboken Three Years After Sandy: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

October 16, 2015

Click Here to visit the Brown Paper Tickets event page.

+2 sandy 3
There is a $230M flood control project underway to help protect Hoboken and adjacent areas of Weehawken and Jersey City. For this bus or self-guided walking tour you can join experts from Stevens Institute of Technology, North Hudson Sewerage Authority, and the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection involved in the project. Over 90 minutes you will see and hear from local residents about what happened three years ago when almost 500 million gallons of water surged into town, and then get the perspective of planning and engineering experts about what they are doing now to prevent another such disastrous event.

Click Here to visit the Brown Paper Tickets event page to secure your spot. Limited space available on the bus.

Join us for the 7th Annual Hoboken Pizza Derby!

September 22, 2015


It’s a tasty competition! A variety of pizzas are ordered simultaneously. Delivery time, arrival temperature and the discretion of your palate are all recorded in your scoring sheet as you sample the pizza fare. Rate the crust, tastiness of sauce, freshness of toppings, and other factors. Winning pie gets Extra Large bragging rights for the next year.

This year’s event is Saturday October 3 from 4-7pm. Suggested donation of $25 per adult + $10 per child. All Pizza, beverages, entertainment and dessert are included. Proceeds are split between two local charities, including the Community Church of Hoboken Building Fund and this year’s co-beneficiary the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse

Raffles! Entertainment! Arbitrary Culinary Self Indulgence [within limits]! The Best Climbing Tree in Town! (supervision required) Thank you for your past support and hope to see you at this year’s event. Nominations to the Menu will be accepted beginning September 23.


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