Hoboken Council Candidate Joe Quintero Unveils Comprehensive Plan to Combat Flooding
“It’s Backed by the Rest of Team Bhalla”
Hoboken Council candidate Joe Quintero today, who is one of the members of the Team Bhalla at-large Council slate, unveiled a comprehensive plan to combat flooding in the city. The plan is designed to equip the city to manage an anticipated era of more severe storms due to climate change. Its three prongs are: 1)reducing flooding in our streets through expanding resiliency efforts city-wide; 2) keeping the Hudson River at bay during periods of high storm surge through speeding the implementation of Rebuild by Design and prioritizing ongoing maintenance; and 3)empowering all Hoboken residents to be better positioned to deal with the consequences of flooding when it does occur.
“We are in a new era of frequent mega-storms,” said Joe Quintero. “We must put in place a comprehensive approach to curbing flooding, one that attacks the problem on all fronts.That is exactly what my plan does”
Joe Quintero brings innovative and important ideas to our ongoing efforts to combat flooding, said Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “His thoughtful approach to this big challenge facing our city is an example of why we selected him to join the Team Bhalla.”
- Addressing flooding in our streets due to large rain events though water detention/resistance measures, water removal, and smart development.
- Empowering our neighbors to develop personal resiliency strategies.
- Keeping the Hudson River at bay during periods of high storm surge.
1. Addressing Flooding in Our Streets
As you may know – our sewer system is over 100 years old and is designed to accept both wastewater from our homes as well as storm runoff. As a result of this design, large storm events often lead to unpleasant or horrifying situations of sewage filled streets and homes. Therefore, I support the following:
- Expanding Resiliency Efforts City-Wide: Some of the most effective flood mitigation efforts put in place recently have been Hoboken’s resiliency parks – each designed to detain hundreds of thousands of gallons of rain previously destined for our sewers and streets (the water is then released when the sewer’s capacity is less taxed). And while I am excited about another park coming online soon with the Northwest Resiliency Park, we should not stop there – and in fact we should expand resiliency efforts across Hoboken by doing the following:
- First, making the Southwest Pop-up Park a permanent resiliency park by leveraging grant funding and available low-interest loans (with principal forgiveness) for resilience projects. The current Southwest Resiliency Park on Block 12 can withhold up to 200,000 gallons of rainwater during storms, and I believe the expanded park on Block 10 should be engineered and built to hold at least that amount, if not more.
- Creating a resiliency park at 800 Monroe, the 1.5 acres the City is acquiring as a part of the Monarch agreement. This area sits right in the middle of the flood zone in West Hoboken, and is a prime opportunity to create additional green infrastructure and underground storage to create another resiliency park, further complimenting the resiliency features at the new park at 7th and Jackson.
- Moving forward with the recommendations in the comprehensive Rebuild by Design study which identified 61 locations in Hoboken to include green or gray infrastructure (e.g., rain gardens and bioswales) to withhold storm water during rain events. On the Council, I’ll push for this flood infrastructure to be incorporated into repaving and water main projects, similar to the four rain gardens that were installed last year as a part of the first phase of water main replacement (including the one at 4th and Garden, which was incorporated into a curb extension/pedestrian safety feature). This would ensure that rain gardens are being installed in a cost-efficient way in existing construction projects, reducing the burden on taxpayers.
- Ensuring that any new project at 2nd and Marshall, a plot of land that the City acquired through a transfer of land with PSE&G, includes underground retention. While I would like to hear further feedback from the community about the permanent features above ground, we should nonetheless plan for the infrastructure underground at this site to withhold as much rain water as possible.
- Further, any new proposed open spaces should include mandatory resiliency features including (where possible), water storage tanks, rain gardens, and construction materials designed to absorb rather than repel water.
- Finally, the use of green roofs needs to be encouraged and expanded across Hoboken. According to the EPA, green roofs are extremely effective at retaining storm-related precipitation. Therefore, we should enhance measures to further encourage and incentivize the installation of green roofs across Hoboken’s public and private rooftops.
- Additional Flood Pumps and Resiliency Park at the Hoboken Housing Authority: Hoboken has two flood pumps (with one in the works) which are extremely effective. These pumps kick on automatically in rain events and pump millions of gallons of water out of the north and south ends of town when in use. Unfortunately, the existing flood pumps can be overwhelmed during massive storms and the areas that receive the greatest impacts of flooding are areas in the west side of the City. Therefore, we should continue to work with the North Hudson Sewerage Authority to invest in additional pumps – in particular in the vicinity of the Hoboken Housing Authority – to supplement the existing pumps and (more importantly) to serve as redundancies should one pump go down.
I also support an additional resiliency park adjacent to the 2nd Street light rail, to have underground flood retention and a separation of the sewer system in the areas surrounding the park and light rail, as proposed by the Rebuild by Design. I pledge to work closely with the North Hudson Sewerage Authority, and Hoboken Housing Authority Director to build this into the City’s plans over the next four years.
- Ensure Developers REMOVE Water from the System: New developments slated to replace older buildings or under-utilized lots, represent an opportunity to ease the stresses on our sewer system. In fact, many new buildings currently are required to include baseline flood mitigation features (e.g., water storage tanks). I believe we should strengthen these requirements, including requiring that developers evidence their buildings are designed to remove MORE water from our system than they add.
- Seek Hoboken’s Fair Share of Federal Infrastructure Funding: While the City is contributing substantial funding for flood resiliency projects, the reality is we cannot do it alone. Altogether, these projects cost tens of millions of dollars, and we should not burden the taxpayers with the brunt of these costs. With the federal infrastructure bill making its way through the process, I believe we have a prime opportunity to secure our fair share of these federal funds, for our efforts here in Hoboken.
2. Empowering Our Neighbors to Develop Personal Resilience Strategies
- Bring Back the Office of Constituent Services – with Resources Dedicated to Flood Issues: For Hoboken residents and business owners impacted by flood events, the pain does not end when the water recedes. Rather, they are often faced with months of time, energy, and grief as they attempt to recover, fix homes, repair businesses, and replace cars. Therefore, I support bringing back the Office of Constituent Services which should include dedicated resources specific to handling flood issues, such as helping our neighbors (1) understand all the available resources if impacted by flood events, (2) take measures to mitigate flooding in the future, and (3) recover from flood events as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
- Information Resource when Impacted by Floods: Recovering from a flood event can be an extremely confusing, challenging, and frustrating experience – especially for most of us not steeped in insurance-speak. The Office of Constituent Services would serve as a first point of contact for affected neighbors following flood events and would provide the information (such as federal/state/local grant availability and tenant rights information) needed to navigate recovery.
- Assist with Flood Insurance Claim Navigation: Since 80% of Hoboken exists within a flood zone, many of us own some form of flood insurance (in fact, most homeowners are required to evidence flood insurance as part of mortgage lending requirements). However, navigating the insurance claim process is notoriously complex, and often results in significant loss of time, energy, and sanity. The Office of Constituent Services would provide assistance and guidance to impacted neighbors as they navigate the insurance process, to facilitate timely and equitable claim payments.
- Enable Flood Risk Assessments: Many of us live in buildings which are, put simply, quite old and lack the ability to resist or remove water during large storms. The Office of Constituent Services would provide residents with best practices to prevent/limit flooding, lead regular information session for home and business owners on flood mitigation, and provide contacts for contractors or other experts to facilitate additional steps.
3. Keeping the Hudson River at Bay
- Ensuring the Rebuild by Design Project Moves Forward Quickly and Effectively: Operating with a $230 million federal grant (at no expense to the Hoboken tax payers!), the Rebuild by Design Project includes the construction of two flood resistance structures in Hoboken, one on the north end near the Weehawken Cove and one to the south near the NJ Transit Rail Yards. Given the importance of these structures to the physical and economic safety of our community, it is critical that they move forward quickly and effectively – that is why I support smart oversight of those projects, including regular updates and accountability to the City Council and Mayor, to ensure all targets are met.
- Establish an Infrastructure Trust Fund to Ensure Ongoing Maintenance of any Flood Resistance Structures: Ongoing maintenance of the two flood resistance structures are estimated to be several millions of dollars per year. An infrastructure trust fund, with participation from the City and associated public agencies, should be set up to ensure the north and south flood structures remain in good working order, to ensure costs are shared equitably, and to de-politicize any costs associated with ongoing maintenance. Additionally, any surpluses in the trust fund should be used solely for flood mitigation efforts.