Schenectady Hosting Flood Mitigation Workshops For Stockade Neighborhood

Apr 2, 2019

The City of Schenectady is hosting a series of community meetings this week focused on mitigating flooding in its oldest neighborhood.

Beside the Mohawk River, the Stockade was first settled in the 17th Century. The neighborhood is known for its historic architecture, riverfront park, and, for about as far as printed records go back, significant flooding.

Sometimes flooding was caused by storms like Hurricanes Irene and Lee. Other times, ice jams caused an icy Mohawk to spill into the historic neighborhood, like last year.

In 2016, the city received funding from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency and state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to make the Stockade more resilient. About $1.2 million was awarded for engineering, and up to about $7.5 million could be made available for construction.

Mayor Gary McCarthy spoke to a well-attended community meeting Monday night at the First Reformed Church, the first of three meetings this week.

“We leave here tonight and leave through this week, there’s still going to be dialogue that’s ongoing and how do we take what’s a great neighborhood, we strengthen it, and make it more resilient for, again, high-water events,” said McCarthy.

Consultants used drones to map and survey the Stockade. Hydrologic data was gathered on the river. 

After a presentation on the hydrology of the river that included new estimates for high-water events, attendees were asked how they feel about a portion of the Stockade neighborhood impacted by a revised flood plain estimate. Up to 75 private and public properties are in the zone.

Consultant Margaret Irwin from River Street Planning & Development asked the crowd about long-term resilience.

“How important is that to you? Is it the immediate that’s more important? Or are you thinking – I want to know that when my kids inherit my house they’ll be safe?” said Irwin.

The purpose of Monday’s meeting was to gather ideas. Today, consultants will put their heads together using that input to develop possible mitigation methods. Options could range from building a flood wall or levy, to moving buildings out of the flood plain.

Climate change could also create more extreme swings in temperature during winter months, potentially creating a higher risk for ice jams on the Mohawk.

But the audience was cautioned: with flooding documented going back hundreds of years, there’s no one way to prevent it from happening again. James Woidt is a hydrologist from Schumaker Consulting Engineering and Land Surveying, DPC.

“What is apparent to us, too, with two sources of flooding and the magnitude that we’re talking about, there’s no silver bullet that’s going to fix flooding in the Stockade. There’s some structures that we have experienced, there’s people in this room that have experienced it that have had 7 feet of flooding in their homes. There’s no solution out there that’s going to drop that overnight,” said Woidt.

John Samatulski owns three properties on the Stockade’s Ingersoll Avenue, which has been particularly hard hit.

He said when he first moved to the Stockade, he resisted the idea of physically moving buildings.

“But having lived through flood events and come to the understanding that unless we come up with better, long-term, permanent solutions, we’re probably, actually going to lose these properties. So I think we need to move these properties. How we do that and over what period of time…I also learned that this is going to be a long-term solution. It’s not going to be a long-term solution. This is not something that’s going to happen in 10 years,” said Samatulski.

At a public open house Wednesday, residents can view preliminary concepts for flood mitigation and gather more information. On Thursday, more refined design concepts will be presented, and more feedback will be gathered before discussing next steps.

Both meetings start at 7 p.m. at the First Reformed Church.

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