SCHENECTADY — The city appears to have reached a decision on how to spend millions in federal funding to combat flooding in the city’s Stockade neighborhood.
“The big push over the past couple months has been getting participation from residents and property owners on the proposed project,” said City Director of Development Kristin Diotte.
Diotte and Margaret Irwin, a consultant with River Street Planning & Development, met with Ingersoll Avenue homeowners at a closed-door meeting at City Hall on Tuesday night.
“It’s just a very complex process,” Diotte said. “We have to coordinate, evaluate and negotiate the process between numerous agencies.”
The city will host a meeting on Wednesday at St. George’s Church to brief the public.
“We’ll go over the proposed project that’s been selected for funding for FEMA,” said Diotte, who declined to disclose additional details on Wednesday, citing the sensitive nature of discussions with neighborhood homeowners.
The meeting comes nearly a year after the city and consulting firm River Street Planning & Development held a series of workshops designed to hash out how to spend $7.5 million allocated by FEMA to protect the 75 or so homes located in the 100-year floodplain.
Informal exit polls conducted as part of the Stockade Flood Mitigation Project indicated strong support for a strategy of “managed retreat” in which the city would purchase and demolish at least 10 homes and relocate others inland to accommodate for expanded floodwaters.
Officials last year said that concept would require 100 percent participation from North Ferry Street to Ingersoll Avenue.
But they also acknowledged hybrid scenarios were likely to emerge after planners conducted an in-depth cost analysis of each option, which also included elevating homes and streets and building a levee or flood walls.
Ingersoll Avenue property owner John Samatulski attended the meeting, but declined to disclose specific details.
“It’s my sense the city has not made a definite decision, but they’re getting very close,” Samatulski said. “I look forward to the next meeting where the city is going to update the Stockade as a whole.”
Flooding in 2011 left much of Ingersoll Avenue, which is among the streets closest to the Mohawk River, underwater.
Samatulski said he was supportive of managed retreat, calling it a “historic opportunity” to save homes in the flood plain.
Rising flood insurance premiums will eventually deliver a death knell to the neighborhood, he said.
“We’re not going to attract the next generation of young people and professionals to move to the Stockade without addressing that issue,” he said.
Under one scenario floated last year, relocating homes would see structures moved to face Riverside Park, and a proposed new connector street would run parallel to Riverside Park.
The Stockade Association hasn’t taken an official position or endorsed a potential scenario.
“The managed retreat option is very controversial,” said Suzy Unger, president. “Not everybody in the neighborhood supports it.”
Elyse Nybeck has rented an apartment on Ingersoll Avenue for nearly a year.
“It’s quiet, the neighbors are awesome and I actually have a backyard,” Nybeck said.
She’s aware of the options being weighed by property owners, but said the lack of clarity has been worrisome.
“If our home does get moved, what do we do with all of our stuff?” said Nybeck, who said the uncertainty will undoubtedly exacerbate her anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
If you go: Building a Resilient Stockade: Wednesday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. at St. George’s Church, 30 North Ferry Street. The meeting is open to all interested community members and will focus on sharing updates on flood mitigation design and discussing any questions the public may have about the project.
Taming the Mohawk River is beyond the scope of the Stockade Flood Mitigation Project.
Updates on that front were to be discussed at Union College’s annual Mohawk Watershed Symposium on March 20.
But the event was canceled on Tuesday over mounting coronavirus concerns.
Joining Stockade-related items for discussion was a report on the state’s $300 million effort to “reimagine” the Erie Canal, which includes $65 million for solutions designed to prevent ice jams and flooding.
“We were hoping this event would be the nexus for all of our thoughts and ideas, and that’s not going to happen,” said Dr. John Garver, event organizer and a geologist at Union College.
An advantage of the long-running event is bringing together numerous participants across the Mohawk River basin to discuss how programming and initiatives impact the work a broader group of stakeholders are tackling, Garver said.
Organizers hope to reschedule a new date in early fall.
Until then, Garver expects materials from the nixed event will still be uploaded onto the symposium’s website.