Foss: Schenectady flood mitigation plan holds promise

A car is submerged in flood waters on North Street in Schenectady's Stockade, Aug. 29, 2011.

A car is submerged in flood waters on North Street in Schenectady's Stockade, Aug. 29, 2011.

It sounds radical. 

Maybe even impossible. 

But it just might be the thing to do. 

The city of Schenectady has a plan for one of its most flood-prone streets, and it entails moving 21 homes on Ingersoll Avenue in the Stockade Neighborhood – an undertaking so massive, some might wonder whether it will actually work. 

The details unveiled by the city suggest that it can work – and that it has to work, if the homes on Ingersoll are to be saved. 

Ingersoll Avenue is a pretty street, and a historic one, lined with houses built for the immigrants who came to Schenectady to work at the American Locomotive Company and General Electric in the early part of the twentieth century. 

More recently, Ingersoll has become known for its vulnerability to flooding, and it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that the waters of the Mohawk River lap up against the base of the street. 

On a pleasant day, this close proximity to the river can be quite charming. 

When the water is rising, it’s a threat. 

If moving the houses on Ingersoll – a strategy known as managed retreat – has emerged as the best and most reasonable solution to a longstanding problem, it’s because the other options aren’t very good. 

Leaving the homes as is and hoping for the best isn’t desirable. 

As long as they remain where they are, they will continue to flood and deteriorate, leading to a worst-case scenario for the city: a cluster of worthless, abandoned homes on what is now an affordable residential street. 

Because the homes are located in the Stockade, a historic neighborhood, just knocking them down is not an option. Raising them all would be a logistical nightmare, made more difficult by the design of the mostly two-family properties. 

Relocating an entire street is an enormously complex undertaking, and it will be hugely disruptive to residents of Ingersoll Ave. Officials estimate that it will take three months to move a house, which sounds awfully fast to me. 

But the outcome – historic homes moved to higher ground, and out of harm’s way – is a good one. 

It will go a long way to ensuring that the homes on Ingersoll are preserved and protected for future generations, and end the federal government’s expensive cycle of paying out costly flood insurance claims when homes there are damaged.  

The Ingersoll relocation is part of a federally-funded effort to mitigate flooding in the Stockade, one of the oldest occupied neighborhoods in the United States. Nearly 80 homes are considered candidates for relocation. 

This is a huge and innovative project, and it has the potential to become a national model for other communities looking to protect historic neighborhoods from flooding. 

I’m eager to see the city put its ambitious plans into action. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.



Categories: News, Opinion, Sara Foss, Schenectady County


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