SCHENECTADY — The city continued with its traction toward moving homes on Ingersoll Avenue in the historic Stockade neighborhood out of a floodplain along the Mohawk River, during a Tuesday webinar.
Schenectady was awarded funding to work with the community in determining a preferred approach to mitigate the impact of flooding in the Stockade neighborhood and assist property owners with preserving their homes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation grant program through the New York Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services offered a two-phased project. The first is a comprehensive mitigation analysis of $1.2 million.
Subsequently, FEMA will consider awarding more than $7.5 million for construction in Phase 2.
The historic homes would be moved to a new street, with the goal for construction of the new street slated for 2022 or 2023, although there are many steps to get through before that point, Kristin Diotte, city director of development, said.
Ian Law of PLACE Alliance, an architectural and planning company, estimated it would take two construction seasons to prep the homes, prepare the site, build the new road, and infrastructure, and complete the move of the cluster of homes.
Eminent domain can’t be used on a federally funded project. It requires 100 percent participation from homeowners. The vast majority of owners expressed interest in working with the city to continue the evaluation of moving their homes, project manager Margaret Irwin of River Street Planning said.
It is one of several projects paused by the city because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diotte expressed appreciation for residents and property owners in the Stockade and flood affected area.
She said the team felt their participation and courage during the process was incredible, while their continued support toward implementing a long range solutions is critical.
Diotte said there was no silver bullet to the issue, as it’s complex and requires a great deal of coordination and different efforts.
After a series of community meetings in spring 2019, relocation of homes outside the 500-year floodplain was the chosen mitigation approach, beginning with Ingersoll Avenue homes, the street most vulnerable to flooding in the district.
The relocation strategy, referred to as adaptive preservation, allows for relocating historic buildings out of floodplain while persevering the character, relationship to the street, and ultimately the vibrancy of the Stockade, Diotte said.
Law said the Stockade has had four significant floods, and many smaller ones, over the past 20 years.
The project primarily aims to protect people and property, create a resilient master plan for the entire Stockade floodplain, and to the greatest extent possible, preserve the historic character of the Stockade, which Law said is a difficult balance when trying to mitigate for flooding.
A feasibility analysis studied more than 79 properties in the floodplain.
The next component, Law said, is to take a deeper dive of design development and feasibility analysis.
Having completed a hydrology and hydraulic analysis, the big takeaway was ice dams were the predominant controlling event concerning floods, Law said.
The option of elevating properties two feet and raising streets was under consideration by the team, Law said. While it would allow the homes to stay on their historic lots, It wasn’t deemed cost effective. The elevations would be so severe, landing the stairways would require shifting some houses back, Law said.
That idea of having to shift homes back and up made that project expensive and inefficient because it carried duplication of costs, Law said.
That project would require doing things twice, Law said.
A consultant said that this would destroy the architectural rhythm and historic spatial relationship of the street.
On the other hand, relocating homes out of flood zone, to a largely undeveloped area east of the study area, where it’s elevated and dry, was preferred.
The homes would maintain the same relationship to one another and the sidewalk, and they would be completely up and out of the floodplain, Law said, while noting it was a dynamic and expensive option.
With the FEMA funding for the first phase to only go so far, he said the project team had to be strategic about how this piece would be phased.
This approach would eliminate homeowners’ need for flood insurance, which Law said would be a big burden as insurance subsidies run out. These costs might double and triple and place an incredible burden for owners within the study area.
Homes on Ingersoll Avenue were underwater from a 2011 flood.