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Committee to submit Stockade flood-mitigation guidelines

Committee to submit Stockade flood-mitigation guidelines

Consultants: Flood mitigation efforts could bring quality-of-life improvements
Committee to submit Stockade flood-mitigation guidelines
A car is submerged in flood waters on North Street in Schenectady's Stockade, Aug. 29, 2011.
Photographer: Gazette file photo

SCHENECTADY -- Almost six years to the day after dozens of Stockade residents had their homes flooded, officials shared guidelines to help mitigate future flooding in the neighborhood.

The Stockade experienced significant flooding in 2011, as Tropical Storms Irene and Lee moved through the region, causing the Mohawk River to overflow its banks. The resulting damage was extensive, prompting local residents and city officials to consider how to avoid similar problems, should the area flood again.

Representatives from a steering committee presented design guidelines Tuesday night that are intended to guide Stockade property owners who wish to flood-proof their buildings while maintaining the historic character of the neighborhood.

“This is not a broad, generalized study. The recommendations are very specific to this neighborhood,” said Larry Wilson, a consultant on the project from an Albany-based architecture firm.

Funding is still in the works for a larger study that would look at long-term comprehensive solutions, such as the creation of a flood wall around the Stockade, said Mary Moore Wallinger, chairwoman of the city planning commission.

In the meantime, the city received funding from the State Historic Preservation Office to consider near-term solutions. A steering committee, consisting of state, local and neighborhood leaders, was formed to create guidelines.

Because of the historic nature of the neighborhood, residents must comply with standards set by the city’s Historic District Commission when making exterior alterations to their properties.

The steering committee held three public hearings and three public workshops, including Tuesday night’s meeting, at which they presented a draft of their findings. Wallinger and Wilson shared the draft plan and fielded questions from residents about the process.

“Creativity is the best ingredient with any guidelines to create a good end result,” Wilson said, adding that no single solution will apply to every resident. He also acknowledged the timeliness of the event, given ongoing flooding in Houston.

The study applied to 56 structures in the Stockade, spread across six roadways, including Cucumber Alley, Washington and Ingersoll avenues, Governors Lane and North Ferry and North streets. Those thoroughfares fall within the Mohawk River’s 100-year floodplain.

Certain roads are more at risk to flooding, based on their proximity to the floodplain, Wilson said. For example, the waters would reach higher in homes along Ingersoll Avenue, which runs perpendicular to the river.

About 15 residents attended the presentation, most of them different from those who sat through an explainer of the guideline project in June. Most had questions about how their particular property or street might be impacted, as well as concerns about costs associated with flood-proofing their homes and maintaining flood insurance.

Potential solutions were presented in order from least expensive or disruptive to most costly. They included raising a home's heating/cooling/electricity hubs to higher floors of the home, infilling basements, raising the first floor of a structure or physically elevating entire buildings.

In some cases, project consultants said they were hopeful flood-proofing measures could actually lead to quality-of-life improvements. For example, if a home were elevated, it would likely need to be set farther from the street to create room for steps. In doing so, it could open the streets and sidewalks, which are, in many cases, narrow and cramped, they said.

In addition, setting the homes back from the street would allow more light and air to fill the neighborhood and roadways, rather than elevating buildings and creating a more cavernous feeling, Wilson said.

In addition to suggestions regarding actual flood-mitigation efforts, the draft laid out information on how to complete a successful mitigation. That section included details on who to contact for such a project, necessary permits and how to submit proposals to the Historic District Commission.

The guidelines will require City Council approval before they become official, but they will be available for viewing at City Hall, online or by email starting next week, City Planner Christine Primiano said.

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