The LMCCC team presented a recovery update and construction overview to CB1 in February
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, much of Lower Manhattan's perimeter neighborhoods fell into Zone A, where lower sea levels and proximity to the harbor led to severe flooding. The Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center (LMCCC) was in the middle of much of the recovery effort, assisting with mitigation, communication, and environmental issues.
We asked the LMCCC three questions about the agency's role in getting downtown neighborhoods back on track. Follow are questions and answers from Acting Executive Director Joe Simenic, Deputy Executive Director Robin Forst, and Director of Construction Coordination and Environmental Compliance Mark Paquiz.
What are some of the ways the LMCCC has been able to assist with Lower Manhattan's Hurricane Sandy recovery, and how does it tie into the agency's overall mission?
Mr. Simenic: While the LMCCC's primary mission is to coordinate major public infrastructure and private building construction projects, and to mitigate the negative impacts of those projects on residents and local businesses, Hurricane Sandy presented Lower Manhattan with several logistical challenges that didn't fit clearly into the mission or purpose of any single agency. As a result and at the direction of the Mayor's Office, the Command Center played an important role in facilitating the inter-agency coordination of building recovery, and reoccupation of commercial and large residential buildings in Lower Manhattan.
Between November 2012 and February 2013, LMCCC hosted four building-recovery meetings to address the needs of building owners and managers. The five issues LMCCC focused its efforts on at these meetings were: utility coordination, telecommunication services restoration, building re-electrification, placement and removal of recovery equipment, and air-quality monitoring.
Aside from the significant agency response by the State and the City, LMCCC worked with all of the utility companies to restore their services to Lower Manhattan. Con Edison, Verizon, Empire City Subway, and Time Warner Cable brought to bear significant corporate resources to remediate or replace critical infrastructure within buildings and to ensure that their respective response workers were addressing the unique needs of each building.
In what ways have the local community, elected officials, government agencies, and utilities worked together with the LMCCC to get Lower Manhattan back on its feet?
Ms. Forst: Immediately after the storm, the first priority was recovery from the flooding that occurred in the Seaport area, Financial District, Battery Park, Battery Park City, Tribeca, and other areas. LMCCC served as an important link between the offices of local elected officials, area residents and business, and property owners who had much recovery work to coordinate with private utility companies, as well as city and state agencies.
A big part of our role was communication between the various stakeholders in an effort to facilitate recovery. We hosted a series of meetings where we brought stakeholders, public agencies, and private utilities together in same room. Representatives from offices of elected officials, Community Board 1, and the Downtown Alliance were able to address agencies and utilities directly with questions and concerns from their constituents. This not only greatly streamlined the mitigation process, but conveyed the very latest, accurate progress updates to those who most needed it. It led to more properties getting recovery crews on site, and in many cases getting temporary electricity, telecommunications, and other utilities in place so companies and residents could begin to get back to "normal." That recovery process continued until temporary connections were permanently restored.
LMCCC also played an important communications role through its website, www.LowerManhattan.info, where we were able to convey details about the recovery milestones following the hurricane. This included sharing contact information and other resources -- both online and off -- that could directly assist the local community, including FEMA disaster-assistance grants, the status of the subway and PATH stations that were flooded, and the multiple city programs put in place by Mayor Bloomberg to help with building and services restoration.
How has the LMCCC's environmental program benefitted the Lower Manhattan residential and business communities since the storm?
Mr. Paquiz: Immediately after the storm, our Environmental team investigated both noise and air-quality issues generated from Sandy-related emergency equipment, such as generators and boilers. We worked closely with New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the building owners to mitigate these issues, helping to gradually restore the quality of life in Lower Manhattan.
After the first week, the LMCCC had generated a Sandy emergency-equipment map and spreadsheet (that has since been updated monthly) to gauge the storm's initial impact to Lower Manhattan, and eventually to track the recovery progress. Such valuable information, along with building-management data and feedback, allowed us to coordinate with New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and DEP to make certain that proper regulatory permits and requirements were in place for the equipment, thus reestablishing order, safety, and accountability. Businesses such as parking garages that were cut off from patrons due to equipment obstructing street access reached out, and the team was able to restore access, while large boilers and other equipment that were not on DEP's or DEC's radar were logged and properly permitted.
With regards to our air-quality monitoring program, not only did our daily TEOM (Tapered Element Oscillating Microbalance monitor) readings continue to prove its importance to the agencies and the community, but the up-to-date daily readings as well as our long-term historical data were utilized by DEC to compare against their newly installed Sandy-TEOM instruments at Water Street, and to evaluate post-Sandy air quality patterns in Lower Manhattan.