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Projects & Proposals > Resilient Neighborhoods > Old Howard... Printer Friendly Version
Old Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel

As part of the Resilient Neighborhoods initiative, the Department of City Planning is working with the communities of Old Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, and Broad Channel to collaboratively identify zoning and land use changes to address specific local conditions not addressed by the citywide Flood Resilience Zoning Text Amendment. These neighborhoods were identified for study as part of the initiative not only because they were among the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods during Hurricane Sandy, but also because of their unique challenges and opportunities.

The Old Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, and Broad Channel study area contains a concentration of small homes on narrow lots which pose challenges for retrofitting to flood-proof to FEMA base flood elevations.  In addition to hazards from storm surge, parts of these neighborhoods already experience periodic tidal flooding of streets, a condition likely to become more severe with projected sea level rise. This study will undertake an examination of zoning, land use, and coastal infrastructure to identify opportunities to support neighborhood resiliency and vitality.

Poor drainage on low-lying streets in Old Howard Beach leads to street flooding after a rain storm
Poor drainage on low-lying streets in Old Howard Beach leads to street flooding after a rain storm.
A street end in Broad Channel after a rain event and during high tide.
A street end in Broad Channel after a rain event and during high tide.


The expected outcomes for this Resilient Neighborhoods Study area are:

  • Identifying short-term zoning changes to enable appropriate and resilient development,
  • Coordination with capital agencies on potential short-term infrastructure upgrades,
  • Identifying potential public safety issues resulting from the vulnerability of street networks, and strategies to address them, and
  • Providing a detailed picture of long-term risks associated with flooding and storm events and their implications.

Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach Study Area
Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach - PDF Document View a larger image
Broad Channel Study Area
Broad Channel - PDF Document View a larger image
Study Area and Flood Risk (FEMA Flood Zones)

 

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Community Profile

What defines the neighborhood?
The Old Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, and Broad Channel study area includes portions of Community Districts 10 and 14 in South Queens. The study area in Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach is bound by Belt Parkway to the north, the A-train tracks to the east, Jamaica Bay to the south, and 92nd Street to the west. The study area in Broad Channel includes all developed land on the island. 

The communities of Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach abut Shellbank Basin and Hawtree Basin, which are lined with docks and boats. The A-train and AirTrain shuttle to John F. Kennedy International Airport share a station here, located at Coleman Square. There are 99 blocks in this portion of the study area, with a population of approximately 7,300 residents and 2,300 buildings, the majority of which are one- and two-family residences. Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach are primarily zoned R3-1 with small R3-2 and R2 designations as well.

Broad Channel is a community surrounded entirely by water and marsh, located in the middle of Jamaica Bay and accessible by one through-road, Cross Bay Boulevard.  Broad Channel has a total population of approximately 2,500 residents, and it too has its own train station, which allows the A train to continue south to Rockaway peninsula. There are 56 blocks within the study area, and just under 1,000 buildings; most are one- and two-family residential buildings. The Broad Channel study area is zoned R3-2 in its entirety with portions of four blocks along Cross Bay Boulevard mapped with Commercial Overlay Districts.

Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach Study Area
Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach Study Area - PDF Document View a larger image
Broad Channel Study Area
Broad Channel Study Area - PDF Document View a larger image

Flood Risk and Neighborhood Resiliency

What type of flood risk exists?
Broad Channel, sitting at a low elevation in the middle of Jamaica Bay, suffered from Hurricane Sandy’s surge, which spread large volumes of water throughout the neighborhood. Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach were also devastated by significant inundation. The narrow creeks and basins that wind through and among these neighborhoods allowed floodwaters to enter from Jamaica Bay.

As Hurricane Sandy reinforced, and as shown below, both communities are vulnerable to flood hazards according to FEMA’s Flood Rate Insurance Maps (FIRMs). While Broad Channel and most of Hamilton Beach were already designated within the 100-year flood zone in FEMA’s 1983 FIRMs, almost all of Old Howard Beach has now been added to the 100-year flood zone as well, with the release of FEMA’s 2013 Preliminary FIRMs.  In addition to new areas being added to the 100-year flood zone, the 2013 Preliminary FIRMs also have generally higher base flood elevations, ranging from 10 to 11 feet above sea level, or 2 to 8 feet above ground level. While building to these higher flood resistant construction standards will reduce vulnerability to future floods, as well as help avoid higher flood insurance premiums, there may be physical or economic challenges to doing so, and streets and other infrastructure remain vulnerable not only to storm surge, but also to frequent tidal inundation, particularly with projected sea level rise.

Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach Study Area
Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach Study Area - PDF Document View a larger image
Broad Channel Study Area
Broad Channel Study Area - PDF Document View a larger image
Study Area and Flood Risk (FEMA Flood Zones)

What are the challenges to resiliency?
The unique built environment of these neighborhoods, including narrow lots, and narrow, low-lying streets pose challenges for resilient retrofitting and reconstruction. Existing R2, R3-1, and R3-2 Zoning Districts, mainly dating back to 1961, do not account for narrow lot frontage in the residential areas of these neighborhoods. In addition, new, higher flood elevations present physical and economic challenges to the two commercial corridors: Cross Bay Boulevard and Coleman Square. However, opportunities exist to identify changes to zoning, both in residential areas and business corridors, to maintain neighborhood character, facilitate customer access to businesses, and enable resilient retrofits and building.

Semi-detached buildings within an R3-2 District in Broad Channel
Semi-detached buildings within an R3-2 District in Broad Channel
24 foot wide lots within an R3-1 District in Hamilton Beach
24 foot wide lots within an
R3-1 District in Hamilton Beach
24 foot wide lots within an R3-1 District in Hamilton Beach
Narrow street in Hamilton Beach

How Are We Working With Communities?

The Department of City Planning is working with local leaders in Old Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, and Broad Channel to identify changes to zoning and land use and other actions to support neighborhood vitality and help residents and businesses withstand and recover quickly from future storms and other climate events.

On October 6th, DCP convened the first Community Advisory Committee to present the goals of the study. The Committee includes representatives from Community Boards 10 and 14, the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association, Broad Channel Civic Association, Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic Association, Councilmember Eric Ulrich’s office, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, and Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr., as well as other local leaders. The presentation can be viewed here.

The Committee will meet periodically through Spring of 2015 to provide input on the study. In summary, this study will:

  • Build off outreach from other efforts, including SIRR and NY Rising programs.
  • Provide clear, concrete information to residents on potential strategies for increasing resiliency that are implementable.
  • Shape recommendations based on robust public outreach.
  • Result in the implementation of regulatory changes through ULURP and plans for infrastructure improvements.
Related Projects and Initiatives In This Area

This initiative will require careful coordination with the many resiliency projects and proposals already planned or in the process of being implemented in the area, including:


For more information about the study contact the Queens Office of the Department of City Planning at 718-286-3170 or email at ResilientQueens_DL@planning.nyc.gov






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