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Mayor de Blasio Announces Selection of Rise: NYC Technologies to be Deployed at Sandy-Impacted Small Businesses Across New York City

April 30, 2015

Eleven innovative technologies will receive up to $30 million to implement resiliency projects at small businesses hit by Hurricane Sandy, at no cost to businesses owners

Resiliency effort builds upon OneNYC blueprint for a sustainable and resilient city

Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced the selection of 11 organizations to deploy their innovative technologies and climate change solutions to at-risk and vulnerable small businesses. The technologies were selected from a group of 27 finalists competing in the Resiliency Innovations for a Stronger Economy (RISE : NYC) competition, a New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) program designed to help small businesses impacted by Hurricane Sandy prepare for future storms, sea level rise, and other effects of climate change, while strengthening New York City’s long-term resiliency efforts.

RISE : NYC uses an innovative procurement model to identify and deploy creative new technologies and solutions to make New York City small businesses more resilient. The winning technologies are receiving a total of up to $30 million via the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement their technologies at Sandy-impacted small businesses across New York City. Over the coming months, NYCEDC will work with the winning organizations to implement projects at small businesses across the five boroughs.

The announcement comes one week after the de Blasio administration announced the release of “One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City,” a comprehensive plan for a sustainable and resilient city for all New Yorkers that addresses the profound social, economic, and environmental challenges ahead.  OneNYC builds upon prior long-term sustainability and resiliency plans for New York City, expanding on the critical targets established under previous plans, as well as on the work of the de Blasio administration over the last 16 months. Growth, sustainability, and resiliency remain at the core of OneNYC – but with the poverty rate remaining high and income inequality continuing to grow, the de Blasio administration added equity as a guiding principle throughout the plan. OneNYC sets measurable goals for tackling these challenges in the coming years with critical action in the short-term to put the City on the path to achieving these goals.

“RISE : NYC is a key component of our comprehensive resiliency plan, harnessing innovative technologies to strengthen our small businesses,” said Mayor de Blasio. “These innovations in energy, building systems, and telecommunications will help ensure that our small businesses – and the jobs they provide – are better prepared to withstand and recover from the effects of climate change. Congratulations to all the winners!”

“RISE : NYC is part of the City's comprehensive suite of initiatives to mitigate the effects of severe weather and climate change on New Yorkers, and all of the winning technologies will help support and strengthen small businesses across the city,” said NYCEDC President Kyle Kimball.  “Each of the 11 innovative winning technologies will make the city a safer, stronger and more resilient place, creating economic support and additional opportunities for New Yorkers and small businesses."

“RISE : NYC is a vital component of the City’s efforts to improve the long-term sustainability and resiliency of our communities and businesses,” said Bill Goldstein, Senior Advisor to the Mayor for Recovery, Resiliency, and Infrastructure. “The innovative new technologies will help protect the livelihood and jobs of thousands of New Yorkers by ensuring that small businesses are better protected and can recover more quickly from future severe weather events.”

“Hurricane Sandy highlighted the vulnerabilities that small businesses face from severe weather events. To ensure that businesses and communities are better prepared for future risks, the City is investing in technical assistance, enhancing commercial corridors, and new technologies,” said Daniel Zarrilli, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency. “Today's winning RISE : NYC teams, featuring technology solutions for energy, telecommunications, and building systems, will strengthen small businesses, demonstrating new ways to be ready to withstand and emerge stronger from the impacts of climate change and other 21st century threats.”

The winning technologies are:

Energy Technologies

  • Bright Power: a local startup based in Lower Manhattan that combines solar, energy storage, and co-generation technologies to provide back-up power for critical operational and small business needs during power outages.
  • CALM Energy: a New York City-based local startup that deploys an intelligent building management system, integrated with standby generation and commercially available technologies, to provide small business owners with smarter, more resilient buildings.
  • Go Electric: a company based in Indiana that will use its Energy Resiliency System to provide uninterruptible electric power during an outage and to monitor and reduce electricity costs for small businesses year-round.
  • Home Free: a New York City-based consortium of firms that will utilize the Safe Space solution, a collection of technologies that provide an affordable, site-specific renewable energy-based solution to small businesses in areas vulnerable to severe weather, for basic heating, lighting, security, communications, and other needs.
  • UGE: a local startup in Manhattan that harnesses solar and wind energy to provide uninterrupted power to small businesses during utility service disruptions and allows them to save on energy costs year-round.

Building System Technologies

  • F. William Brown and Flood Panel, LLC: a consortium of firms led by F. William Brown in Connecticut which will install Sandwich Plate System Flood Panels, designed by Flood Panel, LLC, to provide small businesses with a layer of protection to keep flood waters out of buildings – allowing for continuous business operation with minimal interruption due to flooding. The panels are made from extruded lightweight aluminum alloy filled with a patented poly‐urethane elastomer to form thin, interlocking, impact-resistant panels that provide a modular flood barrier against water infiltration.
  • Geosyntec: a Massachusetts-based company whose OptiRTC technology monitors flood control data in real time, to control valves in storm and plumbing systems to prevent critical utility systems from flood inundation.
  • NYC Daylighting: a Rockaway, Queens-based and Sandy-impacted small business that uses the Solatube Daylighting System to capture, transfer, and deliver natural light to dark interior building spaces.
  • Telecom Technologies
  • goTenna: a local startup, based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that allows people to communicate with each other without cell or a data connection, ensuring that businesses have resilient, peer-to-peer emergency communication capability.
  • Open Technology Institute: an initiative of New America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization, that utilizes a free, open-source meshing software to turn routers and other wireless devices into decentralized WiFi networks that can route around points of failure and connect small businesses to the neighborhood and the neighborhood to the outside world.
  • Red Hook Initiative: a Red Hook, Brooklyn-based organization that will deploy their Red Hook WiFi wireless network to expand WiFi coverage to small businesses throughout New York City impacted by Hurricane Sandy, providing small businesses with network resiliency and access to online resources and information, and allowing residents and small businesses to receive real time updates in the event of a power outage.

Launched in January 2014, RISE : NYC is a competition designed to identify and deploy creative new technologies and solutions to make New York City small businesses more resilient to the impacts of future storms, sea level rise, and other effects of climate change. Businesses and organizations worldwide were invited to submit project proposals for the installation of innovative technologies at small businesses that sustained significant losses as a result of Hurricane Sandy and at small businesses that are most vulnerable to future effects of climate change. The competition also invited small businesses that sustained physical damage or a loss of power or utility service interruption as a result of Hurricane Sandy, or small businesses that are located in the inundation area or the most recent 100-year floodplain, to apply to become installation sites for selected technologies. Selected small businesses will receive resiliency technologies at no cost.

“We learned through Sandy how critical it is for New York residents and businesses to prepare for extreme weather,” said U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez. “By targeting resources to entrepreneurs who are developing cutting-edge technologies that improve resiliency, this program will help ensure our city's small businesses can better withstand and recover from future catastrophes.”

“This program offers small businesses an opportunity to employ innovative technology to protect them from the next flood and should help the City identify new strategies to make flood-prone areas more resilient. I am delighted that federal CDBG funding is being used in such a proactive way and I hope businesses in my area that were affected by Superstorm Sandy will take advantage of the opportunity they are being offered,” said U.S. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney.   

“The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was devastating across all five boroughs, which included parts of my district – City Island and Throggs Neck,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the Technology Committee. “With storms like Hurricane Sandy becoming the new normal, I’m excited to see that the City, through the efforts of EDC, is taking active steps in creating a resiliency plan that makes our small businesses a priority by leveraging new technology. A return to normalcy was critical after Sandy, however the City was not equipped at the time to do so. I am hopeful that these 11 organizations will be able to provide innovative solutions through various technological means to assure the City will be ready to help small businesses reopen their doors soon after the next big storm passes through the area.”

The competition received over 200 applications from more than 20 countries around the world. Applications were evaluated by NYCEDC staff and partners familiar with the competition’s objectives and the resiliency challenges facing New York City. Following multiple rounds of evaluations, the winners were selected from a group of 27 finalist technologies announced in October 2014. The selection of the winners was determined with the support of expert advisors who are leaders in multiple areas including: infrastructure, building design and technology innovation, investment and finance, and the needs and concerns of small businesses and communities in areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  The expert knowledge, input, and advice of this highly qualified group was invaluable, ensuring that the most feasible and impactful projects were selected.

“New York City has the brightest innovators in the entire world, and these winners represent the best the city has to offer. The organizations selected – and their exciting new technologies -- will make a real difference in helping small businesses throughout the city get back on their feet,” said Maria Gotsch, President and CEO of the Partnership Fund for New York City, and one of the advisors of the RISE : NYC Competition. “Hurricane Sandy caused tremendous devastation throughout the five boroughs, and many small businesses are still struggling, but by funding these home-grown innovations we can recover quicker and be better prepared for the next major storm.”

“It's not always true that you can make lemons from lemonade, but in this case the resilience challenges recovery from Sandy presented are also opportunities, as the RISE : NYC competition results make clear,” said Mary Rowe, Director of Urban Resilience and Livability for the Municipal Art Society. “I was knocked out by the ambition and caliber of the entries, and these recipients really demonstrate the crucial importance – and effectiveness – of on-the-ground innovations to enable city neighborhoods, and the region, to build their resilience.”

“It is clear that weather patterns are changing, with severe storms becoming more frequent and devastating,” said Margarett Jolly, Director of Research and Development for Con Edison and an advisor in the competition. “The RISE : NYC competition produced imaginative and innovative ideas to protect property and keep New Yorkers safe.”

“RISE : NYC is a cutting-edge initiative that is not only spurring economic development,” said Alex Wilson, President of the Resilient Design Institute and RISE : NYC Advisory Board member, “but it is also providing critically important solutions to some of the greatest vulnerabilities faced by New York City and other municipalities around the country. New York City has taken the lead in embracing the need for more resilient buildings and communities, and with the financial support provided through RISE : NYC, these companies will be a big part of the solution.”

“Congratulations to the New York City Economic Development Corporation and all of the competitors involved in the RISE: NYC competition, which brought out the best in innovation in our business and technology communities,” said Felix Ciampa, Executive Director of the Urban Land Institute New York. “Hurricane Sandy revealed the City’s vulnerability to severe natural disasters and the need to create greater resiliency to protect us from future storms. The winners of this competition came up with incredible ideas that, if implemented, will protect our energy and telecommunication networks, reinforce our physical infrastructure and make our city a safer place to live and work.”

“This is a great example of New York City taking a very positive step in identifying and supporting creative new technologies which will make small businesses more resilient and environmentally friendly while supporting economic development,” said Robert B. Catell, Chairman of the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center at Stony Brook University. “I congratulate the winners and was delighted to have played a role in the selection process.”

“The proposals submitted to the RISE : NYC competition represent an exciting range of technology and business ideas. We congratulate the winners and look forward to seeing these ideas implemented,” said Dr. Christian Hoepfner, Director of the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems.

“Hurricane Sandy was a watershed event for New York City and Long Island, revealing the vulnerabilities of our infrastructure – particularly our electrical distribution system – and highlighting the need for a more reliable and responsive electric grid,” said Brookhaven National Laboratory Director Doon Gibbs. “With NYCEDC support, these RISE : NYC winning companies will play an important role in developing technologies to address the challenges associated with extreme weather events like Sandy and the longer-term impacts of climate change.”

“Superstorm Sandy reminded us just how vulnerable small businesses – the lifeblood of New York City’s economy – are to climate change impacts and severe weather events, and we know these shocks will only continue to accelerate in the years to come,” said Nancy Kete, Managing Director for Resilience at The Rockefeller Foundation. “At the same time, Sandy reminded us of the incredible ingenuity and creativity that is alive and well in our own communities. The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support RISE : NYC to ensure these homegrown technologies will enable local businesses to ensure future disruptions do not become disasters, while also scaling solutions to help businesses worldwide build resilience for a future much different than the past.”

“Sandy brought New Yorkers face to face with our changing climate, and showed us that the future is now,” said Ronny Sandoval, Director of Grid Optimization for Environmental Defense Fund. “Environmental Defense Fund is appreciative of the opportunity to support the development of scalable, cost-effective energy solutions that will help communities weather future storms, rising seas and other effects of climate change.”

“The innovation and technology arising from the RISE : NYC competition will add to the toolkit of resiliency solutions that we can apply across the most vulnerable communities of New York City and beyond,” said Vincent Lee, Associate Principal at Arup.

“Through RISE : NYC, the New York City Economic Development Corporation will turn New York City into one of the world's leading laboratories for community wireless mesh networks,” said Anthony Townsend, Senior Research Scientist at the NYU Rudin Center For Transportation Policy and Management. “By partnering with the Red Hook Initiative and the Open Technology Institute, these investments will create the capacity for vulnerable neighborhoods to help themselves create the crisis communications capacity they need to be more resilient to future coastal flooding and other disasters.”

“Technology is key to the future resiliency of this great city,” said Scott Anderson, Founding Partner at Control Group. “As a Lower Manhattan business owner whose office was shut down by Hurricane Sandy, it was our use of innovative technologies that enabled us to continue to work and help our clients who were facing adverse circumstances. RISE : NYC is an important program and opportunity, that will help ensure our city's safety and continued economic success in the face of climate change.”

“These projects demonstrate how local action and strategic implementation can be leveraged to build a more resilient infrastructure for New York City,” said Michelle Addington, Hines Professor of Sustainable Architectural Design at Yale University. “Large impacts can emerge from small, thoughtfully focused investments.”

“We need innovation for mitigation and adaptation,” said Pat Sapinsley, CEO of Build Efficiently/Watt Not and Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Wyss Institute. “The RISE : NYC competition fosters innovations by those who are trying to innovate a path out of harm’s way; there is no silver bullet. Massive dams and diversion techniques cannot protect one portion of our city without inflicting harm on another. This suite of innovations in Distributed Generation, Telecom and Building Systems will help to protect us from the inevitable risks of climate change.”

“I applaud RISE : NYC for finding scalable solutions to prepare small businesses for the impacts of climate change,” said Jigar Shah, President of Generate Capital and Founder of SunEdison. “RISE : NYC projects have the potential to stimulate greater private investment in resiliency technologies, creating new economic opportunities.”

RISE : NYC is part of a suite of City initiatives created to facilitate recovery following Hurricane Sandy. New York City has nearly 400,000 residents living in the floodplain, more than any major American city – and the risks, due to climate change, are growing. RISE : NYC complements some of the long-term projects that the City is studying and working to implement alongside stakeholders like the U.S. Army Corps, including studying projects such as building levees on Staten Island’s East Shore, wetlands and living shorelines in Tottenville and Howard Beach, dunes in Breezy Point, tidal barriers in Coney Island Creek, and storm surge barriers at the mouth of Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal. RISE : NYC is also included in “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” the 2013 comprehensive plan put forth as part of the City’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency. Additional program information can be found at the RISE : NYC website at  

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