As part of the Resilient Neighborhoods initiative, the Department of City Planning has been working with the community in Sheepshead Bay to identify changes to zoning and land use and other actions that support the continued vitality of this neighborhood, reduce its risk associated with coastal flooding, and ensure the long-term resiliency of its built environment. Sheepshead Bay was selected for the study not only because it was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy, but also because of its vulnerability to flooding from coastal storm surge and unique built form. The area includes a diverse array of lot sizes and building types ranging from small sunken bungalows to large retail spaces and multi-family apartment buildings. These typologies raise numerous challenges in becoming resilient.
View the summary report on Sheepshead Bay.
Visit the Sheepshead Bay Flood Risk Atlas.
During the course of the study, City Planning worked closely with members of the community, local groups, and elected officials to inform residents of the study and gather early questions and concerns. This was also a chance to identify local challenges that needed further study. In June of 2014, City Planning presented the Southern Brooklyn Resilient Neighborhoods Initiative to Community Board 15. In November, City Planning convened the first Community Advisory Committee. The Committee includes representatives from Community Board 15, Bay Improvement Group, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz’s office, and the Sheepshead Bay Plumb Beach Civic Association.
The Committee met numerous times to discuss zoning issues, provide input on the study, and identify land use and zoning strategies that allow for resilient construction, limit vulnerability in areas of high risk, and develop a comprehensive vision for retail corridors to address flood vulnerability. City Planning also met with the Community Board and other elected officials throughout the process. In April 2016, City Planning presented the final recommendations for the Sheepshead Bay study to Community Board 15.
Sheepshead Bay is a vibrant, growing community with thriving commercial corridors, a working and recreational waterfront along Sheepshead Bay, and a diverse built environment featuring blocks of single-family bungalows and larger multi-family apartments. The neighborhood was severely impacted during Hurricane Sandy, with the tidal surge coming up from the bay and extending north to Avenue X. Single-family homes and apartment buildings south of the Belt Parkway were especially hard-hit and faced extensive damage caused by floodwaters entering through storm water outlets and a surge that reached up to 10 feet above the ground. The sunken bungalow courts were significantly impacted and continue to experience ponding and severe drainage issues today. Small ground-floor businesses on Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road experienced flood levels up to six feet, resulting in the temporary and permanent closure of local businesses on both corridors. Within the Special Sheepshead Bay District (SSBD), businesses located in below grade cellar spaces experienced severe flooding and in some cases have been unable to return following Sandy. Boat houses, boat clubs, and the piers along the water were also severely damaged.
The 2013 Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (PFIRMs) reflect a significant expansion from the 1% annual chance floodplain. Over 4,000 new residential units are included in the floodplain, as well as over 1,500 new buildings. Since many of these homes were not previously within the flood zone, they were not built to current flood resilient construction standards provided by FEMA and reflected in the New York City Building Code. Homeowners with federally-regulated mortgages may need to make significant investments in retrofitting these buildings to qualify for the lowest National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) premiums. The 2013 Citywide Flood Resiliency Zoning Text Amendment was adopted on a temporary basis to remove many of the zoning barriers to making such retrofits; however, these changes do not fully address some of the challenges in Sheepshead Bay, and need to be made permanent.
Despite challenges to resiliency that include economic, infrastructural, and built-form barriers, Sheepshead Bay is vibrant community that has strong commercial and residential areas and continues to boast a strong property market. This study seeks to build on the community’s existing strengths and propose local strategies, including zoning recommendations, for increasing resiliency in currently at risk areas.
The framework map identifies four priority zones within the Sheepshead Bay study area. These areas are highlighted because of the crucial roles they play within the neighborhood, as well as being extents where the Department of City Planning has developed recommendations for promoting resiliency.
The map focuses on the Sheepshead Bay Special District, which was designated in 1973 and encompasses the Emmons Avenue commercial corridor. Ensuring the resiliency of this retail stretch is critical to the economic vibrancy of Sheepshead Bay. This study looks at current zoning provisions as well as the corridor’s building typologies and proximity to the waterfront in order to identify neighborhood strategies to increase resiliency and create a long-term vision for an active destination on the waterfront.
Sheepshead Bay Road is a local retail corridor located along the B and Q subway lines that is made up of an old attached building stock. Retrofitting such properties poses both logistical and financial challenges to the small business owners who lease property along the stretch. This framework looks to highlight the barriers to resiliency and identify possible solutions in conjunction with DCP’s forthcoming Resilient Retail study.
The framework also considers residential areas and seeks to alleviate zoning barriers to retrofitting. Sheepshead Bay features several typologies that pose unique challenges, including sunken bungalow courts along Emmons Avenue and attached buildings north of the Belt Parkway. Neighborhood strategies include updates to the Citywide Flood Text to tailor zoning changes to these local conditions.
DCP is studying additional zoning changes to ensure that existing buildings are able to be retrofitted and to eliminate impediments to developing new resilient homes in the residential areas of Sheepshead Bay.
DCP has provided support to the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery (HRO) Build It Back process by evaluating different retrofitting options for sunken detached homes along Emmons Avenue to alleviate routine flooding and allow for emergency access while retaining community and local character.
As part of the Resilient Retail study, DCP has identified retrofitting strategies for commercial buildings along the corridor and developed urban design guidelines that promote resilience while ensuring the corridor remains active and accessible to shoppers.
DCP has identified potential changes to the Special Sheepshead Bay District to allow resilient construction to withstand future floods and better meet the Special District goals.
The Resilient Neighborhoods Initiative is part of a broad range of efforts by the City to recover from Hurricane Sandy, promote rebuilding, and increase the city’s resilience to climate-related events, including coastal flooding and storm surge. Recommendations from this program will be developed in close consultation with area stakeholders and build on other initiatives, including ONENYC and the Mayor’s Office for Recovery and Resiliency.
For more information contact: ResilientBrooklyn_DL@planning.nyc.gov