Ecology | 1011 2nd Ave
The Friends of the Mahicantuck took a deep snow walk with Systems Ecologist David Hunt and local historian and archeologist Don Rittner.
Mr. Hunt located several locations on the property where he found rare Scrub Oak and cataloged at least 17 of the plants, despite the deep snow. The Scrub Oak is also a habitat indicator of the globally rare Buck Moth – which may be nesting on the property as well.
additional ecological reports regarding 1011 2nd Ave will be forthcoming – stay tuned!
We are currently gathering information about the ecology of this land. With old growth forest, Bald Eagles and endangered damsel and dragonflies that live here – this last forested waterfront parcel in Troy serves as an important ecosystem to the area. Stay tuned for more detailed information. In the mean time – please feel free to review the below information on environmental and public health impacts the proposed development would have on this land, the river and the community if it is allowed to move forward.
environmental and public health impacts
ENVIRONMENTAL AND PUBLIC HEALTH GROUNDS – Submitted to the Troy City Council for Public Record on 09.10.20
There are several environmental impacts that constitute direct and indirect public harm associated with the proposed rezoning of Parcel 70.64-1-1 — and the proposed development of the site.
These will also have significant consequences for public health, the city’s climate and extreme weather resilience, and the city’s revenue. Critically, this development and the associated change in zoning code will:
– lead to increased floor sealment with concrete and hence increased run-off pressures
– increase pressures on the already strained sewage system
– lead to further channelization of the Hudson, already leading to increased flood risks, will be further increased with this development
— leading to increased flood hazards for downstream properties across the city. The location of this property in particular will severely increase flood risks for the entire city.
– cause significant loss of forest and natural waterfront will increase other critical hazards, including urban heat, runoff pollution, air pollution and their severe impacts on public health
These consequences and impacts stand in direct conflict with the 2018 Comprehensive Plan [A], with critical efforts underway through the city’s participation in the Climate Smart Communities Program, and with legal provisions constituted in state and city law and code.
Additionally, the development does not adhere to critical provisions for waterfront protection and renaturalization established in existing code as well as in the additional zoning logics established in the comprehensive plan (which a change in zoning code must adhere to). Particularly, this regards setback and new waterfront shoreline provisions associated with the comprehensive plan.
SECTION 2 — A: Environmental Impacts of Change of Code for Parcel 70.64-1-1
1) SEWAGE OVERFLOW
The city’s sewage and water management infrastructure is already at capacity. In the last years, Troy was in violation of state reporting laws in association with massive sewage overflows [S2-1] leading to significant cost for the community. In fact, Troy is the worst polluter in regards to overflows in the region. The city itself acknowledged that “Unfortunately, sewer overflow events are fairly routine for shoreline communities like Troy.” [S2-2] It is in this context that the proposed development and its impacts on the loss of this land will significantly escalate this already urgent emergency. The location of the site at the very north of the city, combined with its size and its impact on the city’s sewer system will lead to significant environmental and monetary costs for the city and all its residents.
2) SOIL EROSION, RUNOFF AND FLOOD RISKS
The property is directly adjacent to the Hudson; This means development impacts on this land will significantly affect the flood resilience of Troy, particularly due to its location upstream of the entire city (last property before the city line); The undeveloped higher elevation provide additional protection against runoff and to the integrity of the areas of the land that comprise a flood zone. Studies show the importance of such natural assets in runoff protection [S2-3] 7 The development will significantly increase runoff pollution [S2-4] through the loss of water absorbing forest and forest soils and the use of impervious material as well as the associated increased traffic and pollution. This only constitutes [S2-5] an increased threat of environmental harm on surrounding communities, downstream communities and the Hudson river itself.
3) CHANNELIZATION, RESILIENCY, FLOODING AND RUNOFF
Natural, forested spaces are a critical asset to the city’s environmental and climate resilience [S2-6] [S2-7]. This area, upstream of the entire city, significantly protects the city from flooding directly (as a buffer flood zone for flooding) and indirectly by preventing runoff and maintaining the integrity of the river bank [A, p. 16]. The development of the site in the proposed form would significantly interfere with the ability of this land to absorb runoff and protect the city from river pollution and flooding.
Studies well-establish that developments, such as the proposed, and the associated displacement of natural waterfront and channelization significantly increase river flood risks downstream [S2-8; S2-9; S2-10]. The direct effects of sedimentary flow and associated environmental degradation of the Hudson River additionally exacerbate the increase of flood risks downstream at other areas across the City of Troy and other communities along the Hudson River.
This is also acknowledged in the comparative plan [A], which states
“The majority of the Hudson River shoreline south of the Collar City Bridge has been channelized, which has interrupted or removed natural ecosystems. Due to this activity, sediment from the Hudson River is no longer deposited on the banks, and limited habitat is available for fish and wildlife species” (p. 16)
According to [A] the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) estimates that by 2080 the City of Troy could face over 3 feet of sea-level rise on the tidal Hudson River due to global climate change. Rainfall events are also expected to become less predictable, more extreme, and occur in the form of heavy downpours or extended droughts. The elevation of the 100-year floodplain and the city’s history of extreme flooding suggest that the threat of damage to and loss of property is heightened due to anticipated climate change.
4) ECOSYSTEM IMPACTS Biodiversity and Ecological Loss
This is one of the last undeveloped natural waterfronts in Troy. It serves as a major biodiversity refuge in the otherwise urban area; Disturbance or complete destruction would mean the irrevocable loss of the last such space in the City of Troy. Increased traffic, disturbance and pollution: Development of the land will increase the traffic, both to and on the land; Even if the development includes public access to untouched parts of the land, the 200 units alone will significantly increase the use of the land, leading to the disturbance of the ecosystem, increased pollution of the land, as well as the Hudson River;
5) PUBLIC HEALTH IMPACTS
Associated with the above mentioned environmental impacts are major impacts on public health associated with the proposed development and the proposed change in zoning code. 8
Urban Heat Island – Forested areas serve as “natural air conditioning” for the surrounding communities in urban centers and provide a natural refuge and relief from oppressive summer heat; a climate risk that is anticipated to significantly increase for the city of Troy and already constitutes a major public health threat today.. Development, even if major parts of the forest would not be destroyed, would significantly impact the accessibility and functioning of this critical asset [S2-11]. A recent article published in the New York Times (August 24, 2020) [S2-12] discusses the direct relationship between health, income and racial disparities in relationship to exposures to extreme heat in the urban context.
Air Quality – will be negatively impacted, both directly and indirectly. The increased traffic associated with the development will diametrically impact the air quality of this neighborhood. Additionally, the loss of tree and natural space will further exacerbate air quality loss [S2-13].
Noise Pollution — as a R1 zone, the rezoning will significantly increase noise levels due to increased population density, increased traffic and the loss of green space as natural noise shield; this will significantly disrupt the character, but also the health of the otherwise characteristically quiet neighborhood.
SECTION 2 — C: Legal Implications
A rezoning of this parcel would allow for a large scale development of the site that ultimately would destroy the environmental and ecological resource of the last undeveloped forest along the Hudson in the entire city of Troy.
In the current zoning as R-1 single family residential, detached, the environmental impact of potential development — while still extraordinarily adverse — would be significantly limited in comparison to the full-scale development that a rezoning to P Planned Development would make possible.
In the lack of a better protection of the parcel and a lasting environmental and historic preservation, maintaining the current code R-1 is the best bet to avoid negative impacts on this critical ecological and environmental asset and its interactions with the Hudson River.
For these reasons, the proposed rezoning and development stand in direct conflict with legal grounds for a rezoning, including cost-benefit analysis of harm to the public/public benefit. Additionally, it constitutes explicit inconsistency with the 2018 Comprehensive Plan [A] as well as the participation of the City of Troy in the Climate Smart Communities Program and the associated “pledge” passed as resolution by the City of Troy [S2-15].
Inconsistency with Comprehensive Plan and Spot Zoning
There are major inconsistencies with the Troy Comprehensive Plan of 2018, rendering the rezoning inconsistent with law. This is particularly in reference to the NYS legal requirement to maintain consistency with the Comprehensive Plan for any proposed change in zoning code.
The comprehensive plan calls explicitly for the renaturalization of the waterfront, the preservation and expansion of the tree canopy, and the protection of natural and open spaces in the city (cp. Section 3). 9 The assessment provided by the developer regarding wetlands and flood zone are incomplete and at times omit critical facts. Map 12 [S2-15] of the Troy Comprehensive plan clearly shows that about 40% of the proposed development area are within 100 year and 500 year flood zones, respectively.
It is important to note that these maps date from 1980 and therefore do not take into consideration the requirements to incorporate climate changes into planning, constituted in NYS law as well as the Climate Smart Communities program participation.
Additionally, the Comprehensive Plan designates the development area as a new coastal boundary, which is associated with additional SEQRA requirements, and is to be classified as a Type I action. Harm to the Public and the Environment Associated with the Proposed Development The attached supplemental evidence clearly shows negative impacts on the environment and public health. This is significant grounds to NOT grant the sought change of the zoning code. Additionally, the environmental impacts — particularly in the context of sewage overflow and increased flood risks — will significantly negatively impact the city revenue.
SECTION 2 — D: List of Supplemental Evidence for Section 2:
- [S2-1] Times Union (July 7, 2017) “Massive Albany Troy Sewage Spills in Hudson https://www.timesunion.com/7dayarchive/article/Massive-Albany-Troy-sewage-spills-in-Hudson-1 1273421.php
- [S2-2] Statement of City of Troy: “Understanding Tory’s Combined Sewer Infrastructure System” July 10, 2017 http://www.troyny.gov/understanding-troy-combined-sewer-infrastructure-system/
- [S2-3] Conservation Tools: Working With Nature to Manage Stormwater https://conservationtools.org/guides/166-working-with-nature-to-manage-stormwater
- [S2-4] DOS: Impacts of Urban Runoff https://www.des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/tmdl/documents/stormwater_chapt1.pdf
- [S2-5] https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/wri014071
- [S2-6] Urban Forests and Climate Change https://climate-woodlands.extension.org/urban-forests-and-climate-change/#:~:text=Urban%20for ests%20can%20be%20useful,to%20heat%20and%20cool%20buildings.
- [S2-7] USDA Urban Forests and Climate Change https://www.fs.usda.gov/ccrc/topics/urban-forests-and-climate-change
- [S2-8] National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Hydromodification https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/chapter_3_channelization_web.pdf
- [S2-9] Problems Facing Urban Streams http://www.msdlouky.org/insidemsd/wqurban.htm
- [S2-10] From Channelization To Restoration http://scholar.google.com/scholar_url?url=http://www.academia.edu/download/43058958/Chen_et _al-2016-Water_Resources_Research.pdf&hl=en&sa=X&scisig=AAGBfm3QW_VCYsUVIg_vciK WvVRiz7HOaQ&nossl=1&oi=scholarr
- [S2-11] EPA: Reduce Urban Heat Island Effect https://www.epa.gov/green-infrastructure/reduce-urban-heat-island-effect 10
- [S2-12] NYT: How Decades Of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/08/24/climate/racism-redlining-cities-global-warming.ht ml
- [S2-13] Benefits of Urban Trees https://www.nature.org/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/documents/Public_Health_Benefits_Urban_Tre es_FINAL.pdf
- [S2-14] CSC Certification Troy http://csc-site-persistent-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/fileadmin/cicbase/documents/2017/11/10/1510 3445909908.pdf
- [S2-15] Comprehensive Plan Map 12