Improving plans for Mill River

Stakeholders meet to discuss the Rebuild by Design program


At the second meeting to discuss the Rebuild by Design program to make Mill River more storm-resilient, citizens brainstormed ways to involve the surrounding communities, and the design team reported on its plans so far. Rebuild by Design is an initiative by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development designed to help communities recover from Hurricane Sandy and prepare for the next large storm.

The meeting, on Aug. 22 at Malverne Village Hall, was the second gathering of the project’s Citizens Advisory Committee, which will help plan and implement the project. All of the committee members are residents of towns surrounding Mill River, and they all have a stake in the project and unique expertise: The group comprises community organizers, marine biologists, environmental engineers, college students and others.

The $125 million for the project came from HUD, and was awarded as part of a Rebuild by Design contest in June 2014. In the two years since, the Interboro Team, a collaboration of Dutch and American designers, has come up with new ways to make the Mill River area more resistant to storm damage. The goal is to protect the communities along its entire length from flooding while preserving the natural environment. The methods used will be replicable, in order to help other areas around the country.

Kris Van Orsdel, the managing director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, which is overseeing the project, conducted the meeting. “Ultimately, the way the money works is that by 2021, we have to be done,” he said. “By the 2017 to 2019 period, we really need to be doing some things. And so we’ve developed a really good working relationship with HUD and our other partners … The idea is to put together a series of projects that we can start to advance now so that citizens and people we reach can see we’re moving, but … ultimately by a certain time period we’ve got to lock things down so that we can go through the environmental [review], we can get construction going.”

Advisory Committee members brainstormed ways to reach out to residents and environmental groups, to develop recreation opportunities and long-term monitoring strategies, and to create opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses.

There was also a review of the Rebuild by Design projects for Malverne, including the greenway that will use Malverne High School land and teach students about their surrounding environment, and storm water management projects to prevent contaminants from flowing into Mill River. “It was clear that the high school was eager and interested in reactivating the preserve that’s always been here,” said Michael Fishman, project manager at the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, “and developing that as part of the curriculum, part of this understanding of where they are in their watershed …”

Rebuild by Design also announced the finalists in its Social Resiliency Program, which are competing for $2 million for proposed projects focusing on education, research, maintenance, long-term monitoring and jobs. “It’s a very exciting thing to be able to take $2 million and develop a program that’s going to be much longer lasting than just building the construction,” said Van Orsdel.

The finalists are Hofstra University’s National Center for Urban Studies, Nassau BOCES, New York Institute of Technology, Operation SPLASH, the Rockville Centre School District and the Tanglewood Center for Science Teaching and Learning. They must submit their final proposals and budgets by Sept. 9. Awards will be announced in October.

The next Citizens Advisory Committee meeting will be in November.