New Data Dashboard Reporting Street-Level Flooding in NYC Gives Government, Responders, the Public, and Researchers Real-Time Information on Rising Waters
The application is linked to a growing network of flood sensors that provide user-friendly data via an interactive map to alert users to rising waters in flood-prone areas.
New York City is girding itself for storm season, which, in the face of accelerating climate change, could mean more frequent and extreme storms like Hurricanes Henri and Ida, and local cloudbursts producing prodigious volumes of stormwater.
The city has a new arrow in its quiver to confront these threats with greater resilience: An academic, government and community consortium called FloodNet, which includes the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRIJB) led by CUNY-Brooklyn College, the Advanced Science Research Center at the CUNY Graduate Center (CUNY ASRC), the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice, and the NYC Office of Technology & Innovation. Developed by a team of researchers including Brett Branco of the SRIJB at Brooklyn College, Andrea Silverman, Charlie Mydlarz, Tega Brain, and Elizabeth Hénaff of NYU Tandon; and Ricardo Toledo-Crow of CUNY ASRC, it features a just-launched, free-to-use, publicly available web tool that will make it easy for communities and government agencies to know where, when and how quickly flood waters are rising, either from overburdened stormwater drains or coastal seawater surges.
Created in partnership with FieldKit, with funding from the New York State Empire State Development Corporation, the new mobile-ready web dashboard presents real-time data collected by the expanding FloodNet system of low-cost, open-source sensors in flood-prone areas across the city. Currently, FloodNet comprises 30 ultrasonic devices deployed in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island, from which readings are delivered to an interactive map and data visualization platform, allowing users to see the occurrence and depth of flood water at each sensor location.
FloodNet can give critical information on the need for road closures or travel bans, inform residents of the need to deploy sandbags and flood barriers, validate existing flood models, and provide data for future drainage investments.
The research team has already installed 29 sensors and will install a total of 50 by end of the year. They will work in partnership with the city to install 500 FloodNet sensors in priority areas citywide over the next five years. The installation areas are determined by an analysis of stormwater risk, tidal flooding risk, storm damage, environmental justice history, social vulnerability, critical infrastructure, and proximity to wireless network connections.
“We’ve been working with both communities and government for years to better understand the impact that flooding has on the lives of NYC residents,” said Branco, an associate professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center and director of the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay. “From the frequent nuisance flooding due to high tides around Jamaica Bay to the catastrophic flooding across all five boroughs that occurs during coastal storms and extreme rainfall events, FloodNet and the data dashboard will help NYC find equitable solutions to these problems.”
“This is the first time that quantitative data on urban flood occurrence, depth, and duration have been measured and provided to the public — we’re excited to share the dashboard with communities, city agency partners, and other researchers,” said Silverman, an assistant professor of Environmental Engineering. “We’ve heard many stories and desired use cases for the data from a variety of stakeholders, and we are looking forward to seeing how these communities end up using the real-time and historic flood data.”
The FloodNet project was developed as a collaboration between researchers SRIJB at Brooklyn College, NYU Tandon’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), the CUNY ASRC, and in partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice and the NYC Office of Technology & Innovation, and with the financial support of the C2SMART Tier 1 U.S. Department of Transportation University Transportation Center at NYU Tandon, the NYU Marron Institute, and the CUNY Office of Research.
The research team will present current local flood data and discuss more details of the dashboard on September 16, 2022, during a NYC climate change press briefing at the CUNY ASRC.
- Displays a rich data set collected by the FloodNet sensors, including the depth and profile of street-level floods over time, which can be of use to community members, city agencies, researchers, emergency response, journalists, and others.
- Provides flood data in real-time as they are collected and can alert users to floods as they develop.
- Includes a searchable map view that allows users to see at a glance which sensors are currently recording floods.
- Historic data are also available, allowing users to explore and understand the frequency and severity of flooding in locations where FloodNet sensors are deployed, in addition to visualizing floods that occurred during specific events. For example, during Tropical Storm Henri, FloodNet sensors deployed in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn recorded two distinct flood events on the same night separated by an hour where the water receded. During Ida, sensors recorded three feet of flooding at the intersection of Carroll Street and 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, with flood waters rising quickly, peaking within 20 minutes, creating extremely hazardous conditions.
- Regular flooding related to high tide events can also be visualized, through data collected by flood sensors deployed in coastal neighborhoods.
“An exciting aspect of the Floodnet project is that we’re also using it to train the next generation of young environmental scientists and community-based stewards through the involvement of New York City-based high school, community college, and undergraduate students who help us assemble, install, and maintain the sensors,” said Toledo-Crow, director of the ASRC Next Generation Environmental Sensors Lab, who helped design the sensors.
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About the Advanced Science Research Center at the CUNY Graduate Center
The Advanced Science Research Center at the CUNY Graduate Center (CUNY ASRC) is a world-leading center of scientific excellence that elevates STEM inquiry and education at CUNY and beyond. The CUNY ASRC’s research initiatives span five distinctive, but broadly interconnected disciplines: nanoscience, photonics, neuroscience, structural biology, and environmental sciences. The center promotes a collaborative, interdisciplinary research culture where renowned and emerging scientists advance their discoveries using state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge core facilities.
About the Graduate Center of The City University of New York
The CUNY Graduate Center is a leader in public graduate education devoted to enhancing the public good through pioneering research, serious learning, and reasoned debate. The Graduate Center offers ambitious students nearly 50 doctoral and master’s programs of the highest caliber, taught by top faculty from throughout CUNY — the nation’s largest urban public university. Through its nearly 40 centers, institutes, initiatives, and the Advanced Science Research Center, the Graduate Center influences public policy and discourse and shapes innovation. The Graduate Center’s extensive public programs make it a home for culture and conversation.
About Brooklyn College
Widely known for its offer of an excellent education at an affordable tuition and recognized nationally for its diverse student body, Brooklyn College has been an anchor institution within the Borough of Brooklyn and greater New York City for more than 90 years. With approximately 16,000 students in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, education, and business, the college is renowned for its rigorous academics, award-winning faculty, distinguished alumni, and community impact. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), Brooklyn College offers a vibrant and supportive student experience on a beautifully landscaped 35-acre campus in the borough’s Midwood neighborhood.
About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering
The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute. A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences as part of a global university, with close connections to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. NYU Tandon is rooted in a vibrant tradition of entrepreneurship, intellectual curiosity, and innovative solutions to humanity’s most pressing global challenges. Research at Tandon focuses on vital intersections between communications/IT, cybersecurity, and data science/AI/robotics systems and tools and critical areas of society that they influence, including emerging media, health, sustainability, and urban living. We believe diversity is integral to excellence, and are creating a vibrant, inclusive, and equitable environment for all of our students, faculty and staff. For more information, visit engineering.nyu.edu.