Richmond University Medical Center on Staten Island is not in a flood zone but still experienced minor flooding during Ida, although it did not interrupt care across its 470-plus beds, a spokesman said.
The hospital is in the process of spending nearly $43 million, with financial support from FEMA, to replace 700 windows and make them hurricane-force resistant. The project will also feature new flood-control measures to protect against water damage and harden the hospital building against strong winds. It is expected to be completed in the spring.
A separate $28.5 million project is building a plant the hospital can use to generate its own electricity in the event of a power outage. The system is due to go online by the end of the year.
NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island, which is by the waterfront, has several major resiliency projects underway. It installed a flood barrier around the ambulatory portion of its campus, and its new inpatient tower has been fortified to account for 500 years of floods, said Christine Flaherty, senior vice president of capital projects, construction and design at the public health system.
“Typically hospital engineers look at a 100-year flood plan,” Flaherty said. “But we’re a waterfront city. We need to go further than that, such as doing flood mapping to account for future sea level rise as well.”
The Coney Island hospital’s infrastructure project comes from a $1.2 billion FEMA grant the health system received, of which Coney Island got the largest share, at $700 million. The rest was spread around the other hospitals, some of which saw damage from Ida.
Elmhurst and Lincoln hospitals in Queens and the Bronx, respectively, saw some flooding in elevator pits and basements, Flaherty said, but it did not affect clinical operations.
Resiliency projects need not always be major undertakings, said Joe Ienuso, group senior vice president of facilities and real estate at New York-Presbyterian. Instead, they can take the form of continuous smaller investments in infrastructure exposed to the elements, such as roofs, exteriors, heating and cooling systems, and electrical systems, he said.
“At any given time there are probably 75 to 100 such smaller projects taken to harden these points,” Ienuso said.
But Ida did push Ienuso’s team to evaluate whether bigger-scale solutions are needed. He said some of the system’s hospitals experienced flooding in cellars and utility tunnels and leaks from rooftop storm-drainage systems.
Such solutions could include new systems to ensure existing ones can perform efficiently, like one that could clear debris from drainage points in the roof, he said.
“There will always be an associated cost of these upgrades, but there’s an even bigger cost of doing nothing,” he said, “Mitigating risk will be the biggest payout.”
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