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Long Island Co-ops and Condos Are Installing Flood Barriers. Should You?

One Kensington Gate, Great Neck, Nassau County

Should You Install a Flood Barrier?
A FloodBreak flood barrier
June 4, 2014

A number of companies make flood barriers (also known as “flood doors,” “flood gates,” and “flood planks,” depending on a model’s specific style and use). PS Doors, for instance, has among its many custom-made models the simple Lift-Out Flood Barrier LO-510, an aluminum or stainless steel pane. A building’s staff can attach it in front of entryways while preparing for flooding and lift it out afterward to store until needed again.

Other flood barriers are permanent installations, ready to slide, swing, or vertically drop into place. Presray, for example, has among its custom models the heavy-duty FB44 Hinged Floodgate with Pneumatic Seals, made of carbon-steel or stainless-steel frames and aluminum panels. When floodwaters threaten, the building staff close the gate, slide the locking bolts, and inflate the seals.

Passive? Aggressive!

A few years ago, the 96-unit One Kensington Gate installed a barrier called FloodBreak. A “passive” system, meaning that it requires no power system or human intervention, it’s a metal panel that lies flat at desired locations until floodwaters cause it to lift and lock in place, preventing water from getting past.

The vast majority of flood barriers have to be custom-designed for a particular site. The way a sudden surge of water hits one building may be extremely different from the way it hits a similar building one block away, based on the direction of the flood. Structural differences between buildings needs consideration as well: you can’t just bolt a big piece of metal to your building’s front door, because all the structural elements there – walls and foundation, chiefly – need to be able to resist water pressure in tandem. It’s not much good if the barrier simply diverts an oncoming surge from the front door to the front walls, or if the walls to which the barrier is bolted aren’t strong enough.

Former board president Litt says One Kensington Gate saw little choice. “We’ve had eight floods in less than 40 years,” he says. “We’d tried sandbags,” he says of measures taken previously. But, “Waters still pushed open the garage door. It was very costly because many cars were destroyed, and we had to hire a service to pump out the water.” With some buildings still trying to recover from Sandy nearly two years later, it’s clear that flood mitigation isn’t a discussion to be put off until another rainy day.


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Adapted from "Before the Next Storm" by Frank Lovece (Habitat, June 2014)

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