December, 2012. Natalie Musumeci for The Brooklyn Paper.
Brooklyn Crab gets great reviews for hurricane survival.
Red Hook’s rustic, six-month-old seafood shack weathered Hurricane Sandy with no serious damage thanks to a beach-y design that gives the eatery the looks — and the durability — of the crab houses around the Chesapeake Bay.
Structural engineer Andrew Goodrich nailed the ocean-side aesthetics that Brooklyn Crab’s owners had in mind when he elevated the three-story Reed Street restaurant 10 feet above street level using a wood pile foundation dug 30 feet into the soil. And that work wasn’t just cosmetic.
“It’s up on stilts and it’s designed for 130 mile-per-hour winds, so that’s a huge part of why it was able to withstand the storm,” said Goodrich, whose Windsor Terrace-based team of engineers spent more than a year designing and constructing the seafood joint.
Waters surged through the ground-level mini-golf course, but the stilt design kept the eatery’s interior and mechanical systems high and dry.
“We made sure that the elevation was high enough for any flooding that would be occurring,” said Goodrich, who stowed all utilities on the second floor rather than in the basement.
Also helpful was the extra deep foundation — which proved particularly important considering the crab shack’s location just 100 feet from the harbor near Van Brunt Street.
“Part of the reason the piles go so deep is because a lot of this is landfill and bad soil,” Goodrich said. “They have go to down deep enough to the good soil where they are firmly embedded and can resist bending, so that they don’t give in and topple over.”
Project manager John Notarnicola worked with Goodrich’s team to build the elevated eatery — one of dozens of stilted houses in his 27 years in the business.
“Strong winds were not able to rock the building or remove any particular part of the roof because everything is connected within,” said Notarnicola. “Every nut and bolt is carefully connected.”
The ocean-inspired design protected Brooklyn Crab, but after Hurricane Sandy passed the eatery’s employees found themselves feeling remorse for neighbors including the Red Hook Lobster Pound, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies, and Sunny’s Bar, just around the corner on Conover Street, which suffered severe flooding and extensive damage.
“I’m thankful we did not get as damaged as some of the other businesses,” said head chef and partner Jason Lux. “But I feel guilty that the Brooklyn Crab wasn’t hit hard — Red Hook is a family of restaurants and I feel bad for the neighborhood.”
Homes and businesses in the waterfront community, including the massive Fairway Market at the foot of Van Brunt Street, could not escape Sandy’s fury simply because of the way they were built, engineers said.
“Building codes are not designed for flooding,” said Goodrich, adding that many of the structures in Red Hook are so old that they were constructed even before building codes were in place.
If it were up to Goodrich and Notarnicola, and not city codes, there would be a lot more buildings on stilts in Red Hook and Brooklyn’s other coastal communities.
“My criteria is the closer you are to the water, the higher the elevation on the building has to be,” said Notarnicola. “If you’re in this neighborhood you should be building 10 feet above grade at the minimum. Electrical boxes and gas meters do not belong in the basements knowing that surges do occur.”