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FORENSIC ANALYSIS: MATTHIESSEN PARK &

SCENIC HUDSON PARK, IRVINGTON, NY

Author: Andrew Rella, Ph.D.


Researcher: Erin Hopson
Project PI: Jon Miller, Ph.D.
Davidson Laboratory
Stevens Institute of Technology
arellla@stevens.edu
jmiller@stevens.edu

The Hudson River Sustainable


Shorelines Project is a multi-year
effort lead by the New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation Hudson River National
Estuarine Research Reserve, in
cooperation with the Greenway
Conservancy for the Hudson River
Valley.
The Project is supported by NOAA
through the National Estuarine
Research Reserve System Science
Collaborative.
Hudson River Sustainable
Shorelines Project
Norrie Point Environmental Center
P O Box 315
Staatsburg, NY 12580
http:\\www.hrnerr.org
(845) 889-4745
hrnerr@dec.ny.gov
July 2015

PROJECT BACKGROUND
Matthiessen and Scenic Hudson Park in Irvington, NY, together make up one of six locations included in a study called What Made Shorelines Resilient: A Forensic Analysis of
Shoreline Structures on the Hudson River Following Three Historic Storms. The sites had either traditional or non-traditional nature-based shoreline stabilization techniques and
were impacted by Tropical Storms Irene and Lee in 2011 and Post-Tropical Storm Sandy
in 2012. Separate case studies describing each site and the impact of the three storms
have been prepared. The six case studies plus reports on the methodology used and
the common
project
performance
factors
can
be
found
at
http://www.hrnerr.org/shorelinesforensicanalysis. Each Forensic Analysis included
the review of historic photographs and design drawings, interviews with project managers and designers, field data collection, and modeling of the hydrodynamic conditions during each of the three storms. Collectively, this information was used to create a
holistic picture of each site, from which the critical project performance factors could be
determined. Impacts from debris, undersized stones, improper slopes, as well as monitoring and maintenance protocols, adaptive management, and maturity of vegetation
were all considered. Overall, both of the Irvington park locations fared well during the
three extreme weather events, each site being completely submerged but only sustaining minimal damage.

SITE BACKGROUND
Before the area of Irvington was settled by
Europeans, it was inhabited by the
Wickquasgeck Indians. During the late 19th
and early 20th centuries, Irvington grew into
a small community surrounded by the large
estates and mansions of the local wealthy Figure 1 The Irvington waterfront 1859-1889.
businessmen. The Village of Irvington, located on the east bank of the Hudson River, has two parks that have been included in the
Forensic Analysis. The southernmost of the two sites, Scenic Hudson Park, is co-owned
by the Village of Irvington and The Scenic Hudson Land Trust, Inc. The park was constructed in 2002 on a 7.5-acre former industrial site between the Hudson River and the

Metro-North railroad tracks. The completed park includes two regulation baseball fields, two playground areas, a
boat launch for non-motorized crafts, and nearly a mile of pathways that weave around the approximately 4.5
acres of open lawns used for passive recreation. Matthiessen Park is located to the north of Scenic Hudson Park,
along the east bank of the Hudson River. A mixed-use redevelopment, Bridge Street Properties, spans the area
between the two parks. Matthiessen Park was originally filled with sediment left over from the construction of
the original Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The shoreline of the park has been stabilized over the years with
recycled materials. The present-day shoreline of Matthiessen Park is composed of an un-engineered mix of
concrete debris and mismatched and unsorted stone.

SHORELINE STABILIZATION HISTORY


To create a history of the shoreline evolution at the Irvington parks, we used Google Earth for aerial photographs
and www.historicaerials.com for both aerial photographs and topographic maps. A time-lapse video of the
changes
was
created
and
is
archived
at
https://www.hrnerr.org/hudson-river-sustainableshorelines/shorelines-engineering/. The earliest aerial photographs available were from the 1950s and show a
smaller Matthiessen Park bordered by the former industrial site. Between 1965 and 1994, Matthiessen Park nearly
doubled in size. The aerial photograph on the left in Figure 2 shows the finished extent of Matthiessen Park to the
north and the industrial area prior to redevelopment for Scenic Hudson Park, shown in the center image. The
image on the right from 2011 shows little change in the two parks over the intervening decade. At Matthiessen
Park, the concrete rubble and mismatched stone placed along the shoreline over the years appears to have been
effective in limiting erosion (Figure 6). While both sites experienced some damage during Sandy, overall the
impacts were relatively minor. The armoring and footprint of the parks remained unchanged with minimal
damage to upland fixtures and utilities.

Figure 2 From left to right: Scenic Hudson Park prior to construction (1995), after construction (2002), and recent aerial
photograph (2011). Matthiessen is in the upper center area of the photographs.

DESIGN AND ECOLOGICAL ALTERATIONS


Several different types of structures were utilized along the Scenic Hudson Park shoreline, including a stone
revetment, a riprap-lined slope, and a steel bulkhead. A boat ramp and smaller stone riprap-lined slope are
located along the southern portion of the shoreline, while a bulkhead and larger stone revetment protects the
more exposed northern shoreline, which experiences more intense forces from currents, wakes, and ice. Engineering drawings showing the cross-sections of the bulkhead, riprap slope, and stone revetment are shown below.

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Figure 3 is a plan view of the engineering drawings for the site. The riprap slope (left) and stone revetment (right)
cross-sections are shown in Figure 4. The stone sizes are much smaller in the riprap section, and the shoreline
slope is much milder. No attempt was made to incorporate ecological principles in the design of the shoreline.
Several photographs of the Scenic Hudson Park shoreline sections are presented in Figure 5. The left photograph
shows the railing, river walk, benches, walking path, and nearshore vegetation in the northern section. The center
photograph shows the section junction of the bulkhead and revetment. The right photograph is of the southern
section and shows the stone revetment and decorative wooden cap that borders the entire length of the revetment.
Concrete rubble and stone armor the shoreline at Matthiessen Park, placed without engineering designs.
Photographs in Figure 6 show views to the south (left) and north (center), and the rubble-lined shoreline (right).

Figure 3 Plan view of engineering plans for Scenic Hudson Park (Han-Padron Associates LLP).

Figure 4 Cross-sections of the stone riprap near the boat ramp (left) and the stone revetment (right) (Han-Padron Associates LLP).

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Figure 5 Photographs from Scenic Hudson Park: upland (left), end of bulkhead (center), and revetment (right).

Figure 6 Photographs from Matthiessen Park: south view (left), north view (center), and revetment (right).

COLLECTION OF ENGINEERING DATA


Multiple sources of data were collected and analyzed to understand the behavior of the Irvington shoreline. The
conclusions of the Forensic Analysis at Irvington were based on the following sources/types of information:

Historic Aerial Photographs

Topographic Maps

Photographs (construction, pre- and post-storm photographs of the site)

Initial Site Visit

Discussions with Developer

Engineering Plans

Correspondence with Permit Staff

Final Site Visit (including topographic/bathymetric survey)

Hindcast of Storm Conditions (Wave and Water Level Climatology)

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CHARACTERIZATION OF SITE CONDITIONS


The Irvington shoreline is located in a special flood
hazard area (VE zone) with a base flood elevation (BFE) Table 1 - Climatology data two Irvington park sites.
of 12 ft NAVD88, while the majority of the interior
Parameter
Matthiessen Scenic Hudson
Park
Park
portions of the two parks are located in an AE zone with
WL
(ft
NAVD88)
5.14
5.17
max
a BFE of 9 ft NAVD88 (panel 36119C0261G, preliminary
Hmax (ft)
2.59
2.53
firm release date December 8, 2014). The BFE represents
H
(ft)
0.37
0.30
med
the water elevation expected during the 1% annual
Ice tmed (in)
1.6
chance of occurrence or 100-yr storm event. The BFE
Ice t90% (in)
4.3
represents a useful baseline with which to compare both
Avg Hwake (in)
3
the typical and storm conditions at the site. The SustainMax Hwake (in)
12
able
Shorelines
physical
forces
climatology
(http://www.hrnerr.org/hudson-river-sustainableshorelines/shorelines-engineering/physical-forces-statistics/) dataset was used to characterize the conditions
during a typical year. The climatology was based on a one-year numerical simulation of conditions within the
Hudson, generated using an ultra-high resolution version of the NYHOPS model. The climatology was developed based on the conditions in 2010 and included one significant Noreaster. Maximum water levels (WLmax) of
5.14 and 5.17 ft above NAVD88 were simulated for Matthiessen Park and Scenic Hudson Park, respectively. The
maximum (Hmax) and median (Hmed) wind-wave heights for the two sites were very similar, with those at Matthiessen Park found to be slightly higher (2.59 ft and 0.37 ft, respectively).
An analysis of the fetches at the site confirms that the site is
moderate to high energy with respect to wind-waves. The relevant
fetches are shown in Figure 7, where the average and maximum
fetches were found to be 12,360 ft (2.3 mi) and 21,650 ft (4.1 mi),
respectively. Ice information collected by the U.S. Coast Guard and
compiled
as
part
of
the
climatology
(http://www.hrnerr.org/hudson-river-sustainableshorelines/shorelines-engineering/ice-conditions/) indicates that
the site is subjected to minimal icing. The median ice thickness (Ice
tmed) observed during the ice season (December-March) was 1.6,
with thicknesses up to 4.3 occurring 10% of the time (Ice t90%).
Wake observations recorded over a 2-day period during the
summer of 2012 and 2013 by summer students found average and
maximum wakes (Hwake) of 3 and 12, respectively.

Figure 7 Fetch analysis at Irvington.

Topographic and bathymetric surveys of both sites (Figure 8) were conducted to obtain detailed information
about upland elevations, nearshore slopes, and offshore depths. The depth contours at Matthiessen Park are
slightly more irregular and indicate that there is a fairly shallow area off the northern edge of the park. As the
bottom slopes toward the channel, there also appears to be a slight break in slope at an elevation of -12 ft
NAVD88. Offshore of Scenic Hudson Park, the bottom slopes off consistently and rapidly to a depth of approximately -50 ft NAVD88.

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Figure 8 Topographic and bathymetric survey at Irvington, NY (left: Matthiessen Park, right: Scenic Hudson Park).

HINDCAST STORM CONDITIONS


Conditions during the three historic storms were hindcast using the NYHOPS numerical model. Simulations
were produced for each of the parks, but due to their close proximity the results were virtually identical and
therefore only the results from Matthiessen Park are discussed here. The hindcast water levels during both Irene
and Sandy (Figure 9) significantly exceeded the 95th percentile based on the 2010 climatology. The water levels
simulated during Sandy match up well with nearby watermarks collected by the USGS at Piermont (9.7 ft
NAVD88) and Hastings-on-Hudson (8.9 ft NAVD88). When compared to the surrounding land elevations, which
are on the order of +5 ft NAVD 88, the hindcasts indicate that the fringes of the parks were submerged during the
peak of the storms. The storm surge extent mapped by FEMA after Sandy (Figure 11) confirms the hindcast. The
hindcast wave heights (Figure 10) during both Irene and Sandy significantly exceeded both the 95th percentile and
maximum wave heights from the 2010 climatology. While these results indicate the relative significance of these
storms, in an absolute sense, wave heights of between 1.5 and 2.5 ft are generally not considered high energy.

Figure 9 Modeled water levels (ft NAVD 88) at Irvington sites during Irene, Lee, and Sandy.

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Figure 10 Wave height at Irvington sites during Irene, Lee, and Sandy.

DOCUMENTED PERFORMANCE
Scenic Hudson Park
The footprint and structural armoring of Scenic Hudson Park remained
virtually unaffected by Superstorm Sandy. During the storm, the entire
shoreline and outer fringes of the park were inundated, which likely
helped to reduce the damages. The Irvington Fire Chief was on site
throughout the storm and reported water as far as the railroad tracks that
run parallel to the shoreline, along the western face of the property. A
watermark was found in a nearby toolshed during the first site visit to
support this first-hand observation. The damage that did occur within the
park (Figure 12) consisted of medium to large pieces of wooden debris
that were strewn along the length of the revetment and riprap (left),
uprooted trees and plantings (center), and the displacement of the timber
cap beam from its original location along the crest of the stone revetment
(right). The majority of the timber cap remained connected, but in some
places the entire beam had been pushed as far inland as anchored obstructions would allow. Although there was some displacement of riprap, the
March 2014 site visit identified strong root systems embedded within the
riprap slope that may have helped to stabilize the shoreline. Months after
the storm a secondary impact was identified, as some of the vegetation
that survived Sandy subsequently died from saltwater intrusion.

Figure 11 FEMA Sandy storm surge extent.

Figure 12 Scenic Hudson Park: Woody debris (left), displaced vegetation (center), and displaced wooden trim (right).

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Matthiessen Park
Like the Scenic Hudson Park shoreline, the Matthiessen Park shoreline was completely inundated during Sandy
and was virtually unaffected by the storm. This is in spite of the fact that the Matthiessen shoreline was unengineered. The large size of the stones and pieces of concrete debris (Figure 6) likely contributed to the ability of
the shoreline to withstand the storm. The damage that did occur (Figure 13) consisted of smaller stones being
dislodged and transported inland from the revetment (left), erosion of the leeside of the structure due to overtopping (center), and the displacement of several decorative features such as lamp poles (right). This damage
occurred even though municipal officials had constructed a 2-ft dune to protect the park prior to the storm.

Figure 13 Matthiessen Park: Small stones moved inland (left), erosion from overtopping (center), and displaced lamppost
upland (right).

FINDINGS
A significant amount of engineering was applied to Scenic Hudson Park in the design phase and the structure
fared incredibly well during the storm because of it. During the storm, the entire shoreline and outer fringes of
the park were inundated, which likely helped to reduce the damage. The damage that did occur within the park
consisted of medium to large pieces of wooden debris that were strewn along the length of the revetment and
riprap, uprooted trees and plantings, and the displacement of the timber cap beam from its original location along
the crest of the stone revetment. The timber cap beam was displaced during Sandy when it was floated out of
place by the rising floodwaters. Since the beam appears to have been a decorative element, little effort was made
to secure it to the rest of the structure. Although there was some displacement of riprap, the March 2014 site visit
identified strong root systems embedded within the riprap slope that may have helped to stabilize the shoreline.
Matthiessen Park was also completely inundated during Sandy and thus virtually unaffected by the storm.
Despite the fact that the Matthiessen shoreline was not engineered, the large size of the stones used to construct
the armoring served to protect the shore. Damage that did occur consisted of smaller stones being dislodged and
transported inland from the revetment, erosion of the lee side of the structure due to overtopping, and the
displacement of several decorative features such as lamp poles. Municipal officials constructed a 2-ft dune behind
the revetment just prior to the storm, and it is likely that this feature played a significant role in the prevention of
additional leeside scour.

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