In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy walloped Brooklyn’s southern coastal areas, with storm surges ravaging parts of Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Gerritsen Beach, Canarsie and of course Coney Island and Sea Gate. After months of analysis, a 400-plus page comprehensive report titled A Stronger, More Resilient New York produced by then Mayor Bloomberg's administration outlined specific steps necessary for recovery and prevention, in every part of the City that was damaged by the superstorm.
(See the 1 year report issued by Mayor Bloomberg detailing recovery efforts.)
Citywide, roughly 23,000 private residential buildings encompassing nearly 70,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed during Sandy, according to the report. Of these, approximately 380 residential buildings encompassing approximately 1,500 housing units were in Southern Brooklyn.
As the news media has been reporting on the first anniversary of the storm, many people in the area remain displaced, traumatized and economically hurt by last October's storm; many are struggling to recover a reasonable amount from insurers.
As a community, Brooklyn has responded to the disaster. The Brooklyn Recovery Fund amassed $3.3 million to help in Southern Brooklyn and other impacted neighborhoods. The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce made over $5 million in loans available to affected small businesses. An inestimable amount of work has been done by volunteers, many continuing to make contributions of time, expertise and money a full year after the storm first hit. National organizations such as the American Red Cross, which contributed over a million dollars borough wide to Sandy recovery, kicked in.
But the twin tasks-- of recovery from Sandy, and prevention in the face of climate change of future disasters--remains daunting. Not undoable. But daunting.
MUCH RECOVERY AND PREVENTION WORK ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED
As of the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, much recovery and prevention work has already been accomplished in Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods. For instance, to cite just a few accomplishments impacting the southern coast of Brooklyn:
- In October 2013 the City Council adopted the Flood Resilience Zoning code. Plumb Beach, according to media reports,is being touted as a model for storm resiliancy.
- At Coney Island Hospital, according to President Alan Aviles, president of the HHC,which operates the hospital,a new system has been installed that's designed to protect not only the emergency generator in the parking lot, but also key entrances and the first floor Emergency Department, which Sandy severely damaged. A temporary barricade system and flood walls that can be installed on a few hours’ notice is in place.
- Also in Coney Island, according to a press release from Senator Charles Schumer, a $7.2 million contract awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers to place 600,000 cubic yards of sand along Coney Island, part of the Coney Island Reach project which extends from West 37th Street to Brighton Beach, was installed.
PROTECTING BROOKLYN'S SOUTHERN COAST FROM ANOTHER DISASTER
12 Necessary Steps to Protect Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay, and other South Brooklyn Coastal Neighborhoods from Another Big Bad Storm
Still, much remains to be done. The report notes, “While it is impossible to eliminate the chance of flooding in coastal areas, the City will seek to reduce its frequency and effects—mitigating the impacts of sea level rise, storm waves including erosion, and inundation on the coastline of the city generally and Southern Brooklyn in particular.” But beyond that, needed improvements cover buildings, parks, health care emergency access, business recovery and critical infrastructure, insurance, telecommunications, and strategic park improvements, among other interventions, to prevent future disasters like that inflicted by Hurricane Sandy.
Here are over a dozen things that still need federal, state and city dollars:
- Help Residents Still in Need: Obtain financing and resources to house those whose homes were ruined by the storm; finish repair or rebuilding of the many homes that were impacted or badly repaired and remain inhabitable for a variety of reasons including mold. Cut through the red tape.
- Help Businesses Recover: Similarly, help businesses that were destroyed or badly hurt by Hurricane Sandy to recover and return to the area.
- Prevent flooding and surges: Consider ways to install a surge barrier at the Rockaway Inlet, a controversial project. Re-envision Coney Island with new designs for wetlands and a tidal barrier around a new Coney Island Creek, and finish already planned draining improvements in Coney Island so there won't be flooding. (According to the report, “During Sandy, Coney Island Creek was the source of much of the “backdoor” flooding in Southern Brooklyn.”)
- Retrofit public housing: Study and mandate safety retrofits of existing buildings, including public housing, especially the ground floors of NYCHA buildings. This would include a range of safety measures from improved wind resiliency, to flood resiliency measures.
- Strengthen the "fortresses " housing such important facilities as electric transmission and distribution systems.
- Work with utilities and others to make overhead lines are less vulnerable to wind gusts and that the natural gas system cannot flood.
- Retrofit buildings that house the vulnerable, such as hospitals, adult care and nursing homes in the area, so they don’t have to be evacuated.
- Improve the parks along Brooklyn's shore areas so that they serve as water surge protection areas. Finish the work already planned to improve some of the parks in the area: Calvert Vaux Park, the West 8th Street Access Project, Coney Island Commons and the YMCA project, and a comprehensive plan for Coney Island.
- Secure health-threatening systems, such as the sewer lines and wastewater treatment plants so they don’t cause further hazards during and after a storm, so that sewer lines don’t overflow, and there’s adequate draining to mitigate flooding.
- Business development: These communities rely on small business. Ongoing involvement by New York City and Brooklyn business groups such as the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is needed to help small businesses in each of these neighborhoods to recover, work together, and stay prepared. Support retail business health in specific commercial and retail areas including shopping corridors such as Brighton Beach Avenue, Coney Island (including Neptune, Mermaid and Surf Avenues), Coney Island Avenue, Emmons Avenue, Gerritsen Avenue, Nostrand Avenue, Ocean Avenue, and Sheepshead Bay Road.
- Ensure Fresh Food: Keep a supply chain of fresh food in underserved neighborhoods.
- Sea Gate is a very exposed community: study and implement oceanfront protection.