The ocean is more than just a neighbor to residents of waterfront Brooklyn and Queens, it’s a threat. And one that needs to be taken seriously.
Congressman Anthony Weiner gathered local leaders and the press on what remains of the sands along the Belt Parkway this afternoon to deliver that message to city and state authorities, and urge preparedness in the face of Hurricane Earl. Currently a category 4 storm, Earl is positioned to sweep across the Eastern coast this week.
“We are here for the third time to call on the Army Corps of Engineers of the state to start to deal with this problem before it visits upon us,” Weiner said in his statement. “We understand that, living here in the beachfront path, we have certain risks – that the Atlantic Ocean and mother nature more or less goes wherever she wants. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to take some smart steps.”
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The U.S. National Weather service is warning residents along the East Coast of the dangers posed by Hurricane Earl. The storm is expected to swipe the region in the next few days, striking the New York area around Friday. Earl already lashed several northeastern Caribbean islands, causing damage and blackouts in the region.
The congressman revealed during his statements that he has sent a letter directly to Lieutenant General Robert L. Van Antwerp, the commanding general and chief of engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, reminding him of the beach’s precarious position and the recent damage it has taken.
In his letter, he wrote:
Under normal circumstances Hurricane Early would pose a serious threat, but our communities on coastal Brooklyn and Queens were battered in the winter by several storms and the loss of more of our beach or any potential damage to the Belt Parkway could be catastrophic. Please prepare the Army Corps for potential emergency response to fallout from Hurricane Earl and prioritize a long-term solution to protect my constituents from future storms. [See full letter below.]
Weiner has previously urged the city and state to step up involvement, but said that authorities aren’t taking the Plumb Beach erosion seriously.
The initiatives introduced by local government in the wake of Hurricane Ida are seen by Weiner and other community leaders as entirely insufficient. The congressman was flanked by Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic Association President Kathy Flynn, and Hank Iori of the Bell Harbor Property Owner’s Association in the Rockaways.
Scavo chastised the city for its meager efforts on the beach, which has so far consisted solely of adding sandbags adjacent to where the bike path once ran.
“To rely on these sandbags, which you can see have already started washing in, to save the Belt Parkway and the commuters that rely on the Belt Parkway to get where they’re going is ridiculous,” said Scavo. “The city of New York has to step up and has to do the right thing.”
Weiner, Scavo and Flynn all expressed dismay towards damage caused late last year by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. As the nor’easter lashed the waterfront, it chewed up more than half of the 40 feet of buffer space between the water and the Belt Parkway, and it obliterated 150 feet of the bike path. No repairs have been made despite promises from the city, and only a few feet of land stand between the water at high tide and the highway.
That meager protection is a recipe for disaster in Southern Brooklyn’s communities, said Weiner.
“The Belt Parkway sees over 170,000 cars each and every day,” he said. “If even for an hour or a day the Belt Parkway would not be able to function, this bumper to bumper traffic would all be moved into the neighborhoods of Sheepshead Bay, Rockaway, Plumb Beach and the other neighborhoods of the southern tier of Brooklyn.”
That kind of collateral damage is unacceptable to neighbors, said Kathy Flynn. According to the civic president, her group has been warning authorities for more than 10 years – but to no avail.
“The majority of us were born here and know the signs, and nobody is taking any heed,” she said. “We need the Army Corps to get involved … we need help and we need it now.”
Beyond Hurricane Earl, Weiner said he’s continuing to urge long-term solutions to the problem, and reminded constituents that he’s allocated funds towards to research long-term solutions. His office later stated that, since 2000, the congressman has secured nearly $10 million in Energy and Water appropriations to investigate the installation of jetties and barriers in Jamaica Bay to slow erosion and sand displacement from the beach.
“Even if we are able to duck Hurricane Earl, the other hurricanes and other storms that are going to come behind it are going to pose a threat, and that’s what we’d like the Army Corps to look out for.”
Here’s the full letter Weiner sent to the Army Corps of Engineers: