Should We Stick Our Heads in the Sand?

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We just lived through “the big one.” Hurricane Sandy was a more dangerous and destructive storm than 1962′s Hurricane Donna, and in terms of property damage, it far eclipsed the deadly 1938 Long Island Express, which catapulted a 30-foot-high wave over parts of the Jersey Shore. The most destructive storm to which we can compare Sandy is the late 1890s weather event that decimated Hog Island, an inhabited sand bar in Reynolds Channel (from Beach 17 to Beach 20 Streets). That storm also widened Norton’s Creek, the body of water that used to connect the ocean and the bay at Beach 35 Street, and undermined the grand, oceanfront Edgemere Hotel and all the structures around it, plus the iconic Iron Pier at Beach 105 Street in Seaside. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers arrived on the peninsula thereafter by popular demand, although reports show that the Corps had conducted dredging in Jamaica Bay even before that time. The Corps bulkheaded and filled Norton’s Creek after the storm, forever connecting to the rest of the peninsula the island that then included Edgemere, Arverne, Rockaway Beach and points west. By 1902, about 100 “cottages” were constructed west of Beach 116 Street, and the development of the west end began to accelerate.

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We’ve seen first-hand what a really nasty hurricane can do to a developed barrier island/peninsula. Do we now explore every measure devised by man to protect our beaches and make our homes safer from the invasion of water? Methods that worked to safeguard individual homeowners and communities along the coast during Hurricane Sandy included a system of dunes anchored by discarded Christmas trees (in Bradley Beach, Monmouth County, NJ), and homes constructed on high concrete pillars (also in Monmouth County and in the Long Island Sound communities of Westchester County). In the Netherlands, experimental structures called amphibious homes look just like houseboats sitting directly on the water, except that they are supported by a stable platform fitted with a hydraulic lift that rises with the tide.

The carefully designed infrastructure of the new Arverne by the Sea community held up quite well against the ravages of the sea. Homeowners in other areas of the Rockaways should be watching for the new flood maps that should be issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency soon, to see how the elevations on their blocks compare to those at ABTS. Word is that nobody in that development needed to move a car from its normal parking spot or evacuate. Compare this to the residents who endured the storm in Breezy Point, Broad Channel and Rockaway Park, watching 6 feet of water climb the sides of their houses and set their vehicles afloat.  If you’d like to keep up-to-date on local storm-related issues, I’d recommend visiting the Hurricane Sandy webpage of Region 2 FEMA, at http://www.region2coastal.com/sandy. There is a wealth of information explaining map terminology like FIRMs and ABFEs. You can enter your address and download the map for your area, or sign up for an email newsletter, Twitter feed or RSS feed.

I think we need to take heed of these instructive examples. Alternatively, we could just spray sand on the beaches as we’ve done in the past, and stick our heads in it.

Text and photos copyright Vivian R. Carter 2012.  Note: all images in this post, including header photo, were taken at the 7 a.m. high tide during the no-name Nor’easter storm on Thur. Dec. 27, 2012, NOT during Hurricane Sandy.

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About rockviv

You've entered the cyber-locale of Vivian Rattay Carter. I blog with the username "rockviv," short for Rockaway Vivian. Rockaway (Queens County) is one of New York City's most fascinating neighborhoods. I have owned a home on the peninsula since 1994, and worked there, full-time, for almost a decade. I've been working, traveling, and doing research around the New York metro area since late 2012, but the Rock remains the muse of my writing. With degrees from Northwestern (journalism), Brooklyn College (elementary education), and Fordham Law, I find I have a lot to say about this great planet we share. I am proud to have served, for several years, as a board member of Rockaway Civic Association (formerly Rockaway Park Homeowners' and Residents) and a lay leader of First Congregational Church of Rockaway Beach, United Church of Christ. I'm a member and supporter of many New York cultural, educational, and ecology groups. Although I have produced written work for publication in multiple genres, beginning with poetry in the early 1970's, my first non-fiction book, Images of America: Rockaway Beach, was published by Arcadia in June, 2012. My monthly opinion column, Rock Solid, appeared in The Wave, Rockaway's weekly community newspaper, from April 2009 through October, 2012, and I contributed numerous other articles and photos from 1999-2012. From the home page, click on the "Publications/Press-Links" tab for links to these articles The views expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily coincide with the views of any of the organizations that publish my work, or the groups I assist and support. Here's to independent voices!
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2 Responses to Should We Stick Our Heads in the Sand?

  1. zaira429 says:

    Hello -

    Great blog – very informative in many ways. I’m currently looking into renting a small unit in Rockaway since the prices are relatively cheaper than Manhattan. I was wondering if you could email and let me know your thoughts – what you love about it (besides the beach) and what you hate about it. Any sort of input would be tremendously helpful.

    Best,
    Zaira

    • rockviv says:

      Zaira,

      I emailed a reply to you at the end of February, 2013, but never posted it on the blog. It’s interesting to look back at something I wrote just two months ago, to see whether there has been progress. Not much change, except the Mexican restaurant deal fell through, and the plans for Bayhouse are moving forward slowly. Watch for a tent to be added to that bayfront bar-restaurant when it reopens in the summer. Here’s what I was thinking on Feb. 27…
      ========================
      As you can tell by reading the tagline of Oy Vey Rockaway, I love here, I hate here, I write here. The Rock is the quintessential conundrum—a place that both attracts and repels at the same time. We’re all wondering what it will be like after the storm recovery has been completed.

      I’m hopeful, but realistic. I’m joyous to see my friends who lost so much re-opening their businesses, one by one. It’s interesting to see old spaces repurposed. There’s a doctor’s office that will become a Mexican restaurant on Beach 129. The butcher shop will be a real estate office soon. Nobody knows what’s happening with some of the perennial favorites, like Kennedy’s Restaurant and Bayhouse in Breezy Point, Rockaway Seafood and Harbor Light in Belle Harbor, and the beach block of Beach 116 is the biggest mystery of all. The old decrepit transient hotels have been up for sale for so long, but now there are new possibilities of the commercial district being transformed. It could go well and change for the better, or it could stay the same or get worse (which would be very bad). There were major issues before the storm with so few tourist lodgings available. Day trippers have been the order of the day during summer months, since at least the 1970’s.

      If you look for a place, I’d recommend against basement apartments, for obvious reasons. There should be some good deals on the boardwalk high-rise co-ops. They do have spectacular views of the sea. Once upon a time, I thought of buying a top-floor 2-bedroom with a deck facing the ocean. You really can’t beat that. As long as you can figure out what to do about parking. Because you really do need a car out here. That’s one of the drawbacks. Believe me, I’ve been without my car since October 29, and it’s about all I can take. The ferry is great, but it’s 20 minutes to walk to it, or at least 20 minutes waiting for a bus to get me to it.

      Hope these suggestions are helpful. Good luck with your search.

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