Local elected officials and city agency reps convened at the Shore Road Promenade on Tuesday, September 22 to pinpoint opportunities for resiliency investments better to protect the Belt Parkway – and its surrounding neighborhoods – during floods and coastal storms.
“The Belt Parkway services thousands of commuters every day, and could be the evacuation route for hundreds of thousands during a major storm,” said Congressmember Daniel Donovan, who strolled the promenade alongside State Senator Marty Golden and Councilmember Vincent Gentile, as well as members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the district managers of Community Boards 10 and 11. “The community and drivers deserve a safe and secure parkway.”
Also on hand were representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, the Parks Department and the Department of Environmental Protection.
“The goal was really to present some of the issues that exist on both boards’ sides,” explained Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, which encompasses Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton.
On the Board 10 side, residents are pleading for less of a quick-fix and more of a long-term resolution.
“There was just recently a $500,000 project to restore some of the sinkholes [along the promenade], and that’s a great short-term fix,” said Beckmann, “but we wanted to present [to city officials] that there needs to be more long-term sustainability.”
The breaches in the infrastructure post-Superstorm Sandy were indicative of this, said Beckmann, stressing also that some of the promenade’s recently filled-in depressions are already beginning to re-open.
“Coastal storms [like Sandy] damage the infrastructure of both the promenade and the connecting Belt Parkway,” she went on, adding that more than 40 holes have been filled in, in recent months, from the 69th Street Pier to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. “That’s something we at Board 10 are concerned about.”
In Bensonhurst, which is located in CB 11, Ceasar’s Bay shopping center was closed down for months, with heavy damage to stores, as a result of Superstorm Sandy, which also breached the seawall in several locations between the Verrazano Bridge and Bay Parkway.
“When the study is completed and the work has to be done, I think they’ll find out it’s no longer a $20 million job, it’s probably closer to hundreds of millions of dollars,” said State Senator Marty Golden, stressing that while the strip between 69th Street and the bridge has seen some work in the last 10 to 12 years, the stretch between the bridge and Ceasar’s Bay has yet to be retouched at all. “I don’t remember the last time that was done; and it’s just unreasonable to have that kind of deterioration along that water wall.
“[When it was built] was the last time any major construction has gone on,” Golden went on, “and all it seems to be is patchwork. You can see the cracks going across the Belt Parkway, as well as some of the foundation along the bike path. That means structural damage or water getting in underneath which can cause, at some point, a serious accident causing someone to lose their lives.”
“There is much work to be done to ensure the safety of our shores during storms,” added Gentile. “I hope that today’s tour has begun the process of real improvement.”
The Army Corps, in 2015, released a comprehensive study of the North Atlantic region, which identified the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries area as high-risk and requiring further analysis. The visit, according to Donovan’s office, represented the first step in that process.
Still, Golden urged stakeholders to consider speeding up what might be a lengthy process.
“Between the studies and finding federal funding, this will take several years,” he said, “and I don’t know how many years we have left, especially on that path between the Verrazano and Caesar’s Bay.”