Brooklynites see clear skies and lots of water in aftermath of Hurricane Ida

NYC Parks Department employee John Crespo shovels mud blocking a walkway in Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, a day after the remnants of Hurricane Ida bashed the city with heavy rainfall.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

After Hurricane Ida dumped between five and six inches of rain on most of Brooklyn, locals woke up to beautiful weather — but still had to deal with wreckage of Wednesday night’s storm.

Unprecedented flooding filled the borough, particularly in areas of Central Brooklyn. Neighborhoods like Sunset Park, Park Slope and Crown Heights saw a surprising amount of rainfall in comparison to coastal-lying communities like Sheepshead Bay and Coney Island which saw some of the worst impacts in the city during Superstorm Sandy, but did not get hit as hard during Ida.

Prospect Park Lake flooded through the Parade Grounds onto Church Avenue and E. 10th Street, and according to owners of a Windsor Terrace pizzeria, who posted to the eatery’s Instagram account that, while this is a normal occurrence during heavy rain, they’ve never seen it as bad as Wednesday night. 

“Did you know #prospectpark lake has extended all the way to the corner of E 10th and Church Ave?,” Wheated’s post read. “This is, sadly, normal during intense, heavy rain (and the flooding it brings along with it). Last night was a new extreme.” 

The restaurateurs said their area is still flooded after peaking around midnight Wednesday night into Thursday, but have not had major flooding inside their pizza parlor. Instead, staff at Wheated say they’re dealing with a sewer backup and flooding on the sidewalk that has gotten even worse throughout the morning.

“We did not have any major water issues but definitely had a reverse flow of the sewer and a new, even higher point of water on the sidewalk,” the post continued. “My heart goes out to all the folks who are not so lucky.”

Prospect Park Lake overflowed from excessive rainfall during Hurricane Ida.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

The Prospect Park Alliance’s executive director reiterated there was a lot of flooding from Prospect Park Lake, expectedly from the excessive rainwater that poured into the lake. 

“We definitely had some flooding, which had to do with the lake being full of rainwater and overflowing,” said Deborah Kirschner, “and I think that was one of the key things today is that the runoff from the lake making its way out of the park.”

Kirschner said she was surprised only two trees went down in the entire park, both on top of each other on Central Drive — otherwise, there was some flooding around the historic boathouse right on lake, as well as in the roller skating area and playground. 

The most challenging aspect of maintaining Brooklyn’s Backyard during flooding is managing the ancient drainage system— which catch basins require constant attention from the park’s employees, whether clearing the drain or removing the mud, Kirschner said, adding that employees were proactive, clearing out drains and fortifying them with sandbags the day before. 

In Bay Ridge, a neighborhood mostly surrounded by water, local skaters found their haunt at Owl’s Head Park inundated with water — filling Millennium Skate Park’s big bowl to the point where it closer resembled a swimming pool.

“Looks like our local skate park… is a pool now,” one Bay Ridge resident tweeted.

Millennium Skate Park in Owl’s Head Park completely flooded with water on Thursday.Photo by Paul Frangipane

Meanwhile, the Coney Island peninsula was not much affected by the storm, according to the Alliance for Coney Island’s executive director, Alexandra Silversmith, but still, most of the area’s attractions delayed opening until Thursday afternoon.

In Sunset Park, where flooding was severe, Community Board 7 District Manager Jeremy Laufer reported that Brooklyn Public Library’s Sunset Park branch would be closed until further notice. The library system’s website says the Crown Heights branch is closed for maintenance and a spokesperson told Brooklyn Paper that all branches delayed opening until noon, Sept. 2.

Police have reported around at least a dozen storm-related deaths across the city — including one in Cypress Hills and another possible Ida-related drowning in Greenwood Heights, where a body was found floating in the Gowanus Canal Thursday afternoon. 

A resident sweeps outside the Cypress Hills apartment where a man was found dead after Hurricane Ida.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Bay Ridge Cares, a local community service group born out of Superstorm Sandy, again ramped up to serve their neighbors in the wake of Ida, offering to help residents in need of emergency assistance immediately following the storm.

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce deployed its business recovery teams to serve mom and pop shops in assessing and cleaning up water damage, which has again left businesses in a state of flux while they still recover from the ongoing pandemic. 

The chamber’s head, Randy Peers, encouraged businesses to reach out to their office, as they can help find cleanup services and file insurance claims. He added that the organization is pushing for city and state funds to assist businesses in hurricane recovery. 

A large puddle blocks a piece of the Shore Road Promenade in Bay Ridge after Hurricane Ida.Photo by Paul Frangipane

Brad Lander, the Democratic candidate for City Comptroller and current councilmember for Park Slope, blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio for his failed “stormwater resiliency plan” that left thousands stranded Wednesday night when trains were forced to shut down. 

“Just four months after its release, the Stormwater Resiliency Plan has already proven to be utterly inadequate to confront the challenges facing our city,” he said in a statement. 

Elizabeth Yeampierre of Uprose, a  Sunset Park-based climate justice group, told Brooklyn Paper this is just another example of the impacts of climate change and stressed the need for climate resiliency to be at the forefront of all decision-making for Brooklyn, and the city at large. 

“This is that moment right now where I hope people understand where we can no longer be making economic decisions that are going to continue to harm us,” she said, “that we are going to have to be really thoughtful about how we use space so we are protected from extreme winds, from extreme weather events, rising water, all of the things that are going to come bold with climate change.” 

Sunset Park is particularly susceptible to weather events for a number of reasons, Yeampierre said, including storm surge, as toxins would rush in that were dumped in the neighborhood’s industrial waterfront. In addition, high winds and extreme heat particularly impact highly-elevated parts of the neighborhood, while high temperatures also affect low-lying areas of Sunset Park situated close to the Gowanus Expressway, where high rates of asthma have been recorded.

“There are different vulnerabilities depending on the typography of the neighborhood,” she told Brooklyn Paper. 

Trash at the foot of Coney Island Creek the day after Hurricane Ida pounded New York City with rainfall.Photo by Paul Frangipane

Prior to news of Hurricane Ida’s incoming landfall on the city, Uprose had already organized a climate action conference for later this month, during Climate Week, which Yeampierre said will focus on immediate changes community members can make to lower their footprint and protect themselves against climate change — with some sessions meeting in small groups to discuss climate initiatives block-by-block.

“We are hoping that we can assemble… that people will join us and that we will be able to bring attention to the fact that the time to act is right now, we are also putting together a schedule of community meetings to talk to small groups of people in the community… so people have an opportunity to meaningfully engage and not feel overwhelmed by the smartest person in the room.”