Sand fight! Coney and Brighton residents demand dunes just like the Rockaways

Sand fight! Coney and Brighton residents demand dunes just like the Rockaways
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Experts be damned!

The city needs to build sand dunes off Brooklyn’s beach-lined shorefront to shield residents from the next Hurricane Sandy-like storm — just like it is to doing for the Rockaways in Queens — claim residents who fear the city’s fix is a recipe for disaster.

Residents of Sandy-slammed Coney Island and Brighton Beach say they need a fast, efficient barrier to block rising ocean waters in the event of another storm, and argue that dunes are the perfect fix.

“Dunes have been proven effective, they’re cost-effective, and they can be built relatively quickly,” said coastal watchdog Ida Sanoff, executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association.

Locals said that the city’s determination to continue development along the shoreline of the Coney Island peninsula — rather than retreating from vulnerable areas, as it’s doing in parts of Staten Island — increases the need for urgent protective measures.

“We need something to prevent the water from just coming in like it did before,” said Coney Island community leader Sheila Smalls. “They want to build all these things near the beach, but they aren’t doing anything to protect them.”

The current city plan focuses on preventing overflow from the Coney Island Creek — by filling in the toxic inlet and turning it into a marsh. But dune-advocates argue that proposal will take too long to approve and complete, and anyway would do nothing to prevent seawater from reaching all the way up Ocean Parkway to Avenue Y, as it did during Sandy.

“It’s going to take years, perhaps decades, for those plans to get funded and go through the review precesses,” said Sanoff.

The longtime Brighton Beach activist pointed out that artificial dunes are typically seeded with vegetation to prevent erosion, and suggested that the real reason Coney and Brighton are not getting the same protection as the Queens peninsula is a worry that seagrass-covered dunes might block views from the amusement area.

“When tourists come to Coney Island and they’re up on the Boardwalk, they want to see the ocean,” Sanoff said. “I’m very happy that tourists want to come to Coney Island, but I think the safety of the people who live here is more important.”

But the city argued that the Rockaways suffer from greater exposure to storms, since that peninsula lies directly on the Atlantic Ocean and experiences much stronger waves.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing along the coast,” said a spokesman for the Mayor’s office.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which is constructing the Queens dunes, pointed out that it has already dumped thousands of tons of new sand on Brooklyn’s beaches in the aftermath of the storm to create a greater buffer, and noted that Coney Island’s beach sits 13 feet above sea level — as high as most dunes.

“It’s like a dune that’s 100 feet wide,” a Corps spokesman said.

But Sanoff countered that the beach’s height failed to stop the storm surge during Sandy — and argued that wind and water will soon erode the fresh sand dumped this year, just as it has in the past.

“It’s just going to blow away,” Sanoff said.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.