The marsh-all plan! Local leader: Make flood-prone section of Sheepshead Bay into a park

Back to Bay-sics: One local leader is suggesting the city turn Sheepshead Bay’s flood-prone Courts into parkland.
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He says nature won.

A local leader’s plan to deal with a frequently flooding neighborhood still reeling from Hurricane Sandy is to turn it into a water-absorbing park. Homeowners in the Courts of Sheepshead Bay — a below-street-level micro-neighborhood of bungalows that has been a ghost town since the 2012 storm — are still waiting for the city’s disaster-recovery program Build It Back to raise their homes against future flooding. But the program has made so little progress that one area big wig is calling on the city to instead raze the area and turn it into a marsh to soak up the next deluge.

“Over three-and-a-half years after, there’s been very little work done,” said Steve Barrison, president of the Bay Improvement Group. “It should be set up for proper drainage — parkland. There’s ways to do parkland that’s environmentally sound to be set up to absorb water — more than a garden and cement in front of your house.”

The Governor’s office on Storm Recovery ran a home buyout program on Staten Island where it turned waterlogged beach-front property into marsh and wetlands, but did not mount such an effort in Brooklyn.

Officials from the city-run Build It Back claim that up to 77 homes in Sheepshead Bay’s Courts could be raised through their program, but more than three years after the storm, just fewer than 10 homes are raised or even under construction, a survey of the neighborhood showed.

And just raising the homes won’t make the area more resilient, because the Courts sit several feet below street level, one area homeowner said.

“They’re raising the other houses, and it makes no sense if they’re leaving the Courts at the same level, said Jimmy Schneider of Mesereau Court, who has plans to move out of the area because he no longer thinks it is worth it to stay. “So if it floods again, I’m going to need a canoe just to get into my house.”

The city offered buyouts to homeowners in the Courts — which are just steps from Emmons Avenue and the bay — but most were not interested, Build it Back officials said.

It was a matter of pride, according to one longtime resident.

“We’re not going to take a buyout, because this is where we were born and raised — this is our home, even if it’s a shoe box,” said Missy Haggerty of Lake Avenue. “This is part of Sheepshead Bay, this is people’s home — it’s not about the property, it’s about the history down here.”

But it’s time to give up the ghost and move inland, Barrison said.

“The rest of the world is pulling people away from ocean-impacted areas,” he said. “You can’t fight with the ocean, there’s no wall you can build big enough.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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