Some Southern Brooklynites are skeptical of the protection they can expect from an expedited plan to construct a seawall in Jamaica Bay.
In late March, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Mayor DeBlasio announced that studies for the Rockaway and Jamaica Bay seawall projects will be ready by summer with construction able to start in early 2019 — a year earlier than originally expected. The studies focus on putting a seawall in Jamaica Bay to better protect Southern Brooklyn and the Rockaways in far off Queens from another storm like Hurricane Sandy. However, some people in the area say the announcement doesn’t make them feel any safer.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Community Board 18 district manager Dottie Turano. “I’m very skeptical. They’ve been studying since Sandy.”
The announcement said that DeBlasio got the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the process in February, while Schumer secured an additional $730 million in funding in the recent federal budget. The two touted the funds as crucial to protecting Southern Brooklyn, which got clobbered by the 2012 superstorm.
The plan now is for the Army Corps of Engineers to issue a report on possible storm barriers to be built in August, take public comments, and then release a final report in November. Construction can then begin on the structures in early 2019. The project will include a seawall, jetties, and groins near Rockaway and in Jamaica Bay, according to the announcement.
“The residents of the Rockaways and Southern Brooklyn need better protections ASAP,” said Schumer. “They are justifiably scared and tired of waiting.”
Southern Brooklynites have been waiting for a plan to protect them for years. In 2016, local pols convinced the Corps to include Marine Park, Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island and other southern neighborhoods in its originally Queens-focused plan to build seawalls, dunes, jetties and other protective structures. Last year, locals were livid when the Corps announced it had no funds to finish the storm barrier project for south Brooklyn.
Some locals are still not satisfied even now that Schumer has secured funding. One Brighton Beach environmental activist complained the announcement talked a lot about the Rockaways part of the project, but gave no details on the portion for Brooklyn, which continues to struggle with flooding.
“It looks like there is nothing here for Southern Brooklyn,” said Ida Sanoff, the executive director of the National Resources Protective Association. “Judging by how far up the beach some of the high tides have been, there is a good chance that even a minor hurricane will cause some street flooding.”
The chairwoman of Community Board 15 agreed.
“There’s nothing in there other than Rockaway, Rockaway, Rockaway,” said Theresa Scavo of the announcement. “I don’t know what it means for us other than it’s faster than anticipated.”
Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay), who helped convince the Corps to include southern Brooklyn in the project, was more positive. He said the studies coming in the summer will help move the process along.
“It’s a good thing for Southern Brooklyn this is getting sped up,” he said. “We hope to see them in July or August, then we’ll reach out to Congress about the funding for the seawall and everything else.”
Another city pol said that Mill Basin and Canarsie in particular need flood barriers on land — not a seawall out in Jamaica Bay — because there are too many places for water to flow into the area.
“It’s not practical on our part. There are too many inlets and outlets for it to be effective,” said Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Mill Basin) of the seawall idea.
The mayor’s office said that the first step in fortifying Southern Brooklyn is a $47 million project by the city to raise the shorelines along the Coney Island creek, which is set to begin a design phase in 2019. The overall plans for the area are still being studied by the Army Corps of Engineers, a spokesman said.
“The USACE is studying coastal protection measures for Southern Brooklyn, which looks at a comprehensive regional solution for coastal flooding, including storm surge and sea level rise,” the spokesman said.