Seawall damage along Narrows causes concern

September 2, 2011 Denise Romano
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While the Hurricane Irene spared our borough for the most part,the raging storm wasn’t so kind to the seawall along theNarrows.

Near the pedestrian bridge at 17th Avenue, a portion of theseawall was broken up. Also, adjacent to the VA Medical Center,near the Bay 8th Street bridge, a larger piece of seawall wasdamaged and the storm surge uprooted a slab of asphalt. Water alsocame up and over the pedestrian walkway that hugs the Narrows andflooded the Belt Parkway for some time on Sunday.

The damage seems to be isolated to four relatively small areasbetween Bay 8th Street and Bay 17th Street, said Kevin Jeffries,Brooklyn borough parks commissioner. Specifically what happenedwas, the capstones, which are 8-foot by 4-foot by 18-inch stonesthat support the guardrail, have been moved and are completelyuplifted. This also lifted up the asphalt right on the bike path insome cases.

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Jeffries said his guess was that there may have been a largepiece of timber or wood in the water in the area of the damage, andat the height of the storm, it was repeatedly thrown against theshoreline, thus compromising the seawall.

Most residents said they were not perturbed by the damage,though they pointed out that the area has been severely neglectedto begin with.

This water comes up and over all of the time, said ThomasJennings, a Gravesend resident who comes down to the water’s edgeoften. It’s not a big deal. The problem over here is that therearen’t any garbage cans at all. The fisherman don’t clean up afterthemselves.

Edward Cossta, of Bath Beach, was riding his bike along thepath. I want to know why they haven’t paved this part of thewalkway, he said, noting that the path north of the VerrazanoBridge was newly paved several years ago, but parts south of thebridge remain broken. It’s very hard to ride my bike. Why can’tthey fix this side? It’s disgusting and a disgrace.

Slawomir Sukiennik of Bay Ridge said he was surprised by howlittle damage there was overall. It wasn’t so bad, we didn’t get alot of flooding like in other areas, he said. We did prettywell.

Congressmember Michael Grimm, on the other hand, is veryconcerned with the situation and reported the damage immediately tofederal authorities. Marnee Elias-Pavia, district manager ofCommunity Board 11, assured this paper that the Parks Department iscurrently assessing damage in the area and the Army Corps ofEngineers are also on the case.

Hurricane Irene was yet another wake-up call that the seawallmust be fixed before it’s too late, Grimm told The BrooklynSpectator. I am taking the lead by forming a task force whereall the principle stakeholders – including the Army Corps ofEngineers, the New York City Department of EnvironmentalProtection, the Department of Transportation and the ParksDepartment – can come together to identify a real solution to therecurring flooding problem. The Belt Parkway cannot afford anotherflood during a serious emergency and I will do everything I can toget the proper governmental agencies to address this issue once andfor all.

Jeffries said that Parks will be able to repair the seawallwithin the next couple of weeks. It’s important to prevent theundermining of the seawall, he said. We will consult with theArmy Corps if necessary and in the future may seek federalreimbursement but we are a long way from making that decision. Wejust want to get this fixed.

But some worry that the damage now may be a harbinger of thingsto come. It’s scary because if it [the hurricane] can break theseawall, what else can it break? said Chris Maida, a Bath Beachresident. It can come up and over the highway and into residences.I wish this area wasn’t so neglected.

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