Board chairman: Next superstorm could close Belt Parkway for YEARS

December 13, 2012 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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As elected officials stepped up their efforts to get the federal government to authorize emergency repairs of a 200-foot-long section of the Shore Parkway seawall in Bath Beach destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, one community official warned that unless the seawall is totally rebuilt, the next super-storm could leave long-term damage and shut down the nearby Belt Parkway. 

Bill Guarinello, chairman of Community Board 11 (Bath Beach-Bensonhurst) told board members at a Dec. 12 meeting that the seawall that protects the land from New York Harbor is so decimated “we have no defense.”

The seawall and a bike-pedestrian path adjacent to it are located next to the Belt Parkway, which was flooded during the hurricane, Guarinello said. “We had five feet of water on the Belt Parkway. I’ve lived in this community all my life. I’ve never seen that type of flooding. I worry about the next storm. One of these days, it’s going to be so bad, that roadway could be closed for years,” he said.

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Brooklyn motorists had to put up with the aggravation of having the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel out of service for nearly a month after it had been flooded by the hurricane, Guarinello said. “And we saw what a nightmare that was. Can you imagine if the Belt was out of commission?” he said.

A large section of the Shore Parkway seawall, located at approximately 17th Avenue, was breached during the Oct. 29 hurricane. The New York Police Department placed a fence around the section to keep pedestrians and bike riders away from the water’s edge.

Marnee Elias-Pavia, the community board’s district manager, said a long-term strategy on the future of the seawall is necessary because the Belt Parkway is a major roadway that is also designated as an emergency route. “That parkway is also used for emergency vehicles,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Brooklyn-Staten Island) has written to both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to request that they ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make repairing the seawall a high priority. Requests to FEMA for repair projects must come from the state or city, Grimm said.

State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) has also pushed for a quick emergency fixup. The Bensonhurst Bean blog reported that Golden penned a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting that a repair project be put on a fast track.

The Shore Parkway seawall fortifies the shoreline from the 69th Street pier in Bay Ridge to the Caesar’s Bay Shopping Mall in Bath Beach.

Guarinello, who noted that a two-mile-long stretch of the seawall between the pier and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Bay Ridge was rebuilt in 2007, said he wants the same attention paid to the Bath Beach end. “We are getting tired of being second class citizens,” he said, adding that Bay Ridge seems to get government action faster than Bath Beach and Bensonhurst.

Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Bensonhurst-Dyker Heights) called the Belt Parkway “a vital link” and said he would bring the issue to the attention of the assembly transportation committee. “If we need a letter from the state to FEMA, we will get a letter,” he said.

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