Fighting the Tide: What measures are New Yorkers considering?
Many New Yorkers are weighing their options after seeing their homes destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. City and state officials are also considering the choices for minimizing the damage next time a storm hits. Josh Robin traveled to the Netherlands to learn more about how different storm prevention measures work and in this fifth part of his special report, he looks at which measure New Yorkers are considering.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
NEW YORK STATE -- Winter morning on Staten Island's South shore. Waves lap now. Steps away destruction and anger.
"They spent billions of dollars to build this dune, over there and look what happened," said Grigory Epshteyn.
This is the dune, decades old and built to a ten foot height, four feet too short for Sandy. A long crumbling sea wall also couldn't stop the tide. Three people died.
Observers say too little money had been spent to protect long-flooded Oakwood Beach as new homes strained natural buffers.
"They were areas that were essentially below sea level, they had deep tidal channels cutting into them and were very low-land marsh areas. Things that I call nature's sponges that store and absorb water and the storm surges come to shore,” said William Fritz of the College of Staten Island.
In ways, it resembles the Town of Petten in the Netherlands we visited in January. Only there, the Dutch built the barrier three times as high, reinforcing it with concrete.
It's unclear whether Sandy will prompt as much effort into flood prevention here.
In late January, after much debate, Congress approved a Sandy aid package. Nearly $3 billion has been set aside for the Army Corps of Engineers to reduce future flood risk along the North Atlantic Coast. The Corps is still determining which shorefront areas deserve the most attention.
Meanwhile, people here are considering another offer: Money, to turn their homes back to nature.
"If a homeowner says 'I'm done, I've rebuilt three times in the past five years, I don't want to do it anymore, I want to move,' but they can't sell their home because of what happened, the state will buy it out, so it's about providing options," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
There may be options, but some see little time. FEMA says more areas are prone to flooding. Sea levels could rise up to six feet by the end of the century.
"This should be a real wake up call to all our decision making. I can't prognosticate about what we'll look like. But I can absolutely say that if we don't start thinking this way, we will increasingly lose our viability and flexibility. We will be facing more and more emergencies," said Judith Rodin with the Rockefeller Foundation.