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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 jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 4:46 pm, April 19, 2016
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Reader feedback

Austin from SHeepshead Bay says:
If Steve's '70 Firebird was flooded I bet he would want to restore it. Ask him.
April 18, 2016, 1:34 pm
Bob from Gerritsen Beach says:
Wake up people this is a scam.
After watching our beloved mayor, not, for nearly 3 years I would trust him as far as I could throw him. Sure he'll clean up the mess and take all these houses away from these people that have been living there for generations and before you know it, 12 story condos in its place. If the city really felt it was important to put in a nature area in Sheepshead Bay they already had plenty of opportunities to do so without evicting well-established homes. I would imagine that's why they never arrived with any serious help for the area. Here in Gerritsen Beach the city schedule completion of its build it back program will be by the end of this year. Ask yourselves, why haven't they started there yet?
April 18, 2016, 10:07 pm
Steve B from Sheepshead Bay says:
First, I never even used the term wetlands when I was interviewed. Nor did I suggest returning to marsh or "wetlands." But some kind of safe, park land designed to absorb the flooding with high drainage has been used in other flood areas with good success.
Next, all I said was that most of the home owners have left or don't even live there anymore, and that people should be entitled to the fair market value before Sandy, plus whatever money they sunk into the house after Sandy, PROVIDED that the land can NEVER be used for development! That means NOTHING can be built there; no condos or developers etc. As pointed out by Gerritsen Beach Bob, look how little has been done here so far as we race to the four year mark. Look at the Katrina victims many still struggling. Reality stinks, but it is not easy. And "politics" as Bob hints at is also the reality too.
Yes, we cannot fight the Atlantic Ocean.
Lastly, whoever Austin is(A?) the Pontiac was a total loss, and vehicles can move around, the analogy is irrelevant anyway.
The reality is we as a society can come to grips with the reality of climate change and the rising oceans or we can bury our heads in the sand, and leave a worsening crisis for our children and future generations. No one loves or has fought harder for history, preservation and comprehensive common sense planning than I and the many members of the coalition Bay Improvement Group. We must all stick together, and when we do not, you see what you get! Right now in Sheepshead Bay alone over 90 new developments in progress! That is exactly opposite what all the scientists and environmental studies say should happen in the flood impacted areas! BIG, as an all volunteer non profit, we have tried to advocate and raise awareness. We advocated, communicated and helped thousands after Sandy and continue to speak out. We are all in this together.
April 19, 2016, 1:03 pm
Anonymous says:
Steve B has a point. This was done in Oakwood Beach in Staten Island after Sandy. The Fed bought out the homeowners and the land can never be developed. The Dutch who know more about flood control than anyone else are now turning some large areas into green space just for flood control.
April 20, 2016, 10:09 pm

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