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Superstorm Sandy Forum: A serious conversation about the Future of Staten Island

On March 8th, 2013, hundreds of people attended the Superstorm Sandy Forum that was held at the College of Staten Island. The reason for this forum was to educate the public on the following topics: the nature of hurricanes, protection from hurricanes, risks associated with flooding, zoning and land use issues, social science, financial impact, recovery, protection of natural resources and building codes. The forum lasted over 6 hours and included representatives from the federal, state, city, and local entities, as well as leading scientists, business people, and educators from around the world.

The informative day-long program discussed coastal flooding risks, storm surge impacts, effects of the tide, local geographic, safety precautions and strategies for rebuilding Staten Island. “Global climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing coastal decision makers today. The science community no longer debates whether climate change is happening; they debate the rate at which the change is occurring. Increased storm frequency and intensity, coastal inundation, species range extensions and shoreline erosion are issues all communities are facing” said one of the panelists at the forum.

Arjun Braamskamp, Economic Officer, Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York gave a presentation called Adapting to Sea Level Rise: the Dutch Example in which he stated “There’s a lot of information available to us due to science. We can see direction of the water using modern technology on the next storm so we can predict which areas are vulnerable, increasing security level of the areas we are trying to protect. We know a lot, so let’s use that information so we can come up with the best plan of action for the future using the natural forces that we can make work for us.” He proposed numerous solutions of how to protect ourselves from future floods through building with nature. “Building with nature works and you can also reduce the environmental impact. In the end we have to come together as a community to decide what the solution is and share our vision to produce the future we would like for our borough. Design and engineering exists to solve these problems, the question is what is our shared vision to produce the future that we’d like.”

Superstorm Sandy Forum

Superstorm Sandy Forum: A Serious Conversation about the Future of Staten Island

As a result of the last few storms many now realize that New York City is in the hurricane belt and believe that we will be hit again in the future. Since it’s very difficult to predict the next natural disaster we should be focusing on how to build up and significantly improve the ability of our city to weather any type of storm. During the Superstorm Sandy forum landscape architects urged us to protect our existing wetlands, consider rezoning high-risk areas for day use and recreational purposes and rebuild by elevating homes to prevent damage from future floods on Staten Island. There were many proposed sketches for raising the houses in the low lying areas as seen below.

The last panel Role of Government and Finance in Sandy Recovery on Staten Island consisted of the following local officials: Nicole Malliotakis – Assembly-member, James Oddo – Councilmember, Seth Pinsky – President, Mayor’s City’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency. This panel continued the discussion addressing rebuilding and elevation, insurance, strengthening the infrastructure, support for local businesses, the issue of mold, and the financial help from the government for recovery.

William J. Fritz, host of the Superstorm Sandy Forum, Interim President and Professor of Geology at The City University of New York’s College of Staten Island, concluded the forum by presenting his five point plan to protect the borough from future storms and act as a guide going forward. He went on to add “The reason that I am speaking out is to urge New Yorkers to engage in a Serious Conversation about how we should plan for the future well being of our City. This conversation must include: scientists, geologists, engineers, social scientists, counselors, political scientists, politicians, economists, community members, city planners, emergency responders government agencies. And the business community should be at the forefront of this conversation because issues such as community welfare, rebuilding, financial impact of various solutions, political influence, and funding fall in the business sector. Without your leadership, attempts to address the future will fall short of maximum success. Private/public partnerships with universities and other agencies will be key to our recovery.”

Helpful links below:
Information for Disaster Survivors and Recovering Communities

For more information on this forum and topics that were covered please visit Sandy Forum Resource Kit.

Disaster assistance handouts that were given out at the Superstorm Sandy Forum.