2013-05-17 / Letters

Build Back Better

Dear Editor:

As President of a 20 unit Condominium (Shoreview Condominiums at Rockaway Beach) damaged by Superstorm Sandy, not a day has gone by since the storm without considering how we can rebuild, and how we can do so in a cost-effective way. Where will the money come from? What more hoops do we have to go through to get a loan? To get a grant? How much will owners need to pay? But also foremost in my thoughts is how to build back better.

I am writing now to ask that our community— homeowners and businesses— unite around two issues: 1) rebuilding better; and, 2) pressuring the powers to be to help us do just that. First, here is an excerpt from an EPA government website regarding our stormwater system.

“Much of New York and New Jersey rely on a combined sewer and storm water system to move storm water, waste and wastewater to treatment plants. During dry weather, these systems often work properly. However, impervious surfaces (such as roads, houses, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots) don’t allow rain to percolate into the ground; instead they channel rainwater to a storm drain. A mere inch of rainfall running off these impervious surfaces adds up to a lot of water, overwhelms the system, and causes an overflow of water and waste called a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). Storm water runoff and CSOs not only impact our health by exposing us to pathogens and toxics in our waters but also negatively impact the habitat and living conditions of fish and other aquatic life. It is possible to design urban storm water structures to mimic the natural processes of water filtration and percolation into the ground. To minimize the likelihood of CSOs, rain needs to slow down and to be soaked up by the soil.”

Everyone in the Rockaways and Broad Channel knows how flooding impacts our streets and how storm water and sewerage overflow bring pollutants directly into the Bay and into the Ocean. So why isn’t the City repairing our streets and sidewalks in a sustainable way to limit or eliminate run-off? Why aren’t we demanding that they use porous pavers instead of asphalt? (There are many low-cost solutions available.) Why aren’t we doing the same when we resurface our damaged walkways and parking lots? In addition, these same principles can be used in our landscaping. (See The Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean-Friendly Garden Book which can be obtained from their website). Engineers could also design better ways to carry floodwater through our storm drains, and simply cleaning them of sand and debris would be a great start!

These are all issues that our “green” Mayor has not addressed (at least not in the Rockaways or Broad Channel) nor have our other elected leaders addressed them. So, let’s do what we can with our properties, and let’s insist that our elected leaders make sure that our streets and sidewalks are built back better as well. (And while they are at it, why not put the electrical lines underground as well, as in Manhattan). This is an opportunity that we should not waste. Learn what you can do to build back better and call or write your elected leaders today.

JANIE SIMMONS

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