‘More and more flooding’: Hamilton Beach civic leader shines spotlight on climate change challenges in borough’s coastal communities

Hamilton Beach was hammered by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and its residents still feel the impact of flooding in their daily lives.
QNS file photo

When Superstorm Sandy smashed into the Rockaway Peninsula in October 2012, a 14-foot flood surge inundated all of the low-lying coastal communities along Jamaica Bay. While much of the damage in these neighborhoods has been fixed over the years since that tragic event, residents in these communities deal with the challenges posed by persistent flooding that has altered their way of life and promises to get far worse in the years ahead due to climate change.

Roger Gendron, the president of the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association, chronicled the effect these floods have on him and his neighbors who reside on the narrow stretch of land across the Hawtree Basin from Howard Beach.

“There’s an old adage: You live by the water, you die by the water,” Gendron said in a video released during Earth Week by the NYC Comptroller’s Office. “I’ve lived in Hamilton Beach my entire life. I’m 57 years old and over the course of those years I have witnessed the steady increase each year of higher and higher tides.”

Hamilton Beach was hammered by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and its residents still feel the impact of flooding in their daily lives. (QNS/File)

He recalls that on the night of Sandy, he had 8 feet of water on the first floor of his home and had waves crashing over his deck. Now he and his neighbors contend with flooding on a daily basis for at least nine months out of the year.

“Sea level rise is real,” Gendron said. “There was a time when it was a freak thing. Now it’s a common thing — more and more sunny day flooding in this community.”

In each of his monthly civic association newsletters, Gendron includes a tide schedule which he says rules his neighbors’ everyday lives.

“We live by the tides. What time is high tide? Can I still get my kids to school and can I get to work?” Gendron asked. “We don’t put our garbage out on the street because if there’s a high tide on a Wednesday night, our garbage cans will float away.”

NYC Comptroller Brad Lander released the video and warned that coastal communities like Hamilton Beach face climate risks including increased numbers of heatwaves, superstorms and a 30-inch sea level rise. Lander and the comptroller’s Chief Climate Officer Louise Yeung unveiled the NYC Climate Dashboard to shine a spotlight on the city’s progress and path forward to meet its goals of reducing greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050.

The dashboard tracks key metrics on NYC’s energy transition, emission, pension fund investments and resiliency infrastructure.

“Climate change is this century’s most pressing crisis and most urgent opportunity,” Lander said. “Protecting our city from rising sea levels, devastating flash flooding and deadly heatwaves requires government, businesses, property owners, financial institutions and everyday New Yorkers working strategically to hit ambitious goals.”

The dashboard aims to help residents of the five boroughs hold the city accountable to its climate goals to mitigate the threats of climate crisis, advance a just transition to renewable energy and a green economy, and build a city that’s more resilient in the face of rising sea levels and temperatures.

“The NYC Climate Dashboard will track our collective efforts to drastically reduce our emissions, convert to 100% clean energy, make a just transition to a green economy and adapt our infrastructure to protect New Yorkers.”

Yeung joined Lander on an Earth Week tour of the Jamaica Bay Resilience Projects.

“As the city comptroller’s first-ever chief climate officer, my mission is to deploy the accountability, oversight and accounting tools of our office to get our city on track to reduce emissions, protect our neighborhoods and transition our economy away from fossil fuels,” Yeung said. “This dashboard tangibly assesses the dangers our inaction poses towards our city and keeps us accountable to moving the needle on both mitigation and adaptation. Meeting our emissions reduction and resiliency goals is not an option for New York City; the future of our neighborhoods depends on the collective actions we take now.”