Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS
Residents of the waterfront near Jamaica Bay look anxiously at a set of slide showing the need for flood mitigation.

The outlook was bleak in the eyes of attendees at Saturday’s meeting for the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association as they looked at flood risk maps for the Howard Beach area on the projector.

Roger Gendron, president of the civic group, asserted that not only could the impacts from storm surges be avoided by berms, levees, storm barriers and interior drainage in the Howard Beach area, but that the measures were approved by the federal government over 50 years ago.

Gendron is calling for the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) to re-evaluate the north side of Jamaica Bay around Hawtree and Shellbank Basins where tidal and sunny day flooding has only increased over the last 20 years.

“The flood lines from Sandy inundated every block in Hamilton Beach and Howard Beach,” Gendron said. “All of the flooding and damages associated with it could have been avoided had the Army Corp. of Engineers not dropped the ball regarding a hurricane barrier for our community.”

Gendron said the average 1-in-every-25-year storm can cause up to $30 million in damage while the average storm of the century can result in $1.2 billion. With sea level rise projected increase 32 inches by 2100, Gendron claims the cost to communities can be even greater.

The civic association looked back on Hurricane Donna in 1960 and a nor’easter in 1962 that left the communities on Jamaica Bay in shambles and prompted the Flood Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The law would have provided flood mitigation at key points across the country, including the New York – Atlantic Coastal Area, but the New Hamilton beach Civic believes nothing came of it.

“Everybody remembers all too well during Sandy the waters rose from Shellbank Basin, across Cross Bay Boulevard, down the avenues, down the side streets, and unfortunately into everybody’s homes,” Gendron said.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer issued a statement that pressured the ACE to make a greater effort toward preserving neighborhoods along the waterfront to prevent the kind of damage inflicted during Superstorm Sandy and Donna as well as climate change.

“Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach heroically survived Sandy, but now residents and their homes are threatened on a monthly basis by tidal flooding,” Stringer said in a statement. “We cannot allow rising sea levels to erase our waterfront neighborhoods. If floodgates and other resilient infrastructure are placed at the Shellbank and Hawtree basins can alleviate high tide flooding, the Army Corps must have the courtesy to engage with the community and explore implementing these measures.”

The Army Corps. of Engineers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from QNS.

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