Tuesday, December 18, 2012
From the Huffington Post:
In a neighborhood of Staten Island where Hurricane Sandy flooded homes, swept boats into the streets, and caused at least two deaths, builders have already resumed construction on a series of new houses, raising concerns among residents who have long tried to halt development in the area.
Many residents fear that the ongoing development of the shorefront might make the area even more vulnerable to storms, in part by directing water away from the new properties and toward older, weaker buildings. "We used to have that land to absorb water," Carol Zirngibl, a longtime community advocate, said in Crescent Beach on Tuesday, looking at a construction area where workers were hammering together the wooden frames of at least five homes. "We don't have that anymore."
Eileen Monreale, a member of the coalition's steering committee, called for the city to incorporate the property into its plans for a nearby waterfront park, and asked for a temporary moratorium on building in Staten Island until the city came up with a "comprehensive plan" for developing the borough.
In her testimony, Monreale specifically noted that the proposed building site was located in what the Federal Emergency Management Agency had designated as a dangerous flood zone and warned that the planned development "could endanger life and property." (She also discussed Staten Island's notoriously congested roads and argued that overdevelopment would harm the borough's "beautiful waterfront and wildlife.")
But the City Planning Department ruled that the developers could go ahead with a scaled-down version of their original plan, and although the city adopted a new set of zoning rules for Staten Island in 2004, it didn't specifically prohibit builders from putting up homes in the borough's most vulnerable waterfront areas.
A decade after that hearing, workers are now erecting the last of the scores of houses that have gone up as part of Sailor's Key.
For Zirngibl and her neighbors, fresh memories of Sandy has also revived concerns about a development that has yet to be built -- a three-story, 87-unit residence for people over the age of 55, poised to go up on an undeveloped plot of land overlooking the sea.
In June 2011, the local community board voted against the plan, and the Department of City Planning denied the builders' application for a permit. But in February 2012, another city department -- the Board of Standards and Appeals -- ruled that the development wouldn't hurt the neighborhood, and Rampulla Associates Architects, the architecture firm representing the developers, was allowed to proceed.