You can’t beat Mother Nature, but a federal lawmaker is hoping that a few million greenbacks might at least appease her.
With that in mind, Rep. Jerrold Nadler last week announced the allocation of $3 million to battle beach erosion and protect the coastline in Coney Island and Sea Gate, a private, gated community.
The money is part of a total of $16 million the lawmaker has secured for the Army Corps of Engineers-led project since Fiscal Year 2003, and will go toward the construction of a series of rock jetties, or T-groins, along the Coney Island peninsula. The jetties are expected to keep sand in place and stop beach erosion.
The Coney Island funding is part of $5,673,000 approved by the House of Representatives for three key infrastructure projects located in Nadler’s district, which includes Brooklyn and Manhattan. The lawmaker also allocated $1,673,000 for the dredging of Buttermilk Channel in Red Hook and $1 million for the construction of an environmentally friendly building for New School University’s energy and environmental research center in Greenwich Village.
“These three infrastructure projects are extremely important initiatives for New York City,” Nadler said in a statement.“These projects will increase local investment, create local jobs, and provide Brooklyn and Manhattan with vital new infrastructure. In Coney Island, the ongoing shore protection project will protect Coney Island’s famed beaches from erosion and ensure that storms do not threaten residents living along the shore.”
But the allocation of taxpayer funds to help the private community is not without controversy.
One source who wished to remain anonymous put it this way: “This is pork barrel politics at its purest,” the person said. “People outside of Sea Gate should be aware of what’s happening to their tax dollars.”
In 1992, a nor’easter devastated the community, which lost an entire home to the maelstrom, a natural event that spurred government intervention. In 1994 the Army Corps constructed the West 37th Street jetty and began distributing sand along three and a half miles of beach in Coney Island and Brighton Beach. That project, which cost an estimated $23.9 million, was originally expected to extend to the tip of Sea Gate, but stopped at West 37th. According to Army Corps documents from 1992 reviewed by the paper, the controversy at the time was that Sea Gate “would have to transfer ownership of its private beach to the city of New York to qualify for statefunding.”
But the man-made jetty at West 37th had a negative effect on the beaches west of the structure; littoral drift took sand from Sea Gate and deposited it on the Gravesend Bay side.
An environmental analysis conducted by the Army Corps has since determined that to keep sand on the ocean side, up to four rock jetties must be constructed west of West 37th Street.
Ida Sanoff, the chair of the Natural Resources Protective Association, a local environmental group, said she felt bad for the plight of Sea Gate homeowners. “The people of Sea Gate do have a problem, but I would really like to see more studies to make sure this is going to work,” she said. “The end result,” she continued, “is that they are getting their beach replenished and they are not paying a dime, and they are not giving the public access.”
Nadler spokesperson Ilan Kayatsky said the Sea Gate project will protect the entire Coney island waterfront; erosion at Sea Gate puts the rest of the beaches at risk. “It’s all connected,” he noted.
“A political barrier between the boundaries of Sea Gate and the boundaries of Coney Island is meaningless when it comes to beach erosion,” Kayatsky said. “We have to protect the entire length of Coney Island.”
The three projects were included at Nadler’s request in the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations Conference Report, a $33.5 billion bill that will invest in clean energy and infrastructure and encourage energy independence.The House vote is the final step before this legislation is signed into law by the President Barack Obama.