In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New York City Seminar and Conference Center had the honor of providing much-needed office space for NYC businesses put out of action by widespread flooding and power outages.
Now, with the Flatiron District, Chelsea, and most of NYC back to normal, it's easy to forget that some communities are still suffering from the effects of the storm. Staten Island, recently visited by President Barack Obama, is one highly-publicized example. Even now, the state of New York is hard at work repairing the damage.
Alas, some citizens cannot rely on federal funding or insurance to cover their losses. Flatiron Hot!, our affiliated blog, had a chance to visit a community impacted by the superstorm. Long before the name "Sandy" conjured images of flooding and destruction, residents of the town of Northport, located in Suffolk County on Long Island Sound, built their homes atop cliffs overlooking the picturesque seashore.
To some, beachfront properties might conjure images wealthy folk who are relatively well-equipped to rebuild in the wake of a major storm. In fact, Northport's residents hail from a diverse range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Some are middle-aged or elderly and constructed their houses when the shores of Long Island were largely undeveloped and thus relatively inexpensive to build on. Therefore, they may not possess the resources to repair the damage caused by Sandy's powerful waves.
That being said, Northport's residents were far from negligent in preparing for the hurricane. Having witnessed first-hand the destructive potential of lesser storms, many went to great lengths to protect the fragile cliffs from erosion by surging waves.
Some paid work crews thousands to construct sea walls, reinforced by sandbags and concrete cylinders. Others attempted the back-breaking work themselves, constructing barriers that would impress professional engineers.
Their efforts were no match for the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. The resulting damage to the cliffs, which could very well collapse with sufficient erosion, was in many cases considerable. The seawalls that demanded so much labor and resources lie in ruins. Staircases leading down to the beach were decimated, if not washed away completely.
Eugene Kaplan, an 80-year-old author and marine biologist, lost his seawall, kayaks, motorboat and, worst of all, his lavish, painstakingly-constructed Zen garden (equipped with Buddhist statues and a path he laid with bricks gathered from along the shoreline).
Kaplan estimates that it will cost the community hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the damage wrought by Sandy and to prepare for the superstorm's inevitable successor. Alas, insurance companies will not be on hand to help shoulder the financial burden; seawalls and easily-eroded cliffs are considered too risky to cover.
Thus, Northport’s residents will have to confront the arduous task on their own. Repairing the damage will require bringing in bulldozers to reinforce the badly-eroded cliffs with new soil. Afterwards, tress and bushes must be planted to replace the vegetation swept away by the waves.
And then there’s the matter of reconstructing new, stronger seawalls that are better equipped to contend with a new breed of storm rendered all the more powerful by the effects of climate change.