United States Congressman Anthony Weiner has no doubts about whose duty it is to repair the Belt Parkway following environmental erosion and infrastructural decay.

“There’s no dispute about whose responsibility this is … it’s the city’s responsibility,” he said at last night’s Sheepshead Bay / Plumb Beach Civic Assocation (SBPB) meeting. “The problem is they’re not taking it seriously … The longer we wait the tougher the conversation becomes.”

Anthony Weiner came to discuss repairs to the Belt Parkway, the Plumb Beach bike path and the beach itself after a season of heavy storms ripped away at the shoreline. This winter saw the bike path crumble and water seep under the highway. So far, the city’s only response has been to place emergency sandbags to buffer the current.

“In case you haven’t noticed, the Belt Parkway is disappearing,” said Weiner. “Now about two feet and a bunch of sandbags are what separate the Atlantic Ocean at high tide in a storm from the Belt Parkway, and it’s gotten worse, not better.”

Weiner told area residents that, since his Plumb Beach meeting in December, he has taken two approaches to coordinate a better response.  First he asked the Army Corps of Engineers to work with city and state officials, and, second, he is requesting that the state designate the area a disaster zone eligible for federal funds.

(Article continues after video) Watch the video of Weiner’s appearance at the SBPB meeting, edited down to just his remarks and the Q & A regarding the Plumb Beach / Belt Parkway repairs

Following the recent spate of storms that knocked down trees and power lines and caused damage throughout the Northeast, Governor Paterson has included Suffolk, Nassau and Richmond on an application for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds. But, according to Weiner, the governor omitted Brooklyn and Queens because of fuzzy math. Weiner said the state took the amount of property damage and compared it to the population (per capita).

“Well, if you look at the per capita anything, Brooklyn isn’t going to come up” because of its dense population, he said. “But did you include replacing the whole Belt Parkway between Coney Island Avenue and Flatbush Avenue in your math? How much did that run?”

Funds from the federal government could help ease the burden on the city and state and help move forward a long term solution. Many other local leaders are similarly concerned about the state’s gaff.

“It’s a very important thing … to include Brooklyn and Queens in the FEMA application, because that storm didn’t just hit Staten Island, skip us, and then bounce off to Nassau,” said a representative for Assemblyman Alan Maisel, who co-signed a letter to the governor requesting the boroughs be added.

Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo urged residents to send letters to the governor making clear that the borough was severely affected. “Why are we not being included? We deserve a piece of the pie,” she said.

In December, Weiner requested $5 million in federal funds to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to study long-term solutions to Plumb Beach erosion. According to the congressman, the Army Corps has agreed to consult with the city but cannot take a lead role on repairs to the Belt Parkway or bike path.

“The Army Corps said pretty clearly, ‘It’s not our job to go onto city property and start to order people around,’” he said.

So far, the city has been slow to respond to the neighborhood’s needs. In addition to inviting Congressman Weiner, the Sheepshead Bay / Plumb Beach Civic Association asked representatives from the city and the state to attend and discuss repairs. Neither responded to the request.

What little the city has done, which came as an emergency response after December’s storm, is now being criticized as potentially harmful. SBPB Secretary Barbara Berardelli said the sandbag temporary fix may lead to more problems in the future.

“There’s going to be a tragedy,” she said. According to Berardelli, the city permits bikers to go around the fenced off path, putting them in spitting distance of the Belt Parkway. If a child falls off his bike they’re going to be on the highway. Additionally, the sandbags are beginning to wash away, creating obstacles for boaters. SBPB’s executive board took photos and sent letters to the city, “But no one responds to us … Those sandbags need to come off now.”

Other residents at the meeting were fed up altogether with the finger-pointing and broken promises, including from Congressman Weiner.

“Shame on all three agencies and shame on all our leaders in this area that let it come to this point,” said Sheepshead Bay resident Richie Arneman. “There was no reason it should’ve got to this point. It’s like you said with healthcare: preventative maintenance. If you would’ve spent $50,000 a year on preventative maintenance it wouldn’t have gotten to this point. Now it’s costing those taxpayers a lot more money.”

Weiner said that, going forward, he will try and wrangle all the involved agencies into a room once again – a repeat of what he first did two years ago and again in December. He hopes that after all the time that has passed they’ll have come up with some answers.

Still, Weiner acknowledges there’s no simple solution when it comes to rerouting nature.

“Now the city has to say, ‘We’re willing to partner with the federal government.’ And I’ve asked the governor to ask for disaster designation to partner with the state as well,” he said. “[But] it ain’t easy. It’s a major piece of civil engineering when you’re trying to stop the ocean.”

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  • Waterfall1

    How come when we have problems like this the first people we call are lawyers and politicians? Wouldn’t a meeting with engineers be more informative? Do we prevent erosion by placing money bags along the shore or legal briefs? Would we be better served if engineers described what is possible rather than finger pointing and posturing?

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  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    This isn't anything new. The long and short term solutions are known to all who are involved in the decision making progress. What is imperative now should have been done some years ago. Decision makers have failed us.

  • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

    If the City insists on ignoring the issue then I think we should be willing to do something drastic to call attention to the issue from the greater public.

    In my personal opinion, I think civil disobedience might be an appropriate course of action in the future. What kind you ask? First we gather protesters to stand/sit/protest in front of the Emmons/Knapp st Entrance to the Belt Parkway West heading directly into Plumb Beach.

    The purpose of this would be to demonstrate what would happen if the water wore away the bike bath and closed the entrance to the Belt Parkway. All of a sudden vehicles would have to divert down Knapp street to Ave U and Flatbush Ave to enter the Belt at Flatbush.

    If this is not enough we could escalate the issue by starting to block lanes of traffic on the actual belt, again, to demonstrate what would happen to this vital lifeline of it was damaged by the ocean.

    In any case, such drastic measures should only be done as a last resort. It would most likely result in the arrest of protesters for disturbing the peace and unlawful assembly. I can't imagine the city would grant a permit to protest the city and cause such a disturbance. To repeat, this is my personal opinion and not that of Sheepshead Bites.com.

    Hopefully Mr Weiner will get the city to wake up and reinforce the shoreline and the Belt Parkway preserving our beach, our lifeline and our community.

  • waterfall1

    Don't be too sure about the solutions. At yesterday's JBTF meeting a rep from ACOE acknoweldeged that a solution to Plumb Beach is not so simple. If it were, it would have been done years ago. There will be trade offs that must be addressed. By listening only to the politicians pointing fingers only adds to our disgust of the government. That is something that we don't need.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    True, it's not so simple now. And earlier reshapings of the local environment (such as joining Plum and Barren Islands to the mainland, are probably part of the reason that the erosion has been occurring. This doesn't mean that there isn't a doable solution. It's just going to be an expensive one.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    True, It's not so simple now. And earlier reshapings of the local environment (such as joining Plum and Barren Islands to the mainland, are probably part of the reason that the erosion has been occurring. There is a solution, but it's going to be an expensive one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gene-Berardelli/1173482469 Gene Berardelli

    The first people we call are the ones who are supposed to represent our needs and are the ones who are responsible for finding the engineers and for paying for the work.

    Even if we were to find our own engineers – and engineers and experts did indeed look at Plumb Beach, note the problems and make preliminary recommendations when we noted the problem more than two years ago – they could not do the actual work – unless authorized by the city.

    You can consult all you want, but if nothing is authorized or paid for, then all the talk is for nothing. ACOE has been talking and talking and talking at JBTF meetings and with National Parks and with the Congressman, but if the City doesn't get its act together, then all the talk is for nothing.

  • brightonresident

    Well, if this a “City” problem, someone should gather all the local City Council Members in one room and let them tell us what they are going to do.
    However, I don't think this is solely a NYC issue, I am sure there is State and Federal responsibilty for the main roadway.

  • brightonresident

    Well, if this a “City” problem, someone should gather all the local City Council Members in one room and let them tell us what they are going to do.
    However, I don't think this is solely a NYC issue, I am sure there is State and Federal responsibilty for the main roadway.

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