• September 21, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

Feds scoff at flood protection

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 11:58 am, Thu Sep 19, 2019.

Is the federal government determined to let Howard Beach get flooded the next time a hurricane hits? And the time after that, and the time after that? Sure seems that way.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency last month refused to cover the cost of a $65 million berm that would go in Spring Creek Park, U.S. government property. Basically a long, high pile of tightly packed dirt — so wonderfully low-tech that it’s pretty much humankind’s oldest type of fortification and something even toddlers at the beach know can stop water — the berm would have been built between the Joseph P. Addabbo Bridge and the Belt Parkway.

It would have been a great, natural, environmentally inoffensive way to help protect much of Howard Beach from another Superstorm Sandy. And the cost would have been a drop in bucket for a federal government that will spend more than $4.7 trillion this year — about $1 trillion of that money it doesn’t have but will borrow. That means the next generation of South Queens residents will be saddled with both more debt and a shoreline not as resistant to storms as it could or should be. Lucky us.

Look at the digits written out to get a better idea of how relatively little money the berm would cost.

Berm: $65,000,000.

Budget: $4,700,000,000,000 (and then some).

FEMA had allocated $3.3 million for New York to design the berm, so officials thought it would follow through with funds for actually building it, too. Instead, the feds apparently are ready to put the plan in that big warehouse from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

The funding denial leaves officials here hoping they can get the money to build the berm from city or state coffers. We can only hope so.

FEMA’s move comes on the heels of the Army Corps of Engineers’ rejection of a plan to install two flood gates in Howard Beach, on the Hawtree and Shellbank basins. That plan was approved by Congress in the 1970s but never funded.

It looks like the city and state will have to take environmental protection in Queens into their own hands when it comes to floodwaters. And that’s if the feds would even let these projects be built at all.

Welcome to the discussion.