The Aftermath Of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy satellite image

The East Coast is still reeling from the destruction that Hurricane Superstorm Sandy caused. A trail of wreckage was left in her wake, mostly in New York and New Jersey, that no one could escape. But some say not all of the damage was avoidable, and city zoning may be to blame.

The most destructive element of Sandy on the coast was her wind-driven wave of water that high tide brought in and submerged low-lying coastal areas in water.

Considering how big she was, damage was not going to be prevented. She was a-comin’ and all we could do is just batten down the hatches and hope your foundations hold. But years of land use decisions and zoning mistakes may have contributed to people and companies building where damage from heavy storms — even weaker than Sandy — was inevitable.

Authorities in New York and New Jersey allowed development at clear at-risk coastal areas with little oversight in recent decades, the equivalent of building a brand-new city in the middle of Tornado Alley. Everyone wants to live on the coast, and the development of coastal properties continued with little, if any, regulation.

On Staten Island alone, over 2,700 buildings were constructed between 1980 and 2008, with city planning and zoning commissions approving the plans, in coastal areas deemed (even back then) at a very high risk of storm surge flooding. Construction happened anyway. Twenty-one people died on the south shore of Staten Island, mostly in bungalows built back in the 80s, but at least two people were living in a major planned community that had been developed in the 1990s.

All twenty-one people were living in the high-risk coastal zone. It’s unknown whether or not any of those people even knew on their own or were notified that they were at risk.

QuestionI don’t really have one. Really, my question is just, “why?”