Staten Island will be affected by sea level rise primarily along the Arthur Kill and around Fresh Kills. It is also likely to lose a thin strip along its east coast. Last month on June 2, I set out to explore this coast around Eltingville, Bay Terrace and Great Kills Harbor. This area is just to the south of Midland Beach, one of the beaches that were closed last weekend due to the release of waste water at the Harlem water treatment plant.
I started that morning on Tennyson Drive. The homes along the southern end here look out to the water of the lower bay.
A few blocks up, a street off of Tennyson Drive dead ends into the water. You can see the tip of the arm of Great Kills. Sea level rise threatens this peninsula and the protection it offers to homes along the water here.
Many of the waterfront homes are spectacularly lavish.
A block in from the water, the houses tend toward well-kept middle class homes.
There is a break in Tennyson Street between Robinson and Point Street for a small public park. This park has a new playground and a old jetty. The morning I visited, there was one man fishing from the beach. Despite a number of private beaches, access to the waterfront in this area feels easy unlike parts of Brooklyn and Queens like Mill Basin and Howard Beach.
At the end of Goodall Street were a couple of interesting cottages and an overlook down into the water in which I could see dozens of horseshoe crabs. After my visit to Plumb Beach where I had seen so many dead horseshoe crabs, I was fascinated to see so many alive and moving around. An older man came out of the house to talk to me. Sometimes I feel like the preacher who predicted the end of the world on May 21 as I discuss sea level rise. The man who lived in this house told me that there has been water up to his second story window during storms. I felt confirmation.
Robert Adams in his book “Why People Photograph” talks about the appeal of photos of plastic flamingos being the feeling of superiority that they give to the viewer over the subject. I loved this small cottage and I love this photo of it. I liked the owner when I met him very much and hope I can find a place to live as idiosyncratic for my own retirement.
Seeing my interest in the horseshoe crabs, the owner of those two cottages took me around to a private beach on the other side of his house. There were so many horseshoe crabs. I suddenly understood what I had read about beach replenishment killing the horseshoe crabs at Plumb Beach. Here there wasn’t much sand, mostly rocks. Also, I expect the water here is cleaner though Staten island has its own waste water treatment facility not far away. This water of the lower bay is just closer to the open ocean than the water in Jamaica Bay.
Before leaving Goodall Street, I also had the opportunity to speak with this man who took a break from putting together some solar panels to talk to me. He tried to convince me that his efforts were futile but I was impressed as I know the costs far outweigh the payback and anyone who is motivated to out up solar panels in 2011 is doing it because it is the right thing to do. Yes, this spot will be underwater in 2100 but with more people like him, maybe there won’t be that much more sea level rise.
After a condo development, there is another small waterfront park between Nelson and Cleveland Streets.
From Great Kills Park, you can get a glimpse of the Oakwood Beach WPCP. It serves just under 250,000 people making it more than twice the size of the one in the Rockaways but about 1/5 of the size of the Newtown Creek plant.