According to an article from the New York Times dated April 3 1927, Gerritsen Beach was built on salt marsh. Starting in 1923, huge amounts of sand were pumped from the bottom of Shell Bank Creek and used to create land seven feet above high tide. This article goes on to describe the building process which, 20 years before Levittown, standardized materials and designs and built the homes very efficiently and quickly. This was during prohibition and the other articles that the Times ran in this era about Gerritsen Beach were about rum-running as it was called. Sounds like even the police were involved. This history sheds light on how the neighborhood got to be what it is today.
The University of Arizona sea level rise map predicts that most of the section south of the Gotham Avenue Canal will be inundated by 2100. The Coastal Resilience map predicts the most damage for the two blocks south of this canal and anything within a block or so of Shell Creek with 10% of all buildings sustaining losses by 2080. Either way at seven feet above sea level, this community is going to feel the repercussions of sea level rise.
Now, 80 years after this neighborhood was built, there is a real mix of old and new homes. The new homes are built to withstand today’s flooding levels. Sea level rise will increase the depth and severity of flooding over the course of the next century.
Most homes are relatively modest and well cared for.
It is peaceful here and for the most part, people live without bars on their windows.
It is not fancy like Mill Basin or Manhattan Beach.
The US flag is the decoration of choice.
The narrow streets, many without sidewalks are charming and welcoming. I had a real “Secret Garden” moment here.
And there are horses!
But the hard cold fact is that however cute many of homes are in Gerritsen Beach, the Coney Island Wastewater treatment plant is right across Shell Bank Creek.
Theoretically, there is no discharge from the plant into the creek. The designated Combined Sewage Overflow is in Paerdegat Basin. The new odor control system was completed last February.
However as explained on Sheepsheadbites, the businesses on Harkness Avenue and Knapp Street aren’t part of the city’s sewer system. A private system is supposed to take their sewage to the plant but it seems a lot of this ends up in the creek. Take a look at the map posted on that site that shows how far the untreated sewage contaminates the water. As I write this, Kiddie Beach a private beach at the south end of Madoc Avenue, has a swimming advisory. Earlier this summer, Kiddie Beach was closed on July 28th. At the time it was attributed to the fire at the wastewater treatment plant in Harlem. This hardly seems likely given the distance of the Harlem plant and the history of local sewage dumping.
So Shell Bank Creek isn’t polluted like the Gowanus and the Newtown Creek but the water isn’t clean either.
If you looked at that map on the sheepsheadbites blog from the district attorney’s office, you saw that the sewage contaminates Plum Beach Channel as well as Rockaway Inlet.
As I write this hurricane Irene is approaching North Carolina. One of the main issues for concern is storm surge. If you are going to experience flooding, it would be better if it wasn’t flooding with contaminated water.