Archive picture of moving Brighton Beach Hotel courtesy of Arrt's Archives
Elaine Meinel Supkis
I lived in Coney Island many years ago. I went to the beach every day, especially in winter. Went through hurricanes and blizzards. And I watched the beaches rapidly disappear. It was plainly obvious that something big was happening to the earth.
BEIJING, Oct. 27 (Xinhuanet) -- A new computer model using data collected from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Hurricane Center reveals a substantial rise in sea levels during the next century caused by global warming, combined with a hurricane, and New Yorkers could kiss Coney Island goodbye.
Researchers also said the Rockaways, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, portions of Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, lower Manhattan and eastern Staten Island, from Great Kills Harbor north to the Verrazano Bridge could be submerged.
Sea level around the city could climb 15 to 19 inches by 2050 and by more than three feet by 2080, according to the model.
Of course, Florida won't be around, either. Nor much of the Gulf Coast. Or Cod Island and Martha's Vinyard. Heck, Boston! We are talking catastrophe here. Lower Manhattan now sits right on top of the water, there is a wall around the tip to keep the waves from washing up Wall Street. I suppose we could do what poor Holland is doing: build huge dikes. Right now, this week, Venice is already flooding and there is no big storm, it is merely the sea rushing in as the city flounders ever deeper.
This map shows where my apartment was relative to the sea. I could see the waves from the third story tower windows. When I came to visit my future husband's family there in 1969, they showed me some big cement structures in the middle of the beach.
'These were gun emplacements during WWII,' David explained. They rose out of the sand about four feet and we could scramble on top and watch the sea rage during storms. We picnicked up there on nice days. I came back through in 1973. Now, you needed a step stool to climb up these cement structures.
By 1979, they were now above the sand level and we could see the big pilings made of wood which held them in place. The sea was now eating up people's back yards along the ocean front. At first, only during hurricanes or really bad Nor'easters would the high tides approach the homes on the beach. But by 1985, the ocean not only ate most of the backyards along the beach, several homes were demolished by raging seas. One of them, a person I knew had to be rescued from her bedroom window on the Surf Avenue side because huge pilings torn up by the sea that used to protect people's yards were now hammering her house apart. It fell into the sea.
We watched as the beach split in two after a hurricane in 1976. There was this inland swimming hole that grew bigger and bigger each storm until today, it is gone because the beach beyond it is gone.
This process has been going on for the last 150 years. It has caused a lot of changes to be made. Very famously, a huge hotel built in the early 19th century had to be hiked up onto a fleet of trains and moved away from the sea. The picture at the top shows how the ocean seperated the hotel from the music pavillion so that it was eventually unreachable.
Here is a newspaper clipping from 1888 explaining how this was done.
I will note, they didn't understand why this was happening.
This is a map from 1909 showing Brighton Beach which is where this hotel was moved. The train station, Mermaid Avenue and Surf Avenue are all where they were back then but the beach, which used to extend far outwards, has been turned into a very narrow strip.
Regularily, storms push the ocean onto Surf Avenue these days. The government has gone about the nation, pumping sand back onto beaches in a futile effort at stopping the relentless forces of Nature. Praying to gods or shovelling sand makes little difference to Her. She has other plans.
I was once standing on the rocks that make big bays along the shoreline, set up in a vain attempt at stopping the sand from washing away, it does slow it down but only relatively speaking. Anyway, a fisherman and I saw a big wave like a dark line on the horizon. I had been raised to beware of such waves and I shouted, 'Run! Now!' and took off, bounding over the slippery boulders.
Two children were playing there and the fisherman and I swept them up as we both were now running hard. There was hardly anyone on the beach except for this one family. I waved to the parents and yelled for them to run under the boardwalk. The wave struck and lifted us all up and I kept swimming forwards with the girl hanging on. We were swept under the boardwalk and we grabbed at the piers and hung on so the ocean couldn't pull us back in.
This was in the late fall so we were not happy about getting all wet. The point is, the ocean is very powerful and never turn your back on it. At least, this is what my parents taught me.