Dr. William J. Fritz and Dr. Alan Benimoff were featured in the NY Times article “Staten Island Was Tragic Epicenter of Storm’s Casualties” by James Barron, Joseph Goldstein, and Kirk Semple.
The soggy marshes and still-damp ruins of homes on Staten Island yielded a grim postscript to the toll from Hurricane Sandy on Thursday, as search teams discovered more bodies where the storm’s giant wall of water had smashed its way through.
That the borough was the scene for so much loss of life had a lot to do with the storm’s path and the island’s own evolution, and what happened was not entirely a surprise to Staten Islanders like Dr. William J. Fritz, the interim president of the CUNY College of Staten Island, and Dr. Alan I. Benimoff, a geology lecturer there.
Dr. Benimoff said Staten Island was in the wrong place at the wrong time for a storm that scored a perpendicular hit on the New Jersey coast. “That put Staten Island in the bull’s eye” for the surge, he said. “The water didn’t have anywhere else to go.”
Dr. Fritz said Staten Island no longer had “what I like to call sponges, that absorb the energy of hurricanes.”
“Jamaica Bay is a natural sponge with dunes and marshes that can do that,” he said. “Barrier islands in North Carolina did that. What have we done on Staten Island? We’ve hardscaped our sponge. We’ve made roads and parking lots and houses and paved over the sponge. We’ve created an urban area, and you no longer have a sponge.”
Dr. Fritz said the development was “one of the reasons we have that much property destruction, and I think some of the deaths.”