[gallery] MHC students take a class on the beach

Dr. Fritz points out the various geological features of the beach.

Dr. William J. Fritz, Interim President of College of Staten Island, has not forgotten his roots. An internationally acclaimed geologist who has published more than 50 articles and guidebooks on sedimentation around modern and ancient explosive volcanoes—as well as on sedimentology, stratigraphy, and paleobotany—was more than happy when Dr. Alan Benimoff, a lecturer for the Department of Engineering Science and Physics invited him to accompany the Macaulay Honors Geology 101 class, “Planet Earth,” on a field trip to Island Beach State Park in New Jersey on November 2, 2013.

Drs. Fritz, Benimoff, and Alexander familiarize the class with the various formations on the lagoon side of the barrier island, home to a maritime forest with some very specialized vegetation.

Along with the class, the two scientists were accompanied by Dr. Jane Alexander, a fellow lecturer in the Department of Engineering Science and Physics, as they examined various zones of what is conventionally known as “the beach,” to understand the development of barrier islands and to explore the processes that transport and deposit sediment in coastal environments.

Dr. Fritz, an expert on beach formations, took profiles of the beach and showed the class some examples of sedimentation on the beach. As a member of the earth and environmental sciences doctoral faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center, Dr. Fritz explained how storms and hurricanes shape the coastline and took a moment to reflect on the events of Superstorm Sandy.

The group examining one of the many ridge and runnel systems that dot the beach.

The group visited several beach zones, including the marsh and lagoon, the maritime forest, the dune field, and the shoreface, among others. The Macaulay Honors students took full advantage of the trip, asking questions throughout and vigorously taking notes as Dr. Fritz pointed out the various beach processes.

Dr. Benimoff believed the all-day field trip to Island Beach was a “fantastic way for students to get a taste of just what being a geologist is like,” referring to the importance of hands-on, practical applications for students from all fields and walks of life. “You can read a book all day,” he continued, “but until you get out there and truly experience it, you will not get a true sense of what is being discussed in a classroom setting.”

A closer look at the runnel formations and the way scientists measure them in order to get an understanding of sediment transport on the beach.

He also defined CSI’s interim president as a “true academic,” saying that is a “real blessing.” Having a president such as Dr. Fritz, who is  an expert geologist, validates the importance of the university as a place where all types of minds can come together and prioritize scholarship above all else.

Macaulay Honors second-year student Austin Krauza—who also happened to be the unofficial photographer of the trip—believed the trip to Island Beach was important because “Field trips are an excellent way of expanding on what you are learning in the classroom. Being able to relate and connect some of the topics you are reading in a black and white text to real life engages me and pushes me to learn more.”

Krauza, a computer science major who hopes to one day start his own IT support business, has been an avid photographer since he was very young. He was delighted to leave the classroom for some work in the field with our College president. “I was excited to hear that the president of our institution was accompanying us on a field trip. When most people think of their college president, they think of a person in a suit and tie, fundraising and navigating politics. However, in addition to filling those shoes, President Fritz is willing to come into the field to teach and work with students, one on one. I feel that this closes the gap between the college administration and the student body.”

CUNY Service Corp at CSI assists with survey to help Staten Island merchants impacted by Sandy

Toto's after Hurricane sandy hit (left). John Toto relaxes for a moment during the June "grand reopening" of Joe & John's Toto's Restaurant, which was completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. (RIGHT) (Staten Island Advance/Bill Lyons)

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE — More than one year after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the borough, industry leaders are still unsure of toll the storm took on Staten Island’s business community.

In fact, it’s still unclear how many businesses were affected. And there’s an unknown number of merchants who have yet to recoup losses after the storm ripped across the borough on Oct. 29, 2012.

That’s why the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce is working with the NY Rising committee to query affected merchants via a new survey that will determine how to help them get back on their feet post-Sandy.

“There is a lack of information coming from one source about the affect Sandy had on Staten Island’s business community. We need to reach out to the business community so we can better prepare for the next time around. There is nothing out there that measures the vacancy rates prior to Sandy and post-Sandy,” said Linda Baran, Staten Island Chamber of Commerce president.

“A lot of businesses affected by Sandy have said business is down 30 to 40 percent…There are abandoned properties next to some of the businesses that have gotten back into business, and those are becoming problematic,” she added.

The Chamber has a list of more than 4,000 Island businesses, which they hope will participate in the “NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program/Staten Island/East and South Shore Business Interview Form” survey, being launched on Monday.

“We want to get as much feedback as possible,” said Ms. Baran, noting she’s hoping business owners will fill out and submit the survey within a two-week time frame.

The survey was born as an arm of the NY Rising project, which is an eight month state and borough initiative launched in September that will award Staten Island $25 million to pay for a host of upgrades under the banner of post-Sandy reconstruction.

A committee — made up civic and community leaders — aims to determine the types of funding, infrastructure and overall general help the Island needs to fully recover from the worst storm to ever hit the area.

“The governor has asked community members to identify local needs in the community, and in conjunction with planning firms, work to identify gaps that may exist within programs and/or projects. We also hope to build on existing programs in order to allow more economic development, and to help small businesses recover after Sandy,” said Alex Zablocki, city regional lead for the NY Rising Community Reconstruction program.

Of the Chamber’s survey, Zablocki said, “Businesses need to be interviewed so we can learn about their needs post Sandy. We want to get more of the temperature of how business is after the storm… Have they reopened? Did they relocate? Did they have to reduce the number of employees post Sandy? etc..”

The Chamber will be utilizing CUNY Service Corps interns from the College of Staten Island (CSI) in Willowbrook who will help interview Sandy-affected merchants and assist them with the survey.

On the survey, the Chamber is also working with the Princeton, N.J.-based consulting firm, RESGroup, and Cynthia Scarinci, professor at CSI,with hopes of making the borough’s business community stronger than it was before Hurricane Sandy hit.

“We’re going to use the survey results combined with the interviews of local business leaders and business authorities, and based on the information we will help ensure the local business community is resilient going forward,” said Randy Nigrelli, director of the Princeton, N.J.-based RESGroup.

Those involved with the survey hope that it will identity merchants’ needs that can be met with long-term solutions.

“It could mean grant money to raise (buildings), flood-proofing storefronts, completely redesigning commercials corridors, or maybe finding gaps in financial assistance programs, such as if small businesses have been struggling to get Small Business Administration (SBA) loans,” said Zablocki.

To participate in the survey, click here, or call the Chamber at (718) 727-1900.

This story was written by Tracey Porpora and first appeared in the Staten Island Advance and SILive.com on December 2, 2013. It is reprinted here with permission.

[video] Dr. Fritz interviewed by NY1’s Anthony Pascale


Data Gathered After Sandy An Invaluable Tool, Researchers Say

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5u_qMhaIoo[/youtube]Dr. William J. Fritz, Interim President of the College of Staten Island, recently stopped by the NY1 studios to discuss with Anthony Pascale the new data in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that is expected to help city officials prepare for the future.


Jon Peters featured in HuffPost Green

When the Huffington Post penned “Sandy Victim on his Bittersweet Homecoming: “I’m One of the Lucky Ones,” a one-year anniversary follow-up story of a Midland Beach resident who lost everything to Sandy in 2012,  CSI’s Dr. Jonathan Peters was again a go-to expert.


A year after Superstorm Sandy destroyed Pedro Correa’s neighborhood on the southeastern shore of Staten Island, he visited what used to be his home. Little remained of the one-story house that he had spent countless hours renovating himself…

Correa acknowledged he’s among “the lucky ones.” He and the other residents of Staten Island’s Oakwood Beach neighborhood recently learned that New York state plans to buy their homes at pre-storm prices, allowing the neighborhood to revert to marshland…

“We’re sitting here today basically having the same conversation we would have had a year ago, in terms of what’s in place to make the community safer. The only thing that makes it safer is that some people have left,”  said Peters, an economist who specializes in local issues at the College of Staten Island.

Read the article in its entirety at HuffingtonPost.com>

William Fritz featured expert on Eyewitness News “Superstorm Sandy: What We Learned” Spreecast

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI2cPamihKU[/youtube]Dr. William J. Fritz, Interim President and Professor of Geology at the College of Staten Island, The City University of New York and Member of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Doctoral Faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center, was the featured expert for the ABC Eyewitness News Special “Superstorm Sandy: What We Learned,” with ABC TV’s Bill Ritter and Diana Williams, and Newark Star-Ledger Columnist and reporter Mark Di Ionno.

Jon Peters featured on Municipal Finance Today

Andrew Cohen’s article “Sandy-Impacted Governments Facing Fiscal Challenges One Year Later,” features a proposal by Dr. Jonathan Peters that takes “a premptive[sic] approach for disaster planning. Peters is studying the idea of Staten Island, which was among the hardest hit sections of New York City during Sandy, self-financing an approximatelty six-mile levee that would rise 18-feet above sea level for its most vulnerable flood areas through either a Payment in Lieu of Taxes or Tax Increment Financing program.”

Read more from munifinancetoday.com> 

Benimoff, Fritz, Kress featured in ScienceDaily

Science Daily publishes “Hurricane Sandy’s Lessons Include: Put Parks, Not Houses, On the Beach,” memorializing the Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.

Excerpt: Just days before Hurricane Sandy hit the New York and New Jersey coastline on 29 October 2012, scientists from the City University of New York’s (CUNY) College of Staten Island had produced the most detailed model to date of the region’s potential for damage from big storms. So naturally, the morning after the floods receded from Staten Island, CUNY geology professor Alan I. Benimoff was out mapping the high-water marks in the flooded neighborhoods. There he discovered that his team’s pre-Sandy model had been right on the money.

Read more at ScienceDaily.com>



We can’t prevent storms, but we can learn from them

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE — Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy’s devastating attack on our portion of the East Coast. The storm was a wake-up call to the entire New York metropolitan area — but especially to Staten Island, the Rockaways, Breezy Point and other low-lying coastal areas.

We can only prevent future calamities by learning from the past, and using that knowledge to guide us in the future.

I would like to emphasize the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to formulating a response to natural disasters. Throughout my career, when I have worked on natural disasters, scientists made predictions and no one listened. This is because, for the message to be received, we as scientists need to include politicians, business leaders, social scientists, economists, humanists and community leaders. This “serious conversation” needs to be a team approach, as the frequency and severity of tropical storms are likely to increase.

In June 2012, five months before Sandy, most people did not think of New York as lying within the hurricane belt, although powerful storms have impacted our city before.

In 1932 there was a hurricane of unknown strength with a 15-plus foot surge (based on our analysis of newspaper photos) and in 1938 an unnamed Category 3 hurricane, sometimes referred to as the Long Island Express, that produced a surge in the neighborhood of 20 feet. These storms went somewhat unnoticed, at least on Staten Island, because the surges rolled across undeveloped marshland.

Sandy’s maximal wind speed along actual hurricane’s track. Generated by the CUNY High Performance Computing Center at the College of Staten Island.


Each storm is different; strength, eye track, tides and other weather systems all play a factor. The surge starts as a low-pressure bulge in the ocean in the eye of the storm (think of water rising into a vacuum cleaner). Winds pile water on top of the bulge and tide then lifts the water to an even higher level. The New York Metropolitan area sits at a particularly vulnerable area.

The right angle of the shoreline created by the intersection of the New Jersey shore and Long Island and counterclockwise rotation drives wind and water against Staten Island and up New York Harbor. This surge water is then trapped by wind driving water westward along Long Island Sound.

Within the New York metropolitan area, Staten Island is particularly vulnerable. The narrowing passage created by the Long Island and New Jersey shores, in conjunction with a shallowing sea floor ramp, pressurizes the water and focuses it against the South Shore, greatly increasing the surge’s height and intensity.

Rising sea levels only complicate a surge situation, and higher sea levels should be viewed as the new normal. Sea level has been rising at about a foot a century for the past 5,000 years and that rate is likely to increase — maybe to as much as two to five feet per century. This has been masked because we have been developing shore areas faster than the sea level rise. However, this is not sustainable.

Barrier islands, marshes, coastal dune fields, estuaries and bays are nature’s sponges that absorb the energy of a storm surge and store water that mitigates damage and flooding — and, through overdevelopment, we have hardscaped our sponges, leaving these areas extremely vulnerable to flood damage.


In light of the fact that Sandy was a relatively minor event with a 14-foot storm surge, and there is scientific speculation that the area could encounter surges of 30, and perhaps even 38 feet, I offer a five-point plan to guide the “serious conversation:”

1. Protect our existing dunes, marshes, wetlands and barriers whenever possible.

2. Rebuild and restore coastal dune fields and marshes.

3. Consider rezoning high-risk areas for day use and recreational purposes. Even within the flood zone, some areas are more vulnerable than others.

4. Consider appropriate use of seawalls, floodgates, and other engineering solutions, and understand that engineering solutions almost always protect one area at the expense of another.

5. Above all, we need to educate people, that in storm surges when the water starts to rise, it is too late to escape. Climb to safety! Never take shelter in a basement that could fill with water and trap victims in seconds, but head to high ground.

Evacuation orders must be taken seriously in order to avoid loss of life, and government officials should be mindful of evacuation plans for people with disabilities, the ill, the elderly, and people in hospice and home care.

Education can also guide appropriate building codes and construction styles when decisions are made to rebuild. Appropriate low-cost ADA-compliant signage should guide residents to high ground, and let residents know the vulnerability of their location.

Local officials should also designate areas on high ground where residents can move their vehicles to protect them from the storm.

I am confident that if we continue to have this “serious conversation,” we have many options and a bright future. Although we are extremely vulnerable, we are much more fortunate than many coastal cities in that we have a lot of high safe ground. Let’s use it wisely.

Written by Dr. William J. Fritz, Interim President, College of Staten Island

William J. Fritz, PhD, is the interim president of the College of Staten Island, Willowbrook. He is also a professor of geology and a member of the earth and environmental sciences doctoral faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center. Dr. Fritz has authored “Roadside Geology of Yellowstone Country,” “Basics of Physical Stratigraphy and Sedimentology” and more than 50 scholarly publications. He presented “Storm Surge Model for New York, Connecticut, and Northern Waters of New Jersey with Special Emphasis on New York Harbor” at the 2012 Geological Society of America’s annual meeting and exposition in Charlotte, N.C., a report written in June 2012 and presented the week after Sandy hit New York City. He also hosted the forum “Superstorm Sandy: A Serious Conversation About the Future of Staten Island” at the College of Staten Island, where a diverse group of professionals provided members of the CSI and Staten Island communities with information on the superstorm and how to prepare for future severe weather events.

This story originally appeared in the Staten Island Advance October 27, 2013 and is © 2013 SILive.com and reprinted here with permission.