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Projects & Proposals > Resilient Neighborhoods > Gerritsen Beach

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Gerritsen Beach

As part of the Resilient Neighborhoods initiative, the Department of City Planning is working with the community in Gerritsen Beach to identify changes to zoning and land use and other actions that support the continued vitality of this neighborhood, reduce its risk associated with coastal flooding, and ensure the long-term resiliency of its built environment. Gerritsen was selected for the study not only because it was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy, but also because of the expansion of the Federal flood maps and unique lot sizes and building types that present challenges to resiliency.

Gerritsen Beach Map
Study Area and Flood Risk (FEMA Flood Zones)
PDF Document View a larger image


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Community Profile

What defines the neighborhood?
Gerritsen Beach is a maritime community in Southern Brooklyn nestled along Plumb Beach channel. It is characterized by a low-lying area with houses set close together on shallow lots and narrow streets. Over 5,000 residents live in the Gerritsen Beach study area, which comprises the Gerritsen Beach peninsula south of Allen Avenue and includes over 1,800 buildings and approximately 2,400 residential units.

Once a seasonal bungalow community, today Gerritsen Beach is a residential neighborhood characterized by predominantly single family detached homes, with the exception of semi-detached and attached two- to three-story buildings in the northern portion of the neighborhood and one-story commercial buildings along Gerritsen Avenue, the community’s only commercial corridor. The Plumb Beach Channel is used for recreational boating and fishing, and residents have boats docked along Shell Bank Creek and the inner canal.

Typical homes in Gerritsen Beach
Typical homes in Gerritsen Beach
View of Gerritsen Beach from across Shell Bank Creek
View of Gerritsen Beach from across Shell Bank Creek
Flood Risk and Neighborhood Resiliency

What type of flood risk exists?
Gerritsen Beach was severely and almost entirely inundated during Hurricane Sandy. The tidal surge came in from the Gerritsen Inlet as well as over Plumb Beach and the Belt Parkway, flowing into Shell Bank Creek and Plumb Beach Channel and inundating the neighborhood up to 4 to 7 feet above grade. Basements and ground floor levels were flooded throughout the neighborhood, and some homes also experienced floodwaters up to the first floor.

The vast majority of the Gerritsen Beach study area was recently added into the federal flood zone by FEMA, raising the number of at-risk buildings from 980 to over 2,000, which represents a 106% increase.

In addition to new areas being added to the 100-year flood zone, the new federal flood maps also have generally higher base flood elevations, ranging from 10 to 12 feet above sea level, or 2 to 6 feet above ground level. This raises concerns about the vulnerability of the neighborhood to both extreme events like future coastal storms and to sea level rise due to its low lying topography, particularly in the older (southern) section of the neighborhood.

View of Shell Bank Creek from Marine Park
View of Shell Bank Creek from Marine Park
Narrow side street in the “old” section of Gerritsen Beach
Narrow side street in the “old” section of Gerritsen Beach


What are the challenges to resiliency?
Due to the age of construction and the recent expansion of the flood zone, the majority of the homes in Gerritsen Beach are not built to today’s flood resilience construction standards. Many of the houses are built at or below grade, often with basements partially or entirely below street level, which increases their vulnerability to flooding.

Most properties in the study area also have non-standard lots with narrow street frontage and shallow front yards, which  [pose challenges to existing zoning compliance and] limit retrofitting strategies, building access, and streetscape improvements.;

Meanwhile, FEMA’s recent expansion of the flood zone and changes to the National Flood Insurance Program will result in higher insurance premiums for homeowners with federally-regulated mortgages, many of whom may not have had flood insurance in the past. Food-proofing homes to meet federal requirements would allow property owners to reduce insurance premiums; however these strategies present physical challenges and require significant investment.

Building access is difficult to accommodate
Building access is difficult to accommodate
First floor below street level
First floor below street level
Basement partially below street level
Basement partially below street level
Elevated buildings on narrow street
Elevated buildings on narrow street

How Are We Working With Communities?

The Resilient Neighborhoods initiative in Gerritsen Beach will build off of the recovery and planning work that has been done through local, state, and federal organizations, including the citywide Flood Zoning Text Amendment, the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, and New York Rising,  to ensure the long-term resiliency of the neighborhood.

During the course of the Resilient Neighborhoods study, DCP will work closely with members of the community, local groups and elected officials to prepare for future storms and ensure the long-term resiliency and livability of the neighborhood.

In summary, this study will:

  • Build off outreach from other efforts, including SIRR and NY Rising programs.
  • Identify land use and zoning strategies that allows for a resilient re-building of homes, in character with the existing context
  • Identify long-term strategies for areas of high risk
  • Shape recommendations based on robust public outreach.

On June 24, 2014, DCP presented the Southern Brooklyn Resilient Neighborhoods Initiative to Community Board 15. The presentation can be viewed PDF Document here.

On October 14th, DCP convened the first Community Advisory Committee to present the goals of the study. The Committee includes representatives from the Gerrittsen Beach Property Owners Association, Gerritsen Beach Cares and Tamaqua Marina. The Advisory Committee met periodically to discuss the neighborhood’s post storm recovery, zoning issues related to rebuilding after the storm and to create a resilient long-term vision for the neighborhood.

Draft zoning recommendations were presented to the CAC in the Spring of 2015 for their feedback and, under suggestion of the Committee, DCP held a public meeting on August 5th in collaboration with the Gerrittsen Beach Property Owners Association to present final draft recommendations to the larger community and gather feedback on the study. PDF Document View the presentation.

DCP will be presenting findings from the study and draft zoning recommendations on October 27th, 2015 at the Community Board 15 meeting. For more information on this meeting, please visit Community Board 15 webpage.

Check this page for notifications on public meetings and future updates.

Check this page for notifications on public meetings and future updates.

Related Projects and Initiatives In This Area

The Resilient Neighborhoods Initiative is part of a broad range of efforts by the City to recover from Hurricane Sandy, promote rebuilding and increase the city’s resilience to climate-related events, including coastal flooding and storm surge.  Recommendations from this program will be developed in close consultation with area stakeholders and build on other initiatives including:

For more information contact:

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