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Opponents Fight Planned Waterfront Property in Staten Island

By Nicholas Rizzi | April 9, 2013 9:52am

GREAT KILLS — A group of residents on Staten Island have banded together to fight the development of three waterfront homes planned for a patch of undeveloped wetland near Great Kills Harbor.

The three single-family homes were already given approval by the state in 2011, but after Hurricane Sandy flooded homes and damaged yachts in the harbor, members of the coalition feel the permits should be revoked.

“After Sandy, with all the destruction that was caused, we feel that they should withdraw the permit,” said Ellen Pratt, co-ordinator of the coalition and conservation committee chair for Protectors of Pine Oak Woods.

“This disaster had to be stopped, and the land be bought and left as it is.”

The lot, near Mansion and Fairlawn avenues, is right on the waterfront and members feel that building on it will remove the natural flood barrier provided by wetlands.

“You’re talking abut building on sea level so soon after these god awful floods have come through,” said Peter Hagen, president of the Protectors. “[Building on wetlands] prevents the natural absorption, the natural buffering. It exacerbates an already awful problem.”

Peter Traut, a member of the Great Kills Yacht Club which is next door to the lot, said that the property had around five-and-a-half feet of water in it after Sandy, and floods regularly during storms.

“It actively gets flooded,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the smartest decision to make. I think it’s going to be a problem.”

However, architect Glen Cutrona said the homes planned for the property will be safe and can serve as a model for how to build on the waterfront.

“This will be the gold standard of development on a coastal piece of property,” he said.

He said the project has followed every regulation for building on coastal property, and the developer already was approved by the state’s Department of Conservation for the permits to build on wetlands in 2011.

Developer Harold Donald did not want to comment for this article.

“There is no smart design to building in wetlands,” said Hagen. “If you build in wetlands there are ramifications for that.”

Aside from the potential impact of flooding, Hagen also said that the wetlands also connect to a freshwater creek that supports fish, birds and microorganisms.

“It’s a good, healthy ecosystem,” he said. “To build three homes on the edge of this ecosystem would severely impact it. It would be a shame.”

Members of the coalition said they have no ill-will towards Donald, but would want the government to buy the land to preserve it as a wetland.

“He should be compensated for it,” Traut said. “Nobody has hate for him, it's just a poor decision to build there.”