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SI Scientists Say Sandy Damage Should Provide Guide In Rebuilding Efforts

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To rebuild or not to rebuild? That's a question facing many Staten Islanders in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and a group of scientists at the College of Staten Island say the damage suffered there should guide how the borough plans for the future. NY1's Amanda Farinacci explains in the second part of a series on the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

There's not much left on Kissam Avenue. Nearly three dozen homes used to line the street, but after Hurricane Sandy, half of them were destroyed, while the other half were flooded.

Scientists at the College of Staten Island say the island's geography makes it especially vulnerable to storm surges, swallowing streets like Kissam Avenue.

"The funneling effect, if you look at the eastern shore of New Jersey, the southern shore of Long Island, it really focuses the sea's energy into a narrower and narrower belt, almost, like, down to the narrow part of a funnel focused right on the shoreline of Staten Island," says William Fritz of the College of Staten Island.

Fritz and fellow geologist Alan Benimoff published a paper in June, which predicted that streets like Kissam Avenue would be severely damaged given the right combination of storm surge and wind, and the fact that sea level has been steadily rising.

The pair say homes in these low-lying areas on Staten Island's east shore shouldn't have been built in the first place, because as former marsh land, they were always meant to be a natural sponge for the nearby ocean. So whether to rebuild along the storm-battered coast is a question that's got them thinking.

"We have to deal with this idea of living in a coastal area," Benimoff says.

Fritz says that part of that conversation needs to focus on the difficult issue of rezoning.

"Zone the areas that are most subject to flooding so that you have ball fields and parks and day use areas that if they flood, there's no loss of life," he says.

Forty-three people were killed throughout the city in Hurricane Sandy, including 23 on Staten Island. The professors say more needs to be done to educate the public about their risk, in terms of flooding and potential storm damage.

"Why don't people have an image that this is a dangerous situation?" Fritz says.

Hurricane Sandy may have changed that. Scientists predict that it is not the last storm of its kind, and that next time around, people will leave when they are told.

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