Today my father, Rev. Elmo Pascale, sent me a blog post (written on his iPad) with 1956 memories describing how past Staten Island floods made people flee their homes and the relief efforts at his church. Looking at a map I believe he is referring to Midland Beach.
My Staten Island Years and the
Vulnerable Coastline Along the Lower Bay Area
In January, 1956, the New York State Congregational (Church) Conference journal, “Conference Trails,” published an article about my pastoring at the Oakwood Heights Community Church on Staten Island. The article included routine pictures and comments, save for one section that, in light of the current Hurricane Sandy storm, seems rather poignant.
The middle bay of New York City (Oakwood Beach, Staten Island), a short distance from our church was subject to severe flood conditions, and the article about my ministry explained how our Church, with the help of the Red Cross, provided beach residents with overnight retreats from storms and flood conditions.
When a storm took place, the Red Cross filled the church basement with 50 cots and requisite blankets. A few church members volunteered, and the event was experienced with minimal damage or stress on the congregation. There was, however, always at least some damage to homes on the shore, and residents on the beach area welcomed the resources made available to them at the church.
Presciently, there were also occasions of drama when someone would venture to say that the middle bay was a serious flood waiting to happen to Staten Island.
I have not been in touch with Staten Island or its beach front for decades and do not have much information about successive floods and storm threats, though I know they have occurred. However, this fearful storm of 2012, Hurricane Sandy, has led me to look into my files at our response to the annual flood occurrences, and the naive view held by many of us that flood conditions, while risky, could be managed with conventional resources.
Hurricane Sandy’s catastrophic landfall in New York City from the Bronx to southern New Jersey has been a fearful jolt. Today with some sadness, I have wondered why in 1956 I did not sense the greater potential for destruction. In light of recent events up and down the Atlantic shore, our form of care, while helpful, would be regarded as naively prophetic.
For a related article on this same theme see Could Faith-based Groups Ever Replace FEMA, by Lisa Miller, published in the Washington Post on November 3, 2012.