Hello again, and welcome to AS IT IS… your daily magazine show from VOA Learning English.
I’m June Simms.
Today we hear about how sea levels are rising around the world, and what this could mean for coastal communities like New York City.
But first, we head off to one of the Big Apple’s most popular destinations for fun. Coney Island, hear we come!
When super-storm Sandy hit the east coast of the United States last October, it caused major damage in coastal areas like New York’s Coney Island. VOA’s Adam Phillips followed one family affected by the storm. He watched as they cleaned up, re-imagined and rebuilt their Coney Island business for opening day 2013.
For more than a century, Coney Island has been known for seaside fun and a place to escape from New York, the city that never sleeps. But that dreamland turned into a terrible experience for the Vourderis family on October 29th. Rising waters from Sandy flooded their Coney Island amusement rides and games.
“When we got here and saw the devastation, it was like a death.”
Deno Vourderis is a third generation worker in this family-owned business.
“I mean figuratively like a death because a lot of the stuff has history.”
Those things include the family’s 93 year old Wonder Wheel. The 45-meter high structure was named an official New York City landmark in 1989. It survived the strong winds of super-storm Sandy, but the storm’s sand and water nearly destroyed it.
The family’s more than 50 year old Spook-A-Rama house also suffered damage.
The Vourderis family decided to rebuild. Deno worked with a five man crew he has known since he was a boy. His father Steve directed the clean-up and rebuilding effort.
“We’re men. We do what we have to do. We get it done.”
Steve’s brother, Dennis Vourderis, supervised planning and finances. He says the family had to borrow a huge amount of money to pay for repairs and new equipment.
“But what hurts more is when you have an old piece of equipment that has been around for 70 or 80 years that was underwater and you know it can’t be restored. So that’s especially painful to throw away.”
“We might be able to fix this. Louis! Don’t throw this guy out, okay? We’re gonna bring him in the shop and see what we can do with him.”
After months of hard work, the Wonder Wheel is rebuilt. The Spook-A-Rama is all set to frighten people. And the rides for children are ready. The Vourderis family was excited about the results.
“We kept a couple of the old relics, but a lot of it is all new. All new mechanics, all new haunts.”
Coney Island's rebirth became a reality in late March when people gathered together for Opening Day.
The Vourderis family offered up fun at no cost for everyone in attendance.
“I couldn't be happier. Everything worked out the way we wanted it to work out . All the rides are up. They’re running. The Wonder Wheel is at 100 percent. So I couldn’t be happier.”
Much of what Sandy destroyed has been rebuilt.
It is probably safe to say that nowhere have the results been more fun than here at Coney Island.
“We love you Coney!!”
You are listening to AS IT IS. I’m June Simms.
The continued warming of the earth's climate is melting mountain glaciers and polar ice. This is causing sea levels around the world to rise. Most scientists believe sea levels could rise by more than one meter by the end of the twenty-first century. That could mean trouble for some island nations and coastal communities like New York City. As we hear from Faith Lapidus, New York officials are studying ways to deal with the rising waters.
When super-storm Sandy struck last October, New York got a taste of what its future could be. Jerry Gonzalez was there. He lives in Brooklyn, the city’s most populous borough.
“The water was up to half of the door, and then we had to get buckets and try to take out all the water. Until we opened the door, and we saw the refrigerator floating on the water.”
In New York City, the waters rose more than four meters above the average high tide mark.
Studies have found that sea levels around the city could rise up to 70 centimeters by the year 2100. Klaus Jacob is a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Observatory at Columbia University. He describes what New York would look like under those conditions.
“It would look like that Wall Street doesn’t have yellow taxis. But it may have yellow taxi boats.”
Mr. Jacob believes elevation is the answer. He gives an example of the Highline – a former above-ground railroad track that has been turned into a popular walkway.
“We may want to have many more of those Highlines connecting these skyscrapers. Some of them even may have transportation systems above ground instead of just subways.”
The federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, recently released new flood zone maps for New York. Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls the maps a blueprint for the future.
“Those maps will guide us in setting new construction requirements and will add new structural requirements to ensure that buildings can withstand the intense winds and waves that we expect down the road. The fact of the matter is we live next to the ocean, and the ocean comes with risks... if, as many scientists project, sea levels continue rising. However, there may be some coastline protections that we can build that will mitigate the impact of a storm surge with berms and dunes, jetties and levees.”
Michael Byrne is FEMA's coordinator in New York. He says decisions about building and rebuilding after super-storm Sandy must be planned intelligently.
“Elevation is only one of the methods to protect. We can build sea walls, we can build levees, we can choose not to rebuild at a place.”
Scientists say sea levels have risen 20 to 30 centimeters over the past 100 years. Many believe the levels could rise another one-point-five meters by the end of this century. They say coastal cities and island nations face the greatest risk. These areas will either have to develop ways to keep the ocean out or move to higher ground. I’m Faith Lapidus.
That’s AS IT IS for today, I’m June Simms. Thank you for sharing your day with us. We invite you to share your ideas with us as well. Send an email to email@example.com.
Have a great day!
Adam Phillips and Bernard Shusman contributed to this report.