At about 8:00pm on Monday, October 29, 2012, at the full moon when sea tides are naturally high, Hurricane Sandy made landfall near Brigantine, New Jersey, northeast of Atlantic City, as a weakening cyclone with 80mph winds. Sandy brought with it a storm surge of seawater that flooded local streets, building basements, tunnels, subway lines, and cut power from 14th Street down to the tip of Manhattan. The surge level at Battery Park was reported at 13.88 feet at 9:24pm.
The city and other agencies sent out warnings through the prior week readying people in New York for the possibility of Sandy making landfall nearby. The SHSAT exam which was scheduled to take place on Sunday October 28 at Stuyvesant was cancelled by the DOE and rescheduled. Schools where shut on Monday.
Thirty nine years before Sandy, in 1973, 3 million cubic yards of soil and rock excavated during the construction of the original World Trade Center complex was dumped into the Hudson to form new land for development. The northern portion was filled with sand dredged from areas near Ambrose Channel in the Atlantic Ocean, as well as stone from the construction of the city’s #3 water tunnel. This was all part of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) development created in 1968 by the New York State Legislature to revive the area. Business and residential towers were built on this land reclaimed from the Hudson River.
Stuyvesant High School moved into a new waterfront building at the north end of Battery Park City in 1992. That land is, crucially, a few feet higher than West Street, which was the original river side.
When Sandy’s storm surge reached lower Manhattan, New York Bay flooded down West Street, filling the basement of the new World Trade Center construction project, flooding the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, subway tunnels, adjacent streets, basements and buildings with seawater. The lights went out in Lower Manhattan when the 14th Street Con Edison power plant was flooded. Cell phone tower batteries ran out. The streets were deserted. People had mostly evacuated the residential buildings of Battery Park City before the storm arrived. Because Battery Park City has a separate power supply, the lights did not go out there though.
Early the next morning, on October 30, the high water debris line up the slight hill from West Street to Stuyvesant on Chambers Street remained as evidence of how close the hurricane surge came. Sandy’s mountain of water had not reached the school. We were saved by a few critical feet of elevation from the 13 foot increased sea level.