The City and
Lessons on resilience from
America’s most crowded coast
TWENTY YEARS BEFORE Hurricane Sandy slammed into the slim spit of land that is New York City’s Rock- aways, local artist Richard George was out planting trees. He was in his forties then, and had shifted his
home a few years earlier from Corona, Queens, to a 1920s bungalow colony in the Far Rockaways, abutting the Atlantic Ocean.
He didn’t know anything about trees, had never given a thought
to dune ecology or sea surges, but he’d joined the board of the
local Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association, and a friend
gave them fifteen thousand dollars. The directive was to plant
trees, so that’s what he did.
“He planted the money in my hand,” George recalls when
I meet him at his cottage, a bright white bungalow with turquoise trim that matches his t-shirt. “I said, ‘Where am I gonna
plant trees?’” Then the artist saw the wide expanse of beach
down the street, like a blank canvas in waiting.
George is convivial, a man who enjoys talking, which he’s
doing at a rapid pace in a heavy New York accent as we head
from the cottage toward the beach. It’s a clear spring day, making it hard to imagine the devastation that Sandy wrought
when she landed on the shores of New York City, generating a
right: twenty years ago, richard george and other volunteers
started planting beach grass and trees in the rockaways to
beautify the shoreline. When Hurricane sandy hit, these plantings
helped create a lifesaving storm barrier.