getting around

Kayaking to School in Broad Channel

Photo: Jen Perez

Jen Perez woke up on Wednesday morning to a perfect confluence of events — a night of heavy rains and high tide coming in just when her kids had to go to school. Flooding on her block in Broad Channel is a common occurrence — she’s marked the tide forecasts on the steps up to her house so she knows how high the water will come up — but it usually just means moving the car or taking her shoes off (in the summer months). This morning, though, it meant putting the kids in the kayak to get to school. “Living here, you’re just used to it,” Perez said.

Perez’s father — longtime Broad Channel environmentalist Daniel Mundy, who lives a couple of blocks away — came over to help tow the kids down the block. Nine-year-old Thomas Perez and his younger sister were able to step into the kayak straight from their stoop. “It was very fun, but it was a little scary since I didn’t want to tip over,” Thomas said. “The waves were big.”

“I had my coffee and the backpack and there were a bunch of potholes,” Jen said. She had walked alongside the kayak in waders. “I was just praying nobody leans one way or the other.” Luckily, the kids only had to be towed one block to higher ground, where Perez’s car was parked. This is the first time the kids have had to commute by kayak since the family moved into their house a year ago. But Jen, who grew up two blocks away on 15th Road, remembers her dad also having to take them to school in a rowboat once in a while.

The city is currently adding sewers and raising the streets of Broad Channel to help reduce flooding as climate change causes sea levels to rise and storms to intensify. Construction is still ongoing on Perez’s block, but she said the nearby streets that had already been raised were dry yesterday. As a lifetime local, she’s not too concerned. “It’s always a risk; everyone knows that living on the waterfront,” Perez said. “But I’d rather take the risk with reward. Living here is totally different.”

For Thomas, kayaking was “a lot better” than driving to school, he said, and it was a good story he could tell his friends. He said his classmates didn’t believe him until he showed them a picture. “I would definitely do it again,” he said. Chances are, he’ll probably have to.

Kayaking to School in Broad Channel