Thursday, November 22, 2012

SANDY | Restore to NYC the Dutch Windmill Expertise!

The amazingly detailed interactive map in The New York Times today shows all the areas near water in New York City where buildings suffered from flooding during the surge of water that occurred because of Hurricane Sandy. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has assessed the damage statewide as $33 billion and has called for $30 billion in Federal aid. Speaker Christine Quinn has put the New York City damage (which would fit within the statewide number) at $26 billion and has called for $20 million and a surge-control system to prevent 15-foot waves from cascading through New York City streets.
The Dutch call this a "Speculaas Moulin"–
 a windmill cookie, with almond and ginger
spices–eaten Dec. 6, St. Nicholas Day.
Bring back the Dutch! They first came to New York when the Dutch East India Company in 1609 sent English navigator Henry Hudson to explore the river now named after him. He went far upriver into what is now Canada and wrote back to his sponsors that beavers lived on the river in abundance.

A Dutch settlement, New Amsterdam, was founded in Manhattan largely to support trapping beavers and sending them to Europe for women to wear. The New York City coat of arms has two beavers on it as well as a four windmill wings in honor of the Dutch settlers.
Seal of the City of New York..
Note windmill and two beavers.
Which brings me to the windmill. The Dutch were famous for their windmills because that's what kept the water out. Much of Holland is at or below sea level and the windmills were used to pump out the polders, the areas surrounded by dikes.

My Rotterdam-born mother, Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006), wrote  The Winged Watchman about a family that lives in an old windmill during the Nazi Occupation. Two boys aged 10 and 14 join the Resistance. The book shows how the windmill did its work when the electric mills could not operate for lack of power.

First published in 1962, The Winged
Watchman
 has sold 45,000 copies since 

1995 and was optioned for a movie.
This book by my mother has special relevance in light of Hurricane Sandy, which caused most of its damage because of flooding and caused most of the lost economic activity because of the electricity outages.
The Dutch have been facing these flooding problems for a long time. Their world preeminence in building windmills to pump out water made them experts in making sails for the mill wings. This helped make them a naval power for a time. 
After the English took over the Dutch colony in 1664, they renamed it New York. The city grew most rapidly when the Hudson River became the gateway not only to upstate New York but also, after the Erie Canal was built, to the Great Lakes.

The Dutch have developed many kinds of technology to deal with today's challenges to their flood-threatened system of polders. New York needs to get their advice. And The Winged Watchman provides both a history of the importance of windmills in Dutch history and an education in the ways to deal with flooding.