Flooded V.H. businesses frustrated by lack of progress

Business owners want to be heard by state and local officials.

Flooding in front of Black Dog in Tisbury, January 13. - Daniel Greenman, MV Times

Vineyard Haven business owners, frustrated by recent flooding around Five Corners during a series of winter storms, are hoping to present a unified front in pushing for improvements at the notorious five-way intersection.

Around a dozen business owners attended a Visit Vineyard Haven meeting on Tuesday morning, and discussed opportunities to represent their interests as well as pending efforts to combat flooding.

Some attendees said that they are losing customers when storm surge reaches their storefront doors, and they are frustrated by a lack of action from government agencies that have studied the area for years.

The meeting took place as another significant storm was starting, this time a snowstorm.

“Fundamentally … I agree that sea level rise is incremental. But today, M.V. Shipyard is sending our staff home, for the third time this year since January, because of high water,” Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard owner Phil Hale said. “We’re flooded out. So it’s incremental, but it’s really happening.”

Hale showed up armed with binders of studies on Five Corners flooding, which he used to argue that the time had come for action. 

Hale added that his business is considering moving inward over time, as sea level rises. “As a business, we’re actively looking — ‘Where can we go?’ — Because I can’t continue to send people home.”

Teresa Kruszewski, the owner of 51 Art Gallery, was credited at the meeting for mobilizing its higher-than-usual attendance. “This all began because I had water at my doorstep.” Kruszewski said of one of the recent storms.

Due to flooding at Five Corners and nearby, Kruszewski said, potential customers have been unable to reach her business. “I feel like every business along that corridor is being impacted somehow because of the flooding,” she added.

Kruszewski has attended Massachusetts Department of Transportation meetings on the intersection, and suggested that the agency seems to not understand the severity of the flooding; she said businesses needed to make their voices heard. 

“What I’ve taken from the conversations is there have been a lot of studies,” Kruszewski said, adding that not many plans had been implemented.

A possible approach, Kruszewski proposed, is more routine cleaning of drains at Five Corners and storm gutters on Beach Road. She added that the businesses are anxious for concrete next steps, and concerned about a lack of tangible response. 

“They were all interested in not what’s being talked about and researched — for years, I think — but what is actually going on … And what are some of the things that we can do immediately to start mitigating the physical issues that we’re dealing with,” she said.

The meeting was also attended by Ben Robinson of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), who discussed a potential grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the role of private property owners in resisting infrastructure solutions.

Robinson updated business owners on town, commission, and state efforts to address Five Corners. He told attendees that Massachusetts is currently exploring how water can be managed uphill of Five Corners, and redirected away from it. 

He stated that the MVC has applied for a $700,000 Island-wide resiliency grant to study planning opportunities at Vineyard Haven Harbor, Menemsha Harbor, and the road from Edgartown to Oak Bluffs, along State Beach. The idea for the grant is to build an actionable framework for the three areas of interest that can also be adapted for other vulnerable spots on-Island. If the grant succeeds, work will begin in October, he said.

Robinson said that the lead consultant for the project would be Dutch architect Matthijs Bouw of One Architecture, who has addressed sea level rise in lower Manhattan. 

Robinson also detailed attention given to Five Corners by state officials, saying that the next step in their process was to identify concrete action items.

A key missing piece during planning stages, said Robinson, is the cooperation of private property owners in flood-prone areas.

 “The town owns none of the land down there. They own the roads, but they don’t own any of the land. And it’s really going to take the property owners deciding how they can work together as they develop to share … the responsibility of the solutions,” Robinson said. “Because it’s all low [elevation], and it’s all critical infrastructure for the Island’s commerce and the economy … And that’s what we’ve seen on the municipal side, is we don’t get a lot of cooperation from the property owners. Some in particular are absolute roadblocks.”

Robinson emphasized that positive pressure from property owners could help actualize anti-flooding measures: “And I think pressure from some of the rest of the property owners might be able to help move some of these things along.”

Robinson also offered a pump system at Five Corners as a strategy, adding that Nantucket uses one in parts of its downtown.

Robinson also stated that the town of Tisbury is responsible for Water Street and Lagoon Pond Road near the Five Corners intersection. According to Robinson, those roads are below ideal elevation, and the state office of Coastal Zone Management suggested raising them to five or six feet above sea level, to lower flooding potential.

For Lagoon Pond Road, Robinson said, long-term options are limited. “Long-term, there’s nowhere to move Lagoon Pond Road, right? You can start elevating it back up the hill here, but at some point, we’re abandoning Lagoon Pond Road in the future.”

Moving forward, business owners were looking to work together to represent their shared concerns.

Visit Vineyard Haven President Elaine Barse, owner of the Green Room, suggested that owners make their presence felt at future DOT meetings. She added that a meeting at the end of July had no participation from the public. “And if nobody says anything from the public, then the state’s not going to hear anything,” she said.


  1. I can’t help but notice that the new
    offices for Vineyard Wind took some precautions
    against flooding. And boy oh boy, do some people
    feel free to criticize it.
    But really,this is a problem that has been denied for
    decades. Not avoided, not delayed, not kicked down the road
    — Denied.
    And there are some who still insist it’s all a liberal conspiracy
    to control us.
    For those of us who tolerate and / or buy into their lies, it’s
    time to start doing something.
    Every coastal community in the country is going to be seeking
    money from their states.
    I’m not sure if this is legal, but if we want to have independent
    guaranteed funding for the island’s infrastructure, we could
    impose a 1 cent per month progressive tax on every gallon
    of gas and diesel sold on the Vineyard.
    Yup– add one cent every month. 12 cents a year… about 2 %
    increase a year. Think we can handle that ? or we do need to
    go begging from “the state” every time the tide comes up?
    I was recently in Barbados– gas is $8.48 per gallon.
    Yes, I did the math— us gallons, us dollars–
    We have a big problem– Time to deal with it.

    • When are you running for office, lol? Such coherence is sorely needed in government leadership, but it’s such a thankless sector these days I’m not sure how we can get more of the “intelligence” and “patriotism” Ulysses S. Grant wanted for our “sovereign people” (see his 1875 speech to the Army of the Tennessee) to serve in the current (no pun intended) climate.

  2. There are short-term, and long-term solutions to the unacceptable situation at Five Corners. The golden opportunity to do something was flubbed recently when Tisbury and the State couldn’t come to an agreement on what should happen with the rebuild of Beach Road. Not much did happen to recognize the already obvious problem.

    The solutions have already been studied to death. There are two apparent approaches: Stop the water from getting to Five Corners, and/or install a high capacity pump system to pump the flood water into the harbor. Gravity won’t/can’t solve the problem on its own.

    The flooding problem is only going to get more frequent and worse as sea level continues to rise, and the climate gets wetter. It’s a major safety issue no matter how you look at it. And solving it isn’t rocket science. Expensive maybe, but that too is solvable.

    • I can relate – we both mentioned the situation not being “rocket science.” May we be allowed tiny slices of humor to cut through the rather daunting nature of the reality facing us all.

  3. Whether any of us has a home or business property that’s been flooded by rising waters, on a river or a coast; or that has been torn apart by and/or sucked out to sea, I don’t see how any “responsible” adult can legitimately profess ignorance on the climate any more. This comment is too long, but it covers the bases I feel should unify more Americans around what is happening.
    Main point: Before society runs out of time to deal with this—as too many of us waste precious years buying into dangerous claims that climate change is a “hoax”; or buying the story peddled by some religious leaders that the demise of this beautiful planet was “ordained by God as a punishment for original sin”—it will run out of money.
    Flood insurance is no longer a feasible coverage option for many insurers. And no matter who’s in charge, who in their right mind believes the U.S. Government is going to be in a position to underwrite coastal property coverage? Taxpayers won’t accept that. There’s an equivalent problem for property owners in regions where severe drought, barely tolerable heat, and wildfire smoke are impacting quality of life to such a massive degree that people who can afford to are leaving. The entire definition of what constitutes an acceptable level of “risk” is in flux, because of the overwhelming set of factors the insurance sector knows are beyond its ability to predict.
    The current “em-urgency” is a shared fate. I hope prosperous coastal resort areas like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (which projections show is going to “go under” ahead of the Vineyard) will join the larger fight. If it helps clarify the mission for more Americans, let the entire dilemma be defined as a “threat to individual property.”
    As a species, we have failed to prepare ourselves for the rapidly-intensifying results of our own, collective climate desecration. But to be fair to Us, We didn’t always have the information we needed to address this. Beginning in at least as far back as the 1970s, the fossil-fuel industry hid from the American public the data of its own scientists, who foresaw the results of mass fossil-fuel consumption: a “catastrophic” accumulation of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere. (Here’s a useful article on Exxon’s particular brand of dishonesty: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/12/climate/exxon-mobil-global-warming-climate-change.html.)
    Demand has driven (fossil fuel) supply, and supply has driven (human) demand. Go to this site, and you’ll see what I mean: https://ourworldindata.org/fossil-fuels. Scroll down to the “Global fossil-fuel consumption” chart. Fossil-fuel use, logically, coincides with exponential growth in the human population. It’s definitely not rocket science.
    This all seems to be happening sooner than we “expected” because too few influential people, including voters, have heeded the warnings coming for decades. (The book “Limits to Growth” is based on an algorithm that predicted our trajectory. It was originally published in 1972, with an “update” put out in 2004.) Tourist resorts like Martha’s Vineyard are just as vulnerable to not-so-“sudden” sea-level rise as far-flung, lesser known coastal societies around the globe. Yet climate activists from those remote islands must feel like the Who in “Horton Hears a Who” at climate summits, as they strive to have their voices heard while seeking action and accountability from the world’s biggest polluters.
    Too many of us still don’t want to take the blinders off. But it’s past time to do so.

    • Annie, You are right on. People are moving out of Florida in droves, not because they like the northern winters better, but because they can’t afford the insurance. The Great Salt Lake in Utah is also a disaster waiting to happen. How many years until it’s like the Salton Sea in California? Salt Lake City will be nearly uninhabitable.
      How can we help? Lots of ways: Put Solar Panels on every roof. Build all new homes to capture sunlight (passive solar). Reduce your consumption of water. Reduce your consumption of electricity. Put solar panels on every roof. Drive an electric car. If you replace your roof, make the new one a white metal roof. Hang your clothes to dry (even in the winter, hang them on the bathroom rod). Install a solar hot water heater. Use LED light bulbs (we all do that anyway, right?). Drive your car a little longer before replacing it. Reuse items, donate to someone who can use, etc. to save manufacturing new things. Support industrial windmills. Put a small windmill on your property. Just this once, vote for someone who supports Renewable Energy. Put solar panels on every roof.

      • Also, let me say that I honor your solution-oriented mindset. That is hope in action. The thing that is going to hit people REALLY hard is that – in sync with the developing insurance crisis – property values are in the process of heading to the basement, in areas of California, Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, New York, and … Massachusetts … and Utah (thank you for mentioning the Salt Lake – absolutely a red flag on climate, in a state already suffering from extreme drought to the point where “Trump-country” jurisdictions, with all of the climate-change denial implied by that political brain fog, are having to implement moratoria on new construction due to towns’ inability to provide water to the run of new homes). The “divine intervention” sought by, for example, Utah’s religiously conservative governor, would be laughable, except that it is such a tragic demonstration of the anti-science delusion that has largely brought us to this moment.

  4. I know I’ve been away but when did Boack Dog Bakery get chain link fence and why weren’t people all up in arms about the esthetic of that?

  5. Has anyone calculated how much of the water that collects in Five Corners during heavy rain storms flows downhill from higher elevations, and how much comes in from the harbor via high tides or wind=driven seawater?

    The town of Vineyard Haven is basically at the bottom of a bowl.

    Five Corners is like the stopped-up drain of the bowl.

    Low-hanging-fruit solutions would aim to prevent water from rushing downhill into Five Corners.

    In an earlier era, or in non-Western countries, such terrain would be or is terraced and used for agriculture.

    A system of “rain gardens” and cisterns could be installed in the main paths water takes to Five Corners to brake, absorb, and collect water and then slowly release it into the surrounding terrain, to be taken up by trees and other vegetation.

    More hardscaping merely exacerbates a problem partially caused by too much hardscaping in the first place, and the counterproductive manipulation of in-town wetlands.

    The Dutch have for centuries built systems for pumping huge quantities of water out of their land and into the rivers and then the North Sea.

    We could learn a lot from them as to the best approach to manage water flowing into Five corners. Perhaps the Town should get a grant to hire some Dutch consultants and see what they say. .

    • Katherine, is this your suggestion, “The Dutch have for centuries built systems for pumping huge quantities of water out of their land and into the rivers and then the North Sea.” but not the North Sea but our surrounding waters? Yeah, this goes to show that you really aren’t the environmentalist you pretended to be as you fought the school field project. Pumping oil laden water into our harbor is the absolute wrong thing to do. “During a rain shower, the road surface is most slippery during the first few minutes, because the oils haven’t been washed away yet. Some experts even claim that roadways are most slippery after a drizzle in a dry spell because it takes longer to get rid of the oils.” Written by CarParts.com Research Team.

      • I guess maybe they don’t have streets in the Netherlands. (:-))

        I am glad to see that you acknowledge that those who oppose artificial turf over our aquifer are environmentalists.

        Why don’t you as an expert on the subject of engineering solutions for water drainage offer your expertise to the MVC?

        Oh, wait! See below.

        • I am glad to see that you acknowledge that “natural turf” requires “highly modified” grass seed, chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides, chemical herbicides and hydrocarbon powered mowing machines, and lots of water, not to the mention significant cost of annual maintenance.
          And a significant rehab in five years.

      • Patrick — you point about the roads being
        slippery when it first rains is a good point.
        And let’s not forget about any anti freeze
        that might be leaking out of an old or
        improperly maintained vehicle.
        And environmentalist worth their salt
        would not want to pump that into the
        harbor. But — that’s where it goes, right ?
        Whether we pump it there or not.
        A REAL environmentalist would be advocating
        for electric vehicles, and voting for politicians
        that would promote policies to encourage
        people to buy them.

  6. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission just this week applied for a grant to hire a Dutch-based firm to help address the VH Harbor area, the road along State Beach, and the Menemsha Harbor area.

  7. They don’t call it water street for no reason. The flooding is nothing new, I worked at the black dog 40 years ago and it flooded pretty frequently back then.

  8. Thank you Liz and Kate. From 1978 to 1993, I am proud to say we made your donuts at the Black Dog Water Street Bakery. I learned from the donut artist, Joanne Plante. We made great donuts, come hell or high water. Our Cream filled chocolate frosted donuts were featured in Gourmet Magazine. We made the custard and frosting by hand and used fine chocolate and cream. What is the point of saying this? The flooding, even back in l978, was the reason the electric outlets were about shoulder high on me. There were times when we wore fishing boots to work. Joanne has some pictures. When the water receded, the tile floor was scrubbed with bleach and was very clean after the long soak. The dish sinks were built on a platform. The bathroom was built up a few steps, and we called it the throne room. There appeared to be a siphon effect happening pulling the tide up the storm drains. There May or May not be a way to come to an agreement with the sea about where it belongs. Mights well go with the flow. Give it up and let it go. The sea will win unless you work with it. Or you could simply pound metal tubes 60ft. into the sand fill them with concrete and hoist your businesses up on top. Ask Vineyard Wind for a DIY manual.

    • And let’s not forget Hurricane Carol!

      The A&P was totally flooded and there were tea bags floating around on Water Street.

      Seriously, though, is it unreasonable to imagine that measuring the salinity of the floodwater at Five Corners after a nor’easter with heavy rain would provide a ballpark indication of how much water is flowing downhill and how much is surging in from the harbor?

    • Shelly– Vineyard wind pounded those tubes down about 100 ft.
      They naturally filled with sand. as they went down. The only cement
      poured was above the grade. It clearly used less cement than if they had
      poured a conventional foundation. Also, they are pretty insulated
      from storm surges and provided their own parking under the building.
      That type of construction should be required in flood prone areas.
      I’ve been in construction for 37 years. I am impressed with that building.

      • Yes. Stop and Shop clearly had the same idea, but it wasn’t in keeping with the character of Vineyard Haven.

    • Shelly, You paint some interesting pictures! 🙂
      Hoisting up in some fashion is probably the answer. According to NOAA, we will see a rise of ocean water by about 12 inches in the next 30 years, roughly the same distance away from today as when you were making yummy donuts.

    • The electrical outlets in the MV Times building are about a foot off the floor: that was intentional when the building was transformed from a health-food store into a newspaper office. However, the No-Name Nor’easter arrived just as we were about to move in in October 1991. The electric was fine, but the floors had to be relaid.

  9. Yes, Don, exactly. The buildings around 5 corners need to be elevated and should be required to be elevated. Eventually the roads will become causeways, if they continue to exist at all.

    • Hey, Shelley: That sounds like a reasonable temporary solution, but have you seen the images of elevated beach homes in coastal North Carolina being swept out to sea, stilts and all? My understanding is that homeowners in those areas have known what was coming, and sold their property to clueless fellow citizens from the Midwest who thought they were buying their forever beach home. We can expect more such tactical deception on the part of sellers in the most climate-change affected regions of the U.S., with the pool of ignorant buyers shrinking rapidly as more people get wise to reality. The pressures on Vermont an NH real estate availability and prices from wildfire refugees in the West is only one of the most glaring examples of what “safer” areas of the country can expect.

  10. You missed my point, you pretend to be an environmentalist, when you really aren’t. I never said I was an engineer and don’t pretend to be one. I was just pointing out that to make suggestions like you did would actually harm the environment and hope the actual experts would arrive at a conclusion that wouldn’t pump thousands of gallons of polluted water into the Harbor, as you suggested. You see, I follow the science, unlike those pretend environmentalists who opposed the field and ignored the science.

    • Patrick– i am clearly missing your point.
      It’s not clear as to who you are accusing
      of pretending to be an environmentalist.
      Or perhaps you don’t have a point and just want
      to rant about people who disagree with you about
      the turf field.
      But,you claim to “follow the science” and wouldn’t
      pump “thousands of gallons of,polluted water”
      out of 5 corners and Beach road into the harbor.
      Good for you– you clearly are the “real” environmentalist
      that you deride others for pretending to be.
      Now we know that you are not an engineer.
      And neither am I .
      But really, Patrick, where do you think that water
      is doing to go ? With or without the help of
      humans and their pumps or whatever…
      I have a suspicion that it might actually wind up
      in the harbor, whether you or I or Katherine or anyone
      else likes it or not.
      Now, I of course will respect your opinion, and if
      you propose that all that water from every time it
      floods at 5 corners should be pumped up to the high school,
      where it can be dumped onto the turf field which
      will instantly make it glacially pure water, I will be interested
      in finding out more about that “science” .
      In the meantime, more electric cars on the road will directly
      correlate to less oil pollution on the roads and in the floodwaters.

    • Anyone who says “the science” by definition is not a scientist.

      There is no such thing as “the science.”

      • Wow, congratulations you solved our school financial issues. We can eliminate our science classes In all our schools because according to you there is no science. Science has cured illnesses, created treatments for cancer, developed solar energy, and the computer you’re using to post these comments. “The science” is around you at ever turn. Unless you live out in the woods with no electricity, no appliances, and completely off the grid, science is what is keeping you alive. Come on, really? BTW I was trained in the sciences so don’t even go there, science is what will make your grass grow.

      • Annie–We just have to convince the republicans
        in congress that only “elite liberals” have private jets.
        They seem to be most of the way there, as they
        frequently complain about the private jets of liberals,
        but seem to be completely blind to the fact that
        there are conservatives that have private jets also.
        If we don’t tell them, they won’t know.
        It’s like saying “tricky Nicky dickey —bing-it-y
        bang-it-y—BOOM ” jets all gone ! — ‘Merica great !!!

  11. Unfortunately for us all, pro-growth and “new consumer markets” propaganda means the only viable solution to literally turning back the tide – fewer people on the planet to contribute to emissions levels – is not going to be doable with lower birth rates globally (India’s exploding population growth being perhaps the most dangerous planetary habitability in this regard). Anti-birth control cultures imbued with anachronistic religious systems are de facto death cults when it comes to the impact of overpopulation on global civilization at large. The equal-and-opposite “solution” will be Nature’s allergic reaction to the environmentally reckless activity too many humans: mass casualties as a result of more frequent and intense catastrophic weather events. We aren’t ready; and what is truly dismaying is that there are people on this planet welcoming its demise as part of their religions’ teachings that apocalyptic events signal the return of their messiahs. As Christopher Hitchens so aptly put it, more than he could ever know, religion “poisons everything” – most of all, the human mind against the survival of humankind.

  12. … most dangerous “to” planetary habiltability; reckless activity “of”… Maybe the moderator make those fixes, sorry!

  13. Whatever the solution may be it is definitely a warmer and wetter world. The last day of February this year is projected to be high 40’s and 50’s – and that is for northern Maine and Vermont! There is more rain, a lot more rain. It will continue to increase.

    Often, in cases like this, the solutions can be wrong. They can be right and done wrong or not at all. It is never cheap. I wonder what will happen like everyone else. There are some places where homes by flooding rivers have to deal with the problem on a regular basis. One solution proven to work is a concrete basement that floats the entire building up and down as water rises. I read an article years ago friom England but even that does not let customers into your business or allow cars to line up for ferries.

    It doesn’t look good but it also seems like the only wat is to somehow remove all that water – but how – and will it need to be filtered first? Hopefully it can be fixed.


    • frank- Last spring I was biking through the Race Point
      national park. I noticed they had a number of small outbuildings
      that were placed inside the perimeter of 4 post that were
      driven into the ground. The buildings had cables that
      were wrapped around the pilings. As the building floats
      it stays constrained by the posts. if the water gets too high
      the building simply eventually stays anchored by the cables.
      Try getting that one past the building codes.

  14. Annie–We just have to convince the republicans
    in congress that only “elite liberals” have private jets.
    They seem to be most of the way there, as they
    frequently complain about the private jets of liberals,
    but seem to be completely blind to the fact that
    there are conservatives that have private jets also.
    If we don’t tell them, they won’t know.
    It’s like saying “tricky Nicky dickey —bing-it-y
    bang-it-y—BOOM ” jets all gone ! — ‘Merica great !!!

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