As the waves pounded the Long Beach shorefront during Hurricane Irene, the dunes were doing their job absorbing much of the force while protecting local property from further damage.
As a result, the West End dunes took a beating and need to be restored, residents and city officials said.
“If we didn’t have the dunes, we would have been wiped out,” said Rachel Sheridan, a Tennessee Avenue resident.
Rick Hoffman, president of the West End Neighbors Civic Association, who lives on Florida Avenue, agreed that the dunes were property-savers.
“It’s because of those dunes we didn’t lose a lot more,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said most of the dunes remain intact but their perimeter needs to be shored up. The dunes on Connecticut and Illinois avenues were hit hardest.
He said the city must act quickly and efficiently to replenish the dunes due to the fact that it is still hurricane season.
“The dunes are in excellent condition,” said Hoffman, whose basement flooded because the water table was so high. “But they sustained perimeter damage. A couple of the walk-overs from the street to the beach need to be replenished and filled in.”
Jennifer Bowler, a Georgia Avenue resident, was one of the neighbors who urged the city to restore the dunes, as well as plant sea grass, at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
City Manager Charles Theofan said the dunes, built in the 1980s amid controversy, are highly regulated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the city can’t touch them without permission.
“We have to work out a plan with the DEC to restore the dunes very quickly because they regulate what happens,” City Councilman Len Torres said.
Hoffman contends the city only needs approval from the DEC for a major restoration of the dunes. But the city does not require permission to maintain the dunes and to replenish the dunes and sea grass.
Aphrodite Montalvo, A DEC spokeswoman, said on Thursday that the state agency is working with several Long Island towns in the wake of Irene, but Long Beach is not among them because she has yet to hear from city officials.
“We would be more than willing to work with Long Beach to ensure the beaches are safe,” Montalvo said.
Montalvo said Long Beach could set up a meeting with the DEC and then fill out an emergency permit application to restore the dunes.
Carol Kenney, a Nevada Avenue resident, agreed that the city needs to address the condition of the dunes, but she believes the beach maintenance department may not have the experts to take care of the dunes the right way.
Some residents are still reeling from Hurricane Irene’s impact on Long Beach.
“It was the worst since Gloria, certainly,” said Ted Guba, who has lived on Illinois Avenue abutting the beach since 1976.
Guba said he did not sustain flooding in his house, but a couple of days after the storm he was cleaning up sand that had formed around his house by the beach entrance. He added that the handicap ramps were built at the beach entrance and sand from the dunes was dug out around them, allegedly by the DEC.
“I sustained effectively more damage because of this,” Guba said.
Guba has a tall wall surrounding his house and the water from the storm came within inches the top.
Con Astone, who for 35 years has lived at 100 Indiana Ave., in the middle of the street between the bay and the ocean, said the water from both met in the middle during the hurricane Sunday morning.
“The water in the street was three feet high and came from the bay and the ocean at high tide,” Astone said. “In 10 minutes the street was flooded. It was a disaster.”