Battered South Shore Communities Call For Dunes, But Who Pays?

Officials from Nassau and Suffolk say structurally sound dunes along the South Shore are a must to keep mainland Long Island safe from other Sandy-like storms.

Boardwalk in Long Beach (day after landfall). See more photos on Instagram, @samrussoo Credit Samantha Russo
Boardwalk in Long Beach (day after landfall). See more photos on Instagram, @samrussoo Credit Samantha Russo
Long Island’s South Shore barrier islands bore the brunt of Hurricane Sandy’s devastating storm surge and winds causing significant damage and in some areas decades’ worth of erosion in just a few days.

Now, officials from across the region are warning that if the barrier islands are not repaired soon, flooding during the next storm could be worse and have a greater impact on mainland South Shore communities.

“If by the next storm we don’t have dunes and the ocean just has its way, it will come up over the barrier beaches and go into the bay,” said John Cochrane, an Islip Town Councilman. “That’s millions and millions of gallons that the bay will assume and be pushed up over the mainland.”

Cochrane said that in order to protect the mainland communities, Fire Island’s 40-year-old dunes that were flattened in many areas during Sandy, need to be back in working order, and fast.

“Fire Island, and all of the barrier islands, function as a garage door—you want that big door to work so it can protect your car,” he said. “Fire Island is the mainland’s garage door and is the protection for the south shore of Long Island—it’s the initial line of defense for the mainland against storms.”

Dune Plans in Long Beach

In Long Beach, repairs to the beaches is needed not only to shore up protection for residents in Nassau County’s many bayfront communities, but also to protect the thousands living in the city working to recover from Sandy.

Morris Kramer, long-time advocate of a dune project on Long Beach, is again urging officials to move forward and build a dune system to protect the barrier island.

“Unless they do something to build dunes and replenish Long Beach, there is no sense in rebuilding the city,” said Kramer, who has been advocating for the dunes since 1986. “The storms are going to keep coming and coming and continue to do incredible damage.”

On Dec. 4, the Long Beach City Council voted to revisit a dune project that was previously rejected. Six years ago, the United States Army Corps of Engineers recommended that Long Beach build 25-foot dunes to help protect its 35,000 residents.

The proposal, known as The Long Beach Island Storm Damage Reduction Project, would have cost an estimated $98 million and stretched along the island’s six-mile shoreline.

The Long Beach City Council voted against it, some said because the project would have compromised ocean views, others, like surfers, worried most about waves.

Today, Sandy-related damage estimates in Long Beach are $200 million.

While Long Beach suffered catastrophic damage in part because of a lack of dune system, areas of Westhampton were able to better weather Sandy.

“We had zero infrastructure damage,” Aram Terchunian, who is a coastal geologist with First Coastal Corporation in Westhampton Beach, said of the aftermath of the late October storm.

He said the dunes suffered a handful of over-washes and a limited amount of sand was pushed onto roadways. But ultimately the dunes did their job in protecting the community.

“In 48 hours, we were ready to go,” Terchunian said.

He believes the reason why Westhampton had almost no damage from Sandy was because the community took the Army Corps of Engineers up on its proposal to build dunes years earlier.

In 1996, four years after the 1992 Nor’easter caused severe damage to 190 homes and $25 million in flood insurance claims, the Army Corps of Engineers, New York State and Suffolk County began to build dunes on Westhampton Beach. The coastal protection project was completed in 1999.

“I don’t even think there was a broken window,” Terchunian said of Westhampton following Sandy. “The Army Corps of Engineers had a similar project for Long Beach that was locked, loaded and ready to fire in 2006.”

While many view beach replenishment as vital in protecting Long Island, others also feel simply replacing the sand alone is not enough.

Kevin McAllister, a coastal biologist, says beach-and-dune restoration is a necessity to keep area beaches healthy. But, he also sees it as a Band-Aid that will only buy a few years before having to spend more money to protect the homes being jeopardized by encroaching tides.

“We have to be ready to abandon and walk away. If we walk away—I know its not an easy pill to swallow—let’s say on Fire Island, the loss of those homes will let nature take its course and there will always be a barrier island,” he said. “But if we start to fortify it and try to stay, all of the ecological benefits from a barrier island for the mainland will be lost.”

Funding For Repairs

While there is agreement that repairs to the barrier islands are needed, what remains unclear is how to cover the cost. Many local governments are struggling to keep tax hikes to a minimum while providing necessary services to local residents.

During a recent press conference, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray called on state and federal agencies to help get the plan moving for Long Beach Island.
Currently, the town is using their own construction equipment to pump sand from the Jones Beach Inlet to repair the area’s badly eroded beaches.

In Long Beach, City Council President Len Torres, said before Sandy left the city with $200 million in damages, its budget was already suffering with a $10 million deficit.

Islip Town officials, who recently approved a 28 percent tax increase to close a budget shortfall, said they are also seeking funding from the state and federal government to help pay for Fire Island’s dune and beach repair.

“We are aggressively going after funding from FEMA and the state,” Cochrane said.

He added that the town would not only receive money from the state and federal levels, but also from its taxpayers within Fire Island’s “erosion districts.”
Islip’s erosion districts, set up after the “Perfect Storm” of 1991, all pay a tax each year strictly set aside for scrapping beaches and building up dunes.

Cochrane said that these districts include Corneille Estates, Lonelyville, Fair Harbor, Atlantique, Dunewood, Seaview and Kismet, which have coffers ranging from $71,000 to $495,000.

“I’ve heard everything from $20 million to $100 million to rebuild the beaches and dunes, I don’t have a real handle for the Town of Islip on how much money it is actually going to take to rebuild to the right protection size,” Cochrane said. “But we will enhance the aid we expect from FEMA and the state with the erosion districts.”

As local governments work to get money from Albany and Washington, some money for repairs is beginning to flow.

Initial funding from New York, for example, is heading to communities such as Long Beach. But those dollars are earmarked for removal of debris and construction and demolition costs, not for beach replenishment and repairs.

This is leaving some in Long Beach feeling vulnerable with no coastal protection.

“On the street, people are nervous,” said Rich Hoffman, President of West End Neighbors Civic Association, a supporter of dunes for Long Beach. “All we need is a storm and we’ll be putting everything back out on the sidewalk. Right now we are sitting on the cliff of further damage. It’s imperative that we get the Corps in and protect ourselves fully.”

And what if the dunes aren’t built?

“If the city is not protected by dunes, there is really no sense in rebuilding,” Kramer said.

Story by
Will Yakowicz.This is the first installment of our After Sandy - The Recovery series.

Beachguy December 23, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Kens medication adjustment is working! Congratulations Ken! But deep down you know the answer, don't you Ken? THIS IS LONG BEACH. TILB. Nothing will change . NADA. We had an angry sea on Friday and the water got dangerously close. We have a full winter in front of us with all sorts of bad weather lying in wait. What has been done? Very little. During one of the previous debates about illegal dwelling units I heard people at public meetings recoil in horror at the thought of turning in their neighbors who had illegal apartments yet these same people complained bitterly about high taxes, the parking mess, crowded schools , etc. A friend o f mine told me that many West End resiidents don't bother to vote because they consider it a futile gesture. Do you blame them? But NOW is the time to implement change. If not it will be NEVER. long live the surfers and Snoopy.
Tonto Hertzberg December 23, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Sadly, some West Enders with homes needing to be razed will not be back. Either they do not have the resources, the good health or the will to rebuild. As neighbors it is our responsibility to see that these folks get the best deal they can from a bad situation. In addition, it is important that a bad situation is not made worse by replacing these teardown homes with monstrosities that are raised 8 feet in the air. The West End Neighbors needs to step in and identify these homes and make a push to get the land into the hands of the neighbors, if possible, for use as parking or yard space. Think how much that would benefit the surrounding homes rather than a be-build of a monster FEMA compliant home? In comclusion, those with condemmed homes that want to rebuild should be allowed to do so with the FULL support of the City and their neighbors BUT those that want to explore selling the vacant land as a viable option should also be given the opportunity to do so with minimum hassle for government. Also, imo, a vacant 30x60 lot in the West End should be worth about $200,000 dollars right now.
Eddie December 23, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Ken, I like reading your posts. You seem truly concerned about Long Beach quality of life. Do note that not all basement apartments are illegal. Plenty of them are given Certificates of Occupancy, are built to code and are taxed. I would love to see more vacant land, more clear space, larger lots and none of the eight-foot-elevated-eyesores in Long Beach, but homeowners with mortgages don't have the option of demolishing their homes and selling their land. That decision must be made jointly by the mortgagee. The bank will demand that their collateral is protected and the home rebuilt.
Tonto Hertzberg December 23, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Ed: I agree that a demo and subsequent land sale is not for everyone . It is important however that some folks be given the maximum chance to recoup their losses. I am told that already there are unscrupulous people spreading rumor and bad advice in an attempt to get some of these badly damaged homes on the cheap. i urge the 99% of good folks in the West End to do your best to look out for those that are not as savvy in matters such as insurance, land sale, etc. Lets think out of the box here and do right by those most badly affected and also do right by our community. Lowering the density in the West End should be a prime consideration moving forward. Out of tragedy we make a better community and also help those that may not be able to rebuild. The key is the zoning board allowing these 30x60 lots to be subdivided PROVIDING they are not built upon after division. Also, the City should consider using some FEMA money to gain control of some of the commercial space for use as vest pocket parks or parking. This may be a chance to do what was not possible only 2 months ago.
Tonto Hertzberg December 23, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Ed: Almost every home in the West End that has a home that is worth more than the value of the mortgage. Home owners with a mortgage that are unable to rebuild need do two things. Get the final FEMA flood insurance payout for a tear down and at the same time find a buyer for the vacant land. having a deal in hand for both ends of that will allow the banks to get out from under along with the home owner. These are issues that need to be handled correctly but they are doable even when a bank is part owner of the home. The banks themselves may need to agree to a teardown and subsequent land sale if they own a bigger chunk of the home than it is now worth.
paul.d.spellman December 23, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Ken, Do you have any idea how flood insurance works? Teardowns, what the hell are you talking about?
Tonto Hertzberg December 23, 2012 at 04:47 PM
I know EXACTLY how flood insurance work but I am always willing to be educated. Feel free to give us your take.
Longbeacher December 23, 2012 at 07:18 PM
i will give u a little advise ,insurance company's are not stupid ,they are like a divorce ,the longer they hold u off the more u are will to give up and settle ,fight these guys don't just take what they give ,fight for what u lost and don't give up ,because you just want it all behind you
Beachguy December 23, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Thank you Ken and Paul my two most constant irritants. Please savage each other .I'm not in the mood. But I'm gathering strength.
Tonto Hertzberg December 24, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2013, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.
water guy December 24, 2012 at 07:07 AM
Took a day off from patch to clear my thoughts and as much as I throw in my 2 cents I think all of you are right.Yes there are a bunch of people out there looking to pick up land(homes totaled) and at next to nothing, The storms keep coming as the one from last week and the new one heading here mid week, FEMA, the CITY OF LB the exempt tax cheaters, the illegal renters the list goes on, what I am saying is this,with the New Year quickly approaching we the people can make a change and a change is badly needed here, lets band together and speak up, I will be at the next city council meeting and will voice my opinion on what the city will do to protect us, I might be shut down and odds are told some plan to do this and do that but lets see what exactly our elected officials are planing at least for a temp fix in the event of another NE storm and will hit this winter. If we wait for another ACOE plan we all might have indoor swimming pools again in our homes.
Beachguy December 24, 2012 at 09:03 AM
Elliot and Ken and all the others who post here represent the thoughtful, caring residents of LB. Squabbling and disagreement is not unexpected especially after what has happened to us. But if the energy expended here can be marshaled to effect change it will benefit everyone. Everyone should get to the Council meetings and put their feet to the fire. Ive had enough of NE winters and now spend my time in a warmer clime , so won't be at any meetings for awhile. But I follow Newsday online and,of course,The Patch. So I'll still be putting in my two cents. BTW- has Michael The Nomad found a comfortable place for the winter?
Hamburger December 25, 2012 at 08:21 AM
ACOE is better than LBCOE. No more friends and family piggies feeding from the trough
Beachguy December 25, 2012 at 08:56 AM
Words of wisdom Tele. We are stuck between the arrogant and the inept. Time for a third party in LB.
Beachguy December 25, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Kenny Babe: you must have forgotten to take your new dosage in the midst of all your holiday revelry. I have an apartment in a much better place to spend the winter. I'm paying rent on it as we speak. My house is a shell and whether I stay here all winter waiting for the GC, the plumber , the electrician, the tile man , the carpet guy, well you get it, or whether I return to a warmer clime will make no appreciable difference. But I will sleep better knowing that you will carry on the fight by posting negative, unhelpful comments . But on reconsideration maybe I should stick around. Do you have an extra bed for me? We could get to know each other better.I'll even give you surfing lessons and read Snoopy stories to you at bedtime just to help you get to sleep. But in Case I decide to leave for a bit can you shovel my snow so the few people still on my block can walk safely? Snoopy for president!
Tonto Hertzberg December 25, 2012 at 07:58 PM
OK Beachy, You seem like a decent guy. I will shovel the snow, but only for this winter. I wish you well and hope you are back in your home soon.
Beachguy December 25, 2012 at 08:23 PM
I'm in Atlantic City and today took a tour of the area. One--- no jettys .two--- wide beaches( in most places i visited.)three--- sea walls or storm barriers made of cement about three feet wide by 8 feet high or bulkheads. Four--- extremely limited damage except for houses right on the Beach. Five--- AC boardwalk made of high quality wood fastened by screws not crap wood held by nails that pop up all over the place.
Beachguy December 25, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Ken --- I paid a neighbor to shovel the snow in my absence but he's flooded out aNd living in Brooklyn . But Most of the others on the block are gone too so don't race over with your shovel.A little snow isn't going to affect anyone this winter. Or a lot of it either.
Eddie December 25, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Several years ago, the Republicans running Long Beach suggested redecking the boardwalk with Ipe held by stainless steel screws. Ipe is an oily tropical wood similar to teak that has served NYC in Coney Island and Rockaway, NYS in Jones Beach and Atlantic City in NJ for more than 25 years without splitting, warping or rot. The environmental kooks made such a tizzy that they caved and just continued using pressure treated southern pine and common nails that last for about ten years before splitting.
Eddie December 25, 2012 at 08:52 PM
We've used Ipe on our apartment decks. Installed it in 1990. Haven't had to replace a single board since.
Beachguy December 26, 2012 at 06:02 AM
LB also experimented with some sort of composite on a few of the ramps , Laurelton , I think, but discontinued since they were " slippery". TILB
water guy December 29, 2012 at 07:23 AM
beachguy first a happy , safe and healthy oh yea and dry new year, sorry I was lost for a few days but had to work, getting ready to redo the house so time to put on the warm cloths and get ready for the cold again, but please leave the surfing lessons to me..lol... what will happen in long beach is anyones guess and will our leaders be there to help? our insurance companies are sure taking their time getting our money to us at a time of need, can you image not paying you or bill for months, hell it would be see you later you are cancelled but yet we have to wait, calling every other day the carrier says they have to wait for a final report from the adjuster, the adjuster says they are very busy and will get to it as soon as they can? what the hell is going on, we need this money to rebuild yet they do not care. what are we to do?mad as hell and not going to take it anyone ..... yea right we will take i and take in in the you know where, we are at their mercy and they know it.... Happy New year to all
Beachguy December 29, 2012 at 10:14 AM
Everyone I speak to has the same complaints about not getting money, not making any progress on reconstruction etc. I'm getting out of Dodge for a warmer place soon and will return in a few months to deal with the next phase of things. But I have made New Years resolutions to not get angry with Ken or Paul for their sometimes stupid, inane , provocative, juvenile, asinine, thoughtless posts. They obviously can't help themselves. I might buy a Snoopy book for Ken so he can get a laugh . Has Michael The Nomad found a place of rest? I hope so. Snoopy for president. Everyone place your Christmas trees at the foot of the dunes. TILB
paul.d.spellman December 29, 2012 at 02:35 PM
BG, Once again a typical poster on here, completely unable to respond with rational thoughts, you feel your only recourse is to attempt to denigrate people.
Beachguy December 29, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Mr Spellman-why do you assume that the remarks were aimed at you? There are lots of people named Paul. BTW- your comments on wonder board and similar flooring material were very helpful. Thanks. See I didn't get angry.
Longbeacher December 29, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Hamburger December 30, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Beachguy December 30, 2012 at 05:54 AM
Many people have gotten an initial advance but I don't know of any who have gotten more than that. Is this the rule rather than the exception? If so, it's time for vigorous complaints to the pols especially Schumer who is very responsive to these types of situations. Is this problem confined to LB, South Shore? What about Breezy and Staten Island? Jersey Shore?The weather is obviously deteriorating and LBr is right that it won't be long before major issues become common because of delays in getting money to insureds.
Longbeacher December 30, 2012 at 07:20 PM
yes ,advance ,these insurance companies got some nerve ,if you don't pay premiums ,they cancel you in a day ,this is not a gift or something they should be able to dish out ,we paid for this service ,it belongs to us ,are they trying to tell us in this age of computers that there still waiting for the adjusters ,come on pay up
Jack January 02, 2013 at 09:54 PM
The problem with the West End is that alot of the houses were bungalows retrofitted for all year round living. It was never meant for full time living. Also too many illegal renters in the bungalows who are not covered by insurance. This all resulted in an overpopulated area. Rebuilding should not occur in certain sections.


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