Village awarded FEMA funds to repair dock
Five years after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on Long Island, many South Shore communities are still rebuilding. In Bellport Village, “main pier FEMA submission” has been an agenda item at most village meetings for the better part of four years, since village officials began looking into federal funding sources to repair the dock.
At a village meeting last week, Mayor Ray Fell finally had some good news to share: FEMA has awarded the village $2.3 million to repair the marina bulkhead and parking lot, damaged as a result of Sandy. According to FEMA documents, the award was approved on Feb. 13. Last month, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that $4.3 million in federal funding had been awarded to two Long Island municipalities. Bellport will receive $2.3 million, and the rest of the money will help the town of Hempstead pay for repairs to the Merrick sanitation building.
“Critical infrastructure throughout Long Island was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy and in need of repair,” Schumer said in a press release, adding that the use of federal funds will help make both municipalities “whole again and make our infrastructure stronger than before, without leaving local taxpayers on the hook for these expenses.” Gillibrand added that “Sandy was disastrous for communities on Long Island, and our public infrastructure was hit hard by the storm’s damaging effects. This federal investment will help the Town of Hempstead and Village of Bellport continue to rebuild by supporting necessary repairs to local infrastructure.”
In an interview with the Advance at Village Hall on Monday, Fell recalled the aftermath of the damaging storm. “I remember walking down to the bay and the whole dock was flooded,” Fell said. “Shore Road was underwater.”
In November 2012, just after Sandy passed, then-mayor Will Veitch told the Advance, “Our marina is a big mess. Our bulkhead at the golf course 15th hole breached and there was erosion. Mother’s Beach is under 2 or 3 feet of water. We lost the pavilion on the east side of the park. I don’t know the damage to the yacht club yet. And 85 percent of the village is without power.” He added that the damage and outages were “twice that of Irene.”
Today, village officials of the current administration estimate $4.4 million in damages, including a storage building at the golf course and shoreline reconstruction, the boardwalk, docking area and pavilion at Ho-Hum Beach and gazebo, electrical wiring and docking area at Osborn Park. “Those were the big-ticket items,” Fell said, pointing out that everything has been mitigated except for the dock. According to Fell, the village has received reimbursement from FEMA on all but two projects, and awaits $206,811 for a new gazebo and $605,000 for the Ho-Hum pavilion.
The new FEMA grant will help the village begin bulkhead work at the main pier, as well as repair the asphalt and drainage issues.
At the board meeting on Feb. 26, Fell described the process as “arduous,” noting that preliminary meetings with FEMA officials did not go well after they attributed the dock’s issues to its age. Bellport officials estimate the dock to be about 80 years old.
Fell, deputy mayor Joe Gagliano and village clerk John Kocay persisted, looking into other options. “We knew that there were sinkholes that weren’t a problem before Sandy,” Kocay said. To prove that the damage was attributable to Sandy, the village hired Adon Austin, principal director at Rising Tide Waterfront Solutions, an engineering waterfront consulting firm based in Rockville Centre.
Austin conducted an engineering dive at the bulkhead and discovered a large population of marine borers, tiny mollusks that destroy and eat wood. Though found sparsely in bay waters, engineers say that higher salinity in Bellport Bay, attributed to the breach, have encouraged the borers to reproduce more rapidly. “The dive was the turning point,” Kocay said. “We began to present his information to FEMA and all of a sudden, there was a little light at the end of the tunnel,” Fell said.
Now, the village awaits a ‘blue book’ from FEMA, before starting planning processes. “It’s very exciting for the village,” Fell said. “Those of us who use the marina know that the marina had to have work done over the next five years. The bulkhead is falling apart and we have had some major sinkholes last fall. If it wasn’t for this funding from FEMA, the village taxpayers would be doing this over a bond over a period of time,” he said.
Officials said that official plans have not been drafted, but the new dock will be built according to current standards and codes, which were strengthened nationally after Sandy.
Gagliano called the grant “a dream come true” for the village. “We were able to do our research and it proved to be worth it,” he said. “For a municipality of our size, we’re very lucky.”
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