Advocates map strategies to strengthen South Shore

Long Beach residents Crystal Lake and John Curry Long Beach residents Crystal Lake and John Curry look over a map of Long Beach during a Rebuild by Design forum at Baldwin Senior High School on Feb. 22, 2014. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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More than 50 residents, civic leaders and elected officials gathered Saturday to share ideas for making Nassau County's South Shore more storm-resilient.

The three-hour meeting at Baldwin Senior High School was organized by Interboro Partners, a Brooklyn-based architecture and urban design firm, to get input from residents affected by superstorm Sandy.

For its project, called "Living with the Bay: Resiliency-Building Options for Nassau County's South Shore," Interboro Partners assembled a team of international experts to craft ideas on how to address flooding threats from nor'easters, storm surges and stormwater runoff.

"People are not ready to throw in the towel on Nassau County or the South Shore," said Daniel D'Oca, an Interboro principal. "We think there is a way that we could live with the bay."

The firm is one of 10 design teams from Sandy-affected areas in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in the federally funded "Rebuild by Design" program, initiated by President Barack Obama's Hurricane Sandy Task Force and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In early April, the plans will be evaluated by a competition jury to identify projects that may get HUD disaster recovery funds.

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"We want Nassau County to win the biggest part of the pie," said Georgeen Theodore, an Interboro Partners principal.

The agency's preliminary South Shore plan includes turning Long Beach into a "smart barrier" by filling in portions of low-lying areas on the bayside to create higher land for mixed-development and parkland. The plan also calls for protecting homes by raising roads and building homes on the shore at greater elevations to create a multilayered defense to flooding.

"The flooding needs to be addressed because right now we're vulnerable," Crystal Lake, of Long Beach, said.

The proposal includes the option of using bridges to compartmentalize water in the bay, creating new marshes, and water retention areas along streams to slow down stormwater.

Most residents at the meeting criticized the idea of redesigning Sunrise Highway, making it greener to help capture stormwater, allow more mixed-use development, and make it pedestrian- and bike-friendly by reducing lanes.

"If Long Island is going to grow, that is a good place. That's one less person living in a FEMA flooding zone," D'Oca said in response.

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