Sandy-battered gardens, parks, cemeteries get restoration money

Vistors to Old Westbury Gardens stroll through the Vistors to Old Westbury Gardens stroll through the area known as the "hemlock hedges," framing the south lawn behind Westbury House, July 24, 2014. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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More than a dozen historic gardens, community centers, cemeteries and parks battered by superstorm Sandy were awarded $5 million of restoration funds Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

In Nassau, only Old Westbury Gardens qualified in this round of funding, the first of two.

Four locations in Suffolk -- Huntington's Caumsett State Park, Babylon's Oak Beach Community Center, the Town of Southampton's Tupper boathouse, and Southold's Downs Farm/Fort Corchaug Preserve -- also will share in the National Park Service awards that the state decides how to use.

"This funding will enable not-for-profit organizations and municipalities to better protect these important places so that they can continue to serve as educational and tourism assets," Cuomo said in a statement.

The 14 winners include Flushing's New York State Pavilion at the site of the 1964 World's Fair; Brooklyn's Prospect Park, and The Evergreens and Green-Wood cemeteries; and the Bronx's Woodlawn Cemetery.

Old Westbury Gardens, where a U.S. Steel heir lived with his family, received $271,260 to restore the South Allee's dogwoods and lindens. And its 18-foot-high hemlock hedge will be replanted.

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"It's a very captivating focal point, except the damage is such that it looks like someone is smiling with about six teeth missing," gardens spokesman Vincent Kish said.

The hedge, featured in films like "Arthur" and television shows like "Royal Pains," is more than a century old, and filling in the gaps will take years, as the new hemlocks will stand only about 6 feet tall.

"It will eventually look as it was and as it was meant to be,and more like the years when the Phipps family actually lived here," Kish said.

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In Suffolk, the Oak Beach Community Center in Babylon received $750,000 to help restore the former Coast Guard Lifesaving Station, built about 1872 and later turned into a community center.

The Town of Southampton received $456,807 for the first phase of a project that includes raising the Tupper Boathouse, now a maritime educational facility, 2 feet above flood levels.

And Caumsett State Historic Park on Marshall Field's former estate won $201,000 to rebuild dunes that protect wetlands.

"It stabilizes the whole eastern part of the park that is on the Sound," said Wayne Horsley, regional director for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

The funds also will repair sand trails and Plank Road, now used by fishermen, which offers visitors views of the salt marsh, Long Island Sound and Cold Spring Harbor.

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Southold won $30,000 to trim trees that overhang trails at the Downs Farm/Fort Corchaug Preserve.

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