Schumer pushes plan for Ocean Parkway, dune repairs

Joined by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, U.S. Joined by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, U.S. senator Charles Schumer, calls for the National Parks Service to close a large breach on Fire Island, during a press conference at Shorefront Park in Patchogue. (Nov. 19, 2012) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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Sen. Charles Schumer is pushing a plan to have three federal agencies combine to provide funds for simultaneous repair work to storm-ravaged Ocean Parkway and the beach dunes that protect it.

The New York Democrat discussed the reconstruction of the parkway and dunes in a conference call Sunday night with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan, President Barack Obama's coordinator on Sandy reconstruction.

The Oct. 29 storm obliterated parts of the beach dunes along Jones Beach, allowing the ocean to run over some stretches of the 15.5-mile parkway, causing significant damage and eroding the foundations of the adjoining Robert Moses State Park water tower traffic circle.

Schumer said Tuesday early estimates put repair costs for the dunes and roadway "in the vicinity of $50 million," but noted they could go higher.

In a letter calling on the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency to free up disaster funds, Schumer said a proposal under consideration by state and federal agencies would see a new protective dune built along the beachfront, "higher and stronger than previously constructed."

He called on the agencies to work together so that the project would use sand being dredged as part of the federally funded Fire Island Inlet dredge operation.

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"It's vital to reopen the parkway quickly -- it's not only a thing of beauty, but a vital artery for commerce for Long Islanders," Schumer said in an interview. "The roadway is so much more vulnerable now and a smaller storm could easily do the same damage again."

Officials are pulling out all stops to have the damaged parkway reopen in time for next summer, but also because Ocean Parkway helps to relieve traffic congestion on other key Long Island roads.

FEMA spokesman Dan Watson said the approach was in line with the national disaster recovery framework that enables the different agencies to contribute expertise to the recovery. Discussions were continuing to bring together a collaborative fix for rebuilding the dunes and road simultaneously, he said.

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