A new option is emerging that could spare some oceanfront homes on Fire Island that stand in the way of a 15-foot-high dune planned as part of a federal storm-protection strategy.
Ten to 12 Ocean Bay Park homes might be pushed back onto Traffic Avenue, an unpaved road and right of way that runs behind the residences, according to community advocates.
"Suffolk County is willing to explore whether it would feasible to use it as an option," said Fire Island Association president Suzy Goldhirsch, whose group supports the idea.
Goldhirsch said other beachfront homes could be relocated on vacant properties in other locations. The Ocean Bay Park community is proposing the ideas as an alternative to buyouts and full or partial demolitions.
A total of about 40 properties in Ocean Bay Park, Davis Park and Robbins Rest -- some vacant -- lie in the path of the dune line to be built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In Davis Park, there appears to be room to move some of the oceanfront homes back on their own lots, advocates say.
The barrier island's dune is one of two urgent projects carved out of the $700 million, 83-mile Fire Island to Montauk Point project, known as FIMP. The other project would safeguard Montauk's commercial area by replenishing the beach and strengthening the dune.
Besides protecting Fire Island and Montauk, FIMP also seeks to elevate 4,400 homes in flood-prone areas on the South Shore, using Sandy aid money.
The Fire Island dune rebuilding -- expected to begin on public land at the east and west ends -- had been intended to start this winter. It was delayed, in part, because of myriad required federal, state and local government approvals.
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have kept pressure on agency officials, and a senior working group has been set up to accelerate the process.
"It's not so much that there are glitches or holdups. It's the process that relates to the Army Corps projects, the vast majority of which were imposed by Congress over the years," Bishop said. "I think people are growing frustrated and, frankly, I'm one of them."
Bishop said the Montauk project should start in September or October.
Since superstorm Sandy struck, Fire Islanders have been weighing whether to rebuild or take a buyout.
Once the dune is rebuilt, real estate values should rise, Goldhirsch said, but it remains a question whether the buyouts would reflect that upturn.
For Fire Island, "The parties agreed that they are committed to getting a project started before this summer, before hurricane season," said a source who was briefed on the matter.