Brookhaven to rebuild Fire Island boardwalks by next summer
The Brookhaven Highway Department plans this fall to start restoring Fire Island boardwalks, more than 11 months after superstorm Sandy caused roughly $10 million in damage to local beaches and businesses.
Repairs to boardwalks in the communities of Cherry Grove, Davis Park, Ocean Bay Park, Water Island and Fire Island Pines should be completed by next summer, said Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro.
The move should help restore one of the town's main summer tourist areas, officials said.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have told highway officials the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the department $4.2 million -- 90 percent -- in boardwalk repair costs, town officials said.
"This necessary reimbursement is an important step as we continue to meet New York's needs to recover and rebuild," Gillibrand said in a statement.
"Superstorm Sandy caused significant damage to the boardwalks in Brookhaven," said Schumer, also in a statement. "I am pleased to announce this necessary federal funding to repair the boardwalks."
Town highway officials say FEMA is also expected to reimburse about $1.5 million spent fixing some key Fire Island boardwalks this summer. "We needed the boardwalks open for residents and emergency access," Losquadro said. "If those repairs hadn't been made, there wouldn't have been a tourist season."
The boardwalk repairs will supplement a $700 million federal project announced earlier this week to safeguard the South Shore from storms, including the restoration of some Fire Island dunes that were destroyed by Sandy's winds and tides.
While most of the 17,700 linear feet of boardwalk on Fire Island are usable, many have been twisted and lifted and must be reconstructed to meet federal standards, which will decrease the chance of damage in future storms, highway officials said.
Losquadro said some of the boardwalks repaired in the past few months will undergo additional upgrades to meet federal guidelines. "Hopefully they will withstand storms in the future," he said.
As a tourist destination, Fire Island has businesses that earn 90 percent of their revenue in the summer season.
Damage from the Oct. 29 storm threatened to slow sales.
And town officials responded to a sluggish start by launching a midsummer campaign to boost sales, urging travelers to spend July Fourth weekend on Fire Island.
"People didn't realize the summer communities were open for business at that point," said Brookhaven Councilman Tim Mazzei, whose Fifth District includes Fire Island.
Sales for most of the area's more than 60 businesses turned around by summer's end, Mazzei said.
And officials expect business to rebound completely with the restoration of the boardwalks, most of which are six feet wide.
Some Fire Island communities with storm-damaged boardwalks
Fire Island Pines
Ocean Bay Park