Islip scrambles to repair beach, marina Sandy damage

A worker stabilizes the dunes to protect the A worker stabilizes the dunes to protect the sand and the road. (Mar. 21, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

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Sand piles, pine cones and uprooted beach grass litter the floor of the concrete block building. A deep fryer that once whipped up French fries for beachgoers lies upside down, rusted.

The building that served as a concession stand, restrooms and lifeguard offices for Islip Beach -- town inspectors have deemed the structure "unsafe" -- offers a stark illustration of the damage from superstorm Sandy.

Five months after the storm, and with Memorial Day looming, town officials Islandwide are scrambling to repair and reopen storm ravaged recreation facilities. But, absent reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the town's insurance policies, Islip officials are concerned about meeting the deadline.

Though Town Supervisor Tom Croci has vowed to have the town's beaches and marinas open by the unofficial start of summer, he concedes that without an influx of funding soon, the repairs could be limited.

The town board voted Tuesday to issue a $1.14 million bond -- $650,000 will be floated to repair the concession stand at Islip Beach, which town officials acknowledge may not open until the end of June. The bond will also fund fixes to other town facilities.

"We're going to have our facilities open," said Croci. "The question is, is FEMA going to come to the table soon enough so the Town of Islip and the taxpayers get it done properly."

The damage to the town's 18 recreation facilities -- primarily pools, beaches and marinas -- tops about $28 million, according to a town report.

The town has received about $9 million in FEMA reimbursements for debris cleanup. Another $50 million -- including the aforementioned $28 million -- is pending. The town estimates mitigation work could cost another $20 million, which the town hopes FEMA will fund.

Kay Erwood, a commissioner of the Keep Islip Clean community group, said residents are anxious to have access to the beach. "It's heart-wrenching," said Erwood, a member of the Old South Islip Civic Association. "I've had a lot of people telling me their grief."

Councilman Anthony S. Senft said that, although facilities will open, residents may have to use portable bathrooms and do without amenities such as concession stands. "We're told that we're going to get FEMA money, but we have yet to see money in amounts necessary to complete any of these projects," said Senft, council liaison to Recreation and Parks.

Denise Everhart, a FEMA spokeswoman, said an agency project specialist has been assigned to the town to assist on reimbursements for specific projects.

FEMA is processing more than $200,000 in electrical and water repairs to the town's marinas, which have been identified by the town as a top priority, she said. Everhart added that FEMA is "fully committed," to considering mitigation projects.

But residents want action now. Joe Montuori, Islip's parks and recreation commissioner, said trips to the grocery store have attracted more attention. Shoppers, he said, want to know one thing: " 'Hey, Joe, when is my beach going to open up?' " they ask, according to Montuori. "I'm trying, I'm trying."

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