Point residents blue over bulkhead damage

Members of the Grandview Beach Association gathered at Members of the Grandview Beach Association gathered at the town-owned bulkhead at the end of Bergen Avenue in Blue Point. (Dec.10, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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Where Great South Bay laps up on the southern edge of Blue Point, the bulkheads on shoreline homes act as retaining walls to keep water from eroding their properties.

But one portion of the shoreline -- at Grandview and Bergen avenues -- belongs to the Town of Brookhaven. And despite years of complaints to the town, residents say, the bulkhead has deteriorated to the point that the dilapidated wood was no match for superstorm Sandy's surge.

It barely held up during 2011's Tropical Storm Irene, and should have been fixed before Sandy, said residents, who are demanding that it be replaced before the next big storm.

"Irene tested it. Sandy broke everything," said Frank Mills during a recent visit to the bulkhead, which juts into the bay.

Pieces of wooden boards hung precariously together, and water leaked through holes in the wooden barrier onto the ground.

Mills said Sandy flooded his home and many others along Grandview, and they blame the town for the rotting bulkhead's inability to block the bay's waters.

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"We want to get their attention to come and fix it," said Terri Quinn, who has organized the community to press the town for a response.

The bulkhead is the jurisdiction of the Brookhaven Highway Department, which is awaiting engineering estimates for repair costs, but the neighborhood is simply vulnerable to flooding from the bay, said deputy highway superintendent Lori Baldassare.

"We did do a lot of work there," Baldassare said. "There have been a lot of problems there. Until we get the engineering report back, we don't know if it will fix the problem."

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Town councilman Tim Mazzei said he's asked the highway department for years to replace the bulkhead, noting that federal money had been awarded for the project after a 2007 nor'easter damaged the area, but the $325,000 was never spent.

While he said a new bulkhead might not have saved the neighborhood from Sandy, he understands the community's frustration.

"They absolutely have the right to complain that that bulkhead wasn't replaced," Mazzei said.

The highway department has periodically patched vulnerable spots in the bulkhead, residents said, but they want a full replacement with more permanent materials.

"You don't use Home Depot plywood," said Larry Glenn, whose home is near the bulkhead. "This needs to be addressed. As long as this hole is here, when a storm comes, we get damage in my house."

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Neal Ferrara, who lives next to the bulkhead, says he's been trying since 1999 to get the town to upgrade it. The response was "always that 'we'll see what we can do,' " he said. "They did try -- they put in plywood and sandbags. But this bay can get pretty nasty."

Mills pointed to several nearby residential bulkheads that appeared to be sturdy.

"The homeowners have done their due diligence with their bulkheads," he said. "The town has not done its due diligence."

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