With Trump on the Ocean sunk, competing visions for Jones Beach
Competing visions emerged Thursday of what could be built on the Jones Beach boardwalk site of the controversial Trump on the Ocean catering hall-restaurant, which was killed because of damage to the park from superstorm Sandy.
Among them: a more modest restaurant, a recreational facility, stores, or . . . nothing.
"We have a large range of possible options," state Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, "from seeking a different type of private food and beverage concessionaire, to identifying a public recreational use that would be resistant to future storms, to even the possibility of simply restoring the site to a natural area."
Park advocates argue that last option would leave a hole in the historic landscape created in the 1920s by Robert Moses. "There needs to be something on that corner to balance out the original design of the Central Mall," said Alexandra Wolfe of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities.
Many park advocates and other interested observers favor a smaller and cheaper facility than Trump on the Ocean, which the developer said Thursday probably would have cost $30 million. They envision more restaurant than luxury catering hall.
Harvey said if the agency goes forward with a food concession, "it would be much more storm-resistant and modest in scale" than Trump's proposed 86,000-square-foot, two-story building.
But there are questions about whether a restaurant without catering could be financially viable.
"Maybe stores on the boardwalk, a more modest restaurant could be successful," Trump said.
But restaurateur Steve Carl, Trump's partner in the shelved venture, said, "What would have worked is catering. What won't work is a restaurant -- you don't get any business during the winter. If you don't build something like we were building, it's too small."
Long Island Builders Institute chief executive Mitchell Pally said if a restaurant was large enough to recoup the cost of flood protection, "I think people would have an interest in trying to build something there."
Some parks experts said the lower profit potential might force the state itself to build a new restaurant, then seek a concessionaire to run it.
Achieving Harvey's goal of making any new building more flood-resistant can be done by following state building code and Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines for construction in a flood zone, said Westhampton Beach coastal geologist Aram Terchunian. Do that and "it's going to be safe" in a storm like Sandy, he said.
Coastal erosion expert Jay Tanski said, "Anything that's built there would have to be elevated to allow some of the water to go underneath it."
Harvey said the park's inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places means her agency will follow the same review process it did on the Trump project. The Division for Historic Preservation will make sure whatever is built is in keeping with the historic character of the park.
That likely would eliminate erecting a new building anywhere but on the same site or making it significantly taller to raise it above floodwaters, parks experts said.
Whatever is built, Wolfe said, "needs to be relative in size to the other structures on the site."