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Baldwin Harbor project to open more waterfront to public

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen with Joseph Davenport,

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen with Joseph Davenport, the town's deputy chief of staff for infrastructure, and Assemb. Judy Griffin and State Sen. John E. Brooks, whose districts include the park, on Aug. 22 at an area of Baldwin Park that will be repaired. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead Town engineers recently completed designs for a plan to strengthen a long swath of shoreline in a Baldwin Harbor park battered in 2012 by superstorm Sandy, and to open the waterfront area to the public.

The town is now preparing to go out for bid for construction at Baldwin Park on the $4.38 million project, which is scheduled to begin in spring 2020 and wrap up before the year's end. Once complete, officials say, the public will have access to around 14 additional acres of open space and a newly resilient shoreline that should better withstand extreme weather.

"There will be another storm event. It's just a matter of time," said Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, who grew up in Baldwin and played in the park as a child. Surveying the rotting bulkhead and eroding shoreline of the fenced-off project area on a recent morning, she said: "To do what we can to secure our shorelines and learn from what happened in Sandy — this has to be a priority."

The low-lying South Shore community was inundated by the 2012 storm, officials said.

"Most homes that were on the water were filled at least halfway with water," said Assemb. Judy Griffin (D-Rockville Centre), whose district includes the park.

A group of local residents and civic leaders identified the park project in 2014 as an initiative that would make the community more resilient in the event of future storms, and funding for the project was approved last year, said Joseph Davenport, Hempstead's deputy chief of staff for infrastructure. The project's funding was provided by the New York State Governor's Office of Storm Recovery.

After removing 2,400 linear feet of old bulkhead, workers will install new timber piles and vinyl sheeting along shoreline that faces Middle Bay. On another stretch of shoreline that lines a neighboring canal, workers will lay stones and plant marsh grass and other foliage.

Davenport said this "living shoreline" along the canal will mitigate the impact of future storms by absorbing and filtering water, weakening incoming waves, and reducing the distance water travels inland.

"You're letting nature do its role," said state Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), whose district includes the park and who called the town's plan "creative."

"You're not bulkheading the total area, you're going to allow the water to come in and recede, and not in a destructive way," he said.

The town will also open up the area for public use, build a gravel path and parking lot and install a kayak and canoe launch, officials said.

Rita Cavanagh, chairwoman of the beautification committee of the Baldwin Civic Association, said she was "thrilled" about the town's plans for the site.

"As far as I'm aware, a lot of the area where they're going to do this wonderful project hasn't been touched since Sandy," she said. "This is definitely long overdue."

What's in store

The storm resiliency project in Baldwin Park:

• $4.38 million project

• Scheduled to begin in the spring of 2020

• New bulkhead and “living shoreline”

• 14 acres of new open space

• New path, parking lot and kayak and canoe launch

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