North Hempstead Town is spending $6 million to restore 9 acres of land on a large slope near a nature preserve and Harbor Links Golf Course in Port Washington to stabilize the bluffs and prevent further erosion that could endanger nearby homes on Summit Road.
Years of sand mining, once Nassau County's largest industry, and the resultant erosion have stripped parts of the Beacon Hill Bluffs of its topsoil, leaving behind bare patches of sand and gravel, as well as big ravines running as deep as 20 feet with trees falling over them.
The mining stopped in the 1980s, and the town acquired the bluffs — which reach up to 140 feet high and span 1,900 feet wide — from the county in 2007 in a land transfer, along with the nearby 200-acre nature preserve that the town recently named Hempstead Harbor Woods.
When Paul DiMaria, commissioner of the town’s department of public works, visited the site last month, he said he saw a once 8-foot-tall “No Trespassing” sign sunk in 6 feet of sand at the bottom of the bluffs.
The photo of DiMaria resting his left hand on the sign, which was below his waistline, was used at a meeting Monday to demonstrate the severity of the erosion.
“[The erosion] will never stop,” DiMaria told about 30 people in attendance at Town Hall in Manhasset.
DiMaria went on to play a 15-second drone footage clip that showed the yard of a home facing large, white patches of land stripped bare amidst a slope covered in green.
“These areas are coming closer and closer to some of your backyards right now,” said Victor Thomas, deputy commissioner of the public works department. “Every year you go back, more trees are falling off the cliff. You see just more and more erosion.”
Town officials are also concerned about the impact of severe weather events that could worsen the condition of the bluffs.
“Whether you believe in climate change or not, we are having more frequent storms, and they are more intense,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “So we’ve got to take that into consideration as we consider what we do going forward.”
The town board is scheduled for a vote to approve a $6 million contract with Galvin Brothers, a Great Neck-based construction company and the sole bidder, at its Aug. 13 meeting. The contract covers the first phase of the project to deal with the worst areas of the bluffs, totaling about 9 acres.
Company president Ed Galvin said the problem would only get worse if work is delayed.
“You have a slope that is very, very unstable,” Galvin said. “It’s going to cost a lot more if we don’t do it right away.”
Construction is planned to start this month, and officials expect to finish construction, clearing and landscaping of the bluffs in five months.
DiMaria said the town plans to begin phase two, which is estimated to cost an additional $3 million, next year to address the area north of phase one.