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State expands Hempstead Reef with old Mill Basin Drawbridge concrete

Tappan Zee Bridge material is dropped onto the

Tappan Zee Bridge material is dropped onto the Hempstead Reef in August. More material was added this week. Credit: Michael Owens

Once, motorists drove across Brooklyn's Mill Basin Drawbridge. Now, its concrete will become new homes for fish and shellfish as part of the Hempstead Reef.

The state dropped parts of the drawbridge, once a vital section of the Belt Parkway, into the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said. It's part of the largest artificial reef program in state history.

“The concrete bridge materials deployed today will serve to augment the local marine habitat and create additional benefits for both anglers and divers that frequent New York’s artificial reefs,” Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement.

Located three miles off the South Shore, the Hempstead Reef spans 744 acres, officials say. Finfish and crustaceans, including tautog, fluke, black sea bass, scup and lobsters, breed in such reefs, the DEC said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo aims to bolster tourism and fishing with the concrete additions.

The program began in May at Shinnecock Reef, south of Shinnecock Inlet. Recycled materials were deployed there from the old Tappan Zee Bridge, which was demolished this week. Tappan Zee material was also dropped onto Hempstead Reef in August.

The 1940 Mill Basin Drawbridge was once a vital link, not only for mansion-dwellers who have flocked to that area of southern Brooklyn, but also for countless motorists. The name comes from the many mills that relied on the power of tides to grind grain, for example, historians say.

The Hempstead Reef got 1,000 cubic yards from the drawbridge, 200 cubic yards from support concrete and 1,000 cubic yards from concrete barriers, the DEC said. 

Contaminants are removed from the recycled materials that are used for the 12 artificial reefs the DEC oversees. The list on Long Island also includes reefs off Smithtown, the Rockaways, Moriches and Fire Island, officials said.

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