Hempstead Town officials are using $2.4 million in federal grants to replace a ped estrian bridge as the only alternate access point to and from the small peninsula community of Meadowmere Park.
Town board members approved a request for proposals last week for the town to hire contractors in March.
The wooden pedestrian bridge links about 100 homes in the tiny community of Meadowmere Park in Hempstead to several dozen homes and businesses off Rockaway Boulevard in Rosedale, Queens.
Residents on both sides of the bridge were inundated four years ago when superstorm Sandy flooded homes and the only road access to Meadowmere Park on East Avenue. The waterway connects Motts Creek and Head of Bay, which opens to Jamaica Bay.
The wooden pedestrian bridge was used as an emergency evacuation route but was deemed unsafe and structurally unsound after the storm. Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino said engineers don’t believe the bridge could survive another storm.
“Residents are getting one of the top items on their Hanukkah or Christmas list,” Santino said. “This is more than just a footbridge. It’s a crucial point to emergency access.”
The town will replace the pedestrian bridge with a wider, more stable wooden structure that can also support emergency vehicles, Santino said. However, the bridge will remain a pedestrian bridge and not be open to non-emergency vehicles — an announcement that Meadowmere Park residents applauded.
Funding for the bridge will come from the federal Community Development Block Grants and Recovery funding. It was part of the Five Towns NY Rising Reconstruction plan approved in 2014.
Once a contractor is selected, construction is expected to begin in late 2017.
Longtime Meadowmere Park resident Ruth Samuelson said the bridge is part of the community’s history and is a point of access for her and her neighbors. “We’ve been hoping for this bridge for a long time,” Samuelson said. “We want to be informed on everything done. It’s important to us. I hope it doesn’t take forever.”