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North Hempstead to use $12.5M FEMA grant for town dock repairs

Town of North Hempstead Chief Bay Constable Mal

Town of North Hempstead Chief Bay Constable Mal Nathan at the town dock on Main Street in Port Washington on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. The dock is in need of repairs. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Four years after superstorm Sandy left the town dock in Port Washington riddled with structural and cosmetic scars, North Hempstead Town is moving forward with plans to restore it, thanks to a newly received $12.5 million federal grant.

Town officials said they’ve long awaited beginning the project, which was originally approved in April 2015. The grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency now sets the repairs in motion.

North Hempstead’s parks and facilities took a hit during superstorm Sandy. The dock, which overlooks Manhasset Bay, spans about 61,000 feet, an expansive area where residents can fish and moor their boats, in addition to being the headquarters for the town Harbor Patrol. The dock sustained stress cracks, sinking pavement, bulkhead corrosion and other deterioration, according to a March 2016 engineering report commissioned by the town. The new dock will be more resilient against storms, Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a release.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who in 2014 appealed to the federal government to provide superstorm Sandy resiliency funding, applauded the news. “We must make sure Long Island’s popular downtown waterfront areas like Port Washington are rebuilt stronger than before so that residents are protected from future storms, tourists and visitors keep flocking in, and our businesses thrive long into the future,” Schumer said in a news release.

The dock, which dates to the early 1900s and originated as a wooden pier, hasn’t been renovated since 1979, said town spokeswoman Carole Trottere. Since Sandy, the town has made short-term, interim fixes, which aren’t sustainable for the dock’s future, said Tom Devaney, the town’s grants coordinator.

“Is it still safe to walk on and drive on? Yes. But for how much longer?” Devaney said. “If we left it alone, it could be a couple of years until it crumbles into the sea.”

Over the past four years, the town has received two grants that will be incorporated in the project and require the town to match the funds. In addition to the $12.5 million FEMA grant, the town has been awarded a $125,000 state waterfront grant and a $75,000 federal arts grant.

Now, with the FEMA grant, the planning process will begin in earnest. Over the next few months, town officials will begin preparing permit applications, of which there are many, Devaney said, adding that this will be a lengthy process.

“If we got the permit process started right away and the state and everyone else signs off in a routine time frame, we could look at a project start by summer of 2018,” Devaney said, adding that the town would schedule the work around the peak summer season and potentially work in phases.

With the grant, residents won’t bear the brunt of the project’s costs, Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio said.

“The town dock is a very important part of the community for a lot of reasons,” she said. “It’s a big economic driver to lower Main Street and businesses that are there. It brings a lot of visitors to Port Washington in the summer.”

Bobbie Polay, executive director of the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is enthusiastic about the grant, adding that the dock is the “heart and soul of our waterfront” and a “prized community resource.”

Though there are no designs or formal plans drawn up yet, engineers will discuss a range of possible improvements, including elevating the dock, placing it on stilts and revamping the retaining walls.

“Right now, there’s a blank check to say what do we need to do to make this thing more resilient and withstand the next storm?” Devaney said. “Everything is on the list.”

Over the next few months, town officials will begin preparing permit applications for the dock. Work may begin by the summer of 2018 and will address:

  • Heavy corrosion to steel bulkheads
  • Damage to retaining walls
  • Stress cracks throughout dock area
  • Damage to overlay parking lot

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