Brookhaven Town is planning a $2.932 million reconstruction of the Cherry Grove dock on Fire Island to fix years of deterioration that was exacerbated last year by a brutal October storm.
Town officials and leaders of the beach community said rebuilding the dock is badly needed to make it safer for the thousands of residents, renters and visitors who flock to the barrier island each summer.
Construction is set to begin after Labor Day, and town officials said they hope to complete the project by next year's July Fourth holiday.
Brookhaven Town Councilman Neil Foley said the dock suffered from routine "wear and tear," but existing damage was made worse by a storm Oct. 29 that also caused heavy damage to the marina at nearby Davis Park. Town officials are completing repairs to Davis Park this summer.
"Cherry Grove is a very popular destination in the summertime," Foley said in an interview, noting the dock has "just worn out over time. It needs some remediation."
The average homeowner in the Cherry Grove Dock District will see a tax increase of about 16.7 percent, town officials said. Property taxes on the average home in the district would increase to about $5,189.65 from about $4,446.62, officials said.
Cherry Grove community leaders said the tax hike is worth it to repair the community's only public transportation hub, which is used by private boats and ferries. It also serves as a meeting place and unofficial public square for residents and visitors.
"Although it is expensive, we do support the proposed costs and the 20-year bond period," Diane Romano, president of the Cherry Grove Community Association, and Gerri Losquadro, president of Cherry Grove Property Owners, wrote in a letter to town officials. "It has been in deteriorating condition for at least the past four years and presents a safety hazard for all who must use it."
The reconstruction will not include two ideas that had proved unpopular with residents, including a proposed transit shelter and a change in which boaters would be required to park perpendicular to the dock, rather than parallel as they do now. Town officials eliminated the shelter from the rebuilding plan and said boaters could continue to parallel park.
Speakers at a public hearing at Brookhaven Town Hall on June 26 said the shelter would have made the dock too crowded, and some said parking perpendicular to the dock would make it difficult for boats to unload freight.
"This will simply not work," Gaston Alonso, a Brooklyn College professor and 12-year Cherry Grove resident, said of the transit shelter. "The dock, as it is, it's too narrow."
Donna Bianco, owner of Cherry's on the Bay restaurant, said the shelter also would have blocked the views of residents who gather on the dock each night to watch the sunset.
"Everybody claps," Bianco said. "It's a tradition."