Gov. Kathy Hochul with Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer and Suffolk...

Gov. Kathy Hochul with Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer and Suffolk County Supervisor Ed Romaine as she announces funding for repairs and resilience projects at Overlook Beach, Fire Island communities and Gilgo State Park. Credit: Howard Schnapp

This story was reported by Denise Bonilla, Brianne Ledda and Tracy Tullis. It was written by Tullis.

On windswept, storm-ravaged Overlook Beach on Monday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the state would step in with funding to repair damaged structures and replenish eroded sand in Babylon, Fire Island and Gilgo State Park.

Hochul said she would award $2 million from the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act for the Town of Babylon to repair Overlook's playground and elevate the pavilion’s foundation, and another $3 million to pump sand on eroded beaches at Fire Island, including Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove.

Hochul spoke in front of Overlook’s play structure, whose concrete footings have been exposed as the sand washed away around them in recent storms, leaving the structure at a tilt. The bond act includes funding specifically for preserving and improving the state’s recreational facilities.

Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said the $2 million will repair or replace one or possibly two playgrounds and stabilize the pavilion. It will “go a long way to helping us with normal summer activities," Schaffer said. 

Overlook has narrowed by more than 500 feet since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers replenished the beach a decade ago, but the new money from the state cannot be used for sand replenishment, Schaffer said.

The town last week approved $2 million in bonding for sand replenishment, but the sand must come from nearby Army Corps dredging, and Schaffer said the federal agency has not yet said whether they will sell the sand to the town.

Hochul said the state parks department would also remove debris unloosed in the storms at Gilgo Beach and add 50,000 cubic yards of sand. The sand will be pumped in advance of an Army Corps project already planned that will deposit 1 million cubic yards of sand on Gilgo.

Residents expressed relief but said there's uncertainty about the repairs' final price tag. Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven are working to finalize $10 million for a temporary solution to storm erosion in the town's eastern stretch of Fire Island.

“Severe beach erosion has been a direct threat to public safety on Fire Island, and with each passing storm the crisis has only worsened,” said Tom Ruskin, president of the Seaview Association, a homeowners group in Fire Island. “This funding will go a long way toward saving the East End beaches from further destruction and preserving the integrity of the barrier island.”

Critics of sand replenishment projects, such as Kevin McAllister of the nonprofit Defend H2O, have said these short-lived solutions are poor investments when there’s an urgent need for long-term, if difficult, solutions to rapid sea-level rise.

Hochul said New York would pursue both. “It isn’t an either-or proposition,” she said at Overlook's shuttered pavilion.

“These beaches are part of the identity of Long Island. It’s the catalyst for why millions of people come here and spend tourism dollars,” Hochul said.

“We have to put this place back in shape for the summer economy,” she said. The state will simultaneously plan for longer-term solutions, she said, such as encouraging voluntary buyouts for homeowners under the Blue Buffer program proposed in her 2024-25 budget.

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