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Suffolk County: Fire Island dune home buyouts delayed

Google Earth view of Ocean Bay Park

Google Earth view of Ocean Bay Park in Fire Island with Traffic Ave. seen running east to west (left to right) second unpaved road from bottom. For story on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report on relocating beachfront houses along the strip below Traffic Ave. Image from made from Google Maps on March 17, 2014. Photo Credit: Google Earth

Oceanfront homes targeted for buyouts in Ocean Bay Park won’t be demolished until at least next fall, thanks to another delay in the federally funded Fire Island dune project, officials said.

Suffolk County must acquire the land, and its Department of Economic Development and Planning attributed the delay to “very complex” engineering work in a Dec. 9 letter to homeowners.

“We will not certify real estate until late September due to the current time line of the project,” Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a spokeswoman for County Executive Steve Bellone, said by email.

The delay affects 18 homes in Ocean Bay Park that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to remove for the flood-control project. It also impacts Davis Park, where no buyouts are planned but officials are working to realign another 18 homes and related structures.

The county has said it will condemn the Ocean Bay Park homes through eminent domain if buyout offers are rejected.

So far, eight of the affected homeowners have accepted buyouts, three have rejected the offers and three more are exploring the option of moving homes to vacant lots, according to Baird-Streeter. The rest have yet to respond.

The Army Corps had hoped to finish building 13 miles of dunes on the 32-mile-long barrier island by this fall, but the project was delayed by an environmental lawsuit that was later settled, a harsh winter and difficulties in obtaining the land.

Dune work has begun in Smith Point County Park and Robert Moses State Park.

Several Ocean Bay Park property owners facing buyouts said they were relieved they have one more summer in their homes — but were frustrated they remain in limbo three years after superstorm Sandy ravaged the island.

Suffolk has hired engineers and architects to find solutions for the Davis Park homes, and the decks and pools in The Pines that also lie in the dune’s path.

Robert Spencer, 87, said his Davis Park home, where he has summered since 1958, was surveyed in May.

“I’ve yet to learn any specific details; it’s a very anxiety-ridden existence,” he said.

To build dunes in front of all 17 Fire Island communities, Suffolk must acquire more than 420 easements from private landowners. So far, it only has obtained 84, Baird-Streeter said.

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