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Suffolk goes to court to obtain home, easements for Fire Island dune project

Dr. Elton Strauss is shown in front of

Dr. Elton Strauss is shown in front of his house, situated close to the shore on the Fire Island community of Saltaire on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. Suffolk County wants to demolish the home to make way for a new sand dune that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is planning to build. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Suffolk County has gone to court to acquire an oceanfront Fire Island home and 11 easements needed to clear the way for part of a $207 million federal dune project.

The county filed the eminent domain papers on Aug. 4, records show. The cases will be heard in state Supreme Court in Central Islip.

The home targeted for demolition is on Pacific Walk in Saltaire, and the easements are in Saltaire and Kismet.

The owners of the home, Dr. Elton Strauss and his wife, Karen, of Roslyn, still hope to save their dream beach house by purchasing an empty lot directly behind it and relocating.

Saltaire, which owns the land, said it was tied up in a legal fight over whether it can be developed. But Mayor Robert Cox said Saturday the village intends to put the quarter-acre lot on the market later this month.

"We will formally solicit bids," he said in an email.

Elton Strauss said living so close to the vacant land as the dune project nears has been frustrating. Now he fears deep-pocketed developers will swoop in.

"We're going to be bidding against somebody . . . who's a big real estate tycoon," he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the 13 miles of dunes planned for the 33-mile-long barrier island, paid for with superstorm Sandy relief funds, will block destructive storm surges.

It falls to Suffolk to acquire more than 400 easements and about 20 homes, most located in Ocean Bay Park, which the federal agency says are needed to build and maintain the dunes.

The Strausses bought their three-bedroom house, raised on 30-foot pilings and wrapped in gray shingles, about 12 years ago.

Now they have to find a summer refuge elsewhere.

"We'll find someplace else to go," Strauss said.

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