Fort Salonga residents have turned up the heat on Smithtown officials to push for repairs to Callahans Beach, which remains closed this summer, nearly two years after damage from remnants of Hurricane Ida.
The September 2021 storm remnants damaged a waterfront bluff and a stairway leading down to the sand at the popular site on the shore of Long Island Sound.
About 30 people rallied by the beach Saturday to demand that town officials move faster to fix and reopen the beach.
“It’s still closed and people are upset about it,” said Patty Stoddard, 70, a Smithtown resident who took part in the rally. “There’s a lot that could have been done that wasn’t done, so I guess for them it wasn’t a priority.”
Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim said in an interview that the beach should be ready to reopen by October.
Last year town officials had estimated the project would be completed by this summer.
"I understand people’s frustrations that it was shut for the season, but it was an act of nature and the storm just ravaged that entire facility," Wehrheim said.
He attributed delays mostly to the length of time it took the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to grant a permit necessary for repairs to the environmentally sensitive area.
The DEC issued the town the permit in February after its May 2022 application.
In addition, Wehrheim said the project engineer had to order alternative lumber when a supply problem arose with a specific lumber that had been sought for beach stairway repairs.
The town applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for funds to repair the beach, but FEMA denied the application because the project didn't fit its funding criteria, according to Wehrheim.
Instead, the town is using American Rescue Plan Act money — federal pandemic recovery funds — to pay for the project.
In September 2022, the town awarded a $2.3 million repair contract to Pioneer Landscaping and Asphalt Paving, a Kings Park-based company. Before that, in May 2022 the town contracted with Haydek Engineering to provide the DEC with engineering and design plans.
“Whatever the plans the town had initially set forth, I want to find out what we could have done to have this project better planned, better engineered and better coordinated,” said Irwin Izen, 64, of Commack.
Izen, who was also part of Saturday's rally, said he visited the beach regularly in the past because of its waterfront location and amenities such as bathrooms and a campsite.
A camping and picnic area has remained open.
Town officials said repairs that are finished include the replacement of drainage structures and pipes on the beach's upper and lower levels.
Erosion of the beach's embankment — which prevents flooding — also has been mitigated and stones for the revetment wall protecting the embankment were replaced, according to Wehrheim.
He said the remaining repairs include fixing the stairway, putting in plantings along the embankment and sidewalk work.