The fate of Prybil Beach has been uncertain since mid-January, when city officials closed East Beach Road — one of two access roads that lead to the beach — due to dangerous potholes. But the four winter storms that the area has weathered in recent weeks have stripped the beach of one of the things that makes it a beach: the sand.
According to Darcy Belyea, the director of the city’s parks and recreation department, the city will likely need to buy around 400 tons of sand — the equivalent of about four blue whales — in order to replace what was washed out to sea by the high tides and strong currents caused by the storms.
Every year before the beach-going season, Belyea said, “We normally spend about $17,000, or 80 tons,” to replace what was lost during the winter. “This year,” she continued, “it’s probably going to be about five times that,” for an estimated cost of $85,000.
Some of that cost, she expects will be offset by emergency response funding from the state, which has asked for damage estimates through Nassau County.
Not all of the sand has to be new sand, however. The water in the swimming area has been getting shallower each year, she said, due to the incremental washing away and replacement of the sand.
“We might be able to dredge up some of the sand from the water,” she said, which would solve both the shallow swimming problem and the missing sand problem at the same time.
Toward the middle of Prybil, the sand’s disappearance has left a nearly 6-foot drop down from the parking lot to the beach. At Prybil’s east edge near a long bulkhead, the sand remains as high as it ever was, coming right up to the cement.
Mayor Tim Tenke expressed concern about the drop-off at the middle of the beach. “This is dangerous,” he said. “Right now, if people came down and used the beach, and they weren’t paying attention, they could potentially get hurt.” Turning to Belyea, he suggested, “I think you might have to put a temporary fence up.”
One of the cement access ramps, which had been supported by the beach itself, collapsed under its own weight during one of the storms after the tide washed away the sand beneath it. Its repair has been added to the to-do list.
The beach should be re-opened by May 16, Belyea said, by which time, the sand should be replaced, and East Beach Road is expected to be repaired.
East Beach Road is technically within the jurisdiction of the Village of Lattingtown, but because Prybil Beach itself is in Glen Cove, the city has agreed to partner with the village on the project.
The problem with East Beach Road is a persistent one. Belyea said that potholes cause the road to be closed about once every six years.
Tenke said, driving down East Beach in his SUV, which shook and rattled as if to illustrate his point, “[You could] pop your tire, break your rim. There’s a lot of reasons not to drive on this road.”
According to Manny Grella, the Department of Public Works’ general foreman, the trouble with the road is winter moisture. “It’s a thaw-and-freeze effect that creates these potholes,” he said, noting that frequent flooding, and more recently, snow accumulations, make it more challenging than other areas to fix.
He added, “You can’t repair potholes under water,” which is why the problem has been un-addressable during this particularly precipitous winter.
Belyea said that her top priority is re-opening the road. “Short term, the goal is to get those potholes repaired so we can get the road passable without liabilities.”
The temporary fix, she said, entails “a plan to clear the holes with water, pump out the holes, fill it with a loose base of concrete and then cap it with asphalt.”
But, she added, everyone involved is exploring longer term solutions to the problem. She has discussed, with her Lattingtown counterparts, the possibility of raising the road to prevent the frequent flooding and thus the thaw-and-freeze effect that causes the potholes. But any road raising work, which would require approvals from environmental regulators, she said, is unlikely to get underway until after this summer season.