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Flood relief on the way in Bellmore and Merrick

Shore Road to get raised

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Flooding diversion projects — in the offing since Hurricane Sandy slammed Long Island in 2012 — are beginning construction this year.

The storm caused some of the worst flooding ever seen in Bellmore and Merrick. Saltwater, forced into storm drains by Sandy’s 11-foot storm surge, flooded local streets such as Shore Road in south Bellmore and George and Helen courts in south Merrick, among many others, causing widespread damage.

New York state allotted Bellmore and Merrick nearly $12 million for flood mitigation projects in the months after Sandy. Now, after six years of planning by the Town of Hempstead’s engineering department, the funds will go toward multi-faceted road-raising projects for Bellmore and Merrick’s most heavily affected streets.

“Shore Road absolutely needs the relief,” said Joe Baker, co-chairman of the Bellmore-Merrick Community Reconstruction Committee, one of many such committees across the South Shore that were organized by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery.

During Sandy, the water was “going down the street like rapids,” Baker said.

Most parts of south Bellmore and south Merrick were also hit hard by flooding. Baker recalled watching a large dumpster float by at an alarming speed in his own south Merrick neighborhood, which includes George and Helen courts. Flooding “is a big issue,” he said.

The Bellmore-Merrick CRC united civic activists from throughout the area, including South Bellmore Civic Association President Alison Frankel.

CRC members provided information to the state, including about the severity of flooding in the area and which streets were most prone to flooding. Shore Road and the streets directly south of Norman J. Levy Lakeside School made the list.

Road raising is no small task, town officials said. The fronts of Shore road homes, from Williams Court to Kerry Lane, will be impacted by the construction, because driveways and sidewalks will need to be angled for water flow. Any aesthetic changes to homes, such as driveway brick work, must be replaced as is, Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney said.

On Feb. 27, King Sweeney met with residents at the Bellmore Memorial Library. For the project to begin, she explained, all affected homeowners must approve of the project. “There’s an inconvenience factor to the area, no question,” King Sweeney said the next day. “Shore Road sees chronic flooding. It’s not just one-off type flooding.”

To reduce flooding during high tides, roads will be raised a minimum of four feet at every gutter, the town’s commissioner of engineering, Douglas Tuman, said. Check valves, which restrict the flow of water to only one direction, will be installed at multiple outfall points where storm drains let out in the bays to the south. The valves will ensure that surge from storms and high tides doesn’t back up onto local streets such as Shore Road.

Residents may also see the installation of individual yard drains on their lawns or driveways for direct drainage into the newly designed water flow below.

Hydrodynamic storm water treatment units will also be installed, and will act as large filters to reduce pollutants from entering the bays.

Tuman agreed that the Shore Road area sees chronic flooding, and noted the residents’ understanding. “Everyone knows it’s a big problem,” he said. “They’re excited we’re coming in and spending the money to fix these issues.”

Once all affected homeowners approve of the project, construction on Shore Road can begin, which Tuman estimates should start by the summer, once construction bids are finalized.

Merrick can expect to see construction on George and Helen courts by next year, although the project is still in the design phase, Tuman said. The town will also hold a meeting to address area residents’ concerns once designs are ready, he added.

“I’m glad now that the money is being spent,” Baker said. “The street should be good for many years to come.”