The Town of Hempstead and New York state are moving forward with a $4.5 million project to enhance storm protection on the shore of Baldwin Harbor Town Park, officials said.
The project, which town officials said is funded by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, aims to protect the waterfront community from storms like Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the South Shore in 2012.
Sandy “dramatically changed the way that we’d come to think about, prepare for and respond to extreme weather events,” Alana Agosto, executive director of the NY Rising Community Reconstruction and Infrastructure Programs for GOSR, said in a statement. “No single region of the state was more affected than Long Island, but through the community-driven framework developed by Governor Cuomo, we have been proud to champion investments such as the Baldwin Park Shoreline Stabilization Project that will collectively yield a stronger, more sustainable New York.”
The town’s design call for a promenade to minimize erosion and storm damage, bulkhead replacements, natural shoreline stabilization, a pedestrian pathway and a kayak launch on the South Shore Blueway, the water trail stretching across the South Shore of Nassau County.
The site of a former Board of Cooperative Education Services building, which was torn down, falls within the scope of the project, said Doug Tuman, Department of Engineering commissioner for the Town, at a public meeting hosted by Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney on Aug. 15.
The promenade, he said, “is essentially going to be a nature walk for that area. It’s an entire living shoreline.”
The Shoreline Stabilization Project is also designed to protect water quality and aims to secure and preserve the shoreline by re-establishing marshes along 1,600 feet of shoreline, town officials said. Engineers also expect new vegetation to reduce wave energy and “the risk of flood damage to surrounding homes.”
It’s estimated that an acre of marshland can store about a million gallons of water, equal to about three-quarters of a football field covered in three feet of water, town officials said in a news release. The plant life helps to slow the speed of floodwaters, resulting in lower flood heights and less damage.
“Flooding is a significant risk for homeowners and small businesses in the Baldwin Harbor area,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said in a statement. “We need to constantly build safer, stronger and smarter before the next disaster hits. Stabilizing the shoreline by re-establishing critically important marshland will reduce the need for recovery resources following the next major storm event.”
But Baldwin resident Patrick Keating, who lives near the former BOCES site, said at King Sweeney’s meeting that he is advocating against the project. He recalled how the BOCES building was torn down and reduced to a grass-filled lot that has been locked behind a gate for years.
“It should be closed permanently, indefinitely,” Keating said. “It is an extremely dangerous location … That’s a bulkhead that’s 12-feet high that nobody is going to monitor. You can’t even monitor the people in the park drag racing around here. You’re not going to be able to monitor the kayak people who are going to fall in the water in rough waters that happen every day.”
Tuman explained that the wetland nature preserve would be different than a park with features such as a baseball field.
“Since 2006, there’s been a resurgence in at least 500 species of birds, living creatures, different types of plant life that have come back to that area, that have not been studied,” Keating said. “Now I’m really upset because I live across from it, I’ve got hawks, owls, osprey, pheasants, all kinds of new nature that came in after Sandy. Now it’s going to be something else ... There has to be studies on this.”
Tuman said the town received approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“I encourage you to meet with us … go over the plan, and I think you might find it interesting and you might actually like what we’re looking to do out there,” Tuman told Keating. “It’s going to be, essentially, a nature walk that’s preserving what’s out there.”
He added that town officials would hold a public meeting about the project within the next several weeks. Town officials also said that the designs would be put out to bid for an outside company. Construction is expected to start next spring.
“Upon completion of the project, residents will be able to enjoy a key natural and cultural asset for generations to come,” Gillen said.
The Baldwin Civic Association lauded the project. “The Baldwin Civic Association Executive Board applauds the efforts of the TOH to repair and restore the Baldwin Park shoreline seven years after Superstorm Sandy, especially repair and replacement of the bulkheads and stabilizing the shoreline with the re-establishment of marshes,” civic members said in a statement. “The flood mitigation design offered by the town, we hope, would reduce the risk of damage to surrounding homes. We also appreciate in the design increased public access to the water, especially the water views at the park.”
“Baldwin’s shoreline stabilization is critical in protecting against the next superstorm and ensuring that members of the Baldwin community are taken care of,” Assemblywoman Judy Griffin said in a statement.
"The next superstorm is not a matter of if, but when,” State Sen. John Brooks said in a statement. “Strengthening the integrity of our shoreline is a crucial step in safeguarding against the kind of devastation we've experienced previously and are still rebuilding from.”