Breezy Point Cooperative

ROCKAWAY PENINSULA COMMUNITY TAKES STEPS TO PROTECT RESIDENTS FROM SUPER STORMS

Dec 23 2013

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When Hurricane Sandy arrived a little more than a year ago, the Rockaway Peninsula was among the hardest hit regions. Breezy Point sits at the west end of the peninsula, and became the face of the storm the night Sandy came ashore. An electrical fire destroyed 135 houses, and the storm surge itself severely damaged an additional 220 houses to such an extent that they too had to be demolished. In total, the community of about 2,800 homes lost more than 10 percent of them in a single night.

“Today, there are 355 empty lots where those houses once stood,” said Breezy Point Cooperative General Manager Arthur Lighthall. “But that’s not the entirety of it. The whole peninsula was covered and every residence sustained flood damage. For the first couple of months after the storm, this was quite literally a ghost town. Nobody could live here. I wasn’t able to return to my home until May — more than six months after Sandy hit.

“Some people think we’re a seasonal ‘beach bungalow’ community where NYC residents escape for vacation or on summer weekends,” he added. “That might have been true at one time, but today, more than 70 percent of our homes are occupied year-round. So, for the most part, these were not second homes that were destroyed – they were families’ primary residences.”

The Breezy Point Cooperative, which is the governing body of the community, is working on a two-pronged effort to get the community back to where it was pre-Sandy. They are working with the City and State to get permits to allow residents to rebuild homes, and they are trying to better protect Breezy Point from future Sandy-size storms.

Building a dune system

The protection plan centers on creating a series of sand dunes on the ocean side of the peninsula to help prevent storm surges from overtaking the town.

“We have a permit allowing us to harvest sand from our oceanfront beach and redeposit it in areas most needing protection,” said Lighthall. “We’re starting at Beach 201st Street and working west for about 1,000 feet because that area is totally unprotected. That will be the first phase of the 10-year permit.”

“We had very limited time to do the scraping/harvesting,” said Mike Flanigan, General Foreman of Field Operations. “So our initial goal was to get as much sand as possible to the new dune location. After the sand was moved, we could concentrate on the dune shaping and planting the native grasses and vegetation that go with a dune system.”

Breezy Point turned to Edward Ehrbar, Inc. for equipment to move the sand. The community rented a Komatsu WA480 wheel loader and two Komatsu HM400 haul trucks to transport the sand.

“The WA480 is great,” said Operator Jim Hermance. “It only takes four buckets to fill a 40-ton truck. It has plenty of power, and it’s not bouncy. I’m very happy with it.”

“Ehrbar Sales Rep Steve Gambutti was great to work with,” said Lighthall. “He worked closely with our Director of Field Operations Eddie Ammirati to help us determine the optimum size of equipment for the job.”

When complete, the man-made dune will be about nine feet higher than the existing grade. It will be roughly 125 feet wide at the base, sloping up to about 25 feet across at the top.

The meeting that never happened

Ironically, the Breezy Point Cooperative had started looking at the idea of constructing a sand-dune protection system prior to Sandy’s arrival.

“In August 2011, Hurricane Irene caused some flooding in town, which prompted us to think about constructing a dune system for protection,” Lighthall recalled. “We scheduled a town-hall meeting on November 5, 2012 to discuss the idea, but Sandy hit October 29th, the week before the meeting, so it never happened.

“We all know that when you’re dealing with Mother Nature, you can’t control everything,” Lighthall noted. “But we certainly hope the actions we’re taking now, when complete, will lessen, if not prevent, any future Sandy-size devastation.”