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Superstorm Sandy

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and Councilwoman Jane Bonner inspect the Sound Beach shoreline stabilization project. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Sound Beach’s shoreline is now stabilized.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy changed the typography of much of the North Shore’s beaches and dunes. In Sound Beach, the bluff at Shore Road and Amagansett Drive became severely eroded. With roads and homes at risk, the Town of Brookhaven Highway Department began a four-year, multiphase $1.3 million project in May 2013 to steady it.

“The hardening of our infrastructure leaves us less vulnerable to damage from future storms,” Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said. “In the long run, the results of this project will save taxpayer dollars due to fewer erosion costs in the area.”

To stabilize the bluff, almost 2,000 cubic yards of clean fill was added and an outfall pipe replaced, which broke during Hurricane Sandy. The work was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and $233,651 in federal assistance was received to help with the cost of the project.

The work on the bluff and the repair of the pipe were never meant to complete the project, but, according to Losquadro, was just a first phase.

“In the long run, the results of this project will save taxpayer dollars due to fewer erosion costs in the area.”

— Dan Losquadro

“It was just a temporary ‘Band-Aid’ so the bluff wouldn’t erode any further and jeopardize the structural integrity of the drainage pipe,” he said. “Our ultimate goal was to eliminate the outfall over the bluff completely, abandon the drainage pipe and direct all of the water from this stream into a newly constructed recharge basin to the east of Amagansett Drive.”

He said the project offered the town the rare ability to eliminate an outfall pipe, preventing stormwater runoff from flooding the beach and entering the Long Island Sound, while also taking erosion pressure off the face of the bluff.

Once construction of the recharge basin near the intersection of Amagansett Drive and Shore Drive was completed in 2015, the final phase of the project began, which included the abandonment of the pipe and permanent stabilization of the bluff through the installation of a three- to four-ton armoring stone revetment wall, erosion control matting, wood terracing and native plantings. The project also included the installation of a new staircase from Shore Drive.

“As a town, we need to make sure there is reliable access that will be there season after season for our fire department and police in the event of an emergency,” Losquadro said.

This phase was completed with in-house resources and came in under budget.

Although the temporary stabilization of the bluff received funding from FEMA, the storm hardening and total bluff restoration was paid for through town capital funds. The total cost for Phase II — construction of the recharge basin — was $633,333 and for Phase III — storm hardening and bluff restoration — was $450,000.

“Completion of this project on time and under budget after being stalled by [Hurricane] Sandy is a welcome event to the residents of Sound Beach,” Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said. “The bluffs along the North Shore are especially vulnerable to erosion, but the more we can do to stabilize our shoreline, the safer it will be.”

Road work will begin in Port Jefferson and will continue for the next four months as PSEG will strengthen the area’s electrical grid. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Last month, contractors from PSEG Long Island started work on what’s planned to be an eight-month-long project in Rocky Point that will strengthen the electrical grid and harden the system to better combat extreme weather on Long Island.

The project route covers three miles along an electric main line circuit, with crews working on several streets including Hallock Landing Road and Rocky Point Landing Road.

This project is part of an ongoing effort by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to improve electrical infrastructure to protect against future storm damage and help restore power faster. Rocky Point is among a long list of routes being worked on in the Town of Brookhaven.

The project’s $729,000,000 in funds was secured in 2014 through an agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program, which helps communities implement hazard mitigation measures following a major disaster declaration.

The project will replace existing wire with more weather-resistant wire, install new and more durable poles in several locations, and install or replace switching equipment to help reduce the number of customers affected by an outage, according to the official PSEG website.

“By putting in the storm-hardened equipment, the stronger wires, and the more weather-resistant poles, it will help to reduce the number of customers affected during a storm,” said Elizabeth Flagler, PSEG Long Island’s media relations specialist. “So when we get the high winds, the equipment will hold up better.”

“By putting in the storm-hardened equipment, the stronger wires, and the more weather-resistant poles, it will help to reduce the number of customers affected during a storm.”

—Elizabeth Flagler

After Hurricane Sandy and the following winter storm in 2013, many of the areas being worked on in Rocky Point were among the longest without power on the North Shore — some homes were dark for up to 10 days. Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who lives in Rocky Point, experienced the extensive power outages firsthand. She said that many people will benefit when the work is completed.

“In a perfect world … we won’t experience another storm like Superstorm Sandy, and we’ll never know if this was needed,” Bonner said. “But the prevailing opinion is that there were a host of reasons why so many people were without power, and PSEG is addressing these reasons. There were major health concerns for people to not have power that long … sanitary concerns; elderly and infirmed people that needed power that don’t have generators; we have concerns with long-term use of generators; so, if we can keep the power going, it’s a good thing.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) took over his post a month after Hurricane Sandy hit. He said that in his first few weeks in office he was overwhelmed trying to recover from all of the damage it caused.

“All poles and wires were down, water was about knee high throughout all the streets, if not higher, and obviously, you want to be able to withstand the next storm,” he said.

He hopes that with these improvements, if and when a next storm were to hit, the damage would be minimal.

“The recovery time won’t be that long,” he said. “And the financial damage will be limited.”

Romaine did, however, suggest that PSEG bury wires to further minimize damage.

“Costs for burying wires is about the same that you would pay to recover from a series of storms in a 30-year period,” he said. “It’s more costly in the short run, but in the long run there’s no difference, and you will be much better protected by buried wires.”

Trees that grow near power lines will be trimmed when necessary, as they increase the chances of power outages and pose safety risks. The new poles will be about the same height as existing poles but will have a stronger base and be placed about 2 to 3 feet from the current pole locations.

PSEG representatives say that they anticipate minor traffic interruptions, as well as some localized, short-duration power outages related to the project. The crews will generally work Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with limited evening and Sunday work.

U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro at Sills Gully Beach following the revitalization. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) announced the completion of repairs intended to protect, restore and strengthen Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham, after it was severely damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“The revitalization project at Sills Gully is one of a dozen North Shore surface water quality protection projects the highway department has undertaken since I took office,” Losquadro said. “I want to thank Congressman Zeldin for expediting the federal funding necessary to complete this project and ensure the resilience of our shoreline.”

“Preventing storm water runoff from entering the Long Island Sound this is a victory for the residents of Shoreham and the environment.”

— Jane Bonner

In order to reduce risk of damage from future storm events, members of the Brookhaven highway department completely removed the ineffective gabion basket walls, replacing them with 160 feet of steel bulkhead with stone-toe protection to prevent scouring. The bulkhead — which now protects areas of the bluff that have experienced significant levels of erosion in the past — has a longer life span than the gabion walls and will better protect from future disasters.

“The completion of restoration at Sills Gully Beach is an excellent example of different levels of government working together for the benefit of our community,” Bonner said. “I have been diligently working on this issue since the damage was caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and I am extremely happy to see these necessary repairs come to fruition. By preventing storm water runoff from entering the Long Island Sound, this is a victory for the residents of Shoreham and the environment. I want to thank Congressman Zeldin and Superintendent Losquadro for working with me to make this happen.”

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro points out the new improvements his department made to protect the area. Photo from Town of Brookhaven
Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro points out the new improvements his department made to protect the area. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

As a result of these mitigation measures and to comply with Tidal Wetlands and Clean Water Act permits, the department included upgrades to the existing storm water system by installing a new bioretention area where storm water naturally collects. This bioretention area consists of two, 12-foot deep leaching basins and an 8-foot wide trash rack to capture storm water and transport it through nearly 400 feet of 48-inch, smooth, interior-corrugated polyethylene pipe for natural dissipation. Additionally, a rock-lined drainage swale was constructed along the length of the parking lot to collect any remaining runoff. These upgrades will ensure that polluted storm water is not directly entering the Long Island Sound.

The project was funded with an $875,000 federal grant secured by Zeldin through FEMA.

“Once Brookhaven Town received the necessary federal funding to make repairs at Sills Gully Beach and Gully Landing Drainage Facility, the town was able to complete this important project,” said Zeldin, who is also a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This revitalization project will help protect, restore and strengthen Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham and the overall quality of water in our local area, and I am proud to join with Superintendent Losquadro and Councilwoman Bonner to announce the completion of this project.”

Tommy and Sue Sullivan pose for a photo in front of their soon-to-be old, Superstorm Sandy-damaged house prior to revamping. With hard hats on, the two prepare to help Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk County help renovate their home. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Tommy Sullivan has always been paying it forward.

So when Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk reached out to help renovate his Sandy-damaged home, he said he was overcome with emotion.

“We’re really overwhelmed by this,” Tommy Sullivan said of he and his wife Sue’s reaction to the help and support they’ve received. “It was looking hopeless for us for a while. We couldn’t have done this ourselves. It was just way, way too much work and, again, we’re just so overwhelmed and happy and just very, very grateful.”

The effort to help the Sullivan family started when members of the VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point heard about the damage done to the Rocky Point home. When Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, the house sustained roof damage that could not be repaired. As time went on, the damages became worse, which rendered the house unlivable for Tommy Sullivan, a U.S. army veteran, and his wife Sue, a substitute teacher. The family was forced to spend several nights out staying at friends’ homes.

The front of the Sullivan's house shows the exterior and roof damage brought on by Superstorm Sandy. Photo by Desirée Keegan
The front of the Sullivan’s house shows the exterior and roof damage brought on by Superstorm Sandy. Photo by Desirée Keegan

But John Rago, outreach coordinator for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs project known as the Suffolk County United Veterans group, stepped up to help the Sullivans find sanctuary when he met Diane Burke, executive director and CEO at Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk County at a luncheon in Patchogue back in March.

At a meeting for the Community Development Corporation of Long Island, Rago explained the program’s support and services for veteran families, which included a rapid-rehousing and homeless prevention program for veterans.

“We were reaching dead ends all over the place and I happened to be sitting at the luncheon across from Diane and I introduced myself,” he said. “I asked her if she did teardown and rebuilds, and she said yes, so I started to tell her about Tommy and before I even finished she said, ‘We’re in.’”

Burke said she was more than happy to help who she saw as such a well-deserved recipient.

“I thought, ‘We have to make this happen,’ and we just put the pieces together and we’re here to support a local veteran to recreate a place to call home,” Burke said of the initiative. “Not only did Tom serve our country, but he continues to serve our community, so that is absolutely what we’re about. It’s great to partner with somebody who understands volunteerism and actually lives it.”

Tommy Sullivan was a member of the West Point band for three years when he served during the Vietnam War. He is an original member of Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge, a musical group best known for their million-selling rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “The Worst That Could Happen,” and has been performing solo since then at charity organizations and events.

Some events include Long Island State Veterans Home’s annual Golf Classic, Wounded Warrior Project events, Rocky Point high school’s Veteran’s Day and 9/11 ceremonies. Just last Friday, the veteran sang at cancer benefit for a friend with brain cancer.

“When people with a good cause call, we never turn it down, because that’s it’s own reward,” he said. “Whenever I get a call, especially from the vet’s organizations, I’m there. I set up my stuff and I sing, and it feels great to have this support. We’re all the same kind of people here and it’s special because it’s all about the heart. Everyone here has a big heart and we’re just very happy.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who said she knows the Sullivans as longtime residents, said the work Tommy Sullivan does for his community is extraordinary.

“It’s a very exciting time for all of us to be able to help them because they’ve helped so many people through their advocacy and their volunteering,” she said. “He has the voice of an angel. It’ll bring goose bumps to you. It really, really will.”

The councilwoman also said she sees the family as more than deserving of this renovation.

“They pay it forward all the time,” Bonner said. “They never ask for anything in return, and they’ve fallen on some difficult times — probably from volunteering so much and not asking for money. Helping is so easy to do, and it’s the best part of my job. I believe it is part of the main reason why we have public service, such as council people.”

The work for the eight-week project began on Oct. 19 with several different projects including reframing and reroofing; the installation of new electric, plumbing; new interior fixtures; remodeling to the flooring, kitchen and bathroom; and new windows and doors throughout the home.

“I’m very happy that they decided to help Tommy and Susan out and I can’t wait until we give them the keys to their brand new house,” Rago said. “It’s nice to help a veteran, especially one that gives back so much to the veteran community.”

Sue Sullivan said she was excited to remain in the couple’s same home they’ve lived in since 1996, and said the love and care she has received is what she believes life is all about.

“Everyone taking care of everybody — we dedicate our lives to that,” she said. “This is the most wonderful thing that could happen in our lives besides marrying each other. As community members, we want everyone to know we’re here for them for anything. If you need us, we’ll come. Everything that everyone is doing and the way they’re contributing, they’re our family now, and that’s just a forever family.