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Area beaches to get boost - Money for rock jetties to help fight erosion

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Nearly $9 million in federal funding has been allocated in this year’s budget to restore portions of the Coney Island shorefront. Representative Jerrold Nadler, who represents the neighborhood, secured an allocation of $8,722,000 for the Coney Island Area Shore Protection Project in omnibus funding legislation that was passed by the House or Representatives on December 17th. This money – to which another $831,000 will be added from another Army Corps of Engineers Coney Island project — will go to the construction by the Army Corps of Engineers of T groins, t-shaped rock jetties that are meant to decrease beach erosion in Seagate, as well as to correct sand buildup on the bay side of Coney Island, and ultimately to protect the beaches of both Coney Island and Brighton Beach. The project, said Anthony Ciorra, the civil works project manager for the New York district for the Army Corps of Engineers, has been, “Designed to do two things – retain the sand on the Seagate-owned beaches for a longer period of time so they don’t erode so quickly, and prevent the continual migration of sand around Norton Point to the bay side beach.” Robert Gottheim, district director for Nadler, noted that the project was meant to counter problems that had developed following a project done in the early 1990s. While that project, which involved the construction of a large jetty at West 37th Street, had “done a superb job of protecting Coney Island and Brighton Beach beaches,” it had had some unintended negative consequences as far as both Seagate and the bay side of the peninsula were concerned, Gottheim said. Thus, the second project had become necessary. Chuck Reichenthal, the district manager of Community Board 13, concurred. Reichenthal said that, “As a result” of the earlier project, “sand washed around from Coney Island, but mostly from Seagate, to the north shore in the bay view area, so there were mounds of dunes and sand getting into people’s homes. To correct this, they are creating additional T groins jutting out from Seagate. By creating new groins, hopefully they will keep all the sand in place.” Gottheim stressed that the action being taken with respect to Seagate – which is a private community with private beaches that they wanted to keep private – was as a result of a promise, dating back to the initial project, that the beach there would be, “No worse than in 1988. “It’s not going to make the beaches any better,” Gottheim said of the impending project, “but it was guaranteed that the beaches would be maintained at the pre-project conditions.” Overall, stressed Gottheim, “The beaches are vital to the tourist economy. With all the economic development, we have to make sure the beaches – which are a prime asset – are protected.” The situation has been studied, he added, for quite a while. “Every year the project isn’t implement,” Gottheim emphasized, “the people of Seagate and Coney Island are one bad storm away” from possible catastrophe. However, Ida Sanoff, the chairperson of the Natural Resources Protective Association, said that she was, “Not convinced that this project is going to be the cure. As far as I know, T groins have never been used in New York State. “The studies we were shown were of T groins in different conditions – one in a bay, where there were lots of plants on the bottom, and there was one that involved a different type of sand,” Sanoff went on. “I wish there were more evidence to show that this was indeed going to be the right solution.” Indeed, Sanoff recalled that the previous project had been, “Supposed to solve all the problems.” Unfortunately, however, “It didn’t seem to work out and we ended up with a beach on the wrong side of Coney Island,” she noted. “The project was poorly supervised. “The thing is, when the contractors leave, if things don’t work as planned, the community is left holding the bag,” Sanoff added. “I would feel more comfortable if I saw studies where these structures had been used successfully under similar conditions, and I would also feel better if I knew that, if things didn’t work out, there was a way to fix it.” However, Ciorra said that the corps was, “very confident” that the T groins would successfully solve the problems plaguing the Coney Island shoreline. A physical model of the project had actually been designed, Ciorra said, calling it, “The most accurate way to predict if a project is going to work. Usually projects are designed with computer models. We don’t do physical models for every project because they are very expensive.” The Coney Island project is projected to cost in the neighborhood of $20 million, by preliminary estimates, according to Ciorra. The federal government, he said, was picking up 65 percent of the tab, with the remainder funded through the city and state. The Army Corps, Ciorra said, is, “Shooting to award the construction contract in the summer,” with construction expected to begin in the autumn. Construction should take 18 months, if the remainder of the necessary funding is forthcoming in the next fiscal year’s budget, Ciorra noted. Besides the funding for the Coney Island project, the omnibus funding bill also contains a $226,964 allocation for the Brooklyn-based Sephardic Angel fund, and a $238,755 allocation for the Warbasse Community Services Project, both of which were secured by Nadler.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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