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New measures to protect Jones Beach after Sandy

December 30, 2012 6:25:24 AM PST
Steps are being taken to protect Jones Beach against damage in any future storms.

State officials say superstorm Sandy caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, the worst in the iconic park's 83-year history.

Now, they're working to make Jones Beach more flood resistant.

The plan includes moving boilers and electrical boxes to higher floors and relocating a natural gas fueling station.

The park is expected to be open by Memorial Day.

Much of the debris has been carted away by a contractor, the boardwalk is being straightened, and contracts for rehabilitation of flooded buildings and utilities will soon be awarded.

"There is a significant amount of work ahead at Jones Beach in terms of looking at our infrastructure to prepare for the reality of rising sea levels, damaging storms and rebuilding," parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said Friday.

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has commissioned a study on the best way to protect the boardwalk. Before Sandy, a line of dunes protected the boardwalk by Field 2 but not at the Central Mall, where waves washed under and over the walkway and erupted through the floor of the snack bar.

Coastal experts say building a dune directly in front of the boardwalk would provide adequate protection. "The best defense for the boardwalk is a uniform, well-vegetated high dune," said Aram Terchunian, a Westhampton Beach coastal geologist not involved in the Jones Beach work.

He agreed with the state's decision to elevate utilities, saying that would "make the systems more resilient."

The push for more flood resistance acquired added emphasis Wednesday when Harvey and developer Donald Trump canceled his proposed Trump on the Ocean catering hall on the boardwalk because of the damage caused by Sandy.

Officials began to reopen portions of the park two weeks after the Oct. 29 storm slammed Jones Beach with 21-foot waves that gave the boardwalk roller-coaster-like undulations and twists. Park manager Susan Guliani said the parking lots currently open to the public are at fields 2, 6 and 10, the boat basin and West End 2.

"I'm confident that the majority of the park will be ready for the public to safely enjoy by Memorial Day," Harvey said.

The most visible activity is repairs to the boardwalk. A contractor has removed the Brazilian epe hardwood planks and supporting timbers so a pile-driving crane can straighten the underlying pilings. The work started at the Central Mall, which is the center of activity for the Memorial Day weekend air show. Park officials expect that area to be completely repaired by Memorial Day.

Guliani said more than half of the permanent staff of 65 along with 34 seasonal employees are working on the cleanup and repairs, along with a debris-removal contractor.

"In order to reopen Field 6, where the waves were actually up into the parking lot, we had to remove tons of sand -- at least 50 dump trucks full," Guliani said. That sand was redeposited on the beach while the debris was taken to a landfill by the contractor.

Employees installed snow fencing on the beach from Field 6 to Field 2, and a metal chain-link fence along Ocean Parkway from Field 2 to the East Bathhouse to keep the public away from the construction areas. The snow fence has provided a bonus: it has trapped 2 feet of sand so far to build up the flattened beach.

Destroyed and dislocated sheds have been removed or relocated. Fences, benches and picnic tables knocked down or shifted by waves have been reinstalled.

State parks regional engineer Scott Fish said 12 contracts will be awarded to repair plumbing, electrical and sewage systems, roofs and other aspects of the park. He said it's impossible to estimate the cost of the work because contractors hired by the Office of General Services are being paid on a time and materials basis.

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