As the year comes to a close, the East End is still repairing damage from Superstorm Sandy. The region didn’t take the brunt of the storm, and we avoided the kind of devastation seen in the Rockaways and Staten Island, but the effects will still be felt for a long time to come. This close call also left the community asking… what if things had gone a little differently?
Area homes sustained the most damage, including $22.6 million of assessed losses in Southampton Town alone, but commercial and municipal properties on the East End towns were also affected and there are no guarantees the government will cover reparations.
The landscape will never be exactly the same.
The storm affected Southampton Town beaches and dunes most, according to Councilman Chris Nuzzi, but waterfront buildings, roads and docks were also damaged.
“Considering the size and scope of the storm, Southampton was pretty lucky,” Nuzzi said, noting that costs for repairs are still reaching into the millions. At Mecox, Flying Point and Scott Cameron beaches, he said bathhouses, lifeguard facilities and storage buildings were damaged and, in some cases, “completely picked up and relocated” by Sandy’s high tides and aggressive winds.
Worst of all, dunes along the coast were flattened, especially along Dune Road on the barrier island west of Shinnecock Canal. In spite of the major beach re-nourishment project currently underway, “The barrier beach as we knew it… may not ever look the same,” Nuzzi said, explaining that rebuilding could only fix so much. “It will take a long time to look like it did pre-storm.”
He said the “Great Dune” in East Quogue was also among the natural buffers “decimated by the storm.” The Town is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge sand and reestablish local beaches and dunes. The fruits of these labors can be seen at beaches like Flying Point, where huge piles of sand awaiting placement and manmade land bridges have formed an otherworldly landscape.
Local marinas saw many docks damaged and destroyed, and parking lots had to be reestablished around Southampton, but the Town expects all structural repairs to be completed by spring, in time for the summer season.
Nuzzi said FEMA will reimburse Southampton for most of the repairs, and various projects are in place to ensure vulnerable areas are better protected next time. “We definitely dodged a bullet,” the councilman said, noting, “Preparedness is key.”
Also of note, the privately owned old, abandoned boathouse on Meadow Lane in Southampton Village was virtually erased during the storm. Something of a local landmark, the boathouse had survived multiple storms over the last century and has since been the subject of many paintings and artistic photographs.
The owners salvaged what they could of the original materials in order to rebuild it much like it was, but it’s hard to re-create what can only come from the passage of time.
In the Town of East Hampton, Montauk was hit pretty hard, but it appears little will change long-term.
The Beach Barge Restaurant at Gurney’s Inn was one of the prominent structures wiped out in the storm. The small eatery on the beach slowly disintegrated as it was battered by waves, until there was almost nothing left. It had only just come back from damages during Tropical Storm Irene a year before, but Gurney’s quickly took action. “It’s already rebuilt,” said Barbara Russo, administrative assistant to the general manager at Gurney’s. The structure is back in place, though it will remain empty of appliances until they reopen for the summer.
East Hampton Town’s municipal property alone sustained a total $2,030,531 in damages, including roof and structural damage, beach erosion, road damage and more. Among the town-owned property damaged in Montauk, Colloden Point’s stairs were decimated to the tune of $52,000, the Star Island Causeway sustained $45,900 of road damage and two damaged pilings in Eddie Ecker Park cost $10,000 to fix. The Montauk Playhouse roof required $6,000 of shingle replacement.
Town facilities at Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett had $2,600 of roof and exhaust damage. Also in Amagansett, the coastal Marine Boulevard east of Atlantic Avenue sustained $36,000 in road damage.
The East Hampton Town Clerk’s office took $3,500 of roof damage and the Town Hall Atrium required $1,500 of glass replacement, while three Town computers ($2,450 each) and a server ($8,400) were ruined from power surges.
In Northwest Woods, the Staudinger’s Pond fish weir had $10,806 of damage.
In Springs, the Gerard Drive roadbed eroded badly enough to require a whopping $1.5 million in repairs, and a new window at the Maidstone Park pavilion cost $25.
A police communications tower cost $8,000 to fix and saltwater damage to a Town Police car required $10,000 of repairs. East Hampton’s Hazmat barn roof needed $1,500 in repairs and the Police Department/JAB substation at 159 Pantigo Road had $2,000 of roof damage.
A leak in the recycling building required a $70,000 repair and the lean-to roof had $149,000 in damages.
Aquaculture cost East Hampton $105,000 after Sandy and town-wide sign replacements cost a total of $500.
East Hampton Town’s Chief Auditor Charlene G. Kagel also noted that the town needs approximately $1 million in storm-related emergency response and debris cleanup.
In the Twin Forks’ smallest township, Shelter Island, about 1,000 feet of fence at Crescent Beach was washed away. The Second Causeway to Ram Island sustained dune erosion and road damage, and Shell Beach also had dune loss and erosion to the roadway. In addition, Dawn Lane, South Silver Beach Road and Brander Parkway sustained erosion. South Silver Beach landing had a wooden ram lifted and some road shoulder was lost on Ram Island Road.
The Taylor’s Island bulkhead and dock were damaged, the retaining wall at the eastern end of the second causeway was also damaged and the shoreline on Gardiner’s Bay along the first causeway to Little Ram Island lost a great deal of material into the tree line.
Jim McMahon, Director of Southold’s Public Works Department, said the town didn’t sustain any major damage, but with some funding from FEMA, he would order repairs to prevent massive damage in future storms.
Some local docks were twisted up and road ends washed away during the storm, but Southold’s greatest loss was a footbridge from the road end to the beach area off Pipes Neck Road in Greenport. Replacing the bridge could cost as little as $10,000 or as much as $75,000, depending on whether or not FEMA will fund it, McMahon said.
Southold also lost significant sand at town beaches and McMahon said debris pickup and disposal was their greatest cost.
Bolstering beaches and preparing Southold for the inevitable catastrophic storms of the future would cost $1 million to do correctly, but that won’t happen without federal funding, according to McMahon.
The worst damage in the Town of Riverhead came from storm surge flooding, according to Riverhead Town Police Chief David Hagermiller. “I’ve been here 30 years and I’ve never seen it like this,” Hagermiller said, noting that Sandy flooded Riverhead more than even the legendary Hurricane of 1938.
The Town had significant flooding downtown and in low-lying residential areas as well as downed wires and, of course, loss of power. Water crept into roads and parking areas, and at least six homes in Flanders were totally destroyed.
Flooding went past the train trestle on South Jamesport Avenue and the concession stand at South Jamesport Beach sustained severe interior water damage, but repairs are underway. “They’ve gutted everything, so they’re getting ready to repair it,” the Chief said.
Along the Peconic River, the historic Carriage House had major floodwater damage and a riverside gazebo was flipped over during the storm. “There was about four feet of water down there,” Hagermiller said.
The police chief was out with FEMA all week doing site visits so the government agency could verify damage submitted by the Town.