Mastic Beach Residents Feud With Government On South Shore Restoration

Residents of Mastic Beach live in close proximity to the bay.

By Samantha Salomon and Rawson Jahan

Federal and state authorities, and the residents of Mastic Beach, LI will discuss, on October 19th, a $1.2 billion initiative that could offer voluntary buyouts to homeowners and require the elevation of 4,400 homes, beaches, and roads.

The goal is to restore neighborhoods damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and provide storm resiliency along the South Shore by the year 2020. The study is first being conducted in the village of Mastic Beach, in the Town of Brookhaven.

The Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study, overseen by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, will require legislation to elevate homes, beaches and roads in the towns of Babylon, Islip, Brookhaven, Southampton, East Hampton, the 12 incorporated villages of Suffolk County and the Indian reservations of Poospatuk and Shinnecock, to protect them from coastal storms, James D’Ambrosio, public affairs specialist of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, said.

The goal is to restore neighborhoods damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, D’Ambrosio explained. “Before any shovel goes into the ground anywhere, there’s ample opportunity for the public and local municipalities to voice their concerns,” he said.

“The non-structural solution of raising 4,400 homes will create stilt villages surrounded by marshes with non-functional sanitary systems,” Edward P. Romaine, supervisor of The Town of Brookhaven, said in an official statement to the United States Army Corps of Engineers.“The Town favors a strong voluntary buyout program to replace the current proposal for raising houses,” he said.

Romaine worries about funding for the project. “Will Town residents have to fund long-term maintenance costs of the project?,” he asked. The federal government will cover the initial costs, but Suffolk County will have to provide the rest, D’Ambrosio said.

“The design for each house would be specific, and that could cost $600 million in labor,” D’ambrosio explained.

In New York State, the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act offers a voluntary buyout program to homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy, according to the state’s storm recovery website. Islip town officials declined to comment on the act and its part in the proposal.

Residents of Mastic Beach are not pleased with the proposal.

“The problem is, the first thing the town supervisor of Brookhaven, Romaine, mentioned was buyouts,” Frank Fugarino, president of the Pattersquash Creek Civic Association, said last month. “Who are you to tell us to move, where are you from to assume that about other people’s lives?”

“Everybody at the Civic Association meeting last month said, ‘The Town of Brookhaven really doesn’t have our best interest,’” Fugarino said.

The public mistook Romaine’s letter read at the Patchogue meeting, Maura P. Spery, the mayor of Mastic Beach, said. “They’re taking every line out of context, and they’re like, the town is going to emanate because now there’s a dissolution vote to get rid of the village,” she said, “And they’re really not doing that.”

After a finalized plan is proposed, the Corps, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and sponsors from local municipalities must sign a legal project partnership agreement outlining which entity each party is responsible for, D’Ambrosio said.

“We’re like your experiment. It’s like, figure out how to do this with Mastic Beach and then you have a game plan for the rest of the south shore,” Spery said.

Polls to keep or dissolve Mastic Beach will open on November 16.