The word “danger” was scribbled onto a plank of wood in front of East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson as he looked out over the water at Colloden Point in Montauk last Friday morning. A steep staircase used to lead down to a small beach below. But not anymore.
The expensive toll Hurricane Sandy took on East Hampton Town was multifaceted—and, not so surprisingly, concentrated in Montauk. It harmed businesses, flooded roads, wiped out power, took a bite out of shorelines and claimed the life of a Montauk woman. It damaged town fences, roads, parking lots and deposited enormous piles of sand in the driveways of some houses. It ripped part of the roof off the Montauk School and flooded four classrooms there. At one point it displaced about 235 people, who stayed at the shelter at East Hampton High School. Last Thursday, the supervisor estimated that town property was damaged to the tune of about $275,000, an amount the town expects to get reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But that early estimate has been growing fast.
“We’re tallying daily,” said the supervisor.
At Marine Boulevard in Napeague, a few houses were still buried in sand—sand so deep that at some point the road was completely indistinguishable. Star Island Road was “totally compromised” by flooding, Mr. Wilkinson said, and estimated it would cost $50,000 to repair it. At one point during the storm, the road in front of Hither Hills State Park flooded, as a trickle grew to about 3 feet deep in an hour, according to Mr. Wilkinson.
To prevent storm surges from flooding some bay and oceanfront roads, the town deposited sand it purchased from Bistrian Gravel Corporation before the storm at road ends, and that reduced the number of breaches, said Mr. Wilkinson.
“This saved Montauk,” he said. “This made Montauk totally dry.”
Other areas that were particularly hard hit by the storm included Gerard Drive, Louse Point and Lazy Point. Revlon Chairman Ronald Lauder’s beachfront cottage in Wainscott was destroyed by the waves from the storm. Two homeowners placed sandbags in front of their homes at Lazy Point, according to Diane McNally, the Clerk of the East Hampton Town Trustees. Overall, though, the town fared better than neighboring towns, she said.
“Even though we’ve had some erosion, the beach is still relatively wide compared to Southampton,” she said.
Some beachfront businesses in Montauk said it was the worst damage they had sustained in recent memory.
Vinnie Saggi, the owner of the Ocean Surf Motel, said he’s estimated about $100,000 in damages to his property. In the over eight years since he’s owned the business, he’s spent more than $200,000 repairing damage to his property after storms, he said. He’s estimating losing somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 cubic yards of sand this time. The business lost its deck and part of its fence, he said.
Mr. Saggi said he’s “very frustrated” with the back and forth between the town and the state when it comes to approving the placement of stones on the beach, a measure he says would help prevent erosion.
The Royal Atlantic Beach Resort, run by Steve Kalimnios, took a major hit to its beachfront—to the point where the business installed concrete cesspool rings to prevent against further erosion. It’s especially a concern because a nor’easter is expected to hit the South Shore of Long Island on Wednesday.
Over the last decade, he’s estimated spending about $2 million in sand replenishment and repairs.
“This is the worst case,” he said. “This is probably twice as bad as the last time it was this bad.”
Mr. Kalimnios said he and other businesses owners are renewing a call for greater government action in protecting beaches. They’re in favor of a “soft solution” approach—that is, pumping sand onto the beach instead of lining business with hard structures. One idea could be to create a new tax district, which all town residents would pay into, to replenish beaches battered by storms. But they’ve had little success over the years, he said.
“We try this, we try it all the time,” he said. “We’re always outspoken about what needs to be done out there. And unfortunately you’re met with people that don’t want to spend money, can’t afford to spend money. The problem is you lose these resources in our communities and everyone is affected.”