2006-12-15 / Community

The Dunes Should Go, Say Engineers For Plaintiffs In Suit

By Brian Magoolaghan

Dune supporters say dunes like the one seen on the left in this undated photo protect Belle Harbor from damaging surge waters.Dune supporters say dunes like the one seen on the left in this undated photo protect Belle Harbor from damaging surge waters. Make the beach wall taller and get rid of the dunes that restrict beach access in Belle Harbor. So say the engineers hired by the Belle Harbor residents who are suing the city and state to get the dunes removed.

The engineers recently toured a stretch of dunes in Belle Harbor that spans from Beach 139 to Beach 142 Street, according to a copy of their report. Using a 100-foot long tape measure, engineers from P.E.I. Engineering of Lido Beach measured the width of the dunes, the distance between peoples’ property lines and the dune, the beach area from the “toe” of the dune to the high-water line and the width of the beach at the water line.

The engineers say their “measurements indicate a substantial loss of occupancy capacity during tide fluctuations due to the installation of the dunes along the beachfront area,” according to their report. “The distance from the property line to the beach frontage was consistently uniform along areas without dunes,” they concluded. “There is no indication that the dunes prevented any beach erosion.”

One of the Belle Harbor dunes photographed last May.One of the Belle Harbor dunes photographed last May. The report also says “beach front homeowners can accomplish the same protective effect as dunes by increasing the height of their beach frontage wall. This would protect their homes and enable the community to have full use of the beach without the dunes.”

According to the report, the average dune width was 78 feet, the report says. The average distance from the start of the dune to the property lines was 17 feet. On Beach 142 Street, the distance from the dune’s toe to wet sand marks indicating high tide – representing the useable portion of the beach – measured an average of only 21 feet. Beach 138 Street, which does not have dunes, had about 100 more feet of usable beach. The average dune beach had 97 feet of useable beach, whereas dune-free beaches had 214 feet, according to the report.

The measurements were recorded on November 29, 2006 at 3:45 p.m., approximately one hour and 45 minutes after high tide.

“Get ready to share your beach blanket if you use the beach between [Beach] 138 to 142 Street,” said Jamie Agoglia, one of the Belle Harbor residents who filed a lawsuit in October that accuses the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation and the state Department of Environmental Conservation of failing to remove “overgrown and illegal dunes on public parkland.” The suit alleges that Parks built the dunes in 1997 at the request of seven beachfront homeowners – without a permit and without consulting the public first.

Agoglia and other residents went to the city’s beach opening ceremony last May and convinced representatives from Parks, the Mayor’s Office, the community board as well as local elected officials to come take a look at the dunes, which they say have grown into a barrier and a hazard to humans.

Supporters of the dunes say that they are an important, natural barrier that protect property and lives. They also say that beachgoers tend to sit closer to the ocean and generally do not use the landward portion of the beach, where the dunes are located. Parks has said it first needs to hear from DEC to determine what if anything it can do, by law, to solve the issue.

Peter Kutil, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said he was recently told by an attorney for Parks that the DEC had not prepared its report yet. “Obviously I think it’s an important document, but nobody has shared it with us,” he said. They’re also waiting for a court date, he added.

Parks and DEC have said they won’t comment due to the pending litigation.

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