The stretch of Dune Road between Hampton Bays and Quogue may have the support of disaster recovery funding after all.
The road, which was severely damaged during Superstorm Sandy and has continued to wash over in storms, had initially been expected to cost $6.8 million to repair, but now, with the cost of asphalt plummeting and the possibility of $3 million in grant funding, new Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman believes this may be an ideal time to raise the road.
At the Southampton Town Board’s March 24 work session, Mr. Schneiderman said he’s gotten new quotes for the project that have come in at just $5.1 million.
Also in the past month, the Suffolk County Executive’s office has informed the town that $3 million in Community Development Block Grant funding for disaster recovery — federal money that is allocated through the county — could be used to raise the road.
Mr. Schneiderman said the town has already authorized $1 million for the project, and homeowners along Dune Road have expressed interest in paying $629,647 into an Erosion Control District, which would leave the town less than half a million dollars short of having the money they need for the project if they decide to take the CDBG funding.
The block grant money — which is usually used to finance infrastructure projects in low income areas, is available to the town because Hampton Bays falls into a low to moderate income census track, even though residents along Dune Road usually have substantially higher income.
That didn’t sit too well with Southampton Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, who told the town board on March 24 that there is about $2.7 million worth of town highway work that needs to be done in the low income areas of Riverside, Flanders and Northampton.
“I did some research on the grant —it’s for poor and impoverished people,” said Mr. Gregor. “The average house on Dune Road is worth $5 million. It doesn’t make me feel that comfortable putting a grant for poor and impoverished people on a millionaire’s road.”
Mr. Gregor added that there is a deed for that section of Dune Road in Suffolk County’s name, which might create trouble if the town attempts to use federal grant money to fix the road.
Deputy Town Supervisor Frank Zappone said the particular type of CDBG grant being considered for the project is specifically for storm recovery, and the roads in need in Flanders, Northampton and Riverside would not be eligible for them.
Mr. Zappone added that the people who visit the public beaches along the east end of Dune Road are not the millionaires who live along the ocean, but people who live throughout the rest of the Hampton Bays community.
“It’s servicing the entire community that lives within the census track,” he said.
Mr. Schneiderman added that many local roads were put into the county’s road system decades ago to qualify for state and federal funding.
Mr. Schneiderman added that he’s discussed funding through the Army Corps of Engineers’ Fire Island To Montauk Point Reformulation Study, due this year, with Congressman Lee Zeldin, who told him that FIMP likely would not pay to raise the road, though it will pay to replenish the sand on neighboring beaches.
“I do believe we will get substantial [FIMP] money for building up beach along this stretch, but elevation of the road is probably unlikely,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “The Army Corps is very focused on beach nourishment, home elevation and buying homes.”
“To me this is a vital project. I don’t want to lose out on the $3 million. It is very competitive, and there’s no guarantee it will keep in place,” he said. “Is this the time to do this project? I think so.”
In order to go forward with the project and claim the money from the county, the town board would need to vote to bond the remaining half-million dollars for the project.
“I think we could potentially go out to bid and get this started this fall,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “But that’s a decision for the whole board.”