Army Corps Work, Neponsit Home & Bus Routes Dominate BHPOA Meeting

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 As beach season quickly approaches, the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association meeting on Tuesday, May 17 was well attended with neighbors eager to know what’s going on with their beaches, bus routes and the impending demolition of the Neponsit Home.

Residents filled the auditorium at P.S. 114 on Tuesday night for the May meeting. To start, Deputy Inspector Carlos Fabara of the 100th Precinct was asked to provide some updates and a forecast for summer policing. Fabara explained there have only been three “non-major crimes” in Belle Harbor in the past 28 days. “Precinct-wide, there’s been a small uptick in crime,” he said. He noted a spike in petty larcenies by habitual offenders. Looking at summer, Fabara says their focus will be on quality-of-life issues and patrolling places that are historically violent.

He expects a summer detail in waves, with one sergeant and 20 police officers boosting the precinct’s manpower early in the season, with another 20 coming in a second wave, making for a total of 40 officers, four sergeants and one lieutenant boosting manpower this summer. Fabara says these officers will be assigned all over the precinct, but mostly in places of historical violence and quality of life issues, like Beach 116th Street. He said the precinct requested more specialty vehicles to add to their fleet, as regular patrol cars are not allowed on the boardwalk, but this request was denied. The precinct only has one ATV and two gators to patrol the boardwalk and beach. Another obstacle the precinct is running into is certain crimes are not being prosecuted, such as the reoccurring issue of people pulling on car doors to try to steal items from cars. “We had a subject pulling door handles, made an arrest and the case was declined. It’s not going to get prosecuted,” he said. Such instances have led to increased frustration among officers, but Fabara says they’ll continue to make arrests.

Jumping into a hot button issue, the team behind the demolition of the three buildings of the Neponsit Home was invited to provide updates about how the process will work. As the long-abandoned buildings are old, dilapidated, and now falling apart, it has created a dangerous situation, which is why the demolition is necessary. A designer is working with Health and Hospitals (NYCHHC), which owns the property, to come up with a plan, including all of the regulatory approvals, to begin the demolition sometime after Labor Day this year. The plan calls for demolishing the building with machinery on the ground, pulling away pieces from the top down, hauling the material away, remediating the site, filling voids, putting six inches of topsoil on the land and building a new lifeguard facility and parking lot for 30 spaces on the roadside of the land, once it returns to NYC Parks territory.

To try to mitigate any effects on the surrounding community, the contractor, Titan Industries, will be conducting asbestos removal, lead paint removal, vermin control, removing mold, wastewater and other harmful aspects. A member of the audience asked for assurance that rodent control would be done properly so rats and other rodents aren’t fleeing to nearby properties during the process. A project manager responded, “We’re here to do the right job” and explained the community will be made aware of all parts of the demolition process ahead of time. The project also has a community liaison that neighbors will be able to contact directly with any questions and concerns. To try to minimize impact on nearby homes, the site will include noise buffers, vibration monitors and all demolished material will be watered down and immediately put into trucks to ensure no toxic dust or fumes are escaping the site. The site will be surrounded by green plywood fencing. The entire project, which is expected to be complete before Memorial Day 2023, costs $25.1 million. Meetings with NYC Parks will be held after the demolition to discuss the future utilization of the parkland.

Next on the agenda was the discussion of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) work taking place on area beaches this summer. As USACE was not available, NYC Parks Rockaway Administrator Eric Peterson was asked to give a rundown of what’s to come. As construction of the reinforced dune will begin on the west end this summer, it was the main concern addressed. USACE is in the process of completing the paperwork for this work, so it is expected to begin within the next month. The contractor will be accessing the sand at Beach 147th to establish their staging area for the project there. Construction will begin at Beach 149th and will inch eastward all summer, through September, with the expectation of reaching the upper Beach 130s in that time. Next spring, in March, the work will pick up where it left off and continue east. The work will include digging a trench, installing steel pilings and surrounding it with stone to reinforce the core of the dune, and then covering it with sand. It will be done in sections, with a work zone of about three to four blocks at a time. Sand replenishment is scheduled to start on the east end of the peninsula in September, with expectations of making it to Belle Harbor around December or January.

Peterson then discussed beach access in relation to this work and explained there will be access to the sand for passive recreation in the work zone areas, but swimming access will be determined as the project is ongoing depending on the size of the beach being worked on. No groin work will be taking place in Belle Harbor this summer, but next spring, the groins at Beach 125th and Beach 130th, the last two groins of the project, will be under construction. Asked why Neponsit has been subjected to two summers of beach closures due to groin work and now dune work, Peterson said uptown drew the short end of the stick, as the Army Corps cannot work in the concession areas and piping plover nesting areas during the summertime months. Asked about the wood pilings of the old jetties, Peterson explained that those will be removed after sand replenishment is done so the machinery is not in the water while trying to remove them. Circling back to the Neponsit Home work, a resident expressed concern over there being no protection after the dune ends at Beach 149th, with the buildings knocked down at the neighboring Neponsit Home property, in the event of flooding. “That’s gotta be addressed or what’s being done with the dune is just useless,” the resident said.

Last on the agenda was the Queens Bus Redesign, which will reroute Rockaway’s buses, especially the Q22 and Q35. The Q22 will not go west of Beach 116th Street and the Q35 will be rerouted to Rockaway Beach Boulevard rather than Newport Ave. Residents expressed concerns, saying those who live on the bayside of Belle Harbor and Neponsit, will have to walk a significant distance to catch the bus if this change were to take place. There will be a Zoom meeting on June 2 for Community Board 14 residents to express concerns over the bus plan.

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