After more than a decade of battling government bureaucracy, members of the Sheepshead Bay / Plumb Beach Civic Association were treated to some welcome news at their meeting last night: Councilman Lew Fidler announced that an agreement had been reached to restore Plumb Beach, with long-term measures to be implemented against future erosion.

However, the project won’t get as early a start as some had hoped, as the area will be overrun by mating marine life.

AN AGREEMENT MADE

Fidler announced that the Army Corps of Engineers, along with the slew of public agencies responsible for the beach’s oversight, gave the green light to a $5 million plan to restore the beach and protect it for decades to come.

“Quite frankly, the entire City of New York owes this community and this civic association a thank you,” Fidler told the group. “If Plumb Beach had disappeared and the Belt Parkway went with it, it would’ve been something that would’ve been felt throughout this city. Everyone going out to JFK [International Airport] would have felt it. Everyone traveling out to Long Island would’ve felt it. Everyone traveling out to Staten Island would’ve felt it.”

In addition to cheers from civic members, Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo praised the announcement.

“Thank God. Thank God. Thank God it’s proceeding,” Scavo said. “We’re saving the Belt Parkway. We’re going to have another beach in the community. That’s all that matters.”

 

SO WHAT’S THE PLAN?

A diagram of the beach and the planned placement of the groins and breakwater. (Click to enlarge)

The Army Corps of Engineers’ plan calls for 100,000 cubic yards of sand to be brought in from Ambrose Channel, said Dan Falt, the project manager for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. The sand will be pumped in through a pipe from a dredge boat and moved around with a bulldozer. After adding the sand, they will construct two terminal groins, and install a breakwater.

At about 200 feet long, a breakwater is a long, narrow stone island that would run parallel to the beach, and will be located at the center where most of the erosion occurs. Breakwaters are designed to reduce the amount of sediment that’s brought into the beach, as well as weaken waves before they crash into the shore.

This plan was the most comprehensive of three proposals made available for public comment in February 2011.

“We’re very excited that we’ve reached an agreement, and once we sign it we’re going to work as fast as we can to execute it and get this work done,” Falt said. “Hopefully, by this time next year, we’ll have a protected Plumb Beach.”

 

DELAYS ALREADY PREDICTED

The beach has been rapidly eroding since 1992, the last time new sand was dumped in the area. The shoreline slowly receded until 2009, when a nor’easter ripped through the area and storm surges reduced the beach to within several feet of the Belt Parkway – destroying the bike path on its way.

Though local activists like those at the SP/PB Civic Association had issued warnings about the erosion for years, government agencies only began taking the issue more seriously once the waters threatened to undermine the adjacent highway.

Now there’s a  plan in place, but Falt noted that not every element was in order. The agreement has not yet been signed – though they expect that to be done by the end of the month.

Federal funding for the project – which accounts for 65 percent of the $5 million price tag – has also not yet been secured, Falt said. However, the Army Corp expects to receive notification assuring them of the funding soon.

Following that, engineers will begin drawing up specific designs for the groins and breakwater. The various contracts will then go out to bid.

 

WHAT ABOUT THOSE HORNY HORSESHOE CRABS?

While Councilman Fidler said he hoped the project would begin in the spring, Falt said that wasn’t likely.

The Army Corps contracts won’t be awarded until May or June, Falt said, and that means progress will be hindered by nature, not bureaucracy.

Plumb Beach and the entire Gateway National Recreation Area is a protected mating ground for horseshoe crabs. Horseshoe crabs use beaches like those in Jamaica Bay as their mating grounds because their location in a bay or cove protects them from surf. They come ashore in our area throughout the summer, during new and full moons, and deposit thousands of eggs in the sand at once before returning to the waters.

That means the public won’t see any construction kick off at the beach until the end of the summer or early fall.

That perplexes Scavo, who worries about the city infrastructure surrounding the habitat. She noted that, given the project’s history, a small delay could develop into a much larger one.

“The Belt Parkway we’re not worried about, but we’re worried about some mating horseshoe crabs?” she said. “I think this project should be a little expedited.”

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  • applegreen

    you could have written either the most beautiful prose or absolutely nothing in this post, i wouldnt care, I LOVE THE HEADLINE. ok. now i can go and read the article. 

  • Anonymous

    Damn horny horsehoes crabs!  We used to see this all the time during the spring and summer under the dock at the knights of colombus.  There are alot of them too.  They should go somewhere else to get their freak on!

    OK – I know they can’t go anywhere else.   I just wanted to use the phrase “get their freak on!

  • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

    Like they can’t capture the crabs and move them to another location in the Bay? I’m all for protecting and working with nature. It’s very important that we do that, VERY important that we consider natural eco-systems when designing our infrastructure. However the risk of high impact to human lives by this delay outweighs the Horshoe Crabs mating rights in this specific instance. 

    If we can figure out some way to gently move or deflect the crabs for the season so the work can be done then that should be investigated right away.

    • http://www.nedberke.com Ned Berke

      Hurricane season in June – November, which is when the beach is most at risk. Even if they started in June, the project would take a few months. Creating a barrier to keep the crabs out would still cost time and money. So regardless of whether they move the crabs or not, it’s arguable whether construction will be done in time to make a difference for this hurricane season. I’m also not entirely sure if it’s the wisest thing to be doing this project during hurricane season.

  • BOSB

    Horseshoe Crabs (which aren’t crabs at all, and are more closely related to spiders!) have been getting screwed over by human beings and have nearly been driven to extinction (harvested and used for bait and fertilizer).  They migrate from the continental shelf to the shore to mate and lay eggs, so “gathering them up” or “deflecting them” (to where?) is not likely to work.  Their eggs, produced in copious numbers, provide food for shore birds which migrate through our area.  Holding off on any drastic changes to their mating grounds until the breeding season is over is a small enough sacrifice to protect this “living fossil” in our area.

    From a practical point of view, they provide a wonderful chance to teach our children anout sexual reproduction in the animal kingdom … 8-)  Visiting the  beach in June, and seeing 1, 2, 3 or more males clinging to the larger female is a great way to broach this subject in a healthy and clean-minded way … and you can also tell the kids “Look, the mama crab is getting her freak on!” (to paraphrase an earlier poster) … 8-)

    Due to an unfortunate incident earlier in my life, I am very concerned about the safety of the horseshoe crabs on Plumb Beach.  Way, way back, when I visited the beach with my family and saw the crabs congregating on the beach, I thought they had gotten lost, or been driven ashore in a storm.  We conscientiously picked them up and walked them into deeper water, pushing them towards the bay while saying, “Go little creatures swim to safety, swim!” while they, no doubt, silently screamed, “Noooooo!”  Later whenf I read about their life cycle and realized what we’d done, I felt about as bright as a box of rocks.

    So the moral is, do a little research before deciding how to rescue the wee beasties.  And maybe just leave them alone on their annual honeymoon.

    • mike@ford

      Here is good video about Horseshoe Crabs - http://video.pbs.org/video/1200406235

      • Anonymous

        very educational video. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Now that I look at the 3rd video .. i finally know what it reminds me off !! A kolxoz meeting. Old mean flag keeper on one side and what looks to be sober drunk on the other side.. ….  Speech, applaud, speech applaud.  

  • John

    I don’t see why people are focusing on the horseshoe crabs as a cause for any delay in the project. The Army Corps project manager says the contract won’t be awarded until May or June. Horseshoe crab spawning peaks in early June and is largely over by early July, so it seems like the work could commence relatively quickly after the contract is awarded and not affect the horseshoe crabs. However, the beach is also used by migratory birds that will be using it later in the summer and they should also be taken into consideration.

  • Pingback: Plumb Beach Repairs Begin Today! Army Corps To Dump 127,000 Cubic Yards Of Sand On Eroded Beachfront | Sheepshead Bay News Blog

  • Sol Rosenberg

    Even if its only a short term proposition, Is it really too much trouble (and cost) to pave a couple hundred feet of asphalt so that walker, joggers, and bikers, could
    get through from Emmons ave to the Plumb beach parking lot… in
    safety? Until they find a more permanent solution how much could it cost to fix 10-50k tops? even with the city kickback. I dont enjoy having to walk over rocks, or inches from wizzing cars of the belt parkway. For shame to the politicians and bureaucrats!