ONLY ON SHEEPSHEAD BITES: The money’s finally in the pot to make long-awaited repairs to a section of bicycle path that crumbled into the waters off Plumb Beach nearly four years ago.
Councilman Lew Fidler informed Sheepshead Bites that he has allocated $450,000 in the Fiscal Year 2014 city budget to shore up and lay new asphalt to approximately 300 feet of bike path at Plumb Beach, after Hurricane Ida caused the stretch to fall into the sea in 2009. The path is currently closed, and has long been neglected as officials slowly rolled out plans to fight erosion at the beach, and quibbled about whether or not funding was available.
The money was allocated to the Parks Department, which is responsible for maintaining the path, Fidler said, and it should cover the entire job. But if $450,000 seems to be a high price tag for 300 feet of asphalt, Fidler said the funds were justified by the path’s important location as a physical barrier between the water and the Belt Parkway.
“Anyone who thinks it is no more than laying asphalt isn’t remembering why it needs to be done to begin with. It collapsed. It needs to be rebuilt,” he said. “If it doesn’t cost $450,000, the excess money will be returned. Better than if the amount is short, which delays the project for another fiscal year.”
It’s unclear, however, when work will begin on project. Parks projects often take three to four years before the first shovel hits the ground, as the department engages in surveys and studies in the run-up to construction. Representatives from the Parks Department said it’s too soon to tell if the bike path will follow the same schedule.
“It’s too early right now to have details on this since FY 2014 doesn’t begin until July 1. After the funding is confirmed we will start the process of survey and design, then develop a bid and procure a contractor. Next month we should have a better idea of when work is expected to begin,” Parks spokesperson Meghan Lalor wrote in an e-mail to Sheepshead Bites last week.
Fidler, though, is more optimistic.
“I assume it will go forward more expeditiously than most jobs once the Plumb Beach restoration is done,” he said.
Fidler said in 2012 that funding for the project would come from $9 million he allocated for the construction of nearby Brigham Street Park. At the time, however, Parks claimed that those funds would only go to the park itself, and there remained no funding for bike path repairs.
The Plumb Beach parking lot and bicycle path are currently closed, as contractors secured by the Army Corps of Engineers continue the second and final phase of erosion protection at the beach. The site – a former channel that separated Plumb Beach from the mainland and allowed water to pass through into Shell Bank Creek before the creation of the Belt Parkway – has long been victim to nature’s fury. After years of erosion ate away the coastline in an attempt to reclaim the channel, the beach was shored up in 1992. Over the next decade, the new sand washed away, reviving calls from groups like the Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association for a long-term fix. After Hurricane Ida pummeled the beach in 2009, when water threatened the Belt Parkway’s resiliency and obliterated the bike path, Army Corps began studying possible fixes, and determined it would restore the sand, add vegetation that would hold it in place, and construct two stone groins and a breakwater that would keep sand from drifting away.
Contractors closed the parking lot and bike path to stage their equipment as they begin the second phase of the project – constructing the groins and breakwater, and planting vegetation.