Breezy Point Won't Have to Go Public to Get Dunes

Several days after Sandy burned down more than 100 homes in Breezy Point, residents continued to pick through the rubble for belongings.

Some residents of Breezy Point, a beach community at the outermost tip of Rockaway Peninsula, once feared that in order to qualify for federal money to help protect itself against future storms like Sandy, it would have to open up its private beaches to the public.

That was the suggestion laid out in former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's citywide resiliency plan issued last June. The agency that normally builds beach dunes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, does typically require public accessibility as a prerequisite for its construction projects.

But it turns out there is another pot of money that could pay for the project without forcing Breezy's beaches to go public: the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that he supported using FEMA money for the dunes, a necessary step in the approval process.

Arthur Lighthall, the general manager of the Breezy Point Cooperative, said opening up its beaches would require parking spaces and bathrooms that the densely-settled area does not have space for. He also said FEMA funding has other advantages: it will likely come more quickly.

"We may never see the results of any study or work done from the Army Corps for years," Lighthall said.