$5 million awarded for second phase of Island Park drainage project

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With the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approaching, funding was recently announced for Phase 2 of three-part, $40 million mitigation project in Island Park, which will include an overhaul of the village’s storm drainage system and municipal bulkheads.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that $5 million had been allocated for the second phase of the project, which is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and administered by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty said that the second phase focuses on design and engineering for the future construction of drain and tidal flex valve replacements throughout the village. The overall project will include an upgraded municipal storm drainage system, including 42,000 feet of new storm sewers, tide gates, subsurface storm water retention and 2,000 feet of upgraded bulkheading.

McGinty acknowledged the significant gap between Phase 1, which was completed in the summer of 2016, and Phase 2, but said it allowed time to assess which areas needed upgrades. “I think it’s better now that we’re moving ahead,” he said. “We’re in a much stronger position from our increased knowledge of tides and drain conditions.”

The projects fall under FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which enables officials to establish priorities aimed at increasing the state’s resiliency after a storm. The final engineering for the project should be completed by April 2020, and the total cost will not exceed $33.6 million, according to FEMA. During Sandy, Island Park was inundated with six to eight feet of seawater, which flooded many homes and businesses in the village and caused the schools, the firehouse, places of worship and Village Hall to close for weeks.

“Extreme weather and severe storms are the new normal, which makes protecting and hardening our infrastructure more critical than ever before,” Cuomo said in a press release announcing Phase 2. “The funding will make the Village of Island Park more resilient against future storms.”

Areas such as Francis Hegarty Elementary School also face issues with full-moon high tides, which sometimes cause extreme flooding outside the doorway as students enter and leave the building.

Phase 2 was announced after elected officials and school officials shared their concern over project delays after Phase 1. In February, Island Park Board of Education President Jack Vobis said the day-to-day routine of students at the elementary school often has to be altered because of flooding. DHSES Commissioner Roger Parrino toured the school in July 2016, but there was little progress afterward. On Jan. 31, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky pressed Parrino on the Senate floor, requesting DHSES action in getting the projects done. After Phase 2 was announced, Kaminsky said, he was determined to see that the work gets completed.

“Island Park residents have waited long enough,” he said, “and I will work to make sure the project is completed expeditiously.”

The first stage of the project, which FEMA awarded the village $1.8 million to complete, involved the exploration and cleaning of the storm drains around the elementary school and Suffolk Road. The main delays for the project’s second phase stemmed from a FEMA-mandated cost-benefit analysis that village officials needed to provide to the DHSES before moving forward, which included documentation proving why the project was necessary, with paperwork sent back and forth between village officials and the DHSES.

McGinty said that a kickoff meeting for Phase 2 involving village officials, Department of Public Works employees and members of FEMA and the DHSES is scheduled for later this week, and will determine when the request for proposals process for Phase 2 will begin, after which a timeline will be generated for its completion.

Parrino thanked local elected officials, FEMA and the state after the funding for Phase 2 was approved. “These federal grant funds will allow the Village of Island Park to upgrade their municipal storm drainage system to lessen the impacts of severe storms and flooding,” he said in a statement.

Talks of potentially lifting roads to lessen the impact of flooding have been discussed, but McGinty said he was unsure if the eventual third and final phase would include that project. He expressed optimism that phase 2 was moving forward. “This means we’re getting closer and closer to protecting our residents,” he said, “and our future residents as well.”

Peter Belfiore contributed to this story.