A city jewel neglected for too long

County plans to conduct new study on Crescent Beach

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With the New York City skyline in the distance and peaceful low tides, Crescent Beach was once known to many residents as one of the most relaxing places in Glen Cove. But they have not experienced its wonders since 2009, when the beach was closed due to water contamination. The Nassau County Department of Public Works recently announced that it would conduct a new, $72,000 study of the beach in order to determine the cause.

Resident Dr. Helen Green said it is unusual to see a beach closed for so long without a resolution. “It bothers me … that people would let a part of our seashore become polluted and let it go on for eight years,” she said.

Green has lived in Glen Cove for 65 years, and Crescent Beach, she said, was always a place where kids would play while their parents chatted. She used to visit the beach with her children to have lunch and enjoy the weather.

“When the kids got older, they would meet down there to have bonfires,” she said. “It was just a wonderful place.”

Green lives just a few minutes from the beach, but she hasn’t set foot there since it closed. She said she would love to see the beach open again someday, but is displeased with the city’s efforts.

“We’ve had so many different mayors over the years,” she said. “I don’t know all the details, but something is wrong.”

Mayor Reggie Spinello explained that earlier this year the county proposed the installation of a sewer system in homes near the beach, which would have cost $37 million. He added that the project was “not feasible” for residents. The plans were revised recently, and now call for the installation of groundwater-monitoring wells to collect water samples. The wells would be installed at a lift station on Woolsey Avenue, near Hardwood Drive East, which gathers raw sewage from underground pipelines. “They will probe down 12 to 25 feet to gather some samples to see the water conditions,” Spinello said.

He added that a second task for the county is to collect storm water samples on Cobble Court and Valley Road, near the beach. Spinello said that this area was chosen because few homes there own sewage pumps. This portion of the project would take three to four months. Spinello also said that the beach would likely remain closed for the rest of the year.

The city and the county, he said, have tried in the past to solve the water problems at the beach, but figuring out exactly what the problem is has been the biggest challenge. Cesspools and septic systems were installed near the beach years ago, Spinello said, which may have contaminated the water. “Some people have cesspools that are compromised and they don’t even know it,” he said. “We do free pump-outs for those areas, but we’re really trying to narrow down this problem.”

Another resident, Tom Taranto, recalled being a regular beachgoer for 40 years. A law enforcement retiree, he used to help organize beach cleanups. Growing up, he would visit the beach to party and spend time with his friends. Now, he occasionally walks his dog on the shore, but misses the water.

“It’s horrible to see this beach closed,” Taranto said. “It was one of my favorite beaches.”

County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton explained that the city hoped to secure funds from the county in 2015 for a feasibility and design study of sewage management in Glen Cove and Roslyn Harbor. But it was projected that the study would cost $30 million, which was too expensive for the city. After discussions with county engineers, DeRiggi-Whitton said, a decision was made by the county to focus the study on Crescent Beach, but how it will be financed hasn’t been finalized yet. She would like the county to invest $10 million in a more broad-based study, but no decision has been made yet.

“My hope is that with the $10 million, we’ll be able to alleviate this issue with the beach,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “We’re going to see what we can do with that amount, and hopefully it’ll be good enough to get the beach open.”

DeRiggi-Whitton grew up in Glen Cove, and has many memories of Crescent Beach. “It was always one of my favorite beaches, especially when my kids were little,” she recalled. “It’s a very, very beautiful area.” Restoring the beach, she said, would depend on pinpointing the problem so that the county could properly utilize the funds to construct new sewer systems where they are needed most. She added that many nearby septic tanks are not in good shape, so the county is also trying to figure out which tanks are contributing to the pollution.

Spinello said that there are a few alternatives if this study is unsuccessful. The county would consider building outfall pipes, which would disperse the polluted water further out into the Long Island Sound. He said that he’s aware of the concerns residents have, and he is hopeful that the study can solve this problem for good.

“The beach is important to us, and I know how much people enjoy it,” Spinello said. “It has some quietness to it and it’s very serene. The county is doing their best, and we hope to get this resolved soon.”

The study is scheduled to begin in two weeks.