The city of Long Beach and Town of Hempstead recently granted The Army Corps of Engineers access to a stretch of private beach owned by Lido Towers in order to build dunes as part of a $230 million coastal protection project. Negotiations are also underway to turn the property into a public beach.
Officials and residents alike had expressed concerns about a potential gap in the project, designed to protect seven of the nine miles of public shoreline between Jones Inlet and East Rockaway Inlet — from the east end of Point Lookout to Nevada Avenue in Long Beach — from a 100-year storm.
The project began in Point Lookout in 2016. The agency completed the reconstruction of 15 jetties, or groins, along the beach last year, and is in the process of constructing a system of dunes and crossovers along the beach.
Although Lido Towers is in the town, a sliver of the condo’s beach — about 140 feet — sits within Long Beach, and officials are in talks with condo owners to turn the entire property into a public beach.
A 2013 agreement that the city entered into with the Department of Environmental Conservation — which serves as a liaison with the Army Corps — in order to move the project forward after Hurricane Sandy required the city to acquire any private property within Long Beach needed to complete the project, primarily through eminent domain.
“The reason why this is significant is because that land is needed to complete the project,” Corporation Counsel Rob Agostisi said. “That’s done primarily through the use of eminent domain unless the parties can work it out amicably. For any lands that are taken over, the Army Corps pays for the corresponding costs, but only initially.”
In July, both the DEC and Army Corps informed the city that a small portion of the private beach owned by Lido Towers sits within the city boundaries. About 90 percent is within the town.
“The DEC and the Army Corp invoked the city’s legal obligation to acquire it by eminent domain if need be,” Agostisi said. “What we then learned is that Lido Towers had actually been in negotiations with the Town of Hempstead for years before the city got involved. Apparently, both parties were under the mistaken impression that all of Lido Towers fell within Lido Beach.”
Because the New York State Supreme Court in 2015 awarded two former owners of the Superblock property millions of dollars — the court said they were underpaid when the city acquired the property through eminent domain nearly a decade earlier — city officials were concerned about possible legal action by Lido Towers over the value of that property, Agostisi said.
He added that the city could have been held liable, along with the town, for the entire portion of the beach, similar to the lawsuit over the Superblock, in which the city was sued for the value of the entire property, and not the individual parcels, under state eminent domain law.
Last month, the Hempstead Town Board approved an agreement with the DEC granting the Army Corps temporary access and use of the property.
On Oct. 16, the City Council voted unanimously to allow the city to enter into a similar agreement, but only after it reached a deal with Lido Towers limiting the city’s liability to potential litigation over the value of the property. If Lido Towers were to sue, officials said, the city would only be held liable for the value of the small portion of property in the city boundaries.
“The key component of this agreement is that aside providing [the Army Corps] needed access, it also requires the town to take good faith efforts to get a permanent easement on the project, which is basically another way of explaining eminent domain, unless the acquisition can be resolved amicably,” Agostisi said. “The city was able to negotiate one important form of protection that distinguishes our agreement form the town’s — this provision limits the city’s legal exposure in the event that Lido Towers commences a legal proceeding over the value of the property. Lido Towers agreed, at our behest, to not use the value of the assembled parcel in any future proceeding to determine valuation.”