The Hempstead Town Board voted on Tuesday to build a dock in Long Beach that officials said would allow rescue boats and other emergency vessels to deploy from a firehouse in the West End, and significantly improve response times during water rescues.
Town Supervisor Laura Gillen unveiled the plan at a news conference in Long Beach on Monday, saying that the construction of a 70-foot pier along Reynolds Channel would also benefit nearby communities such as Atlantic Beach and Island Park as part of an intermunicipal agreement with the City of Long Beach.
Gillen — joined by Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, City Council President Anthony Eramo and Vice President Chumi Diamond, Police Commissioner and Acting City Manager Mike Tangney, and Long Beach firefighters and police officers — said that the structure would allow for quicker response times for incidents that occur along the bay by as much as 10 to 15 minutes.
“This rescue dock is — and will be — a shining example of our communities working together to reduce costs while saving lives,” Gillen told reporters. “By helping the City of Long Beach build this dock this with the town’s in-house employees and equipment, we are not only saving money, but saving the lives of people irrespective of their political and geographic boundaries.”
The pier would be built at the Long Beach Fire Department’s firehouse at Indiana and West Park avenues, and includes a 20-foot long float for docking a rescue boat and personal watercraft.
Currently, the Fire Department keeps a rescue boat on a trailer at the firehouse — the department also uses personal watercraft for emergencies on the bay and along the beach — and is required to slowly back the boat down a ramp at Bay Drive, on the beach or other locations when responding to water emergencies.
The Police Department also has a rescue boat that will be docked at the firehouse when the structure is completed, officials said. Last year, officials said that the city responded to 46 water rescues alone, not including mutual aid responses.
“Anytime there’s been an emergency, the guys have to drive to the trailer, hook up the pick-up truck to it, and then drive to the ramp or to the beach or wherever we had to go — Point Lookout or Atlantic Beach,” Long Beach Fire Chief Joseph Miller said. “Now, with this here, the boat will be in the water full-time, where we can just come here, get on it and go, cutting out about 10 minutes of response time.”
Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins added that the Long Beach Fire Department also provides mutual aid to Point Lookout, Lido Beach, Lawrence-Cedarhurst, Atlantic Beach, East Atlantic Beach and other areas.
“It just opens up the whole area for us to respond to quickly,” Kemins said.
Former Fire Chief Richard Corbett said that thousands of recreational and commercial boats use the bay.
“What’s unique about this location is if we ever do have a major incident, we can pull boats up to this dock and we can use our firehouse as a medical triage area,” Corbett said. “We are in a direct flight path to JFK airport, and God forbid anything happens with any type of aircraft, we are right here. We plan to use this dock with surrounding agencies — with police, fire, Coast Guard and Town of Hempstead bay constables.”
As part of its agreement with the city, the town would provide the labor to build the dock through its Department of Conservation and Waterways, while the city would supply the materials and schedule times for delivery and construction.
The town did not provide a cost for the project, though officials said that the work would be done during regular business hours. City officials said its portion of the costs are estimated to be under $20,000.
“This project will have an immediate positive effect on our Police and Fire Departments’ ability to conduct water rescues,” said City Council Vice President Chumi Diamond. “A new dock at the West End firehouse will greatly improve maritime incident response times, especially during spring and summer when the waters around Long Beach are at their most crowded. As with any emergency, the more quickly first responders can arrive to render assistance, the better the outcome will be.”
D’Esposito, a former chief of the Island Park Fire Department, said officials hope to have the structure completed in time for the summer season.
He added that he worked with Diamond, Miller and other city and fire officials for the past six months to get the project off the ground.
"With the help of our fantastic Town of Hempstead CSEA Local 880 workforce from Conservation and Waterways, piles will be driven into Reynolds Channel and a rescue dock — built in-house — will be placed in operation, a resource for all lifesaving agencies in the area," D'Esposito said in a statement on Facebook after the vote. "A bi-partisan effort, we hope that this rescue dock will allow for quicker and more efficient response times and serve as a potential transport location for EMS."