Skip to main content

A 10-Foot Rock Revetment Instead?

Thu, 03/07/2024 - 10:35
A wall of geocubes makes it hard for people to access the beach at the end of Bay View Avenue in Amagansett.
Suffolk County GIS Viewer

While Lazy Point on Napeague is famous for its wild beauty, calm waters, clamming, and wind-surfing, an area just to its west called Cherry Point has become known for a less pleasant feature.

Cherry Point is accessed by a single private road, Bay View Avenue. Sunday drivers arriving at the end of the road would expect to be greeted by views of Napeague Bay — but they would first have to contend with a nine-foot wall of geocubes, which have prevented access to the beach from neighboring houses since they were installed in 2018.

Nicholas Grecco, the owner of 117 Bay View, who had them installed, argues that without them his house would be inundated during storms and made unlivable. Speaking at Tuesday night’s East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, Brian Matthews, his attorney, said that section of beach has been eroding some three to four feet a year, and that over 180 feet of beach has been lost in the last 40 years.

“The town has no grand coordinated plan to protect this area of the beach. Property owners are on their own,” he said.

The neighbors have long inveighed against the geocubes, and Mr. Matthews was at the Z.B.A. to present a plan that would replace them: a 108-foot-long, 10-foot-high rock revetment, 35 feet landward, anchored by three-ton boulders. Sean Buchner of DiLandro Andrews Engineering, which would oversee installation, assured the board that the revetment could withstand the force of a once-in-25-year storm.

Mr. Grecco’s application also includes demolishing his house (the property was first developed in 1979) and building a slightly larger one, 78 feet landward, but it was the revetment and its potential impact on nearby wetlands that dominated the nearly-three-hour discussion. All told, the project needs a natural resources special permit and eight variances, including one to place the revetment “where the construction of a new erosion control structure is prohibited,” and another to build “a PVC retaining wall as close as two feet from wetlands, where a 100-foot setback is required.”

East Hampton Town planners had said in an environmental assessment that the geocubes increase the overwash of sand into the marsh, but Aram Terchunian, owner of First Coastal, the company that installed them, showed the board aerial photos of the marsh going back 60 years, pointing out sand deposits long before.

“Your point in pointing out the overwash is what?” Roy Dalene, the Z.B.A. chairman, asked him.

“Overwash is a natural process that has been occurring since 1962 and long before,” Mr. Terchunian responded. “It’s not exacerbated by the structure. It’s actually healthy for the marsh.”

Brian Frank, the town’s chief environmental analyst, strongly disagreed. “To say it’s good for the marsh, that’s grossly oversimplified,” he said, adding that while it’s true that coastal wetlands do get overwashed, the presence of a hard structure such as geocubes or a revetment exacerbates the situation. The extra sand in the marsh “is reducing the capacity of the wetland to act like a sponge,” said Mr. Frank. “There has been a demonstrable adverse impact from the existing structure as it interacts with the shoreline.”

The applicant has some important questions to answer, he told the board; not least, at what point will the revetment begin interacting with the shoreline? (Several alternatives proposed, including a breakwater in the middle of the bay, were unrealistic, he said.)

Jaine Mehring, a new member of the Z.B.A. whom Mr. Matthews had asked, unsuccessfully, to recuse herself from the application, asked Mr. Frank if a case could be made to move the proposed revetment even farther away from the shoreline.

“I think that’s a more realistic alternative,” he replied. “You’re not putting a breakwater in New York State waters.”

Ed Johann, another board member, questioned Mr. Buchner, the engineer, about the stability and impact of the revetment, which would be 10 feet high at its crest and buried four feet into the sand. “We’ve seen structures like this, move. What is the potential this will survive long term?” he asked.

“There is no method to look at what redirection of wave forces would be,” said Mr. Buchner. “We do not have a way to say with confidence what the delta of erosion would be” to the west. The sheer weight of the stones would keep the revetment in place, he suggested. “It comes down to the total weight of stones per linear foot that allows it to withstand wave forces.”

Four members of the public, all residents of Bay View Road, spoke out against the application, all of them angry at their loss of beach access.

“If a new home is going to be built on stilts, it’s already in imminent peril — and it needs a rock revetment? Well, that seems logical,” observed Joe Karpinski. According to the application, the geocubes would be removed once a natural resources special permit and variances were in place, he noted. “It seems like someone is holding the road hostage to get what they want, and they’re denying us our rights for 2,050 days now, since the work commenced? It’s 1,777 days since the town told them to remove the structure from the roadway.”

“We have a legal pedestrian right of access over this area,” Mr. Karpinski continued, “and they’re telling us they’re intentionally keeping this here. The town board never signed off on this road being blocked. Your police, Marine Patrol, code enforcement, and fire marshals have all been asked to do their job, and they have not done anything yet.”

The public hearing and record were left open, at least until next week’s Z.B.A. meeting.



East Hampton’s Mulford Farm in ‘Digital Tapestry’

Hugh King, the East Hampton Town historian, is more at ease sharing interesting tidbits from, say, the 1829 town trustees minutes than he is with augmented reality or the notion of a digital avatar. But despite himself, he came face to face with both earlier this week at the Mulford Farm, where the East Hampton Historical Society is putting his likeness to work to tell the story of the role the farm’s owner, Col. David Mulford, played in the leadup to the 1776 Battle of Long Island, and of his fate during the region’s subsequent occupation by the British.

May 16, 2024

Hampton Library Eyes Major Upgrade

The Hampton Library in Bridgehampton, last expanded 15 years ago, is kicking off a $1.5 million capital campaign this weekend with the aim of refurbishing the children’s room, expanding the young-adult room, doubling the size of its literacy space, and undertaking a range of technology enhancements and building improvements to meet the needs of a growing population of patrons.

May 16, 2024

Item of the Week: The Gardiner Manor by Alfred Waud, 1875

Alfred R. Waud sketched this depiction of the Gardiner’s Island manor house while on assignment for Harper’s Weekly.

May 16, 2024

Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.