By Laura Schmidt. The final stage of the Fire Island to Moriches Inlet (FIMI) project has concluded and with it comes mixed feelings from residents in Ocean Bay Park, Davis Park and Fire Island Pines.
In recent weeks, in order to build 19 miles of new dunes on the south side of Fire Island, about 20 oceanfront homes have been bulldozed to the ground. While homeowners were given the opportunity to move their homes to an available plot of land, most people opted for an official appraisal and buyout by the government. However, these residents gave up their homes nearly two years ago and they have sat empty since, which hasn’t sat right with residents.
Lifetime Ocean Bay Park resident, as well as sales associate for this publication, Beth Errico said some people in town tried to stop the demolition but ultimately “not enough people came together to make a difference.”
The project, led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), was implemented not long after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, to protect homes and the island from further erosion and breeches. The $207 million federally funded project was awarded to Brownie Companies of Long Island to carry out the demolition.
“It’s great how well [construction members are] working on it and getting the houses down because it’s painful to watch,” Errico said. “So it’s better to get in [and] get it done so we can see the positive rather than the negative of watching the houses come down.”
Ocean Bay Park resident Jim Williams misses his friends who once lived on the ocean.
“It’s not just the houses or look of that makes it different,” Williams said. “It’s that those people that were in those houses, that were part of the community, are gone also.”
For many Fire Islanders, a home can carry a lifetime of memories and rich family history.
“I grew up on the island and each one of those houses is special,” Errico said. “You can put a fair market value on it but, truly, my home on Fire Island is priceless.”
Williams and Errico, along with other residents, believe the money put toward building additional dunes could have been better spent on reinforcing the existing sandbar or adding jetties all along the island.
“I don’t know if this dune is going to be any better than the God-given dune that was there before,” Errico said.
Fire Islanders will certainly be keeping a sharp eye on the new dune to observe its effectiveness in the months following its conception, as well as the years to come.
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