If all goes well, Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R, C, Shirley) 2022 Community Funding Request would support a Bellport Bay Transportation and First Responder Infrastructure Project that would shore up the main marina timber docks and the Ho-Hum Ferry emergency pier and bulkhead, strengthening points of departure utilized by the Suffolk County Police Marine Unit, Bellport Fire Department and South Country Ambulance.
It would mean a $3,267,000 investment and is one of four projects requested by Zeldin; Patchogue Village is in the loop for $9,400,000 to expand their water treatment plant. The two others are the Town of Riverhead, clean water for homes with wells; and Suffolk County Water Authority, clean water for homes with wells in Brookhaven.
“You get 80 percent of that money,” said Bellport village clerk John Kocay of the federal funding. “We’d have to fund $600,000. But there were only four submissions in his district and he had the opportunity to submit 10 requests.”
Bellport Village mayor Ray Fell said the project entailed critical infrastructure work. “It addresses the needs of our first responders and safety as well,” he said. “Our focus is on that and our residents.”
The marina floating dock system would be updated, as would the docks for the Fire Island ferry vessel and personal watercraft. Existing wave screens would be replaced with wave attenuators—protective shields that lower wave heights when they hit. Also, the bulkhead and pier forming the docks for the Ho-Hum Beach dock system would be reconstructed, which is used by first responder vessels, the ferry to Ho-Hum Beach, and personal watercraft.
The project, designed and permitted, is shovel ready. Once approved, the village would only be required to solicit licensed contractors to perform the work, which would take place over an approximated 24-week period.
An estimated start date is Nov. 15.
An important fact is that the village marina is the farthest east on the Great South Bay. It’s a significant vantage point for any assistance required addressing marine mishaps or medical emergencies, said Kocay. Fell said it was a major aspect of the request.
“The Suffolk County Police Marine Unit goes out several times a day from here,” Fell said. “They respond to boat fires and capsizing accidents as does the fire department and ambulance companies.”
Letters of support from Robert Brown, chief of patrol, Suffolk County Marine Bureau; Michael Zaffarano, chief of Bellport Fire Department; and Gregory C. Miglino Jr., chief of the Department for South Country Ambulance emphasized the docks’ uses in assisting several critical missions including aiding East End agencies for rescues and other emergencies involving Fire Island as well as Moriches Inlet, and as a vital water, dive and ice rescue training location. EMS utilizes Ho-Hum Beach for emergencies requiring quick access to Fire Island beaches.
“It’s not just first responders but also agencies like the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers,” added Fell.
Due to the cascading effect of damage since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which badly walloped Bellport’s marina, these repairs are now in need of updating, the village reasoned. The project is in addition to funding requested from FEMA for Superstorm Sandy repair. “We tried to think ahead and were fortunate to see the ability to apply,” Fell said.
Kocay said in addition to the needs of first responders and residents, the Ho-Hum Beach ferry is an outlet for Bellport High School students taking environmental courses. “The high school wants to go early June to transport their AP class to study the breach,” he said. “CEED also utilizes us and we’re proud of it.”
Congressman Zeldin’s office was asked about the next step for the funding. According to Zeldin’s spokesman Jacob Murphy: “Congressman Zeldin submitted the funding requests for Bellport and Patchogue to the House Appropriations Committee to be included in Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations legislation. If funding for these projects is included in appropriations legislation that becomes law, the money would need to be obligated during Fiscal Year 2022 but would not necessarily be spent during that timeframe.”