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Nov 19, 2014 12:36 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Supervisor: Town Is Committed To Preserving Old Ponquogue Bridge

Nov 19, 2014 12:36 PM

Southampton Town officials say they are committed to preserving the footings of the old Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays, but anglers and scuba divers hoping for a speedy reopening would be advised not to hold their breath.

During a panel discussion focusing on the past, present and future of the 84-year-old bridge hosted by the Hampton Bays Civic Association on Monday night, Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the bridge will likely remain closed until next summer. However, she stressed that the town is committed to salvaging at least one of the footings to preserve its status as a cherished fishing destination and host to a vibrant underwater ecosystem.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the town is requesting $1.5 million in remediation funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency because the footings were damaged during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. If that falls through, she said the Town Board has tentatively budgeted $1 million in capital works funds that can be put toward the necessary renovations.

“Our hope is we will get the FEMA money for it—it’s a million-and-a-half dollars—and, in the meantime, we’ll put together a working group that’s going to look at what’s the best way to remediate,” she said.

Town Trustees Scott Horowitz and Ed Warner Jr. will accompany Town Engineer Christine Fenton on a boat ride underneath the south footing, which is attached to the Ed Warner Sr. Marine Park on Dune Road, to inspect the pilings and the underside of the bridge. It is not clear when they will conduct the inspection.

The town has contracted with Westhampton Beach marine construction firm Chesterfield Associates, which will bring in an underwater dive team to do a more thorough inspection of the integrity of both footings. Once that team completes its report, the town will have a better sense of how to move forward, Ms. Throne-Holst said.

“We’re waiting for the engineer’s reports,” she said. “They are underwater engineers, they presumably understand all [the environmental issues at stake], and they will bring that report to all of us and we will share it with everyone.”

The panel discussion was held to alleviate concerns that the town planned to remove both footings because of their increasingly deteriorating conditions, which have led to at least one injury in recent weeks. Earlier this fall, the town blocked access to both fishing piers.

Along with being a popular fishing location because of its proximity to the Shinnecock Inlet and the wide array of fish species that reside there, the old bridge has become home to a variety of coral, exotic fish, crustaceans and other underwater creatures, such as sea stars and seahorses, all of which has made the bridge a popular destination for both local and visiting divers.

Experts such Chris Paparo, director of the Stony Brook University Marine Sciences Center in Southampton, and Kevin McAllister, founder of the local nonprofit Defend H2O, said removing the pilings would destroy that unique underwater ecosystem that has formed over the past several decades. Some residents are concerned that their removal would have grave impacts on the tourism economy.

While most of the discussions were focused on the southern footing, which is in better shape, comparatively, and more widely used, Mr. Warner explained that removing the northern footing could also have an adverse impact on the underwater ecosystem.

“If you were to remove the pilings under the north side of the bridge, a hundred or so pilings about eight to 12 inches in diameter, you would increase the water flow, you’d change the currents and you’d basically change the whole dynamics of western Shinnecock Bay—how the water comes and goes,” Mr. Warner said.

He predicted that, in four or five years, the sand that has accumulated under those pilings will be scoured away.

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what a crock. its an old decaying bunch of wood and macadam. just let it fall into the bay -- spend a million to repair it? for who? a bunch of out of towners? what about the pavilion on the ocean that is a wreck and an embarrassment and used by 1000's of people every sunny day?
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Nov 20, 14 12:00 AM
I doubt you are old enough to remember sitting in the car waiting for the boats to pass through and the drawbridge to go back down. It's a nice memory to preserve. I can't say spending the money is the right thing to do or not, but you'd be wise not to disparage the out of towners since they are the ones who bring the money and are valued by all the local merchants, bar none.
By Hollya1 (1), Hampton Bays on Nov 20, 14 7:01 PM
Hampton Bays needs a fishing pier. Its a no brainer.
By 007 (45), East Quogue on Nov 20, 14 6:27 AM
David don`t be a crabby old man! It will be a beautiful Safe place for all to enjoy!
By greeneyedlady (55), East Quogue on Nov 20, 14 1:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
Really? A million dollars of tax money on a broken down stretch of abandoned road is crabby? How about spending a million dollars on the Pavilion at Ponquogue Beach that is used by 1000% more people? At least put a garbage can on the North end to cart away the trash that is left behind by out of towners.
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Nov 20, 14 2:33 PM
I can understand asking FEMA to spending money to rebuild part of Dune road.--which I'm not sure they approved. But its a bit much to ask them to help fix part of a dilapidated piece of bridge that is no longer operable. I believe many people up island are still waiting for FEMA money to rebuild their homes they lost during Sandy. I hope the town cancels its request to spare us some further embarrassment.

As far as the town spending its own treasure on this I would also disagree. That ...more
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Nov 20, 14 4:54 PM
That would require two acts of the NYS legislature for the Town to alienate parkland (it may seem dumb, but it's true and when you look at the reasons for it, makes sense) and the Town would have to compensate for this loss elsewhere. Hard to compensate for something comparable to the fishing piers, and the Town aint about to go to the NYS legislature and ask to alienate these parks
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Nov 24, 14 10:29 AM
PLAN A: Have the town repair or replace the north and south side piers. Then sell special park permits for their use which will go towards paying for it. A no brainer.
By Jaws (245), Amity Island on Nov 20, 14 11:50 PM
Wonderful, perhaps we can look to the Highline park along the West Side of Manhattan as an inspiration.

The bridge and area leading up to the bridge would be greatly improved if there were some simple landscaping and seating options added.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Nov 21, 14 7:45 AM
FEMA money rebuilt the board walks in Long Beach and the Jersey Shore why not this little fishing pier? Maybe give the Rechlers the green light at the canal, and they could help with the pier. Wink wink
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Nov 23, 14 12:14 PM