Stymied Erosion Project Blamed

Rocks that once helped protect Soundview Drive in Montauk were thrown by the heavy surf onto the pavement. Jeremy Samuelson

     Hurricane Sandy’s winds and tides had barely dissipated  this week when Terry Bienstock, a resident of the Soundview development  on Block Island Sound in Montauk, blamed inaction by the state, county, town, and Army Corps of Engineers for leaving the area and the Culloden community to the west vulnerable to the massive storm.
    Soundview homeowners had brought a multimillion-dollar suit against the Army Corps and the three levels of government over a year ago, alleging that the jetties that mark the Montauk Harbor inlet are the basic cause of Soundview’s  eroded beaches. The suit is pending in Federal District Court in Islip.
    Mr. Bienstock said that in June State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, and Representative Timothy Bishop had joined Soundview residents in sending a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, asking that he release $1.9 million  the state had already allocated as its share of  what was to be a comprehensive project that included dredging of the Montauk Harbor channel and rehabilitation of the beaches at Soundview. Mr. Bienstock said the letter asked for immediate relief for homeowners “who are in fear of losing their homes.”
    As it turned out this week, the hurricane left one house at Soundview severely undermined and in danger of collapse. There was little damage to houses or bulkheads at Culloden, however, and a bulkhead built by Mr. Bienstock in front of his property survived.  
    Mr. Bienstock claimed the state had given the go-ahead, but that East Hampton Town, which had also agreed to allocate money to the major inlet and beach fix, would not sign off on the deal.
    Mr. Thiele said yesterday that, while the state had agreed to throw money at the Soundview problem, it could not do so until the federal government agreed to lead the project. For his part, Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said the town could not act until the town board had finished its deliberations with the Army Corps about which of three alternative approaches the corps had outlined would be implemented.
    About a month ago, the East Hampton Town Board had chosen an alternative that called for material dredged from the inlet to be used to rebuild the Soundview beaches on a maintenance basis. Emergency dredging of the inlet was completed recently while the major project has been stymied.
    Another alternative, to build a series of groins along Soundview beaches to help hold sand, was opposed by the Soundview and Culloden communities because it would have resulted in the beaches becoming public. It was noted that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would not allot funds unless the beaches became public.
    “The frustrating part of our problem is this was a manmade problem,” Mr. Bienstock said.


Waves from Block Island Sound crashed against sea walls along Soundview Drive in Montauk, dangerously undermining at least one house.
Russell Drumm