Real Estate: A summer without the beach on Soundview Avenue

06/07/2011 11:33 AM |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The view down Soundview Avenue.

Life at the end of Soundview Avenue used to be a day at the beach.

Trips down spindly stairs to the Soundfront beach were a daily ritual for longtime homeowners along a short stretch of Goldin Lane leading down to Soundview Avenue and the water and for condominium owners in town for summer weekends. They climbed down to the beach for the sunset, for barbecues, for endless summer days of sunning and swimming.

But just after Christmas, driving winds and snow battered the coastline along Soundview on the western side of Hashamomuck Cove. The wind and water gouged away great swaths of cliff, swallowing up the edge of the roadway’s asphalt, the stairs and years of sand and vegetation reinforcements designed to keep the cliffs intact and the water at bay.

The eastern end of Soundview Avenue, between Goldin Lane and the traffic racing by on Route 48, has been closed ever since. So, too, is neighboring Town Beach, where the asphalt was also torn up by the vicious storm. Southold Town workers began putting the beach back together in earnest two weeks ago, after the rebuilding project got the OK from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

But with swimming season drawing near, the state of Soundview Avenue’s closed section remains mired in red tape. As a result, all traffic that formerly made the straight run down the length of Soundview Avenue, which roughly parallels the Sound shore, has been diverted to Goldin Lane, a bucolic neighborhood of half a dozen houses with trim lawns and peaceful backyards.

Above the door to resident Theresa Czech’s house is an oar that simply says “Heaven” on it. This had been her paradise.

“I just can’t go on the beach anymore,” said Ms. Czech, who has lived on the quiet street since 1974. “The storm took our staircase away. The town has to dump dirt to fix the shoulder on the road. They need to drop tons of sand. I tell people not to stand close to the edge of the cliff because there’s a big dugout under the ledge. You’re standing on grass, but there’s nothing under it.”

This isn’t the first time erosion has washed away the stairs or eaten away at the cliff. But it is the first time in Ms. Czech’s memory that the road needed to be closed.

She remembers several times when workers shored up the edge of the road with sand that was no match for the force of the sea.

“But this time, it came so big and horrible,” she said. “We’re in a bad mess. We can’t go to the beach. It used to be, you come home from work and go to the beach. When you have company, you go to the beach. You watch the sunset. Now I walk to Town Beach, which is closed, but I walk down there and walk back to my area.”

Ms. Czech’s neighbor, Anne Kempner, is equally upset about the way the road closure has changed her neighborhood.

“I hope the street opens up. The traffic on Goldin Lane is unbearable,” she said. “It’s a little street that’s taking all the brunt from Soundview being closed. There’s speeding, heavy traffic, big heavy stuff going through here. We have no limit on tonnage, no speed limit on this street.”

Ms. Kempner said she’d heard that Southold Town was going to fix the road after the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the area for disaster funding due to the storm, but was having trouble getting easements from people who live on the cliff.

Town engineer James Richter has been working on the effort to reopen the road and fix Town Beach since the storm. He said that the town is awaiting easements from seven people who own bluff-front property along Soundview Avenue, and there is a 30-day wait before it can finalize those easements.

“It’s just the legalities of making it happen,” Mr. Richter said. “But they all seem to be moving forward.”

The town has not yet received DEC permits to fix the bluff, a project that will involve placing rows of four-ton armor stone rip-rap at the base and backfilling that with sand. Mr. Richter hopes to have those permits within weeks.

“We’re hopeful that’s going to be a permanent fix,” he said. “The past two times, it was basically sand that was put there. The water just took that material and it kept eroding further back.”

The town plans to have the armor stones delivered to Town Beach and taken to the site with heavy equipment. Mr. Richter estimated that the work would take about two weeks once the permits and easements are in place.

Real estate agent Paul Heffernan, a has had an office on the corner of Goldin Lane for 40 years, said the beach ownership situation is complicated.

He and Ms. Kempner and Ms. Czech together access one 50-foot-long private beach through the stairs that have washed out over the cliff. Residents of the other side of Goldin Lane own another 50-foot stretch of beach, while the owner of a complex of cottages farther down Soundview Avenue owns another 50 feet of beach. The North Fork Beach Condominiums owns another 100 feet.

The owners of the 42 units at North Fork Beach Condominiums, many of whom are seasonal or weekend residents, have lost the back entrance to their parking lot and all of their beach access. They’re taking their time coming back this spring.

Mr. Heffernan said that “a load of people there are upset about it.”

Despite the balmy weather and the unofficial opening of the summer season on the Memorial Day weekend, not a single resident was at home at the North Fork Beach Condominiums on a recent Monday. Construction workers who were sprucing up the building’s facade said they expected a crowd to arrive Friday afternoon.

On Friday afternoon, the condo complex was also vacant. Several barbecue grills lined up overlooking the closed road were unattended. There were no family cookouts, no children’s laughter and no doubt that the beach closure had put a damper on the residents’ summer plans.

But just east of Soundview Avenue on Route 48 is a bustle of activity, as Town Beach is being repaired. Mr. Richter hopes that beach will be open by this weekend.

A woman who answered the phone at the Sound Beach Motel, across Route 48 from Town Beach, said she believed the beach would be open in time to keep her busy season from being washed out.

“Beach season didn’t start yet. We open May 1 but it’s slow until July,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.
“Our guests want to make sure the beach is open,” she added. “I hope it will be done for beach season. Most of our guests are coming for the beach. If it’s not open, I’ll be in big trouble.”

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