Recently released FEMA funds totaling $2.3 million will allow the city to repair and restore the World’s Fair Marina, which suffered considerable damage during Hurricane Sandy.
The money is part of a $22 million package awarded to the city last week for hurrican damage.
“I’m quite proud of the marina’s getting approved,” said Nate Grove, senior manager for marinas for the Parks Department, who worked for five months to get the FEMA funding.
The marina, located on Northern Boulevard off the Grand Central Parkway, is next to a 1.4-mile stretch of promenade around Flushing Bay, and was not as badly hit as other areas of the borough.
According to Grove, “We knew Sandy was coming, so we did a lot to prepare,” sparing the marina from a fate that could have been much worse.
Following what he termed “good marina practice,” his staff, consisting of seven full-time employees in addition to himself, understands that “when the water levels get too high, you have to keep an eye on things.
“We warned the boaters. Generally, they’re pretty good” at following prescribed precautions, he added. Also helping the cause, according to Grove, is the fact that the marina is staffed 24 hours a day, meaning his employees are “familiar with everything at all times.”
Overall, “I think we did pretty good,” he said. “We’re generally well-protected. It’s a nice inlet.”
Still, he added, “We definitely got some damage done.”
According to Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D-NY) office, repairs to the marina will include replacement and repair of three gangways, 85 recreational wood docks, two commercial docks, 38 wood pilings and various electrical boxes, lines and plumbing components that were washed away or severely damaged by the storm surge and flooding.
And, Grove pointed out, “marina work isn’t cheap. Anything with boats involved” can become an expensive proposition, largely due to labor costs.
Uppermost in Grove’s mind since the storm struck was getting the largest city-run marina back in shape in time for Memorial Day weekend, and he is “proud that we were able to get enough repairs to get everyone back boating” as planned.
Grove said the strong winds that hit the area were “forces that we’ve never seen before,” but he was pleased that “we didn’t have any boats go down.”
He said the pilings, or tree poles that hold the docks in place, “did all right,” but a few were knocked over.
“We had surges and winds that put a strain on the docks. Fingers got snapped away from some of the mains,” he said, referring to the protrusions that extend off the dock where boats are tied. In addition, some electric meters were torn up and some electric wires had to be repaired or replaced.
Hardest hit was Pier 3, the end of which had to be completely closed because of the extensive damage. According to Grove, boats from the pier had to be displaced, towed to Pier 1. “Dock 3 was not safe,” he admitted, but the main transformers were fine.
Today, with much of the repair work already completed over a six-month period by Grove’s staff and four additional workers from the Department of Labor, which had approved the hiring of additional staff citywide for storm relief, things seem to be fairly normal around the bay.
In fact, Grove anticipates, in any future acts of nature, parts of the marina would be able to survive better than before Sandy.
He looks forward to being able to “take back our waterfronts and start doing things with them. They’re starting to become tourist destinations.”
The marina’s history extends back to the 1939 World’s Fair, with the construction of Pier 1. The second and third piers were added for the subsequent fair in 1964, though the second pier has since become unusable because of runoff from the combined sewer overflows, according to Grove.
Since 1999, the Parks Department has run the marina, which Grove said, has approximately 290 slips, the majority of which are leased by long-term customers. In addition, Grove said, dragon boat racers practice in the bay a couple of days a week, party and event boats operate cruises from the marina, and the waterway is becoming increasingly popular with attendees at Mets games.
“It’s a cool business that has started to pick up,” Grove said. “It’s a five-minute walk to the game.” He recalled that Billy Joel once arrived by boat for an appearance at the ball park.
According to Grove, the marina’s business has picked up considerably as a result of Sandy. “Some marinas didn’t do as well as we did. We actually got some extra customers,” mostly from areas badly hit on Long Island.
In fact, for the first time in the 10 years he has overseen the marina, Grove said, “We’ve started a waiting list.”
On a recent sunny afternoon, fishermen like Noni Luzano of East Elmhurst were on the pier hoping to catch some snapper or bluefish. “It’s clean,” he said of the area. “The people who maintain the pier do a good job. A lot of people come here.”
Also enjoying the fresh air was Susan Wong, out for a stroll on the pier with her six-month-old daughter, Jenny.
“We did a lot and there’s a lot to do,” Grove said. “We got the place safe. There are no electrical hazards. We still have gangways held by chains, not the right way to do it.
“Eventually we’ll have to go finger by finger and see what’s salvageable. If we have another storm, we have to be ready for it.”