South Shore Stories

by Linda Leuzzi

A Living Shoreline First in Patchogue


Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri gazed from Mascot Dock towards Shorefront Park at the huge pile of rocks running parallel along the shoreline already in place with more to come. “I look at it and say `how did you do that?’”

The living shoreline project at Shorefront Park, which will provide stabilization and structure elements to reduce flooding, spans 800 feet from the dock to DeWitt Avenue. Pontieri said Patchogue is the first municipality on Long Island to implement this project.

It is, in fact, the largest permitted living shoreline project in New York State and is being used as a model for other interested municipalities. According to the NOAA website, there are currently over 150 such projects nationwide.

The groundbreaking event took place in January with New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez and county executive Steve Bellone along with other officials attending.

Pontieri said he was confident the project would be completed by Memorial Day. “The main part will be done,” he said. “The grasses, natural plantings and bioswale will be completed by the end of June.”

Suffice it to say there’s a lot of follow up and follow through on this concept. There was also a lot of grant writing along with meetings. “We meet every two weeks with the Galvin Brothers project team,” said Marian Russo, Patchogue’s executive director of Community Development who is also the project manager on the administrative part. “We meet with the Galvin Brothers project manager, the VHB Engineering, Surveying and Landscape Architecture construction inspector a few times a week, and we have our landscape architect Quennell Rothschild & Partners Landscape Architects, an engineer overseeing the stormwater protection as well as an electrical engineer. On our end from the village, it’s me, Trustee Joe Keyes, Business Improvement District Executive Director Dennis Smith and Village Engineer Tim Nordberg.”

How do the rocks provide protection? “There are various sizes,” Pontieri said. “They are put together like a jigsaw puzzle and the construction company breaks them up, so they fit together.

The rocks stay put because of the way they are configured. It’s a skill. They put them in one stone at a time. They fit in and lock together. Some are 500 to 800 pounds.”

Russo added that the construction of the rock sills, which border the water, are designed and built to specifications with different layers of rocks and sizes placed to interlock. “That’s done by the contractor, Galvin Brothers, so they are able to withstand any storm surges,” she said. Everything is inspected before and after.

Pontieri said he’d never heard of such a project before. But the village was hit hard by storms like Sandy in October 2012 that walloped and flooded several blocks up, and then subsequent storm surges as recently as the one that hit Christmas 2022 when 6 to 8 inches swamped the area by Lombardi’s on the Bay. “That’s a business, but there are homes down these streets we need to protect,” he said.

The journey started with an anonymous donor gifting the village $5 million in 2015 for the restoration of parks. “We sat around and talked about it and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation made the recommendation that we could get the money for this project,” Pontieri added. “It took seven years for the permit approvals. But that time also allowed us to include an esplanade pathway with lighting and benches along the way.”

The village requested input from the community in 2015, and a proposal was presented in 2016. Grants included a New York State (NYS) Department of State $202,000 award for the living shoreline design; a NYS Department of State Division of Coastal Resources award of $2.189 million for the living shoreline construction; $317,000 from NYS Parks for the walkways, benches and kayak launch; $45,000 from NYS DEC for habitat restoration and expanding the village’s wastewater treatment plant; and another $3 million from the NYS Department of State for walkways, furnishings and other improvements for Shorefront Park. The total cost was $3,741,980. Grants totaled $3 million. The private donation funded the $741,980.

The project was reconfigured due to rising costs and delays and last December, the village board passed a resolution to award a $3.71 million bid for the work at Shorefront Park. VHB Engineering, Surveying and Landscape Architecture and Quennell Rothschild & Partners Landscape Architects presented the newly reworked project.

Among other things, the living shoreline will improve stormwater quality, provide increased ecology and habitat, and create a 28,500 square foot marsh. (Marshes are nature’s sponges.) There are bio retention basins, which remove contaminants and sedimentation, that will increase pollinator habitat and biodiversity. Down the road at Little Creek, a tidal creek reconnection will improve water flow.

Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri Stands on Mascot Dock

Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri stands on Mascot Dock overlooking Shorefront Park and its living shoreline project. It’s the first such project on Long Island and the largest permitted living shoreline project in New York State.

“With Sandy we had people with water in their basements and on their streets,” said Pontieri. “Over in Lindenhurst, people had that, and boats in their yards. To me, that was the impetus to go forward with this and not be in the same situation.”