Score one for the people. This week, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming announced that the county had taken the formal step required to accept $250,000 in state funding to pay for the removal of a galvanized steel guardrail the county Department of Public Works installed four years ago along a stretch of Short Beach Road between North Haven and Bay Point.
When the railing was installed in June 2014, it set off angry protests from residents, who said it was ugly and would destroy the view over Noyac Bay and potentially pose a safety hazard to joggers and bicyclists who use the road’s shoulder.
“When those things were installed, I was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, working with the Noyac Civic Council and a member of the town board, and I knew nothing about this planned installation, which had such an incredible impact on our precious viewshed,” Ms. Fleming said.
Despite demands that the guardrail be removed, the DPW initially dug in its heels. At a community meeting shortly after it was installed, William Hillman, the DPW’s chief engineer, and Bill Colavito, the director of highway design, said it was there to stay.
They said the guardrail had been installed after the county received complaints that the road, which borders the beach and cove, posed a danger to motorists who risked driving into the water if there was a collision. They said the county conducted a safety study and determined those concerns were well-founded.
But faced with a petition containing more than 600 signatures and pressure from elected officials including Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Ms. Fleming, North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander and state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the county began to change its tune.
In 2016, the DPW agreed the railing could be replaced with a more aesthetic wooden one, providing the funding could be found elsewhere. At that time, Mr. Thiele obtained access to $250,000 in state funding to help pay for the project.
Finally, at its May 15 meeting, the county legislature amended its 2018 capital budget to allow County Executive Steve Bellone to sign an agreement with the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York to accept the grant money, Ms. Fleming said in a release.
Ms. Fleming said the DPW has agreed to use the same type of wooden guardrails that are seen in state parks, which she said would have less of a visual impact. “I wish they didn’t have to have any rails,” Ms. Fleming said. “It’s a preserved town park — Foster Memorial Beach.”
James Perry, who launched the initial petition drive, said he was happy the metal guardrail would be removed, but added, “I think any railings, whether wood or metal, actually make the road more dangerous for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.”
North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander agreed that it would be better if there were no railing at what he called “the gateway to our village,” but he praised Ms. Fleming for her effort. “She did a lot of work to make that happen,” he said.
The state funding will cover the cost of the new rail. The new rail will be taken down and used somewhere else in the county, where it is more suitable, Ms. Fleming said.
The DPW did not return a call seeking to find out when the work would begin.
Ms. Fleming said the guardrail work is only part of an effort to beautify the area along Long Beach. She pointed to efforts to bury power lines and restore areas where the Suffolk County Water Authority recently installed new mains.
“This stretch of road is one of the most scenic public vistas on the East End, with a one-mile-long public beach, a boat launching area, fishing spots, a bicycle lane and substantial pedestrian use,” Mr. Thiele said in a release. “The steel rails were installed without consultation with local government, elected officials or civic organizations, and all agreed that they undermine the area’s unique natural beauty and parkland setting.”