When was the last time anyone dredged Hammond Cove, home to the Locust Point Yacht Club, the Stepping Stone Yacht Club, the Bait Shack and the Ice House Cafe? Never.
According to Locust Point Yacht Club member Pat Quinn, the cove used to extend clear around Locust Point. Back then Locust Point was an island. Landfill connected it with the mainland, forming Hammond Cove. Since then, waves drifting in from the Long Island Sound and back out have deposited silt at the cove’s mouth. During low tide, sailboats struggle to pass; the water there is only a shocking three feet deep. On April 16, Community Board 10 voted to send the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a letter asking the agency to dredge Hammond Cove. For recreational boaters, the silt has become a real problem.
“We have more than 300 boats here, between the marina and the Locust Point Yacht Club,” said Justin Dambinskas, who operates the Stepping Stone Yacht Club, Bait Shack and Ice House Café. “At low tide, it’s difficult to get in and out.”
The problem is a natural one, and common. Silt accumulates at the bottom of rivers, coves and lagoons all over the world. Erosion and man-made obstacles can accelerate the process. Three years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers sunk an extra row of pilings into the water – to protect the Throggs Neck Bridge from runaway boats. Silt collected around the pilings and Hammond Cove grew shallower. Dambinskas added 20 feet to the cove’s longest dock – an $80,000 project. It was that or beach a handful of boats. Dambinskas is frustrated; he can only offer open-water access part-time.
Hammond Cove’s mouth is also its narrowest spot, where the tip of Tierney Place points across the water to Pennyfield Avenue. During high tide, the spot is 24 feet wide and 12 deep.
“In a sailboat, you can’t pass at low tide,” Quinn said. “You have to plan around it.”
According to Quinn, the Army Corps of Engineers had the Locust Point Yacht Club fill out a questionnaire six months ago; 20 feet at low tide would be plenty deep, he said. CB 10 member Virginia Gallagher is a dredge advocate. Not only Hammond Cove, but also City Island, Eastchester Bay and Weir Creek are choking on silt, she said. Like Gallagher, CB 10 member Jim McQuade is concerned.
“If we let the silt build up, it will ruin Throggs Neck,” McQuade said. “There aren’t many marinas left. The water is what makes our neighborhood special.”
The Army Corps of Engineers will conduct a study of Hammond Cove, and proceed accordingly.
“We’re not Hilton Head,” Quinn said, referring to South Carolina’s silty resort town. “We don’t need to dredge every six years. Every 75 years, that’s enough.”