Sacco-Cunningham Bill Extending Eligibility To Public Access Walkways For Shore Protection Funding Approved By Senate

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

Measure To Help Restore Storm-Ravaged Walkways Along Hudson River

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Nicholas J. Sacco and Sandra Bolden Cunningham that would extend eligibility to public access walkways for consideration on the shore protection project priority list and for funding from the Shore Protection Fund, was approved today by the full Senate.

“Under normal circumstances, property owners along the Hudson River accept the financial responsibility of building and maintaining public access walkways. But since Hurricane Sandy, the cost of repairs has been prohibitive, and it is no longer fair to ask condo owners and private entities to bear the entire burden of restoring walkways that have been virtually destroyed,” said Senator Sacco, D-Hudson and Bergen. “Considering the magnitude of recent storm damage, this bill is a reasonable measure that will provide an opportunity for homeowners in these areas to apply for much-needed assistance.”

The bill, S-2620, would direct the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, in developing the priority ranking system for Shore Protection Fund projects, to include for consideration any project that would provide for the protection, stabilization, restoration, or maintenance of the shore associated with a public access walkway, provided that the walkway serves as a public access corridor spanning multiple municipalities.

In addition, the bill would amend current law concerning funding for shore protection projects to specify that projects meeting this criteria would be eligible to receive funding from the Shore Protection Fund. Created in 1992, the Shore Protection Fund allocates funds to protect public and private property and infrastructure from coastal storm damage, erosion and shoreline migration, and sea-level rise.

“Waterfront walkways are a precious public resource, and more needs to be done to ensure that they will continue to be available for everyone to use. Hurricane Sandy caused significant devastation all along the Jersey shore and the Hudson River, and property owners in both areas deserve a chance to apply for state aid,” Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson. “By extending eligibility to public access walkways for Shore Protection funding, this legislation will help bring tangible relief to business owners and communities that have been devastated by the storm.”

Under this bill, the Hudson River Walkway would be eligible for funding from the Shore Protection Fund. The Hudson River Walkway is a 30-foot wide pathway constructed at the edge of the Hudson River extending over 18 linear miles from Bayonne to the George Washington Bridge. The ongoing deterioration of the Hudson River Walkway was compounded by Hurricane Sandy, which caused damage that has been estimated to require millions of dollars in repairs.

Current regulations from the Department of Environmental Protection require the owners of adjacent buildings to maintain the walkway, and to provide free, unobstructed access to the walkway 24 hours a day. The bill would ease the burden of landowners in restoring the walkway, especially following disastrous storms, and clarify that projects to protect access to the Hudson shoreline are eligible to apply for state funding just as are projects to protect public access to the Atlantic coastline.

The bill now heads to the General Assembly for final legislative approval.

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