Rebuilt Fort Hale Pier Opens

Thomas Breen photosSeven years after Hurricane Sandy destroyed a popular East Shore fishing pier, city and state officials celebrated the grand reopening of a reconstructed pier that includes new amenities for fishing and recreation, and that is structurally resilient enough to withstand higher sea levels and more frequent storms in an era of manmade climate change.

Mayor Toni Harp and Governor Dannel Malloy joined a half dozen local and state officials at the celebration Monday morning under a cloudless blue sky alongside the Long Island Sound in Fort Nathan Hale Park to announce the official opening of the new Fort Hale Pier.

Battered by Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and Hurricane Irene in 2011, the old Fort Hale Pier was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In July 2015, a collaboration of local and state officials, led by New Haven State Senator Martin Looney, convinced the state to relinquish its ownership of the pier to New Haven and to commit to bonding $1.8 million in state funds for the pier’s reconstruction.

The six-month reconstruction project spanned October 2017 to April 2018, and the pier has been open for public use since April 13.

During Monday morning’s sunshine-suffused ribbon cutting, Looney recalled how much time he had spent with his children and grandchildren at the pier over the decades.

“I began taking my son here in 1982 when he was 6,” he said. “Then we lost a few years in fishing after the pier was severely damaged in Hurricane Gloria in 1985, then [we came] back again once it was restored. And then in 2008 when my grandson was 6, we began taking him here with us as well. But since 2011 we haven’t been able to do that. We look forward once again [to fishing] on this site.”

“This is the kind of thing that helps make communities whole,” he continued. “That gives them a sense of pride, a sense of connection.”

The new pier is 360 feet long, 10 feet longer than its predecessor. The neck is 12 feet wide, whereas the previous pier’s neck was 16 feet wide, and the length of the pier is capped by a 140-foot wide “T” head, which has a 16-foot-wide walking area and includes a 39-foot wide octagon at one corner.

The wooden railing stretching up and down the length of the pier includes little notches designed to hold fishing rods in place so that people can rest their hands after casting a line. The pier also includes waist-high plastic stations meant for washing and cleaning the day’s catch.

Parks Ranger Dan Barvir praised the pier’s new amenities as allowing for easier fishing access for the youth and senior fishing classes he plans on hosting on the pier this summer.

As he baited a line on Monday morning to test the waters for the striped bass, winter flounder, summer flounder and blackfish that populate the aquatic area, he said that the octagon at the head of the pier offers a much better configuration than the previous, straight peer did for gathering and teaching small groups how to fish.

“Apparently every single person who grew up in New Haven has gone fishing here,” said Laura Cahn, the chair of the city’s Environmental Advisory Council. She said that she was encouraged by this project’s contribution to the beautification of New Haven’s shoreline, and by the city’s and the state’s commitment to protecting New Haven’s coast from rampant commercial development.

Environmentally Resilient Infrastructure

Governor Malloy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal also used the pier’s reopening as an opportunity to promote environmental policies at the local and state levels, and to bash President Trump’s administration for playing fast and loose with environmental regulations at the national level.

Malloy said he was old enough to remember the first Earth Day celebrations in 1970, and recalled how environmental activists succeeded in getting communities throughout the country to care about protecting the environment from such degradations as water pollution and non-degradable garbage.

“Earth Day and activists changed our attitude about the environment,” he said. “But we have to remain diligent even as people in Washington try to dissuade us from doing those things. The reality is this pier had to be at a different design because the water levels are rising and that’s happening as a result of climate change. Although Republicans are not allowed to say it in Washington, climate change is manmade. We’re doing it to ourselves. And it’s going to be a tough situation to reverse.”

Malloy and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Rob Klee alluded to legislation the governor’s administration and Senator Looney have collaborated on to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent from a 2001 baseline by 2030 and to Connecticut’s coastal boundary maps to reflect a two-foot rise in sea level by 2050.

Senator Blumenthal called on President Trump to look to New Haven as an example of how city and state officials can work together to protect against the effects of climate change.

“If you want to see what leadership looks like,” he said. “Come here to New Haven. If you want to see what environmental leadership looks like, come to this pier.”

Blumethal said that this type of environmentally resilient and responsible infrastructure development needs to happen throughout the country, but that the president has so far only offered words and not action.

“This administration has relied on magical thinking when it comes to infrastructure,” he continued. “No action. Donald Trump ought to come here and see this pier and what can be done when citizen activism and the state and local leaders come together and decide to get things done.”

City Engineer Giovanni Zinn said that the new pier abides by construction standards that are simply a lot higher than when the previous pier was built some 50 years ago.

He said the city and its contractor contemplated using steel or concrete for the pier, but settled on wood because it is a naturally resilient material, is less expensive on a per-unit basis, and is immune to the corrosion, pitting and rusting.

“It’s extremely strong,” Zinn said, praising the strength of the substructure of the pier as being able to withstand rising tides, fiercer waves, and more frequent storms. He said the wire railing will also allow water to pass through more easily during a flood, and therefore put less pressure on the railing.

City Parks Director Rebecca Bombero said that phase two of the pier’s reconstruction will take the remaining state funds left over from the $1.8 million bonded for the pier to add benches, security cameras, a gate, and a water line to the pier that will allow for the washing and cleaning of fish. She said phase two will also cover the repaving of the park’s parking lot.

Bombero said the phase two improvements to the pier should be complete by the end of this year’s fishing season in August.

Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch a recording of the opening ceremony.

 

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posted by: positive4NH7462 on April 23, 2018  4:02pm

Great article about the dedication of the rebuilt Fort Hale Pier.  Thank you to the New Haven Independent!  Come on, Really?? Malloy and Blumenthal have to take the time to bash the POTUS at a dedication.  Like him or don’t like him, get with the program Donald Trump is the President of the United States.  Enough already, leave your politics at home when you come to dedicate a beautiful neighborhood treasure.  The people in the East Shore as well as throughout the city cherish this pier, and there should be no room for politics against the President here, especially from a Governor that ruined the State of the State.  Remember, let’s stay positive 4 New Haven! #LuvNewHaven #LuvThyNeighbor #Community

posted by: Atwater on April 23, 2018  4:03pm

Less photos of politicians and more photos of the actual pier, please.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on April 23, 2018  5:48pm

positive4nh7462, politics at the federal and state level will determine whether projects like this will be be funded in the future. And politics will determine how well we cope with sea level rise and other aspects of climate change.

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on April 24, 2018  7:19am

The pier was destroyed seven years ago under Democrat leadership and only now is reopened but somehow the restoration is evidence of productive democratic citizenship of which the President should take notice? Moreover, acrimoniously attacking the President according to a schedule that the Democrats can’t keep themselves?  And what in the world is the analogous about a pier and the environment other than the simple fact that it exists?  Maybe they built it higher than it was before….did they?

posted by: JCFremont on April 24, 2018  8:00am

Yes Kevin, I think we should design Vestments for politicians to wear at events like the above just to remind us that they and only they will save, provide through their infallibile knowledge.

posted by: wendy1 on April 24, 2018  9:18am

A stunningly stupid waste of my tax money.  GD these politicians….and they are happy to increase your city and state taxes.  Dont vote for them.

posted by: 06512 on April 24, 2018  9:33am

I don’t understand why this is a waste of tax money.  The park is very popular and in desperate need of a cleanup.  The pier was destroyed by a hurricane 6 years ago and it’s reconstruction was long overdue.  The east shore is a densely populated section of the CT shoreline, and it needs a freely-accessible pier.  The closest pier is at Lighthouse point park, which by the way is also out of commission.  I would gladly pay more taxes for all of us to have more facilities like this one.

posted by: Ozzie on April 24, 2018  10:02am

I’m not an engineer or designer but I can tell the pier was not well thought out .Having seen a couple of other pictures of the pier at high tide and by looking at the high water marks on the rocks the money was not well spent . The pier should have been built at a higher level and will no doubt be under water during the next perigee high tide or the next big storm . .But that’s the way the State and City operate . How much money was allocated for the project and how much money was actually spent to build it , ( because I’m sure money was siphoned off ) . Those are questions that should’ve been asked to Governor uh , um and the rest of of that crew

posted by: positive4NH7462 on April 24, 2018  10:19am

I can say that the residents of New Haven and around love the pier.  It attracts many from surrounding towns as well.  The other day there were people from West Haven as well as North Haven, rebuilding this pier should happen if a storm deems it unsafe.  These simple things make people happy, restoring something that has been there for years! It still should NOT be a political arena.  Yes, politicians regardless of party should be there for dedications.  Belittling themselves to trash other ELECTED officials is a bit much!! Enough already, let’s unite as Americans and at least pretend to get along even if you find it hard.  People agree to disagree all day long, and life goes on! Again, let’s at least be positive for New Haven!  Happy Spring and go out and enjoy the pier.

posted by: wendy1 on April 24, 2018  11:58am

Next picture of that pier will be underwater.
Morris Cove is a mostly segregated community typical of who benefits from pols.

posted by: Sean O'Brien on April 24, 2018  12:44pm

Very glad to see the pier fully restored and even improved upon. Hopefully this will eliminate some of the past conflicts over fishing in the area.

It’s unfortunate that this dedication happened on a Monday morning, or more residents might have been able to be there instead of at work. To me, it’s doubly disappointing because the politicians and officials assembled on that pier, talking about Earth Day and Climate Change while they take in the beauty of the neighborhood, are the same people who control the environmental fate of that very same shoreline. It would have been nice for residents to voice their concerns about the looming threats of Tweed, harbor projects, and the sewer plant.

If HB 5537 is passed and all limitations on Tweed airport’s runway length are removed, these same New Haven and Hartford officials may decide to dump more millions into the wasteful and environmentally-destructive airport expansion. Let’s keep the skies as clean and clear as we can, and save the shoreline these politicians are using for a backdrop.

Not a single person on that pier has taken a direct stance against airport expansion and Mayor Harp and her staff are the driving force behind Tweed’s plans. On Wednesday at 6pm, Morris Cove and East Shore residents will bring our concerns to the Board of Alders meeting, and I hope our alders will recall this beautiful day in the neighborhood that is threatened by airport expansion.

Likewise, I hope Mayor Harp will visit us more often for happy occasions such as this pier opening and engage directly with the communities on the east side of the Quinnipiac River. It is nice to see a community meeting scheduled for Monday April 30 6pm at Jepson School, but it would have been better to have the meeting at Nathan Hale, two blocks from the airport.

We should have had alder / community meetings before the legislation was drafted by City Hall. But, of course, we weren’t afforded the opportunity because past meetings didn’t go the City’s way.

posted by: positive4NH7462 on April 24, 2018  1:48pm

Wendy1 you apparently haven’t been to the East Shore, “Morris Cove” in a long time.  It is very diverse and well kept.  Good community comradery.

posted by: steve on April 26, 2018  12:02am

Sean O’Brien, Quote, “New Haven and Hartford officials may decide to dump more millions into the wasteful and environmentally-destructive airport expansion.” 1. The runway plan will be 90% financed by the FAA which derives its funds from fees on airline tickets, very little state and local money will be contributed. 2. The project will be to pave the existing grass overruns, not go beyond the present fence line. 3. The airport will not be as you say, “environmentally-destructive”. The planned project will have no effect on ground area at the airport. 4. Even with increased service, the major cause of pollution in the area is I-95 and I-91, not Tweed and the newer regional jets have much cleaner burning engines and a smaller noise footprint than the jets that flew into Tweed years ago. 5. Tweed’s level of service will not be as large as some fear, but with service to 3-5 hub airports, it can make travel closer and easier for passengers and eliminate the distance and travel time to Bradley field which is almost in Massachusetts. 6. It also will create needed jobs and keep travelers money spent in the local area, not Windsor Locks.
Much of the opposition voiced by some is not accurate and is based on inciting fear with unfounded claims, not facts. Some have said Tweed causes respiratory problems and one claim made was that larger planes would cause the runway to sink under the weight. These and other rants are products of an overactive imagination, not real world airport operations. 
All in all, with the planned upgrade, Tweed will become the airport of choice for many who fly.

posted by: Sean O'Brien on April 26, 2018  10:31am

@steve, we’ve been through this before, but since you insist on copy-pasting:

“1. The runway plan will be 90% financed by the FAA which derives its funds from fees on airline tickets, very little state and local money will be contributed.”

On the contrary, there is no guarantee of this and the Federal court ruling in October actually determined that the airport can come into full FAA compliance inside its current bounds and within current runway limits.  Why would they pony up “90%”?

“2. The project will be to pave the existing grass overruns, not go beyond the present fence line.”

HB 5537 calls for *all limitations on Tweed runway length to be removed*.

“3. The airport will not be as you say, ‘environmentally-destructive’. The planned project will have no effect on ground area at the airport.”

Your proposed paving is so expensive precisely because it’s on top of 1000 feet of marsh/wetlands.

“4. Even with increased service, the major cause of pollution in the area is I-95 and I-91, not Tweed and the newer regional jets have much cleaner burning engines and a smaller noise footprint than the jets that flew into Tweed years ago.”

Jet engines burning fuel at higher altitudes have different effects, different compounds. The impact hasn’t been assessed. I-95 and I-91 are a bad example here, since you’re asking to exponentially increase traffic from cars, buses, trucks, tankers in the neighborhood.

The new jet service has already made *more* noise for residents less effected by the older Dash-8s. Although they are quieter on takeoff, they literally rattle my walls and windows with a noticeable high-decibel *boom* and have a terrible effect on my animals.

There is no new noise assessment planned, and the maps Larson held up were from 2012, with completely different planes and certainly without considering a longer runway.

(1/2)

posted by: Sean O'Brien on April 26, 2018  11:01am

“5. Tweed’s level of service will not be as large as some fear, but with service to 3-5 hub airports, it can make travel closer and easier for passengers and eliminate the distance and travel time to Bradley field which is almost in Massachusetts.”

I just took a train to Boston for approx. $100 that got me there in about 2 hours.  NYC is the same timeframe, and cheaper.  Bradley is less than an hour away but let’s say 1.5 hours to consider Hartford-area traffic.  New Haven is not expensive to travel to and from when compared to other New England cities, it’s certainly not hard to get to, and better and more consistent rail and shuttle service would do wonders.  Should the BOA vote to completely transform a neighborhood, without even notifying the residents, over this?  1-2 hours travel time?

None of the major corporations in New Haven are willing to commit to Tweed now, preferring to save money elsewhere even when they can use Tweed flights.  Will this proposed increased service beat Bradley offerings?  Certainly you don’t suggest it will be cheaper than NYC flights?  Regardless, no airlines will even signal in writing that they’re interested in Tweed (we’re supposed to believe in Dir. Larson’s chats at conferences with sales reps instead).

“6. It also will create needed jobs and keep travelers money spent in the local area, not Windsor Locks.”

The economic impact study only mentions low-salary jobs around airport operations, there’s no other evidence.


“Some have said Tweed causes respiratory problems…”

We have an asthma problem in the City.  Stay tuned.  The Morris Cove community will be working on this to get real data (unlike the airport).

(2/2)

posted by: Sean O'Brien on April 26, 2018  11:16am

Correction: “The new jet service has already made *more* noise for residents less effected by the older Dash-8s. Although they are quieter on LANDING, they literally rattle my walls and windows with a noticeable high-decibel *boom* on TAKEOFF and have a terrible effect on my animals.”

Stand on Dean Street and listen during takeoff; areas not on the current noise mitigation map are now seriously effected by this, but there will be no new study conducted.  So, please, stop with the “Tweed’s new jets are quieter” stuff… it’s insulting to our intelligence, and it’s really unnerving for those who have to live with the noise.  Tweed has changed its fleet completely in the past year but held up noise maps from 2012 at the BOA meeting last night as if they’re still accurate.