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L.I. Contractor Brings Fire Island Back From the Brink

The magnitude of the damage to the NY Island spurs one contractor to gear up.

Wed April 24, 2013 - Northeast Edition
Giles Lambertson

Last October, three days before Superstorm Sandy reached New York’s Fire Island, Matt Frabizio happily rode a surfboard on wind-pummeled ocean waters. Three days after the massive storm made its calamitous landfall on the 30-mi.-long island, Fabrizio went to work helping put the island’s residential community back together.

Frabizio is president of Blue Bay Contracting. With an estimated 80 percent of the 5,000 homes on the barrier island damaged in the storm — and 10 percent of those severely damaged — Fabrizio is busy. His full-line contracting services company is booked solid for the remainder of 2013.

Damage to homes — not counting the dozen that were swept out to sea — ranged from minimal to catastrophic. Blue Bay is configured to handle any of the resulting repair work, ranging from lifting and resettling houses on new foundations to installing new kitchens or bathrooms.

Two Takeuchi Machines

When the magnitude of the work became apparent, Fabrizio decided to gear up. He turned to All Island Equipment for equipment help. The West Babylon, N.Y., equipment dealer already had heavily populated Fire Island contractors with Takeuchis.

Blue Bay settled on two Takeuchi machines. The TB138 FR zero-swing compact excavator can slip into tight quarters to dig trenches for utility lines, clear areas for placing lift equipment, and open work spaces for piling work. The side-to-side offset boom and stubbed rear-end let the operator squeeze the machine into areas once reserved for manual labor.

The Takeuchi TL230 track loader’s 68-hp. (50.7 kW) engine powers the compact loader across the island’s sandy soil. Blue Bay has moved many tons of sand and pieces of equipment using the TL230 — accomplishing all the tasks without any problems, which hasn’t surprised Fabrizio.

“I’d seen some Takeuchis and operated a couple and so I went to All Island to look at them,” he said. A deal was closed and All Island promised to have them on a ferry running to Fire Island the next day. “The machines were reasonably priced; they have been very reliable and have run flawlessly.”

“The Takeuchi machines are one of our best lines due to their high performance and low cost of ownership because of their high quality,” said All Island’s President Gary Wade. “After we sell them, we never see them back in our shop.”

Fabrizio has since returned to All Island for a third machine, a 108-hp. (80.5 kW) TL12. The work is growing and so are the machines. Much of the sand-moving work is filling and situating environmentally acceptable fabric bags to begin the beach-renewal process in the island’s national park.

Lifting, Rotating Homes

Some of the housing rehabilitation has meant lifting and moving damaged homes that were knocked from their foundations and placing them on new 30-ft.-long (9.1 m) pilings, with most of the poles sunk into the sand. Homes on new foundations must meet a new post-storm standard of being 18 ft. (5.5 m) above sea level, rather than their former half-dozen feet (1.8 m) or so.

Blue Bay’s house-lifting crew numbers eight people. Because the houses in many cases were knocked askew by Sandy’s wind and water, the crew not only has to lift the residential structures, they have to rotate them back to their original orientation. One three-story house was successfully rotated about 35 degrees to its original facing and then jacked up about eight feet.

To do this, the crew finds a sagging house’s lowest point and lifts it so that house is level. Then a cross-hatch of steel I-beams is slipped underneath the structure, the teams resting on 12-ton (10.9 t) rollers that can rotate 360 degrees.

Filling Bags

One of the tasks Blue Bay was assigned was the sandbagging of a beach area in Ocean Bay Park. The storm eroded the coastline and stripped it of sand. The bagging was an effort to reclaim the beach and stabilize it against further erosion.

TrapBags were the system used for the work. TrapBags are pentagon-shaped bags made of high-strength textile and recycled plastic. One side of the bag is vertical and the other sloped. They come in 2, 4 and 6 ft.-high (.6, 1.2 and 1.8 m) sizes, measured on the vertical side, with the larger bag being 3 ft. (.9 m) wide and 8 ft. (2.4 m) long on the bottom.

They come in 100-ft. (30.5 m) sections with each individual bag self-contained so that if it fails, the rest of the system isn’t compromised. The bags are filled with sand or rock or concrete, depending upon whether a temporary or semi-permanent barrier is being built.

On Fire Island, Blue Bay erected 2,400 linear ft. (731.5 m) of the barrier along the parkland beach. Fabrizio said the work involved two of the track loaders, a third loader and a crew of seven people. Two of the people erected the skeletal pipe framework used to position the bags for filling, two others disassembled the framework when the bags were full, and the other three operated the equipment, systematically hauling sand to the bags and dumping it in.

“It worked out really, really well,” Fabrizio said. The crew completed the task in a little over four days.

Fire Island Workplace

Frabizio is a Fire Island resident, with Blue Bay Contracting headquartered in the Ocean Beach community. He is an entrepreneur who right out of high school went to work for a gutter company before deciding he could do that on his own.

At age 19, he arrived on the island, pulling his tools in a cart behind his bike with a gutter-making machine in a rented shed. From there he got into roofing and siding and became a “jack of all trades. We do the work from the ground up. We excavate. We build. We frame and finish. We do it all.”

Fire Island is an interesting mix of federal parkland and small towns. It is a place, Frabizio said, where the relatively isolated community of contractors accommodates each other’s needs more than is usually the case on the mainland.

His home, where he lives nine months out of the year, used to be three houses from the beach. After Sandy roiled the ocean water and shifted around the sand, the home now is a beachfront structure.

On the mainland, All Island Equipment stays busy, too. Founded 40 years ago by Gus Wade, Gary’s father, it has evolved from an ag and compact tractor dealership into a brand-laden equipment outlet. Besides Takeuchi, major manufacturers represented include Gehl, Kobelco, Kawasaki, and LeeBoy.

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