More than two years after a runaway barge from the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge construction site smashed into the Irvington Boat Club’s pier, the club and bridge builder are headed to mediation over the cost of the damage.
The mediation option was accepted just as the club was preparing to launch a lawsuit alleging that the Tappan Zee Constructors’ insurer was only offering to cover a fraction of the cost to replace the pier, which was battered by the barge during a May 2, 2018, storm.
Part of the wooden pier’s entrance off Bridge Street broke off completely and its pilings were badly damaged, leaving members with no way to reach their boats, said Frederic Mishkin, the club’s commodore. He’s the last member with a boat in the club’s moorings, using a kayak to get to his 22-foot sailboat.
Mishkin called the damage “heartbreaking.”
“Who wants to put a boat on a mooring when they can’t get to it from our dock to load people?” he said. “It basically has done severe damage to boating for the club. If we don’t get this pier repaired, boating is basically going to die in the Irvington Boat Club.”
An initial estimate by Liberty Mutual, the bridge builder’s insurer, pegged the cost of repairs at about $107,000, but the club soon learned a state Department of Environmental Conservation permit would be required before any work could be done. After a two-year permitting process, it turned out that the extensive DEC regulations heaped on additional costs, raising the estimate to about $390,000, according to Mishkin.
That’s when the trouble started, Mishkin said.
Liberty Mutual determined the needed repairs fell below the state threshold that required “substantial reconstruction” of 50% or more damage. It said Liberty was not on the hook for the club’s “unilateral decision to completely replace and upgrade the entire pier” instead of “simply repairing the damage done to the barge by TZC Barge 908,” according to correspondence dated April 8, 2021, from the insurance company.
Liberty offered $85,000 to settle the claim.
The boat club argued that the scope of the damage was well above the threshold required under state regulations.
Besides the cost of the rebuild, the nonprofit club which rents the property and chiefly subsists on membership dues, wants to be compensated for lost rental income from the Irvington Fire Department’s boat and costs associated with debris cleanup.
While the club’s boaters have sailed to calmer waters, its membership has actually grown from about 65 to about 90 in the past two years. One of the pandemic’s silver linings has been a rising tide of vacation-starved members who’ve joined for access to the club’s 50-foot stretch of Hudson River beach. The influx of newbies led the club to change its name to the Irvington Boat and Beach Club.
An email sent to Tappan Zee Constructors was not immediately returned. Mishkin said the two sides were in the process of selecting a mediator.