BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The competing needs of historic preservation and modern safety are in the balance to keep a taste of Italy alive along the south shore of Long Island.

Town leaders in Babylon are in the process of restoring a pair of historic bridges in the village of Copiague, an $8.8 million project being paid for by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery plan, reports CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis.

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“It’s just a great place to live,” said 47-year resident Joe Curto about life along the water.

But it hasn’t always been a smooth sail, especially after Hurricane Sandy.

“I lost everything. The water came two feet into the house,” Curto said.

The pair of bridges in the neighborhood along East and West Riviera Drive need to be replaced to carry the weight of emergency vehicles – something the neighborhood discovered the hard way amid the destructive hurricane season of 2012.

“You need to be able to get trucks in here to service the people,” said Curto.

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The town also wants to get the proper equipment in to improve roads, but these bridges serve another special purpose for this community: They are part of local history.

“They’re a reminder of what it used to be like way back in the day,” said George Caserta, another resident of Copiague.

Nearly a century ago, two real estate developers turned this area into “American Venice” in an effort to emulate the famed “city of canals.”

“Down by the end of the canal there used to be a gondola area,” recalled Caserta.

Town historian Mary Cascone has old pictures showing that the bridges were a key part in bringing an echo of Europe to Long Island.

“It was so unique,” she said. “We had many 1920s housing development that came in but none quite like this… This is what we want to keep alive because it is so important to hold on to before its gone.”

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The bridges are expected to be demolished and rebuilt by next spring. While the work is underway, the town will maintain access the community.