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May 16, 2017 5:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Residents Want To Pitch In With Parks District

Jamie Maloney and Brian Babcock, both of East Quogue, are pushing to create a parks district in their hamlet. AMANDA BERNOCCO
May 16, 2017 5:38 PM

Some of those who call East Quogue home want a more bucolic hometown, one that features a well-maintained park, and a Main Street with rows of healthy trees whose trunks are covered in fresh layers of mulch each spring, and where the lampposts are all operational and have fresh coats of paint.

And they’re willing to shell out a few extra bucks each year to make their vision a reality.

Frustrated with what they consider a lack of urgency in addressing such issues by the Southampton Town Parks Department, which is responsible for maintaining the hamlet’s park, the East Quogue Village Green, as well as Main Street, hamlet residents Brian Babcock and Jamie Maloney are now pushing for the town to create a special parks district in their hometown.

If created via a special referendum this fall, the proposed East Quogue Park District would allow hamlet residents to tax themselves to help finance the routine maintenance of their Main Street, as well as pay for various beautification projects, and future capital improvements, if needed. Similar park districts already exist in neighboring Hampton Bays, as well as east of the Shinnecock Canal, in both Bridgehampton and Water Mill.

Mr. Babcock and Ms. Maloney shared some of the details of their plan during last week’s Southampton Town Board work session, with Mr. Babcock estimating that the average hamlet homeowner, whose property is now assessed at $500,000, would be asked to contribute approximately $10 a year to help fund the East Quogue Park District. The district, he said, would seek to levy about $20,000 annually from those living within the boundaries of the East Quogue School District, and the actual rate would be based on individual house assessments, similar to how school taxes are calculated.

“From a distance, it looks great,” said Mr. Babcock, referring to the worn-down gravel path that runs along the perimeter and inside the Village Green on Tuesday afternoon. “This right here—this alone is 20 years [old].”

“I think the park has come to a point where you can’t ignore it,” Ms. Maloney added. “And I think people see that now. Like, OK, we do need to do something about it.”

Mr. Babcock, a longtime FedEx driver whose job takes him through both East Quogue and Hampton Bays daily, noted this week that momentum to create a parks district has been gaining traction in East Quogue, with he and Ms. Maloney saying they’ve collected about 200 signatures on a petition, and secured another 200 likes on their Facebook page titled “East Quogue Parks District.” They said they also have the support of several civic leaders.

“The response is great,” Mr. Babcock added.

Donna Lanzetta, president of the East Quogue Chamber of Commerce, is one of those in their corner, stating at last week’s work session that beautification efforts in the hamlet would benefit greatly from a steady stream of new revenue. She explained that chamber members plant flowers along Main Street each spring, using donations, but those efforts depend solely on the generosity of others.

“We do the best we can, but we need more,” said Ms. Lanzetta, who owns Lanzetta & Associates in East Quogue. “And I think a park district would help.”

Joan Hughes, chair of the East Quogue Citizens Advisory Committee, added to that sentiment—though she also warned that some of her neighbors might not like the idea that their taxes would be going up to fund the proposed park district.

“The only problem I see here is that people are going to object to having their taxes raised,” Ms. Hughes said during last week’s work session. “But Brian has a conservative plan and he’s not asking for too much money.”

Mr. Babcock said he was inspired to research the possibility of creating a parks district after overhearing talk among his neighbors about the condition of both Main Street and the Village Green. He said those discussions continued to build momentum, culminating with last week’s presentation before the Town Board, whose members appeared receptive to the idea without making a formal commitment.

The town agreed to hold an informational meeting about the park district proposal on Thursday, June 15, at 7 p.m., at the East Quogue Elementary School on Central Avenue and, if all goes as planned, should have a proposed map of the district finalized by the end of next month, according to Mr. Babcock. Town Councilwoman Julie Lofstad, who lives in Hampton Bays, said she will work with Mr. Babcock on the plans.

A public hearing on the proposal could be held sometime in July, followed by a written comment period. If all goes according to schedule, Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said East Quogue taxpayers could vote on the proposal when they head to the polls in November.

Kristin Duolos, director of the town’s parks department, said the new tax district, if created, would finance those things not covered by her workers, such as the planting of flower beds, the installation of mulch and the maintaining of historic properties. She noted that in the neighboring hamlet, members of the Hampton Bays Beautification Association, which is funded through its own parks district but also relies on donations, buy the flower baskets that can be seen hanging throughout the hamlet. Additionally, the Hampton Bays Historical Society, which is funded by the parks district and donations, is responsible for maintaining the Lyzon Hat Shop and the Prosper King house, both on West Montauk Highway.

Both Mr. Babcock and Ms. Maloney stressed that the East Quogue Parks District, if created, is not intended to replace the town’s parks department, or relieve it of its duties in the hamlet. Rather, he said the district would complement the efforts of parks department workers by focusing on those things that might slip under their radar.

If hamlet taxpayers ultimately approve the parks district, a committee made up East Quogue residents would be created to decide how the funds are spent, according to Ms. Duolos.

Ms. Lofstad added that she has already begun talking with Mr. Babcock about the park district, noting that she thinks it would be a great addition. The councilwoman, who lives in Hampton Bays, noted that the parks district in her hamlet does a great job maintaining smaller recreational facilities, such as Foster Avenue Park.

“I certainly see doing something similar in East Quogue,” Ms. Lofstad said. “Dependent on what the voters decide.”

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Parks and recreation Dept is in n need of hiring more help. If the P&R supervisor does not want to hire full time employees than seasonal help should really be hired. This Dept has been lacking in help for a long time.
By Resident tax (94), Hampton bays ny on May 17, 17 2:42 PM
Mr. Babcock since you support "The Hills" PDD project way don't you get them to pay for your "special district?"
By crusader (360), East Quogue on May 17, 17 8:01 PM
The Parks department is a puppet department where political favors are repayed. Kristen Tuffy was a secretary in the Town Board. Before that it was Chris
Bean and Sundy Schermyer now Town Clerk. Get some hands on, get your hands dirty people in there for once.
By lirider (154), Hampton Bays on May 18, 17 5:25 AM
Sundy was not Parks Superintendent.
By Robert I Ross (208), Hampton Bays on May 18, 17 2:24 PM
If East Quogue residents want "a more bucolic home town," as Amanda Bernocco reports in the first sentence of this piece, the first thing they should do is vigorously oppose the 600-acre luxury golf mega-development known as The Hills. If this disastrous project is approved, East Quogue will only become more suburban, not more bucolic.

And that increased suburban activity will not be more traffic shopping on East Quogue's Main Street, because those folks won't shop in EQ; the traffic will ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1653), Quiogue on May 18, 17 9:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
Babcock is one of the few locals that are willing to put his money, and more importantly effort, where his priorities are. Good work out there, and congrats on the school board post.
By Brandon Quinn (92), Hampton Bays on May 18, 17 9:52 AM
1 member liked this comment
... I'm not interested. We are taxed on this already. Make the Town/ Parks Dept.do what they are charged with doing. If they cant do it, get people who can.
By William Rodney (426), southampton on May 18, 17 11:43 AM
This is for the taxpayers in the Hamlet of East Quogue. Your "signature" says "Southampton." Do you live in East Quogue?
By Robert I Ross (208), Hampton Bays on May 18, 17 2:27 PM
... you bet your ass I do.
By William Rodney (426), southampton on May 18, 17 2:34 PM
It was a simple yes or no question, tough guy.
By even flow (340), East Hampton on May 18, 17 3:20 PM
Really....just a yes or no would work!
By Robert I Ross (208), Hampton Bays on May 18, 17 7:52 PM
Residents attempt to make a case to quell their own boredom...with an effort to convince people that the beautiful and well maintained park in these photographs would be better served by another layer of tax and bureaucracy.

...Local media picks up the story.

what a joke.

By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (331), southampton on May 19, 17 9:45 PM
1 member liked this comment