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Apr 12, 2016 11:20 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Will Not Receive $3 Million Grant To Raise Dune Road

Dune Road
Apr 13, 2016 10:57 AM

Southampton Town will not receive a multimillion-dollar state grant to help raise Dune Road—funds that would have allowed work on the long-awaited project to begin this fall—after the town’s highway superintendent derided the plan as using state funds for “a millionaire’s road.”

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said on Tuesday that he recently had discussions with officials from the governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, who learned about comments made by Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor last month, when he raised concerns about using a $3 million grant from the state’s Community Development Block Grant program to fund the work.

Because one requirement of the grant is that it has to be used in areas where residents earn below 50 percent of the county’s median income of about $85,000, Mr. Gregor argued that he did not believe the funds should be used “on a millionaire’s road”—Dune Road, which runs along the oceanfront barrier beach. The grant money has already been allocated to Suffolk County for hazard mitigation efforts, and the county would have administered the funds to the town.

“We were told that it did meet [the requirements], but the governor’s Office of Storm Recovery was concerned, because the actual area, even though it’s within a census tract that meets the criteria … along Dune Road [is] predominantly affluent individuals,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “It’s unfortunate. I felt that we were really close to the finish line on this one. We know how badly that floods.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Gregor said that he simply believed town officials were “trying to do something shady” by looking to use a grant for low- to middle-income communities on Dune Road, and that he had done his own research on the grant when officials did not provide information on it that he requested.

“The town could have done whatever they want—I just wanted to make them aware … that the road doesn’t qualify,” he said. “I’d like to see some confirmation from the state’s storm recovery thing, because [Mr. Schneiderman] was not forthcoming with information about the grant from the beginning.

“I’d like to see the proof rather than just a professional politician making some comments,” Mr. Gregor added. “I’m still supportive of elevating Dune Road, and if they still want to go ahead and do it with [that] money, that’s their call.”

The project as a whole would reduce flooding of the road along the ocean beaches from the Shinnecock Inlet in Hampton Bays to the western Quogue Village border, an estimated $6.8 million endeavor. The $3 million grant would have helped cover the town’s portion of the cost, which includes the stretch of Dune Road that runs through Hampton Bays and East Quogue. According to town officials, residents in those communities earn 58 percent below the county’s median income, thus qualifying them for the grant.

The more affluent Quogue Village had agreed to cover the cost of raising the approximately 1.7 miles of Dune Road that lies within the village on its own, which amounts to approximately $1.7 million.

The $3 million grant was a matching one, and the town would have been able to apply Quogue’s contribution toward it. To complete the match, the town had $1 million that already had been allotted for the work, and Mr. Schneiderman had asked the Town Board to consider authorizing another $500,000. The remaining funds, approximately $600,000, would possibly have been raised privately from the Tiana Erosion Control District tax, which was established to help fund costs related to erosion control.

Town Board members on Tuesday tabled a resolution that would have allocated an additional $500,000 to the project, and intend to revisit it at their meeting on Tuesday, May 3. If the resolution is eventually approved, Mr. Schneiderman said it would be used only if the town can secure a different $3 million funding source.

“I said, ‘Let’s leave the resolution, so in case I can work out another way to get the $3 million from the county, we have this contingency plan in place,’” he said. “It’s contingent. We only add a half million [dollars] if we get the $3 million.”

The supervisor said he has been in touch with officials from Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone’s office to discuss “plan B,” although he declined to offer details. Suffolk Deputy Executive Jon Schneider did not return a call seeking comment this week.

“I had argued that Tiana Beach and Ponquogue Beach were where most of the community recreate, and they said, ‘Well, you’ll basically have to do this survey showing that most of the people who use the road are low- to moderate- income,’” Mr. Schneiderman said.

“They basically are saying they will not fund this project because of that,” he continued. “So, that $3 million was the key to making this project happen this fall. Now I’m kind of back to the drawing board. I don’t give up easily—I think it needs to happen. We just have to find another way to do it.”

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In a word, absurd. Well the town can save money by lining up rowboats at the Ponquogue Bridge for beachgoers to use in lieu of roads during high tides going forward, very progressive.
By joeg (22), Hampton Bays on Apr 12, 16 11:52 AM
Do we have a Town Attorney assigned to applying for grants....fortunately Alex is on the ball,,,,,now your input will be really valued in Town Hall
By watchdog1 (517), Southampton on Apr 12, 16 12:00 PM
Mr Gregor should understand the 99% use the road and beach more then the 1%. Dope.
By realistic (463), westhampton on Apr 12, 16 1:08 PM
3 members liked this comment
Way to go Skippy. A few months as Supe and asleep at the wheel already.
By Amelia Airport (48), East Hampton on Apr 12, 16 1:26 PM
Something doesn't make sense here. I find it hard to believe that the Governor's office doesn't understand the layout of Hampton Bays "mainland" and Dune Road.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Apr 12, 16 2:08 PM
The fact that the State has determined the Dune Road project was not an appropriate use of the Block Grant funds serves only to prove the merits of the Highway Superintendents concerns.

I understand it is unusual to find elected officials who take their oaths of office seriously, but Mr. Gregor appears to be one who does.

Suffolk County and Southampton Towns are not the only municipalities which over the years have sought to utilize CDBG funding in areas which were inappropriate. ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Apr 12, 16 2:18 PM
2 members liked this comment
Respectfully, the pulling back of the funds does not necessarily confirm in any way the merits of Mr. Gregor's concerns. It only confirms that the Governors Office for Storm Recovery decided to retract the offer apparently quite specifically due to the statements made by Mr. Gregor. Their decision is just as likely to have been made simply because of this negative publicity that was introduced to the project which may have "forced" them to pull back the funds because they were now at risk of dealing ...more
By gquogue (7), East Quogue on Apr 12, 16 4:39 PM
2 members liked this comment
The original Gregor article stated he would rather see the money earmarked for the roads in Flanders/Riverside, so I guess if you can't have it for Dune Rd then don't bother getting it for that area either. Typical politics, you can't make sense of it.
By Hollywood (85), Westhampton Beach on Apr 12, 16 5:44 PM
If this is true about Alex Gregor then I've lost respect for him. Yes, he's a loudmouth and that's what I liked about him. Now, it's cost us a dry road during high tides when all us regular people are trying to get to the beach. I love just making payments on a rusting car. Alex, shut up!
By lirider (265), Hampton Bays on Apr 12, 16 6:57 PM
This is an unfortunate situation.
The road is traveled by locals more than the only 40 or so Dune Road residents.
The local census supported the demographic requirement for funding.
Had they not been "put on notice", they would not have been spooked.
These days, government agency is taking a chance when someone stands up and said YOUR ON NOTICE.

This is unfortunate for the beachgoers, the fisherman, the surfers, birdwatchers, landscapers, scenic drivers, Sunday drivers,minimum ...more
By Summer Resident (227), Southampton N.Y. on Apr 13, 16 2:26 AM
1 member liked this comment
Most of the flooding occurs when the beaches are closed and people don't travel the road. People go to Riverhead all year. Perhaps the greater good has been served here. Schneiderman lacks the local knowledge necessary to make informed decisions in matters like these. He's a Montauk resident.
By 1eastquogueinusa (34), East Quogue on Apr 13, 16 10:28 AM
I am still confused. How did Supv. Schneiderman know that the rejection was because the Governor's office "got wind" of what Alex Gregor said. Did Supv. Schneiderman "get wind" of that from the Governor's office or did he get that in writing? It just sounds like there is a lot of "wind" around this project.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Apr 13, 16 11:05 AM
Southampton Town supervisor et. al, should have been more forthcoming in the first place...that's when trouble starts.
By rvs (103), sag harbor on Apr 13, 16 9:10 PM
If the decision by the Governor's office to remove Southampton from consideration for this funding was indeed due to the Highway Superintendent's comment, this is truly a loss for the taxpayers. We should expect our elected officials to work together to secure funding to benefit needed projects within our community, whatever they may be. Both the raising of Dune Road through Quogue/East Quogue and road improvements in the Flanders/Riverside are needed and the Supervisor and Highway Superintendent ...more
By roverton (55), Westhampton on Apr 14, 16 2:39 AM