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Dec 31, 2018 1:47 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman Sets Priorities For 2019

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman in his office at town hall last week.    DANA SHAW
Dec 31, 2018 2:52 PM

As he enters his fourth year as the Southampton Town supervisor, Jay Schneiderman said he has not accomplished everything he sought to do as the town’s leader—but he has completed quite a bit.

Located in his office is a white dry-erase board with a list of nearly 100 things that he set out to accomplish when he took the helm as supervisor.

The list included things like getting the town to switch over fully to renewable energy by 2025, adding asphalt to Dune Road to prevent it from flooding, taking full control of the Shinnecock commercial docks from Suffolk County, requiring homes near waterways to install nitrogen-reducing septic systems, hiring a new police chief to tackle crime, and more.

Many of the items have already been checked off, and some are in the hopper and being worked on for 2019.

“It is going really well,” he said during an interview just before the start of the new year. “We are moving ahead on a lot of the things I sought to accomplish.

“These things all take incredible amounts of time,” he added.

Improving Water Quality

Mr. Schneiderman’s first three years brought about the requirement of nitrogen-reducing septic systems in areas near waterways, in an effort to improve the water quality of the bays. While the focus then was on reducing the amount of nitrogen that enters the bays—the nitrogen eventually results in toxic algae blooms—it has now switched to another source threatening water quality.

In 2018, elevated levels of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, were found in a monitoring well near a former landfill site at the end of Damascus Road in East Quogue.

The discovery of the toxic compounds led to the testing of more than 100 homes near the former landfill, which has been inactive for nearly 30 years and is owned by the town. The landfill was used by people to dispose of storm debris.

Town officials now want the Suffolk County Water Authority to extend a water main to the nearly 100 homes where contamination was found. The extension will cost about $1 million, in addition to nearly $3 million for the 100 homes and those with water mains already available to connect to the Suffolk County Water Authority system.

To assist with the cost, town officials are looking at a mechanism to offset the cost by laying out the money for the residents and then taxing them over time to cover the cost.

Mr. Schneiderman also said the town is taking a townwide look to find other areas that may have contamination from PFOS and PFOA. “I think we might find the stuff is in low quantities in a lot of places, and we’ll have to find out why and what to do about it,” he said.

So far, the compounds have been found in four general areas, including East Hampton near the Southampton Town border—though none has been found on the Southampton side—Hampton Bays, near Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, and East Quogue.

Mr. Schneiderman also said the town is also looking into filing a potential lawsuit against the manufacturers of the compounds. “That’s something that’s going to be a front-burner issue all through next year, making sure that people are not exposed to these chemicals,” he said.

Hampton Bays Water

The PFOA and PFOS contamination of three out of 11 water wells operated by the Hampton Bays Water District resulted in those wells being turned off in 2017. In 2018, the wells were brought back online after a $1 million carbon filtration system was installed to filter out the harmful compounds.

The system was put under strain, and water pressure was affected. The water also became discolored.

Town Board members, who act as commissioners for the Hampton Bays Water District, entered talks with the SCWA to take over the management of the water district. Although some oppose having the SCWA take over the management of the hamlet’s water, Mr. Schneiderman maintains that it will result in better testing of the water—the water authority’s lab employs more than 40 chemists and lab personnel and tests for 387 different compounds, or 250 more than required under regulation.

Surveys recently mailed out to residents in the district from the town are seeking input from the residents on whether they want to make the move to SCWA or stick with the local district. So far, Mr. Schneiderman said, only two surveys have been returned, and it is too early to say which option is the best.

“If people are concerned about their water, we need to let them decide,” he said, explaining that there will likely be a public vote sometime around May 2019 to decide the matter. The vote would be different from most: Some residents, he said, may be able to vote more than once if they own multiple pieces of property.

Getting the water under control feeds into Mr. Schneiderman’s bigger plan for Hampton Bays. He explained that he is taking a three-pronged approach to improving the hamlet.

One of the prongs is to increase affordable housing east of the Shinnecock Canal to relieve some of the pressure off Hampton Bays when it comes to housing that people in the workforce can afford.

He also said he wants to strengthen code enforcement to crack down on properties that are overcrowded, and focus on the tourism economy.

Bel-Aire Cove Motel

One property in particular, the Bel-Aire Cove Motel, is the focus of Mr. Schneiderman’s push to improve tourism in Hampton Bays.

Situated on the northern shore of Penny Pond, a tributary of Shinnecock Bay, the motel has become an eyesore to some—but a year-round home for others.

Mr. Schneiderman last year proposed the town purchasing the property for $1,060,000 through the town’s Community Development Program, as many potential buyers have declined to invest in the property because it is zoned residential and getting the required permits to renovate the motel would be difficult due to the property’s location.

Once it’s purchased, Mr. Schneiderman said, he wants to demolish the motel, obtain the necessary permits for redevelopment and work with community members to come up with a plan for the property. Initially, he said he wanted to see a condominium complex on the site, but he has recently suggested that a new motel be constructed to boost tourism.

Public hearings were held late in 2018, and the majority of residents who spoke said they wanted to see the property purchased with Community Preservation Fund money instead, and preserved for the community to enjoy, either as a pocket park or as a spot for kayakers to launch their boats.

Mr. Schneiderman is against using CPF funds to buy the property, although a public hearing will be held on the matter on January 8.

“It’s actually a good spot for a small motel,” he said. “I feel like we can succeed at that location by bringing in a real motel.”

No stranger to the hospitality industry, Mr. Schneiderman and his sister, Helen Ficalora, own the Breakers Motel in Montauk. Rather than run the business, though, Mr. Schneiderman stepped away and went into public service.

“I watched in Montauk … many motels became affordable housing for estates in East Hampton,” he said. “It was sad to me. It was not the direction Montauk needed to go.”

He added that he understood why the motels became housing. The motels made more money as apartments. July and August were the only two months that the motels would fill up. Motel owners soon realized they could make more money as apartments, so they did.

But then tourism picked up in Montauk, Mr. Schneiderman said, and the rates started to go up.

Rooms were going for $200 to $300 per night, and the motel owners began to pour millions of dollars into the properties and converted them back into motels.

“I look at Hampton Bays and I see the miles of pristine beaches. I see the kite surfing and the people surfing in the ocean and surf casting off the jetties,” he said. “There’s a lot of elements in Montauk that you have in Hampton Bays.”

Mr. Schneiderman and town officials have done multiple projects along Dune Road—including improvements to Hot Dog Beach, the addition of a fishing pier where the old Ponquogue Bridge was located, which was worked on with Town Trustee Scott Horowitz, and now, a massive overhaul of the Ponquogue Beach Pavilion—to attract more people to the area.

“You need a first-class beach pavilion, because that’s why people are going to come,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

The pavilion is expected to be completed by Memorial Day 2019. With that, he said, Hampton Bays will be at a point where tourism can return.

But he wanted to make it clear that he was not looking to profit from the purchase of the Bel-Aire Cove Motel—if he was, he said, he would be buying the property.

“I wouldn’t buy it because it’s zoned residential,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Why would I buy a motel that’s zoned residential? It’s basically the town saying we don’t want a motel there.

“I believe in Hampton Bays. I’m not trying to personally profit. I’m trying to help them turn around their economy,” he added.

Affordable Housing Needed

Getting affordable housing throughout the entire town is another big item on Mr. Schneiderman’s list of things to accomplish.

He said too many people have been driven out of the community because of housing costs, and young people cannot afford to live where they grew up.

The situation leads to the next generation living in communities to the west and working in the Town of Southampton. With that comes traffic problems, Mr. Schneiderman said, which is seen regularly between March and October. It also comes with people living in illegal apartments or unsafe basements, he added.

“You can’t just create demand for labor and just magically expect that labor to appear,” he said. “I think it’s a moral imperative that we house a larger portion of our workforce.”

He explained that the town is always looking for opportunities to create affordable housing.

In 2018, the town held housing lotteries for two units in Tuckahoe Woods and 15 units at Southampton Pointe on County Road 39.

The Speonk Commons on Phillips Road in Speonk is currently under construction and is expected to provide 38 affordable housing units in 2019. Initially, the project called for 51 units, which drew objections from the surrounding community because of its density.

“I worked really hard with the community and the developer to come up with a proposal that everyone could embrace, and didn’t know that we would get there,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Most of the voices that opposed it came to the final hearing in support of it.”

Mr. Schneiderman did not say how many more affordable units the town is looking at in 2019, but as of September, there were at least 220 affordable housing units for more than 1,000 people on the town’s affordable housing registry.

Between affordable housing, water quality, tourism and many other things, Mr. Schneiderman said he and the other board members are getting a lot done and the town residents are benefiting.

“I feel like … the Town Board has had a positive role in improving the community and making it a community where people want to invest,” he said. “I love this. This is where my heart is. I might have made more money in the motel business, but I get to make my community stronger. I love it.”

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The Town Government systemically fails Hampton Bays. Supervisor Schneiderman keeps pushing "his" proposal for the Bel-aire cove like it is the panacea for Hampton Bays economy. They spent $4 million of CPF on the Sag Harbor Cinema and $10 million of CPF on an acre of land in Sag Harbor. The community is asking for the Bel-Aire property to be purchased with $ 1 million of funds, and he is digging in his heels against that. It seems to me, there is something more to this than he is saying. The ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (513), Hampton Bays on Jan 3, 19 8:07 AM
By themarlinspike (473), southampton on Jan 3, 19 9:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
Lot of heat here, but little light. Seems people are confusing Village and Town. Re Hampton Bays, as I've said before, if it's so badly treated by the Town, just man up and form a village. Otherwise, shut up and pay your taxes.

Re the Epleys in Southampton Village, granted that part of their stuff is outside the Village boundaries, but most of it is inside the line, so get after the Village authorities on this; it's a bum rap to lay it on Jay.

Marlinspike offers his usual thoughtful, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1957), Quiogue on Jan 3, 19 3:56 PM
Geroge, and as I said before, the taxpayers of Hampton Bays should not have to incorporate just to get service from the Town. Maybe the Town Administration needs to "man up" (or "woman up") and actually provide services with their $102 million dollar budget. Maybe the Supervisor is too preoccupied with other things to run the administration in an effective way.
By G.A.Lombardi (513), Hampton Bays on Jan 3, 19 4:28 PM
I'm hoping his list of 100 things to do, includes finish repaving the
Montauk Highway east of Ponquogue Ave in Hampton Bays. It's an embarrassment to our Hamlet.
By yogi1 (1), HB on Jan 3, 19 6:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
I guess Jay Schneiderman can set priorities now the he is back to work in the job he tried to leave by running for another elected position, an election run he announced in May of 2018. So presumably for the last four plus months of 2018 he was focused on that campaign, as opposed to the job he currently held. And then, even after the election, when it appeared most likely he would not win, he would not concede until all the absentee ballots had been counted. (http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/General-Interest-Southampton/575533/Schneiderman-Still-Not-Ready-To-Concede-Comptroller-Race-Until-All-Absentee-Ballots-Are-Counted)

So ...more
By Rich Morey (370), East Hampton on Jan 3, 19 10:37 PM
It is ironic to me that the hotel that is owned by the Supervisor and others in Montauk are not used as full time residences (since I FOILED the school district records last year), but yet in the Town in which he is the Supervisor this illegal use is tolerated. Double standard?
By G.A.Lombardi (513), Hampton Bays on Jan 3, 19 10:48 PM
G.A. also check on the "grandfather exemption" of his Montauk Motel that allowed him to avoid installing an upgraded septic system even with a substantial restaurant expansion.

Also, if he wants the Town to have renewable energy, why are there no solar panels on the new Ponquogue Pavilion or a small wind turbine? Why not advocate or facilitate a solar roof when the HB High School roof is replaced?

By dfree (774), hampton bays on Jan 4, 19 4:32 AM
Yeah, that sounds real. That’s a completely far fetched statement.
By Fred s (2996), Southampton on Jan 8, 19 7:50 AM
May or may not be true but heard from several people that they held their nose and voted for him just to get him out of Southampton town.
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Jan 8, 19 8:39 AM
By Fred s (2996), Southampton on Jan 8, 19 5:15 PM
Hampton Bays Rotary, Autumn Evening by the Sea, Oakland's, HB Rotary