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Jun 25, 2018 4:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Changing The Perception Of Hampton Bays One Project At A Time

A rendering of the proposed Ponquogue Pavilion. FILE PHOTO
Jul 3, 2018 2:55 PM

As soon as Southampton Town officials mention “Hampton Bays,” they often face frustration and animosity.

For years, hamlet residents have grown impatient with a perceived lack of attention paid to the hamlet’s issues, particularly involving the conversion of at least two motels for use as overcrowded affordable housing, a slew of vacant buildings along Montauk Highway, and what residents say is poor maintenance of the area’s beaches and parks.

Members of a Facebook community group, “Hampton Bays Whatever Happened To ...” voiced their concerns this week.

“It’s not an esthetically pleasing town as you drive through it,” Kenneth Booth Jr., a member of the group, said of the hamlet. “Southampton Town takes our taxes and gives us nothing in return.”

However, Southampton Town Councilwoman Julie Lofstad, who lives in the hamlet, couldn’t disagree more. Though she admits that her hometown has its problems, she says the town has made great strides in boosting the hamlet’s reputation, all while keeping the community involved.

“Some people have a very different opinion than what me and many other people feel Hampton Bays is,” Ms. Lofstad said, noting that fixing the public’s perception of the hamlet starts with its residents appreciating its newest additions.

She pointed to the upcoming $1.9 million reconstruction of the Ponquogue Beach pavilion, which is scheduled to be completed by next spring, as well as the reconstruction of the old Ponquogue Bridge fishing piers, which are expected to re-open in October. Both piers—converted from the remnants of the original Ponquogue Bridge—were severely damaged when Hurricane Sandy hit the region in October 2012.

Southampton Town hired D&B Engineers and Architects P.C in Hauppauge to design the pavilion—a snack bar, outdoor seating area and bathroom stop on Ponquogue Beach—based on feedback provided by the Hampton Bays community.

Ms. Lofstad said that when the idea for a pavilion was still in its infancy, Southampton Town officials reached out to the community to ask for its input. Based on those responses, additional upgrades were planned, including new landscaping and fencing near the entrance to the beach parking lot that sits off Dune Road. The project also includes updates to the pavilion’s public bathrooms, the installation of two outdoor showers, as well as seating, and an extension of the ramp and railings leading to the beach.

The town also reversed course when residents cried out in support of saving the Old Ponquogue Bridge northern fishing pier, which the town originally planned to demolish. The pier was severely damaged when Hurricane Sandy knocked down a section and left a portion in the bay disconnected from the shore.

Thanks to the community, the updated plan, which is expected to cost close to $2 million, now calls for the refurbishment of both the north and south fishing piers, with the northern one being reduced in length by roughly 300 feet, as well as the installation of new railings on both. The plan is to shorten the northern pier to avoid having to repair the section that fell into the bay.

“The community rose up—and here we are,” Ms. Lofstad said. “They’re getting rehabbed and they’re going to be beautiful.”

Ms. Lofstad, whose husband runs a commercial fishing boat out of the Shinnecock commercial fishing dock, within sight of the old bridge, said keeping the pier an active recreation area will be a boon to the business community, with visitors shopping in bait and tackle shops, eating in downtown restaurants and taking advantage of other amenities the town is looking to improve in Hampton Bays.

“This renovation, when completed, will improve public access to enjoy Shinnecock Bay and all its beauty,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said.

“You can say a lot of things about the Town Board, but we try our best to listen to the community—those are two perfect examples of that,” Ms. Lofstad said of the piers and the pavilion.

And while some members of the Facebook group, like Mr. Booth, criticized the hamlet, Ken Mades of Hampton Bays sang the hamlet praises last week.

“Hampton Bays has some of the nicest geographical features in the Hamptons, with access to three bays—Shinnecock, Tiana and Peconic—a canal, an inlet, and the ocean with dunes in their most natural form,” he said.

“No one else has that,” Ms. Lofstad agreed.

Still, while the hamlet has a lot to look forward to, Ms. Lofstad admits that in order to shift the locals’ perception of Hampton Bays, three major points of contention must be addressed: the vacant Friendly’s restaurant on Montauk Highway, the shuttered Hampton Bays Diner a few doors down, and the illegal overcrowding in the Bel-Aire Cove Motel on Shinnecock Road.

“We’re still waiting for the diner and Friendly’s—those are two sore spots for a lot of people,” she said.

“We really need a place for breakfast and to fill the empty stores,” Dawn Penny of the Hampton Bays Facebook group said last week. “We have become a pass-through town.”

Vicki Marotta Swanson, who owns Swanotta Screen Printing on Montauk Highway, agreed: “We really need a casual breakfast place.”

Joseph Vona, an attorney representing Montauk 24 Realty LLC, the entity that purchased the diner property for $3.2 million in June, said last week that its new owner, whom he declined to identify, was committed to providing some form of eatery at the Montauk Highway location.

The diner abruptly closed in July 2015 after its longtime owners, Frank and Maria Vlahadamis of Hampton Bays, were ordered by a bankruptcy judge to sell the diner after accumulating some $1.3 million in debt, according to court documents.

Mr. Vona said that he’s been in touch with the property’s broker “ad nauseam” the past few weeks, fielding several interested tenants, whom he also declined to identify. “We’ve been getting calls from a lot of people who are interested,” he said. “We still want to do what’s best for the town.”

Barry Moore, an independent real estate salesman in Baldwin, who has listed the former Friendly’s building for an undisclosed price, could not be reached for comment. The restaurant closed its doors in July 2017.

But the motels aren’t as easy a fix as finding tenants. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

In October 2017, Southampton Town’s Public Safety Department cited the owners of several motels and overcrowded homes in Hampton Bays with more than 200 code violations—including bed bug and roach infestations, electric violations, inoperative smoke detectors, and overflowing septic systems.

In a State Supreme Court filing, which dates back several years, Assistant Town Attorney Richard Harris sought approval to remove the tenants from their unsanitary homes at the Bel-Aire Cove Motel and shut it down. But the judge denied his request.

There was no written statement, Mr. Harris explained, but he said the judge preferred the town focus on addressing the life, health and safety issues within the building.

“As you can imagine, he doesn’t want to be the person responsible for throwing people out on the street,” Mr. Harris said of the judge.

On Thursday, June 28, Steven Troyd, the town’s public safety and emergency management administrator, reported that there are approximately 30 people living in 19 of the 20 units of the 2,688-square-foot motel.

Concerns over the long-term rentals of motels and overcrowding of residences have repeatedly been aired by Hampton Bays residents at Board of Education and civic meetings for years—and have also been frequently brought to the attention of the town.

Mr. Harris offered a glimmer of hope this week, noting that the judge agreed that as units are vacated, they may not be rented to new tenants. “There is sort of an end in sight,” he said.

He explained that the town could legally condemn the building, “but, based on how the State Supreme Court has handled this matter, they would look very poorly upon us throwing people out and boarding up the place.”

The owners of the property, Konstantine Polumentis and Jagganath Jayswal, who hold the property under a company called Bellaire Cove Resorts Inc., are actively trying to sell the 1.4-acre property for an asking price of $1.3 million, according to Town Attorney James Burke.

He added that the town has thrown the idea around of purchasing the property to convert it into condominiums, which under the existing zoning would allow the town to build 10 senior units.

“We are looking to motivate these people in the right direction without making people homeless,” Mr. Troyd said of the property owners.

“We certainly know it’s an issue, and we are working on many different avenues to try and make the problem go away,” Ms. Lofstad added.

However, until the property is sold, there is little the town can do to rectify the problem, other than keep it as safe as possible, Mr. Harris said.

Another issue often brought up by the town’s detractors when referring to Hampton Bays is the lack of restrooms in the recently opened Good Ground Park. But according to officials, a solution may be in sight.

Last year, while the Squiretown Road park was successful in bringing more than a dozen musical and theatrical performances to the community, Hampton Bays residents loved to point out that the $4 million park lacked a public restroom. The town was unsuccessful in securing funds to construct the $325,000 comfort stations when building the park last year. However, that cost has now been allocated for in the park’s 2018 capital budget.

Additionally, at a recent town board meeting, Mr. Schneiderman accepted a $100,000 reimbursement grant from Suffolk County to be applied to the cost of constructing a comfort station.

Ms. Lofstad said that the town is awaiting approvals from the Suffolk County Department of Health to begin construction of the public restrooms, which she said will begin as soon as the town gets the green light.

The comfort stations will be built adjacent to the playgrounds, near the parking lot, to allow room for the septic system and to be in closer proximity to the theater. “We are trying like heck to get those done,” Ms. Lofstad said.

In the meantime, park visitors can use a temporary portable bathroom set up inside the 36-acre park.

As for the upcoming season, organizers plan to double the number of events that were held at the park last year.

“It’s such a beautiful place,” Ms. Lofstad said of the hamlet.

And despite its problems, many locals said this week that they were proud to call Hampton Bays their home.

“I am growing to love Hampton Bays more every year that we are here,” said Shannon Beyer McMahon, who moved to Hampton Bays from Sag Harbor four years ago. “I love that there are so many young families, and it’s a great community of people.”

However, she said there are still some things that need attention—for instance, more mom-and-pop shops along Montauk Highway. “A little charm to the downtown area would be so wonderful,” she said.

“I do think that things are changing,” Ms. Lofstad said, referring to two new historic structures on Main Street that will offer students of history a glimpse into the past.

She pointed to the newly restored Lyzon Hat Shop, a 1900s-era hat shop where locals could purchase one-of-a-kind hats made by owner and hat designer Walter King, as well as the restored Prosper King House, one of the oldest buildings in the Town of Southampton, and once home to the King family. The hat shop officially opened its doors, several years after the grand opening of the King house, on June 30.

“We have such unique destinations,” Ms. Lofstad said, “and we need to continue to get the word out there.”

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Would the owners of the Dineer and Friendlys at least clean up the property’s facing the street,coming into Hampton Bays from Rt 24 the first impression is Am I entering a shantytown.....please Ms Lofstad use your charm,thanks for all you do for this community
By watchdog1 (488), Southampton on Jul 9, 18 5:08 PM
2 members liked this comment
This article appeared to be more a public relations advertisement than a news report. It was consistent with the political playbook of Supervisor Schneiderman, Councilperson Lofstad and Councilperson Bouvier took office in 2016 – to distort the narrative of the issues, deflect their responsibility for effective actions and then to label and demonize the residents of Hampton Bays as impatient, angry, frustrated and negative when the residents call for action. The residents of Hampton Bays ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (235), Hampton Bays on Jul 9, 18 6:11 PM
2 members liked this comment
What a piece of propaganda. Until the Town stops dumping illegal migrants on HB, it will never make a comeback.
By Babyboo (247), Hampton Bays on Jul 9, 18 6:33 PM
The ride into HB from east to west is very ugly. the road is ugly and pitted and going all along the strip type stores is depressing . the main drag is nothing to write home about and flowers on all the street lights don't really help..HB is probably the most beautiuful of all the hamptons with all the bays ocean creeks and other waterfront areas but the downtown needs help and soon.
By xtiego (668), bridgehampton on Jul 9, 18 7:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
The town decided 20 years ago to get rid of city summer people and that was the end of Hampton Bays.
By chief1 (2553), southampton on Jul 9, 18 8:59 PM
3 members liked this comment
The town's planning department is completely out of touch - they continue to refer to the "1999 Master Plan" as if it is still has any relevance. I agree with xtigeo - Hampton Bays is the most beautiful hamlet in the Town of Southampton. The problem is not Hampton Bays, the problem is the out of touch and ineffective administration.
By G.A.Lombardi (235), Hampton Bays on Jul 9, 18 9:35 PM
One of the owners of the diner is deceased and their estate will have to go into probate, that will take forever. This site will not be worked on anytime soon
By Resident tax (132), Hampton bays ny on Jul 9, 18 9:26 PM
Clean water is essential to life : )
By Aeshtron (190), Southampton on Jul 9, 18 9:44 PM
Unless you live on one of the canals HB has been stuck in time. At least the canal condos will be nice. I think I'll get one of those.
By lirider (251), Hampton Bays on Jul 9, 18 10:38 PM
Good for you if you can afford $1.5-3M! I'm sure no one who lives in HB can. These condos are clearly for wealthy Manhattanites who have no real interest in HB.
By eagleeye (62), Sag Harbor on Jul 16, 18 11:12 AM
So much propaganda in one article.

Typical Schniederman. And I’m still shocked that Julie buys into his BS. Are we really supposed to believe that rehabbing an old bridge for fisherman is going to bring money into Hampton Bays? The reality is, people located locally will use the bridge. Yes, they may buy bait and tackle, but they already are. I highly doubt someone would visit HB just to fish from an old bridge. If people travel out east to fish, they charter or sign up on a head ...more
By Draggerman (837), Southampton on Jul 10, 18 7:45 AM
All you haters? I don't understand this is a wonderful place to live. I think it's true that you all just want your taxes to stay low and don't want any improvements to the town. Well I'm in real estate and let me tell you something , sorry there's nothing you're going to do to hold this town back. I have more interest in Hampton Bays than anywhere else right now it's truly amazing to see this forgotten Town finally getting its recognition. Good luck Hampton Bays I think you're going to find that ...more
By widow gavits (219), sag harbor on Jul 10, 18 10:01 AM
1 member liked this comment
I also think the town looks better and has more open businesses than it did ten or twenty years ago, but that's just anecdotal.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (4578), HAMPTON BAYS on Jul 10, 18 10:08 AM
This is nothing to do about being a "hater" of Hampton Bays. Most people I know that live in Hampton Bays love Hampton Bays. For those that have followed the issues closely in Hampton Bays and the ineffective Town administration, this a political propaganda to make some of the Town officials look like beacons of light in a sea of despair. They are neither beacons of light nor is there a sea of despair.
By G.A.Lombardi (235), Hampton Bays on Jul 10, 18 10:11 AM
When Hampton Bays reaches it's potential it will be a very desirable place to live. I like it the way it is now, just the way I like the "old" Sag Harbor. That's progress I guess, but be careful what you wish for.
By country joe (35), sag harbor on Jul 10, 18 11:53 AM
I love the new Sag Harbor, What was there to like about the run down Sag Harbor ?

Hampton Bays is going to be Amazing its all very exciting to watch .
By joe hampton (3214), The Hamptons on Jul 10, 18 12:14 PM
Please clean up your own street,if there is an old homeowner cut his lawn,if you have property on Main Street make your storefront inviting,clean up the diner front clean up friendless and please stop sniping trying to score politacle points
By watchdog1 (488), Southampton on Jul 10, 18 3:31 PM
I find the piece very tranparent and our local reps trying to get the naysayers to see what is being worked on and also accomplished. HB is on the road back after the punch in the gut when our leaders removed group rentals that left local businesses unable to sustain themselves with only local traffic.
By Infoseeker (266), Hampton Bays on Jul 10, 18 4:10 PM
Those that have been involved in the issues know exactly what is being worked on and what is not. The Town of Southampton has a $99 million budget and what else are they supposed to do with it but keep up the public property, have effective planning and code enforcement. I am of the generation where you don't get a pat on the back, trophy, bonus or news report for showing up and doing your job. This article is very "transparent" as a public relations article. Let's see how fast and hard they ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (235), Hampton Bays on Jul 10, 18 5:00 PM
incorporation anyone?
By xtiego (668), bridgehampton on Jul 10, 18 5:14 PM
2 members liked this comment
There really shouldn't be a need - you would think since there are so many villages and the town has a $99 million budget that they could maintain the town property located in Hampton Bays and address the other issues. Fixing the pavilion shouldn't be news worthy - it should be standard operating procedure. It seems to me its the leaderships perception of their duties and responsibilities that needs to change, not the residents.
By G.A.Lombardi (235), Hampton Bays on Jul 10, 18 5:38 PM
GAL, I agree with all your comments. Approximately 14 years ago in WHBeach I attended multiple meetings where Town representatives said they'd help with a local playground. Nothing. WHBeach Village taxpayers finally paid for one behind Main Street. Town representatives back then said they'd renovate the Town building on Mill Road, make it a multi-generational center. That building sits abandoned, a dilapidated eyesore still. We were going to have an aquatic center, some YMCA type community ...more
By st (109), westhampton beach on Jul 10, 18 8:21 PM
And, biking down Dune Road now as I do lots in the summer--the grey Town building that's rentable for events looks awful. Like nothing was done to maintain it year after year. A sad, sorry sight. And Neptunes is still a vacant, boarded up mess. Maybe the Town could have run a summer camp? Or a summer recreational spot for cards, games, volleyball, seniors, beach art and yoga classes, etc.?
By st (109), westhampton beach on Jul 10, 18 8:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
It takes a village G A L. Run for Town Council Person at the next opportunity you seem to have a great understanding of what others do,now you should take a lead and I will put a poster on my front for you
By watchdog1 (488), Southampton on Jul 10, 18 7:57 PM
I would like to know when they plan to enforce the laws loud mufflers running stop signs crossing over into your lane speeding littering just to name a few
By DP (4), southampton on Jul 10, 18 8:04 PM
This is propaganda and the Southampton Press is not, and will never be cutting edge reporting. The relationship between the paper and SHTB is like family. Thank you to the SHTB for doing its job and spending resources tax payers paid for.

What makes Hampton Bays special is the people and the best physical location of any town on the south fork. It has the best multi ocean beaches, bays, canals on the south fork. It has a LIRR station right in town. It has it all. No other town on the ...more
By Hamptonsway (35), Southampton on Jul 10, 18 11:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wow lol garbage article. Like, garbage. Way to not have a slant but outright side with the CCHB about, well, everything lol Spend more than 5 minutes interviewing more than just he angry idiots please. Issues can be complex, you know...
By Brandon Quinn (161), Hampton Bays on Jul 11, 18 12:33 AM