The Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday, in a long-awaited move, turned over ownership of the Long Wharf from the county to Sag Harbor Village, citing its costly upkeep.
The unanimous, 16-0 vote returns the iconic pier and parking area, which juts out into the bay near Windmill Beach, to the village’s possession for the first time since 1947, when it was incorporated into the county highway system and became technically known as County Road 81.
The county estimated that it spent about $100,000 per year on the wharf amid projections that it would need major capital repairs within 10 years.
Some steps still remain to make the transfer official, however.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone must sign off on the transfer, which he is expected to do.
Sag Harbor Village, which has been willing to accept ownership of the dock and to pay for its maintenance in addition to the costs for policing, garbage pickup and other expenses it had already been paying for under a lease agreement with the county, will have to vote to accept the wharf.
Then the deed will have to change hands—similar to how the county turned over the deed for the adjacent windmill to the village in August.
“The Long Wharf is so central to the identity of the village. It’s iconic,” said Legislator Jay Schneiderman, the bill’s sponsor, on Tuesday afternoon following the vote. “It’s New York not controlling the Statue of Liberty,” he said of the county continuing to own the pier.
Tuesday’s county-level vote also comes after a long-awaited study by the Long Wharf Advisory Committee on the long-term costs and potential revenues associated with the county’s continued ownership of the pier, recommended the transfer.
The study, prepared by Mr. Schneiderman, concludes that a net loss for the county would be likely were it to continue ownership of the pier and that giving it to the village would be the best fiscal alternative.
“By giving the Long Wharf to the village, the county rids itself of an expense and a liability,” the study states, adding that last year an individual drowned after falling off the pier, the perimeter of which lacks a railing. “As a self-insured entity, the risks associated with ownership of the Long Wharf outweigh the benefits,” it continues.
The study also concludes that the county would still benefit from the economic value of Long Wharf as a tourist attraction, even if it no longer owned the dock.
Jon Schneider, deputy county executive for intergovernmental affairs, said on Tuesday the county executive’s administration was pleased with the legislature’s vote. “County Executive Bellone has worked closely with Legislator Schneiderman to make sure we have a solution that meets the needs not only of Suffolk County taxpayers, but also protects a vital institution in Sag Harbor,” Mr. Schneider said.
Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride traveled to Hauppauge on Tuesday for the vote and spoke in support of it.
For the past several decades, the county has leased the wharf to Sag Harbor.
Under that arrangement, which was renewed in June, Sag Harbor was responsible for routine maintenance and collected and retained revenues from dockage and use fees, while the county was responsible for heavier, longer-term capital projects, such as a $75,000 outlay for rehabilitating the bulkhead in December 2007.
Talk of a transfer surfaced in recent years, but an earlier proposal to do so was shot down by county officials who believed it could bring in more revenue.