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May 14, 2018 1:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Westhampton Community Center To Be Built At Gabreski Business Park

The Hampton Business District at Gabreski sits just off Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton Beach. ELSIE BOSKAMP
May 15, 2018 2:37 PM

Preliminary discussions are underway between local lawmakers and representatives from Rechler Equity Partners, a real estate and construction development company, that is building and operating the Hampton Business District at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, to construct a new community center for Westhampton at the park.

Southampton Town Councilman John Bouvier has been spearheading the effort, along with Craig Catalanotto, co-chairman of CAC-West, the citizen’s advisory committee representing Westhampton, Speonk, Remsenburg, Eastport and Quogue.

Mr. Bouvier has been pushing for a new community center for the past few years and began initial consultations with Rechler representatives about three months ago.

“They wanted to build a daycare center, and while there’s a need for that, there’s also a need for people to have a place to meet, and a place for seniors. So we said, ‘Let’s do a center that serves the entire community,’” Mr. Bouvier said.

According to Mr. Catalanotto, who met with representatives from Rechler earlier this month, the Plainview-based real-estate company, owned by cousins Mitchell and Gregg Rechler, plans to work with the town to build a center, which is expected to be 4,000 to 5,000 square feet, on the northern edge of the business park.

“They’ve asked us to submit a ‘wish list’ in terms of what the facility will need to accommodate the various groups that may use the center,” Mr. Catalanotto said. “We hope to meet with the Rechler group again next month and submit our findings, then possibly discuss sitting with an architect to come up with some conceptual designs.”

Mr. Catalanotto is in discussions with local youth and senior groups to gauge their interest in using the center and to see what facilities they would want in the new building, which he said he hopes will be a “comparable facility” to the David W. Crohan Community Center in Flanders.

If plans are approved, the center would replace the old Westhampton Community Center, which is riddled with asbestos and sits vacant at 406 Mill Road, next to the post office and 7-Eleven. The town had tried to auction off the 2,640-square-foot structure, which had a starting bid of $540,000, last June, but no one put in any bids.

Now, the unused property may soon be torn down. According to Mr. Bouvier, bids are out for the building’s demolition, although he did not know the status of those bids.

The Rechlers construction of a new community center would save the town an estimated $3.5 million to $5 million in construction costs, which were calculated by the town about 15 years ago, when initial discussions for a new community center began.

Once the new center is completed, the town would lease the space from the Rechlers, although a cost has not yet been determined.

Representatives of the Rechlers, who manage the 50-acre business park, which is expected to house nine buildings when completed, did not immediately return calls this week. But Mr. Bouvier said “they’re on board,” and that they want to “strike while the iron is hot.”

The first building designs are expected to be sketched next week, when Mr. Bouvier meets with Rechler architect. Mr. Bouvier, who hopes the center will be completed in the next two years, said he would be asking for the construction of bathrooms, a small kitchen and an outside playground at the center.

“I’ve wanted to establish a community center for a while now, but I wanted it to grow organically and come from the community as a need—and it is certainly needed,” Mr. Bouvier said. “Now, we’re off and running.”

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Good use of the Hampton Business District.
By A Great American (58), East Quogue on May 15, 18 7:13 PM
2 members liked this comment
How nice would it be if the longtime desire of the Flying Point Foundation for Autism to build an activity center for people with developmental disabilities, of which the Town is well aware, could be part of this plan?
By kimc (6), Water Mill on May 16, 18 8:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
I love this idea. Please contact me. You can find me on facebook.
By Craigcat (247), Speonk on May 17, 18 11:37 AM
While I am very supportive of having a community center for the west end of the Town, I am more than disappointed at the Town's lack of attention to existing town owned properties in Westhampton. The former American Legion Hall/Senior Center is a crumbling eyesore with broken windows, broken shingles and deteriorated roof. The adjacent "park" property is totally fenced off with 6' black chainlink due to the day workers using it for bathroom facilities. The former Bauer property is used by the parks ...more
By roverton (47), Westhampton on May 17, 18 1:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Valid points. The town is looking to demo and sell the old center. Some of the benefits about having the Rechler Group build at the Gabreski site being the town will not have to invest in the land or construction. The town will lease the facility. The Rechlers certainly know how to build, so the town won't have to worry about construction budgets, waste, bidding etc. IMO, it's better for the town and tax payers to have the Rechler Group build and lease out than the town act as developer.
By Craigcat (247), Speonk on May 17, 18 5:19 PM
You’re carping, Ray (roverton). I’m not as diplomatic as Craigcat apparently is. The strong comparative advantages of the Gabreski property must have been evident to you before they were recited by Craigcat above. You didn’t need him to tell you all that; you knew it already.

So why the complaint? I respect your integrity, Ray, but have to say it seems like partisan sniping.

In any event, we all owe a debt of gratitude to John Bouvier and Craig Catalanotto ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1902), Quiogue on May 18, 18 9:06 AM
Thanks, TB. I truly believe that this will be a net gain for the community by a lot.
By Craigcat (247), Speonk on May 21, 18 9:02 AM
TB, go take a good look at the town owned properties I mentioned. These are assets the taxpayers have already invested in and they are in Unsafe and unsightly condition. Is there the possibility of a similar public/private partnership using those properties. Since it’s going to be a newly constructed building at Gabreski would the Rechlers have an interest in doing the same arrangements on the Mill Rd property?
By roverton (47), Westhampton on May 18, 18 9:47 PM
I would bet that the reason the Rechlers are prepared to do this is the location adjacent to their Hampton Business District at Gabreski. It would provide traffic to their project. They wouldn't be motivated to build it elsewhere. I thought that was self-evident.
By Turkey Bridge (1902), Quiogue on May 18, 18 10:00 PM
... who better to bail the Rechler's out with this half-baked PDD than the Town?
By William Rodney (519), southampton on May 18, 18 10:00 PM
As far as me being partisan, I am. I'm partisan in support of the Westhampton community. Maybe you're correct, the Rechlers are looking to partner as a way to provide some income of an otherwise poor commitment they made with Suffolk County for the Hampton Business Park. Absolutely none of the originally proposed types of industries that would occupy the business park have come in. There are no high tech jobs, there is no flagged hotel property. Tate's back office operations are there, but who knows ...more
By roverton (47), Westhampton on May 19, 18 1:09 PM
IMO weighing the positives and negatives, doing this with the Rechlers at Gabreski makes the most sense. It's the most efficient and cost-effective model, doesn't require any zone changes, has room for expansion, and doesn't put the town in the position as acting as developer. In the end, this represents a real opportunity to create a center for seniors, youth services, civic groups, various clubs, etc to enjoy. We've been waiting for this for a long time, and this is a great opportunity. So looking ...more
By Craigcat (247), Speonk on May 19, 18 5:13 PM
Craig, I respect your efforts. I only hope the Town can come up with a real plan for the 4 properties I brought up before someone is seriously injured or worse at the neglected Town owned properties in the center of Westhampton.
By roverton (47), Westhampton on May 19, 18 7:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
As do I. Let's work on it.
By Craigcat (247), Speonk on May 20, 18 7:42 AM
... 3-4 businesses occupy this industrial park after a number of years trying . The most hi-tech is a cookie factory. The plan calls for eight buildings. How does that work?
By William Rodney (519), southampton on May 20, 18 12:24 PM
The Rechler Group is going to build a small business facility at the industrial park too. 1 main building containing 4 or 5 office/shop spaces at approx 2000 sqr ft each. I really like this idea.
By Craigcat (247), Speonk on May 21, 18 9:01 AM