LaLota Says He's Heard Plenty From Nearby Residents, but Not the Town, on Coast Guard Housing - 27 East

LaLota Says He's Heard Plenty From Nearby Residents, but Not the Town, on Coast Guard Housing

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Rep. Nick LaLota says he's gotten an earful from residents opposed to Southampton Town plan to acquire former USCG housing tract. TOM GOGOLA

Rep. Nick LaLota says he's gotten an earful from residents opposed to Southampton Town plan to acquire former USCG housing tract. TOM GOGOLA

Tom Gogola on Sep 12, 2023

U.S. Representative Nick LaLota reached out this week to “set the record straight” on his interactions with the Town of Southampton over a hotly contested plan that could see a public-private transformation of vacant U.S. Coast Guard homes in Westhampton into affordable housing.

In a letter to the Southampton Town Council dated August 23, LaLota said he was writing to support “a solution that benefits residents” near the property, and “Town of Southampton residents as a whole.”

In his letter, LaLota said he only became aware of the town’s interest in acquiring the 14-acre lot and the dozens of housing units on it through media reports and residents — the latter of whom he says have contacted him in droves to oppose the town’s plan to acquire the land in partnership with a private developer and with buy-in from the state, the county, and the federal government.

But, says LaLota, despite Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman’s claims that he had reached out to LaLota about the Coast Guard land deal, LaLota says that never happened — and he still hasn’t talked to Schneiderman about the town’s goals for the housing subdivision.

LaLota, who defeated Democratic County Legislator Bridget Fleming to earn the congressional seat vacated by Republican Lee Zeldin in 2022, said that he and his staff had been in contact with the General Services Administration and residents of the Hampton West Estates neighborhood and their Homeowners Association to “hear their vision for the property.” He noted that there is “far from a consensus vision” on what should happen with the former Coast Guard housing.

LaLota highlighted his locals-first bona-fides as a former village trustee in Amityville, as he noted that he understood the “importance of working toward a community consensus when changing the use of a prominent piece of property.”

He said that with this experience, and in good faith, he offered a hand in “finding a resolution to this important issue.”

In an attendant statement to The Press, LaLota reiterated that Schneiderman had never reached out to him or discussed the housing, though there was an opportunity to do so back in June, when the elected officials met to talk about federal and other issues facing their mutual constituents.

“Yet I have recently heard from dozens of residents who do not want the town to purchase the property,” LaLota said, “and have asked for my opinion.”

His opinion is that the dispensation of the land is best left to local control.

“My general position on zoning is to defer to the locally elected board who is empowered by state law to act on behalf of residents on land use matters,” he said. “Local control is the best control and land use is done best when federal and state officials stay out of it.”

Last week, the General Services Administration announced that it was indefinitely suspending the planned auction of the land while the town tried to piece together a $15 million package to purchase the land.

Town officials have highlighted that the state is very interested in helping the town secure the housing, especially given New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s efforts to address the state’s affordable housing crunch. Whether that translates into dollars sufficient to reach that $15 million price tag remains to be seen.

The town has stressed that it would not purchase the land, but would instead utilize grant revenues on a resident-by-resident basis drawn from the Community Housing Fund, a new pot of money dedicated to creating affordable housing opportunities in Southampton through a half-percent real-estate transfer tax enacted last year.

LaLota wasn’t the only local Republican lawmaker to express concerns lately about the town’s gambit to acquire the property.

Southampton Town Councilwoman Cynthia McNamara, the Republican running for the soon-to-be-vacated supervisor’s seat — Schneiderman is term-limited from running again — said last week that she questioned the wisdom of the town dedicating its first batch of CHF funds to a project that had been met with such vigorous and ongoing push-back from residents.

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