On November 22, the Southampton Town Board held a public hearing on rebuilding the Bridgehampton Senior Center and the addition of 16 residential workforce units.
The directors of the Bridgehampton Civic Association learned of this public hearing only four days prior. Most residents probably did not know about the hearing at all. It was held two days before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year.
The board voted to have no additional public hearings and to proceed with this development. As what might be the first multifamily, and taxpayer-paid, apartment building in Bridgehampton, it is worthy of attention.
The addition of workforce housing is a change of use at a facility built to help seniors. It served the elderly in Bridgehampton but also from surrounding hamlets. Seniors are among the most at-risk population; many are on fixed incomes, often under the poverty line, have lost spouses who supplemented their incomes, and often live alone and socially isolated. And they need affordable housing.
This town-owned property had been allowed to deteriorate, was closed during COVID, and now the town seems to be taking advantage of this disuse not only to rebuild the center but to add housing that would not be earmarked for seniors.
We support rebuilding the Senior Center, but perhaps we should strengthen that use, not take away from it. New affordable housing at this site could be dedicated to seniors and the workforce employed at the Senior Center. By doing so, we might create housing for additional local workers, because the seniors who move to affordable apartments could pass on their houses to children and grandchildren.
It is worth noting that as part of the 2004 Bridgehampton Hamlet Plan, the Town Board created the hamlet office zone along Bridgehampton Main Street that requires developers to provide an accessory apartment for each 1,000 square feet beyond a 3,000-square-foot building. Development and real estate companies have built three 6,000-square-foot office buildings. This required a total of nine apartments.
However, the Zoning Board of Appeals gave these companies variances not to build two-thirds of them. Even with the loss of six units, three were supposed to be built. Does anyone know if these apartments were built and are being rented to eligible workers?
Another office building is about to be built on this stretch. Will another variance be requested not to build the units they are required to build?
The Senior Center lies in the Aquifer Protection Overlay District, so high-density development should require an environmental review. Additionally, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said this would be paid for in part using the Community Preservation Fund. How is constructing an apartment building on what is now wooded acreage considering “preservation”?
Bridgehampton Civic Association
One fine body…