The flooding in Hampton Bays a couple of weeks ago should be a wake-up call for all of us.
Despite the raising of Dune Road and the seeding of the dunes, the flooding closed that road, as well as Montauk Highway east of the Shinnecock Canal. The flooding was extensive. All caused by a rainstorm, not a hurricane or a nor’easter.
There is no longer any dispute that climate change is causing rising sea levels and corresponding devastation to waterfront properties.
But none of this has deterred the Southampton Town Board from pursuing its ill-conceived plan to build condos or a boutique motel on 1.5 acres of land directly on Penny Pond, at the site of the old Bel-Aire Motel. Worse yet, continuing to pursue it in the face of overwhelming opposition from the residents of Hampton Bays and with the requirement to grandfather the sewage flow to almost four times the amount permitted under current regulations.
Our Town Board repeatedly boasts about its commitment to environmental concerns. But how far does that commitment go when it comes up against a potential development opportunity? Are we back in the 1960s here in Southampton, where money trumps the environment?
After Hurricane Sandy, New York State recognized the critical need to create natural vegetation barriers along the waterfront to protect properties farther inland. We now understand that we cannot just build and build without concern for the ecosystem.
Here in the Hamptons, we have multiple environmental concerns from overdevelopment. Not only do we risk damage to properties from rising tides and sea levels but building on wetlands and all along our waterfront impacts the wildlife ecosystems and the quality of water in our vulnerable aquifers, not to mention impairment of the water in our bays.
The Town Board sees fit to use Community Preservation Fund revenue for land along Montauk Highway but refused to use those funds to acquire and protect the small parcel of land on Penny Pond, already an impaired water body.
At a time when tribes in Alaska are being relocated due to rising sea levels, and islands in the Pacific are facing imminent submersion, our wise representatives find it important to turn back the clock and pursue more waterfront development.
I urge the Town Board members to look at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website, which provides detailed information on Coastal & Waterfront Smart Growth. It’s time for you all to talk the talk and walk the walk. So far, the environmental initiatives you have pursued are pitifully insufficient, and we are all suffering as a result.
One fine body…