Gurney's Inn
January 03, 2018

Southampton Initiatives For '18

With a Democratic super majority taking its seat at the dais this week, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman is eager to begin his second term, and set in motion a slew of initiatives designed to fulfill a vision for the town begun during his first term in office. On a brief vacation in Vermont last week, the supervisor set aside a few minutes to tell The Independent his hopes for 2018.

"Water quality is going to be a big piece of our work this year," he said. He hopes to locate areas with concentrated residential development that could be suitable sites for the construction of advanced wastewater systems to serve an entire neighborhood. So far, wastewater treatment initiatives have focused on individual septic systems. Schneiderman wants to find ways to address larger areas.

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Another environmental program -- the creation of a shellfish hatchery on the Lobster Inn property in the Shinnecock Hills section of Southampton -- will be on the front burner this year. The town is working to buy the property with a private partner and establish the hatchery. The purchase plan, Schneiderman said, is "complicated."

So, too, is the creation of affordable housing. Still, said the supervisor, "It's very important to me. I want to make a difference in that area." Observers will see "some bold initiatives, particularly with accessory apartments," the veteran lawmaker predicted. "You'll definitely see us moving forward in a significant way, particularly east of the canal," he added. Last year Diana Weir, a one-time East Hampton Town Councilwoman and renowned housing expert, joined Southampton Town as its director of housing and community development. "She's doing a great job," Schneiderman enthused.

A raft of capital projects will move ahead in '18. Expect minor adjustments to improve traffic flow in select downtown areas. Also, said the supervisor, "There's a lot going on in Hampton Bays."

A portion of the old Ponquogue Bridge, on the south side, will see improved public access, courtesy of a $1.9 million reconstruction project that broke ground last month. Improvements will include new bulkheads, recreational access ramps, and a sustainable deck and handrail. The old bridge was damaged during Hurricane Sandy; its north side will be stabilized, leaving a 21-foot wide, 61-foot-long fishing pier. Renovations to the pavilion at Ponquogue beach are expected to be completed this year.

Good Ground Park in downtown Hampton Bays will see the completion of a second playground and comfort station, and Schneiderman hopes to see his vision for a maritime park alongside the Shinnecock Canal come to fruition. Improvements will include a parking area, park, shaded pavilion, and picnic area.

Taking a long view, the supervisor embraces the notion of bringing family friendly tourism to the hamlet. The old model for Hampton Bays featured "young people partying," Schneiderman said. He'd like to see a more wholesome atmosphere maintained, while economic growth is enhanced. With scant hotel capacity in the area, he said, "We're going to look at the AirBNB model, and see if we can create a program that lets people rent for less than two weeks. It could make sense in some areas and doesn't have to be a bad thing. I want to have a conversation with the community and ask, 'Is there way to do this right?'"

The new federal tax plan is going to hurt the local home market and some people are going to need to rent their homes on short-term bases. "We need to ask whether our rental law is keeping pace with the times," Schneiderman said.

Finally, the lawmaker has his eye on the opioid epidemic. "It's my biggest priority," he said. "How do we prevent the next death? It sounds so simple, but that person's out there." In the wake of an unprecedented number of overdose fatalities in Southampton, late last year, town officials convened an opioid addiction task force that hosted its first public forum in November. Additional, issue-specific forums are planned this year.

"I've learned a lot so far," Schneiderman said. "This is a major priority of mine, not just to talk about it, but to actually save lives. I want to reduce the number of opioid deaths in Southampton to zero, I'll do everything I can to figure out how."

Turning to priorities his Democratic colleagues on the town board have mentioned, the supervisor said freshman Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni wants to look at tick-borne illnesses, and Councilman John Bouvier is interested in building a community center in Westhampton.

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