November 22, 2006
Residents Rally For Beaches
Beaches are natural and scenic resources, not to be marred by campgrounds or parks for recreational vehicles.
So believe members of the Southampton Town Civic Coalition, a group formed two years ago with representatives from Flanders, Bayview Pines, Hampton Bays, East Quogue, Remsenburg, Speonk and Westhampton.
Members of the group were out this weekend at area post offices collecting signatures on a petition protesting an idea by members of the Southampton Town Board for both an RV park and campground in Hampton Bays and possible water ferry/taxi service in both Eastport and East Quogue.
"We're adamantly opposed," said Al Algieri, head of the coalition. "It's our proposal to keep it as a beach."
Adding fuel to the fire was a statement Southampton Town Councilman Steve Kenny made to the civic organization when he met with the group several months ago. "The statement was that civics don't matter — we're a minority; we really don't count," Algieri said.
"I said that civics don't represent the entire town," the councilman noted, adding that what he believes necessary is a community dialogue to discuss the future of the Tiana Beach property.
The town received grant funding to hire planners and look at the entire stretch of Dune Road, including Hampton Bays and East Quogue, and devise a plan to improve public access.
In recent years, the town has utilized CPF money to purchase a number of parcels on Dune Road, including the site of the former Summer's Beach Club. "As soon as Neptune's is on the market, we'd like to buy that as well," said Kenny. "We've been in acquisition mode."
Tiana Beach has a parking field for 700 cars but is very underutilized, except on the weekends.
To that end, the councilman has an idea to create a residents-only beach at the site of the former Hot Dog beach.
With a new marina and swimming on the bay side, Kenny has suggested remaking the ocean side of the area behind the dunes, removing the parking lot and considering the possibility of 20 to 40 tent campsites and a limited number of RV parking spots. "This is where I really run into obstinate resistance from Mr. Algieri and his group," said Kenny.
Kenny said the goal would be to create a bathing beach-themed area, "where we create the family experience to replace the tawdry nightclubs." Scout groups could benefit from the camping area, he added.
While the civic coalition opposes the concept, Kenny said the idea is to include the whole community in the discussion.
Kenny added that petitioners showing photos of Shinnecock Inlet are incorrect if they think that's his plan for Tiana Beach. "The only thing they've nailed is they've identified my worst nightmare. That's a parking lot; there's no privacy."
The focus, should the town acquire the Neptune's property, would be to restore the old lifesaving station formerly on the site and build a museum.
Another plan Algieri is protesting is the proposed water taxi service; he said members of his group decided to take a proactive stance and canvass every post office west of the canal, protesting the concept.
Algieri won't reveal how many signatures he's received. "We've got a magnificent amount," he said.
Plans are in place for block captains to go door-to-door, soliciting additional signatures.
Last year, members of the town board explored using water taxis to enhance beach shuttle service. The length of overland trips to ocean beaches might make creation of water taxis an efficient option, with Eastport and East Quogue "perfect locations," said Kenny.
Protestors say the beach in question is a barrier beach, too small for increased traffic, with no parking; passengers would have to park miles away and board a shuttle to the ferry. Once they got to Dune Road, said Algieri, passengers would be able to walk on for free; only car passengers pay a fee. "This would become a destination," he said.
Residents are unhappy with the political process. "We've got a big problem," said Algieri. "We've had a lot of planning in this town. They plan it, then they shove it down our throat — they don't listen."
In this case, said Algieri, "We're not going to wait. That's why we pre-empted this, even though they say it's only in the planning stage."
Kenny reminded that the concept was just an idea; community input is encouraged.