Restricted access at a Brookhaven Town owned facility caused a stir in Port Jefferson last week.
A locked gate with a sign reading “Boat owners only” at a Brookhaven owned public dock in Port Jefferson was the result of “miscommunication,” according to a spokesman for the town, and “insubordination,” according to the supervisor.
Myrna Gordon, a longtime Port Jefferson Village resident and former boat owner first raised the issue in calls to town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and the town’s recreation department July 13, then publicly during a board meeting July 20. She said she had seen the gate to the dock — which lies within the Brookhaven Town Marina overlooking Port Jefferson Harbor — locked with the sign prohibiting non-boaters from entry several times during the day this summer, and friends of hers told her they’d also seen the same thing. The dock is supposed to be locked to the public from dusk until dawn for safety reasons.
“It is a public dock. Those who see to make it a private dock will no longer work for the Town of Brookhaven. They are insubordinate.”
— Ed Romaine
“I do understand that there are several times that a dock must be closed — a medical emergency, extreme weather, a security issue — but closing a public walkway that is paid for by the residents of this town should be thoroughly investigated,” Gordon said during the meeting.
On July 12, Gordon said she was walking past the gate to attend a concert nearby at about 6 p.m., when she saw a woman approach the gate and enter a code on the keypad which unlocked the entry to the dock. Gordon said she confronted the woman, who explained that because of security concerns, boat owners were the only people allowed on the dock and with access to the code. Gordon said the woman closed the gate behind her and didn’t allow her in.
“I understand people take dock space and they pay for that to dock their boat there,” Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said after Gordon’s comments during the board meeting. “That does not give them ownership of that dock. That dock is owned by the Town of Brookhaven. It is a public dock. Those who see to make it a private dock will no longer work for the Town of Brookhaven. They are insubordinate.”
The town’s recreation department oversees the dock. Gordon and two boaters who dock their vessels at the town site said they hadn’t seen the lock and sign in seasons past. A spokesman for the town said in a phone interview, the locking of the gate during daytime hours was the result of a miscommunication, though he didn’t specify where the policy originated. He would not comment on whether any disciplinary action resulted for any town employees.
Gordon said she has not seen the gate locked during the daytime since July 13.
“My understanding was that it was rectified immediately once they contacted our office,” Cartright said during the meeting after Romaine’s remarks. “As it relates to who was responsible for all of this and any type of disciplinary action, the supervisor can move forward on that.”
A spokeswoman for Cartright reiterated that position in an email when asked for comment regarding the details of the situation.
Joseph Kazlau, a Port Jeff resident who has docked a boat at the town facility for about a decade, said he has no problem with members of the public utilizing the dock.
“I have an issue with them closing it to the taxpayers,” another boater, who asked not to be identified, said during an interview. “There are a lot of things we’d like to see, but keeping people off [of the dock] is not one of them.”
Both boaters said the key code was first installed on the gate during the 2016 boating season, though this season was the first they’d seen it locked during daytime hours.
Gordon also took issue with bathrooms just steps away from the gate, which are part of the town office building and lookout tower at the site, which also require a code to unlock. Romaine also condemned that practice during the meeting, and as of July 24 a handwritten note that reads, “Please see tower for access,” is taped to both the men’s and women’s restrooms.