Resident trying to repair cracked bulkhead calls fee "highway robbery"
By Kevin Redding
Things are rocky between the North Shore Beach Property Owners Association and surrounding residents.
Locals from the close-knit beach community of Culross Drive in Rocky Point are voicing their frustrations over what they call an egregious hike in fees and membership requirements put in place by board members of the private beach association in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
According to residents, the association has been charging homeowners who live on the bluff up to $3,800, and now possibly more, just to gain access to their beach. If a Culross Drive resident has a bulkhead in need of repair, the fee is for vehicles to drive a few hundred feet over the association’s private beach in order to reach Culross Beach homes.
There is no other way for the machinery to enter Culross Beach, residents said, and in the past all who needed access through the association’s property were charged with a performance bond of about $250 and asked that the contractor include the association on their construction insurance policy in case any damage to their beach occurred.
The North Shore Beach Property Owners Association so far has not provided an explanation to residents as to why the fee was raised so high, despite numerous attempts to get answers by email and phone.
The group did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Only members can log onto the website in order to read the constitution and by-laws.
While repairs to bulkheads are usually few and far between — as most are projected to last several decades — bulkhead maintenance is crucial for those who live in the beach side community, according to Susan McCormick, a Culross Drive resident since 1981.
“We are religious about it here,” McCormick said. “Every single one of us, at some point in time, have needed bulkhead repairs. If you don’t maintain it, all of the sand slides down, the bulkhead could disappear and then the sand would just creep onto the next property. Once all that slides down, the top of your property is going to go. It’s cost me a fortune over the last few years — after the two hurricanes — to repair.”
McCormick, 66, the co-owner of School of Fish Swim and Scuba in Rocky Point, said she first heard of the hiked-up fee about a month ago when she pursued the replacement of a cracked piling on her bulkhead.
“It’s cruel and they don’t need this money. I can’t imagine what they’re even using it for or what their excuse is for doing it.”
— Susan McCormick
After a neighbor informed her of the $3,800 charge just to get the repair equipment over to her property, she called the association. She didn’t receive a response, and proceeded to contact members of local government, including Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), and a representative from the Environmental Conservation Office in Stony Brook.
While she said those in Brookhaven have been sympathetic and supportive of her concerns, McCormick was told there was nothing the town could do about it because the beach belonging to the association is private property.
She said the association did not waive the fee, even for a neighbor whose house was and still is in danger of sliding down the bluff due to severe damage from Hurricane Sandy.
“It’s wrong what the North Shore Beach Association is doing and I’m not giving up,” McCormick said of her determination to speak with someone on the association’s board. “I would never do to another person what they’re doing. It’s cruel and they don’t need this money. I can’t imagine what they’re even using it for or what their excuse is for doing it. We’re not doing any damage to their little section of beach. This is what I call highway robbery — they’re making money from people’s misfortunes.”
Pete Falcetta, president of the private Culross Corporation said McCormick is doing the right thing.
“[She’s] trying to make an emergency repair the proper way by stopping the bleeding, and yet she’s being forced to pay this exorbitant fee that’s more than the original repair,” he said.
Mickey Wolcson, one of McCormick’s neighbors who has lived on Culross Drive for 11 years, said he’s long thought about filing a lawsuit against the association ever since he became the first and last person to pay the $3,800 charge two years ago. His house and bluff plantings were in danger of sliding down, so he needed to make the urgent repair. He said he was flabbergasted when he discovered how much it would cost.
According to Wolcson, the association also pushed a 10-year membership on him in order to maintain his bulkhead. When he called and finally reached someone on the board at the time, he said he received no sympathy.
Recalling the conversation, Wolcson said when he informed the board member he didn’t want the 10-year membership, explaining that he had his own beach, he was told, “that’s the only way that this can happen.”
“They’re forcing you to become a member even when you don’t want to be one,” Wolcson said. “There’s no justification in this. I think it’s just pure greed. I don’t think they want more members, they want more money. Are they running on a deficit? Why are they stealing money from their neighbors?”
Losquadro called the access charge “excessive and unwarranted” in an email.
“I have been contacted many times about this issue and the sentiment is always the same; the association is just punishing the very neighbors they are purportedly protecting,” Losquadro stated.
Bonner said she is also continually contacted by people losing bulkheads and running the risk of losing their homes because of the charge.
“One of the nice things about Rocky Point is that it’s a very cohesive community and everyone works very well together, except in this instance, and it’s very disappointing,” the councilwoman said. “It’s just not neighborly and is an instance where some compassion and kindness would go a very long way, especially when you’re talking about people that run the very real risk of losing their house.”