While taking a walk along West Meadow Beach, something he does on a regular basis, Paul Feinberg noticed something different — one of the cottages by the ranger’s house was missing.
The Setauket resident said one day the cottage two buildings over from the ranger’s home was there, and by Feb. 16, it was gone. It’s something he is happy about.
The only evidence was a work truck in the nearby vicinity with a sign that read: “We make things disappear.”
“That one they removed, that was just an accident waiting to happen,” Feinberg said. “When the roof caved in, that’s one thing for someone to get in there, but then the whole side of it caved in. It was just a mess.”
Town of Brookhaven attorney Annette Eaderesto said the town demolished the cottage. Snow earlier in the season further collapsed the roof, according to Eaderesto.
Feinberg said he believed Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright’s (D-Port Jefferson Station) office was instrumental in having the structure removed.
At a June 5 Three Village Civic Association Meeting, Cartright updated the civic association members about the town’s preliminary assessment of the four cottages at West Meadow Beach. The councilwoman said after an internal evaluation it appeared two of the cottages were dilapidated and structurally unsound, and possibly not salvageable. However, there was the potential to save a third structure and use another as an outdoor interpretive kiosk. Only four of the historic cottages that once lined the beach remained after 2004, when the town removed nearly 100 to make way for West Meadow Wetlands Reserve.
Cartright said she was following standard operating procedure and had asked for an independent engineer to assess the cottages, and the town had complied with her request.
“I wanted to make sure if these cottages are coming down that we have a report from someone outside of the town telling us that is necessary,” she said at the June 5 meeting.
At the meeting, Robert Reuter, a member of the town’s historic district advisory committee, asked that the committee be advised about any future plans regarding the cottages on the beach. Reuter said Feb. 20 he was saddened to learn about the demolition of the structure, and the committee was not notified about it.
Reuter said he wouldn’t recommend any remaining cottages be demolished, and he feels the beach structures can be preserved without spending a great deal of money. When the town renovated the ranger’s home, it cost approximately $500,000, according to Cartright. Reuter said the former summer homes were built with no basements or hard foundations, which allows water to easily wash through underneath. The structures were built to easily be closed up each year. To preserve such a home it has to be made as weather-tight as possible, according to Reuter, to keep rainwater from penetrating the structure. He would have suggested the roof be repaired and windows bordered up.
“It wouldn’t be hard if there was the commitment to do it, it wouldn’t be hard to keep them from falling down.” Reuter said. “It’s really demolition by neglect, pure and simple.”