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Preservation

Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society receives a $145,000 grant that helps the organization reach the $1 million needed to complete foundation repairs. Photo from Pamela Setchell

The future of a historic lighthouse in Huntington Bay is looking bright.

The 105-year-old Huntington Lighthouse will undergo much-needed repairs this fall thanks to preservation efforts by members of the nonprofit Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, which in August secured a $145,000 matching grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, when announcing the grant recipient, highlighted the lighthouse’s “vital role as a cultural entity, enhancing education and preserving heritage in the community.”

The Gardiner grant, which the preservation society applied for in July 2016, will be used to complete what members are calling phase one of restoration efforts to the lighthouse’s exterior foundation.

It will also allow the lighthouse to reopen for tours and educational groups again after two years of dormancy, as well as mark the return of the Lighthouse Music Fest.

Steel sheeting has been placed around the entire base of the structure to ensure more stability for the next 100 years against rough weather conditions. A brand new landing platform will be installed to replace a deteriorating one.

Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society receives a $145,000 grant that helps the organization reach the $1 million needed to complete foundation repairs. Photo from Pamela Setchell

Pamela Setchell, president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, said she believes it was her passion for the historic landmark that clinched the highly-competitive grant during the interview process.

“For me, it’s just a dream,” said Setchell, a lifelong Huntington resident who has been exploring the lighthouse since she was young. “Just knowing she is going to be strong for another 100 years and hopefully go on to tell its story to everybody and to children and continue on … it means the world.”

She said without these restoration efforts, the lighthouse would become unstable and rapidly deteriorate, undoing the last 30 years of work the society has done to upkeep its interior. Setchell joined the society upon its formation in 1985 when threats of demolition loomed over the structure.

“We took it over in a deplorable state, put her back together and now she’s actually one of the poster children for offshore lighthouse restoration in the country,” Setchell said.

She pointed to the offshore lighthouse as unique among others on Long Island as it’s one of the few, due to its location, that allows the public to fully experience it. Many other lighthouses on the island are off-limits to visitors due to treacherous waters, she said.

Bernadette Castro, a longtime Huntington resident and former commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, echoed Setchell’s admiration for the lighthouse.

“For 50 years, I have looked out my dining room window and sat on my back terrace and appreciated that magnificent little structure,” Castro said of the lighthouse. “It is part of the landscape of those of us who live nearby.”

The recently acquired $145,000 grant, in addition to the nonprofit’s previously-raised $740,000 to secure a $250,000 New York state matching grant, as well as fundraising efforts among Huntington Bay residents, closes the gap on the $1 million foundation repair.

The Friends of Cordwood are trying to preserve the Cordwood Landing Nature preserve. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After years of frustration, the Friends of Cordwood Landing have had enough.

On Thursday, Oct. 15, the group had a rally alongside residents, environmental activists and elected officials to fight for the preservation of a parcel of land next to the Cordwood Landing Nature Preserve, a county park in Miller Place. The rally was held to help the Friends of Cordwood find a different means of acquiring the land after the group hit a standstill with county legislators.

According to Tom Cramer, one of the founding members of Friends of Cordwood Landing, any resolution regarding the purchase of property must go through the county legislator — Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai). Cramer said getting in touch with Anker regarding this issue was difficult when he and the Friends of Cordwood attempted to get an appraisal for the property.

The interaction ended with the Friends of Cordwood turning to Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). Cramer said Hahn helped the group push the resolution through, and an appraisal was done for the property.

While Cramer said Anker didn’t follow up with the group’s initial resolution proposal, Anker said she did all that she could to assist the organization. The resolution was Anker’s first piece of legislation, according to an email from her office. Her office also said the county did an appraisal of the property. The county offered $783,000 to the original owner of the parcel and the owner refused the offer. In September of 2014, Mark Baisch, the developer, purchased the property for $750,000.

Cramer said Baisch asked for $1.25 million for the approximately 5.5-acre property, and they increased the appraisal to $930,000. After Baisch refused this offer, Cramer claims Anker said Baisch and the Friends of Cordwood were in collusion with one another and were attempting to defraud the county. Cramer said they were not.

Anker denied the idea that Baisch and the Friends of Cordwood were working together.

With the tension between those involved, Baisch refused to sell the property to the county and is currently in the process of going through the town to handle the matter. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) attended the rally last Thursday. According to Cramer and Bonner, Romaine was promising to pay 30 to 35 percent of the property’s cost.

“In our mind, it’s illogical to build houses near a nature preserve,” Bonner said about Baisch’s plan to put houses on the property. She added that the wildlife in the area would be affected.

In a phone interview, Anker said her goal was to help preserve the property, as it is one of the last few tracks of land in the North Shore area that needs to be preserved. According to Cramer, many residents thought the property was part of the Cordwood Landing county park, which lies adjacent to the piece of property.

Now it’s simply a waiting game, as Baisch waits for his plan for the property to be approved by the town.

Bonner said the town is working on it.

“We are ready, willing and able partners … [the property] has always been on our radar,” Bonner said in a phone interview. “It will make a wonderful addition to the Cordwood Landing.”

DEC Forester John Wernet addresses the beautification of Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo by Giselle Barkley

As the North Shore battles both the decline in the number of pollinators and the intrusion of invasive plant species, Three Village residents have taken an interest in developing Long Island’s first state forest.

These residents, alongside members of New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the office of state Assemblyman Steve Englebright’s (D-Setauket), gathered in the Setauket Neighborhood House ballroom on Thursday, June 25, to discuss what is next for the new Patriots Hollow State Forest.

Currently, invasive plant species overrun the 518-acre forest. The DEC’s Region 1 Forester John Wernet and Real Property Supervisor Heather Amster acknowledged the state of invasive plants in the forest and said removing all of these plants from the area is not only impossible but also not feasible.

Residents such as conservation biologist Louise Harrison added to the issue of invasive plants saying that establishing a native plant forest is also problematic.

“It’s very difficult to get a native forest to grow from there,” Harrison. “The soils layers have all been mixed together and you don’t have a usual soil profile that supports the right kind of life.”

Black locust trees are among the most invasive species in the area. While some residents suggested this tree served as a food source for pollinators until more native plants are introduced to the area, other residents such as business owners Steve Carolan and Andrew J Heeran said they believed the tree is misunderstood.

Carolan and Heeran both run a saw mill business and said they thought the black locust tree would help develop the forest.

“Black locust is a wonderful wood for establishing infrastructure, especially in outdoor situations,” Heeran said.

Heeran also proposed creating a woodland forest garden, which would provide local produce for consumption. He said that “scarred areas that have so much human impact” have potential to help the community when guided by a vision.

Harrison suggested the community draft and submit a plan for the forest for the DEC to consider and endorse. But Amster said this might not be possible.

The DEC’s mission does not always align with that of the local community, and Amster said she does not want to anger area residents who contributed to drafting a plan, if their plan is not approved.

Although the forum was the fourth and final opportunity for community members to brainstorm ideas for the forest, residents will have the opportunity to comment on the plan before it is finalized.

Currently, there are no safe entries into the forest due to the overgrowth in plants. According to Amster, the forest will not be developed and ready for the public any time soon. However, she said residents do not need to wait until the DEC approves a management plan for the forest to clean up the property.

Wernet said he is not sure how long it will take to clean up the area or how much it would cost to hire workers to remove heavier objects such as fallen trees within the forest.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens opened Patriots Hollow State Forest on April 22 of this year in honor of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Earth Week initiative.

The DEC purchased the property using funds it acquired from environmental law and regulation violations that were “slated for the Three Village community’s benefit from the Northville spill fines,” according to Three Village Community Trust President Cynthia Barnes.

According to the DEC, the area also provides timber management, watershed protection and a natural habitat for surrounding wildlife. Patriots Hollow State Forest will provide residents with more recreational opportunities year-round. However, Amster said camping or campfires might not be allowed in the forest once it is open to the public.

The DEC may also allow residents to hunt on the property although bow-hunting restrictions may limit the number of bow-hunters on the property. According to Amster, one bow-hunter at a time may be allowed to hunt on the property. However, this was not finalized.

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