The Coindre Hall boathouse, located directly behind Coindre Hall, has been a staple to the Huntington community for decades. Looking over the Long Island Sound, the historic boathouse has remained empty and become run down over the years, causing residents to push for restoration.
Unfortunately, SuperStorm Sandy caused significant damage to the seawall of the boathouse. As a result, Suffolk County agreed with the Town of Huntington to allocate funds to the rehabilitation of the boathouse.
However, the foundation was crumbling, and it was decided the seawall needed to be fixed first before making any other renovations.
“This process has taken a number of years,” said Suffolk County Legislator Doc Spencer, founder of the advisory board for the boathouse. “We had gotten people with experience in restoring historic structures and our capital budget in the county now has funds to repair the seawall and move onto the boathouse itself.”
Throughout the years after SuperStorm Sandy, teenagers have broken into the boathouse and painted graffiti. While outside there has been a significant amount of growth of weeds and underbrush surrounding the property.
With community members demanding to know when the improvements to the boathouse will move forward, Spencer decided to establish a community advisory board.
“Anything the advisory board advocates for will be what best serves the public,” said Garrett Chelius, chairperson of the advisory board. “But remember, we are just an advisory board, we don’t make policy, we just make recommendations to the legislature.”
Although the board was created a year and a half ago, any attempts to improve the property were immediately halted due to the pandemic. This summer, the board was able to advise on how to improve the boathouse once again.
“The boathouse itself structurally needs a lot of work before it might literally fall down,” Chelius said. “The pier is currently disconnected from the seawall so it’s unusable and the seawall itself has some erosion issues.”
Many of the other members are a part of the surrounding community and have taken a strong interest in bettering the property.
“One of the first things we got permission from the town parks department to do was to get rid of the weeds and other plants around the boathouse,” Spencer said.
The Town of Huntington partnered with a company that used a bobcat to pull out several years’ worth of underbrush and invasive species, which began to pose a safety hazard.
A meeting by the advisory board was held to discuss the plans of removing the weeds in 2020, however, it wasn’t widely advertised due to COVID, and the meetings were held on Zoom.
“That led to concern in the community because when they looked in and saw what was happening. They thought we were clearing the property and developing on it,” Spencer said. “But we can’t do that. We don’t have the power to. We were just cutting the weeds back so we can begin restoring the seawall. It was also a liability and neglect.”
With a confusion of what the boathouse’s future was to become, community members became distressed and wanted to halt any further construction.
“There was a significant misunderstanding, throw social media in there and it becomes an uproar,” Spencer said.
The Department of Environmental Conservation was called in by community members, who asked to take a look at what was going on with the property. The bobcat was ordered to halt any further removal of the weeds.
The advisory board is meeting with the DEC on Aug. 4 to discuss the issue and make sure there is a collective understanding of the intentions the board has with the boathouse.
According to Spencer, “The wetlands surrounding the boathouse are man-made, so the DEC is wondering if they even want to have authority over man-made wetlands. The advisory board is making efforts to keep in touch with the community regarding any further plans.”
The advisory board has compiled a few ideas to improve upon the dilapidated boathouse such as turning it into a place to cultivate shellfish, a place to dock first response vessels, or polishing it up to become a row house for boaters.
“We are looking to revitalize not redevelop,” Spencer said.
For more information on how to participate in the revitalization of the Coindre boathouse, or attend one of their meetings, visit www.scnylegislature.us.