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Dock

The now opened gate to the Brookhaven Town dock in Port Jefferson was locked to the public for much of the 2017 boating season. Photo by Alex Petroski

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.

The now opened gate to the Brookhaven Town dock in Port Jefferson was locked to the public for much of the 2017 boating season. Photo by Alex Petroski

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.

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Above, the dock at 110 Van Brunt Manor Road in Poquott. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After 15 years, the Village of Poquott is taking another look at its dock law.

On March 14, the village’s planning board proposed making three changes to the dock law. The changes will set new guidelines for establishing docks in Poquott.

According to Planning Board Chairman, Roger Flood, the board wants to ensure there is at least 18 feet from the shore end of the dock and any obstruction along the shoreline.

The second change concerns the distance from a dock to a village beach or park. Currently, a dock needs to be 100 feet away from a village beach or park. Flood says the dock applications they’ve recently received are not close to these public areas, but the board wants to double the distance between the dock and these locations.

“No one had thought to build another dock [one-and-a-half-years ago],” Flood said. “It seemed like an opportunity just to review what happened under our dock law and see if it needed some tweaking going forward.”

In light of this, last year the village issued a moratorium on building docks. Trustee Jeff Koppelson said the moratorium was extended, which gave the board more time to propose changes to the 2000 law. While there were no dock applications at the time, the ban came nearly one year after a dock on 110 Van Brunt Manor Road was established.

Flood said plans for a second dock were underway in the past, but it wasn’t constructed because the lot wasn’t big enough to accommodate the structure. A property that is 100 feet wide would be big enough to construct a dock. According to the dock law, a dock and anything tied to the dock, can’t be within 30 feet of a property line.

Thus far people must build docks on a residentially zoned lot that has riparian rights. The rights are a means to allocate water among property owners who live or own land along the water. Flood, who helped create the initial law. While the board discussed means of preventing an overabundance of docks along the shoreline, the current law simply details a dock’s suitable distance to various property lines.

Flood and his team are also looking at how and if future docks will affect nearby mooring boats. While the board doesn’t want to displace nearby mooring boats, there was discussion of whether the docks will be long enough to deter offshore mooring in the area.

“Our intent is to have a similar sort of discussion at our next meeting to try and answer these kinds of questions,” Flood said about the law and mooring boat questions.

Mayor Dee Parrish couldn’t comment on the changes to the law. Parrish said she didn’t attend the board’s meeting and couldn’t comment until the changes are submitted to the board of trustees for their meeting in April.

The village will hold its next planning board meeting on Apr. 11, at 7:30 p.m., at Village Hall in Poquott.