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Robert Reuter

Norma Watson and Steve Englebright shake hands as Johanna Watson, John Cunniffe and Three Village Community Trust board member Robert Reuter look on. Photo by Herb Mones

Abraham Woodhull’s ancestral property to be preserved, showcased to the community

By Mallie Jane Kim

Several blue-and-yellow historical markers dot Setauket streets, and the hamlet can truly boast “George Washington slept here.”

But none of these signs feels more out of the way than the one on the road to Strong’s Neck, in a peaceful corner of town overlooking Little Bay. And yet this sign marks the ancestral property of an important player in the Revolutionary War: Abraham Woodhull, “chief of Long Island spies under Gen. Washington,” the sign reads. In coming years, the marker won’t be the only way history buffs can enjoy this important piece of the past, which was at the heart of the historic Culper Spy Ring.

Three Village Community Trust is in the process of purchasing this property, with plans to preserve and eventually use it as a setting for community historical events. In a press release about the purchase, TVCT President Herb Mones wrote that he wants to “have children walk in the very steps of the founders of our country.”

Woodhull, code name Samuel Culper Sr., was one of the primary members of the group that tracked British troops and provided key information to Gen. George Washington and the American forces during the Revolutionary War, using espionage tradecraft like secret codes, invisible ink and dead drop secure communications. An article on the Central Intelligence Agency’s website identifies the Culper ring among “the founding fathers” of intelligence gathering by Americans.

“It’s a tremendous win for the community to be able to protect it and preserve it going forward,” Mones added. 

The trust, a community organization focused on preserving local natural resources and historical properties, owns several Three Village spots with Revolutionary War-era significance, including Patriots Rock Historical Site and the Smith/de Zafra House, home of Timothy Smith who, according to the TVCT website, mounted a broken musket over his fireplace to divert attention of suspicious British soldiers from his real cache of weapons hidden nearby.

“We’ve had a collection of properties that represented the foundations of the American experience,” Mones said. Thanks in part to “Turn,” the AMC television series about the spy ring popularizing Setauket’s history, the Woodhull property has the potential to draw even more interest in local history. “It’s important — it’s a feather in the cap,” the trust president said.

TVCT confirmed in a press release that the sales contract has been signed. The trust is in the process of submitting other required documentation to the state to finalize the purchase, which was made possible by a $825,000 grant secured in 2022 by then-New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

Norma Watson, who currently owns and lives on the property, will have a life tenancy, according to Mones. Watson herself has a history of advocating for natural and historical preservation, and she was involved with the trust at its inception.

According to Mones, the Woodhull property currently houses a pond and a barn — with a history of its own — that was reclaimed and converted around the 1950s into the home where Watson now resides. Woodhull’s original 1660 house burned down in 1931.

Greg Ferguson is the new president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation which oversees Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Robert Reuter

The Frank Melville Memorial Foundation’s new president is a familiar name to many in the Three Village area.

Greg Ferguson replaced Robert Reuter as president of FMMF earlier this year. Reuter said after nine years in the role it was time to make room for someone new. The former president, now trustee, said it was a unanimous decision for Ferguson to take on the role. He described him as having strong management skills as well as getting along with everybody.

“He’s shown himself to be very enthusiastic about the full range of projects in the park,” Reuter said. “He initiated movie nights. He’s been a strong supporter of all the programs, and I think he’s an excellent person to lead the park in our challenging post-COVID times.”

Ferguson is the founder of Brookhaven Bike Co-op, which has  locations in St. James and Manorville. The Setauket resident and attorney also runs the Ferguson Foundation with his brother Chris. The foundation strives to find organizations where its philanthropic investments will have an ongoing impact on the beneficiaries.

Ferguson, who has lived in Setauket for more than 18 years with his wife Rena and children Hugh, Sophie and Ella, said he lives a short walk from Frank Melville Memorial Park. He became involved with the foundation as a trustee more than four years ago and said it’s been fun being involved. When asked to join the board, Ferguson said he “happily and humbly agreed.”

“It’s a great organization, and the park is a beautiful place,” he said. “There’s a ton of stuff going on, too, so it’s not a museum or static type of thing. It has programs and initiatives and efforts.”

Ferguson said while the foundation may be smaller than other nonprofits, it is well run by its board members.

“We have financial people, lawyers, scientists and naturalists, so it’s really a fantastic variety of skill sets that the board brings to the place,” he said.

As far as his skill sets, in addition to being an attorney, the Setauket resident has also been a writer with his work published in U.S. News & World Report. The opportunity came about while he was in college and an exchange student in China during the time of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. He said people were needed to report on what was happening during the incident.

“I had no fear for my safety,” he said. “It was pretty much confined to one area.”

Today Ferguson and the board members deal with the issues that COVID-19 has brought to the area.

During the pandemic, the new foundation president said the park has become more popular and events have been even more well received than before. He said that it’s due to many other recreational places being shut down, while the park was only closed for a short time toward the beginning of the pandemic. He added that the increased interest in the park is wonderful, but it also means that the foundation board has had to enhance security.

Ferguson said the board members have long-term goals and are currently waiting for a permit to dredge the ponds. He said the park staff is tackling invasive plants and drainage issues, too. A cutting-edge septic system will also be installed on the property for one of the homes.

Ferguson said he’s looking forward to the board’s future work.

“Over the years I’ve been involved in a bunch of different nonprofits and this is by far the best run I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “It’s definitely wonderful to be involved.”

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Photo by Heidi Sutton

Frank Melville Memorial Park in East Setauket will be closed effective Saturday, April 11, until further notice, according to a press release from the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the imminent closure of the Frank Melville Park,” Robert Reuter, FMMF president, wrote. “As a private park, open to the public, it has been our view that we are providing a safe and healthy environment during a very difficult time. That view has changed. The park is relatively small and cannot safely accommodate the great increase in visitors. The reluctance of too many to follow social distancing and park rules is jeopardizing their safety and the safety of the majority who do.”

Reuter said the decision was a difficult one for the foundation to make.

“Thank you to all who have been supporting us and our efforts to keep the park a safe place to visit,” he wrote. “Now it is time to stay home and stay safe.”

The board president thanked the trustees, staff and service providers who have kept the park open and it’s projects on track, and he added the trustees “applaud our community’s essential workers and all those on the front lines of the pandemic response. They are heroes.”

 

David Prestia, third from right, at the 2019 Three Village Community Trust annual gala. Photo from David Prestia

By Leah Chiappino

For David Prestia, the owner of Bagel Express in Setauket, being part of the Three Village area is more than being a business owner, he also gets involved in the community.

He consistently takes time out of his schedule to give back to the area in the form of donations, volunteerism and community engagement. He’s the machine behind the hot chocolate at the Three Village Electric Holiday Parade and the cook at the annual Three Village Chamber of Commerce Barbecue at West Meadow Beach.

Having grown up with a family who owned an Italian deli, Prestia says he was the only one of four brothers who didn’t work in the deli when he was growing up. However, after receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from St. John’s University in Queens, he began working with his father and fell in love with the food business. He then opened Fratelli’s Market Place in Astoria, Queens, and expanded it to locations in Roslyn, Forest Hills, Manhattan and Stony Brook village.

“David brings a businessperson’s perspective to trust operations along with his good humor and enthusiasm for our preservation mission.”

– Robert Reuter

When he first moved to Setauket 30 years ago, he jumped on the opportunity to open a bagel store. He has owned Bagel Express in Setauket, along with his partner Eric Keller and brother Michael Prestia, ever since. Having sold Fratelli’s Market Place, his focus is running the Setauket location, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and supplying Bagel Express in Smithtown and Sayville.

While running his business, he manages to contribute to the community and is on the board of the Three Village Community Trust, a not-for-profit land trust. Vice President Robert Reuter said Prestia has been instrumental in the business aspect of the organization.

“David brings a businessperson’s perspective to trust operations along with his good humor and enthusiasm for our preservation mission,” he said. “He shares that interest with his considerable network of friends and associates who know his dedication to our community and the result has been many new supporters.”

Having been a history major in college, Prestia said the rich history is one of his favorite things about the Three Village area, which inspired him to get involved in the Three Village Historical Society. He has donated food for the annual Candlelight House Tour for the past several years.

“Usually, if you ask, [Prestia] will donate, ” said Steve Healy, the president of the historical society. “People like Dave are not just in the community; they are the community. He is always willing to roll up his sleeves and help out.”

Prestia is also on the board of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and involved with Seawolves United at Stony Brook University. He has sponsored Staller Center for the Arts receptions and the food concession at university basketball games. For the local business owner, getting involved was simply not a question.

“I’m very lucky,” Prestia said. “We’ve been successful with the business. It’s so important to give back to the community. There are so many things going on all the time. It’s a great place to raise a family, and the schools are wonderful. We’re so lucky to live here.”

 

Above, Carl Zorn with two of the plaques overlooking Conscience Bay. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

Visitors to Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket have Eagle Scout Carl Zorn to thank for the new informational plaques that have been installed among the tranquil scenery. They include a general welcome sign detailing the history of the park’s founding and species that occupy it and two additional signs detailing the ecology of estuaries and watersheds. The welcome sign is located at the entrance to the park, and the other two signs are located side by side near the second bridge overlooking Conscience Bay. 

A new plaque welcomes visitors to the park. Photo by Leah Chiappino

Zorn, who has been a Boy Scout since first grade, chose to design informational signage for the park as his Eagle Scout Leadership Project because he wanted to do something that would have a lasting impact on the community. “I wanted something where if I moved to a different state and came back here to visit, I could look at it and say that I did that,” he said. The Scouting organization also fostered a love of nature in Zorn who described his childhood as “always being outdoors and camping with the Boy Scouts and my family.”

After getting the idea from a family friend in July, the Setauket resident began his project last September and completed it in early February.

As the Frank Melville Park Foundation, along with the Zorn family, donated the funds for the materials, most of Zorn’s time completing the project was spent researching the content for the plaques. He admits the start of the project was overwhelming. “At first, I had no idea what to do or how to learn about the wildlife here, ” he explained. 

Kerri Glynn, director of education for the park, stepped in to assist Zorn in gathering the information for the plaques with the hope they would help people become more environmentally aware. “I hope people come to understand the fragility of the ecosystem. Many people come to the park and think it is lovely, but they don’t understand the ecology of it,” she said.

Zorn consulted with Town of Brookhaven historian Barbara Russell in order to highlight the unique history of the park, which was built by Ward Melville and donated by his mother Jennie as a memorial to her husband Frank Melville in 1937. “Essentially it’s private land for public use,” she said. 

A community treasure, the 26-acre park features two ponds, an estuary and woodlands. On any given day, visitors can see swans, deer, songbirds, turtles, herons and wood ducks as they stroll along shaded paths past a simulated grist mill and a 20th-century barn. The park and its buildings are included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Local environmentalist and conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, John Turner, also assisted Zorn with his research, and highlighted the importance of education on watersheds, or land in which below-ground water feeds into a water source. 

“People live work and play above their water supply. The quality of the waters in the aquifers underneath the Long Island surface are affected directly and intimately by the activities that we conduct on the land surface, so a clean land policy means a clean water policy,” he explained. 

From left, Andrew Lily, Joe Pisciotta, Andrew Graf, Carl Zorn, Aiden Zorn (in forefront), Tim Petritsch and Mark Muratore at the installation in February. Photo by Steve Hintze

Turner called Zorn’s project “well-conceived and well-executed.” He also praised the park’s board of trustees, as well as the park’s president, Robert Reuter, for recognizing the value of the project. “You have a captive audience in the park, but up until now there was limited information. [These plaques] have taken advantage of that captive audience to try to instill a greater appreciation and awareness of the resources around them,” he said.

After gathering the information and submitting several drafts for approval by the board, Zorn then had the task of designing the signs, with pictures provided by the park. He found a sign company, Fossil Industries in Deer Park, to make the signs, a process that took about three months. He then focused on configuring the specific intricacies of the project, such as the location, and making sure the signs were low enough to be at eye level for children but still readable to adults. 

Weather also delayed the installation, as the ground would freeze. Once the signs were finished, Zorn along with eight other Boy Scouts joined together in order to install them. 

Reuter praised Zorn’s work ethic and the final result, calling the project “a long and thorough process and a real achievement.” Russell also added praise for the finished product. “He did a wonderful job. There’s a nice combination of the history and environmental facts affecting the park [on the signs],” she added. Zorn was equally pleased with the results. “This is exactly what I wanted in an Eagle Scout project and I got it,” he said.

The 18-year-old recently graduated from Ward Melville High School and will attend Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, in the fall as a music business major, combining his passion for music with his ambition to work for the Disney Corporation.

However, according to Reuter, as Zorn wished, the plaques will have a lasting impact on the community. “Frank Melville Memorial Park is now enriched with really useful and attractive interpretive signs that inform park visitors about the park’s history and environment. But, don’t take my word for it — go see for yourself.” 

Frank Melville Memorial Park is located at 1 Old Field Road in Setauket. For more information, call 631-689-6146 or visit www.frankmelvillepark.org.

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The MTA is currently updating the Stony Brook train station, which will lead to modern amenities and more security. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is giving the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road train station a makeover.

The MTA began renovations on the station’s train house July 23 and will continue working on the station into the fall. In addition to being renovated, the station house will receive modern enhancements and upgrades, according to Aaron Donovan, MTA deputy communications director.

The station house was built around 1888,
according to the book “Images of America: Stony Brook,” and rebuilt in 1917, according to the MTA. The one-story structure will be completely renovated inside and out, and there will be the addition of a Wi-Fi network and charging ports, according to Donovan. Commuters will soon see improved signage and digital information displays, including electronic information columns, and bicyclists will have new bike racks.

The station platforms will be updated with new lighting and closed-circuit television security cameras, according to Donovan. Plans also include sidewalk improvements and a new sculpture in the plaza area.

The MTA has upgraded the station throughout the decades, Donovan said, including the station’s high-level platforms being installed in 1985 and targeted renovation work done to platform railings, lighting and platform shelters in 2011.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in a statement she was pleased that work began this summer.

“The Stony Brook train station is one of the most recognizable community landmarks in the Three Village area,” Cartright said. “There have been requests for upgrades over the years. I am pleased that the MTA saw the importance of meeting with community members including civic leaders, town Historic District Advisory Committee members and government officials to collaborate and develop a renovation plan. It is important that renovations to the station are in keeping with the historical character of the area while meeting the needs of modern travelers.”

Robert Reuter, a member of Brookhaven’s Historic District Advisory Committee, said he provided input but not officially on behalf of HDAC. 

“We encouraged them to preserve the existing and familiar green and beige color scheme, locate planned new ticketing machines away from the bay window, improve handicap accessibility both at the station and crossing the tracks, and minimize signage,” Reuter said.

In 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) introduced a proposal to invest $120 million to provide state-of-the-art enhancements to 16 LIRR stations, including Stony Brook — and also at Port Jefferson. The MTA covered $35 million of the investment to the railroad stations, according to its website. It is estimated by the LIRR that 2,330 customers use the Stony Brook train station daily.

The Three Village Community Trust closed on the historic Timothy Smith House, below, offered by Julia de Zafra for a nominal price. Attorney Gary Josephs, Assemblyman Steve Englebright, TVCT trustee Robert Reuter, Julia DeZafra, trust attorney Peter Legakis, and Cynthia Barnes, TVCT president, were on hand for the closing July 12. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

A local group has preserved a piece of history for future generations.

The Three Village Community Trust acquired the historic Timothy Smith House at 55 Main St., Setauket, July 12, according to a press release from the trust.

The Timothy Smith House will be renamed the Timothy Smith-Robert de Zafra House. Photo by Robert Reuter

“Because of its long history, its connection to town government in Brookhaven, and its remarkable degree of preservation over its 300-year life span, the Smith House is a valuable acquisition,” the release read. “The Three Village Community Trust is indebted to Robert de Zafra for acquiring it at the death of the previous owner, protecting it from being subdivided, and in so doing preserving the historic character of Setauket and this area’s contribution to the nation.”

In March, de Zafra’s widow, Julia, offered the house to the trust for a nominal price and will donate funds to help with continued restoration. According to the press release, de Zafra was a founding trustee of the Three Village Community Trust, and the Timothy Smith House, also known as the House on the Hill, has been recognized as a Brookhaven landmark and dates back to the early period of Setauket’s settlement starting in 1655.

Cynthia Barnes, president of the TVCT, said the trust will continue the restorations that de Zafra started and will be raising funds through contributions to the Robert de Zafra Restoration Fund and seeking grants. The house will be renamed the Timothy Smith-Robert de Zafra House. While the home will remain a private residence, Barnes said there are discussions about ways to make it available to the public periodically.

Robert Reuter, a TVCT trustee, said the house is “a treasure that figures prominently in our town’s earliest history” and he feels it offers an opportunity to interpret the best of design and craftsmanship in 18th-century colonial Setauket.

“The Timothy Smith House, a substantial two-story post-and-beam colonial building, remains original save for plumbing and electrical improvements.”

— Robert Reuter

“The Timothy Smith House, a substantial two-story post-and-beam colonial building, remains original save for plumbing and electrical improvements,” Reuter said. “It features immense structural timbers, floor boards — 24 inches and more in width, wrought iron hardware, primitive window glazing and simple but robust interior architectural details. A massive central chimney serves multiple fireplaces on both floors. The main kitchen fireplace incorporates a rare beehive oven with arched brick opening.”

According to the TVCT press release, the house, which dates back to 1695 to 1705, occupies one of the earliest farmstead plots in the area. It was laid out along both sides of a freshwater creek that was dammed to create the Setauket millpond. It is historically significant because it was the de-facto Brookhaven Town Hall during much of the 1700s due to successive Smith family members serving as town clerk. Timothy Smith occupied the house during the Revolutionary War, and it and the surrounding farm property remained in the Smith family until the death of Julia Sophia Smith in 1948. Forrest Bonshire, lived there from the 1960s to 2013, and the home was purchased by de Zafra from Bonshire’s estate to prevent it from being subdivided, and de Zafra was carefully restoring it before his death in October.

Renovations on the Red Barn in the Frank Melville Memorial Park, including straightening the building, were recently completed. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The weather was finally ideal for Frank Melville Memorial Park trustees, volunteers and friends to celebrate the completion of much-needed repairs to a historic structure.

Workers began restoring the park’s Red Barn at the beginning of September and completed the project a few months later. The 1,056 square-foot barn needed structural restoration, which included straightening, and the building up of the existing foundation to a level where it will be protected from flooding.

“The Melville Park is a historic oasis that now has an improved focal point, the Red Barn, to use to serve a larger population and build a new audience.”

— Kathryn Curran

On May 20 guests of the trustees enjoyed a reception complete with wine, hors d’oeuvres, dinner and desserts from Farm to Table Catering, as well as music from a few of The Jazz Loft performers.

Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, thanked those who played a part in restoring the barn including Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, who helped to secure a $44,330 matching grant for the park.

“Kathryn Curran and the trustees of the foundation saw the real community value in what we’re doing here,” Reuter said. “I think they understood when they saw the application that this really is one of the centers of our community. It’s part of a large area that is rich in history, and it’s often interpreted as that by the historical society and some of the others who celebrate that history.”

He said in addition to the foundation’s endowment, the community’s support also played a big part in the restoration. Trustee Greg Ferguson’s family foundation and another trustee who wished to remain anonymous created a $10,000 matching challenge. Reuter said the trustees’ friends exceeded the goal and came close to matching the Gardiner grant. He said the balance needed for the barn came from park funds that were budgeted for park repairs.

Curran said the Gardiner Foundation seeks out projects through community outreach that advance regional history.

“The Melville Park is a historic oasis that now has an improved focal point, the Red Barn, to use to serve a larger population and build a new audience,” she said.

Curran said she and the foundation board members were pleased with the completed project. Scott Brown was chosen to work on the renovations by the FMMF board and has worked on other Gardiner projects including the Ketcham Inn in Center Moriches, the Modern Times Schoolhouse in Brentwood and the Caroline Church of Brookhaven’s Carriage Shed in Setauket.

“As a restoration carpenter Scott’s empathy to our historic sites is rooted in respect for their traditional construction,” Curran said. “His work helps bring these buildings back to life for their newly designated purposes.”

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The Three Village Community Trust will take over ownership of the Timothy Smith House on Main Street in Setauket. Photo by Robert Reuter

New ventures by some Setauket residents will make the area look a little different in the coming years.

The Three Village Community Trust announced plans to clean up Patriots Hollow State Forest and acquire the historic Timothy Smith House.

Patriots Hollow State Forest

The woods that run along Route 25A, across from Setauket’s Stop & Shop, have been the site of many downed trees over the years. The trust announced at its annual meeting March 14 that plans are in the works to clean up the woods and add a trail so people can walk through the forest, something that cannot easily be done in the property’s current state.

The land trust has partnered with the New York State DEC to clean up Patriots Hollow State Forest, which is the site of numerous downed trees. Photo by Cynthia Barnes

Setauket resident and former teacher Leonard Carolan said he walked into the woods one day and was disappointed to see how messy it was, not just because of the trees but the infestation of invasive plants. He approached the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Three Village Community Trust President Cynthia Barnes and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) to discuss working together to clean up the former farmland.

Those conversations led to the trust signing a stewardship agreement with the DEC. Carolan, the chair of the new stewardship, will steer a committee of 16 people, which will assess the forest’s conditions and seek the community’s input to develop a restoration plan, according to Carolan. He said after gathering wants of the community and addressing concerns, the next step would be to clear 100 feet into the woods and turn to experts to identify the plants and figure out which need to be dug up or trimmed back.

“We want to work it where we have enough clearing that we can plant native trees — the white oaks, the red maples, the black tupelos — and make that into a more native natural forest with a greater variety of trees and habitat,” Carolan said.

The trust also plans to build a split-rail fence with downed locust trees along the 25A side of the property. The committee chair said the work will take years to complete, and the community trust will spearhead fundraising campaigns in the future to fund the project.

Barnes said the trust is excited to join forces with the DEC and to work with Carolan.

“This former farmland in the heart of the Setauket community, devastated by neglect and storms over the years, is in dire need of attention,” Barnes said.

The Timothy House is known locally as the “house on the hill.” Photo by Robert Reuter

Englebright said he was happy to hear the trust and DEC working together on cleaning up the forest, which he considers an important part of the local landscape.

“I would like to see the community take emotional ownership of the property,” the assemblyman said. “The way you do that is make it accessible. The way you develop good stewardship is have people who are invested in the property — through their ability to walk on trails, to enjoy the natural beauty of the property, to discover its secret. There’s a reason why it’s called ‘hollow.’”

Timothy Smith House

The home known locally as the “house on the hill” was purchased by Robert de Zafra in 2012. Up until his death last October, de Zafra, the trust’s co-founder, was restoring the home that sits on 2.6 acres.

Trustee Robert Reuter reported that de Zafra’s widow, Julia, offered the house to the trust for a nominal price and will donate funds to help with continued restoration. The trust will also create the Robert de Zafra Conservation and Preservation Fund to preserve the house and other community landmarks.

Englebright said the house represents an important part of history in Setauket. The Smiths were among a group from Southold who settled Setauket in 1655 and created Brookhaven town. A clerk once worked out of the home, and it was considered Brookhaven’s town hall for decades. Englebright said de Zafra went to great lengths to ensure the house was protected and preserved, even using his own resources.

“It’s appropriate, I think, for the community trust — which he is a founding trustee of — to carry forward his legacy as well as the legacies of all the others who lived in the house preceding his acquisition of it,” Englebright said.

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The former cottage two buildings over from the ranger’s house on West Meadow Beach has been demolished after snow earlier in the season caused the roof to cave in further than it had been. Photo by Herb Mones

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.

Two cottages formerly sat near the ranger’s station on West Meadow Beach. The cottage on the right was demolished Feb. 16. File photo

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.”