Attendees at the June 5 Three Village Civic Association had the beach on their mind, but this time in terms of preservation, instead of recreation.
Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) addressed the meeting to update the civic association members about current town projects in the area. While the councilwoman covered a number of topics, the town’s recent preliminary assessment of four cottages at West Meadow Beach along with other concerns at the location produced a number of comments and questions from those in attendance.
Cartright said after an internal evaluation it appears two cottages are dilapidated and have been found structurally unsound, and possibly not salvageable. However, there is the potential to save a third one and use the fourth as an outdoor interpretive kiosk.
The councilwoman said in order to save a cottage a huge expense is incurred. When the ranger home was renovated it cost $500,000 to get it to a point where it was stable. Any costs to renovate a cottage would have to be funded by taxpayer money because West Meadow Beach is town-owned property. While an endowment fund was set up after the sale of former cottages at the beach, the town can only use the interest from that fund. According to Cartright, from 2011 to 2016 the account has averaged only $2,500 per year in comparison to $36,000 a year from 2004 to 2010.
“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.”
— Valerie Cartright
“As you can expect there’s a lot of reluctance from people in the town as to putting in a certain amount of money into all of the different cottages that are in between the Gamecock Cottage and the ranger home,” she said.
Cartright said she is following standard operating procedure and has asked for an independent engineer to assess the cottages, and the town has 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.
She has also enlisted the help of state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) to secure funds from the state to help with restoring the cottages, if necessary.
The councilwoman said many residents have voiced their concerns to her about the dilapidated cottages.
Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, said he believes the town hasn’t done their part in properly restoring and maintaining the cottages. He also said while he applauded Cartright and the town for their past attempts at preserving the Gamecock Cottage, some of the renovations were not up to par and appendages were added to the structure without consulting historic experts. He reminded those in attendance that West Meadow Beach is a historic district and that any money would be better spent preserving them for the time being and avoiding any possible demolition.
“We’re going to spend a great deal of money to tear them down and restore those sites,” Reuter said. “We can spend that money to preserve them for smarter people to think about it in the future.”
The councilwoman agreed with Reuter that the matter should be referred to the town’s historic district advisory committee, of which Reuter is a member, before a community meeting is held and the town makes a final decision.
Cartright feels West Meadow Beach has come a long way over the last few years despite problems in the past, including the appointment of a new ranger and consultant.
“When I came into office, I think we were at the point of where it just started to transition where people started to look at the beach as a beautiful preserve, whereas we should now be trying to preserve everything that is there and make it so that the community could actually enjoy this treasure,” she said.