Pictured Above: Rev. Philip Hubbard of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church blessed the Terri Sue
Southampton Town and Suffolk County celebrated the transfer of the Shinnecock Fishing Dock on Dune Road in Hampton Bays from the county to the town in a dockside ceremony June 28.
The deed transfer included the 2-acre dock and an 11-acre beachfront along Shinnecock Bay to the west of the dock.
Shinnecock Dock is home to two dozen commercial fishing boats, and is the second largest commercial fishing fleet in New York State, behind Montauk.
Until this transfer, the dock was owned by Suffolk County but operated by the Town of Southampton under an inter-municipal agreement.
The transfer might not have happend if it wasn’t for some last minute wrangling to get a county resolution passed and driven to Albany in the closing hours of the New York State Legislature’s legislative session in June, said State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who, along with State Senator Kenneth LaValle, needed to pass state enabling legislation so the property could be transfered from the county to the town.
“This bill was the very last bill we did,” said Mr. Thiele. “We needed a home rule message from the county that was physically driven from Hauppauge to Albany on the last day of our session.”
“I was town attorney when this facility was opened up, and there was a big dispute regarding how the slips were offered,” he added. “Things are a lot better today.”
Southampton Town Councilwoman Julie Lofstad, whose family runs a fishing boat docked at Shinnecock, said she hopes the local control of the property will mean the town will have more incentive to invest in the dock than the county had been.
Her husband was out catching squid as she participated in the ceremony.
“There’s never a day off,” she said. “Fishing is the most dangerous profession in America. I believe the town will be more inclined and incentivized to support these unique men and women who persist in spite of all the hardship.”
The Commercial Dock was initially developed in the early 1980s by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works. In 2002, Southampton Town entered into an inter-municipal agreement with the County as a tenant to operate, manage and repair the Shinnecock Commercial Dock “to foster, enhance and secure success of the local commercial fishing industry.”
During those years, the town shared in the costs of repairs and upgrades with the County, including after Superstorm Sandy in 2013.
“The county, years ago, took on assets that made more sense to be controlled by the town,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman
Mr. Schneiderman added that the town replaced the decking on the dock two years ago.
“This is so vital to the community, and to the fishing fleet,” he said.
The next phase of rehabilitation will be bulkhead replacement and electrical infrastructure upgrades.
County Executive Steve Bellone said that, as he sat alongside the bay looking at the fishing fleet, he had a brief thought of “what am I doing transfering this property?”
“But it’s the right thing to do,” he added. “My governing philosopy is ‘do what makes sense.’ The town has a vision for this site… Businesses have to work, and government should be helping that.”
“The county has very serious financial challenges, and they’re going to save $1 million by not having these expenses,” said Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming” It was a liability.”
The bayfront property west of the dock will be managed by the town’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Mr. Schneiderman looked to the west, where he saw people clamming with their toes in the water at low tide, while egrets foraged in the salt marsh.
“We have to manage for both people and the environment,” he said, adding that a fishing pier next to a nature preserve accomplishes both goals.
Town Parks Director Kristen Doulos said she expected bids for the utilities on the dock to be in in July, and the work would be done this year. The town has also hired a part-time dock manager, and formed a committee to oversee the dock’s needs.
The next phase of rehabilitation will be bulkhead replacement and electrical infrastructure upgrades. The bay front property west of the dock will be added to the Town’s Parks and Recreation Department.
These new facilities are in addition to several revitalized properties along Dune Road in Hampton Bays, including a new pavillion at Ponquogue Beach, which opened this spring, and the Tiana Bayside Facility, where Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County runs a community shellfish nursery and educational programming.
— Beth Young