Docks fit in preservation plan

04/22/2010 12:00 AM |

The New Suffolk Waterfront Fund is fixing historic docks damaged in the nor’easter six weeks ago. Southold Town Trustees recently granted fix-it permits to the preservation group.

The New Suffolk Waterfront Fund recently received permits from the Southold Town Trustees to fix docks that were damaged in the nor’easter six weeks ago. Barbara Schnitzler, the preservation group’s chairperson, described the repair work on the waterfront outside of an old restaurant known as the Galley Ho as “remedial” yet essential to the organization’s overall plans to protect the area from development.

Organizers of the fund want the docks in good order and generating revenue this summer to help the organization raise the money it needs to take possession of the area, 3.5 acres at the end of New Suffolk Avenue, complete with sweeping views of Nassau Point, Robins Island, Cutchogue Harbor, and Horseshoe Cove.

The property is currently owned by the Peconic Land Trust, which bought it is 2007 from the Raynor family to hold for the Waterfront Fund as it raised $2.4 million to acquire it and protect it from potentially intense commercial or residential development.

So far the fund has raised $1.1 million; it must raise the remaining $1.3 million by the end of the year under the terms of the fund’s deal with the Land Trust.

“It’s a favorable arrangement that we have with them,” the fund’s vice chairperson Barbara Butterworth said of the Peconic Land Trust. “They want to do it and we want to do it. We’re making progress.”

“It’s a joint venture,” said Tim Caufield, vice president of the Peconic Land Trust. “But more importantly, it’s an opportunity for the people of the community to control our own destiny.”

Along with restoring its docks so they can generate revenue, preserving the site is the immediate goal for the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund, which was founded in 2005.

If it does succeed in purchasing the property, installation of a septic system and pedestrian friendly landscaping, renovation of the Galley Ho into a community center and snack bar, and turning a neglected early 20th-century oyster house into a maritime museum are longer term projects.

“We’d want to do this right,” Ms. Schnitzler said. “We’d like to have this whole site be a learning experience as you walk through, open to everyone from anywhere.”

With eight months of fundraisers planned and the hope of boats filling the historic slips, Ms. Schnitzler — an architect in New York City and part-time resident of New Suffolk for 25 years — remains optimistic that the money her group needs will materialize in time to save and improve the waterfront.

“We’re no longer talking about not succeeding,” she said. “We’ve come too far to not have the best outcome.”

A community work day and chowder festival will be the first event of the spring on Saturday, May 29. Chowder by local chefs, live music and a bonfire will follow a day of volunteer weeding, clean up and picnic table building. Ms. Schnitzler called it a “friendraiser,” an event to bring potential supporters of the preservation project to the site.

The second annual “Day in New Suffolk” will take place on Saturday August 14 with a 5k race, an art show and wine tasting. Participants have to pay to register for the race and have an opportunity to buy art. Last year, the Waterfront Fund made about $11,000 from this event. Through aggressive fundraising, both parties say the preservation effort is “on the home stretch.” Renting the boat slips out this summer is all part of that effort. Also, Ms. Schnitzler said that the group might be getting money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help pay for dock repairs.

“The repair will be to restore the docks as they stood prior to the storm,” said Town Trustee Dave Bergen. “They have to have them fixed to rent them out. Right now, the areas are not usable.”

“We just want all of this to stay here and stay functional,” Mr. Caufield said of the historic docks, some dating back to the turn of the century.    See video.

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The next New Suffolk Waterfront Fund community meeting is Saturday, May 8, at 10 a.m. at the Galley Ho in New Suffolk. Go to for a list of upcoming fundraising activities and to see how you can help.