The old Galley Ho in New Suffolk might as well have had a bull’s eye painted on its eastern side as Hurricane Sandy barrelled down on the North Fork nearly three weeks ago.
The hurricane tide battered the century-old former restaurant, now owned by the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund, a nonprofit group that had planned to use the Galley Ho and its surrounding acreage for public access to the water.
The storm tore away a wall of the building’s kitchen and a wooden boardwalk between the building and a bulkheaded boat basin, then ripped in beneath the building, undermining its cinder block foundation. The Southold Town building department responded by tacking an orange notice to the building’s front door, warning that it was unsafe for gawkers to enter.
The waterfront fund has taken the damage in stride, said the group’s chairwoman, Barbara Schnitzler, who took a reporter on a walk-through of the site.
The fund hired a crew to tear off an addition to the building that was undermined in the storm and clean up debris strewn about, filling three 40-yard dumpsters before last week’s nor’easter in an attempt to keep debris from ending up on neighboring properties.
The waterfront fund has also contacted Davis Construction, a house-moving company in Westhampton Beach, about moving the Galley Ho back from the water and shoring it up on metal cribbing while the group decides where to ultimately place the structure.
“Our engineer says the building is structurally good. We want to keep it going,” said Ms. Schnitzler. “We are going to make it stronger and safer for the duration.”
But all this work requires money, and money is one thing the bootstrap nonprofit has always had to work hard to come by.
Before Sandy hit, the group was just about to mail out a letter soliciting contributions; members quickly added an insert after the hurricane to let donors know how much more dire the situation has become.
The initial site cleanup cost about $7,000, said Ms. Schnitzler, and moving the Galley Ho to the cribbing and then again to its ultimate resting place will cost another $17,000.
The waterfront fund had already received permits to restore the bulkhead surrounding the boat basin before the storm, but will need to spend more to make it safe since Sandy further undermined the bulkhead. That work is expected to begin later this month at a cost of about $140,000.
In addition, site plan approval from the Southold Planning Board will be needed before deciding where to put the Galley Ho, but Ms. Schnitzler said they plan to keep it far enough back from the water to avoid damage from future storms. Any structure within 100 of the water would also need approval from the Town Trustees.
The fund had only liability insurance on the building, but is applying for emergency loans from the Small Business Administration specifically for damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Ms. Schnitzler said the exact history of the Galley Ho is not well known, but the building is probably about 100 years old. It is believed it might once have been a barge and also been used to make shipping barrels for Peconic Bay oysters.
Before 1963, it stood near the town beach on Jackson Street, just three blocks from its current location, where it was a bayfront diner known affectionately as the Coney Island Building.
It was renamed the Galley Ho after it was moved to the current site at the end of New Suffolk Avenue. The building is registered with the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities.
The building can’t be used as a restaurant without a Zoning Board variance, since current zoning doesn’t permit restaurants in the marine zone. The fund has been using it as a meeting space and renting it out for community events. The organization is considering filing a ZBA application to permit its use as a small eatery in the future.
Ms. Schnitzler hopes that after the Galley Ho is moved, the town will designate it a local landmark.
“It’s really served well as a community center,” she said. “We have a chance now to fix it for good.
“We’ve learned to be very patient and take things in stride,” she added, referring to the seven years fund members spent trying to create a public space for the community. “In the end, we’re pretty optimistic. We have great community support and volunteers.”