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Bulkhead permit, sought after work started, draws mixed reviews

08/28/2015 11:16 AM |

shipyard

Greenport Yacht and Shipbuilding’s proposal to build a new bulkhead drew both praise and criticism at a Greenport Village Board public hearing Thursday night.

Several residents and village officials have expressed concern that work started without a wetlands permit from the village. Construction is already more than halfway finished.

Last month, Greenport Yacht and Shipbuilding owner Steve Clarke said during a Village Board meeting that he’s had ongoing DEC permits for projects like rebuilding docks, bulkheads and marine railways for decades without ever having a village permit for that work.

His latest bulkhead project includes removing about 345 feet of existing bulkhead with a nearly 200-foot new bulkhead.

Mr. Clarke, a former village mayor, and his contractor, John Costello, also a former Village Board member, said they didn’t know a wetlands permit was needed.

Some residents who spoke during the public hearing — including two Conservation Advisory Committee members — said they believe a permit is needed.

Other residents said they found Mr. Clarke and Mr. Costello’s claim hard to believe since both of them are former village officials who have worked in marine-related businesses for many years.

Mr. Costello said the state Department of Environmental Conservation told him the project does not need an environmental impact study. Material that is behind a bulkhead is not considered wetlands, he said.

The call for the wetlands permit came from village building inspector Eileen Wingate, he said, adding that the DEC later approved a permit for the project on July 10.

Mike Osinski of Widow’s Hole Oysters said he would be the first to be notified if there were pollution from the shipyard. Over the past 14 years, he said he’s only been notified of pollution during Hurricanes Sandy and Irene.

“The shipyard is the heart and soul of Greenport,” said Mr. Osinski, whose property neighbors the shipyard. “The DEC oversees pollution and its my understanding that they approved this work.”

After Howard Burden of Greenport called the CAC members “tree huggers” who don’t have degrees in environmental science,  John Saladino and Liz Smith, both CAC members, said they took exception to the remark and maintained that a wetlands permit is needed.

“You can’t let a project like this go without oversight,” Mr. Saladino said, adding that the shipyard has been around since the 1830s. “Anything done in a shipyard has a high potential for toxic waste.

“To assume there’s no toxicity is ludicrous.”

Ms. Smith said she’s concerned about pollution harming the village’s working waterfront.

“Our fish will die, our kids won’t be able to swim in our waters and folks will not think of the Village of Greenport as a destination to visit,” she said.

The Village Board closed the hearing and took no action on the application, saying it will continue discussion at a future work session.

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