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State funding to preserve past, help plan for future

12/17/2015 6:00 AM |

Firefighter-leaving-greenport1

A $580,000 investment from New York State will help the North Fork plan for its future — and retain a piece of the past.

The Regional Economic Development Council — part of New York’s Empire State Development program — released a list last week detailing $2.25 billion that will support almost 1,100 projects statewide. As part of the annual effort to pump state funds into local economies from Oswego to Orient Point, two projects on the North Fork made that list: support for the completion of Southold’s Comprehensive Plan update and funding for restoration of a historic boat that once belonged to the New York City Fire Department.

Southold’s Comprehensive Plan update was going to be completed either way, according to planning director Heather Lanza. But the state funding — $165,370 through the Department of State — will help make it a better product.

The complex process of updating the plan began in 2010 and is expected to be completed in 2017. The final product is likely to comprise 11 chapters. One of those draft chapters is 80 pages long; another contains nine appendices.

So making the sure documents that will help pave the way for the town’s future are reader-friendly is key, Ms. Lanza said. Instead of designing the final product on their own, town planners can now hire an outside agency to publish the plan without having to worry about how — or of — the town will pay for it.

“I don’t think it’s a time savings as much as the quality that is going to come out of it,” she said. “We just would have had to have found the funding elsewhere and maybe not everything would have been funded.”

Southold’s original Comprehensive Plan was completed in the 1960s and was updated in the mid-1980s. Since then, studies that have been a little narrower in scope have been completed, such as the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.

Ms. Lanza hopes the update to the Comprehensive Plan will be drafted by the end of next year. Public hearings and further adjustments would follow that, leaving a goal of 2017 for adoption of the plan, she said.

The second project funded by New York State is an “effort to preserve the hull area of the Fireboat Fire Fighter, a decommissioned FDNY Marine 9 vessel,” according to the Economic Development Department. The goal is to “improve the area as a tourist attraction, and to help improve the image of the dock area.”

The project was granted $414,000 through the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Fire Fighter was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989. It currently sits at the railroad dock in Greenport, where it arrived in 2013 after over 70 years of service in the FDNY. It was decommissioned in 2010 and given to a nonprofit that currently oversees it with hopes of restoring the vessel to its former glory.

The nonprofit received about $80,000 in grant funds earlier this year to help start the effort of reworking Fire Fighter’s hull.

Charlie Ritchie, who runs the nonprofit, said the state funding will help pay to finally bring the boat out of the water, undertake a proper estimate of what needs to be done and bring the ship up to speed. It won’t make it brand shiny new, though it will pay for much of the work. Mr. Ritchie estimates that about $100,000 in additional funding will need to be raised.

“Fire Fighter is the most famous fireboat in the United States,” notes the application made to the National Register of Historic Places. It also stated that the boat was televised during the country’s Bicentennial Tall Ships event and was present for a rededication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986.

Having such a piece of the past is a gift not only to visitors to Greenport, but to the village itself, says Mr. Ritchie, who plans to offer free sails aboard Fire Fighter once it’s been restored.

“There’s not a lot of things you can do for free,” he said.

“This has been an attraction for the village since we got here and now that we can get the shipyard work done, that’s going to increase the level of attraction for the village,” Mr. Ritchie said. “Now that it will be restored — I’m not going to say 100 percent, but a great percentage — we can get underway and do more water displays.”

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