Featured Letter: Saga of General Wayne Inn a double standard

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The collapsed remains of what once was the General Wayne Inn in Southold.

To the editor:

The saga of the General Wayne Inn, ending with its inevitable demise (“Town: Take the Old Inn Down,” April 25) evokes a comparison with the fate of the Old Barge acquired by the state earlier in the year.

What I find troubling, or certainly suggestive of a double standard, is why the owners of the General Wayne who paid a hefty amount for the Inn back in 2003 and then were denied operating permits for a more modern commercial enterprise and then lost it to the county, are held in general contempt for its current woeful state while the owners of the Old Barge, which was condemned by the town late last year after years of deliberate neglect, are heralded almost as heroes for selling their blighted property to the state for a boat ramp.

Although I don’t know the intricacies of either situation, it seems to me that the owners of the General Wayne were in an even more difficult economic situation than the family that had inherited the Old barge, because of severe mortgage and tax responsibilities on a non-functioning business. While there may have been some interest in public acquisition of the property, it never happened. The Old Barge was purchased by the state, taking the owners off the hook for the sorry state they left it in.

I remember going to a nice banquet fundraiser at the General Wayne Inn for the North Fork Environmental Council in the mid-90s. I saw how hard the proprietors at that time worked, in what was still a functioning facility, to serve over 150 guests. Obviously there was not enough to be gained by continuing to run it as a restaurant, and finally, with the application for a catering facility being rejected, there was no economic future for the historic Inn.

The saga represents both a curious double standard and the difficulties in maintaining viable commercial enterprises in an area where taxes and the general cost of living are high, but the population is low. The resolutions are vastly different, with the state bailing out one owner but not the other.

While a historic marker should one day mark the site of both businesses, no plaque of thanks should be left behind for the lucky family that was able to find a public buyer for its property.

Harry Katz, Southold

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