Just beyond the entrance of New Suffolk Elementary School, a multi-colored poster states the following: “Only POSITIVE attitudes allowed beyond this point.”
But on Saturday morning, as dozens of community members packed into a classroom to hear a presentation from the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund about the nonprofit’s hotly contested plans for the relocation and renovation of the Galley Ho restaurant, the mood was more combative than cheerful.
Residents had plenty of questions they wanted board members, who at times appeared flustered, to answer.
Chief among them during the three-hour meeting, it seemed, was this: What does the NSWF really plan on doing with the Galley Ho, the vacant waterfront building the organization officially proposed renovating into a 66-seat restaurant in April? (The proposal also calls for the building, which previously sat 18 feet from the shoreline, to be relocated and expanded by 47 square feet.) And why can’t the property, which is located on a portion of the NSWF’s 2.3-acre First Street property, remain unused?
Audience member William Hartung of Old Harbor Road was particularly passionate about the latter.
“My grandparents were in this town long before you people knew where New Suffolk was,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in town who like it the way it is. They moved out here because it’s quiet … I don’t understand why you can’t come up with a better idea financially about how to eliminate a restaurant totally.”
According to Waterfront Fund executive committee chair Barbara Schnitzler, not renovating the property is moot: the organization has the money to do it and it has no intention of canceling its plans.
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As for how the building is used, Ms. Schnitzler said, residents do have a say as to whether the Galley Ho will morph into one of three things: a 66-seat restaurant, as specified in the group’s site plan with Southold Town Planning Board, a café, or a snack bar.
But those descriptions, argued New Suffolk Avenue resident Michelle McCloskey, create more questions than answers.
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“You’ve used the word ‘café’ and I think that is causing a tremendous amount of confusion,” she said. “We have now heard [it’s going to be] a snack bar with hot dogs; we’ve heard [it’s going to be] a nice little café that will be open for breakfast and lunch, and right now we have a plan for a full-service restaurant with 66 seats, a liquor license and special events. Please don’t hide behind the definition that we provide for the planning committee because we’ve all been told the same thing: There’s one definition. What do YOU plan to do?”
“We plan to listen to you guys,” Ms. Schnitzler responded.
In fact, she announced, the NSWF will begin hosting weekly public roundtable discussions with a maximum of 10 community members per meeting at Cutchogue-New Suffolk Library. The discussions will start at 9:30 a.m. every Saturday beginning sometime in August. Residents can sign up to attend as many discussions as they like and it will be those meetings, Ms. Schnitzler said, that “determine how we use the building.”
It will cost $385,000 to renovate the Galley Ho, said Pat McIntyre, vice chair of the NSWF executive committee. That figure includes landscaping, kitchen infrastructure, marine revetment and professional services.
In addition to renovating the Galley Ho, the group’s proposal calls for the construction of a 16-slip marina, a retaining wall around the restaurant and a raised septic system.
If the organization transforms the building into a café, it expects to generate a yearly income of $177,000 through the marina, food service lease, parties and community classes, boat storage, a garden, fundraisers and donations. A snack bar, they said, would generate an estimated income of $174,000. The group did not provide estimates about how much money a 66-seat restaurant would generate on a yearly basis.