Scramble for yachts is a battle for the soul of North Fork

Like a snake’s tongue, Long Island’s eastern edge splits into two distinct tines. To the south is the group of wealthy villages known as the Hamptons. The north is an idyllic farmland that prides itself on its blue-collar status.

Those lines are blurring in recent years due to an influx of new residents who fled Manhattan during Covid and never returned. Boutique hotels and craft cocktail bars catering to them have sprung up, and home prices have jumped 50% since the pandemic. In the hamlet of Mattituck, a marina owner now plans to cut down the hillside with 600 trees and remove hundreds of millions of pounds of sand to make way for 88 yachts on the edge of the hamlet’s tidal inlet.

Long-term residents see the plan not only as a threat to them The fragile coastal environment is the character that competes for the entire North Fork of Long Island.

In this small village of fewer than 5,000 people, opponents have gathered more than 3,000 signatures against the proposal. “People started cannibalizing the place. They wanted to turn it into a Hamptons,” said Stephen Boscola, an accountant whose home sits directly above the proposed development. Their back deck overlooks a forested hillside that will be destroyed if the project goes ahead.

But the pier owner-turned-developer is not a new transplant in Manhattan. He is one of them.

Jeff Strong, 66, who grew up living in Mattituck, is president of Strong’s Marine, a family-owned business that sells boats and operates commercial marinas. Strong’s Marines have been in his family for three generations. He is seeking approval from the area’s planning board to build two huge indoor yacht storage sheds on the grounds of his yacht centre.

Mr. Strong estimates he will spend more than $5 million clearing the hill, trucking away the sand and building two 45-foot-tall storage sheds, each about 50,000 square feet. He said the yacht storage facility would offer heated indoor winter storage, fill a market gap for wealthy boaters from Hampton communities like Sag Harbor and Amagansett, as well as Westchester County and Connecticut, and would charge up to $65,000 in property taxes and $474,000 in annual sales taxes go into the Town of Southold’s coffers.

“We believe the market needs us to add 88 more yachts, and financially we can definitely build these two buildings from the ground up,” Mr. Strong said in an interview at his yacht center. The site currently offers outdoor storage for 15 commercial fishing boats and outdoor and unheated indoor storage for up to 100 yachts. He declined to disclose his current prices, but said he expected he would be able to charge at least 25% for winter indoor heating of storage rooms.

locals object Wealthy yacht owners across the bay should find somewhere else to park their boats in winter, the project says. “We’re creating North Fork problems for non-North Fork problems,” said Bridget Elkin, founding agent for Compass Real Estate’s North Fork office. Other developers are definitely paying attention, she said, and will step in quickly if the plan goes ahead. “If the planning committee is willing to approve projects that don’t benefit the community, it changes the balance of what people come to North Fork for,” she added.

Some Mattituck residents accused Mr. Strong of using bait and switch, suggesting his goal was not to make long-term profits from yacht storage but to make an immediate profit from the sale of valuable sand.

High-quality sand, a valuable natural resource, sells for between $15 and $50 a cubic yard, meaning Strong’s Marine could net $2 million to more than $6 million after leveling the hillside. Asked about potential profits, Mr. Strong said the sand was worth no more than $1.5 million, and he estimated that removal and trucking alone would cost him about $1 million. He also pointed out that most sand is not a natural environment. It was placed there by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960s as part of an inlet dredging project.

In any case, mining in New York State requires a mining land reclamation permit, which Mr. Strong does not have. But there’s a loophole: Excavations done as part of a construction project are usually exempt.

“It’s a great way to monetize the mountain,” said Mr Boscola, who has been leading the protests.

In early May, Mr. Boscola and his parents, David and Donna Boscola, donned pins and blue ribbons expressing opposition to the project and attended a packed town hall meeting that lasted nearly four hours. The town, which includes Mattituck, has scheduled a second town hall on the issue for June 5 and has until July 10 to accept written comments on the project’s potential environmental impact. The planning committee will later decide whether to allow the project to continue.

Environmentalists fear the project could have a catastrophic backlash on natural life at the Mill Road Reserve, a 27-acre taxpayer-funded sanctuary for beech and oak trees, hundreds of deer, birds Home to species and other species.

The potential site for the storage shed is adjacent to a conservation area, and while Mr Strong has promised to plant at least 185 new trees after the mountain is razed, conservationists say the project will destroy habitat and invite invasive plants.

“You’re going to have a cascading effect in this public space,” says conservation biologist Louise Harrison. save sound, a local environmental action group. “This forest is a public investment. It seems very wrong to allow private individuals to destroy public space.”

Other residents have complained that months of 18-wheeler trucks rumbling down residential roads in North Fork are ruining their quality of life.

To Mr. Boscola, whose grandparents built the five-bed, two-and-a-half-bath home, which sits in the crosshairs of Mr. Strong’s plans, a project built on the clams and entrances for commercial everyday use The proposed development of mega yacht Fishermen boils down to the soul of the North Fork.

“Everyone has different concerns. For some, it’s the truck. For others, it’s because they appreciate living next to the forest. But really, I think people are just tired of everyone Trying to take North Fork,” he said.

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