We are fortunate to have two of Suffolk County’s premier historic properties in Huntington, the Vanderbilt Museum and West Neck Farm, AKA Coindre Hall. Both properties are county owned and listed on the National Register of Historic Places and dedicated to the Suffolk County Historic Trust. As such, they require protection and restoration.
In 2019, the former district legislator established the Coindre Hall Advisory Council with the goal of restoring and preserving the historic site, which had fallen into despair due to a lack of funding over the years. The Council has no legislative powers. It is purely advisory in nature, which means that suggestions are presented to the Department of Parks, which in turn determines the viability and feasibility of those suggestions, and then presents them to the County Legislature for a vote.
The City of Huntington does not make these decisions because Coindre Hall is COUNTY PROPERTY, under county responsibility, from which ALL SUFFOLK COUNTY RESIDENTS AND RATEPAYERS can benefit.
The Board of Directors is made up entirely of volunteers – all working full-time or retired. In addition, they are all from the community. One member lives within walking distance of the park, others a few blocks away, and the rest within the community at large. A few of the members went to school at Coindre Hall and the majority lived in Huntington for many decades enjoying the park. All members bring their own unique ideas to the table, and at least one member to date has a technical background with a marine engineering degree and experience. Needless to say, all members care deeply about this historic property.
Unfortunately, a lot of false information and blatant lies have circulated on social media about the work of the Council, its purpose and its members. Even the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society has been dragged into this, with its director being dragged through the mud online. The most vicious things have been said about him and some of our board members. I find that fascinating, because the Council has been nothing but transparent. all meetings have been open to the public and since I took over from the former legislator, all updates on work in progress have been posted online. No one is paid for the work they do and no one has or will enter into a contract with the county for any work offered.
In addition, following the request to modify the meeting time to accommodate more people, the last meeting of the Board of Directors took place in the evening rather than in the afternoon. When my office received a request for a virtual option to attend board meetings, I immediately contacted the county’s IT department and was advised that this would not be possible as the county does not have the technical configuration required at Coindre Hall. This was shared with the community at the following board meeting, where it was explained that we would be more than happy to offer a virtual option. However, the meetings would then have to be moved to the Hauppauge Legislative Assembly, which is equipped to handle virtual meetings and where all the other advisory councils that offer this option are held. The community chose not to opt for this option.
What is truly mind-boggling is that some of the people who regularly attend advisory board meetings are the very ones spreading misinformation. Some do it openly by outright lying or accusing Board members of being “corrupt,” while others do it more quietly by making insinuations about nefarious activities. And despite repeated attempts by board members to address misinformation, the same few responsible for said misinformation continue to push it.
Why? That’s the big question, why? In the end, everyone wants the same thing: to preserve the park. Is it politically motivated? Is it personal? Is it because there is nothing else productive to do? Or is it because we chose not to appoint one of the bullies to the advisory board??? A tyrant will never be named. Due to the lies and misinformation still circulating today, allow me to provide some much-needed clarification on some important issues:
1) The proposed landscaping plan, which was so generously prepared and written at no cost by one of the council members, has not been adopted by the county.
2) All appropriate and necessary permits to begin restoration of the Boathouse complex are in place. Since the actual redesign of wetland maps can take up to 10 years, there is no need to wait for new maps to be completed. Under the watchful eye of the DEC, sensitive areas have been demarcated and fenced off.
3) While it is true that there were cuts on the property (in 2021 – before I took office) that should not have taken place, this issue has been resolved and the flora will be replaced where appropriate .
4) There are no plans for a private yacht club, restaurant, party venue or anything else of a commercial nature. No ferry to Connecticut. Final plans for the use of the restored boathouse complex have yet to be decided, but will be educational in nature. Suffolk County Marine Bureau Police will most likely keep a boat at the restored dock for quick access to sound in an emergency.
5) It is out of the question to remove the granite dike to create a natural bank. If the seawall is removed, the boathouse will eventually fall into the water. Also, removing the granite blocks would cost a fortune, not to mention all the work already done on the wall and the money spent. Do we want to throw taxpayers’ money into the water (no pun intended)? I do not think so.
6) There will be no paved access road to the boathouse, nor a huge parking lot. It is true that things were perhaps not so transparent under the previous legislator. However, the Board and I have done nothing but be completely open about Coindre Hall’s restoration and preservation efforts; in addition to holding more meetings than necessary to ensure the public was kept informed of progress, a Coindre Hall Updates page was created so that everyone in the county could stay informed of the latest progress; Again, Coindre Hall is a COUNTY PARK that all residents can enjoy. I contacted several members of the community and invited them to my office to discuss the plans for the property. I sponsored a resolution to appoint an environmental expert to the board. The list is lengthened increasingly. Despite this, the bullies continue their vicious attacks and lies – the bullies will not prevail. Additionally, I would like to express my gratitude to the members of the advisory board and the parks department for their efforts in preserving and restoring this historic gem for generations to come.
Finally, our obligations and our facts matter – not the bullies.