New Suffolk Waterfront Revitalization / by peter podlas

At the heart of the hamlet of New Suffolk, about halfway along the North Fork’s beautiful south shore, lies 3.4 acres of waterfront property with sweeping views of Cutchogue Harbor and Robins Island. A natural anchorage, Cutchogue Harbor and New Suffolk were home to a busy port by the end of the 18th century and a flourishing oyster and scalloping industry at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. New Suffolk’s waters were also the site for the trials of the US Navy’s first submarine, the USS Holland, and the port served as a submarine base from 1897-1905. The waterfront was the lifeblood of this community.

Although some nearby businesses still thrive, the waterfront itself has slowly declined over the last 30 years. A string of private developers proposed various schemes for the waterfront property, including condominiums in the 1980s, a large marina and conference center in the 1990’s, and most recently a “rack and stack” boat storage operation. None of these projects, however, was in keeping with the history, character, and scale of the hamlet, and one by one, in the face of vigorous opposition from the community organized through the New Suffolk Civic Association, these development ventures were abandoned.

The New Suffolk Waterfront Fund

In 2005, some members of the New Suffolk Civic Association resolved to take a more proactive stance. Why not, they reasoned, take the initiative and purchase the property to ensure appropriate development into the future? To accomplish this purchase, they established a 501(c) (3) organization, the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund, Inc. (NSWF) and proposed a collaborative effort with the Peconic Land Trust (Trust) which had long been interested in the conservation of the property. Using monies from its revolving fund, the Trust negotiated a “bargain sale” with the prior owners, acquiring the entire 5.5 acre package (2.1 acres are under water) for $2.4 million. The Trust’s purchase was finalized in December 2007, with the understanding that the NSWF would replenish the Trust’s funds and assume ownership by the end of 2010. The NSWF completed purchase of the property on December 17, 2010 with the help of a $1.5 million loan from The Conservation Fund.

Waterfront today.

Waterfront today.

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