A new, two-year project to safeguard the Montauk Lighthouse from erosion is slated to begin this spring, after the federal and state government awarded a $30.7 million contract for the project this week.

H&L Contracting of Bay Shore will be performing the work contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which consists of removing and reusing existing five- and 10-ton armor stones, placement of new 10- and 15-ton armor stones, and providing slope stabilization with terracing and vegetation above the upper crest of the 1,000-foot-long revetment. 

The lighthouse stood 300 feet from the receding edge of the bluff when it was commissioned by George Washington in 1796. It now stands 100 feet from the receding edge of the bluff, and its deteriorating stonework revetment is the only thing left protecting the lighthouse from being lost to the ocean due to erosion. Visitor access is restricted to protect public safety and the unstable bluff.

The Montauk Point Lighthouse was the first lighthouse built in New York State and is a National Historic Landmark on the Federal and State Registers of Historic Places. It was deeded to the Montauk Historical Society by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1996. It is adjacent to, but not a part of, Montauk State Park.

In addition to federal funding, costs are shared by the project’s sponsors, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which is committing $15.4 million in NY Works funding as the project’s non-federal sponsor.

The local sponsor, the Montauk Historical Society, will maintain the site after construction is complete.

“The historic Montauk Point Lighthouse is a New York treasure, but erosion and the weight of years are threatening to wash it away,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement Wednesday evening. “The state is committed to working with our federal partners to prevent that from happening and preserve this landmark for future generations of New Yorkers to explore and enjoy. With this development, on-the-ground work can begin this spring to advance restoration, ensuring that this George Washington-commissioned lighthouse—New York’s first—remains a beacon for all to see.”

The lighthouse complex consists of the Lighthouse Tower and Keeper’s House, the Fire Control Tower, and the Garage, which served as an earlier Keeper’s House. The archaeological sites associated with the lighthouse and bluff are also part of the complex. 

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Ken LaValle drafted legislation in 2016 enabling this partnership with the Montauk Historical Society. Their legislation granted authority to the New York State DEC to undertake projects to protect a National Historic Landmark from shoreline erosion. Previously, state agencies had not been authorized to undertake such projects in partnership with nonprofit organizations. 

“The Montauk Lighthouse has been part of Long Island’s land and seascape for more than 200 years,” said Mr. Thiele on Thursday. “I was happy to provide the DEC with the necessary authority to undertake this essential restoration project through my legislation in 2016, and very much look forward to its completion so that generations to come can appreciate this most beloved landmark.”

“The partnership involved in this award is an impressive coming together of civilians and government agencies who came together for the common good for this national historic landmark and this special spot in history,” said Greg Donohue, who serves as Director of Erosion Control for the Montauk Lighthouse.

“The Montauk Point Lighthouse is the historic gem of Long Island. For decades it has served as a beacon for mariners and facilitated the commerce that made New York State one of the most prosperous states in the Union,” said Colonel Matthew Luzzatto, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the New York District. “The complex nature of protecting this historic icon is a task well suited to USACE. We look forward to making sure this important part of American history remains a symbol of our strength and American military engineering excellence for the next 100 years.”

“The Montauk Lighthouse is an important historic landmark as well as a Long Island icon and tourist attraction,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc. “East Hampton cherishes preserving its history, and I am happy to see this important project move forward.”

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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