Trouble continues to brew in New Suffolk over the non-profit New Suffolk Waterfront Fund’s plan to re-open the old Galley Ho restaurant, which has met with resistance from a swath of the New Suffolk community.
Tuesday afternoon, residents who had signed up for a series of three round-table discussions on the future of the Galley Ho building received emails from the Waterfront Fund stating that “due to recent developments, our attorneys have advised us that it is not appropriate to hold the roundtable discussions.”
“We regret that events have occurred which compel us to cancel these roundtables, however, an alternative approach will be developed which will enable us to gather broader community input as we move ahead with plans for the Galley Ho café,” the email continued.
Waterfront Fund representative Robin Martin said Wednesday that the discussions were canceled because the group’s lawyers had advised them to not hold discussions on the future of the property before permits for the project are granted.
“It looks like it’s all going through,” she said of the permits. “We can only get a permit for a 66-seat restaurant. After the permit, we can do whatever we want.”
She said the Waterfront Fund plans to take concerns already raised by the community into consideration when drafting their ultimate plan for the project, which is currently before the Southold Town Planning Board for review.
Though Waterfront Fund members urged the planning board at a work session in October to vote on the project by their Nov. 3 meeting so they could begin groundwork this fall, Southold Planning Director Heather Lanza said Wednesday that she does not anticipate the board will vote before Dec. 15 unless members of the Waterfront Fund board request and are granted a special meeting.
The New Suffolk Waterfront Fund was originally formed as a subcommittee of the New Suffolk Civic Association in 2005 to acquire and preserve a 3.4-acre waterfront property at the heart of the small seaside hamlet. But this week, the groups seemed far apart in their vision for New Suffolk’s future.
Over this past weekend, members of the New Suffolk Civic Association sent an email to the community urging residents to attend the Waterfront Fund’s round-table discussions, saying they believe the Waterfront Fund is not listening to the results of a survey the civic association conducted several months ago.
When the civic association unveiled the results of the survey, few New Suffolk residents said they’d like to see a full-scale restaurant on the waterfront.
But members of the Waterfront Fund construed the results — which favored a snack bar, community center or small café over the 66-seat restaurant proposed by the group — as a clear message that New Suffolk wants an eating establishment in the community.
The most popular option in the survey was a mixed-use community facility with a snack bar window or counter and some seating, favored by 69 respondents. A café with a modest menu received 63 votes, and a mixed use building with no food service received 53. Thirty-seven people listed a restaurant as their favorite option.
In their email to the community Nov. 2, members of the New Suffolk Civic Association were concerned that the Waterfront Fund misconstrued the results of the survey. Those results had also been misreported in the local media.
According to the Civic Association’s email, NSCA President Paul Cacioppo and Vice President Joe Polashock have had numerous meetings with the Waterfront Fund’s board to discuss community concerns.
“On every occasion Paul and Joe have been told the NSWF wants community input and were willing to adjust their plans to address these concerns. As yet, proof of that commitment remains to be seen,” said their email. “The response to the survey conducted by the Civic Association clearly favors a café or snack bar at the Galley Ho but not a full restaurant.”
The Waterfront Fund said in their fall newsletter mailed to residents in mid-October that they were “pleased with the results [of the NSCA survey] in that they support the goals we have been working toward for the past several years.”
“The consensus for serving food at the Galley Ho confirms the direction we have been taking and we are fairly confident the majority of residents will be pleased with the outcome,” they wrote. “The NSWF has ALWAYS envisioned the renovated Galley Ho as a casual, neighborhood gathering spot — a place to sit, chat, relax, and eat, while taking in the view of Peconic Bay.”
According to the Waterfront Fund’s newsletter, “the responses to the survey also showed overwhelming community support for our fundraisers.”
The Civic Association also takes issue with that statement, stating in their email that “the majority of responders clearly expressed they do not want any private, outdoor tented events.”
While the Waterfront Fund said in their letter that they plan to limit outdoor events under a tent to three per year “for large capital project funding, when necessary,” the civic association says “this policy still concerns many in the community, and it is hoped that a more palatable solution for the Waterfront’s fundraising needs can be found.
Civic association representatives said that they requested on Oct. 11 that the Waterfront Fund have a goal of “zero private outdoor-tented events.”
Ten days later, they said they received the following response from Waterfront Fund Chair Pat McIntyre: “…we discussed the goal, but tabled any decision as there are too many outstanding issues at this time.”
“The New Suffolk Civic Association Board is working to help our Hamlet return to the friendly and open-hearted spirit that has always been a hallmark of New Suffolk,” wrote the civic association members. “Only by working together in a respectful, honest and transparent manner will this renewal become a reality.”