East Hampton Town is expected next spring to kick off a project to begin the difficult work of building community consensus in Montauk around the best way to protect the hamlet from coastal vulnerability and support a resilient year-round community, with the help of a new $600,000 grant from New York State.

The town has in the past outlined major plans for strategic retreat from the oceanfront in downtown Montauk, in its 2018 Montauk Hamlet Study and in the town’s Coastal Assessment Resiliency Plan (CARP) adopted in 2022.

The proposals include a transfer of development rights program allowing oceanfront hotel owners to relocate landward, enabling the current hotel sites to serve as a natural barrier from storms, rising seas and coastal erosion. The CARP plan also recommends raising homes in areas of severe coastal flooding, elevating roads, building a levee between Fort Pond and Fort Pond Bay and changing the zoning setbacks from the water on waterfront properties.

The “permanent submergence of low lying areas” could lead “East Hampton to physically transform into a series of islands,” as soon as 50 years from now, according to the CARP plan.

Many members of the public and business owners were taken aback by how drastic the measures seemed when they were first introduced in 2018, and the grant is slated to be used to “develop community consensus around proactive measures to reduce coastal area vulnerability, revitalize the area to protect the tourism industry, economy and support a resilient year-round community,” according to the town.

“I am pleased and very thankful to New York State for recognizing East Hampton’s efforts to address and plan for the inevitable impacts of climate change,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc in the town’s Dec. 5 announcement that it had received the grant. “As a coastal community, it is crucial for East Hampton to face this challenge head on, proactively planning for a vibrant and sustainable future. Montauk’s constituents and civic groups will play a key role in this upcoming work, and I thank them in advance for their very important participation.” 

The grant was issued by the New York State Regional Economic Development Councils as part of its support for Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs, through the state Department of State.

The town Natural Resources and Planning Department staff, in coordination with the town’s Waterfront Advisory Committee and local partners, are expected to embark in May of 2024 on the three-year project to “develop strategies for reducing coastal hazards and climate risk vulnerability, and restoring natural resources, including possible building and zoning code updates, and work to attain public consensus on the plan,” according to the plan.

Their goals include “maintaining public access to waterfront recreation areas, using natural features to mitigate flooding, avoiding future economic losses due to extreme weather events and other climate change impacts, and facilitating voluntary proactive measures on the part of property owners in order to reduce their risk. A socio-economic cost-benefit analysis will also examine the impacts of implementing code changes versus taking no action.”

The town says it is planning to foster public discussions in partnership with the Montauk Chamber of Commerce and the Nature Conservancy, working to form a steering committee of Montauk residents and property owners, along with members of environmental and business organizations. 

“Receiving this grant is critical to engaging the community and preparing a plan for coastal resiliency, mitigation, and adaptation to the impacts of the climate crisis,” said East Hampton Town Councilwoman Cate Rogers, the liaison for the initiative. 

According to the town, the plan for Montauk that will be developed through this process “will augment the Coastal Assessment Resiliency Plan, which identified downtown Montauk as a priority “hotspot” in need of mitigation to address the impacts of climate change.” It will also be added as an update to East Hampton’s a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. 

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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