The 2½ acre New Suffolk Waterfront site is located in the middle of the tiny hamlet of New Suffolk, at the intersection of First and Main Streets. It offers spectacular open scenic views of Robins Island and Cutchogue Harbor.
The property provides public access to a small marina, a picnic area, a community garden and a non-swimming beach. It is also the home to the Galley Ho building, which operates today as it has historically, as a casual restaurant. This park-like setting provides a rare public waterfront destination for the community.
The Waterfront property - 2 ½ acres in the center of the tiny New Suffolk hamlet - has been preserved by NSWF as an open, park-like setting with only 2 buildings remaining from the past. Throughout its history, this property had been a very densely developed commercial site - a busy port and the home of a flourishing oyster and scallop fishing industry. As the only deep-water marina on the Bay west of Greenport, it was the site of trials for the US Navy's first submarine, the USS Holland. The port served as a submarine base from 1897-1905.
In the later half of the 20th century, as the condition of the property and its many buildings declined, a series of private developers proposed large scale projects for the property – condos, a conference center, and finally a rack and stack boat storage yard with a restaurant and large parking facility. The NSWF was established to fight this last proposal, and decided that the only way to prevent an inappropriately large development on this property was to own it!
Fundraising began in 2005. The Peconic Land Trust negotiated the purchase from the former owner in a ‘bargain sale’, a sale which guarantees a public benefit. The NSWF initially utilized a short-term loan from the Land Trust, and then a mortgage from The Conservation Fund. Finally, Robins Island Holdings collaborated with the Fund by purchasing one acre of the property and restricting its development through an easement protecting scenic vistas and open space in perpetuity. Donations from over 750 individuals, as well as a grant from NY State Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation ultimately allowed the NSWF to pay off its mortgage and own the property outright.
With property acquisition behind us, the Waterfront Fund began planning for property renovations. The property is zoned Marine II, which means it can be very intensively developed as a ferry terminal, hotel, or fish processing plant for example. But the NSWF decided very early on to limit its development because of the property's sensitive location adjacent to Peconic Bay, in essence down zoning the property. Today, its lot coverage is only 7.3%, although 30% of a property can be covered with buildings in this zoning district. The NSWF board decided that the Galley Ho, a late 19th century building, and the Marina Shed, the remnant of an even earlier building, should remain as part of the traditional uses of the property as a marina with a restaurant.
Superstorm Sandy created a new challenge in October of 2012, destroying much of the marina bulkhead and almost the entire foundation of the Galley Ho. The Fund acted quickly to stabilize the building and move it away from the edge of the bulkhead. Fortunately, a long-term, low interest loan from the Small Business Administration and continued fundraising made both the bulkhead and Galley Ho renovations possible, and this work was completed over the course of 2 years. Today the Galley Ho is back in use, and the new bulkhead has protected First Street from annual floods since it was repaired. Site improvements continue, and additional remedial work is planned for the marina and marina building. It is our goal to provide a place to display artifacts so future generations can learn about this special location and its role in history.
The NSWF board also looks forward to smaller improvements like adding benches, lighting, more picnic areas and community spaces, and adding landscaping over the next few years, as budget and fundraising allow. We will encourage continued use of the open spaces and access to the water, rare amenities that the NSWF board is uniquely able to offer to the community.