Revised Unit Management Plan (UMP)
Meeting Convened by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn
Childs Mansion Feb 14, 2018
Kara Hahn (KH) Suffolk County Legislator/Crane Neck Resident
Larry Swanson (LS) Emeritus Professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Studies, SBU
Michael Levine Mayor, Village of OldField
Robert Marsh NYS DEC, Director of Wetlands Management
Thomas Gadomski NYS DEC
Kaitlin Grady NYS DEC Police
Mark Simmons NYS DEC Police
Larry Zacarese Asst. Chief Stony Brook University Police Department (SBUPD)
Robert Lenahan Chief, Stony Brook University Police Department
Michael Kelly Sgt, 6th Precint, Suffolk County Police Department
Christine D’Alessandro Crane Neck Association, Past President
Marisela Staller Crane Neck Association, Current President
Fredelle Robinson Flax Pond Woods Association
Jessica McKay Intern, Office of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn
Alyssa Turano Intern, Office of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn
The meeting was convened in response to residents’ concerns about future access, environmental impact, and oversight/regulation for Flax Pond, a parcel of land owned by Stony Brook University and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (thus wholly state-owned). A draft of a Unit Management (UMP) was circulated several years ago, and at a public meeting held by the DEC many members of the public brought serious issues to light. The revised UMP was the focus of this meeting as residents require greater clarity of proposals and implementation.
LS stressed that this UMP is still a draft, not a final document.
KH asked residents to speak first. Significant complaints were about:
a) Wetlands and Beach
In the future ALL people entering the wetlands and pond, including residents, must have a DEC Managed Land Access Permit; a PDF is available online at NYSDEC website. Hunters will require a hunting permit.
Signs will be manufactured, placed and paid for by the DEC in the laboratory parking area, and will indicate restrictions, penalties and fines for illegal camping, shellfish taking, fires and trespass. Additional signs (with identical wording) will be manufactured, placed and paid for by the CNA along its private beach dunes to the east of Beach Path and west of the inlet. Village of Old Field officers are responsible for enforcing restrictions on CNA property. On DEC property, residents are urged to call DEC police if violations are observed [see separate sheet/CNA website for telephone numbers]. CNA signs will display these telephone numbers as well as place warning signs (symbols) about ticks and mosquitoes.
University police have no jurisdiction on the beach (only on land and at the lab) but can enforce parking restrictions/violations near the lab. Suffolk County police can enforce the prohibition against fires and camping. Responsibilities and enforcement rights of the DEC police are commensurate with Suffolk County police.
b) Pond and Dredging of the Inlet
Long-standing issues about the deterioration of the pond will probably not be remedied until dredging occurs. Currently the artificially constructed inlet (first opened in 1804) is only about 8 feet deep at high tide, and the upper part of the pond does not empty well due to the delta at the mouth of the inlet. Additionally, increasingly high tides threaten Crane Neck Road, the laboratory, and homes.
Funding and proposals for future development of the laboratory have resulted in a grant from NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo for $3.5 million dollars to construct a shellfish hatchery at the marine science laboratory; this would include a 3,000 square foot extension at the northwest corner of the building. The governor has not yet designated Flax Pond as a sanctuary site, long proposed by advocates of Flax Pond. However, this construction project might help to secure funding for future dredging.
ML asked about dredging the inlet. KH and LS explained that there is a “Plan A” and a “Plan B.”
• “Plan A”, the less expensive option, would be to dredge three small channels across the delta to faciliate upper-pond flushing. These would, however, fill up over time and are thus not the best remedy.
• “Plan B” would require reconstruction of the state-owned jetties, which are currently ineffective. Two permits are required, one from the Department of Public Works and the other from the Department of Health. Both application processes are stringent and require additional environmental data. The Suffolk County Legislature committee overseeing approval currently has 11 votes in favor but needs 112. KH is talking to Governor Cuomo. Funding for this project is not yet secure. Also, access to the state-owned pond is legal for motor boats, so signs will be posted to indicate a “no wake” zone (5 mph) to deter boats and especially jet skis. Currently, the erratic depths/shallows of the pond is a deterrent.
Crane Neck roads are privately owned and maintained at huge expense to residents. The university currently subsidizes some cost of repairs, but the prospect of increased road traffic is extremely worrisome. The CNA will be renegotiating its contract with SBU in the near future, and it is to be hoped more funds will be garnered as a result.
The DEC UMP proposes public access along Crane Neck Road to Shore Drive with parking at the marine science laboratory. To limit access, the DEC has proposed the construction of 6 parking spaces at the laboratory with only 2 parking spaces reserved specifically and only for hunters (maximum 2 people per car). DEC-issued access permits will be required for display on the dashboard (hunting permits are also required). Signs will indicate penalties and fines.
Specifically noted was the obvious danger posed to walkers and kayaks, and the threatening behavior of hunters who loudly assert their right to carry firearms on state property. Also not to be underestimated is the disturbing noise of guns being fired.Note that this is waterfowl hunting, not deer hunting (which is currently prohibited). LS concurred, saying that SBU students also do not feel safe when working on the pond or near the marine science laboratory.
This is an ongoing problem with no clear solution in sight because the DEC and SBU have not yet reached an agreement. It is important to define “recreational uses” and whether this would include or exclude hunting. Future talks with NYS State Assemblyman Steve Englebright will be scheduled.
Current and Future Projects
An Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant path behind the Childs Mansion is almost complete. Entry will be from the marine science laboratory parking lot (limited).
Efforts must be made to coordinate the number and response to complaints. All parties involved (SBU police and staff, Village of Old Field officers, DEC police, Suffolk County police) must be vigilant in collecting and disseminating data about access
Reconstruction of the bridge across Flax Pond is also almost finished (a small barge will sink additional pilings at high tide). Plans are being discussed to extend the bridge over the berm to the beach, but these plans have implications for the beach property owned by the Crane Neck Association. Funding is also uncertain.
It was suggested that the woods along Crane Neck Road be cleared of invasive vines and broken limbs, and the fencing restored to its original state (at the moment, many rails are broken and unsightly).
Garbage and debris should also be collected.