Springtime Gathering: Ocean Beach Association Meeting 3/26/19

It took six long summers since Superstorm Sandy, but Ocean Beach now has a ferry terminal building once again. Its completion was one of the items discussed at the Ocean Beach Association meeting. (Photo by Lauren Chenault)

By Anika Lanser ~ On a bustling early spring evening, friends gathered on Tuesday, March 26 – not on Fire Island – but at All Souls Church in Manhattan to exchange their winter updates over pizza and drinks before the season begins once again. The vaulted ceilings of the altar were soon filled with talks of summer, tennis, the beach, and the new ferry terminal. While to a passerby it may have looked like a casual gathering of friends, it was also the beginning of the Ocean Beach Association pre-season Meeting.

Ocean Beach Association (OBA) President Maria Silsdorfopened the meeting with a warm welcome and updates from the most recent Trusteemeeting. She advised residents to “like” the organization’s Facebookpage to stay up to date as the organization investigates a new emailplatform to better communicate with members. Four members of the OBA were upfor reelection and were all reelected at the winter meeting. The new watermeters for Ocean Beach residents are ready and local plumbers have already beenbriefed on installation, but it is the responsibility of homeowners to havethem updated and installed.

On April 13, the Board of Trustees will present the budget; confirmation is scheduled for April 20. In a similar vein, the Islip town’s contract with Fire Island Ferries is up for renewal. The company is requesting an increase in fares from $10 to $11 for a single one-way ticket and from $19 to $21 for a single round trip ticket. While Ocean Beach negotiations with the Fire Island Ferries are separate and not up for renewal until 2020, the fare increases would still have an impact on the village.

The Board of Trustees is planning to think through a number of factors during the renegotiation including considering the money that could be grossed from the company’s parking fares and that ridership is going down. Although grossing money from parking is something the legislature is unable to regulate, it is well within the rights of the Board of Trustees to address this during their own contract negotiations.

Other projects the Village is focusing on during the comingsummer are the removal of the jetties by the Army Corps of Engineers anddiscussing the problems of beach smoking and garbage, both of which will beaddressed at the upcoming April meeting. The Downtown Revitalization Committeeand the Board of Trustees also are working to find solutions for therestoration of the bay beach.

Holly Etlin shared updates from the Ocean Beach CommunityFund and highlighted the educational and community-focused events to be heldthis summer. On June 23, residents can begin taking mah jong lessons or attendsenior mobility exercise classes. Other events this summer will include twomovie nights, three dock concerts, a butterfly show, and the re-opening of theHistorical Society featuring a reprisal of KennyGoodman’s retrospective exhibition. To great excitement, Etlin also announced thetheme for the Gala this year, Woodstock, celebrating the iconic concert’s 50thanniversary. To stay up to date with all of the Community Fund events to comethis summer, keep an eye on the new bulletin board installment by the ferryterminal.

Camille Guigliano began her remarks on behalf of the Villageof Ocean Beach Environmental Commission (VOBEC) with a warm thank you to MayorJames Mallott for signing a resolution opposing offshore drilling and seismicblasting off the coast of Ocean Beach, an act that inspired many other coastalcommunities to join the fight. She then moved on to the events VOBEC will behosting this upcoming summer, which include a seminar on Sustainable Farming,the launch of a newsletter, and an educational program, entitled Don’t TrashOur Waters. Guigliano also shared the data collected on International CoastalCleanup Day. Of the garbage picked up, 48 percent of the trash found wasplastic and 72 percent included plastic, food wrappers, cigarette butts, andballoons – all of which are dangerous hazards to sea life.

Patty Brahe announced that Ocean Beach Youth Groupapplications are due on April 15, and that the camp is looking for counselors.As the camp moves forward with its second year in Windswept, it is continuingto expand its “teenswept” program.

The Ocean Beach Lifeguards, represented by Sydney Leone,reviewed the rescue metrics from last summer and thanked the Village forproviding them with the rescue mule, which was used throughout last year inrescue efforts. The lifeguards will host three certification tests thisupcoming summer. Last summer saw an increase in the number of people on thebeach; an increase that they are preparing for again this summer.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of EMS onFire Island. The Fire Department has raised around $600,000 for new equipmentthrough a number of grants, including one from FEMA. Due to the Department’seducational efforts around proper storage of propane, calls regarding thoseemergencies, and electrical fires, are down significantly. As of April 1,residents of Ocean Beach are responsible for making sure all smoke detectors arecompliant with the New York State law of being equipped with a 10-year battery.In terms of events, the Fire Department is hosting a hands-only CPR class, ablood drive, the July 4 Picnic on the ball field, and the end-of-summer pancakebreakfast.

The Board of Trustees were first represented by Deputy MayorMatthew Blake, who spoke about the impact of the completed ferry terminal onthe Village. Ultimately, the Village underspent on the building, coming in$841,000 under budget. This money may be used for projects on the North Dock,tennis courts or wagon park. The Trustees also are looking into a new home forthe lifeguards, a project not likely to be completed this summer.

Ticket writing metrics are trending down. Last year, $43,000 were grossed in fines. This summer, the Board will be further investigating the implementation of no smoking legislation and focusing on the enforcement of the no eating and drinking legislation. In addition, the Board will begin internet streaming their meetings in the near future. On the March 9 Board of Trustees meeting it was announced that the much-awaited virtual meetings would come with a change in procedure which would formalize the Hearing of the Citizens portion of the meeting – a move which has been met with mixed reaction by the constituency.

There was also an update on the Gardner Foundation / Long Island Post University project to digitize historical society archives of Suffolk County. Since announcement of the grant last summer Cherry Grove Archives Collection, Fire Island Pines Historical Preservation Society, and Ocean Beach Historical Society have had individual applications accepted into the program. Fire Island Association is presently exploring the possibility of an umbrella establishment in which repositories of the remaining Fire Island communities can also have a chance for inclusion.

On behalf of the Mayor and the Board, Trustee Dawn Hargravesexpressed her unequivocal support for Trustees Matthew Blake and Chris Norrisin their upcoming re-election. The election will be held on June 7. The lastday to register to vote in Suffolk County is May 28.

To close out the meeting, Trustees Matthew Blake and ChrisNorris gave remarks on their candidacy and potential re-election. Blake spokeabout his impact on the financial contracts Ocean Beach has with other entitiesand the impacts he hopes to have on the Village in the future. Because ofcontracts that monetize volume, the Village has grossed $5.2 million since2010. Blake calculated this to be savings of $4,700 per household in OceanBeach. He remarked on the possibility to discuss adding a freight housecomponent to negotiations with Fire Island Ferries. He also advocated thatOcean Beach remain flexible as it looks to address future issues like climatechange, saying, “What has worked in past years may not work moving forward.”

Trustee Norris followed Blake, echoing his desire to remainon the Board and praising the good work the Board has done over the course ofthe last term. He remarked, “The work is difficult, the debates robust,” andemphasized the impact his generational roots to Fire Island have impacted himand have remained central throughout his life. He finished with his desire to,“continue the work we have started.”

During a local election year, the OBA spring meeting has traditionallybeen the forum where race challengers announce their candidacy. With no oneexcept the incumbent Blake and Norris stepping forward, Ocean Beach could belooking at an unopposed race in June. However publicnotice with the Incorporated Village of Ocean Beach states that interestedparties has until May 3 to officially submit their independent nominatingpetitions.