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

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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 Silsdorf opened the meeting with a warm welcome and updates from the most recent Trustee meeting. She advised residents to “like” the organization’s Facebook page to stay up to date as the organization investigates a new email platform to better communicate with members. Four members of the OBA were up for reelection and were all reelected at the winter meeting. The new water meters for Ocean Beach residents are ready and local plumbers have already been briefed on installation, but it is the responsibility of homeowners to have them 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 coming summer are the removal of the jetties by the Army Corps of Engineers and discussing the problems of beach smoking and garbage, both of which will be addressed at the upcoming April meeting. The Downtown Revitalization Committee and the Board of Trustees also are working to find solutions for the restoration of the bay beach.

Holly Etlin shared updates from the Ocean Beach Community Fund and highlighted the educational and community-focused events to be held this summer. On June 23, residents can begin taking mah jong lessons or attend senior mobility exercise classes. Other events this summer will include two movie nights, three dock concerts, a butterfly show, and the re-opening of the Historical Society featuring a reprisal of Kenny Goodman’s retrospective exhibition. To great excitement, Etlin also announced the theme for the Gala this year, Woodstock, celebrating the iconic concert’s 50th anniversary. To stay up to date with all of the Community Fund events to come this summer, keep an eye on the new bulletin board installment by the ferry terminal.

Camille Guigliano began her remarks on behalf of the Village of Ocean Beach Environmental Commission (VOBEC) with a warm thank you to Mayor James Mallott for signing a resolution opposing offshore drilling and seismic blasting off the coast of Ocean Beach, an act that inspired many other coastal communities to join the fight. She then moved on to the events VOBEC will be hosting this upcoming summer, which include a seminar on Sustainable Farming, the launch of a newsletter, and an educational program, entitled Don’t Trash Our Waters. Guigliano also shared the data collected on International Coastal Cleanup Day. Of the garbage picked up, 48 percent of the trash found was plastic and 72 percent included plastic, food wrappers, cigarette butts, and balloons – all of which are dangerous hazards to sea life.

Patty Brahe announced that Ocean Beach Youth Group applications 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 continuing to expand its “teenswept” program.

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

This year marks the 25th anniversary of EMS on Fire Island. The Fire Department has raised around $600,000 for new equipment through a number of grants, including one from FEMA. Due to the Department’s educational efforts around proper storage of propane, calls regarding those emergencies, and electrical fires, are down significantly. As of April 1, residents of Ocean Beach are responsible for making sure all smoke detectors are compliant 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, a blood drive, the July 4 Picnic on the ball field, and the end-of-summer pancake breakfast.

The Board of Trustees were first represented by Deputy Mayor Matthew Blake, who spoke about the impact of the completed ferry terminal on the 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 for the 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 Hargraves expressed her unequivocal support for Trustees Matthew Blake and Chris Norris in their upcoming re-election. The election will be held on June 7. The last day to register to vote in Suffolk County is May 28.

To close out the meeting, Trustees Matthew Blake and Chris Norris gave remarks on their candidacy and potential re-election. Blake spoke about his impact on the financial contracts Ocean Beach has with other entities and the impacts he hopes to have on the Village in the future. Because of contracts that monetize volume, the Village has grossed $5.2 million since 2010. Blake calculated this to be savings of $4,700 per household in Ocean Beach. He remarked on the possibility to discuss adding a freight house component to negotiations with Fire Island Ferries. He also advocated that Ocean Beach remain flexible as it looks to address future issues like climate change, saying, “What has worked in past years may not work moving forward.”

Trustee Norris followed Blake, echoing his desire to remain on the Board and praising the good work the Board has done over the course of the last term. He remarked, “The work is difficult, the debates robust,” and emphasized the impact his generational roots to Fire Island have impacted him and 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 traditionally been the forum where race challengers announce their candidacy. With no one except the incumbent Blake and Norris stepping forward, Ocean Beach could be looking at an unopposed race in June. However public notice with the Incorporated Village of Ocean Beach states that interested parties has until May 3 to officially submit their independent nominating petitions.

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