Effort to preserve Cold Spring Harbor acres

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The nonprofit part of the public-private partnership working to buy and preserve 31 acres in Cold Spring Harbor has raised $625,000 so it can purchase a one-year option for the land.

The North Shore Land Alliance, the Town of Huntington and Suffolk County want to purchase 31 of the 42 acres of the DeForest Williams estate, which faces the harbor and has untouched wooded areas.

Several circumstances made the Old Westbury-based alliance realize it needed to act now, officials said. President Lisa Ott cited the town's approval of a 15-lot subdivision on the property in March, and the eight months that have lapsed since the county approved the steps required to purchase the land.

In addition, Ott said, "There were recent and strong indications from the estate that they couldn't hold out much longer and were considering placing the property on the market on Aug. 1."

Ott said the alliance has been negotiating the option with J.P. Morgan Chase, the trustees of the estate, and hope to sign it early next week. A spokesman for J.P. Morgan declined to comment about the one-year option and the partnership's plan.

"It is a great move for the alliance," Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said. "I laud them for funding it."

Ott said purchasing the option will give "the government entities the time to go through the processes, which can take many months to complete."

The county's appraisal of the property has been completed, said Lora Gellerstein, chief legislative aide for Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport). Gellerstein said the office hopes that the county's Environmental Trust Review Board will discuss the appraisal at its next meeting, Aug. 17. She said these deliberations are private and the board will decide on an offering price, which then will be sent to the seller. She said the selling price will not be released to the public until after the closing.

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Under the current plan, the land alliance and town would each pay 25 percent of the property's selling price and Suffolk would pay the remaining half. The alliance's contribution will come from fundraising and a loan, Ott said.

The alliance says development could cause increases of nitrogen in the local waters, erosion and hardening of the natural shoreline -- the building of bulkheads, jetties and the like.

"The thought that we are one step closer to protecting this extraordinary and environmentally important property is thrilling," Ott said. "When you look at all the instances of red tide, hypoxia and beach closings that are happening all around us this year, it makes the protection of this property and its impact on the health of Cold Spring Harbor more important than ever."

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