Affordable housing, summer traffic congestion and the rebirth of Hampton Bays are among the issues at the top of new Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman’s to-do list.
Schneiderman, a former Suffolk County legislator who served six terms, in January returned to local East End politics after reaching his term limit, becoming a town supervisor for the second time. He served as East Hampton’s supervisor from 2000 to 2004.
The Republican turned Independent said in an interview at his Town Hall office that some seemingly disparate issues that he is concerned about are, in fact, interrelated.
Schneiderman, 54, is to discuss those concerns and others in his State of the Town address on Tuesday
Solving some of the top issues facing the town will have a domino effect, he said. Providing affordable housing to keep people in the town, in legal residences, “solves like three problems — traffic, housing and overcrowded apartments,” Schneiderman said.
The view that the entire area is a rich playground is “entirely a misconception,” he said. “We have some of the richest people on the planet but we have the lowest median income and the highest cost of living. We have people living in difficult conditions and overcrowded conditions. We have long lines at food pantries and buses packed to the roof.
“You do have your Ron Pearlmans and George Soroses but there’s a disparity between rich and poor here and a separation between those who have and don’t have within a half-mile” of each other.
Schneiderman said that disparity can be devastating to those who struggle financially. “There are two-bedroom houses with 20 people living in it and 20-room houses with two people living in it,” he said. “It’s more extreme here — the economic disparity issues.”
He said he wants to avoid the opposition to affordable housing seen on the East End in the past.
Instead of high-density housing, he wants to create affordable housing within existing homes in which, for example, a widow or elderly person might be living alone and could use additional income.
“We would create apartments in underutilized homes instead of building” new apartment buildings, Schneiderman said. He would limit the number of those kinds of rentals per square mile.
His affordable housing plan will not completely answer the need but it would allow the situation “to not get worse,” Schneiderman said.
Jim Morgo, a former Suffolk County legislator and chief deputy county executive who said he has known Schneiderman for years, said revitalizing Hampton Bays is “terrific,” but the plan for affordable housing falls short.
Morgo noted that creating accessory apartments has been successful in other communities but is not right for Southampton.
“You’re not going to get opposition but you’re also not going to meet the need,” because there will not be enough of those properties available, Morgo said.
Damon A. Hagan, chairman of the Southampton Republican Committee, said he is concerned that Schneiderman’s big ideas will mean big spending “in a reckless and dangerous manner.”
Schneiderman said Southampton has to try new approaches.
“I’ve been looking at what the town has done over the past 20 years to create affordable housing, and I can’t say it hasn’t tried but I can’t say it’s succeeded,” Schneiderman said. “Young people are fleeing this area at alarming rates.”
A new life for Hampton Bays is something else he wants to focus on.
He said the hamlet is ripe to become a thriving vacation and recreation spot for families “the way Montauk used to feel.”
“They don’t have hotels, but it could come back to life,” Schneiderman said, and Ponquogue Beach is the perfect place to start. “I want to turn it into a modern beach facility connected by a shuttle to downtown. I want it to be more family-friendly.”