THE federal government is seeking to dispose of three more Long Island lighthouses, part of an ongoing effort to reduce maintenance costs.
The latest beacons up for grabs are Little Gull Island off the end of the North Fork, Latimer Reef in Fishers Island Sound, and the Huntington Lighthouse. The government has relinquished two other Long Island lighthouses in the past two years.
Two nonprofit groups plan to apply for title to Little Gull and have discussed joint ownership. The East End Lighthouses preservation group and the Transatlantic Orthopedic Foundation, based in upstate Hudson, visited the lighthouse in June.
The General Services Administration has listed Latimer Reef on an online auction site - auctionrp.com - for sale to the highest bidder, because no nonprofit or local government has expressed interest. Two bids have been made; the current high bid is $15,000.
And the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, which has restored the structure and holds a 30-year lease, plans to apply for ownership. National Park Service officials said they have told the group of plans to offer title to that lighthouse in the next round of transfers.
The process for disposing of a lighthouse starts with the GSA offering them free to nonprofit groups or local governments through an application process judged by the park service. If no one applies, the site is offered at auction. The new owner must maintain the structure to historic preservation standards. The Coast Guard continues to operate and maintain the lights and foghorns.
GSA spokeswoman Paula Santangelo said the deadline for applications for Little Gull is Sept. 21. East End Lighthouses says it wants to restore the tower and open it to the public, and the orthopedic foundation, which provides assistance for individuals with musculoskeletal problems, told East End Lighthouses it was interested in the site as a destination for outings. Calls and e-mails to the orthopedic group were not returned.
Mark Gephardt, president of East End Lighthouses, said "none of us have a clue" about potential restoration costs so the group wants to take contractors to the island to get estimates for repairing mortar, interior cracks and damaged ironwork. "The building appears to be fairly sound," he said.
Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society president Pam Setchell said owning the lighthouse would be "a good thing in a lot of ways" including making it easier to obtain grants.
Two years ago, the federal government gave the Stepping Stones Lighthouse to the Town of North Hempstead and last year gave Execution Rocks Lighthouse, off Sands Point, to Philadelphia-based Historically Significant Structures. The town says it has sealed Stepping Stones to prevent weather damage but has no funds or plans for restoration or visitation. The Philadelphia group opened Execution Rocks to tours last summer and has been raising funds for restoration.
East End Lighthouses also has been trying for years to reach an agreement with the federal government to restore the Plum Island Lighthouse. That initiative has been complicated by the Department of Homeland Security's plan to shut the adjacent Plum Island Animal Disease Center and sell the island to the highest bidder. Santangelo said any sale of Plum Island would include the lighthouse.
Meanwhile, construction began this week on a $500,000 building next to the Fire Island Lighthouse to display the original Fresnel lens, which was removed in 1933 for display in a Philadelphia museum. The building, paid for by the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, is scheduled to open next Memorial Day.
>b>Status: Federal government is seeking to transfer deed to nonprofit organization or local government. East End Lighthouses and Transatlantic Orthopedic Foundation plan to apply for title.
First lit: 1884
First lit: 1912
Status: Federal government says it will be seeking to transfer deed to nonprofit organization or local government. Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, which has restored the structure and holds a 30-year lease, plans to apply for title.
First lit: 1827
Status: East End Lighthouses has been trying for many years to reach agreement with federal government to restore it. Initiative further complicated by Department of Homeland Security plan to shut Plum Island Animal Disease Center and sell the island to the highest bidder. Sale would include the lighthouse but buyer would have to preserve structure.
First lit: 1849
Status: Federal government last year gave lighthouse to Philadelphia-based Historically Significant Structures. It opened Execution Rocks to tours last summer and has been fundraising for restoration.
First lit: 1877
North Hempstead. Town says it has surveyed and sealed structure to prevent weather damage but has no funds or plans for restoration or visitation.
First lit: 1826
Rebuilt, relit: 1858
Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, is scheduled to open next Memorial Day. National Park Service, which owns lighthouse and lens, is paying for restoration of lens.