North Hempstead seeks funding to restore 1877 Stepping Stones Light

The Stepping Stones Lighthouse is a Victorian-style lighthouse The Stepping Stones Lighthouse is a Victorian-style lighthouse first lit in 1877 in Long Island Sound off the coast of Kings Point. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

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North Hempstead Town officials have vowed to seek funds to restore the Stepping Stones Light, two years after the federal government threatened to take the 1877 structure away from the town.

Restoration of the brick and wood light in Long Island Sound off Kings Point will be coordinated by the town in partnership with the Great Neck Park District. The Great Neck Historical Society is raising funds for the effort.

North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth said town funds will be used "minimally" for the project, which could cost between $4 million and $8 million.

The town received the light in 2008, when Jon Kaiman was supervisor, as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, and officials had developed plans to maintain and restore it.

The National Park Service in 2012 recommended the light be transferred to a new owner, saying the town failed to maintain it and did not make it available to the public as the preservation act required. Town officials had cited a weak economy, other funding priorities and few grant opportunities as reasons for not restoring Stepping Stones.

Pamela Setchell, president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, was in talks to take over as steward of the light but said this week she will remain a consultant to Bob Lincoln, a Great Neck Park District commissioner.

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North Hempstead "had never given up" stewardship of the light, said Catherine Turton, architectural historian with the National Park Service's Northeast Region. "With a new supervisor, there seems to be new energy involved in retaining it." Bosworth took office in January.

"We can lend our support to work together to coordinate things," Bosworth told representatives of the U.S. General Services Administration last week after a tour of Stepping Stones, adding that "the town doesn't have the funding mechanism to do this renovation."

Bosworth said the town is willing to contribute services, such as designating employees who can work on repairing the structure. The town is applying for $200,000 from the National Park Service's National Maritime Heritage Grants program. The application is due Sept. 23.

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Lincoln, who also is chairman of a Great Neck Historical Society committee overseeing the light's restoration, said about $2,000 has been raised since June and there are plans to accelerate a marketing campaign.

Town and park district employees can get started on urgent fixes, such as filling a hole in the roof, officials said. The town's commissioner of public works plans to assess "heaving" within the external brick wall.

The town has plans to work with the park district and a salvage company to remove debris from the light and will routinely inspect the structure, officials said.

"It's a big project, there's no question about it," Lincoln said. "The degree of restoration is going to depend on how much we can raise, and that's going to take at least five years."

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