Paul Simon’s Montauk cottage is being moved back 80 feet from the edge of a bluff in an effort to save the home from erosion that threatens to wipe out the precipice.
Work began in February to temporarily move the one-story cottage on Montauk’s south side “a safe distance” from the bluff, Wendi Goldsmith, a geologist consulting on the project, said Wednesday. A 50-foot buffer of native vegetation will be planted over the house’s former footprint and lawn.
“There is no way to halt erosion in this setting,” said Goldsmith, director of the Massachusetts-based Center for Urban Watershed Renewal. “Saving the house is best done by conserving natural systems that strengthen the soil and support biodiversity,” such as the native vegetation, she added.
The summer home — about a third of a mile west of Camp Hero State Park — is about 20 feet from the bluff’s edge facing the Atlantic Ocean, according to map measurements, and is on a 7.5-acre property.
Lisa D’Andrea, of the East Hampton Town Planning Department, said Simon’s representatives are seeking to make the move permanent by applying for a natural resources special permit with the town, which would allow them to build a foundation in the new spot. The permit could be approved next month if the planning department has no objections to the proposal, which was submitted in January.
Simon could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Current construction is being done through an emergency state building permit.
Other beachfront areas of Montauk have three ongoing federal projects aimed at alleviating the impacts of erosion.
Since 1950, when Simon’s cottage was built, “slow and steady erosion crept closer,” Goldsmith said. Henry Bokuniewicz, a professor of oceanography at Stony Brook University, said he visited the property in the 1980s, when “whoever was managing it was alarmed” about groundwater seeping from the bluffs, which “weakens the whole face.”
The bluffs in that area have eroded at a rate of .7 feet per year, said Aram Terchunian, a Westhampton-based coastal geologist. A neighboring pond visible in aerial photos from 1962 has disappeared, and the bluff on that property has slid away, he said.
Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell lauded Simon’s relocation efforts.
“It’s another area where the erosion rate is high, and I give credit [that] he’s proposing to move the house back instead of harming the dune or creating issues that are going to be difficult to deal with,” Cantwell said.