In preservation, Suffolk County has always been a national leader — saving the county’s diminishing farmland, its pine barrens and even the Big Duck, the Sistine Chapel of roadside architecture.
Now Democratic county Legis. Sarah Anker is looking to take Suffolk preservation in a new and weightier direction — buying a rock.
Of course, it’s not just any rock — the huge boulder, three stories high, probably originated in New England, but was dumped here by a glacier 20,000 years ago. The local historical society says the stone may have given Rocky Point its name. Locals called it Indian Rock since arrowheads were found nearby.
Anker, of Mount Sinai, said she first saw the rock last year when she was campaigning door-to-door. “I was in awe, it was just amazing,” she said, adding neighbors sought help since the property the rock sits on had a foreclosed house that was an eyesore.
Experts say that the rock is Suffolk’s largest piece of glacial erratica, and the second-largest on Long Island. The island’s biggest is Shelter Rock, located on its namesake road in Manhasset. That rock fortunately landed on the former Whitney estate, Greentree, now protected by a nonprofit foundation.
A purchase of the Rocky Point rock has the backing of the local historic society, the Rocky Point Civic Association and the local veterans group. “People are very sentimental about the rock and very proud of it as a natural treasure,” said Natalie Aurucci Stiefel, society president.
The rock originally was part of the Noah Hallock farm, where the main house, built in 1721, still stands across the street, serving as the society’s headquarters. Should Suffolk buy the site, she said the society board voted to keep the area clean with the help of Boy Scout Troop 6249.
However, some legislators are not so enthralled, given the county’s fiscal woes.
“She can’t be serious,” Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore). “There’s a reason we’re facing nearly a $200 million deficit and this is it.”
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he is aware of Anker’s proposal, but said he does not know enough details to take a position yet.
Anker sees the rock and Hallock house as a centerpiece for a pocket park after the rundown home, on the one-third-acre plot, is torn down. She said new owners are willing to sell but she did not talk price because negotiation is up to county real estate officials. Before talks, those officials must rate its environmental value and lawmakers must vote on whether to do an appraisal. A sale requires another vote.
Syed A. Sadiq of Hauppauge said he bought the five-bedroom, three-bath house for $107,500 last December to fix it up as a retirement home. “I loved the rock,” he said. He envisioned his grandchildren playing on it, but he is willing to sell it “if the price is right.” He said a real estate agent has told him the house is worth about $300,000; Zillow puts the value at $364,000.
A public rock purchase is not without local precedent. Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) sponsored a $950,000 member item to acquire Patriot’s Rock and three surrounding acres in East Setauket.
Besides the natural appeal, Englebright said the rock helped defend patriots from British fire in the American Revolution and famed artist William Sidney Mount recreated the battle in a painting. Of the Rocky Point rock, he said, “It’s a treasure of nature that needs to be preserved.”
Others are unconvinced. “Just when you thought county finances hit rock bottom, now we are going to spend taxpayer dollars to buy the rock?” said Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). “It’s been there for about 1 billion years. I’m pretty sure no one’s going to take it.”