Actor Alec Baldwin is among a group of several dozen environmentalists and East Hampton residents who have voiced early support for a plan to improve water quality by funding the effort with money from the Community Preservation Fund.
Baldwin, who owns a vacation home in Amagansett, made a surprise appearance Thursday at a public hearing of the town board, which focused on a proposed law that would extend the fund’s 2 percent real estate transfer tax by two decades, to the year 2050, and allow 20 percent to be used for water-quality protection projects.
Improvements to wastewater treatment, habitat restoration and pollution control, prevention and abatement are included in the proposal.
In an interview last week before the public hearing, Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said that if the law is approved in a November referendum, about $25 million could be generated annually over the next 33 years. The Preservation Fund is targeted for land preservation, and Cantwell said more than $600 million would be left for that purpose.
Money for the fund is derived from sales in the five East End Towns — East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold. Cantwell said that since its inception in 1998, the fund has generated about $300 million for East Hampton and has helped the town preserve more than 3,000 acres of land. He noted that it has provided about $1 billion for preservation projects on the East End.
“I thank you for your forward thoughts,” Amagansett resident Rona Klopman said in complimenting the board on the proposal.
Baldwin, 58, indicated he generally backs the plan but wants more detail.
“Everyone seems to indicate they have great support for the idea and concept,” Baldwin told the board, noting that he had met with Councilwoman Sylvia Overby and East Hampton Natural Resources director Kim Shaw about the proposal.
He said he would like another public hearing to be held to explain more about the plan, such as “where the money would be spent and where we could learn the details.”
Baldwin added he would like to see a pilot program implemented and its success measured before any water quality plan takes effect.
In an interview Friday, Overby said Baldwin wanted to discuss the water improvement plan because he is very concerned about and active in local environmental issues.
“He’s a really private guy, but so generous on the East End,” Overby said. “He’s been involved with East Hampton’s Catholic church, the day care center . . . he’s done a lot of things for people in East Hampton.”
Baldwin has also been involved in efforts to restore the Amagansett Life-Saving and Coast Guard Station, for which a fundraiser was held last month.
Overby said Baldwin bought a full-page ad in a local newspaper encouraging residents to attend the public hearing.
“He’s interested in the environment and keeping things clean and safe,” Overby said. “He wants to make sure the CPF survives and continues.”