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Marina revamp key to revitalizing hamlets

Senator Lee Zeldin at the Smith Point Marina

Senator Lee Zeldin at the Smith Point Marina in Shirley. (May 18, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

Building an upscale restaurant and other amenities at the Smith Point County Marina could be the linchpin in a plan to revitalize the Shirley, Mastic and Mastic Beach area, according to a report issued by the Tri-Hamlet Renaissance Project.

The project was launched last year by state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and other elected officials to identify areas for improvement in the three communities.

The effort is also intended to bolster the reputation of the area, which suffer "the misconception that our community is an undesirable place to live and/or visit," according to the report.

Civic leaders, state and county politicians and other residents examined target issues of infrastructure, economic development, real estate, quality of life, public safety and marketing, and issued their findings in a report this month.

The future of the county-owned marina is a centerpiece of the report, which recommends that the county sell or privatize the marina to generate income.

"This is a great piece of property," Zeldin said during a recent visit to the marina, near Smith Point County Park on Fire Island.

The site is no more than a handful of benches surrounding a boat ramp next to a parking lot.

"I certainly envision a full-service marina, a restaurant, a snack stand, a playground," he said. "It would be an attraction that would help the Tri-Hamlet region."

The idea is gaining momentum, Zeldin said. Suffolk Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) sponsored a bill this month to ask the county to issue a request for expressions of interest to developers by the end of the year.

Privatizing the marina doesn't necessarily mean the county has to sell the land, Browning said. "It could be a contract with the developer," she said. "It would bring in more business, more boat slips."

A similar idea in 2009 generated no interest, but both Zeldin and Browning said the economic climate has improved. "There's a renewed energy," Zeldin said.

The report also recommended promoting local tourist spots, forming more neighborhood watch groups, and building more sewers for residential and commercial areas.

There's a lot of work to do, but the community is eager to have a plan and a vision, said John Sicignano, president of Mastic Park Civic Association and project contributor.

"At least we have some sort of road map to go by, to bring the community where it wants to be," Sicignano said.

One suggestion from the report is already a reality: the first Tri-Hamlet Community Celebration Day is scheduled for June 9. The daylong event will feature four historic and natural highlights of the villages: the William Floyd Estate, Manor of St. George, the Wertheim Wildlife Refuge and downtown Mastic Beach.

"We want to use this to improve the reputation of our community in Suffolk County," Zeldin said.

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