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Residents protest PSEG facility proposal on Montauk hilltop

On Tuesday, Montauk resident Shaun de Jesus talked

On Tuesday, Montauk resident Shaun de Jesus talked about residents' gripes about a proposed substation eyed for a steep hill overlooking the hamlet's northern shore.  Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

A group of Montauk residents is raising alarms over a PSEG Long Island plan that could put a football-field-size power distribution station on steep hilltop land overlooking the East End hamlet’s northern shore.

PSEG and LIPA in July filed a formal document expressing their intent to acquire four lots totaling 6.7 acres on Flamingo Avenue, saying the so-called substation would require clearing 60,000 square feet of woods.

The parcels are owned by the family of "Karate Kid" star Ralph Macchio. A person answering the phone at the home of his mother, Rosalie Macchio, declined to comment.

Residents who say they were stunned to read about it plan to attend a LIPA board meeting Wednesday to protest. PSEG manages the LIPA-owned electric grid under a long-term contract. 

"Our goal is to help LIPA understand why this is a really bad location for a substation and that there is significant opposition," said Shaun de Jesus, who lives across the street from the parcels and said he will lead a group of residents to protest. The filing to buy the site, he said, "was done behind closed doors without soliciting input from anyone."

The group said it has made legal preparations to sue if the plan goes forward. “We’re awaiting some sort of triggering event to launch the lawsuit,” said Izabella de Jesus, an attorney who is married to Shaun de Jesus.

The opposition group  includes homeowners and landowners around the site who say they are worried about visual and environmental impacts from any planned facility, which would sit near an existing water tower near the Montauk Manor hotel.

“We’re right over the aquifer,” said Tom Ciccariello, a resident who owns parcels near the site and is also a firefighter. “You have this potential for contamination.”

Land for the substation, which reduces higher voltage power to lower voltage for distribution to homes and businesses, would sit on a drinking water recharge basin near the hotel.  

PSEG is working with East Hampton Town’s supervisor and others to evaluate the site, the company said. “Once a decision is made, we will hold public meetings to discuss plans and provide the community and customers with a completely transparent project,” PSEG spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said. “Customers will have an opportunity to participate in the process.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said  it was the town that asked PSEG to rethink a previous utility plan to build the new substation on Shore Road near Fort Pond Bay because it’s in a flood plain; the town has a policy to keep newly built critical infrastructure outside the flood plain, he said. 

He said he hasn’t seen any finalized PSEG plan for the Flamingo Road site. But asked how he expects PSEG to overcome the steep slope of the land, Van Scoyoc said, “I think they would excavate into the hillside to create a flat area.”

The residents say the best site for the substation is a town-owned recycling center near the eastern end of a county park on Montauk Highway, just  outside the village.

Van Scoyoc said the recycling center has already been rejected, citing anticipated difficulties getting an easement through a direct parkland route.

The Macchios in the late 1980s sought to build on the parcels but gave up after resistance from the town planning board, court documents show. Among the town's concerns at the time were that Montaukett Indian artifacts had been discovered at the site, which sits hundreds of feet from a tribal burial ground. Documents also noted the property was “essentially steep ridgetop land,” raising concerns about the dangers of soil erosion, driveway safety and “visual damage.” Homes were never built.

Near the Shore Road site, contractors for PSEG already  are installing a large battery storage facility on a leased parcel. The site is a few hundred feet from the site of an existing substation that juts out into Fort Pond.

PSEG has been working to fortify substations across Long Island after more than a dozen sustained heavy damage from superstorm Sandy. PSEG has $730 million in federal funding for storm hardening but also has budgeted some $513 million to fortify the South Shore grid.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the project would require a zoning change and misspelled the last name of Peter Van Scoyoc, the town supervisor of East Hampton.

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