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PSEG meets with Montaukett chief, residents opposed to substation near sacred ground

The Montaukett Indian Nation and some Montauk residents

The Montaukett Indian Nation and some Montauk residents are at odds with PSEG over the utility company's plan to possibly build a substation on Flamingo Avenue, near the Montauk Manor Hotel. Above is a PSEG substation on Industrial Road. Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

Top officials of PSEG Long Island met privately last week with a small group of Montauk residents and the chief of the Montaukett Indian Nation to discuss alternatives to a site for an electrical facility that neighbors and the tribe say should not be disturbed. 

Shaun de Jesus, who lives near one proposed site on Flamingo Avenue that is near the Montauk Manor Hotel, said after the meeting Friday in Riverhead that company officials, including vice president of transmission and distribution John O'Connell, seemed "genuinely" interested in finding alternative sites to one that more than 2,500 residents have signed a petition opposing. 

"It was a positive meeting," de Jesus said. "They genuinely seemed like they were trying" to find alternatives.

PSEG spokesman David Gaier, stressing the growing electrical demand and aging infrastructure on the South Fork, emphasized the company "has made no firm decision about a location for the substation." The company is examining at least five sites, including the current location on Industrial Road, he said. "We’ll continue to investigate other viable locations that we identify or that are brought to our attention."

He called Friday's meeting "private," but added it was "very positive and demonstrated good faith on both sides." 

PSEG previously has said it had a contingency agreement to buy the 6.7 acre Flamingo Avenue site, which sits on a main roadway between the Montauk business district and Montauk Harbor, but has not purchased the property. 

The Flamingo Avenue site is considered by the Montaukett tribe to be of high archaeological and historical significance. Montaukett chief Robert Pharaoh, who attended the meeting, said he strongly opposed its use for a substation.

Pharoah said PSEG "wants to continue to talk. I think they're going to be considering a way out of this," Pharaoh said of the Flamingo Road site, which is near a sacred Montaukett burial ground and Council Rock, an ancient meeting place for Long Island tribes. 

PSEG had previously identified a site LIPA already owns on Shore Road near Navy beach to build the substation, but said the Town of East Hampton objected because the site is in a flood plain. The town has a policy of keeping critical infrastructure out of the flood plain.

Substations take high-voltage power from transmission lines and step it down to lower voltages for distribution to homes and businesses. 

Joanne Pilgrim, assistant to East Hampton Supervisor Peter Van Scoyac, said Friday that the town has asked PSEG "to look at any possible sites." She restated the town's concern about the Shore Road site's low-lying flood zone impact, "which is what prompted the community to urge that PSEG be asked to find another site, and as far as I know, that concern remains."

PSEG is still considering sites on Suffolk County land north of a Town of East Hampton landfill, as well as land closer to the landfill, de Jesus said. Newsday reported on those sites in early February. The four residents who attended the meeting also suggested a parcel of land on an MTA easement between the village and the Montauk public library, de Jesus said. The company said it would examine the parcel, he said.

PSEG has scheduled an all-day open house meeting for April 2 in Montauk to present sites and "options." It is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Montauk Playhouse. 

Gaier, of PSEG, said he couldn't project a completion date for any project but said, "we do need to move this along because the need is real and significant."


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