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State rejects public access plan to Asharoken private beaches

A view of the shore at Asharoken Beach.

A view of the shore at Asharoken Beach. Credit: Steve Pfost

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has rejected Asharoken Village's proposal for three public access points to its beaches in exchange for financial assistance to restore dunes destroyed by superstorm Sandy.

In a Monday email, DEC environmental engineer Matthew Chlebus wrote Mayor Greg Letica that the village draft plan identifying two areas at the west end of the beach and a third at the far east end was "unacceptable."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said it wants access every half-mile, including at the center of the 2.5-mile beach.

Letica, who shared the DEC email with Newsday, declined to say whether the village would come back with a plan closer to what the agencies desire.

Chris Holmes, chief of public assistance for the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said if other projects move quickly, Asharoken could miss out on the full $25 million to $30 million needed to repair the dunes.

Village officials, residents and beachfront property owners have resisted public access.

"I scraped and saved with my husband, and we ended up buying one (a beach lot) in 2008," said Jane Snyder Perlee of Northport. "I'm not a rich person. I don't go on vacation; this is where I go."

Snyder Perlee is one of a handful of people who own beach lots without houses; and she sides with residents who oppose public access. She said she fears losing the value of her $35,000 investment in a 26-foot-wide beach lot on the northwestern end of the beach.

Asharoken's latest proposal offered more access than village officials said they would propose at a community meeting in October.

But village resident Philip Quarles said some people are mistakenly focusing on the access issue instead of the repairs.

"The focus by some of the village residents is on the wrong thing," he said at a village meeting Monday night in Northport. "It should be on: 'I need to come home to my house, and it needs to be there.' If they understood that, their position on public access would probably change."

The easternmost access would have been via a path through Town of Huntington property from the Soundview Boat ramp. Village officials said it would offer parking, access for the disabled and direct entry to a 1,000-foot stretch of beach owned by Asharoken and the Town of Huntington.

On the west end, Asharoken proposed public access through a village-owned beach lot that would have parking. Just east of that access point, another entry to the beach would be available, without parking.

Village officials have said public access in the center of the beach was not feasible because it lacks parking and drop-off areas.

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