Fashon designer Stella McCartney, daughter of Paul McCartney, has been...

Fashon designer Stella McCartney, daughter of Paul McCartney, has been involved in a dispute over a sand barrier built to protect her Amagansett home from erosion. Credit: Getty Images/Andrew H. Walker

Daily Point

Some say 230-foot barrier erodes rights to beach access

In most places on Long Island, politics is about throwing metaphorical sticks and stones at each other. But in the Hamptons, they toss around sand. And not little amounts of sand.

Out east, residents engage in long-running battles over big, expensive sand-filled devices and expansive erosion-fighting projects that need savvy lawyers and government officials to gain approval.

In East Hampton Town alone, there are a handful of attorneys, like Jonathan G. Tarbet and his law firm partner Brian J. Lester, who handle zoning permits and legal challenges involving clients who are faced with rising sea levels and severe storms that threaten to destroy their pricey beachfront homes.

One of Tarbet’s current cases involves the Amagansett home of Stella McCartney, the well-known fashion designer and daughter of famous Beatles musician Paul McCartney. In 2019, Stella McCartney and an adjacent neighbor erected a long barrier made of sandbags to keep the water along Napeague Bay from swamping them. They did so with a six-month temporary town permit and Tarbet has been in a tug-of-war in the courts and with East Hampton zoning officials ever since about its fate.

An East Hampton spokeswoman said the town declined to comment about pending zoning matters. But Tarbet told The Point that East Hampton officials “should pull their heads out of the sand” and let McCartney and other endangered beachfront owners take necessary action to fight off Mother Nature. He said the sand-filled barrier has been effective in saving the estimated $2.3 million McCartney property from damage and destruction. He said the front of McCartney’s waterfront cottage-like house has suffered about 50 feet of sand loss during the past two decades due to erosion.

“You have to address the problem [of erosion caused by encroaching seawater] and where we are going to be 25 years from now,” said Tarbet, who said his firm has handled about 20 such beachfront disputes in the past few years.

Some neighbors, like Joe Karpinsky, complain that the 230-foot sand-filled barrier has blocked their access to the beach, and he has gone to court to get it torn down. He said the town’s legal efforts to get rid of the barrier have been so far unsuccessful.

“For years, you’d be able to go to the beach and now there’s a wall,” Karpinsky told The Point. “This is an illegal structure.”

As a possible solution, Tarbet said he’s suggested cutting an access space into the sea wall so Karpinsky and other neighbors can get to the beach. But he said town officials don’t want to approve this plan or any structures permanently along the beach. He said efforts to move the McCartney house farther back from the beach have also been mired before town zoning officials.

Up and down Long Island’s embattled shoreline, especially along the Atlantic oceanfront, property owners have been vying for government approval for a variety of solutions to rising tides and disappearing sand. These measures include not only expensive sea walls by private owners and beach-building dredging by the federal government, but also offers by New York State to buy out owners of endangered properties.

Karpinsky, whose family has owned their house up the road from McCartney’s place since the 1960s, says he’s frustrated by this dispute. “This [barrier] was supposed to be a temporary solution for a long-term problem,” he said, “but no one knows where this should go in the long-term.”

— Thomas Maier thomas.maier@newsday.com

Pencil Point

Dismissals up

Credit: The Boston Globe/Christopher Weyant

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

A new downtown grows in Ronkonkoma

Station Yards, seen Wednesday, at the Ronkonkoma Hub eventually could...

Station Yards, seen Wednesday, at the Ronkonkoma Hub eventually could include up to 1,450 housing units, and hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial and retail development. Credit: Newsday/Randi F. Marshall

Could Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to use state land for housing begin in Ronkonkoma?

Brothers Jim and Robert Coughlan, who together head Tritec Real Estate, are certainly thinking about it.

On a recent tour of the $1 billion Ronkonkoma Hub development now known as Station Yards, just to the north of the Long Island Rail Road tracks, the Coughlans pointed to two surface parking lots owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. They would be open, they said, to the idea of building additional housing on the MTA land — if the MTA and the state were willing partners.

That’s a particularly interesting idea in light of the proposal known as Midway Crossing, pitched for the south side of the tracks. That plan — which could include a life sciences complex, a convention center and relocation of the MacArthur Airport terminal — would require public funds.

But Hochul has tied many pots of available money, including the Long Island Investment Fund, a likely source of funds for Midway Crossing, to housing, suggesting that developments that add housing could be prioritized.

Simultaneously, she has emphasized the possibility of using state-owned land for additional housing development.

Put all of that together and it might make sense for the Midway Crossing plan to the south to connect with the idea of building housing on the MTA lots to the north.

“If we could be part of the solution to their challenges, we would entertain it,” Jim Coughlan told The Point.

Adding plausibility to such a scenario, the MTA says it is open to the idea of using its property for housing, too, though a spokesman didn’t specifically address questions about Ronkonkoma.

“New York State is facing a generational housing crisis and the MTA is proud of its work to help address the issue, particularly [to] leverage our robust transit network which helps provide car-free lifestyles in the suburbs around New York City,” spokesman Aaron Donovan said. “We look forward to working with the Governor and her team to secure needed infrastructure funds which can help make some of these locations a reality …”

Even without those MTA lots, however, Tritec is continuing to add hundreds of housing units to Long Island’s stock.

Station Yards’ first completed building, known as the Alston, features 489 units — and is 97% occupied. The next phase is underway and includes hundreds of additional housing units. When fully built out, Station Yards could include up to 1,450 residential units, 360,000 square feet of commercial space, 190,000 square feet of retail, and a hotel.

But it’s more than just those numbers. It is, Bob Coughlan noted, an “authentic downtown” and “an authentic walkable community,” which will include everything from a credit union and an urgent care center to a variety of restaurants and stores and a play area with water features for children. And they’re focusing on local merchants, rather than national chains.

While the affordable component of Station Yards is relatively small, Jim Coughlan said the more Tritec and others can add to the housing supply — whatever the price point — the more it can help Long Island’s housing crisis.

“The affordability issue is definitely solved by a lot more supply,” Jim Coughlan said.

— Randi F. Marshall randi.marshall@newsday.com

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