For decades the Neptune Beach Club and Summers Beach Club on Dune Road in Hampton Bays were connected by sound waves as DJs at the notorious neighboring party spots competed for loudest musical beats.
Now, the two might again be connected, more directly, by a rambling wooden pathway through the dune grass, leading visitors from the Tiana Beach pavilion to the east, past the former Summers, now a town-owned catering site, to the area’s soon-to-be newest historical attraction: a museum honoring African-American Coast Guardsmen stationed decades ago in the building that eventually became the Neptune Beach Club.
On Tuesday night, the Southampton Town Board approved the purchase of the Neptune building, for $3.2 million, and board members discussed plans to erect a wooden boardwalk stretching some 800 feet from the property to the Tiana Beach pavilion.
The plans, board members said, also call for a museum and educational center to be created in the Neptune building, which was originally a Coast Guard station manned by an all-black garrison in the years before World War II when the armed services were still segregated.
“They are not making any more oceanfront property, but what’s really important with regard to this property … is it is one of the earliest known African-American Coast Guard stations in the nation,” Councilman Jim Malone said. The plan is a “pathway that I think is going to offer a sensational cultural benefit to the town on the beaches in Hampton Bays. It’s such an important property and the cultural component goes beyond measure.”
The board agreed on Tuesday night to amend the town’s 2014 capital budget to include as much as $1.2 million in additional Community Preservation Fund money to pay for renovations to the Neptune building, restoring some architectural elements that had been part of the original Coast Guard station, and constructing the boardwalk stretching eastward.
Mr. Malone, who offered the resolution, said that preliminary estimates found the renovations to the building would cost about $500,000 and the construction of the boardwalk would coast about the same. Additionally, water mains to the building would cost an additional $100,000. He suggested allowing another $100,000 for unforeseen “contingencies that always come up.”
The board had apparently discussed the plans for the property in a closed-door executive session following a public meeting last week. Mockups of the plans, showing the boardwalk running through the dunes, were not displayed publicly at Tuesday night’s meeting, which was attended by dozens of Hampton Bays residents who were there to address the proposed Canoe Place Inn Maritime Planned Development District. The proposal to amend the capital budget for the work to the Neptune building and boardwalk was offered as an unannounced walk-on resolution by Mr. Malone and was the last piece of business the board discussed on Tuesday night, after most of the crowd at the meeting earlier had departed.
The plans for the museum and boardwalk came out of discussions between the board, the town’s Parks and Recreation Department and CPF managers.
Parks Commissioner Chris Bean said the boardwalk is something town officials and users of the Tiana Beach area have long wanted.
“We have the bayside facility and the oceanside facility at Tiana and the Tiana Activity Center, which is the old Summers, and with the addition now of Neptune, we wanted to tie it all together,” Mr. Bean said. “Tying the whole facility together and the museum and the center for educational things and a little snack bar on the deck there would add to the ambiance of the whole area.”
The preliminary plans, according to Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, would be vetted further by the board and then put out to bid as soon as possible. She said she did not know if the facilities could be readied in time for the 2014 summer season.
Mr. Bean acknowledged that the town would have to get permits for the boardwalk from the State Department of Environmental Conservation and possibly the Southampton Town Trustees and that such a structure has never been built on the oceanfront of the East End. But, he said, he was hopeful that it would win support from environmental regulators.
“I don’t see why they wouldn’t allow it—they do it from every house on the ocean,” he said. “It would just be on pilings, so above the dunes, not laying on them. But we have to go through the process, so we’ll see what they say.”