Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said she has recently held “productive meetings” with members of the Great Neck Historical Society to talk about ways to better preserve the Stepping Stones Light House.
The town acquired ownership of the lighthouse, which sits about 1,600 yards off the shore of Kings Point, from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2008 as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, agreeing to submit yearly reports to the National Park Service on “any capital improvements to preserve and restore the structure within its historical accuracy.”
DeSena said that prior administrationsd did not take the necessary steps to preserve the structure, which was built in 1877 and updated in 1944.
She said it was important for the town, the historical society and the Great Neck Park District to find a way to enhance the longstanding lighthouse so that the National Park Service does not take ownership of the structure back.
“After a decade of inaction by previous administrations, now is the time to sit down with all interested parties and make the tough choices that the situation necessitates as we look for the best way to move forward that would not result in the town expending millions of dollars of taxpayer resources for a project that was always supposed to be privately funded,” she said.
The town, according to DeSena, has already spent more than $450,000 of taxpayer money on the project, which includes more than $218,000 for various professional services such as consulting and engineering and $284,000 paid to Atlantic Coast Dock Construction before that contract was ultimately terminated.
Before the contract was dissolved, officials said, the work on the lighthouse dock was not finished.
DeSena described the lighthouse as being in a state of “decrepit, dilapidated deisrepair” and said the lighthouse beacon is “physically inaccessible.” There is no estimate as to the necessary costs to repair the structure, she said.
“At this point, it is simply impossible to accurately estimate exactly how much this restoration process would cost and authorizing future spending would be a reckless and irresponsible use of taxpayer money, akin to writing a blank check for a project with no end in sight,” DeSena said.
Former state Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso helped secure $200,000 from state funding for the town, which also received $165,000 from the National Maritime Heritage Grant, according to officials.
Former state Sen. Jack Matins aided in securing $100,000 for the Great Neck Park District and the Great Neck Historical Society has raised more than $120,000 for restorations.
“Forces of nature could care less about finances, politics and everything else,” Great Neck Historical Society Committee Chairman Robert Lincoln told Newsday. “Every storm that comes through eats away at the lighthouse.”
Blank Slate Media columnist Karen Rubin spoke on the benefits of preserving the lighthouse, which would extend beyond saving the physical landmark itself.
“Historic preservation brings enormous benefits to a community – especially one as fractured as the Great Neck Peninsula and the Town of North Hempstead,” Rubin wrote in an August column. “Such iconic landmarks are unifying, remind people of a common heritage, are a source of pride, and yes, have economic benefits, as well.”