County Exec Heads East

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, right, with East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Legislator Jay Schneiderman, met with business owners at Gurney’s Inn in Montauk on April 30 to discuss issues such as erosion control, affordable housing, and transportation. Janis Hewitt

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Jay Schneiderman took to the road in heavy wind and rain to meet with their East End constituents, coming all the way to Montauk, Mr. Schneiderman’s home town, where they sat down with some 30 people at Gurney’s Inn and talked with a group of commercial fishermen at the docks.

 Mr. Bellone told the Gurney’s Inn group that the county intends to be a full partner with the East End and to focus on regional issues. He praised Mr. Schneiderman, saying with a laugh, “He’s your personal advocate for the East End. He’s not shy.” The men agreed that a good partnership makes for significant progress.

Topics ranged from erosion, to the need for  affordable housing, and the county’s 3-percent hotel-motel tax, which is set to expire at the end of 2015 but is expected to be reinstated. Also discussed were ways to keep young adults from leaving the county, which Mr. Bellone said occurred in a higher number than in any other region of the state. To counteract that he said public transportation needed to be improved and areas established where young people would not only be able to find work but places to socialize. The county, he said, should also find ways to provide 20-somethings with affordable housing and a lower cost of living.

The 3-percent hotel-motel tax has long been a thorn in Mr. Schneiderman’s and Montauk business owners’ sides. They argue that although Montauk pays more than many other places because of its motels and hotels, it doesn’t get its fair share of attention from the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, which receives the tax money to promote tourism and maintain parks and landmarks.

Mr. Bellone said the bureau needed to do “better marketing on regional issues. It needs a real examination.”

“I’d like to see a bit more of that money head back this way,” Paul Monte, the general manager of Gurney’s who is president of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, said.

Mr. Bellone called public transportation a real problem  and said he intends to work on it immediately. “The county, I know, is over-processed and obsessed with studies. I’m not a study guy. They do a study and then it’s put on a shelf and forgotten. The way I work is to identify the problem, come up with a solution, build a consensus, and then move forward. Let’s go,” he said.

On erosion, Mr. Bellone said the county would pick up maintenance and inspection costs of the project outlined recently by the Army Corps of Engineers. “The county will be a full partner to the East End for things you want to see get done,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Schneiderman looked out Gurney’s wide windows toward the rough sea and said, “One good storm and we’re all in trouble.”