Pitch for Low-Income Apartments Meets Resistance

School board asks town to consider how influx of students would affect district

Construction of 48 new rental apartments in Wainscott to provide affordable housing would have a “profound impact” on the tiny Wainscott School, according to David Eagan, president of the hamlet’s school board. The proposal was outlined at an East Hampton Town Board meeting on Tuesday.

The Wainscott School Board is commissioning a professional analysis of the effect of an influx of new students that could double or more the district’s population of about 20 students, just a few less than the school’s capacity of two dozen, and Mr. Eagan asked that the resulting report be considered by town officials before decisions are made.

The time is right and state, federal, and county funding is virtually assured for the project, Michael DeSario, who helped get the Windmill Village and St. Michael’s affordable apartment projects in East Hampton and Amagansett off the ground, told the town board.

He proposed using 31 acres of town-owned land between Stephen Hand’s Path and Daniel’s Hole Road, adjacent to town recreation fields and the Child Development Center of the Hamptons charter school, to construct eight two-story buildings. Each would contain six apartments — 20 one-bedrooms, 20 with two bedrooms, and 8 with three bedrooms. A superintendent’s unit would be created as well.

The units would provide housing for “low and very low-income” residents, who would be required to pay no more than 30 percent of their income in rent, Mr. DeSario said. Guaranteed subsidies would be obtained up front to offset actual rent costs and ensure that the apartments remain affordable, he said.

Mr. DeSario, the chairman of Windmill Village I and II and the St. Michael’s Housing Association, said that “the people who hold the purse strings are all for it,” creating an “opportune moment” that “could change in an election.”

The estimated $15 million construction cost would be fully funded through grants and tax credits, Mr. DeSario said. Federal, state, and county officials have indicated that they have been looking to fund an affordable housing project in Suffolk County, he said. His group’s previous accomplishments, he said, provide a positive track record that paves the way for securing the funding.

Potential tenants from East Hampton could be given preference in renting the apartments, said Mr. DeSario. He said he expects most of those residing at the complex to be people who are already living here, but in overcrowded or illegal housing.

Based on the numbers of children in families living at two similar affordable housing projects in East Hampton, the Whalebone and Accabonac Apartments, Mr. DeSario said he had estimated that the new site could include 20 children ages 4 to 10, and 20 ages 11 to 18.

As many of those children may already be in the local school system, he said, should the Wainscott School not be able to accommodate them, it is anticipated that the East Hampton district could.

Although he said his comments were “very preliminary,” Mr. Eagan expressed concern about the impact that increasing the Wainscott School population would have on the school’s “very, very unique, individualized programming” and on school taxes should the staffing need to be increased. The affordable housing project could result in a percentage increase “that’s never before been seen on Long Island,” he said. The tax rate in Wainscott, where the total school budget is a fraction of that in larger districts, is among the lowest on the South Fork. This year, it decreased 11 percent.

“It’s a magical place, it reflects our small community, and I ask you to keep that in mind,” said Mr. Eagan of the school. He said that a consultant’s analysis of how the new apartments could affect the district would be ready in about a month, and that specific data is key as discussion of the project continues. “This is an important debate that’s going to have to be had,” Mr. Eagan told the town board.