No Cruise Docking, Rep Says

Buying spree had set rumor mill churning

For months now, a persistent rumor has been circulating that giant cruise ships will start docking in Montauk’s Fort Pond Bay, with thousands of disembarking passengers flooding an already-crowded summertime hot spot.

Such talk gained momentum after Marc Rowan, the billionaire co-founder of Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm, bought Duryea’s Lobster Deck in 2014 and opened a restaurant called Arbor in the hamlet this spring. He paid $6.3 million for Duryea’s, which overlooks Fort Pond Bay at 65 and 66 Tuthill Road.

Steven Jauffrineau, who works as the managing director of food and beverage for Montauk Asset Holdings, which runs Duryea’s, returned a phone call for Mr. Rowan. “It’s 100 percent false,” Mr. Jauffrineau said, of the possibility that cruise ships would soon come into view. “I don’t even know that Fort Pond is big enough.” Mr. Rowan is on several corporate boards and previously served on the board of Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Formed in November of 2015, Montauk Asset Holdings is a corporation registered in Delaware. According to East Hampton Town deeds, Duryea’s and several neighboring Fort Pond properties have all been purchased by Delaware-registered limited liability corporations. Their owners are all but impossible to trace. These include Sunrise Tuthill I and II, which owns the Duryea’s lots and almost five acres of associated underwater land.

Other Delaware corporate entities that have bought property in the nearby area are 75 Fleming L.L.C., 75 Firestone L.L.C., 80 Firestone L.L.C. Fleming Court L.L.C., and 240 Fort Pond L.L.C., now Arbor restaurant. All of the L.L.C.s use the same Albany process server, according to state records.

Marguerite Wolffsohn, the town planning director, said there had been an application submitted to redo Duryea’s as “a big fancy restaurant that’s still hanging out there.” Under Mr. Rowan’s ownership, lobster rolls and crudité platters now cost $28, with $18 French fries and $95 champagne on the menu.

“There’s a dock there, so boats can dock there, but cruise ships aren’t your ordinary boat,” Ms. Wolffsohn said, noting that cruise ships occupy a legal gray area when it comes to the town code, since they’re neither ferries nor excursion boats. “We would have to figure this out and look at the town code to see where such a boat would fit in and whether it’s allowed or not,” Ms. Wolffsohn said. “Nobody has ever asked that question.”

Michael Sendlenski, who heads the town attorney’s office, refused to comment, saying that the legality of cruise ships docking in Fort Pond Bay was “not a simple answer.”

Jeremy Samuelson, president of Concerned Citizens of Montauk, an environmental group, said talk of cruise ships coming to Montauk was but one of “thousands of rumors.” Still, he said it underscored the need for the town’s site-plan review process, “so that reviewing agencies can get a comprehensive look at what a vision for a property is and make decisions about what scale is acceptable.” For Mr. Samuelson, the issue comes down to process, and advocating for a comprehensive appraisal long before proposals are approved.

 “The law is very clear,” Mr. Samuelson said. “If someone comes in and proposes changes or upgrades, we have a well-worn path for how we identify proposals and mitigating factors that need to be taken into consideration.”

The notion of cruise ships coming to Montauk long predates Mr. Rowan’s purchase of Duryea’s, going all the way back to the 19th century, when Austin Corbin, a railroad executive who was president of the Long Island Rail Road, first dreamed of making Montauk a transatlantic “Port of Entry.”

According to Jeannette Rattray’s “Montauk: Three Centuries of Romance, Sport, and Adventure,” among Mr. Corbin’s more ambitious plans was a 20-mile railroad extension, which connected Bridgehampton to Montauk, where he envisioned a deep-water, international steamship port at Fort Pond Bay. The idea was that travelers could avoid New York Harbor altogether, resulting in a shorter trip, with passengers traveling by high-speed train from New York City to Montauk and back.

With a combined railroad and international port, Mr. Corbin hoped to develop Montauk into a more easily accessible vacation destination. But following an untimely carriage accident in 1896, his dreams died with him — though it remains to be seen whether a deep-pocketed entrepreneur, more than 100 years later, will give it new life.