FIRE ISLAND, N.Y. (CBS 2) — While New York struggles with crushing deficits, layoffs, cutbacks, tax increases and transit hikes, an exclusive Fire Island seasonal village is hoping to qualify as a “distressed community” for your taxpayer dollars, CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reports.
It’s one of Fire Island’s wealthiest enclaves – the tiny, bucolic seaside community of Saltaire. It’s accessibly by foot or by ferry from the mainland, and has a yacht club, church, general store, village hall, and 400 homes – mostly summer or weekend residences.
In fact, just ten families live in Saltaire year-round. Their children have spectacular ocean views on the way to school.
But is there trouble in paradise?
“It’s a community that has lost its moral compass,” Saltaire homeowner Noel Feustel says.
Feustel, a lifelong Saltaire homeowner, and wife Victoria Petersen say they’re unnerved.
“The state of New York is being hijacked with a pen, not a gun,” Petersen says.
The couple recently videotaped their local village board’s public hearing, recording a unanimous “yes” vote to apply for Restore New York grant funds.
The Saltaire mayor wants $2.5 million from NY State coffers to buy and renovate their local grocery store. The village itself would kick in $300 thousand.
“It’s such waste, graft, and abuse of that stimulus package,” Feustel says.
According to the application, the grant money Saltaire wants is supposed to go to distressed communities. Village trustees were apparently well aware.
“It allows municipalities to acquire and renovate a ‘downtown slum,'” said then-Mayor Scott Rosenblum. “We could sort of shoehorn a potential grant application.”
“I think if you’re trying to shoehorn something in, it doesn’t belong,” Feustel said.
“Use it somewhere else – give it to Bay Shore, North Bellport, give it to people who need it,” Petersen said. “Don’t throw it at people who have everything.”
Did the village have qualms applying for a distress grant?
“If it’s not a perfect match because of our demographics or income level – that is something they’ll decide, but we just hope they weigh the application on its entirety,” Village Administrator Mario Posillico says. “Weigh the merits. We hope we may be a candidate for this funding.”
It’s not the first time taxpayers would foot the bill for a Saltaire project, following a federally funded multimillion dollar sand and beach replenishment project, as well as a dock.
The village passed a navigation law barring boaters from dropping anchor within 1,500 feet of Saltaire’s publicly funded, newly restored beaches.
The Governor’s office has not returned CBS 2’s calls for comment.
The Restore New York applications are now finalized, and the state’s selection process will soon get underway.