Press Releases

Feb 27,2023

Montauk, New York

January 9, 2023 - Montauk, New York

The Coalition for Hither Woods, a not-for-profit Montauk-based environmental organization dedicated to preserving the existing public parkland at Hither Woods, today called on the Town of East Hampton to abandon its proposal to build a sewage treatment plant on 14 acres of Suffolk County parkland in Hither Woods.  In the alternative, the Coalition demanded that the Town immediately issue a positive declaration on the project under SEQRA, and begin the preparation of a comprehensive and impartial Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed sewage plant and its associated sewer district.

The Town wants to build a sewage treatment plant in Hither Woods to treat and discharge wastewater from the Downtown Montauk commercial district, and later from widely dispersed sections of Montauk ranging from the former Duryea property to the Montauk Docks and the Star Island resort area, as well as other places.  The initial development of the sewer district and treatment plant, only for Downtown Montauk, will cost an estimated $75 million and take as many as 8 years to complete.  It would place critical infrastructure, such as the sewer system’s main pumping station and emergency generator, in a flood plain.

In order to move forward, East Hampton’s Montauk sewer plan requires the Town to swap land with Suffolk County in order to acquire 14 acres of County parkland on high, scenic ground next to Laurel Canyon, in Hither Woods.  This forested land would be bulldozed to accommodate a 22,500 square foot sewage treatment building, a parking lot and additional building, and 146 leaching pools (concrete structures for recharging wastewater into the ground).

“East Hampton Town has stated that one of the requirements for the land swap is, quote-unquote, broad public support,” said Coalition for Hither Woods President Richard Whalen.  “What has materialized instead is broad public opposition to the destruction of irreplaceable parkland, bought and paid for by all of the taxpayers of Suffolk County.  Given this fact, the Town Board should formally and unequivocally renounce its intention to use any parkland whatsoever for this project.”

If the Town Board refuses to renounce its support for a parkland swap at this time, Mr. Whalen said, it must initiate the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, as required by State law.  The Coalition for Hither Woods believes the EIS must “fully and forthrightly” examine alternatives to treating groundwater on Montauk that has been contaminated by overdevelopment, and must identify alternatives that will not involve the despoliation of any public parkland.

The Coalition for Hither Woods also announced today a list of groups and organizations which have formally agreed to join the Coalition in support of its objectives and in opposition to East Hampton Town’s proposed destruction of Hither Woods parkland.  These groups represent a broad swath of Suffolk County residents who are concerned about the potential misuse of public parks.  They will press the County and State Legislatures to reject East Hampton’s proposed acquisition of County parkland in Hither Woods.

The following not-for-profit environmental or outdoors organizations, in alphabetical order, are part of The Coalition for Hither Woods:

Letter to East Hampton Town Board

January 9, 2023 - Montauk, New York

Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc & Members of the East Hampton Town Board

159 Pantigo Road

East Hampton, New York 11937

Re: Proposed Sewa&eTreatment Plant in Hither Woods

Dear Supervisor Van Scoyoc & Members of the Town Board:

At your December 13, 2022, public meeting, the Department of Natural Resources made a Power Point presentation concerning the Town's proposed wastewater treatment plan for Montauk. As you know, a crucial element in this plan is the construction of a sewage treatment plant on County parkland in Hither Woods, which you plan to acquire via a land swap. In the Natural Resources Department's presentation, Slide 16 listed the Town's "Requirements for Land Swap," with the first stated requirement being: "Broad Public Support."

It should be apparent to you all by now that there will never be broad public support for putting a sewage treatment plant on parkland in Hither Woods. In fact, just the opposite has happened. A tremendous groundswell of opposition has built, and is still building, to the very idea of clearing 14 acres of parkland and building a sewage treatment plant ("STP")in Hither Woods. Among the groups that have joined The Coalition for Hither Woods in opposition to a Hither Woods STP are the Group for the East End, the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, the Long Island Botanical Society, the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society, the Southampton Trails Preservation Society, the East Hampton Sportsmen's Alliance, Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists (CLIMB), Third House Nature Center, Seatuck Environmental Association, and the Open Space Council.

The handwriting is on the wall. The Town Board could hardly have proposed anything less popular than to put a sewer plant in Hither Woods. Thus, the time has arrived for you to publicly renounce this aspect of the Montauk wastewater treatment plan. Ifyou do not, rest assured that The Coalition for Hither Woods and its allies will fight such a proposal, at all levels of government and with all our strength. There are other methods available to the Town for treating wastewater in Montauk that do not involve a centralized sewage treatment plant on Hither Woods parkland. You should direct your energies to exploring and implementing those alternatives.

At the very least, if the Town Board does not abandon the proposed Hither Woods STP,you must declare yourselves lead agency for the sewer district proposal and issue a Positive Declaration under SEQRA. In the Power Point presentation to which I referred above, the Town listed its expected "Phases" for implementing the wastewater treatment program, including the sewer plant. The "Land Swap with Suffolk County" is forecast to occur in 2022-2023 and the "Map & Plan Report" is projected to be finished in "2021-2023." Yet completion of the SEQRAprocess is anticipated in "Late 2023."

This is unacceptable. No aspect of the sewer district project, least of all a land exchange with Suffolk County, should take place before completion of the SEQRA process. Furthermore, given the proposed bulldozing of 14 acres of forest in the midst of the largest block of preserved open space on the South Fork, and the many other potential adverse environmental impacts associated with this project, it is unthinkable that the Town Board would do anything less than prepare a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS").

To date, the Town has not, to our knowledge, even begun the SEQRAprocess. It is totally unrealistic for you to project that an EIS on a project of this magnitude will be scoped, prepared, heard, and adopted before the end of 2023.

We believe you have clear choices to make. First, follow your own precept in regard to the proposed Hither Woods STP. The idea of developing a sewage treatment plan in Hither Woods is highly unpopular on Montauk and in Suffolk County generally. Youshould abandon this proposal without further delay. Second, ifyou choose to press forward with your ill-conceived idea of building an STP in Hither Woods, the entire Montauk Sewer District proposal must be the subject of a robust and fully transparent Environmental Impact Statement.


Richard E. Whalen


Town Board


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