Changes To Tiana Life-Saving Station Mulled

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman has requested a rundown of what uses the Community Preservation Fund can be used for before the town board meets again to discuss options to renovate the former Tiana Life-saving Station in East Quogue.

Previous plans for the roughly 100-year-old building have included a walk-in museum, a food concession, and beach access for visitors. However, officials have faced challenges because not all of the work could be paid for under the CPF because regulations prevent the use of the money for non-historic purposes, such as new construction. Certain changes to the bathrooms, the possible creation of a full commercial kitchen and replacement of the dilapidated decking outside the building, would not be covered under the CPF.

At a work session on Thursday, July 19, town board members were presented with three revised options to help them decide how to proceed with the building. The first option is a scaled-down version with a deck but without the existing bar area, which would cost about $370,000. Option two would include the addition of an elevated platform, and bar area, which is already on the property now, and option three, which would include a full replacement of what’s currently on the property.

Schneiderman said he believed the town board needs an additional breakdown of what the CPF will and will not pay for, and to discuss further what its intentions are for the property and how routine maintenance would be paid for going forward.

Community Preservation Manager Mary Wilson is expected to draw up a list to be presented at a future work session.

As for the interior portion of the restoration, Wilson said the town has an opportunity now to “clarify” the final phase of the project and how architects Rogers and Chaleff of Water Mill will proceed with the interior design. Previously envisioned was an open-air self-guided area with displays that would allow visitors to walk up into the tower to view the ocean, she said.

“And, perhaps have some dories out in the [water] so that people could actually see how life-saving actually occurred, and some of the equipment,” she said, adding that the “idea” was to have a small concession in the southeastern part of the building.

During the course of the board’s discussion, a fourth option emerged, which included seeking a restaurant vendor to renovate the inside of the building under the terms of a lease agreement. That option would allow the town to make the changes it wants to the inside of the building without incurring the expenses.

Additional parking would also not be covered under the CPF, a similar situation the town ran into when it was undertaking the restorations of the Prosper King House and Lyzon Hat Shop in Hampton Bays. Schneiderman said that at the very least, the town would have to provide several parking spaces under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the town would have to pay for it to ensure handicapped access.

The historic building, which dates back to 1912, housed the second United States Coast Guard life-saving station operated entirely by African-Americans on the eastern seaboard for a brief period of time. In a later incarnation, the building was operated as Neptune’s, an indoor/outdoor dance club and music venue often featured on MTV and had a following of college kids because it featured up-and-coming deejays.

The venue closed in 2013. One year later, in 2014, the town purchased the building using $3.2 million in CPF funds.

The property has undergone an extensive $963,000 stabilization and exterior restoration, including all of the building’s non-historic rooms, decking, with reproduction windows added by Neptune’s owners razed. Other tweaks include the reframing of the building’s walls, new electric wiring, and the addition of its crowning glory — a reproduction watchtower. Engineers expect to finish the project by the end of summer 2019.

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