The Concerned Citizens of Montauk are celebrating a victory today, after a Tuesday decision by the East Hampton Town Board removed Fort Pond House from the real estate market, reclassifying the 4-acre plot of land as a park.
“I’d argue it’s always been a park,” Jeremy Samuelson, CCOM’s executive director said.
Fort Pond House, purchased by the Town of East Hampton in 2003, served the community as one of two access points to Fort Pond — acting as an education center and gathering point for the Boy Scouts, Montauk Public Schools, the Hamptons Shakespeare Company and Third House Nature Center. In 2010, the town closed the property and listed it for sale.
“We immediately brought suit against the town,” Samuelson said. “It is illegal in New York State for a municipality to sell parkland. Our reading of the law is based in 'applied dedication' — the uses of a property define the property.” It is the CCOM’s position that regardless of the town’s desire to sell Fort Pond House, it is a park due to its use by the community. Three years of litigation later, Samuelson stands firm and vindicated. “Montauk’s parks are not for sale to the highest bidder.”
“Whether or not it was a park before the town’s decision on Tuesday is now a moot point. I have my own opinion, and I have spent $30,000 to prove it,” he said.
The parcel of land, which sits beside Pathfinder Day Camp, will now be named after one of CCOM’s founders, Carol Morrison.
“I’d love to see the park revitalized and returned to its use as a community resource,” Samuelson said. “Now is the time for us to have a community discussion about what we want the space to be.”
On his hopes for the future of the park, Samuelson said, “It is my feeling that having the house cleaned up and refinished will provide Montauk with a much needed facility for educational and arts programming.”