An on-going reclamation project is...

Monday, December 18, 2017

An on-going reclamation project is...

...threatened anew, and voices in the wilderness of the Riverhead Plains are still fighting the good fight.

There was a letter in this week's Southampton Press Western Edition by a very familiar name, Forest Markowitz, the de facto ombudsman for Hampton West Estates, née "base housing."

At issue is 48 housing units on the North side of Steward Avenue, ajacent Hampton West Estates and commonly referenced as "Coast Guard Housing," recently demised by the U.S. Government.

Markowitz' letter was putting the Town of Southampton on notice that Hampton West Estates Residents Association...

" opposed to any effort by the town, county, Housing Authority, or any other private or public entity from acquiring these properties for the purpose of leasing them out as rentals, emergency housing, Section 8, or any other rental purpose other than the actual transfer/sale to families who will own and reside at the properties."

Background: Hampton West Estates had been initially built by Goverment contractors during a time when Suffolk County Air Force Base was operational, as housing for USAF personnel, and in the mid-'70s after the base had been demobilized, Georgia-based A.G. Proctor Company purchased the 66 single and two-family units on the South side of Stewart Avenue, did some minor renovations and sold them off individually at attractive prices.

(I purchased a single family home on Cooke Street in late 1977, did some remodeling and moved in there with my two children in March 1978, living there for over six years before moving back to the old family homestead where I've resided ever since.)

There're lots of interesting stories about the area, including how it was rezoned from "Light Industrial" (LI-40) to "Resi­dential" (R-10), but the first and most pressing prob­lem was that of absentee landlords and "dumping."

With the first 16 months of A.G. Proctor's offering the units for sale at attractive terms (5% down, 30 years at 8¾%), they were fully subscribed, thanks in part to three local speculators having snapped up 18-19 of the properties as rental investments.

A number of others were also purchased by non-residents, resulting in a substantial number of the 66 properties be­coming Section 8 housing, occupied by low income fami­lies with no actual investment (pride) in the community.

Vandalism and petty criminality ensued, to the detriment of those owners and renters who were pleased to have an affordable home in which to raise a family.

It took a little while to get one organized, but by 1979 a homeowners' group was up and running resulting in some of the more irksone problems, through "peer pressure" and the progression of time, being addressed.

In Spring 1983 Hampton Chronicle-News reporter Ann Nowak wrote a feature about the positive steps achieved by the community, and even wound up buying an attached home on Arnold Street... and actually living there for a number of years.

It's been a long (almost 40 years!) hard battle with some setbacks along the way, but still the place not only en­dures, but actually appreciates.

The original 66 homes have grown: the land once occupied by a trailer park has enjoyed new construction, and a brief drive-through reveals major improvements and minor ex­pan­sion to those originals.

("Minor" because there's just no room to expands.)

And while I left there over 30 years ago, I still tend to bristle when I hear someone refer to the place as "base housing."

"You mean, I believe, Hampton West Estates," I gently correct. "It hasn't been 'base housing' since 1970."

And Br'er Markowitz is still there, manning the ramparts... the Town, the County, whoever, had better heed his call.


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