New rules help fill empty slips at dock


The new laws for the town-owned dock at Congdon Creek that took effect on July 1 have already had a small but discernible impact on the availability of slips this year, with seven berths — or 18 percent of the dock’s capacity — already put into play, either through attrition or summer sublet.

The town enacted the laws in part to encourage turnover of slips that weren’t being put to use.

“Two people have given up their berths. Two more became vacant due to death and three are being sublet for the summer,” according to Deputy Town Clerk Sharon Jacobs. “We’re currently working on getting all the berths reassigned.”

“Things are moving along down there with the change of code, though not as quickly as some people would like to see,” said Councilman Peter Reich, the Town Board’s liaison to the Waterways Management Advisory Council. “The situation wasn’t going to change instantly on July 1 but it’s happening. There’s been more movement on the [waiting] list in the past two weeks than in the past six years so people should be happy.”

The amendment to Chapter 53 of the Town Code came about after years of discussion and public outcry about the occupancy of the dock’s 38 slips. Some berths were renewed every year but never occupied, while others were sublet privately for rates far in excess of what the town has charged for the annual permit. At town meetings and in letters to the Reporter, residents told of waiting 20 years or more for a space at the dock.

The annual fee to keep a boat at the Congdon Dock slip was raised recently from $150 to $250, far below the cost to berth a boat in any of the Island’s private marinas. Councilman Reich said that these slips can run as high as $2,500 for a season, although the private marinas provide many more amenities than Congdon Creek offers.

“The intent of the change was to get people to get their boats into these moorings and use them or let someone else enjoy the privilege; really, to fish or cut bait, you might say,” observed Bay Constable Peter Vielbig. “The intention was also to crack down on private sublets and get rid of ‘renegades,’ people who have no right to moor here but would see a vacant slip and berth their boat in it. I’d have to say that it’s had an impact already.”

The dock’s waiting list, a subject of public rancor over the years, currently stands at about 150 names, according to Ms. Jacobs. The Town Board voted in April to adopt the new rules, which require slip tenants to re-register every year. Under the provisions of the new law, any slip not renewed by April 1, 2012 and every year thereafter, including mail renewals postmarked after April 1, will be assigned by the town clerk to the next applicant on the list.

A permittee who is unable to have his or her boat in a slip from July 1 to September 30, which the town defines as “high season,” must notify the clerk by June 1, at which time a high season sublet will take effect.

The original permit holder may only do a summer sublet twice during their tenancy before they lose the slip. Off-season sublets will also be available. The fees are $150 and $100 for high and low season sublets, respectively, and in both cases, the town collects the sublet fees.

“I’d still like to see a nominal charge — say $10 — to keep a name on the waiting list,” said Councilman Reich. “It keeps the list alive and we get current contact information every year. Some of those names probably haven’t been contacted in 25 years.”
All slip holders were mailed a copy of the amendment this spring. Two violations of the law result in permit revocation.

According to the bay constable, one of the reasons the dock was built was to provide space for baymen and scallopers during the fall scalloping season. Now, he says, only one full-time bayman occupies a berth at the dock.

It was apparent as the constable made his rounds Tuesday morning that the new code as well as stepped-up enforcement are having an impact. The dock is now rigorously inspected every week. During the inspection, the bay constable checks that the registration number of the boat in the slip matches the town records, ensures that the New York State registration sticker is up to date and the town permit is on display.

Any missing piece of documentation triggers a call to the permittee. An empty slip also warrants attention. On Tuesday morning, Constable Vielbig made several notes on the empty berths: he knew that seven of the slips were in the process of being re-assigned or sublet; in other cases, he was aware of owners who were in the process of making repairs on their boats or purchasing new ones. If a boat does not fill the slip and the holder does not have a valid excuse for keeping it empty, the clerk’s office will make arrangements for a summer sublet.

“The town gets the money from the sublet but the permit holder doesn’t lose his berth,” the constable commented.