A quick reversal of course by Supervisor Gary Gerth and the Town Board has improved the outlook for affordable housing on Shelter Island.
The Reporter published a Page One article (“Town Hall expansion,” July 12) reporting that the town was in contract to purchase the house next to Town Hall at 40 North Ferry Road that has two units, one with two bedrooms and the other with three bedrooms and a total of 3.5 bathrooms. The board had passed a resolution at a July 6 board meeting to make the purchase for about $700,000 because, the town attorney told the Reporter, “We need the space.”
A councilman concurred, noting that town residents “are asking us to control more things. Enforcement is an issue. And if you need more bodies, you have to have a place for them. We’re packed in like sardines now.”
But a week later the purpose of buying the house had changed. It was announced that those renting the units won’t have to move and, in fact, the existing rental units have been brought up to code.
The town, Supervisor Gerth said, just needs parking space, and won’t house employees in the 2,900-square-foot multi-family house that sits on a three quarters of an acre lot.
It makes no difference if elected officials acted to reverse the decision because they began to hear from their constituents, or came to their senses by themselves. The result is what counts and we tip our caps to Mr. Gerth and the board.
Long-term rentals, which are rapidly becoming extinct on Shelter Island, at least are surviving next to Town Hall. We applaud Mr. Gerth and his colleagues for making this effort to allow those who work on Shelter Island to also afford to live here without entering a real estate market with prices ascending to the stratospheric.
Former Councilwoman Chris Lewis, who was a strong, clear and eloquent voice on the most critical issues facing Shelter Island, pushed for a strategy — not just talk — to secure affordable housing here. Ms. Lewis noted many times that the only way to achieve that objective is if the powers-that-be have the political will to do it.
With the town’s Community Housing Board expanded and under the energetic leadership of Chairwoman Mary-Faith Westervelt, let’s hope this is a start toward true progress.