Southold nixes plan to purchase Fishers Island Coast Guard station

Southold Town is back to square one in its efforts to get New York State Troopers back on duty patrolling Fishers Island.

In October, State Troopers vacated the barracks they used as a police station for more than a decade. Since their exit, Southold Town Police officers have been tasked with patrolling the island, and town officials have discussed solutions with state police officials to get the troopers to return.

On Jan. 2, the Town Board voted on a bond resolution to spend up to $2.1 million to purchase a shuttered U.S. Coast Guard station on Fishers Island. The board hoped the troopers could use the structure in conjunction with the renovated barracks. During board’s regular meeting last Tuesday evening, members voted to withdraw that resolution. After the meeting, Supervisor Al Krupski confirmed the town is no longer interested in purchasing the Coast Guard property, which consists of a small house and a waterfront ferry dock.

“To invest in that parcel didn’t seem like a prudent idea,” Mr. Krupski said. “We’ve got so many infrastructure needs there now. We’ve got the trooper barracks that we already own. So we’re going to focus on fixing that up.”

The supervisor added that the town is not yet sure how long those renovations will take, how much the project will cost and whether the troopers — assuming an agreement is reached for their return — will use the barracks as living or office space or both.

“It needs quite a bit of work, and the board is committed to doing that work,” Mr. Krupski said. “We’ve allocated money to do the asbestos remediation, and as far as I know, the town engineer is working on a plan for the renovation.”

For more than a year prior to their exit, the troopers said they had raised concerns over worsening conditions at the barracks, which they stopped using as a residence in January 2023, and the need for a secure facility more conducive to police work. Maj. Stephen Udice, a New York State Troop Commander who oversees Troop L, which covers Nassau and Suffolk Counties, previously told The Suffolk Times that in December of 2022, “the furnace went out, and the fix to that was to plug space heaters into an already identified inadequate electrical system.”

The commander added that their former facility lacked spaces typical of a police station, such as interview rooms, a secure space for evidence and a holding cell.

“We have to be prepared and capable of handling a wide array of different situations if we’re going to have [troopers] out there,” Mr. Udice said in a recent telephone interview.

Several years ago, the Coast Guard station was shuttered as part of a consolidation with other small stations across the region. The Coast Guard maintains larger faciklities in New London and Montauk.

State Trooper command official have met with Souhold officials on multiple occasions to find a path forward. The most recent meeting took place March 20 on Fishers Island.

“I’d say it was extremely positive,” Mr. Krupski said the day after that meeting. “[The troopers] expressed that they would like to come back, and the community there supports having them there. So right now we’re working through the logistics of getting them to come back. I think our police department has done a great job providing coverage during the interim since they left in October, but we’re trying to work with them as partners to get them to come back. We didn’t come to any conclusion, but they’re going to get back to us.”

Mr. Udice and the troopers were informed that the town was no longer considering purchasing the Coast Guard facility.

“I think its location is desirable because of its proximity to the ferry,” he said. “But now it was brought to my attention by the town that it falls within a flood zone.

“I think we’re hopeful to find something that works,” he added. “We’re flexible, I think the town is flexible and we’re just hopeful to find something that will meet our needs. I think we’re open to whatever that may be … I think anything is possible.”

Two Southold Town Police officers are assigned to patrol Fishers Island each week from Monday through Friday. They travel to the island, which lies roughly 10 miles northeast of Plum Island, via ferries from Orient Point to New London, and then to Fishers Island. Each one-way trip takes about a half of a day.

“Up to this point, it’s strictly been on a voluntary basis since November,” Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said of the weekly assignments. “The officers that go over there like the detail. We get a lot of positive feedback from the residents over at Fishers Island.”

The chief said he expects officials from Southold Town and the state troopers to meet again before the summer, the busiest time for his department, which he described as already staffed at “the bare minimum.”

“We’re scheduling out at least until the end of May,” the chief said. “Obviously, we’d like to get some assistance in the summer. … The state police have showed willingness to add to patrols during summertime.”

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