Members of the Atlantique Boat Owners Association have organized another protest at Islip Town Hall as frustrations with the management of Atlantique Marina grow.
Following a March 9 resolution by the Islip Town Board, the small, roughly 150-slip Atlantique Marina in Fire Island will be operated and maintained by Strong’s Marine and Al Grovers High and Dry Marina of Freeport for 10 years.
The two companies announced last month that boat rental slips at Atlantique will increase $2 per foot for Islip residents and $4 per foot for nonresidents.
For the roughly 60 years that Islip Town owned the site, residents did not pay for electricity. Electricity costs are now expected to range from $7 to $15.
Jeff Strong, president of Strong’s Marine, said his organization has outlined a long-term plan to complete significant repairs at Atlantique during the town’s bidding process.
“We work really hard to have clean, tightly run, enjoyable facilities, but it does take money to be able to reinvest in those facilities to get them to where everyone wants them to be,” Strong said.
Some planned improvements include: bulkhead replacement, dock, piling and electrical upgrades, upgraded bathrooms, secured trash facilities and enhanced wi-fi service.
Following constructive feedback from community members, Strong said the marina will offer a reduced midweek boating rate. For Islip seniors and boaters with disabilities and veterans, docking will cost $1.50 per foot. The rate is valid Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
But Diane Setter of West Sayville, president of the 1,300-member Atlantique Boat Owners Association, said she finds no fault with the fee hike. Her concern is that Islip Town officials have failed to maintain Atlantique and other marinas on the South Shore.
“It’s just not been maintained the way that it should be,” Setter said. “We’ve been asking them to pay attention since 2014, and it wasn’t until this administration that we haven’t seen any maintenance there whatsoever.”
Last week, a Town spokesperson said Islip Town officials hired an outside consultant to conduct a professional assessment of the marina.
"The estimated cost to perform the repairs was over $10 million. The Town has continued to maintain the marina on a regular basis with a narrow surplus. Electricity costs along are upward of $68,000."
The Town has yet to recieve reimbursement from FEMA for the $2 million for repairs that have been performed at the site, the spokesperson said.
Setter said the town could easily use the profit from this marina and put it back into the site.
“I’m not even against privatization in and of itself,” she said. “However, by privatizing the marina, these people are businesspeople, so they’re making a profit on this place when that’s absolutely not necessary.”
The neglect is not exclusive to Atlantique, Setter said: “Go to East Islip Marina [Park], and you can see the dilapidation of the dock. Go to West Islip Marina and you can see the same thing, same with Browns River [in Sayville], which cannot even be used because the area has been neglected. It’s sinful, it’s such a shame.”
Boatmen in the area claim that Browns River Marinas West and East have not been dredged in 12 years. In February, The Islip Bulletin/The Suffolk County News asked Islip Town officials when the estuary opening to the Great South Bay would be dredged. Officials said the work is moving forward, but did not offer a timeline for the work’s completion.
At the March 9 town board meeting, town supervisor Angie Carpenter said the bidding process for Atlantique was “robust,” and said, “there were many bids received, and a very thorough vetting of everything” took place.
But according to the resolution, only three companies submitted a response to the Request for Proposals for the operation of the marina: Strong’s Marine, Atlantique Marina LLC, and Love Watch Hill & Sailor’s Haven Inc. Strong's obtained the highest score based on the rating system outlined in the town’s RFP.
A statement from the Town the evaluation committee which was formed to review the proposals was represented by senior staff from several Town departments, including Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs; the Department of Public Works, and the Comptroller’s Office.
“The committee conducted a thorough review of the proposals received, which included several interviews with the most qualified respondents,” the statement read. “Upon completing its review, the committee scored the proposals in accordance with the criteria set forth in the RFP, and unanimously recommended that the Town enter into an agreement with Strong’s Marine, the respondent receiving the highest overall score.”
Setter said the association withdrew its RFP once it saw the requirements in the rating system because they didn’t feel they could adequately achieve the amount of necessary points to win the bid.
The Town said the association “did inquire about submitting a proposal” but one was never submitted.
The group hosted a protest at Islip Town hall on Saturday, March 27. The group is expected to reconvene on Tuesday, April 6 at 4:30 p.m. at the same location.
Strong, who said he’s been in contact with the association since the bidding process ended, said his team knew Atlantique needed improvements. A clear plan was outlined to the town in part of the bid.
“When you have a marina in a saltwater environment, it requires constant reinvestment and maintenance,” he said. “That facility just hasn’t had the kind of consistent investment that we will be putting into it.”