New supervisor seeks open access to Ho-Hum Beach

North Bellport coalition for it; village residents claim taxpaying amenity

Nicole Fuentes
Posted 1/25/24

During his early January swearing in as Brookhaven Town supervisor, Daniel J. Panico announced plans to improve North Bellport residents’ access to the ferry and Ho-Hum Beach on Fire Island, a …

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New supervisor seeks open access to Ho-Hum Beach

North Bellport coalition for it; village residents claim taxpaying amenity


During his early January swearing in as Brookhaven Town supervisor, Daniel J. Panico announced plans to improve North Bellport residents’ access to the ferry and Ho-Hum Beach on Fire Island, a current Bellport Village-owned amenity with exclusive access.

“As a supervisor for all people, I am going into communities that really need help. North Bellport—we are seeing a great success with redevelopment. We are on the precipice of even bigger redevelopment,” he said, referencing developments and plans for a sewer.

Growing up in Mastic Beach, he said, his family didn’t have much money, but they did have access to the nearby Smith Point Beach—which is now an “absurd” $18 a day to get in.

“What I also find absurd is that the children of the North Bellport do not have an easy means to which they can get to the barrier island,” he said, referencing Ho-Hum Beach. “I can’t imagine being a child […] walking down to the Village of Bellport and not being able to get on the ferry.”

“They are one of the most segregated communities on Long Island,” he added, also noting that he hopes to work with the village in partnership to find a way for North Bellport residents to obtain access to the beach. “By no means will I allow this to go on.”

He suggested the possibility of the town contracting their own ferry service to the beach.

“This is important to me. [North Bellport] might not look like me or some of you in regards to skin tone—but we must be better as a community,” he added.

According to recent census data, residents are 23.2 percent Black and 39.8 percent Hispanic, with a median household income of just over $89,000 and a 16.1 percent poverty rate. Bellport is 95.13 percent white with a 1.65 percent Black population and a medium household income of $126,250.

“It is also significant that the village’s policy in this regard is having the effect of denying access in most instances to minorities and lower income families,” he said. “As a nation that must work to fight injustice, we must ensure that our beaches and natural spaces are truly inclusive, public and open to all. This denial of access is simply unacceptable and must be remedied by the village board.”

In September of 2018, at the request of the village, the Brookhaven Town board authorized an annexation to the Village of Bellport. 

“The approval of the annexation was made subject to one specific condition: the continued use and benefit of the property known as Ho Hum Beach for the residents of the Town of Brookhaven,” Panico said noting there is only one direct method of those who do not own private boats to obtain access to the beach and that is the ferry owned and operated by the village.  “Yet, the Village of Bellport has denied access to the ferry to any person who is not a resident or invitee of a resident of the Village. This has the clear effect of denying all other Town residents’ reasonable access to the Beach in direct contravention of the Town’s 2018 resolution.”

Additionally, he said, the town and the village have always maintained a good relationship and the town will work with the village to try and overcome any budgetary issues associated with transportation over to Ho Hum Beach.  

“We are ready and willing to have these productive discussions because the situation that exists right now is untenable from a legal and moral standpoint,” he added also noting he has spoken with the mayor. “It’s my sincere hope that we can come to a solution, because in the brief conversations that I have had with the mayor it’s clear to me that she is interested in the issue and I trust that a solution can be found.”

“The last thing I want to see is Village ferry with predominately white people aboard and a Town ferry with predominantly minority people aboard leaving from the same dock,” he added. “Such would be unnecessary and obscene, but I’m confident that we can work together toward a reasonable and positive solution.”

The Village of Bellport mayor Maureen Veitch declined to comment. Several village residents also declined to comment on the record.

Ho-Hum Beach, located on Fire Island, is a village-owned beach with access by both private boat and village ferry. The beach is solely open to village residents and their guests, as well as summer home renters with a village-issued pass at a cost of about over $500 per year. The pass allows access to several village amenities, including the tennis courts and golf course.

Ferry rates are $11 for weekdays, $14 for weekends for residents; $5 on weekdays and $6 on weekends for youth residents; and $17 on weekdays and $20 for guests, or $13 on weekdays; and $17 on weekends for youth guests. There are also special prices for seniors. Guests must be accompanied by their host resident to the ferry.

According to former mayor Ray Fell, who served the village for 10 years before retiring in 2023, this is not the first time the idea to open up Ho-Hum Beach to more than just residents has come up.

“I think that village residents pay the taxes for the beach,” he said. “It’s a village-owned beach and we take care of it.”
The beach, he said, was purchased by Bellport Village in 1963 for $25,000. At that time, the village assumed responsibility for the maintenance and created it as a village amenity paid by tax dollars.

“Every time it has come up, the community always says they don’t want it, during our public meetings. Unless Bellport residents have changed their minds,” he said. He doesn’t think it’s something the village will consider.

Bellport resident Thomas V. Schultz said he agrees with supervisor Panico in that all citizens should have the opportunity to experience and enjoy all the natural resources including visiting Ho-Hum Beach.

“It warms my heart when I see children and their families from the Bellport Boys and Girls Club located in North Bellport take the village ferry as part of their field trips to Ho-Hum beach,” he said, also noting it is equally gratifying to see hundreds of community members from Bellport Village, East Patchogue, Brookhaven Hamlet and beyond come together to donate and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to support the club. “Bellport Village and its people always have an eye on doing all we can to help improve the quality of life for all our neighbors, including sharing our taxpayer-funded assets with the broader community.”

Schultz said he is a proponent of providing equal access and opportunities to underserved communities. As director of water operations for Friends of Bellport Bay (FoBB), which is not part of Bellport Village government, he said, they collaborate with other local nonprofits to provide a free shellfish habitat restoration summer camp for teens from the club.

“The village allows us to stage at the municipal dock, and last summer one young teen, who had never been on a boat and who was reluctant to board because he was scared, became a very effective and confident first mate,” he added. “Other municipalities offer unique amenities for their stakeholders, and Bellport Village is no different. We are a very caring, giving, and collaborative community, and I am proud to be a village resident and we will continue to support, inspire, and help our neighbors.”

While the Greater Bellport Coalition co-chair Joann Neal said they felt it would be a great benefit to the area, she was taking the gesture by the Brookhaven Town supervisor as more of a promise to work with the residents.

“Personally, I think it was a good gesture on the new Brookhaven supervisor,” she said. “I think it shows promise—I hope he will be cooperative about other things, too.”

Neal has been living in North Bellport for 52 years and raised eight children in the area. When they would visit the beach, they would go to Blue Point’s Corey Beach on the bay or all the way to Bay Shore.
“It would be nice to have that access,” she said of the much closer beach located just about two miles south.


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