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Jun 6, 2012 1:59 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Legislature Renames Theodore Roosevelt County Park To Montauk County Park

Jun 12, 2012 5:58 PM

In 1997, in the rush to commemorate the centennial of the Spanish-American War, during which Colonel Theodore Roosevelt led U.S. troops to victory before returning with them to convalesce in Montauk—the Suffolk County Legislature renamed the Montauk County Park as the Theodore Roosevelt County Park.

But by all accounts, the former president and his men never actually camped in the park itself. Instead, the Rough Riders, as the future president’s troops were known, camped at Ditch Plains, according to Dick White, a member of the board of directors of the Montauk Historical Society. Last week, the legislature righted the historical wrong and changed the name back to the Montauk County Park, said Legislator Jay Schneiderman.

“No disrespect to the former president,” said Mr. Schneiderman last week. “I happen to think he’s a great president and great preservationist; that’s not the issue. He wasn’t there.”

In the same bill, the legislature also voted to officially designate the main building at the park as Third House, which has long been its informal name. The bill also names the main room in Third House as the President Theodore Roosevelt Room—in honor of the significance of the former president’s stay in Montauk.

“I wanted to respect the fact that as we’re taking the former president’s name off the park, that we are naming the main room in his honor,” said Mr. Schneiderman.

Mr. Schneiderman, who sponsored the legislation, said the measure was an attempt to correct the historical inaccuracy. Mr. Schneiderman said he doesn’t believe that there is any proof that Mr. Roosevelt ever stayed at the park itself.

Much to his surprise, the legislator said his measure did not cause any controversy. He said he was expecting a political “floor fight” because the former president was a Republican, but the bill passed unanimously.

According to Mr. White, who is also a Suffolk County Park trustee, the request to restore the park’s name came about two years ago from Bill Akin, a former president of the environmental group the Concerned Citizens of Montauk. Mr. White said he was pleased with the name change.

“Montauk County Park is a multi-use park, and we wanted something that was broader than the Theodore Roosevelt County Park,” Mr. White said. “That’s number one. Number two was Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t camped there. He was camped at Ditch Plains.”

Even when the legislature voted to change the name in 1997, Mr. Schneiderman noted that at the time there was concern about stripping “Montauk” from the name of the park. He pointed to minutes from that debate, which his office provided, in which then County Legislator Steve Levy asked to keep the name of the hamlet in the park.

“Could we possibly … keep some reference to Montauk within — maybe the President Theodore Roosevelt County Park at Montauk or something along those lines,” Mr. Levy said at that time. “Because what we are doing is we are taking a lot of these geographical sites like Gabreski Airport, for instance, things that used to be the Westhampton Airport, and you want to give credence to these important people, by the same token you’ve sometimes lost the identification with a particular community.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he hoped the name change would help spotlight the park as a “preeminent” environmental and nature center. Mr. Schneiderman said he doesn’t expect Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to veto the bill—which would be the final legislative hurdle in making the new name official.

Mr. Akin said the idea of changing the name of the park came to him as he and Mr. White were driving to a Suffolk County Park Trustees meeting one day about a year and a half to two years ago. They were discussing renovations at Third House, he recalled.

“Finally I turned to Dick and said, ‘Isn’t it strange were talking about this for 45 minutes and didn’t mention the name Theodore Roosevelt?’” he said.

It’s not really about changing the name—Mr. Akin said he felt Mr. Roosevelt was “spectacular” president—as it is about recognizing the reality, he said.

“If you leave Long Island, you’ve got Roosevelt parks all over the country,” Mr. Akin 
said. “You only got one Montauk.”

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Theodore Roosevelt was giving a speech.An assassin approached and shot him in the chest.He waved off all aid and finished his speech.Then was taken to the hospital. What a man! When he was Police Commissioner in NYC corruption was rampant.He would walk the streets in the middle of the night getting his officers in line.The stories never end. Seems to me the legislature has more pressing matters like getting us out of the 530 million hole they put us in.Teddy would have never done that
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Jun 6, 12 3:46 PM
3 members liked this comment
Just for reference, this is how the assasination attempt went down, courtesy of Gavin de Becker:

John Schrank followed Roosevelt for 2,000 miles through eight states during 24 days of campaigning, waiting for an opportunity to kill him. On October 14, 1912 Roosevelt walked out of his hotel, got into his open car, and turned to wave at the crowd.

Schrank fired his .38 Colt revolver from approximately six feet away. Roosevelt was struck in the right chest, suffering only a broken ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 10, 12 1:45 PM
I agree with you TianaBob, seems like these clowns are arranging deck chairs...
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Jun 6, 12 4:16 PM
Well said, by both TianaBob, and Funbeer. Our political hacks are not concerned by the fact that they are destroying our future, but trivial situations like this get voted on. I hope nobody tells them that Jackie Robinson never played for the mets, otherwise they might force the team owners to rename the homage to him at citifield.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jun 6, 12 7:01 PM
Aren't you getting sick of these politicians? We're in a National crisis which isn't improving at all. Meanwhile our "leaders" aren't helping one bit.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Jun 7, 12 10:36 AM
The county has a 500 million dollar short fall and this idiot Scneiderman is changing the name of a park. The park was named after one of the great heros of the country. Thats ok if they change the name because no one under of the age of 25 knows who Roosevelt is because we are more worried about teaching gay rights.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jun 7, 12 11:23 AM
How much does is it costing us to change the signs ?? Another idiotic expense when the legislature should be pinching pennies, not wasting them .
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Jun 7, 12 12:38 PM
Wow. What's next? Maybe the legislature will sell naming rights. How's citarella county park sound? Sorry Teddy.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Jun 7, 12 1:48 PM
How easily we forget an heroic icon such as President "TR" Roosevelt.

Ditto to most of the comments above, as Suffolk County fiddles while Rome burns!

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle.

PS -- Google President Roosevelt's name, regarding his incredible journey from the deep woods near New York's highest mountain, Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks, after Pres. McKinley was assassinated in 1901. He and his party rode through the night on horseback, then switched to stage coach and railroad ...more
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Jun 7, 12 7:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
PS -- Does it really matter, to quote Mr. Schneiderman, that TR "wasn't there" at the park, but was at Ditch Plains?

Did we have to prove that JFK was at Idlewild Airport before it was renamed in his honor?

Reagan at Dulles?

We name monuments to HONOR our icons, not to prove their physical location at a specific place in time.

Really, what an incredible waste of VISION on the part of Suffolk County. No wonder Rome is burning!
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Jun 7, 12 7:47 PM
2 members liked this comment
The greater your fortune,
The greater your “wealth”,
The greater your debt to society.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 7, 12 8:48 PM
Our elected officials, especially Mr. Schneiderman, should be ashamed of themselves for wasting whatever money needed to re-name the park (signs, maps, paperwork, etc) from an American Hero, Teddy Roosevelt. We live in a county with some of the highest tax rates and some of the highest gas prices in the U.S. Why not work on that instead of grandstanding. Unfortunately, our east end representive lacks any sense or intellectual honesty to look out for the over burdened tax payer.
By Tennyson (77), Quogue on Jun 8, 12 9:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
I'm thinking he ddn't expect this kind of backlash.

Seems to me that a big ol' sign with Teddy's name on it would pique the intellectual curiousity of some young people. Considering he is one of my heros, and part of the reason I was a Boy Scout as a child, I wouldn't care if he only camped on the lighthouse lawn, he was in Montauk.

A Progressive, "trust buster", hands on man of the people, and without whom this country might have alot less respect for Nature is a man from whom ...more
Jun 8, 12 11:42 AM appended by Mr. Z
Osawatomie. August 31, 1910
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 8, 12 11:42 AM
Has Mr. Schneiderman commented on his SNAFU?

What local Montauk political pressures might have spawned this move to "Dis" TR?

Hmmmm.
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Jun 11, 12 8:21 PM
Absolutely, 100% a "man of the people":

Roosevelt helped the wellbeing of people by passing laws such as The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and The Pure Food and Drug Act. The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 banned misleading labels and preservatives that contained harmful chemicals. The Pure Food and Drug Act banned food and drugs that are impure or falsely labeled from being made, sold, and shipped. Roosevelt was also served as honorary president of the school health organization American School ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 11, 12 9:10 PM
Progressive Covenant with the People

Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people. From these great staffs, both of the old parties have ganged aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare they have become the tools of corrupt interests which use them in martialling [sic] to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 11, 12 9:39 PM