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May 28, 2018 10:16 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Vacant Coast Guard Homes Expected To Be Auctioned Off This Summer; Neighbors Concerned About Future Of Neighborhood

Dozens of Coast Guard owned homes in the Hampton West Estates neighborhood, in Westhampton Beach, are expected to be auctioned off early this summer. ELSIE BOSKAMP
May 29, 2018 1:56 PM

Dozens of homes owned by the U.S. Coast Guard in the Hampton West Estates neighborhood, located just west of Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, are expected to be auctioned off as many of the 52 existing homes, which are intended for military staff housing, are sitting vacant.

Only 23 of the residences in the Coast Guard housing section of Hampton West Estates, a 227-home development, are currently occupied, as many service members prefer to take a military housing stipend and rent a home on the open market instead.

The pending auction—and the uncertainty of what will happen to the homes after the sale—has some nearby residents worried about the neighborhood.

According to Katie Vincentz, a spokeswoman for U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, five parcels of land, 12 duplexes and 25 homes will be auctioned off by the General Services Administration, a government organization that manages government-owned buildings throughout the country.

Current Coast Guard residents will be allowed to remain in their rentals, she said. “The Coast Guard homes are vacant, and no one is being forced to move,” Ms. Vincentz said. “This auction is taking place in accordance with the same surplus procedures the U.S. government follows nationwide.”

The auction, which will be conducted entirely online, has yet to be scheduled but is expected to be held during the early summer. It is unclear if properties will be sold individually or in a block sale. As of this week, there was still no listing on the GSA auction website.

According to Cathy Menzies, a spokeswoman for the GSA, the property is still under the control of the Coast Guard. “The U.S. Coast Guard is still in the process of conducting its due diligence and finalizing the terms and conditions of the sale,” she said.

Representatives from the Coast Guard did not return phone calls this week.

Some residents living in the privately owned properties adjacent to the Coast Guard housing, located to the south of Stuart Avenue, say they are alarmed by the idea of a public auction and concerned that the sale of the military housing could convert them to rentals owned by absentee landlords.

“This neighborhood has been through a lot over the years,” said Forest Markowitz, the president of the Hampton West Estates Residents Association Board of Directors. “In the last 10 years, it really picked itself up and became a solid, middle-class, working-class neighborhood. We don’t want rentals. Rentals have been a problem here, and absentee landlords have really hurt us. If you get 14 rentals, it may revert to the bad old days.”

Mr. Markowitz described a period in the 1980s when many homes in the development were rented through the federally subsidized Section 8 housing program. According to Mr. Markowitz, who bought his house in 1979, the neighborhood struggled with crime and “was not a nice place to be for a while.”

Most of the now privately owned homes were originally built in the 1950s by the Air Force. After the base closed in 1969, the Air Force sold the homes to A.G. Proctor Inc., a firm based in Georgia. Most of the properties were sold individually, but in the late 1970s, about 30 properties were auctioned off.

At the time, many of the original residents moved away, because the area experienced an influx of absentee landlords—including some who neglected to care for their properties. The neighborhood later became a popular weekend party place, Mr. Markowitz said.

Over the years, the neighborhood experienced ups-and-downs. In more recent years, low property taxes attracted growing families, and Mr. Markowitz, a former New York City attorney, said the area currently is “in the best place I’ve ever seen.”

Given the fear of the neighborhood reverting back to earlier times, Mr. Markowitz is fighting to get the GSA to sell the vacant Coast Guard homes to locals looking to become homeowners. Absentee landlords could be discouraged by implementing rentals permitting, he said, as well as occupancy-based zoning ordinances.

The vacancies began several years ago when servicemen and women started renting homes in the local market, using a monthly military housing stipend known as a Basic Allowance for Housing. Stipend amounts vary depending on a service member’s pay grade, duty location and dependency status, but, on average, range from $2,000 to $4,000 monthly in the Westhampton Beach area.

Tim Batterson, a U.S. Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate, who works at the Shinnecock Station and the East Moriches Station, lived in the Coast Guard housing at the Hampton West Estates for 10 months in 2011. According to Mr. Batterson, it is more common for Coast Guard personnel to rent local homes than to live in Coast Guard housing developments.

“You have to live in Coast Guard housing when you first report, unless you have a family. But, once you get fully qualified, you’re allowed to move out and live in a house on the market,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who lives in the Coast Guard homes anymore—they all rent houses on the market.”

Discussions about selling the surplus homes initially began in 2012, when 36 of the 52 houses were empty. In 2012, a deed swap with landowners near Coast Guard stations in Connecticut and selling the homes to private buyers were two options that were considered.

“We’ve been aware and worried about it for some time,” Mr. Markowitz said, noting that he was initially told that 14 homes would be auctioned off this year, but more recently said he heard rumors that all of the 52 houses could be sold.

For Erin Llamas, who lives on Stuart Avenue just across the street from the vacant homes, the thought of opening up the properties for public sale is a worrying one.

“It’s been so empty for so long—it’s scary to open the doors to strangers,” Ms. Llamas said. “For there to be such a big change, it might change the dynamic of the neighborhood. Who knows? We’ll see.”

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Houses. They are selling houses, not homes.
By VOS (1241), WHB on May 28, 18 4:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
I hope they sell to locals who grew up in the area and not outsiders or developers. It would be a great chance for young families who want to stay in the community.
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on May 28, 18 6:32 PM
How about giving people who served this country to keep us free a break on the price of a house. We should take care of our vets.
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on May 28, 18 6:40 PM
Lol, so change is always bad, new comers are scary, and poor people ruin neighborhoods. Got it.
By Brandon Quinn (191), Hampton Bays on May 29, 18 12:40 AM
1 member liked this comment
Everybody cries about the lack of availability of affordable rental housing, but God forbid they should live next door to a rental house. NIMBY?
By gusef (53), Southampton on May 29, 18 3:30 AM
2 members liked this comment
The single unit rental house is not the issue here. It is the abundance of potential rental units and the potential for illegally overcrowded rentals that the Town seems to do nothing about. I love the YIMBY movement - alleged to be YES in MY backyard, but actually it seems to by a YIYBY movement - YES in YOUR backyard (stay out of mine!)
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on May 29, 18 9:27 AM
2 members liked this comment
I agree Resident Tax - if these units were set aside for those serving in the military, they should be used for just that. Otherwise, these units should be owner occupied at least for a period of time. It should be in the by-laws of the association. Brandon, yes some change is "bad" and apparently these owners who worked hard to make their community a nice place to live, don't want to see it deteriorate by allowing these units to potentially be purchased for investment purposes and turned into ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on May 29, 18 5:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
Make them affordable housing for locals to OWN, contingent upon the owners living inthe homes themselves!
Abitlity to buy a home would be a dream come true for my family!
By GailZ (1), Montauk on May 29, 18 5:57 AM
I hate to say it, but the GSA won’t take any of these concerns into consideration when the auction starts online. I have first hand experience with GSA auctions. They don’t take feelings or considerations of others into account.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on May 29, 18 6:26 AM
Perhaps our Trump-loving Congressman should do something about this.
By tenn tom (259), remsenburg on May 29, 18 7:30 AM
But why would any anti-Trumper care who moves into the neighborhood? I thought everyone was welcome. Maybe it would be a nice place to put all illegal immigrants that all the Dems & Libs are always so protective of?
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on May 29, 18 11:16 AM
I am a Long Island born and raised old guy. I have over 26yrs in the US Army, retiring as a SGM in the Military Police. I have even more yrs as a GS, working for the US Army. I always wondered what would happen to those houses one of these days. I am by my self, but would love a shot at getting a home over there. As a teen I worked at Raynor's Garage so am deeply familiar with the area. Hope that this gets wide distribution of info by the time of the sale so I can get out of TN.
By Tommy Turbo (60), Deep River, CT on May 29, 18 10:58 AM
keep your eye on the GSA auction site.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on May 30, 18 9:51 PM
The Hampton Bays School District is going to buy them with some of the $10 million they're getting from their lawsuit against the Town of Southampton. They they're going to move all the residents of the motels to these homes, and the kids will go to Westhampton schools. It's a win/win.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on May 29, 18 11:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
The Town of Southampton should be scoffing these up as affordable housing for hard working residents who want to stay here!

By laa71 (8), SAG HARBOR on May 29, 18 12:22 PM
3 members liked this comment
I'm just glad to see the federal government getting rid of unused real estate.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on May 29, 18 2:00 PM
This is completely self serving as I am a senior and I love Westhampton, but segmenting the bidding to allow this to go to senior housing would do three things for the community.
1. Have stable residency of owner occupied seniors
2. No added burden on the school system
3. Easier on the tax base
By TieGuy (1), Great Neck on May 30, 18 12:53 AM
2 members liked this comment
The neighbors live in former Air Force housing that was auctioned off to the highest bidder thirty years ago or so. Why is the system that put those houses on the open market any different than what the GSA intends to do now? Why should these sales be any more regulated than those in the adjacent area?
By VOS (1241), WHB on May 30, 18 3:01 PM
Perhaps first time buyers only auction?

As long as no one sues over it...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 30, 18 9:56 PM
With all the people struggling to pay bills in Suffolk County you think the county would make an agreement with the GSA and offer those houses as low and moderate-income housing. But no, they'd rather fleece taxpayers by paying poverty pimps $4,500 to $6,800 a month 2/2 people in crack houses, roach and rat infested motels.
By oneseriousSicilian (63), medford on May 31, 18 7:04 PM
Doesn't the town have an affordable housing fund. Perhaps a bulk transfer to the town, who could then covenant them to be sold to families who will occupy and who work and attend school locally. If GSA rules don't allow for that, the town should bid on as many as possible. The slumlords will be hard to out bid though
By smacw (240), New York on Jun 11, 18 10:46 AM
That neighborhood that everyone seems to be so concerned about now is a travesty to what is was when I owned my home there on Cook Street. The house's on the old Air Force side look mostly run down with the exception of a few. There are drug dealers living in that area and nothing done about that, that is why I sold and moved to a different area in Westhampton. Mr Markowitz, the President of the Association is troubled by the fact that "slumlords" will purchase the house's and be absentee. Fix ...more
By yanks27titles (15), eastport on Jun 12, 18 1:44 PM