Not on my beach!
Billionaire Ronald Lauder, Blackstone bigwig John Finley and marketing guru Faith Popcorn are fighting to have their tony Hamptons hamlet secede from the town of East Hampton in a bid to save their beach from an underground power line connecting to Gov. Cuomo’s first off-shore wind farm.
The heavyweights signed a petition calling for a vote on the Wainscott secession, the latest move by opponents of a plan to make Wainscott Beach the landing spot for the transmission cable from the ocean windmills, a $2 billion venture. It would be buried 30 feet under the beach and travel four miles north to a substation.
The planned South Fork wind farm itself would be 35 miles off Montauk Point and provide power from 15 wind turbines to 70,000 Long Island homes.
Opposition group Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, which sprung up in 2018, is circulating the petition. They want the wind farm’s cable to skirt their bucolic residential neighborhoods and link to a mainland substation from a landing spot farther east in Amagansett.
Lauder’s family, which owns numerous parcels near Wainscott Beach, is reported to be among the “anchors” of the NIMBY group, according to the Southampton Press. The founders include Alexander Edlich, a senior partner at McKinsey & Co.; Henry Cornell, founder of Cornell Capital; and Finley’s wife, Carol. All have homes near the beach or along the transmission route.
Lauder, the cosmetics heir and president of the World Jewish Congress, did not return a request for comment.
The group amassed nearly $1 million in donations during its first year in operation and spent $307,734 to hire high-powered Mercury Public Affairs in Manhattan to represent it, according to its tax filing.
The group argues the power cable project will “forever alter… one of the most popular, heavily used and photographed public beaches in the Hamptons.” It says having Wainscott become its own village will give residents more power over decision making with only a modest increase in property taxes – no more than $340 year for those in a median-value home.
But another group, Wainscott United, doesn’t buy it and is opposing the secession of the 350-year-old hamlet.
“It’s an an unnecessary layer of government incorporating a hamlet like Wainscott,” said Doreen Niggles, a group founder and lifelong resident.
On Thursday, the East Hampton Town Board voted to allow the wind farm’s developers to use local roads to bury the transmission line. A different town body must give approval for the beach itself. East Hampton would get $29 million over 28 years from development partners Orsted, a Danish energy giant, and New England-based Eversource.
Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said he understood the concerns about the inconvenience of road construction but “I think the long term impact of not doing everything we can to achieve renewable energy goals puts everybody at risk and will have much more devastating consequences.”
Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott vowed to push forward, calling the board’s vote “illegal and reckless” and a “grab for dollars.”
“They are taking short cuts because the supervisor is afraid of Wainscott incorporating. We have sought to avoid litigation but the Town Board has made this inevitable and we will initiate litigation against any governmental body that fails to adhere to the letter and spirit of laws designed to protect the citizens of Wainscott,” said Michael McKeon, the Mercury Public Affairs partner who is the group’s spokesman.
A public hearing on the secession petition is slated for Feb. 5.
A spokeswoman for Orsted and Eversource said, “We are confident in our analysis of all possible routes and in the consensus that the (Wainscott) route will have the least impact on the environment and the community.”
Construction on the project, which is still waiting approval from the state Public Service Commission, is expected to begin next year and finish in 2023.
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