A 1926 advertisement described the development of Seaford Harbor as the “greatest nearby waterfront opportunity of the day...what only the man of wealth enjoyed can now be yours!”
Fast forward to 2013 and residents are looking to keep Seaford Harbor a great waterfront community. At a meeting of the Seaford Harbor Civic Association on October 15, residents discussed the restoration and preservation of the community including its anchorage lots – small swaths of undeveloped waterfront property in Seaford Harbor that are owned by the public to provide access to the waterfront.
“The Seaford Harbor Civic Association is looking into these properties in the harbor for those who don’t live directly on the water,” explained civic President Phil Franco. “We are here to talk about the biggest one at the end of Ocean Avenue – that’s our crown jewel. There are others – some have been taken over and used by property owners, but we are going to concentrate on this one for now because it’s a complicated issue and these anchorage lots are unique to Seaford,” he explained.
The lot is located between 3654 and 3644 Ocean Avenue. In June, Michael and Stephanie Victor, who are neighbors of one of the homeowners, learned that these adjacent property owners had approached the Town of Hempstead to request a boundary line agreement. A boundary line agreement determines where one property begins and another ends. If granted, it would give the two neighbors the right to use the land, thereby making the land private.
The lot, once in its natural state, has been transformed by grass, plantings and a fence into a well maintained side yard that is open for a view of the water, but without access to the waterfront.
At last Tuesday’s meeting, Mrs. Victor made a brief presentation to civic members, explaining that she and her husband had hired a title company and real estate attorney to investigate the matter and determine if the land is deeded to Seaford Harbor residents as an anchorage plot.
John Stellakis, attorney for Murphy, Bartol and O’Brien confirmed the Victors suspicions. “We have reviewed the deeds and neither of the adjoining properties have that lot. The [original] deeds have language that states the property is reserved for public use,” said Mr. Stellakis.
O.L. Schwenke, Seaford Harbor’s developer, set aside these anchorage lots in the 1920s as an incentive to sell homes. In an advertisement from that era provided to the Citizen by the Seaford Historical Society, it reads “all lots directly on the water or with full water rights for boat anchorage or bathing...” The advertisement also states that “regardless of what plot you buy, where located, how large or small, with every deed goes the privilege and the water right of boating, bathing and fishing.”
Now that it has been determined the public owns the land, Mr. Stellakis said “the Victors would like to put up a sign saying so.”
But one of the neighbors living adjacent to the anchorage lot objected. “All we tried to do is make it nice,” she said.
Her husband added that the action to keep them from buying the property was in retaliation for complaining about the Victors’ feeding the geese. “Why are you looking at this piece? No one has done anything about these lots,” he said.
Phil Franco explained. “Most people don’t know these lots exist. We have looked into this in the past, probably around 1987. Now we are looking at it again.”
Another neighbor added, “this is not about the birds. Before your house was built we had problems with that property down there. The developer wanted to build condos. It’s that whole stretch,” she said, referring to the most southerly tip of Ocean Avenue. “It’s been in the public’s eye and we are fed up. We have to stick up for ourselves. It’s not you. The point is the property belongs to us.”
Charles Wroblewski, President of the Seaford Historical Society and civic member said there are 15 to 20 of these plots. “Some are fenced in and the [adjacent] property owners don’t pay taxes. People are taking over for their own benefit.”
Additionally, some pieces may be environmentally sensitive and under the protection of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Lastly there was concern about who would maintain the anchorage lots, in particular the one on Ocean Avenue.
“I like the way it looks,” said one woman who lives nearby.
“We have to make it work for everybody,” said Mr. Franco, who then put the idea of placing a sign on the property to a vote.
The adjacent property owner objected again.
“Every park has a sign,” said one resident. “If people know it’s there, they will use it. I’ll take my fishing pole down there.”
Most civic members voted in favor of a sign. No determination was made about the size or design of the sign.
“We want to keep Seaford Harbor like it used to be,” said Mr. Wroblewski. Our clubhouse was taken over by the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway, the beaches are gone and some of the land is now someone’s garage. This place was advertised as a summer community; the land is ours.”