Serious Questions About the Future of the Fordham Mill
The Remsenburg Association has been following the status of the historic Fordham Mill at 175 Montauk Highway at the intersection of Mill Road and Old Montauk Highway in Remsenburg for a little more than a year now. The Fordham Mill was named the first Town of Southampton Historic Landmark in 1985. As a designated Historic Landmark, the Fordham Mill's facade must be preserved according to the Town of Southampton.
The Remsenburg Association is deeply concerned that the Fordham Mill, despite its Landmark status, is being allowed to fall into severe disrepair. Apart from the innate beauty of the building, the location stands as a gateway at one of the key entrances into Remsenburg, and as such its condition is of particular concern.
The owner of the property has been attempting to sell to a private buyer. Of course the challenges are many. First, the building has fallen into serious disrepair meaning that whoever buys the building will need to make a substantial investment to restore it. Second, the historic landmark status limits what can be done with the appearance of the building. And finally, the building’s ecologically sensitive location in wetlands severely limits the possible uses of the structure.
The Association was heartened to hear that the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) had expressed an interest in either purchasing the property or granting a façade preservation easement (ie. money to be used by the owner to restore the façade).
Unfortunately it seems that nothing much is happening and the building continues to deteriorate.
- The Seller of the property is obviously not properly maintaining it. Prospective private buyers seem to be put off by the condition of the property as well as the limited range of possible uses. The seller claims the town is being inflexible and as a result has caused prospective buyers to back away from a deal.
- The Town does not appear to be addressing the property despite its Landmark status and is hamstrung by current zoning and conservation regulations.
- And now the CPF for reasons unknown is now indicating that it is no longer interested in possibly purchasing the property. Moreover, even if the CPF were to purchase and restore the property, the strict requirement that the property must be used as a museum, but without the benefit of opportunities to generate revenues (i.e. a museum store or classes) means that it would be virtually impossible to make the operation self-sustaining.
The Remsenburg Association finds the current situation shocking. Communication is severely lacking so we don’t know the complexity or the difficulties of what the Seller is doing, or what Southampton Town or the CPF have in mind. Or suspicion is that the owner and the Town of Southampton are dormant and disengaged. What we do know is that the risks to the building only appear to be increasing and that rather than contributing to the beauty of our community the building is becoming an eyesore. For the record, we have shared these concerns as reflected in this letter with all of the aforementioned parties.
What is the purpose of Landmark status if it doesn’t support the preservation of a building?
How can the Seller not maintain his property – particularly given his stated affection for our area?
Why has the Community Preservation Fund, after professing a strong interest last Fall, now indicated that it is no longer on their list?
We believe the Remsenburg community is not being dealt with fairly and openly.
Our ultimate goal is to see this property preserved and renovated – whether via a private buyer or via some form of public ownership or hybrid. We feel that cooperation among the concerned parties can reach an accord if the will and commitment are there. The risk of losing a historic landmark to ignorance and insensitivity is disgraceful.
The Remsenburg Association has reached out to other civic-minded groups such as the Citizens Advisory Committee-West and there is broad agreement that the Fordham Mill has been seriously neglected and that it should be saved.
We encourage residents to share their views with the respective parties including the Seller, Peter Ring (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Town of Southampton through Supervisor Jay Schneiderman (email@example.com), and the Community Preservation Fund through Mary Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
At the October 4th annual meeting of the Remsenburg Association, it was announced that the Fordham Mill Working Group (FMWG) has been formed to explore possible uses for the historic mill.
For the moment, the group is comprised of board members from the Remsenburg Association and the Speonk/Remsenburg Civic Association, as well as several concerned community members.
The goal of the FMWG is to see the Mill preserved, preferably through a private buyer purchasing the property but failing that, through some form of public or public/private partnership.
RESULTS OF SURVEY
In September, the FMWG conducted a broad survey of the Remsenburg/Speonk community which enabled the FMWG to gain insight into the community’s views regarding the Mill.
In total, there were 285 individual responses to the survey either by mail or email.
77% of respondents would like to see the Fordham Mill preserved, while only 5% were not interested. 86% are in favor of the Town of Southampton becoming involved, while 8% were in opposition. A number of potential uses were suggested in the survey with the majority of respondents favoring an art cooperative with studio space for artists and musicians, cultural offerings and exhibits, and education. Some were interested in retail space or a senior center.
While the goal is to make the Mill self-sustaining, charitable support from the community would be essential and 49% of respondents indicated a willingness to donate to a nonprofit, while an additional 7% said they would, depending on the Mill’s use. 30% indicated they would not provide charitable support.
The survey clearly establishes the interests of the community to see the Fordham Mill preserved. The Fordham Mill Working Group will explore opportunities for preservation and possible uses. Since the Mill was the first historic landmark designated by the Town of Southampton, the Group also hopes to partner with the Town in developing appropriate solutions for its preservation and re-use.
Inquiries can be emailed to the Remsenburg Association at:
For more information about the Fordham Mill, please visit the Westhampton Beach Historical Society webpage.
On behalf of the Remsenburg Association Board of Governors,
Jim Mendelson, President Remsenburg Association
William F. Heine
Michele Le Moal-Gray