Using a state grant, East Hampton Town will expand its fleet of electric cars this year and install a number of new charging stations at Town Hall and potentially other town-owned parking lots as well, Natural Resources Director Kim Shaw announced at a Town Board work session on Tuesday.
Members of board expressed their support for expanding that kind of infrastructure and encouraging the use of electric cars by residents. But they were unanimous in expressing concern about striking a deal with Tesla that would benefit only its customers and not all electric vehicle drivers.
Ms. Shaw described the latest discussions the Natural Resources Department has had with Tesla, the company known for its electric cars, solar panels and clean energy storage. In July, Tesla developers pitched a public-private partnership to install charging stations in Montauk. It has already installed a supercharger station capable of charging up to eight vehicles in the parking lot of Café Crust on County Road 39 in Southampton.
On Tuesday, Ms. Shaw said the company was now interested in paying for the installation of eight fast-charging stations in the town-owned lot off South Euclid Avenue in Montauk. In return, she said Tesla offered to install two additional chargers for electric vehicles in the lot that could be used by any model. According to Ms. Shaw, an adapter has not yet been created so other, non-Tesla models can be hooked up to a fast-charging station, which can give a Tesla vehicle a 150-mile charge in just 20 minutes.
“I think I would not be supportive of dedicated spaces,” said Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, “especially on town property.”
“The technology sounds impressive but I don’t want to corporatize our landscape,” added Councilman Jeffrey Bragman. “These are mini-billboards,” he added of the proposed charging stations.
“I don’t have an objection to having a public-private partnership where they are going to supply the charging infrastructure to the public, non-specific to their brand,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc. “I think that is fine, that is great. We want to encourage the transition to electric cars and that is going to require infrastructure all over town.”
Ms. Shaw noted that while many charging stations are eligible for state grant funding, the fast charging stations are not and this could be an opportunity for the town.
“If they are only for Teslas, the public benefit is not great,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc.
Following public comment on Tuesday, board members seemed united in the concept of the former Child Development Center of the Hamptons building becoming a multi-generational space, potentially housing a number of organizations rather than serving just one nonprofit entity.
Last month, the Town Board announced it hoped to purchase the building owned by the former nonprofit charter school for $800,000. The town already owns the land beneath the building, located on Stephen Hands Path. The charter school closed its doors in 2016.
While the ability for the town to purchase the CDCH building remains in the hands of the state’s attorney general — who must sign off on the deal since it is the disbursement of that nonprofit’s only asset, according to town attorney Michael Sendlenski — board members have begun discussing what they hope to see accomplished in the 20,000-square-foot building. Resident Mary Ella Moeller said she hopes it is more than just a facility for children.
“It needs to be a community that that everybody in the community can use because we as taxpayers are paying for it and we need to get value for our money,” she said.
Resident David Gruber encouraged the board to hear from the whole community before making a decision on the kinds of uses that would be best for the property.
“For myself, I quite agree with her that a mix of uses would be quite advantageous here, but my opinion doesn’t matter,” he said. “I think if we are going to be successful, our community as a whole needs to be involved in bringing forward proposals for prospective uses and needs to be involved in deciding what would be best for the community as a whole.”
Mr. Gruber said he was working with Paul Finodella and Susan Rabinowitz on a development plan for seniors for the CDCH property.
Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said she believed an outside entity should run the facility. “I think in a perfect world, it has shared tenancy,” she added, noting she believed the town should charge rent or at the very least contribute toward capital expenses.
“I do agree with a majority of speakers that we need to look for the broadest use for the greatest number of residents of the Town of East Hampton here,” agreed Councilman David Lys.
“I don’t think we should rule out the town running a portion of this space, even if it is a large portion,” said Councilman Jeffrey Bragman, supporting the idea of senior space. “It’s a big enough building to get diverse activity out of it.”
“My view is it is a community center, which means serving all aspects of the community, which means we should keep an open mind how best to do that,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc. “There are certainly a number of organizations from youth theater to day care to Project Most to senior activities — I could certainly see us having town programs in that building. I definitely would not rule that out and again, with these partnerships, I think we can offset the cost to taxpayers and provide a public benefit.”