At its meeting on February 25, 2020, the Southampton Town Board voted in favor of purchasing 3.3 acres of land in the sensitive Shinnecock Hills area, the target of recent demonstrations by the Shinnecock Indian Nation and local residents over construction in what are believed to be ancient burial grounds.
The $2.2 million purchase with Community Preservation Funds, will preserve three building lots around the home under construction that was at the center of the controversy, located on Montauk Highway and Ridge Road, in the Sugar Loaf area.
“The Town Attorney approached the owner of the surrounding property and we were able to reach an agreement to acquire those three lots and preserve this culturally sensitive land,” said Southampton Town Supervisor. Mr. Schneiderman also recognized the Shinnecocks’ desire to preserve more properties in this area where it is believed many of their ancestors are buried.
The Town Board is also considering a “Graves Protection Act” to establish protocols if human remains are encountered during construction activities. New York State is one of only four states that lack such legislation. A public hearing on the local law will be held March 24th at 6pm. The Town Board will also consider imposing a six month moratorium on new home construction within the Fort Hill and the Sugar Loaf areas of Shinnecock Hills without first completing an archaeological review. A public hearing on the moratorium is also scheduled for March 24th at 6pm.
The moratorium also affects other large scale excavation projects in the Sugarloaf area such as accessory structures and swimming pools. The moratorium will allow time for the Town to enact safeguards to prevent the inadvertent desecration of graves and archeological resources in this sensitive area.
The Sugar Loaf Hill Shinnecock Indian Burial Ground region encompasses those parcels bounded on the north by Montauk Highway, on the east by Southway Drive, on the south by Shinnecock Bay East and on the west by South Beach Road.
The Fort Hill region encompasses those parcels bounded on the north by the Long Island Rail Road, on the east by Ridge Road, on the south by Montauk Highway and on the west by Peconic Road.
Supervisor Schneiderman said, “The graves protection legislation and the Sugar Loaf and Fort Hill moratorium are important steps in preserving our cultural heritage and the sanctity of Shinnecock ancestral burials.”