Setting its immediate fundraising goal at $50,000, the Stepping Stones Lighthouse Preservation Committee held its first official meeting last week a with North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Town Clerk Wayne Wink.
The Great Neck Historical Society has established the committee, chaired by Park District Commissioner Bob Lincoln. Lincoln told the audience: “We need $50,000 in the next several months. That’s doable. We hope that by the end of October that we will have a fundraising effort well under way.”
The money would go towards a federal matching grant offered by the National Parks Service. Tom Devaney, grants coordinator for the town, is working on securing the grant through the Maritime Heritage Program. “I know that Tom is looking to file for it in September,” Lincoln added. “It’s a matching grant. We need to have some cash to show that something is really there but the money can be raised during the lifetime of the grant, so it’s not like it has to be raised within the next 30 days.”
Estimates for the cost of full restoration have been speculated to be anywhere from two million dollars to as much as eight million dollars. “The bad news is that the structure is in bad need of repairs but the good news is that it’s restorable,” Lincoln said. “It’s structurally sound. The building itself is not falling down.”
Bosworth and her town board provided the committee with some fresh support the night before. At its monthly meeting, they unanimously authorized the creation of an intermunicipal agreement with the Park District and Historical Society for repairs to the deteriorating lighthouse.
“I look forward to this great partnership,” Bosworth told the audience at the committee meeting as she held up a draft copy of the partnership’s “save the Stepping Stones lighthouse” brochure. “I am so proud to be able to be working with Bob and Alice (Kasten, president of the Historical Society) to make this dream become a reality.”
Bosworth noted. “There’s a renewed interest on the part of the town to make this happen. This will be done by not using our taxpayer dollars, but by looking for grants, by having public-private partnerships and by going out to people who have a great interest in seeing lighthouses restored.”
The town will be providing services but clearly the Park District has been the one that has set up the initial repairing of the roof, setting up the temporary dock and actually helping us get started.
“It is our intention to reach far beyond Great Neck,” Lincoln said about fund raising efforts. “Things in the last month or month and a half so really have taken off quite well. We have made contact with the Huntington Lighthouse group. They have offered to give us guidance and lead us to sources for private money. We’ve also been in touch with the City Island Historical Society. They’re very interested. Both groups have expressed a very strong interest in participating.”
“Our immediate action steps are really to get the pump primed,” Lincoln said during a question-and-answer session. “We want people to get out there and network. We want to get more interest and get more people to participate in some capacity. We’re looking to get resources and contacts to get out there and actually make this program come together.”
He adde: “There are a lot of people who go out on water and over the Throgs Neck Bridge and see this lighthouse. When we tell them that the alternative is to tear down the lighthouse and put a light on a stick they say ‘no, we can’t allow that to happen.’”
Kasten voiced her continued optimism at the meeting and urged residents to become involved but cautioned, ”It’s going to be a long haul.”
The lighthouse, built between 1875 and 1878, stands in shallow water less than a mile from the Great Neck peninsula. It was fully automated, using solar power, in 1964, ending the need for it to be used as living quarters.
Contributions can be made and more information obtained by going to www.greatneckhistorical.org.
For more about the lighthouse restoration project, see our original story here.