Beyond The Legends
Montauk Today
Article by Jon Kostecky

��� The Southeastern most tip of Long Island contains the last two state parks which it has to offer, however, only one of these is open to the public, and it is also the only one which is advertised. Montauk Point State Park, which contains the historic lighthouse, picnic grounds, and a serene stroll among the remains of the bluffs is open for a very small fee, and does provide it's patrons with their own expectations. Less than half a mile to the west of this area there resides another state park which is not open to the general public, and has been both condemned, and made into an area of mystery and intrigue that thrill seekers from all over Long Island and perhaps even the country have been itching to get a closer look at.

��� A small, somewhat isolated and quiet community still exists in the shadow of Camp Hero, the derelict remains of an old World War II Coastal Defense base that was later upgraded into a early warning radar station by the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War.

��� In the years following the publication of the book written by Preston Nichols and Peter Moon; "The Montauk Project", which has spawned a series-the end of which is nowhere in sight, the old radar station has sparked interests, and generated legends which may in fact be on a grander scale than the authors of the books might have ever possibly imagined. The biggest question, most especially for those who are unfamiliar with either the books, or the multitude of legends is why? Yet this is a twofold question, for it can be asked in reference as to why are so many people attracted to this derelict base, and why is an area that has been donated to the state of New York as a State Park closed to the general public? In this last article to "The History of Camp Hero; The Montauk Air Force Station" I will attempt to answer both sides of this question, as well as to give the personal views of the creators of this page in lieu of the legends of Montauk.

��� While the old military installation of Camp Hero falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of State Parks and Recreation Facilities, and is listed on paper (and on certain signs which mark some of the old abandoned roads to the base) as part of the Montauk Point State Park there are some maps which list it as it's own State Park, and the further west one travels, local maps usually don't list it at all. While the actual reasons for this are not certain, they certainly are not all that suspicious, or at least not nearly as suspicious as some might make it out to be.

��� To this day, people live in the neighborhoods which are on the grounds of Camp Hero. The main road which leads down to the base interior; "Camp Hero Rd." is the last turn off of Montauk Highway before you reach Montauk Point State Park.. The only turn from this road is an immediate left which leads to the neighborhood described above. There are in actually, only a couple of blocks, and are in fact located inside the grounds of Camp Hero., however, these houses are private property, and are not listed within the boundaries of State Park land. These blocks are renovated houses of former base personnel.

��� In 1981, a report was issued by the General Services Administration which stated that the "highest and best use of most of the Montauk Air Force Station would be to preserve it as parkland." But, the assistant commissioner of the GSA office of real property, had said in 1984, that the proposal was
simply a "guidance document; it was not meant to be taken as Gospel." The next plan that was issued by the GSA stated that the best use of the land would be to utilize it for residential housing. The 25 acre tract of land which contained 27 houses that were used for the former base personnel was sold to the town of East Hampton, who bought it for the fee of $81,000, and the area was renovated to be suitable for the sale of them to lower income families. One Million, eighty thousand dollars was sunk into the project of renovation by East Hampton town, which would be taken care of by selling each home for roughly forty thousand dollars.

��� Unfortunately, there more problems for the project than could have ever been foreseen. After the new homeowners had moved into the place in 1983, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services discovered that the drinking water of Camp Hero was contaminated with coliform bacteria. In December 1984, the sewage pumping station suffered technical malfunctioning which sent raw sewage into neighboring wetlands. Although the town installed a large cistern to collect sewage waste material, the residents of Camp Hero found that their troubles were far from over. Many residents complained of bugs, and the houses were fumigated for termites during which period the Health Department discovered that the heating systems of the houses were potential health hazards, and needed immediate replacing. There were also a great many plans by the GSA's office of real property to continue a residential development project which had been steadfastly opposed by both the town boards, and residents of East Hampton. In 1984, the town of East hampton voted unanimously to rezone the 278 acre base from residential to parks and conservation in an attempt to discourage any construction or development of the property.

��� The inner portion of the base continues to be under the zoning of parks and recreative facilities, but of late there has been the persistent rumor that a proposed golf course might be constructed on the site. Whether or not this comes to pass still remains to be seen there are a good many business people who would support such an endeavor, and there are also a great many who are opposed to it. Whatever the outcome, it does not seem as though it will happen anytime too soon. The summer of 1998 is when the subject was approached again, and it seems that a semi-thorough investigation was conducted to examine the possibilities of new recreative development at the base.

��� In early June 1998, a NY State official went out to conduct an inquiry about the condition of the base to see whether or not it would be suitable for the proposed golf course. A report came back stating that the official believed that there might have been chemicals of some sort buried somewhere on the grounds of the base. On June 26, an engineering group Cashin and Associates went out to the base along with the Camp Hero Advisory Committee. There are a series of declassified documents available for the price of $200 on the history of the base. Based on these documents, it was found that the Army Corps. of Engineers had reason to believe that Camp Hero might have been used as a chemical warhead training site. As of yet no official statement concerning the supposition has been issued that either confirms or denies it.

��� As far as the inner base is concerned, walking on the base is hazardous in two respects. The first thing which might or might not be the most obvious, is that it is illegal to walk on the grounds of the base without a permit, and, even if a permit is obtained, it is still not legal to walk on the interior of the base where the remains of the buildings are. There have been warnings stenciled over every single structure on the base interior, and even on the roadways that run the length of the grounds; so it is not possible to use the excuse of "not knowing the place was off limits". There are also signs posted around various areas of the base such as in the traffic circle of the mess hall, and on the road to the radio communications station(which is a short walk from the base interior) which blatantly state "PARK CLOSED! NO TRESPASSING!" All of the buildings have the no trespassing warnings painted on them in addition to "HAZARDOUS AREA!"

��� All of these warnings should be taken at face value. The entirety of the inner base is off limits to the general public, and is periodically patrolled by the State Park Police who are capable of either writing out a hefty summons, or arresting those in violation right on the spot. There is an occupied building on the base which is used by both the police patrols, and by the groundskeepers, who are also supposed to keep people away from the base.

��� Reasons for why the base is off limits are quite obvious to anyone who has ever set foot within the "forbidden zone" of the base. Every single building that remains on the base is a ruin. The decomposition of the structures is so far advanced, that there is really no possibility of saving them. The buildings have all been severely vandalized. Walls have been ripped down in the houses of the base, there is not one intact pane of glass(or light fixture for that matter), in any of the houses. The floorboards of all of the houses are rotted to such an extent, that falling through them is inevitable, stairways are also rotted. There are also the obvious chemical hazards to worry about( rather than the speculatory ones) such as that all of the houses on the base interior are painted with lead based paint, which has been peeling and chipping for years. There are also a series of gas pipes which are raised from 3 to 8 feet off of the ground(even higher in some area's where the cross over the roads) which are covered with asbestos insulatory wrappings.

��� While power does run through the electrical lines of the poles that line the roads of the base, the buildings themselves have no power. There are a series of powerlines running along the ground on the "Radar Hill" which are encased within a metallic box framework which connect all of the radar buildings (the three white octagonal buildings, the pink building, the "powerhouse" the computer control center, and the radar tower). While there is certainly no power running through these lines, it is quite easy to trip over them for in some area's they are rather concealed in very tall grass. There are also open manholes all over the base, and if one does not watch carefully where one steps, it is quite likely for somebody to end up in one.(I nearly stepped into one next to the "Acid House" on my first visit to the base.)

��� As to the buildings themselves, the mess hall and the dormitory next door have been vandalized so extensively that simply walking into them is hazardous( though they provide great opportunities for photographic shots of the tower). The gymnasium and the bowling alley have rotted floors, and stepping on them is rather unnerving. All of the houses, are in worse shape than any of the other buildings( with the exception of perhaps the radar buildings) simply because vandalism has complimented decay so perfectly that anyone who has been inside them within the past two years will agree that they do not feel at all safe in them. Those which are in the most potentially dangerous condition, are the "pickled buildings" one of these is the notorious "Acid House" and the canteen, or bar room building. All of these structures have suffered to such an extent that the framework which still supports the houses, is almost ready to collapse upon itself, walking into these structures is very hazardous-simply from the very obvious danger of structural collapse.

��� The octagonal radar buildings are equally, if not more so dangerous to walk into, they are elevated about 3-4 feet off of the ground, and have metal plated floors which will almost certainly give way if any weight were to be put on them. The structures which have stood up to the rigors of Time better than the rest are the bunkers and the radar tower. These structures have concrete floors which are quite thick, and the walls are also of cement. The greatest hazards that they pose are the simple fact that they are entirely without power, or windows. The bunker itself is a long stretch of pitch black hallway which has some debris strewn about the floor, and the only way to access the hallway is to climb through a hole knocked in the concrete that was erected to keep people out. There are a series of rooms in the bunker, some of which have been set on fire by vandals and there is a connecting hallway to the lower level of the bunker where the cement slabs of the floor have been broken. If one does not bring a powerful lamp with them, going through the bunker will be very treacherous.

��� The radar tower on the other hand has since been made slightly "brighter" courtesy of some vandals who kicked out the outer doors on the third floor. The first floor has a good deal of debris strewn about, some of which are the rack components to the machinery in the upper floors. The second floor is completely black and is nearly entirely empty with the exception of a battered desk in one of the office rooms, and the dehumidifier system against the far wall. All of the rack units which hold the decomposing remains of the radar equipment are located on the third and fourth floors; this is also where the two amplitrons are located. These floors are almost mirror images of one another. Besides both being in disastrous shape, there are some holes in the floor, which are not visible on the third floor, as easily as they are on the fourth( light from the third floor shines through into the fourth.) The fourth floor is also pitch black, and there is machinery thrown all over the floor. These rack units are very heavy, each one weighs nearly fifty pounds so tripping over them in the dark will doubtlessly result in serious injury. The fifth floor is light due to the outer doors being opened, and there are some large machine units on the northern wall which are similar to those on the ground floor, but there are also mounds of bird droppings all over the place. Evidently, pigeons have been roosting inside the tower for many years now and have certainly left their mark. On the way to the roof, there is a grated catwalk that leads to the pedestal of the radar dish, you can walk out on this catwalk, but it is a ten foot drop to the floor below and the grated floor itself is starting to rot. The roof of the radar tower, from which a good deal of the surrounding area photos were taken, does command one of the most magnificent views on all of Long Island, but it is extremely windy up there and is not really too terribly intelligent to wander close to the edges. Also, there are some who would doubtlessly be tempted and I know two who have climbed up the radar dish and out onto the walk of the emitter. This is extremely dangerous because it is a fall from which certain death will result.

��� ** Note on the "Acid House"

��� The acid house is located directly across from the canteen building and is seen in the overview picture of the base on the page. The descriptive name for the building has an uncertain origin, but once inside it is quite easy to understand why it is commonly called such. All of the upper rooms of this building of which there are four, are done in a bizzaar decorative stylus. The first room is wall papered in a red and gold paisley pattern. The next room which is the largest, is done in vertical black and white stripes, and the room at the end has a leopard print wall paper. The room on the far side which is the last is painted in an aquamarine psychedelic style with a multitude of confetti colors. There have been a great many speculations as to what this house may have been used for ranging from drug experimentation, to local kids doing their own drug experimentation after the base's closure. It is simply one more of the mysteries of Montauk.

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