Editorial: Challenges Ahead

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The demographics of Sag Harbor Village are changing at a dizzying pace. The positive of this is Main Street, should the weather improve for more than a few days at a time, has the potential to thrive, and real estate values for homeowners will continue to grow. The downside is there is less housing priced for the average resident — who also happens to be the average volunteer — and commercial rents often exceed what local businesses can afford to pay.

There is also a lot of work to be done in Sag Harbor, whether that be the drainage issues that have not been properly addressed for residents of the Howard Street and Spring Street neighborhoods; an overdue renovation of Long Wharf; dock repairs; an emergency service radio upgrade; and a parking problem most of us have been debating for over 20 years.

That is not to say that not much has been accomplished, because it has. The village’s gross floor area law, despite the imperfections of the process that resulted in the final legislation, was long overdue. The prospect of the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park, embraced by this administration, was something no other village board would touch. While the problem may have been put off under previous administrations, this village board has taken a hard look at the harbor and docks — with a long-awaited Long Wharf renovation project slated to begin this fall. Contracts have been settled, amicably, and as a community we fought together to rebound from a December 16 Main Street fire that left most of us reeling with concern for our local businesses and the future of the Sag Harbor Cinema, but also with pride for our volunteers who prevented an even larger disaster from occurring.

The mayoral race this year is uncontested, and that is perhaps a testament to Mayor Sandra Schroeder’s care for her home town. Ms. Schroeder is joined on the Residents Party ticket by incumbent Kenneth O’Donnell and former Sag Harbor Fire Chief Thomas Gardella. Aidan Corish, a businessman and local resident, stands alone on the Sag Harbor United Party ticket.

Mr. O’Donnell has proved over his two terms to be one of the most effective members of the village board, particularly when it comes to tackling day-to-day issues around Sag Harbor. He also represents an important demographic as a member of the business community and as a parent. He’s been honest, and forthcoming with his opinions — even when they are unpopular — and should be returned for a third term.

There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that not only is Mr. Gardella a hero for his leadership during the December 16 Main Street fire, but also the best kind of public servant — one who does not ask for kudos but quietly serves as a volunteer in numerous ways throughout the community. He is thoughtful, and proved to be one of the most open and communicative Sag Harbor Fire Department chiefs in recent memory, a quality that certainly benefited the department, even during its most difficult battles.

We have not always agreed with Mr. Corish, particularly during the battle over the gross floor area law — legislation he would eventually support while criticizing the process that created it. That said, Mr. Corish has struck a chord in his call for an emphasis on long-term planning for Sag Harbor Village in many ways. There was a time when the village board had the luxury of being reactive, tackling issues one at a time, and moving on to the next priority.

With the amount of pressure, the heavy work load, the lack of full time staff, and number of critical projects on the horizon, planning will be key to Sag Harbor’s success. The board is poised to lose one of its most vocal, and capable, members in Trustee Ed Deyermond. While Mr. Gardella would certainly make a fine trustee, it is Mr. Corish who has the eye for detail we believe will be necessary to aid the board as it faces many challenges, which is why he earns our endorsement in Tuesday’s election.

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