Editorial: Public Access for a Public Project

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Plans for the renovation of Long Wharf have been in the works for the better part of a decade with the current village board moving forward in earnest to stabilize what is one of the most important facilities in Sag Harbor. However, the Long Wharf project will do far more than ensure the village business district will retain a large parking field. It will address stormwater runoff from the wharf that is dumping nitrogen into the bay. It will offer a safe pedestrian walkway, as well as improved lighting. For those of us who have enjoyed traversing the wharf, and especially those with small children, this will be a welcome improvement.

This project will not come cheaply. The total cost is expected to be $3.8 million. The village has already secured $550,000 in state grants, and there is another $250,000 in grant funds still up for grabs. But even if the cost comes in at $3 million, a homeowner with an assessed value of $795,000 could expect to see a bump in their village taxes of just over $60 annually over a 20-year period, if the village board chooses to bond for this project.

Frankly, the village cannot afford to shelve the work for another year. The wharf’s bulkhead and asphalt are in dire need of attention. The wharf is not in the least pedestrian friendly. As a region, we need to tackle projects big and small that chip away at the amount of nitrogen that is destroying our bays, harbors, creeks and aquifer. Long Wharf is also an important facility for Sag Harbor, not just for its ample parking, but as one of the village’s most iconic landmarks — one that speaks to its history as a deepwater port. The beautification, envisioned by landscape architect and resident do-gooder Edmund Hollander, will go a long way toward giving the wharf an aesthetic it deserves.

All this said, we have to agree with Trustee Aidan Corish who said that creating a deck to improve public access at the end of the wharf is more than worth the four parking spaces that would be lost and would go a long way toward assuaging concerns about the loss of a spectacular view with the introduction of new dock space for luxury yachts.

The reality is Sag Harbor Village has a lot of projects to accomplish in the next decade, and will need new sources of revenue in order to tackle those initiatives without placing an additional burden on a tax base already expected to take a financial hit under recently passed changes to the federal tax code. At the same time, it must balance that need with the responsibility it has to provide its residents with access to its waterfront. This appears to be a compromise for a project that is long overdue.

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