Editorial: Second-Guessing Steinbeck Park

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“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen,” said celebrated author John Steinbeck — and it appears that the committee advising Sag Harbor Village on the future of its newest waterfront park have more than a few ideas in mind regarding the name of that space.

For several years now, it has been understood that the waterfront parcel next to the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge (another renaming that came with a fair amount of debate) would be named the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. And while there may have been background chatter about whether the Nobel Prize-winning author deserved the honor, it never emerged as a legitimate debate or discussion through the pomp and circumstance of a very public purchase of the land and a ribbon-cutting ceremony that honored Steinbeck among the many government and private individuals who made the park’s future possible.

Committee members advising the village on the future of the park have now raised the question and appear to be pushing forward with plans to potentially rename the park, although Sag Harbor Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy appears neutral on the issue.

We, however, agree with Kathryn Szoka, the co-owner of Sag Harbor’s literary mecca, Canio’s Books and Canio’s Cultural Café: John Steinbeck is someone deserved of celebration by his adopted village — and, after three years, to strip away that honor feels like an unnecessary moment of second-guessing.

John Steinbeck lived in Sag Harbor for several years, writing in the gazebo of the Bluff Point Road home he shared with his wife, Elaine, penning his last novel, “The Winter of Our Discontent,” published in 1961, the year before he earned the Nobel Prize for Literature “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.” A co-founder of the Old Whalers’ Festival — now HarborFest — Mr. Steinbeck was not just an author who lived in Sag Harbor but one who considered Sag Harbor his home, making himself a part of the fabric of village life.

Naming the park after Steinbeck not only honors him but the scores of other authors, editors and artists who, like him, discovered the beauty and peace of the village, planted roots here, and made it truly their home. Other ideas might be arriving like rabbits now — but, this time, it’s best to stick with the original.

 

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