U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has urged the National Park Service to place the SANS neighborhoods of Sag Harbor on the National Register of Historic Places as rare post-World War II African-American beach communities.
In a June 17 letter to David Bernhard, the secretary of the Department of the Interior, which oversee the National Park Service, Senator Gillibrand wrote that the designation of the Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah Beach subdivisions (SANS) as nationally historic places would “create awareness of the historical significance of these communities, as well as ensure the continued protection of these areas.”
Just three months ago, after a long research and application process led by Renee Simons of Sag Harbor Hills, the State Board of Historic Preservation added the SANS communities to the State Register of Historic Places and nominated them to be included the National Register of Historic Places.
Senator Gillibrand’s letter came as a surprise to Ms. Simons, who said on Tuesday that she got a “heads up” from the senator’s regional office the day before it was released.
“We’re really pleased the senator has pushed forward on the nomination,” Ms. Simons said.
Senator Gillibrand wrote that “these communities have for generations offered a diverse community for all races to live and vacation, serving particularly as a summer retreat for middle-class African-American families. These communities were among the very few beach communities on the East Coast founded by African-Americans, and the SANS communities have continued to attract African-Americans and others from all backgrounds to spend summers.
“The area features historic properties developed by African Americans, including architect Amaza Lee Meredith, one of the first professional African-American women architects, who built at least two homes in Azurest, including one that she called her own, during the summer months.”
She noted that “increasing property values throughout Sag Harbor and the East End of Long Island have led to increased development in the area. This new development threatens to undermine the historical character of the community, displace residents, and prevent the continued discovery of historically significant locations.
“As one of the very first professional African-American women architects, any remaining examples of Meredith’s designs would be extremely significant. As unique communities that developed and thrived in an era of institutionalized racism, these areas should be recognized, celebrated, and protected.”