Government Leaders Rally Around a Battered Main Street

Sag Harbor Village Mayor Sandra Schroeder speaks with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone prior to an emergency meeting of all local government representatives following the Sag Harbor Cinema fire on Friday. Michael Heller photo

By Kathryn G. Menu

Much like the outpouring of support from local businesses during Friday’s fire — merchants including Provisions, the Golden Pear, Schiavoni’s, Conca D’Oro, and 7-Eleven ferried hot coffee and food to firefighters while shops like The Sag Harbor Variety Store showed up with socks and hand-warmers during the freezing fight against the flames — Mayor Sandra Schroeder said this week she was equally touched by the backing of government leaders, some of whom will bring resources to help businesses affected by the fire this week.

On Thursday, December 22, merchants facing loss of property — or business — have been encouraged to attend a session with the New York State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Suffolk County Economic Development and Planning Office at 11 a.m. in the Municipal Building at 55 Main Street in Sag Harbor.

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. arranged the meeting along with Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who spent time shopping on Main Street on Wednesday, picking up a Peter Spacek-designed “Sag Harbor” baby onesie from the Wharf Shop. East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman have also offered resources, said Ms. Schroeder on Wednesday.

“I’m 100-percent committed to working with you and everyone here to making sure whatever is restored and help Sag Harbor come back from this truly terrible incident,” said Mr. Bellone at a special meeting of government leaders on Friday afternoon in the Municipal Building.

Sag Harbor Police Chief Thomas Gardella, center, was in common at Friday’s fire on Main Street. Michael Heller photo

“We made it because of our firefighters, our police, our residents and because of the concern of our elected officials,” said Ms. Schroeder. “It makes you feel really good, especially as a new kid on the block who has never been through anything like this before, to have this kind of support.”

According to Ms. Schroeder, the Red Cross is also available to residents affected by the fire. On Wednesday, Mr. Thiele said the federal Small Business Administration may also play a role in the recovery for Main Street businesses depending on how many report losses. If it is a large enough group, said Mr. Thiele, it is possible the area may be designated a disaster area, paving the way for the SBA to offer its own services. That designation would have to be requested by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Mr. Thiele said he was working with New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle to assess the business impact of the fire before reaching out to the governor.

“I would strongly encourage any business owner or property owner, no matter how serious the impact, to come to tomorrow’s meeting,” said Mr. Thiele. “This will be information gathering so we can make the case to the state and the federal government that greater disaster relief is necessary.”

According to Village Clerk Beth Kamper, all businesses in the five buildings affected by the fire have been contacted about the meeting. Sag Harbor Cinema owner Gerald Mallow will not be able to attend the session, said Ms. Schroeder, but she added he plans to meet with her at later date.

Bernard D. Ryba, the interim regional director of the Stony Brook Small Business Development Center, a state agency with 24 offices, noted the program provided victims of Superstorm Sandy with financing in excess of $10 million.

In addition to business loans and financing, the center also helps business and property owners navigate their own insurance policies and claims, which can often be a challenging and confusing process.

“This is a free service and we are state employees,” said Mr. Ryba. “This is not a one-and-done. Once we establish a relationship with a business or property owner, they are able to reach out to us until they feel comfortable with the end result.”