Ground Is Broken on a New Cinema for Sag Harbor

Local dignitaries, including Nick Gazzolo, April Gornik, Sag Harbor Village Mayor Sandra Schroeder, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming and others "break ground" at the site of what will be the new Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center on Sag Harbor Main Street on Saturday. Michael Heller photo

The Sag Harbor Partnership dug shovels in the ground Saturday to mark the official groundbreaking on the new Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center as a crowd of community members cheered for all that has been accomplished — and all that is yet to come.

“Welcome, all of you, to this most exciting moment in the long history of the Sag Harbor Cinema,” said April Gornik, who chairs the partnership’s fundraising campaign. “We are thrilled to be groundbreaking, and to be celebrating the people to whom we owe so much — first and foremost to the great community of Sag Harbor, which includes over 2,000 people who have donated large and small amounts to make sure the cinema is rebuilt.”

RELATED: Watch video from Saturday’s groundbreaking

Dozens of eager onlookers angled for views of the site, which had largely been blocked from public view behind a wall since shortly after the December 16, 2016, fire that devastated the original cinema. Since then, progress has been made — and not just the financial kind. On Saturday, the Sag Harbor Partnership opened up the wall to reveal the property, for which pilings and foundation work have officially begun.

Sag Harbor Partnership president Nick Gazzolo explained the goal is to raise the front of the building first, then work from the inside of the property as a staging area to minimize the impact on Main Street during the height of the summer. He said the organization hopes to open the cinema — envisioned with three screening rooms, a café, a rooftop terrace and a slate of educational programming in addition to film screenings — a year from now.

“One of the reasons [the groundbreaking] came together so quickly is we wanted to finish the work from the front so we don’t disrupt business any more than we have to,” Mr. Gazzolo said Saturday.

The Sag Harbor Partnership has raised about $1.5 million en route to its goal of $3 million by July 1 and overall $6 million goal for the rebuilding.

“If talent could raise the building up, we would already be done, but of course we still need your dollars and cents to fully realize this dream,” Ms. Gornik said during the ceremony.

Mr. Gazzolo acknowledged Ms. Gornik’s enormous role in making the cinema restoration happen.

“Let’s give it up for April,” he said. “If you ever want to save anything, the first step is call April Gornik.”

Mayor Sandra Schroeder thanked the Sag Harbor Partnership for making the cinema rebuilding a reality.

Sag Harbor Village Mayor Sandra Schroeder speaks as April Gornik looks on during a Groundbreaking Ceremony at the site of what will be the new Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center on Sag Harbor Main Street on Saturday. Michael Heller photo

“I’m very happy to be here,” she said. “Eighteen months ago, when we saw what happened in six, ten hours, it was like devastation. You guys stepped up, went through the whole process, raised the money, went through all the boards, worked with the people … that says a whole lot about our community. Thank you very much.”

Allen Kopelson of NK Architects, the architectural firm chosen from among several bidders to solidify plans for the three-story, 9,400-square-foot building, said the project as the potential to restore “grandeur” to Sag Harbor Village.

“It’s an exciting project that we’re all really totally into, committed to,” he said following Saturday’s groundbreaking. “I can’t tell you how thrilling this day is. We’ve been working on this for nine years. It’s a real thrill to see a shovel turned over and get going with it.”