Will a New Mrs. Sage Please Stand Up?
In 1908, saddened by the state of what is now called Mashashimuet Park, Margaret Sage, perhaps better known as Mrs. Russell Sage, purchased the parkland for $5,000 and hired a landscaping firm to beautify it. Two years later she purchased Otter Pond across the street, added that to the park, and in 1920 ceded all the land to the Park and Recreation Association. By the time Pierson High School was dedicated in June 1908, Mrs. Sage had donated approximately $102,000 to the project, which she spearheaded. In 1909, for $10,000, the most expensive real estate transaction in the village at that point, she purchased the land on which the John Jermain Memorial Library stands for the purpose of it being built. She then permanently endowed it.
Also in 1908, after the people of Sag Harbor failed to raise $500 for the renovation of the brick railroad depot, Mrs. Sage presented a check for $1,500. It was decided, after such a sum money became available, that a brand new depot be built. And so it was.
A woman of Mrs. Sage’s means did not need a park, a pond, a library, grade school, or railroad depot. But when she discovered her community lacking in one way or another she made every effort to fill in the gaps. And now here we are – the people of Sag Harbor – distraught, heartsick, lacking.
The first movie theater opened on Main Street in 1909. A theater had occupied that same space, in one iteration or another, for 107 years. There’s no need to say what the theater meant to this community. One needed only venture onto Main Street the day after the fire that destroyed it to witness her citizens watch helplessly as the soaking rubble was hauled away. Their long, somber faces and tearful eyes were enough.
For the citizens of Sag Harbor, the cinema was invaluable. Not only a tourist’s photo opportunity, it was the cultural capital of our village, a sign that Sag Harbor would not submit to homogenization. An independent theater, champion of independent films, was proof that Sag Harbor was, and is, a cultural and intellectual powerhouse, unrivaled on the East End of Long Island. But I think I also saw the salivating mouths of real estate developers among the crowds, calculating prices per square foot, for the newly empty space certainly holds value to be exploited.
The people of Sag Harbor, no doubt, will raise hefty sums in an effort to rebuild the cinema and the razed buildings. Local organizations and businesses will chip in, too. But to guarantee its future success, what Sag Harbor needs now is a new Mrs. Sage – a philanthropist who will ensure the traditions of culture and intellect not only continue, but thrive, in Sag Harbor.
Here we come upon what makes Sag Harbor great: its historical relationship between its philanthropists who thrive on the arts and culture of its working people, who in turn are able to succeed and thrive because of the opportunities allowed by the generosities of its greatest philanthropists. It takes a village, as they say.
And so I ask: Will a new Mrs. Sage please stand up?
I am so very honored and grateful to The Express for giving me its Person of the Year award. It’s abundantly clear that we also have the Community of the Year here in Sag Harbor, and nothing positive anyone does could happen without it!
I’d like to add that in the peek I’ve had behind the scenes here in the Village, there can’t be enough credit given to our present mayor, village board of trustees, and village boards. In the most important crises we’ve faced his year, including the acquisition of waterfront land for a park, the fire that gutted the heart of Main Street, and the overdevelopment threatening the historic character of the village, it is they who negotiated, led, and passed laws that protected us in these times of crisis. So my hat’s off to them, and our first responders of course, for keeping us safe and on the right track.
A Good Friend
I was deeply saddened to learn of the recent death of Robert Schneider. I worked with Bob during his tenure as principal of Pierson High School. He was an extraordinary leader, an outstanding educator, and a friend to all. While he exhibited a great number of positive qualities on a day to day basis — an excellent work ethic, a high level of intellect, well-organized, fair, and consistent — perhaps his most outstanding attribute was his uncanny ability to both identify and focus on the positive characteristics of those with whom he came in contact: students, faculty, and parents alike. He always had something positive to say about everyone. Students loved him; faculty loved him; other administrators loved him. It was always a pleasure to be in his company. His loss will be felt by many.
Thanks for being such a good friend, Bob.
Acknowledging a Faithful Presence
To the Editor,
We wish to acknowledge the faithful presence and charitable contributions that Richard Demato and his RJD Gallery have represented in our community until the recent terrible fire on Main Street.
For years now, besides heading the board of and raising funds for The Retreat, Richard and Eve Gianni, his director, made every effort to support charitable causes. From the aforementioned Retreat to Fountain House, which helps with depression and mental illness, to his very generous and immediate participation in last summer’s Big Tent: Party for the Park benefit, he always said YES, and it is clear that he loves helping others. A substantial portion of the funds raised from our Big Tent event were art sales and, true to form, there was absolutely no hesitation when he was asked to help us, taking no percentage and giving up the larger portion of his gallery space on a busy summer Saturday.
We are saddened by the idea that he would be moving his business to Bridgehampton, but we wish him well in all things, and salute his generosity.
April Gornik and Susan Mead
For Sag Harbor Partnership
Meaning of Greed
The term “greed” is defined by Oxford Dictionary as “an intense and selfish desire for something: especially wealth, power, or food”.
This Holiday season I am asking that people in Sag Harbor, New York think about greed: a mean-spirited greed. This is a greed not just for wealth, but the power that comes with greed and how this makes you view others. I am asking that people in Sag Harbor take a look at who and what you have in life (whether it is a job, a spouse, a friend, or a Parent). I am asking that you take an honest look at yourself and your life, also in terms of “greed”.
Often people cannot see past their intentions to be greedy: usually for power or wealth. I notice that if a poorer single woman with a single income requires some sort of benefit from the government, people become angry and prejudiced. This woman is also not codependent in relationships, for substances, approval nor in conversation. On the other hand, many people are at their wits end about government benefits. However the people who are angry with her basically worship and pay attention to wealthy people: the people who are handed lifetimes of luxury (large homes with no mortgage to pay, big cars with car insurance, and boats from their own families). If the wealthy can hand their children lifetimes of luxury, then why not the poor? People rarely say anything to the wealthy about what they were handed to in life; but they mock the working-poor (no matter how bright the poor person is, no matter how good her intentions are). Just because a person requires government benefits does not mean that you should confuse them with codependent behavior, either.
In the Gospel of Matthew 5:3, Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
There are unsheltered homeless people in our own back yards. There are actually 60,000 homeless people living in the New York City shelter system. There are people who don’t have enough food to eat right here in Sag Harbor. There are workers who don’t make enough to make ends meet.
Just because you are the person seeking power (this is greedy power for others’ attention and approval that is handed to a person) does not mean that you can understand the situation of poverty.
This Holiday season try not to be greedy for power in terms of poverty and homelessness. Try to seek solutions, instead of a power-play. I hope that people can learn to value the people in their life and not seek some sort of greed for power: to not control others out of what they have in life.