A Legacy For the 21st Century?
The project of our time is to preserve the core values of Sag Harbor Village. Just a couple of decades ago the big Victorian on Main Street housed three generations of a working class family. These were the people who supported our retail stores all year and filled the church pews. Our new resident profile is, typically, a working couple from the city that spends a few weeks here in summer and a number of weekends off-season. This is our ‘new’ village, and the demographics make improbable survival of our familiar independent stores since weekend and summer trade can’t sustain them. Owners and employees cannot nurture families or pay the rent on a part-time or seasonal wage. Perhaps “local values” are fast becoming quaint and sentimental, but I’d argue they are special and worth protecting.
The Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center can play a role in helping the local landscape by engaging with the Village Board, the Chamber of Commerce, the Bay Street Theatre and other local institutions. Effective partnership can reap extraordinary results that will benefit everyone.
As a small, seasonal village with a painfully depleted year-round population and zero parking, we cannot handle two major cultural institutions. Our Bay Street is a still modestly funded 26-year phenomenon, but a ‘world renowned’ Cinematic Arts Center on the same turf is sure to dig into Bay Street’s donor base even as the SHCAC might cannibalize its own. Non-profits, both dependent, on philanthropy; one will fail, even as the other might only survive.
The cinema can be a very positive contributor to local life if 360-day activity if it’s supporters and their business plan prioritize issues of our resident population. If it isn’t sustainable year-round, the village will be further burdened in summer and suffer the rest of the year. Central to this thesis is the accepted parking requirement for theaters: for each seat there should be .3 spaces or 135 spaces; the entire of Main Street from the flagpole to Madison Street has fewer than 135 spaces. That is a very big deal for all the Main Street retailers. Without infrastructure improvement, in fact, the contemporary business environment will continue to presage pop-up stores and the death of the independents, especially the staple retailers. SHCAC and retailers would be smart to examine their self-interests.
In lieu of a professional parking study I have counted the parking spaces proximate to Main Street and tried to assess nature and size of building use in that area. Referencing professional studies, I calculated current parking needs. There are 375 village-owned spaces, plus 75 leased from PSEG. The evidence recommends we need 1400. In other words, we can efficiently and conveniently accommodate less than 1/3 of the people who come to the village.
On the gloomier side, if the center locates at the old cinema’s Main Street location, the vastly more active Cinema Arts Center will create immense parking challenges and be harmed by the parking inconvenience common to many Sag Harbor visitors. The professed objective of the group is to make Sag Harbor an “attractive cultural weekend destination.” That statement, at the least, begs the question of the group’s commitment to off-season activities. That said, whatever the schedule or level of activity, it is important for every taxpayer to know that we are responsible for police management, clean-up and any requisite infrastructure improvements relating to the film center. To the degree it succeeds or fails, a benefit or cost accrues to us that is not borne by taxpayers of neighboring jurisdictions, like East Hampton or North Haven. We are the ones who have to provide the new Cinema Arts Center requisite municipal services so we better understand its potential impact.
To correct and improve our long-neglected parking and traffic problems, we can go in small steps and fail. Or, we can attempt to solve the problem and plan, generationally, with visionary ideas, professionally planned and sensitively executed. We are at a unique moment, perhaps the last time, where this can be accomplished, and, extraordinarily, it could be accomplished at no cost to the village.
It is time to act decisively. With the commitment of the new village board and popularity for both Bay Street and the Cinema Arts Center, cultural organizations may displace whaling as our lasting legacy. Encouraging Bay Street and the Cinema Arts Center to join in persuading the village to tackle a long-term parking solution seems less an option and more an imperative. As a taxpayer, I welcome a Cultural Arts Center for film and stage, with great parking. It would be a boon to local residents by providing a stunning cultural amenity, easing the parking so to more easily patronize our shops, and it would best insure a vibrant, successful year-round operation.
Let’s put our heads together and make the most of the possibilities.
The American Hotel
To the Editor :
It always bothers me when a person(s) takes it upon themselves to interfere when they have no business doing so.
On Sunday, June 25, my neighbors across the road had a late afternoon party. There were 40 or so cars trying to park and it’s difficult because there is no room on the south side of road to be able to do that, but they were allowed to park on his lawn to make it easier. They parked in front of my house but were considerate enough not to block my husbands truck in even thought there was a car in front of, and behind, truck. This didn’t bother me at all. The host even had a young lady helping direct traffic. Barely an hour after party began I was shocked to see a Police Traffic car in front of my driveway. I went out and told him I had not called the police and I certainly had no objections to the party, nor did my next door neighbor. The officer said it was a question of safety. With so many cars there would be a problem with an ambulance or fire truck to get through. I agree with the firetruck, but an ambulance could get through. Also, this road is a circle, going around the pond and there are two ways to enter/exit . No emergency vehicle would have a problem. Anyone living in this neighborhood knows that ! Therefore, I fail to see how the one who called Traffic Police could use that as an excuse. To compound that, I think the party was for a charity benefit.
I don’t understand what makes a person do that. Are they so unhappy they want to make others the same, or do they want to feel ‘important’ for a short while ?
There is too much of this going on all over, but when it’s done in a small town it really is not nice at all.
Leatrice B. Christensen
Driving While Oblivious
Please, summer is here and it is time to slow down. The streets are crowded with people, and drivers are behind the wheel who perhaps shouldn’t be. The mix is a recipe for disaster.
We love the visitors who come to Sag Harbor and enliven our little village for a couple of months a year; but it seems as if this is the only time of year these drivers actually drive. The recklessness with which they careen around our neighborhood streets is as if they are driving around country farm in Iowa. This isn’t the country, at least not anymore.
Even on Main Street where it is almost impossible to speed — no less move forward — at times pedestrians take their lives in their hands simply crossing the street.
So, welcome, but please don’t be so oblivious.