Some Sort of Miracle
Â Dear Editor:
It was just about this time last year when the campaign to raise public awareness about the sale of the Sag Harbor United Methodist Church began. It was a great disappointment when the church was sold to an individual for use as a private home instead of being preserved for the people of Sag Harbor.
There were many road blocks at the time for such a purchase for the Town of Southampton. The building would need an established organization to be caretaker of the property, the Methodist congregation needed to be considered, there were tenants in the building, a contract of sale was already in place by the time this issue was on the public radar and the property would have to be appraised and placed on the CPF acquisition list.
Much has happened in a year. The Methodist Church is once again, up for sale. The congregation of the Methodist Church has since moved to St. David’s on Eastville Ave. and the Rainbow Pre-School has found a new home come January at the Unitarian church. Thanks to the hard work of many people, the building has become a priority for public acquisition. This is some sort of miracle, Sag Harbor is getting a second chance to save this magnificent structure for our community!
Here is the amazing part. At the same time the Methodist Church opportunity is happening, the John Jermain Memorial Library is seeking to expand. They have met with many obstacles in meeting their goals. The high costs of building a new structure outside of the village limits, having two buildings so far apart, maintaining its current building are a few.
Consider the possibility of Southampton Town purchasing the historic Sag Harbor United Methodist Church with Community Preservation Funds and our library becoming the permanent tenant. It would cost a fraction of the previous library expansion plans, it would be steps away from the current library, it would be well within the village, it would save a historic structure and it would be a great benefit to our community.
Please consider this idea as positive growth in Sag Harbor.
Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre
I was in the audience at last week’s Village Zoning Board of Appeals meeting to hear Michael Bromberg’s “Californicated” (it began with some gibberish about his days at the California Appeals Court) recusal from the “Bulova” decision.
My question to the Mayor and Village Trustees is: Why not make Bromberg’s recusal permanent for all cases and for all time?
Mr. Bromberg did not recuse himself for libeling the Mayor or Village Trustee(s) or Sag Development Partners; although, he apparently did. It is difficult to know specifically who, what, where or when, on the village’s side, since he has asserted only wild speculation.
Â His “reasoning” (I use that term loosely) was that this defamation did not count because he was not legally responsible by virtue of his position as Z.B.A. Chairman.
As The Express reported:
“The Law is simple, unless there is a reason for judicial disqualification, disqualification is a matter of personal discretion,” said Bromberg. He added he did not believe he had defamed anyone in his comments; but even if he had, it would not require his recusal.”
This reminds me of Clinton’s absurd “depends on the meaning of IS” argument.
Instead, Mr. Bromberg recused himself because he could see no “perfect” solution for the “affordable housing” issue in the “Bulova” case.
After all Mr. Bromberg is:Â “Not God!”; as he regularly points out. As if anyone would be confused.
Furthermore, Mr. Bromberg has eliminated the traditional opening of the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting by not gaveling the meeting to order nor reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Could it be that he views the reference to God in the Pledge as competition rather than a request for Divine guidance? The Z.B.A is the only Village Board to have eliminated this tradition.
Mr. Bromberg did have one valid point, however. Decisions on projects of the magnitude of the “Bulova Project” need to be made at the level of the elected village trustees. There is too much at stake for the entire “East End” community to be left to virtually unaccountable village boards.
The problem, as I see it, is that these boards were created to insulate politicians from the consequences of difficult or unpopular decisions.
As H.L. Mencken famously observed: “A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.”
Kudos to the remaining Z.B.A. members who got it exactly right.
Otis A. Glazebrook, IV
Don’t Sell Out Too Cheap
On July 14Â I traveled toÂ Sag HarborÂ to speak at the ZBA hearing on the “Bulova” development. I am the President of a Coalition of civic organizations representing communities in westernÂ SouthamptonÂ TownÂ and wanted to share information about affordable housing “buyouts” with the community and the ZBA members. Sadly, I arrived at 6:55, and although the “buyout” decision was the fourth item on the Agenda, the ZBA hearing was already closed and the vote about to be taken.Â
I had hoped to encourage the ZBA members to take a stronger position on the developer’s offer of $2.5 million to not build 13 affordable units as part of the Bulova complex. Our community was faced with a similar situation with a development that came to be known as Westhampton Pines, built on the site of the former Westhampton Dragstrip.Â In our case, the Town ofÂ SouthamptonÂ was negotiating a buyout with Pulte Homes for the difference between the affordable rate for the units and the proposed market rate. In 2005, this amounted to approximately $300,000 per unit. Today, that difference would be quite a bit more and certainly more than the approximately $193,000 per unit that Sag Development Partners is offering. Even by 2005 standards, that would amount to another $1million for the village’s affordable housing fund. I don’t know the specifics of your situation, but if there is still time it would be worth considering.Â
There were several mistakes made with various aspects of the approval of our Westhampton Pines project. My civics often use it as a “poster child” for what not to do. The one positive outcome is that it has helped our leaders to make improvements in the process. All new affordable housing is now in perpetuity. The town takes a stronger bargaining position when negotiating with developers -189 units were built when the underlying zoning might have produced 15 homes, just to get rid of our nuisance. In the end, the local civic recommended, and the town agreed, to require that the affordable housing be built. The civic believed strongly in the requirement to include affordable housing in all new development projects and didn’t want to set a precedent for future projects. In addition, they considered the possible increase in density if the affordable units were built elsewhere in the hamlet. Â
I hope that you will still have an opportunity to use this information in negotiating with the developer. However, whether for this project, or the next, I am encouraging you to learn from our experience – don’t sell out the future of your community too cheaply. Good Luck.
The writer is President of the Southampton Town Civic Coalition
CMEE Seeks Support
Dear Mr. Boyhan,
As recent articles have indicated, the Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE) is facing the real possibility of having to close its doors by the fall due to a critical lack of funding. As the new Executive Director here at CMEE, I have had the opportunity in only three weeks to witness what a significant loss this institution would be in our community. I have met with dozens of friends, community members and local business owners who count CMEE as a valued resource that they hoped would plant roots here for generations to come.
While we continue to work tirelessly to raise needed funding, we can’t do it alone. We need your help to sustain our operations and put us on a secure financial footing. I’d like to thank everyone who has shown support, especially all that attended or contributed to our recent fundraiser “CMEE Under the Stars.” We were delighted to showcase the kinds of exhibits and programs that 40,000 visitors experience here each year.
Our ambitions remain high, and we have a host of exciting plans for what CMEE can offer children and families in our community – topping the list, expanded programming for older children.
My goal is to meet with anyone who feels they have a stake in CMEE. I want CMEE to be your museum – an institution our children feel they own. We are eager to receive advice from children, young and old, as we develop CMEE as a center enhancing what children learn in school, a place to learn stewardship, mentorship, and volunteerism, and a meeting ground for new friends.
I urge you to consider supporting CMEE financially or by donating your time or expertise. Whatever your background, we can use your help. Please call me at 631-537-8250, x204 or email me at Steve@CMEE.org.
We are grateful for the support and generosity the East End community has already shown to CMEE. With your support, CMEE has a chance to realize its full potential.
Pursue Purchase of Church
The board of the Sag Harbor Historical Society applauds and offers its support for the acquisition of the former Methodist Church by the Community Preservation Fund.Â We encourage the residents of the Village and Town to let our elected representatives know that we value this chance to keep a landmark public building alive and open to us all.
The community missed its chance to acquire the Methodist Church last year, when it was sold into private hands. It is now on the market again. Sag Harbor contributes to this fund with frequent real estate sales but seldom has the opportunity to draw out of it in a significant way, lacking open space. The Town of Southampton should be urged to purchase the former Methodist Church property through use of Community Preservation Funds.
The need for a community gathering space has been felt by many local organizations. The church, which dates to the 1830s, contains one of Sag Harbor’s great spaces, which could satisfy this need remarkably well. The best use of this building would be shared community use by multiple religious, educational and other non-profit groups.Â With appropriate support at all layers of local government, this space could be acquired.
Because the church is already in private hands there is a possibility that it will remain in private hands. If this is the case we believe that it must be preserved according to the requirements delineated in the Village Code of Sag Harbor. We have heard that it is the intent of the former owner to remove the stained glass windows of the church. This action would be a desecration of this historic structure and a violation of the historic preservation laws of the Village of Sag Harbor.Â
The historical society board stands by our commitment to historic preservation. Please join us in supporting the acquisition of this historic and beautiful church by the Community Preservation Fund as it faces this challenge which could benefit us all.
Joan B. Tripp, Pres.
Sag Harbor Historical Society