Safety Concerns May Force Sag Harbor Community Band To Decamp From American Legion

When the Sag Harbor Community Band performs its summer concerts at the American Legion, the audience typically sits on Bay Street. MICHAEL HELLER

For nearly 60 years, the Sag Harbor Community Band has performed Tuesday night concerts of patriotic marches and popular tunes in front of the American Legion, but that tradition could be in jeopardy.

Citing a shortage of personnel to provide adequate security for audience members who have traditionally brought their own lawn chairs and sit on Bay Street, Sag Harbor Police Chief Austin J. McGuire told the Village Board on Tuesday he hoped an alternative venue could be explored.

Chief McGuire said he recognized he was talking about a village institution — “This is a staple of the community,” he said — but with four part-time officers having recently resigned to take full-time jobs elsewhere, he said he did not think he could field enough officers to block the street on either side of the Legion building with police cars and still provide adequate coverage elsewhere on summer evenings in a village that is rebounding from the coronavirus pandemic.

Community Band member Thomas Rickenbach, who appeared before the board to request permission to hold nine Tuesday night concerts in July and August, said he would hate to see the tradition ended.

“It is a little late in the season for us to change direction and renegotiate a location,” he said, adding that audience members, who typically stroll down to the waterfront to take in the band’s performances might not follow it to a new location. He said the band had already lost one season to the pandemic, and he feared a second lost season might spell its doom. “I’m really concerned about the ability of a 1957-circa organization to continue if we don’t have an outlet,” he told the board.

Although Chief McGuire said he believed the village code limited the number of events that can be held in Marine Park, board members suggested that as an alternative, pending a review by Village Attorney Elizabeth Vail. That could work, Mr. Rickenbach said, but arrangements would have to be made to provide sufficient lighting so the band could be seen and its members could read their music.

“We’ve had no issues before with safety,” Mr. Rickenbach said, suggesting that perhaps the road could be blocked with barricades instead of police cars. “We’ve always managed to find a way that we can make it a safe place for people to come and listen to these concerts.”

Board members agreed, and said they would keep talking with the hope of finding a suitable solution.

Claes Brondal of the Jam Session, Inc., who had requested permission for two free jazz concerts on either July 7 and 21, or July 14 and 28, from 3 to 6 p.m., was not as lucky.

The board denied his application, at the request of Chief McGuire, who once again cited concerns about policing and the fact that the placement of the Southampton Town portable stage would force the closure of the access road around the park and prevent boaters from getting to their slips.

Board members asked if it would be possible to reconfigure the placement of the stage or take other steps to make the shows possible, but ultimately agreed with Trustee Aidan Corish, who said the board needed to develop a master schedule, so it was not dealing with applications on an ad hoc basis, and Trustee Tom Gardella, who said he would defer to Chief McGuire’s judgment. “If the police chief says he can’t, or it’s a stretch to keep it safe, that’s the end of the conversation as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Chief McGuire said with only two officers on duty during any typical shift, policing special events, which have been picking up as COVID-19 wanes, is proving difficult. He said the situation would be improved if not all events were held on the waterfront in the most crowded part of the village.

Deputy Harbormaster Honored

The board honored Deputy Harbormaster Chris Duryea, who, on May 31, rescued 10 people in Noyac Bay, with a proclamation

Trustee James Larocca said Mr. Duryea responded to a distress call at about 5 p.m. on Memorial Day that reported two rafts, with five people on board each, had been blown by strong winds away from Cedar Beach in Southold out into Noyac Bay. Mr. Larocca said none of the victims were wearing life jackets and their rafts were taking on water in choppy and windy conditions. Mr. Duryea located the group near Jessup’s Neck and took them all aboard his own vessel, along with their rafts, and returned them to Southold.

“He is to be commended for a very good piece of maritime work,” Mr. Larocca said. “He probably saved some lives that day.”