By Stephen J. Kotz
As if we didn’t know it already.
Choked with traffic though it may be in the summer and nigh deserted come February, Sag Harbor’s Main Street is still one of the top 10 “Great Streets in America” for 2014, according to the American Planning Association.
The group, a professional organization of city planners, who occupy themselves with such tasks as designing road layouts and where to put the sewers in communities both large and small, has been compiling a list of the 10 top streets, neighborhoods and public spaces since 2007.
This year, Sag Harbor’s Main Street was singled out along with such well known thoroughfares as Broadway in New York City and Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., as well as smaller and less well known streets in communities as diverse as Ogden, Utah, Portland, Oregon, Charleston, South Carolina, and Hot Springs, Arkansas.
“We welcome suggestions from anybody all year along, residents, visitors, elected officials, said the organization’s public affairs coordinator, Roberta Rewers, who would not disclose just who nominated Sag Harbor for the honor. She stressed, though, that all nominees “go through a rigorous vetting process” that could include visits from members of the ASA.
“It’s still a compact village with a number of family-owned businesses, which make it individualized as opposed to all chain stores,” said long-time village merchant Nada Barry, an owner of The Wharf Shop toy store on Main Street, by way of explaining what may have helped influence the judges.
Ms. Barry said a major drawing card for the village is that “all the major points of interest are within walking distance.”
News of the award might encourage more tourism, she said, before pausing and adding with a laugh, “some people are going to like and some people won’t. It’s going to be controversial.”
Kelly C. Dodds, the president of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the news.
“From the chamber’s perspective anything that raises awareness off the unique qualities of our village is good news,” she said. “We all live here. We all have all chosen this place to have our businesses, so we already know how nice it is.”
She said she was not concerned that the award might encourage a few more tourists to trek east. “There is no doubt the village is changing and developing, but I think the character of this village is not going to change. That is something that is going to stay because it lives in the hearts of people here.”
Village Clerk Beth Kamper said the village received a notice and certificate from the organization, but she said there were no plans to celebrate it in any way. “I do not believe we are going to have any kind of ceremony or anything special,” she said.
In a press release, the APA offered a summary of why it chose Sag Harbor to be honored:
“First established in 1745…. Main Street in Sag Harbor, New York, is a nine-block, cosmopolitan meeting place for village officials, business owners, residents and visitors going to work, doing errands, shopping, getting coffee, eating or simply people-watching. Today, more than 40 years after it was designated as a national historic district, Main Street still showcases the last vestiges of its whaling industry, which is how the village served the country during wartime. Lately, community leaders and residents have taken to raising funds to refurbish some of the street’s historic mansions into functional retail spaces for commercial use. The result is an unmistakable aura of old wealth, culture and history.”
Ms. Rewers said the APA has designated a total of 230 honorees since it began its
“Great Places in America” campaign in 2007. The awards are made in October, which also happens to be National Community Planning Month, she said.