Slower Speeds, Greater Waterfront Control Approved for Sag Harbor

Sag Harbor Waterfront
A boat wrecked against the Sag Harbor Breakwater. Courtesy: John Parker
Sag Harbor Waterfront
A boat wrecked against the Sag Harbor Breakwater. Courtesy: John Parker

Two crucial bills long sought by Sag Harbor — one measure that allows for the lowering of the speed limit on village streets and another that increases its jurisdiction over its own waterfront — won passage from the state Legislature in Albany late last week.

In their annual end-of-session rush before recessing for the long summer break, legislators passed hundreds of local laws, including a bill that reduces the speed limit to 20 miles per hour on Main Street, Madison Street, Bay Street and Jermain Avenue. The current cap on motorists is 25 miles per hour.

The village had been pressing for the traffic-calming measure for the past three years, repeatedly passing the home-rule measures needed for Albany to take action, in an effort to make the Sag Harbor Historic District a little bit safer, quieter and calmer by paring down vehicular speeds.

Sponsored in their respective houses by Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the bill would have to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo before becoming law.

Another key bill that won legislative approval changes state navigational law to let the village govern waterways that are as much as 4,500 feet from its shoreline, significantly extending the current 1,500-foot boundary, where its jurisdiction and regulatory oversight now come to a dead end.

The measure sets up a vessel-regulation zone to bring order to an area in which boats are often haphazardly moored or anchored and can pose a safety hazard to fellow boaters, swimmers, and other watercraft users.

“The area was unregulated before,” said John Parker, a Harbor Advisory Committee member and an alternate on the Harbor Committee who had long advocated for the bill. “Now, the village will have the opportunity to install some regulations in the area as may be necessary.”

Mr. Thiele, a co-sponsor of the measure with Mr. LaValle, had dubbed the out-of-jurisdiction zone a “virtual no-man’s land for enforcement,” and in the absence of local authority, vessels have periodically been abandoned, sunk in storms, smashed against the breakwater, drifted ashore and illegally discharged waste and other pollutants.

“This legislation would allow the Village of Sag Harbor to create a well-organized and regulated mooring field to ensure the future safety and enjoyment of Sag Harbor’s waters,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

The harbor bill awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature before it can be enacted into law.

  • reporting by Douglas Feiden