The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council has approved a $13.1 million plan proposed by the New York State Department of Transportation to repave 8 miles on Route 114 from Stephen Hands Path in East Hampton to the South Ferry in North Haven, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth LaValle announced Tuesday.
During Tuesday night’s meeting of the Sag Harbor Village Board, Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy said this was “great news” for Sag Harbor and that planning and design was expected to be completed in 2020 with the paving project beginning in early 2021.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council was unanimous is approving the proposed amendment to the Transportation Improvement Plan, according to a press release issued by Mr. Thiele, who has joined Senator LaValle in advocating for this project for several years as traffic on Route 114 increased with many drivers using Sag Harbor as a bypass to avoid traffic on Route 27 between Southampton and East Hampton.
“Senator LaValle and I have long advocated for the repair of NY 114, which is one of the most heavily traveled corridors on the East End of Long Island,” Mr. Thiele said in the statement. “Today, I join with the senator in thanking the DOT and NYMTC for the proposal and approval of this vital project. This stretch of Route 114 is in dire need of repair, and I am pleased that this long overdue repaving will move forward to protect the safety of all motorists on the East End.”
“I am pleased that the DOT has recognized the importance of this project and thank them for moving forward with much needed resurfacing and repairs of Route 114,” Senator LaValle said. “Assemblyman Thiele and I have long prioritized this project as it is critically important to our constituents and those traveling to and from our region.”
Leaf Blower Ban Evolves
On Tuesday, the Village Board continued its conversation about limitations on the use of leaf blowers. In May, the board proposed a law that would limit the use of leaf blowers to specific hours. The law would also create a registry for commercial landscape companies that want to work in Sag Harbor, in an effort to inform businesses about the village’s code and aid in enforcement.
If approved, leaf blower use in the village could only take place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with leaf blower use by professionals banned on weekends and holidays. Private homeowners would still be able to use leaf blowers during weekends and holidays, but only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The village would also require registration, and, in its initial proposal, suggested that vehicles with a registered company would also need a sticker, which would cost $25 per sticker in addition to the $250 registration fee.
On Tuesday, board member Aidan Corish said that after reaching out to more landscape companies, he was concerned about the impact the $25 sticker could have on large companies, some of which have more than 100 trucks. He noted that commercial vehicles are required to be registered with the state and display identification on the exterior of the vehicle. Mr. Corish suggested that was good enough for code enforcement to use to identify whether a company was registered with the village and that smaller companies using non-commercial vehicles could be required to purchase the stickers.
“That’s the main change we are proposing to what we discussed before,” said Mr. Corish, noting that every professional landscaper he has talked to is in favor of the ordinance.
The village is also looking to define a date by which companies must register with the village if the law is passed. Ms. Mulcahy said the board hoped to adopt the ordinance by its August meeting.
For 11-year-old Finny Dianora-Brondal, the impact of gas-powered leaf blowers is one the village needs to deal with immediately, and he told them as much via video conference after the board tabled the conversation to next month’s meeting.
“Gas powered leaf blowers use two and four cycle gasoline engines which produce hundreds of times more hazardous pollutants and fine particles than automobiles,” Finny said, citing research from the California Air Resources Board. “The state of California estimates that small engines such as those in leaf blowers will overtake automobiles to become the number one source of air pollution by 2020.
“Pollution from one hour of gas leaf blowers is the equivalent to the pollution from a car traveling 1,100 miles. Operating a gas leaf blower can cause permanent hearing loss in two hours and the noise can impact up to 90 nearby homes. Gas powered leaf blowers create high levels of formaldehydes, benzine, fine particle matter and smog forming chemicals which are known to cause dizziness, headaches, asthma attacks, heart and lung disease, cancer and dementia. Operators are most at risk but exhaust and dust is a danger to the general population.
“Here at my home in Sag Harbor, six out of seven houses that surround my property use lawn services that utilize two cycle engines. Every week, from early spring through late fall, we are directly impacted six times per week, every week, by the lawn services of our surrounding neighbors and countless times by services all around the village.”
Ms. Mulcahy, who has said in the past she would consider an outright ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, responded to Finny with, “We will continue to have these conversations, as long as I am in office, I think.”
Septic Systems and Public Bathrooms
In other village news, the board adopted a new local law removing the need for a homeowner to go through a public hearing process before the village Harbor Committee to install a nitrogen-reducing septic system, provided that is the only improvement they are making on their property.
In waste-related news connected more closely to Main Street, American Hotel owner Ted Conklin petitioned the board to re-open the Municipal Building bathrooms on Main Street during the weekends for pedestrians.
Those bathrooms have largely been closed to the public when the Municipal Building is closed to business since they were renovated a little less than a decade ago. After businesses called for more public bathroom facilities, they were briefly reopened in 2013, with the Chamber of Commerce paying to man and clean the facilities on the weekends, but were quickly shuttered again when the cost of maintaining that cleaning proved too much to sustain.
Currently, there is only one public bathroom in Sag Harbor Village — on Bay Street. Last month, the Village Board talked about the reopening of those bathrooms during COVID-19, noting only one person would be able to occupy them at a time. The bathrooms currently hold two stalls.
Ms. Mulcahy noted the board was aware that there was a need for public bathrooms on Main Street and that the village hopes to eventually erect facilities at the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. In order to open the bathrooms now, she said it would cost $800 every weekend for a total cost of $8,000 to keep open during the season, roughly 10 weeks. The village has not budgeted for that expense, she added.
“I am not opposed to opening the restrooms, but we need to protect them,” said board member Thomas Gardella, noting they were vandalized in the past.
“The difference now is people will be trying to go into restaurants to use the bathrooms, but that situation has been exacerbated by COVID,” said Wharf Shop co-owner Nada Barry, who has long called on the village to reopen its facilities on Main Street during the weekends and during evening hours.
She called on the village to find $8,000 somewhere in its coffers to help Main Street businesses, noting the Chamber of Commerce likely doesn’t have the funding currently, having had to cancel its main fundraising events of the season.
“A lot of us in retail on Main Street, as you can believe, are absolutely hurting and I am sure people have not sent in their dues … It’s bad. It is going to take a few years to see if we can even make it past this,” said Ms. Barry.