Thiele Requests Disaster Designation; Candlelight Gathering Planned for Tuesday in Sag Harbor

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On Friday morning, December 16th, 2016 at 6:11 a.m., the Sag Harbor Fire Department was called to 78 Main Street for a report of a deck fire at the rear of the building. Arrivng units found a working fire that had begun to extend into the Sag Harbor Cinema and adjacent buildings, and immadiately called for mutual aid from neighboring fire departments. Fueled by icy conditions and strong winds, the fire ended up requiring the help of 16 fire departments and 3 EMS agencies from across the east end of Long Island, as well as resources from Suffolk County Fire and Rescue sevices. Fortunately there were no injuries.

Residents from Sag Harbor and beyond have been invited to a candlelight gathering Tuesday evening, December 27, held by the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Cormaria in an effort to bring the community together after a devastating fire destroyed several buildings, including the Sag Harbor Cinema, on December 16.

The gathering comes just days after New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Kenneth LaValle wrote to Governor Andrew Cuomo requesting he ask the the U.S. Small Business Administration to grant the Village of Sag Harbor a special disaster declaration. This would allow residents eligibility for the SBA Disaster Recovery program, which opens up access to low-interest loans for the dozens of Sag Harbor businesses that have suffered financial losses as a result of the fire, which occurred during the peak holiday shopping season.

“As you are aware, on Friday, December 16, 2016, a terrible 12-alarm fire swept through the historic Village of Sag Harbor. Thanks to the excellent work of our brave police officers and firefighters, everyone was safely evacuated from the buildings and there were no physical injuries reported. However, a significant number of Sag Harbor’s homes, businesses, and cultural institutions were damaged or destroyed by the fire. We are writing today to respectfully ask that you formally request an SBA agency-level special disaster declaration,” said Mr. LaValle and Mr. Thiele in the December 23 letter to Governor Cuomo.

“In total, five buildings, home to seven businesses and four apartments suffered significant fire, smoke, and water damage. Two of those building have already been demolished due to extensive structural damage. One of those demolished buildings was the beloved and iconic Sag Harbor Cinema, which has been a venue for shows and movies for more than a century. The cinema’s large screen and eclectic slate of films from all over the world brought joy and culture to the Sag Harbor community and those who visited the region,” the letter continues. “It was a unique, historic, and irreplaceable institution, and its loss in the fire has greatly saddened our entire community.”

“At least 50 businesses on Main Street and Washington Street have suffered a direct financial loss due to the closure of streets, eliminated parking spaces, and blocked access during one of busiest times of the year. Parking still remains limited, even one week after the incident, due to ongoing demolition activities,” they continue. “The owners of these small main street businesses are now facing the loss of their livelihoods for an indeterminate amount of time and an arduous recovery and rebuilding process that will affect the entire village.

“Sag Harbor only claims approximately 2,200 residents, so the economic disruption caused by the fire has a much broader and more crippling impact than the direct damage from the fire,” write Mr. LaValle and Mr. Thiele. “The damage to the Sag Harbor Village District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains most of the retail establishments in the village, will negatively impact tourism during the summer and cause further economic harm to the village. Given the limited resources for economic recovery and the fire’s economic impact on a small, yet vibrant and historic community, we should do everything in our power to help these small business owners recover from their tragic loss.”

In the meantime, the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Cormaria will host a Candlelight Gathering at the Christmas Tree on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor on Tuesday, December 27, at 4:30 p.m.

“In honor of our community, Sister Ann from Cormaria invites everyone to join us as we celebrate Sag Harbor and look to the New Year with hope and appreciation as our community rebuilds,” wrote the Chamber in a release issued on December 20.

For more information, please call Cormaria at (631) 725-4206.

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