By Stephen J. Kotz
An effort to make Sag Harbor’s streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists inched forward Tuesday when Mayor Brian Gilbride told members of a group that has promoted and offered to underwrite new traffic calming measures that they should continue their fundraising efforts as they await formal village approval—approval he reiterated could come as early as next month.
Susan Mead of the organization Serve Sag Harbor, which has offered to pay for the work, told the village board, that her group has selected four intersections—Main and Glover streets, Main and John streets, Jermain and Oakland avenues, and Jermain and Atlantic avenues—for a pilot program that would make use of painted pavement and planters to test the effectiveness of the designs.
The group had originally wanted to make Main Street at the John Jermain Library a top priority, but had chosen to hold off there because of ongoing construction, she told the board.
Ms. Mead said the total cost of the project, including design work, painting and planters, and in-kind donations would come to about $25,000.
Last month, when Michael King, a planning consultant for the group, made a presentation of eight potential intersections for the pilot program, the board indicated it would most likely be ready to give its formal approval at its June meeting. On Tuesday, Mayor Gilbride said before the village formally signed off on the four intersections, he wanted the fire department, police and highway department to offer their input.
“I’m sure there is going to be some pilot project started and completed this summer,” Mr. Gilbride said on Wednesday, adding that a decision on whether to make them permanent is a long way off and depends on their reception by village residents. “I’ll be interested in seeing what the response is,” he added.
Of the four proposed intersections designs, the one that generated the greatest concern among board members was the one that called for a substantial narrowing and tightening of the sweeping corner of Jermain Avenue at Atlantic Avenue and Clinton Street in front of Pierson High School.
“Good luck with that one,” quipped Trustee Ed Deyermond apparently in reference to the heavy traffic there at the start and end of the school day.
“This is just an observation, but you are going to have a problem there,” added Mayor Gilbride. “This is a pretty aggressive plan.”
“It is an aggressive plan,” replied Jonas Hagen, an urban planner who has been working on the project, “but it is pilot and it can be changed.”
Mr. Hagen, who is the son of village ZBA chairman Anton Hagen, said that the school corner was of special concern because of the presence of school children and “vehicles going around that corner at a very high speed.”
“I don’t want to moralize, but I think we know how high the stakes are,” said Mr. Hagen, adding that unless the village takes action to safeguard its streets for pedestrians and bicyclists, a tragedy is waiting to happen.
Before the board even began its discussion of the traffic calming project, Bayard Fenwick, who lives on Madison Street, near its problematic intersection with Jermain Avenue, called for action there during the public comment period.
“There are literally almost fistfights,” said Mr. Fenwick. “I can only imagine it’s going to get worse.” Mr. Fenwick, who offered to allow the village to mount monitoring cameras on his house, said that many drivers are apparently not aware that the intersection is a four-way stop. Matters are made worse, he added, because large trucks continue to use Jermain Avenue as a shortcut through the village and a large number of landscape trucks pulling long trailers further complicate things.
In other action, at the request of Mayor Gilbride, the board will hold a hearing next month on an amendment to the village code that would allow it to establish a rebate and incentive program for residents who upgrade failing septic systems.
“In the upper cove, we are starting to see issues,” Mr. Gilbride said on Wednesday. “We are a waterfront community, and this is something I’d really like to get done.”
Mr. Gilbride said he would like to see the village commit to spending $50,000 on the program. “If it is successful, we can continue it next year,” he added.
Rebates would being limited to 50 percent of the total cost of the work with total reimbursements, depending on the extent and type of work, capped at $2,500 to $6,000, according to a draft of the new law.
Mr. Gilbride estimated that a typical septic system would cost approximately $5,000.
“I would hope people around the water might take advantage of this,” the mayor added. “I think there are some failing systems that should be replaced. I’m thinking of older systems that go back to the ’70 when they didn’t always have a septic tank.”
Village attorney Denise Schoen, who was sitting in for the board’s regular attorney, Fred W. Thiele Jr., raised the concern that residents who have applications before the Harbor Committee or ZBA, which require them to replace their sepetic systems, might try to apply for the rebates. “I’m curious if they are also going to be eligible for this—and it is going to come up,” she told the board.
On Wednesday, Mr. Gilbride said the law would be tweaked to make sure that applicants who are ordered to replace their systems as part of a larger development project would not be allowed to apply for a rebate.