Categorized | Express Editorials

An Ode to CONPOSH

Posted on 25 November 2011

This week, we officially say goodbye to CONPOSH, a beloved (and sometimes prickly) part of life in Sag Harbor for the past 18 years.

For the uninitiated, CONPOSH stands for Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor. Yes, it’s a mouthful, but its mission for close to two decades was very true to its name. The organization and its members took the interests and concerns of people living in no fewer than 23 distinct neighborhoods within the village of Sag Harbor and gave voice to them in public venues — be it in front of the village’s myriad boards, through their legendary Sunday afternoon forums or during their traditional New Year’s Day gatherings at members homes.

It was good old fashioned grass roots community activism at its best, and while the issues might have, at times, seemed a bit trivial and peevish, for those whom it affected, the consequences were monumental. CONPOSH had a mission to agitate, and because the group was unafraid to make people (and officials) uncomfortable, they were wildly successful. Neighborhoods that formerly saw their very local beefs fall on deaf ears suddenly found they were center stage with CONPOSH.

Though its function was akin to the towns’ Citizen Advisory Committees, because it was not sanctioned by any official governing body, CONPOSH was always a bit scrappier. It also did what the CACs could not — affect policy within the incorporated village. CONPOSH also had an incredible talent at reaching out, mobilizing people and keeping them informed.

So exactly why has CONPOSH gone away?

Chalk it up largely to a sign of the times. The group’s organizers really represented another era and another way of doing things. Theirs was a generation that came of age and cut its activist teeth in the 1960s and ‘70s. Most of them have since moved away from the area, grown older or just don’t have the energy to rally the troops like they once did. Those who would logically be next in line to take their place just aren’t in a position to do so. They are struggling to raise children or hold down more than one job just to keep their heads above water.

As Valerie Justin, a CONPOSH faithful, said this week, “We were fighters and we kept fighting. I don’t see that in the younger people.”

But it may be that the demographics of this village, too, have just changed too much — many of the CONPOSH neighborhoods are now far less populated by year round residents than they were even two decades ago.

Or maybe CONPOSH just came to the end of its useful life and now it’s time for a new approach. We could easily see Save Sag Harbor, a group founded a few years back in direct response to a fear of chain stores finding their way to Main Street, taking up the CONPOSH mantle. With its focus on Sag Harbor and environs — not just village neighborhoods — a wider range of people and issues can easily be included in any agenda Save Sag Harbor chooses to set.

After all, in many ways, it seems to us the end goal of CONPOSH and Save Sag Harbor were nearly identical — that is to preserve the character of this place and everything that makes it special at any cost.

Certainly it’s a noble goal to consider and one worth carrying into the future.

Food for thought as we head into Thanksgiving weekend — and with the rest of the holidays just around the corner, we don’t know about you, but we’re personally at a loss as to how we’ll be spending New Year’s Day this time around.

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