Categorized | Express Editorials

Beautiful Parking Lot 12/6/12

Posted on 07 December 2012

After years of tussling with Suffolk County, this week Sag Harbor received some good news and some bad news.

The good news is, the county seems to be on the verge of giving Long Wharf to Sag Harbor.

The bad news is, the village seems to be on the verge of getting Long Wharf from the county.

Once the deal is approved by the county legislature, Long Wharf will cost the village exactly $1 (which Jay Scheiderman, our county legislator, has graciously volunteered to pay personally). With this amazing gift of Sag Harbor’s most iconic waterfront structure comes an equally awe-inspiring financial responsibility.

It’s enormous, to say the least.

According to a Suffolk County Department of Public Works report, two years ago Long Wharf needed some $600,000 in long-term maintenance repairs. In the face of the massive economic downturn, those repairs were largely shelved, and not completed.

But that doesn’t mean the need for the work has also gone away. What it does mean is the responsibility for paying for these repairs is now going to fall squarely on the shoulders of Sag Harbor Village — Long Wharf’s new owner.

We’re happy this inane back and forth negotiation with the county appears close to resolution and that the village will soon have total control of its most identifiable landmark. But with that control comes responsibility — and it’s vitally important for the village to start planning now to deal with the costs associated with it not long from now.

This is not news to the village board. We know they’ve talked about it in a theoretical sense should the transfer of Long Wharf come to pass. So with the reality setting in, we want to encourage the village to go ahead and create the reserve account for Long Wharf.

Logically, the first place to start is with revenues generated by dockage fees on the wharf. But perhaps the village can brainstorm about other sources of revenue that can be generated on the village’s waterfront — like renting the wharf out for off-season non-profit events and perhaps even considering something like a seasonal ice skating rink concession that would not only provide a much needed recreational opportunity but be a draw for organizations looking to rent the wharf in winter.

Then there’s the liability portion of the equation, and that’s something the village should figure out sooner rather than later. At this point, Long Wharf is something of an “attractive nuisance” — a term generally applied to unfenced swimming pools and backyard trampolines. Strolling Long Wharf is a walk many people want to take, especially in summer. But it’s hardly pedestrian friendly and those on foot must either walk in traffic, weave between parked cars, or tightrope it between the wooden guardrail and the watery drop off. Anyone with a small child will tell you, it’s hardly relaxing.

Several years back, the village board charged environmental planning consultant Richard Warren with the task of looking at ways to make the end of Long Wharf more people friendly. Part of that plan included some kind of green space at the end of the wharf — a payoff, if you will, for the end of the road. Yes, such a plan would result in the loss of some of the parking spaces, but the village isn’t making money off parking (unless you count tickets), and in the long run, a better design and green space would make Long Wharf a more attractive and desirable spot for everyone — including those who might potentially be interested in renting out the new and improved Long Wharf for fundraising events.

The point is, at this stage in the game, the sky’s the limit. All we know is right now, we have this beautiful, parking lot that could be so much more with proper planning.

So let’s figure this out before that $600,000 bill comes due.


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One Response to “Beautiful Parking Lot 12/6/12”

  1. Old Timer says:

    What’s the problem? Surely, a town that has no problem with a 12 man 2 million dollar police force, can deal with this! How about a yearly Long Wharf tax assessment for all those new condo owners in the Bulova complex? Seems as reasonable as a 2 million dollar police force, no?

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