Categorized | Express Editorials

Resolve to Get Involved

Posted on 23 December 2011

Pay Attention

Another year is quickly coming to a close, and it’s that time of year when things inevitably feel like they are starting to shift.

Here in Sag Harbor, we’ve been able to see that shift every time we walk through the village. The scope of these changes in the village runs the gamut — from new development, to favorite old businesses pulling up stakes.

So where do we begin?

How about the Bulova Building. That reconstruction project is finally back on track, after three years of delay. The completion of this project will hopefully turn a 100-year-old pile of bricks into a series of apartment and housing units. Likewise, Baron’s Cove is expected to get a much needed makeover and the West Water Street Condo project looks to be a go, once again.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum, empty storefronts abound. They are most prevalent around the northern end of Main Street. The Style Bar is long gone, while Whalers Cleaners, the Ice Cream Club and Vincenzo’s Pizza have all been pushed out of their locales on the east side of the street in recent months — leaving only The Corner Bar and Provisions at that prominent Main Street corner. Across the street we have the much maligned Fort Apache retail space, these days catering only to Choppin’ Charlies and — only in the height of the summer season — La Superica. Those looking for a Christmas Eve margarita will have to turn elsewhere.

Across the street, we have Bay Street Theatre which has already said it would not renew its lease at that location when it expires next year. In perhaps the biggest news of the week, we’ve learned that Southampton Village is seriously courting the theatre to move into the Parrish Art Museum space in that village which is expected to be vacated by next summer. We also learned that Java Nation is being ousted from its perch above Main Street by a landlord who has been offered more money from a neighboring tenant for the space. Where they will go is unclear right now.

Overwhelmed yet?

This is just a glimpse at the changes we see taking place. Change is inevitable, and it can often be good, or just as easily negative, and we see the potential for many more changes coming on the horizon. These will no doubt have the ability to alter the character of this village significantly. The potential is there. Things can change dramatically (look at East Hampton). But, we don’t think this outlook necessarily needs to be dour.

Right now, the Methodist Church on Madison Street and the Harbor Heights Gas Station on Route 114 are undergoing serious renovations that are currently being considered for approval by the Sag Harbor’s zoning and planning boards. The proposals at both of these locations have recently caused quite a stir within the community, prompting zoning board members to take a closer look at the service station.

Just this week, Sag Harbor Zoning Board member Larry Perrine addressed this issue, speaking to the importance of public input.

“It seems ultimately that the community’s concerns have to be addressed forthrightly,” he said. “Because if they are not addressed forthrightly and fully with the developer and his team really engaging neighbors, [neighbors] might start to question whether it should be built at all rather than just debate its size.”

For both developers and residents, staying abreast of the information surrounding the changes within our community is key. But, really, the onus is on us to stay engaged, and stay on top of what’s coming down the pike.

When it comes to Harbor Heights and the Methodist Church, we’re actually a bit surprised to see that it took several months before much of the dissent we hear now even surfaced. We’re happy to see people voicing their opinions now, but they’re a little late to the game.

The problem, as we see it, is that there are bigger projects coming down the pike. (Remember, there are currently several empty storefronts on Main Street, and potentially a big empty building on Long Wharf, that will need to be filled.) The community can guide this village in the direction it would like it to go. But we have to pay attention. All of us.

The public has an obligation to keep itself informed. Contrary to the old adage, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” what you don’t know may one day pop up in your backyard —  and by then it will be too late.

As we ease into 2012, consider carefully what you’d like to see this community keep hold of, and imagine how you’d like to see it transform. And if your opinion is strong, be active. Read the newspaper. Visit the Municipal Building. Get familiar with your local government.

With the absence of CONPOSH —  once the veritable mouthpiece for this small-town community — you might have to do some legwork to stay abreast of what’s going on in the community.

But being involved is what community is all about. In fact, we think you should make it your New Year’s resolution this year.

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