For those of us who have been following the saga surrounding the future of our Main Street and the viability of our unique mom-and-pop business community, this week’s forum with the National Historic Trust’s Main Street Program was a highly anticipated event. Unfortunately it hardly lived up to the expectations many of us in Sag Harbor had, and provided very little in the way of tangible concepts or tools for what has emerged as an issue seemingly everyone is ready to tackle.
Â Tuesday night’s forum principally felt like a sales pitch by the National Historic Trust. More time was spent discussing the history of this organization and tools used in other communities – and even those tools were quite abstract – rather than Sag Harbor’s specific concerns or dilemmas. Precise questions were asked, and not truly answered with anything solid.
We wanted concrete ideas – and ideas at the very least slightly tailored to our village. By the end of the forum, it was clear very little in the way of research had been done about the specific climate and threats our village is facing, which is both a shame and an opportunity lost.
Ultimately, if marketing, festivals, organization and a shop-locally campaign is what is needed to save our Main Street, we do not believe we need the National Trust to fulfill these goals. We have a community – a feisty group at that – that has shown immense passion to keep this place special and is willing to fight to that end. The solutions we need are not making our facades prettier or mounting a winter festival; but how members of a business community with frequently different goals and agendas —Â at times at cross purposes —Â and how an increasingly divergent residential community —Â which is also frequently at odds with the business community —Â can find common ground and consensus. And how to solve problems that are even more complex, like managing growth in a small town that has become threatened by its own popularity.
Save Sag Harbor, the not-for-profit who organized this event, did their due diligence in exploring this option and bringing the National Trust to Sag Harbor through their own financing. We still commend them for this effort, and must note the bright spot during the meeting was we all began talking about our concerns together in what felt like the first community-wide meeting in quite some time.
We would advocate Save Sag Harbor take this beginning step towards creating dialogue between all factions of the community – some quite opposed to the ideas of the others – and set up a series of community forums on this issue so we may keep the conversation going.Â