Letters December 25

Posted on 26 December 2008

Ligonee’s Importance


Dear Bryan,

Bill Brauniger, in his letter to the Sag Harbor Express, December 18, writes, “[Ligonee] brook is not a natural feature and may well add to the flow of contaminants, commonly found in storm water run-off, to Sag Harbor Cove,” and so he suggests, “Given this, perhaps the most environmentally positive thing to do with the ‘brook’ would be to return it to its natural state by filling it in.”

Filling in Ligonee was tried. In 1969, some Sag Harbor citizens took it upon themselves to stop the flow of Ligonee Brook and bulldozed an earthen dam to close the north end of Long Pond. They did this thinking the extra water depth would increase water percolation into the aquifer below the pond. But what happened was almost instantly neighbors complained of flooding and a naturalist pointing out that vegetation important for wildfowl was drowned. It’s a long story, which was resolved in 1973 when spring rains increased the water pressure; the earthen dam caved in, and Ligonee flowed again.

“Ligonee Brook, or the Alewive Drain, connecting Long Pond with the Cove, was a fish run so long ago no one can say whether it was a natural brook, or in part artificial” is a portion of what historian, Harry D. Sleight, wrote in Sag Harbor in Earlier Days on the subject of natural versus man-made. We know William Wallace Tooker wrote, “The brook is not natural but dug by the fisherman.” The closest evidence I can find of such an early act is in the Southampton Town Records. In 1793, the town trustees gave John Jermain permission “to dig across the Road that leads from Sagg to Sag Harbour And across the road in order to let the waters of Crooked Pond and Little Long Pond into said [Otter] Pond….” Following this permission there is no mention that letting of the waters into Otter Pond ever happened.

Just ten years later, in 1803, the New York State legislature defined the border of Sag Harbor as following the course of “old Legonee creek or brook” as we know it today. “Beginning at a road leading from Sag-Harbor aforesaid, to North-Sea, upon the old Legonee creek or brook; thence running with the said creek or brook to middle line and old boundary between the great south and north division; from thence [east] on the said middle line until it strikes the line between the towns of East and Southampton…”

Though Ligonee has been enhanced over history, for me the most interesting and convincing evidence that Ligonee Brook is natural is the remains of an oxbow carved by Ligonee’s water flowing to Sag Harbor cove. No man or slave would have dug this “S” shaped oxbow no matter how much rum he’d partaken in. Nature took centuries to make it. When the LIRR laid out the railroad bed in 1869, they cut off the oxbow so that the tracks passed over Ligonee just once rather than three times. The severed oxbow loop can be seen on the west side of the tracks somewhat north of Middle Line trail.

There are enough stories and records about Ligonee Brook, Sag Harbor’s western border, to fill a book, and so I hope that Sag Harbor takes pride in Ligonee’s history and respects its function of draining excess surface water from the ponds.

Sincerely yours,

Jean Held

Sag Harbor


For Sal Vacca


Dear Editor:

My sister Rosemary Ward and I would like to thank everyone connected with our father’s peaceful passing. We are first of all deeply appreciating the manner in which Sal Vacca lived his full life of 92 years. His defining moment arrived when he met our mother, Alice Juliano Vacca. We don’t know if it was love at first sight, but it shined on brightly from that moment to this. There is a special bond between a father and his children, but when the father is deeply in love with the mother of the children, the bond that is created as a result is nothing short of eternal. We could not have chosen more perfect parents.

There is no way to adequately express in words the character and the class that Sal Vacca exemplified in the way he lived his life. For those who knew him, no explanation is necessary. For those who did not, none is possible. He lived by the Golden Rule and treated others with the same respect that he appreciated in return. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was a dedicated husband, father, friend, and public servant. He also practiced a deep devotion to the Creator of all life. I personally acknowledge and revere such a Creator because no man could be as truly blessed as I am on his own merit.

Rosemary and I would like to thank Dad’s doctor, Richard Panebianco for recognizing that to treat our father’s cancer at his advanced age would have undoubtedly created a host of complications, making the high quality of his remaining days unlikely, if not impossible. There is no way for us to express the depth of our appreciation to East End Hospice for the manner in which each individual lovingly cared for Dad’s needs, enhanced his quality of life, and respected his dignity without fail. East End Hospice is truly an organization of angels.

Our father touched so many people in a positive way that we can’t begin to mention by name everyone who went out of their way to make his passing peaceful. However, we do want to express our gratitude to the Sag Harbor Fire Department for giving our father, Sal Vacca, the most phenomenal bon voyage imaginable. Only Rosemary and I know to what lengths the Fire Department went to honor our father, and we can say without exaggeration that these extraordinary Volunteers treated our father as if he were Royalty.

In conclusion, as much as we appreciate the human touch, we appreciate just as much whatever opened up the sky at the cemetery and let the sun shine through for the service there. As dreary as the weather and the occasion seemed, there would be no raining on Dad’s parade. It was as though our father, Sal Vacca, could find no better way to say “thank you” from his broader perspective. Personally, I have no doubt that this is true.


Bobby Vacca

Rosemary Ward


Assessment Doesn’t Make Sense


Dear Bryan,

The Village Board of Sag Harbor works very hard and does some great work on behalf of the village but the idea that we should abolish the practice of keeping our own separate tax rolls completely baffles me. Just a few years back the board had a complete reassessment done of Sag Harbor. Not only that but since then multiple reassessments have been done for multiple properties. At that time, the board stated as today: “It’s not going to affect them as much as they think.” Well, it did affect many property owners adversely and the greatest share was the “blue collar people”. These are people who have lived in Sag Harbor all their lives and have owned homes here for many years. They have paid their dues and made this village the great place it is. Right or wrong, their properties had lower assessments than others that have newly moved here and the assessment hit the “blue collar people” very hard who can least afford it. It was an informal homesteaders discount — which states like Florida have and we don’t, officially — that was completely eliminated by the new assessment. Additionally, just the cost of that reassessment increased our taxes.

 Now the board wants to eliminate that recent assessment and adopt East Hampton’s assessments. They want East Hampton to reassess because they feel their assessments are inferior. Obviously, this begs the question why would anyone want to throw away the newest, greatest for something they believe is inferior? That question aside, this will once again hit the “blue collar people” the most and not by lowering the taxes I can assure you. This is also the same East Hampton that just increased our taxes by about 30 percent, which can hardly be classified as no small amount. This reassessment will also cost money and that will be passed along by an increase in our taxes. So basically, the board wants to throw away all the money, time and effort that was spent on our reassessment a few years back, consolidate with the East Hampton assessment, convince East Hampton to reassess us again, completely eliminate any informal homesteaders discount, create another round of grievances, petitions and supreme court appeals, increase our taxes at the very least since we will have to pay for this while the economy is being likened to the Great Depression, home values are plummeting, wages are not increasing and what you can buy with a dollar is getting less and less.

The only people I see clamoring about all of this is the board. We have a complete reassessment of Sag Harbor in place that is up to date and good. The public is not demanding the elimination of redundancy. Anyone who wishes to grieve can. I am completely baffled by all this and can’t help but feel there is lack of transparency here because none of this makes sense.

Bruce Fletcher

Sag Harbor

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