Stretch Affordable Housing Dollars
As a Noyac resident of 34 years, I attended the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals meeting when a “straw vote” overrode Suffolk County’s on-site affordable housing requirement for the Bulova Factory Renovation Project. The contractor, Sag Development Partner’s requested height variances were also granted. I am thrilled that the project now seems to be on its way to fruition. The Bulova Factory represents a very important part of the history of Sag Harbor, and also an important part of my family’s history. My husband’s grandfather, Herman Grossman, worked there in the early 1900s, and he also met his wife Stefanie, my husband’s grandmother, here in Sag Harbor.
Still, I think Chairman Mike Bromberg’s concern that the $2.524 million to be contributed by Cape Advisors, the firm backing the renovation project, into a proposed village housing trust in lieu of on-site affordable housing may never result in new affordable housing construction is a very legitimate worry. I have a few suggestions in this regard.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The money should be designated only for new affordable housing (constructed after 2008), which is the Suffolk County Planning Commission’s point in mandating 20% on-site affordable housing in large, new developments. For this particular project, 20% would be 13 units.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â We should try to stretch the $2.5 million to provide affordable workforce housing for a maximum number of family units. Rather than use it for down payments on private homes, I believe garden apartments are what will be the most helpful to the most people. They are far more realistic for our workforce, given the salaries most people earn locally. They are attractive, well-maintained, and are acceptable in many areas of the county.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â If there is no property available within village boundaries that meets the required plot size, two-story garden apartments could be located off Route 114 or Sagg Road. Making the apartments two story (like apartments on Main Street, or like the green condos on Long Island Avenue) will maximize the number of units while minimizing plot size. I do think the apartments should be located within the Sag Harbor School District, however.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â If Cape Advisors and Sag Development Partners aren’t willing to consider this additional construction project to make a moderate profit, the village housing office could contact developers of garden apartments (such as Fairfield Properties) to inquire if their companies would be interested in building 13 to18 units, provided the village helps them find suitable property. There might even be a local developer interested in doing the construction.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The money in the proposed “Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust” could be used to subsidize the apartments for qualified workers, qualifications to be determined by the village, in cooperation with Southampton Town if the apartments are located outside village limits. Southampton Town government would be quite amenable to newly constructed affordable housing and would not be difficult to work with.
I believe that thinking only in terms of single family homes for workforce housing is a big mistake. I have seen the Windmill I and Windmill II Apartments on Springs Fireplace Road in East Hampton. Those detached affordable units would be another way to go, but more land would be required for the same number of family units.
Janet D. Grossman
I met a very nice, courageous young man tonight. He took the time to say hello. He asked me if I was Jordan’s Mom. I was just leaving the cemetery. He was on his bike. He was worried that it was too long ago to say something to me. He said he did not know Jordan, but thanked me for Jordan’s service to our country. He reached out to me and shook my hand. He said Jordan was good and his family must have helped him to be the man that he was.
Â I am proud of this young man! I know I could not have mustered the courage to speak so eloquently at his age. You caught me so off guard and touched my heart. I’m hoping I have remembered your name correctly. I did not go directly home. Instead, I drove over the bridge — Jordan’s bridge — and watched the sunset at Long Beach. I thought of Jordan and I thought of this nice young man. Thank you so much Frank Romeo and I thank your family who are doing such a nice job of raising you.
Forever proud Mom of LCpl Jordan Haerter
Opportunity for Church Remains
When I asked our library board, in early June, to consider the idea that it might expand into the former Methodist Church around the corner with help from Southampton’s Community Preservation Fund (CPF), instead of building in the park, I hoped to get the community thinking about this possibility. With two articles and two letters as well as an editorial on the subject in last week’s paper, I’m glad people are discussing it. But this remains a frustrating conversation because of the amount of misinformation stalling it.
A library board member is quoted in your reporter’s story suggesting that those of us who have asked the board to consider this idea either “put up or shut up,” referencing the fee the library’s new architect proposes to charge for investigating the church as a potential site for expansion, some $15,000. Who will pay, I wonder, for the parallel exploration the firm will undertake at the park? I understood the library had asked its architect simply to find more space, onsite or elsewhere. I gather the current owners of the church already commissioned a structural analysis of the building; I hope this might be shared to save unnecessary work. Further exploration is doubtless necessary, but, in the long run, I’m hopeful this opportunity might save us all money and help the next library referendum to pass.
The library board has asked to hear from the public in this process. It has also expressed the hope that its architect will determine what is best. The community must assess its own needs: adaptive reuse that breathes new life into key public buildings, or paving over parkland to make a “gateway” to the village that—however tastefully it’s done—will attract further development in that area (a new Methodist Church is already planned across the street), diverting attention from Sag Harbor’s downtown? There are hidden costs on this balance sheet: trips not taken downtown, building materials that need not be used, opportunities lost… These may have been justifiable when there was no chance for the library to expand nearby—but now?
It’s an extraordinary opportunity that—if the community really wants—the former church could be purchased for its use with the CPF. This will not happen without public demand and political will, and it will not happen without a viable use for the space. But our state assemblyman and the architect of the CPF, Fred Thiele, has assured me and all the players in this conversation that what I’ve suggested is both legal and possible. It will be up to the Southampton town council to decide if the church is a priority purchase. Its members must hear from us if we wish them to negotiate on our behalf. This begins with reappraising the church after its recent sale. The town cannot pay more than its appraisals, but the situation has changed since these were done last year. An appropriate non-profit must be identified to manage the building. The library seems an ideal candidate, but if it wants a partner, the search must begin soon. If there is another candidate, or if a new entity must be created to manage the building, I share your hope that it will come forward. If a philanthropist wishes to establish a community center in the church—as we also read in last week’s paper—endowing one may help more than acquiring the building.
To the best of my knowledge, no firm plan has been made to remove the stained glass windows from the former church.Â Since the current owners did not want them, the congregation reserved the right to keep them.Â If a public use is found for the building, the community will have a say in what happens inside; otherwise it’s up to a future owner and the architectural review board.Â I’d be surprised if a library annex gave over the main hall to book storage, given the substantial space below.Â If the upstairs remains a community gathering space, the weight of books seems somewhat beside the point.Â With civic meetings being held at the firehouse, we should look closely at this space.Â Clearly the library has many needs, but it has listed community meeting space high among them.Â The ground floor of the church is a raw, sunlit space that could serve many purposes.Â As you note, this is an issue for the entire school district, not just the village.Â
Church Needs to be Considered for Library
Having read The Express article on the potential use of the Methodist Church for expansion of the John Jermain Memorial Library, I offer my thoughts as a homeowner in Sag Harbor, an architect, and an occasional user of the library.
Located around the corner from the library and in the core of the village, the church is an important option to seriously consider. The Library Board would be remiss not to pursue it. The cons voiced by the architects are serious, but could be overcome. Converting a church to a public facility is a relatively common phenomenon these days. Code issues can usually be addressed by revising exits, adding sprinkler systems, and installing elevators. Restoring the infrastructure — HVAC, electricity, plumbing, insulation, windows, and structure – would probably cost no more than building a new facility from scratch. If the CPF could purchase the building it would make this solution even more compelling.
Everyone talks these days about the importance of having sustainable and “green” development. Keeping the library expansion in the heart of Sag Harbor within existing structures would be the poster-child for such development while exalting the very idea of a small town library. Maintaining the Methodist Church as a library building open to the public would honor its historic function in a way that few other uses provide. The library-church could be the place for meeting rooms for the community, computer terminals for public use, an inspiring reading room, and administrative offices. A master plan for this and the existing library building would make the two facilities work together in a kind of symbiosis not possible if the park site is developed.
Even though all the studies to date show that the existing building cannot be made to work by itself, the Library Board has come to the correct conclusion that abandoning this historic 1910 structure is untenable. Housing the John Jermain Memorial Library in two buildings has become the widely accepted solution. I am among many in this village who feel that the park site is wrong for a second structure, and who are therefore excited that this potential development at the Methodist Church gives a better option. This option deserves the full hearing that I am confident the Library Board will give it.
Ted Porter, AIA
To The Editor,
Sag Harbor is evidently such a dog friendly village with well-behaved pets welcomed in several stores and banks so it’s with much frustration again to find the Public Works Dept. making it impossible for responsible dog owners to keep “one of the last” open grassy fields at Havens Beach free of dog waste. Our metal doggy bag dispenser and donated bags were removed!
It is evident with increased visits by taxpayer residents and tourists to this lovely field that we should not make it harder or impede in any way for thoughtful and caring dog owners to maintain and remove dog waste.
Please Mr. Mayor and Sag Harbor make this again a friendly place for families and all to enjoy.