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Letters to the Editor 10/4/12

Posted on 05 October 2012

Nix Plastic Fence

To the Editor:

This is in answer to Mr. Labrozzi’s indignation at his family’s fence being made an example of why the village committee authority must be expanded.

I have been coming out to Sag Harbor regularly since the late 1970s when I was a little girl. I remember well when village houses could be had for 25K to 30K and the village was decidedly “gritty”, which I loved. (I actually preferred it back then, but that is another story.)

My son and I lived on John Street for a number of blissful years before I was forced back to the city, desperate to find work. It was awful leaving behind Sag Harbor, a place I cherish, and to leave all of my friends and neighbors.

We moved back to a place called City Island, where we are originally from. It is a small island off the Bronx. I just want to make clear that in the 1970s City Island had been a beautiful place. It had been a beautiful, special place. But no more. It is now not even a shadow of what it once was. Unfortunately, City Island is part of New York City and as you may or may not know, city code allows for an owner to do just about anything to one’s property.

What does this imply? Well, back in the late 1970s measures ought to have been taken then by the city to ensure and protect the island’s historical value, but the greed of the 1980s prevailed and boatyard after boatyard was dismantled to make way for condos. With each condo development everyone was told “Just ONE development. What’s the harm in this one? Were still historical.” Little by little our laid back historical atmosphere has been chipped away to the point that the City Island I grew up in is long gone. Ironically (and very falsely) City Island is still very weakly marketed as a “New England” town set in the city or “a taste of New England.” I am not sure who comes up with these sound bites for us but all I can say is whomever is promoting this campain has obviously never been to New England. City Island now looks, mainly, like the very ugly brick covered underbelly of inner Queens stuffed uncomfortably onto a rock. One may have turn-of-the-century beach bungalows cheek-by-jowl with modern two family brick rectangles. It is UG-LY!!!

So, if you can’t find New England on City Island what can you find? Well, you can find acres and acres of soul crushing gleaming plastic fencing, historic wooden structures have “mysteriously” gone up in flames and in their place you’ll find two story brick boxes that look like they are out of a 1970s Soviet block or a miniature penitentiary. We also have more black top than you’d find at the Indianapolis 500 speedway, trees are butchered and cut down at a breathtaking pace and no one can say anything about it.

Yes, this is what granting unfettered liberty to homeowners gives you.

Herein lies one of the issues of why the Committee in Sag Harbor must maintain control over the village homeowners and , YES, please, YES, expand the parameters of oversight…The problem is….Everyone sincerely believes they have: (A) good taste and (B) a sense of humor. But the problem is everyone can’t all have good taste and a sense of humor; but they don’t and so we have City Island. We have become a living testament to bad taste and bad planning. When I have complained that we ought to have stayed with Westchester, homeowners gasp that “our taxes would be so high”. Yes, they’d be so high; but property value (you know, the value you care so much about) would be 5 times as much, and you’d live in a much more beautiful place that kept its historic integrity.

To get to my answer to Mr. Labrozzi. That brings us to a month or so back when my new husband, my son and I came out recently for a weekend visit to view a co-op. Driving through Southampton was truly shocking. It is hard to recognize Southampton from any other “up Island” town. It’s clear the powers that be in Southampton really no longer care — and maybe never have — about it. When we passed through Water Mill I pointed out where a meadow once was where there is now the Blockbuster strip mall. I said to my husband it’s hard to believe that they allowed Water Mill to be destroyed so effortlessly.

So in direct answer to Mr. Labrozzi, yes, I noticed his family’s fence immediately. In fact I almost drove off the road and into Mahashimuet Park I was so stunned that it was allowed to be erected, or even that anyone would want to erect such a thing here in the living museum that is Sag Harbor. You see, this is about much, much more than your family’s fence. This is about encroachment on a fast fading way of life and way of being. This is about maintaining a historic integrity.

I was instantly infuriated at the sight of your fence and I turned to my husband and I said “Well, wow, I guess Sag Harbor is going down hill. Maybe I guess we’ll need to buy on Shelter Island.”

Mr. Labrozzi ,what I find most regrettable is that clearly you really just “don’t get it.” Even though you wrote a lengthy letter testifying that you do “get it,” really, truly, you don’t. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been erected in the first place. You seem very nice and I’m sure I would really like you if I met you. But, but, but what is so worrying is that even though you have lived here all your life, even though your family has contributed so beautifully and so illustriously to the town’s history you still don’t “get it.” And that is what is so baffling and frustrating. You of all people ought to be the most staunch defender of Sag Harbor’s beauty and stringency to adhering to historical integrity……But you don’t. In fact you’re rather resentful. In defending your family’s decision you point to others whom have erected PVC as if that makes it correct and ok. It’s not. Look to City Island. If everyone in Sag Harbor carried that same mentality, Sag Harbor would be ruined in one generation. ONE generation. It doesn’t take long at all to destroy a place. Look at Water Mill. Look at Southampton.

You point to personal liberty. I would venture to say that I would gladly relinquish my liberty here in the city to abide by the village’s codes and you should feel grateful to live in a living museum that can boast that it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Rather than grouse about loss of personal liberty you ought to be asking the committee “how can I help to abide by historical integrity.” I would go so far as to say that you have not been a good neighbor to Sag Harbor and you have essentially nullified your family’s contributions to the town by your selfish short sighted decision. I am amazed that someone who goes back so far in Sag Harbor would make this choice. The answer is simple if anyone wants to live with unbridled personal freedom on their property may I gently suggest they live elsewhere? I assure you if you love beauty you will come running back to Sag Harbor.

You point to people sitting on the fence….a simple rough cut stone bench would have solved the problem in conjunction with a wooden white picket fence or natural split fence.

You also defend the fence by saying that your neighbor, the Getty Station is more ugly and is an eyesore as well. Actually, the Getty gas station has an Edward Hopperish retro feel that is charming. It is low to the ground, white washed and unintrusive. It is by far the most non-offensive gas station I have ever seen. As for your gleaming plastic fence, however, the same cannot be said. You could not have possibly stood out more than if you installed two mammoth Hollywood Klieg lights on your front lawn. Despite your list of defenses, it is a mystery and an enigma why on Earth you would do such a thing in the Village of Sag Harbor.

To the Villages ARB, all of this has a silver lining. It should now be abundantly clear to the Village committee that homeowners if given even one inch of wiggle room, will choose not to do right by the village community as a whole of their own accord. It should be abundantly clear to you, the committee, that the village’s history and beauty are truly in your hands and that you need to be staunch, prudent, and stringent stewards of this very serious undertaking which is defending the beauty and historic integrity of the village.

Plastic and metal fencing, and all of its unsightly modern peripherals, need to be rooted out like a slowly spreading cancer. It is a blight to the eyes that cannot be over stated enough and if all the homeowners who are not on board with the village’s agenda it is clear they will chip and chip away at as much as they can. So this problem with the fence needs to be nipped in the bud before it is too late. Look to Southampton, Water Mill as examples of what can happen. Please realize that once farmland is built on and modernization occurs it can never be undone, that is why stringency in application is imperative and needs to be for all time most especially until plastic fencing goes the way of the do-do.

Thank you.

Alexandra Catherine

City Island


Das Boot

To the editor:

An open letter to Patrick Malloy,

As a long time devoted fan of Bay Street, I want to add my thanks for your sensitivity and generosity in allowing the theater to remain in Sag Harbor.

As an enthusiastic visitor to HarborFest today, I want to add my fury. After buying numerous articles from the local farmer’s market, Christmas necklaces for my granddaughters, cheering on the whale boats, contributing to the Eastville Historical Society, enjoying the Sag Harbor Community Band, and having a late lunch at B. Smith’s in the glorious sunshine with my husband, daughter and two grandsons, I returned to the gym parking lot to find my car BOOTED.  BOOTED!  $200 CASH, please.  Now.

Having spent all my cash supporting local merchants and non-profits, I had to go the ATM to buy my way out of your parking lot.


Yes, I understand there are signs restricting parking to two hours.  Yes, we overstayed the two-hour limit by 25 minutes.  TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES!  But couldn’t you have assigned a Brownie to the parking lot to hand out tickets instead of wielding the Draconian, $200 boot?

Better yet, couldn’t you have waived your parking restrictions on such a huge holiday for Sag Harbor?

I thought the point of HarborFest was to support Sag Harbor, not punish those who did.


Linda Bird Francke



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One Response to “Letters to the Editor 10/4/12”

  1. Kcat says:

    As a Sag Harbor resident I would like to commend Alexandre Catherine on taking the time out and caring enought to write this very well worded and comparative letter.

    I can not believe their are not more aestethic guidelines governing restaurants like MUSE with its mismatched colors and plastic chains cording off the outdoor patio, the exposed dumpsters of Muse and Corner bar and the tar paper tiled roof of the building housing

    I hope other residents get behind a clean up movement for our community businesses and eventually a master plan to beautify the waterfront at the end of main street.

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