Reimagine Parking at School
I would like to update the October 24 article on the school parking brouhaha with good news.
As you know, many community members were not happy that the school had proposed the same parking proposal as with the failed 2009 bond. After the school administration realized this, Dr. Carl Bonuso, the interim school superintendent, invited concerned individuals to meet with him and with Larry Salvesen, the engineer for the project. A larger than expected crowd showed up which helped emphasize how critical this issue was for many citizens.
I’d like to share that Dr. Bonuso and Mr. Salvesen worked hard with the assembled group to come up with a workable solution. Dr. Bonuso took a clear ‘getting-to-yes’ approach with a sharp eye on finding an acceptable plan while Mr. Salvesen offered quick and creative suggestions. Their energy and positive attitude were truly impressive.
One thing became clear: The intent of this parking renovation was not to create new parking spots but to improve safety. However the 2009 plan was indeed to increase parking (this was explicit). Somehow it was not fully communicated to the 2013 participants that they were free to rethink the parking without the 2009 underlying premise. Blame it on poor institutional memory and rotating superintendents.
In light of this new premise, Mr. Salvesen proposed some possible solutions to refocus the plan on safety rather than size. The biggest change was cutting back the size of the Pierson lot by moving the entryway farther south. This would also move the entry away from the curve on Jermain, which will be a key pedestrian crossing. The lot would still be slightly bigger than the existing lot, but without the large bulb-out of parking overlooking Pierson Hill that’s in the 2009 proposal.
Mr. Salvesen also suggested a single entryway for the Elementary School lot and somewhat scaled back parking (although he said there will still likely be an increase in spaces in that lot). This single entry would be safer for both pedestrians and vehicles, and would also leave some trees standing.
We also spoke of other possible changes to increase safety, including a sidewalk along the Elementary School lot inside the chain link fence, an improved entry to the school from the Pierson lot, a sidewalk on Jermain along the Pierson lot, and an improved entryway plaza (with a place-making approach) at the Middle School that would include a covered bike rack (there is separate funding for that plaza). Mr. Salvesen also noted that if the number of parking spaces became an issue, some spaces could be reclaimed in the Middle School lot.
All in all most participants were happy with the results. The key is whether these can be indeed incorporated at this late stage. Dr. Bonuso was quite honest about his inability to promise anything but was committed to the changes if they were acceptable to the School Board.
After the meeting I spoke with (1) a school board member who agreed to propose the new plan to the board before the bond vote; (2) a bond planning committee member who felt that the original members would be fine with the new proposal, especially since most were not aware of the 2009 situation and the different assumptions today; and (3) a village board member who agreed that the village could revisit the issue of parking on village streets adjacent to the school in context of traffic flow. As we’ve learned in all our traffic calming workshops, on-street parking actually slows traffic and so increases safety.
I know that many residents who feel strongly about traffic calming saw the parking proposal as a ‘poison pill’ that undermined the whole bond. I urge readers to support the bond in order to pay for critical infrastructure upgrades and to enhance the school’s overall financing approach. Please also let the school know that these improvements in the parking proposal matter. I hope that these proposed changes will make the bond palatable to the broader community.
I am hoping that this discussion will be an opportunity for the school and the village to encourage thinking about traffic holistically. Those of us who’ve been involved in traffic calming know that if you build for cars, you will have cars. Other communities in the US and right here on the East End have begun to rethink their transportation approaches to encourage walking and biking. This, from the health section of today’s NY Times:
Commuting’s Hidden Cost
The article cites recent Canio’s speaker Leigh Gallagher, author of “The End of the Suburbs.” Ms. Gallagher pointed out that Sag Harbor had the ‘good bones’ of a pre-car infrastructure. It is ours to claim back. I hope that Sag Harbor will join other communities to reverse the long and dramatic decline in walking and biking in our town.
After the bond has passed and the parking has been upgraded, with more thought given to biking and walking, I look forward to a picnic on the grass where the asphalt might have been, but isn’t.
Support School Bond
Sag Harbor is a unique community, a place where neighbors know one another other and we intuitively look out for the welfare our own children, as well as those of our neighbors. We are a place where we can truly say, we are our “brothers and sisters keepers”.
Given the above, I encourage everyone to come out and support the repair of our aging school buildings and infrastructure, with a “yes” vote on the proposed bond. These spaces are perhaps the most important public spaces in our community. We have all sat in morning program, seen plays and musical performances in the auditorium and watched our kids and neighbors graduate on Pierson Hill. Now is the time for us to preserve, protect and defend our Sag Harbor School district. The proposed bond is the most cost effective and prudent way to ensure the welfare of one of our most valuable assets. By improving the safety and efficiency of these buildings; our students, parents and community members can continue to enjoy with pride, the benefits of the great education that our district provides to our children.
Next Wednesday, please vote “Yes”.
Have They No Shame
The country is on the brink of bankruptcy! Unemployment is still at unacceptable levels. People are struggling to pay for food, rent, mortgages, utilities, etc. So many families are moving from the area because of rising costs of living. Notice the endless “For Sale” signs in front of houses and the “trade parade” is getting longer.
Our governor wanted to help the taxpayers and imposed a 2 percent tax cap on budgets. So, in order to get around it, the Sag Harbor Board of Education wants to saddle the taxpayers with two bonds totaling almost $10 million dollars!
After reading what is in the current ballot—as Proposition #1, I can’t understand why the work has to be done immediately. Also, as Mr. Wolfram suggested in his recent letter, why not use the $2.8 million surplus that is in the Sag Harbor School District budget?
Proposition #2 is really preposterous. Will a turf field and a two-lane walking track really help students improve their learning?
As for the projected tax increases, they make it sound miniscule, but in 2013, taxpayers paid 80.35 percent of the Southampton Town taxes towards the schools! What will 2014 bring — with the 2 percent plus the additional levy for the two new bonds. At this rate of increase, it won’t be too long before we hit 100 percent to cover the school’s budget.
By the way, what happened to the $14 million bond to expand Pierson and another $4 million a year (for a total of $18 million.) Has this been completely paid up or are we still paying this off?
Building for Present and Future
Dear Mr. Boyhan,
Upon my return to the Board of Education in July, I was thrilled to see that all work had been completed to present propositions 1 and 2 to the public on November 13.
But, I was relieved, too.
Why? The work proposed, and in many cases long deferred, is no longer possible to annually budget without cutting into valued instructional program due to legislated caps on revenue garnered through property taxes.
Moreover, what is proposed is not simply a “wish list” of luxury items. A cursory perusal of the proposals shows that this work will ensure the safety of our students, as well as maintain and upgrade valuable assets that really belong to us all.
Now that the district has returned to the highest level of credit standing, with current favorable rates for long term borrowing, and with significant state aid reimbursements promised only if this work is bonded out, it seems this is the time!
With the safety improvements and maintenance upgrades to infrastructure, the cafeteria kitchen, the auditorium, storage, parking lots, and a turfed athletic field on the Pierson site, certainly the entire community of today and tomorrow will benefit from this work.
But, as the work is put out to bond, the cost will be shared equally by those who will utilize our facilities, both today and tomorrow.
I thank the community for its past generous support of our students, and look forward to continued dialogue as we work together to enhance what we have labored to build.
Daniel Hartnett, LCSW
Much Needed Bond
I am very hopeful that through compromise and consensus our voters will support the much needed safety improvements to the schools. The school community has waited too long for these repairs and upgrades. We began this process in 2007, when the original Facilities Needs Report was completed. With the defeat of the 2009 proposal, these problems have only been able to be addressed little by little, piece by piece. If the voters will come together and support this bond proposition, the entire project can be addressed once and for all. Our buildings and grounds can finally be fully compliant with all health and safety issues and concerns, as outlined by the district architect. To spread the costs out over time through a bond is the most fiscally sound and fair way. We cannot continue to put these improvements on hold, as it has already been seven years since they were brought to the community’s attention. To echo Superintendent Dr. Bonsuo’s statements, we must continue to protect our community’s investment in our facilities so that they are as safe and secure as possible. Please take some time to read about these propositions, so that you can make an informed vote on Wednesday, November 13th at Pierson H/S Gym. Please join me in supporting this much needed bond.