Function Over Form
I was disappointed to find out the other day that a certain fence was made an example of in the article on the ARB’s jurisdiction. You see the fence belongs to my grandmother and has been a source of some trouble for our family for a number of years. In the article it is described as a “100-foot fence constructed out of PVC, a kind of plastic”, and Mr. Brown calls it “blinding” when driving by at night. To the first I can agree, though its description makes it seem cheap when it was actually anything but. To the second, I can’t really say I’ve ever been “blinded” by it in any sense of the word, but that’s not to say it may affect someone else differently.
What surprises me most though is that among many other potential examples, this fence, our fence, became the example of what the ARB considers a non-traditional design and apparently a negative when it comes to visitor’s views of our town as a whole. First you must take into consideration that there are several more fences exactly like it nearby that have stood for years longer. Comparatively ours is newer, so perhaps it sticks out more in Mr. Brown’s mind. But I think what strikes me as the most confusing point of targeting our poor fence is that immediately next door is the Getty gas station.
One of the few gas stations found immediately within the village, Getty has in my mind at least, always stood out on that corner. On opposite corners lie the entrance to the park, a memorial with Otter Pond behind and another home. All grassy and green except, of course, the large paved corner plot on which Getty is set with its bold red sign and multiple cars parked at all hours. Now, with no offense intended to the Getty station, I find myself immediately thinking of it when considering first impressions along this particular artery into the town compared to a nearby fence. It doesn’t look particularly historical or visually pleasing, but it serves a very specific purpose.
And really that’s the basis of my point. Sometimes you have to favor function over form. For as long as I can remember the fence which has surrounded my grandmother’s yard was made of some form of wood or another. Most often posts that looked as though they were cut straight from a tree. Certainly a subdued and traditional look. However they often fell into disrepair and needed to be fixed or replaced. To make matters worse, the farthest northern portion of the fence has over time become a seat. I know that sounds bizarre, and it is. Several times a day a bus pulls up and picks up passengers in this unmarked spot. The passengers who can most often be found sitting on the fence later in the afternoon as work is ending for the day had an unfortunate habit of sitting on the fence while they waited. This resulted in even more constant repairs to the fence as they would knock the beams down or crack them under their weight, and would leave them broken there. We would fix and replace them only to inevitably find people sitting on them again. It became a painful rinse and repeat process throughout time. Add in the garbage that was often left behind with the broken fence and it became clear that something had to change.
We made a decision to put a more durable fence that wouldn’t allow for sitting. This took form in the white fencing you see there today. While I’m sure there might have been more ornate designs or materials we could have chosen, this is what worked for us. It fit the look of the house that my grandfather built with his bare hands within reason and solved the basic problem that a fence is supposed to solve. Of course, people still lean on the fence now daily and the mud that the bus splashes up can be found splattered all over the northern end. My father has talked to both the past and current highway department supervisors about getting a curb put in there to at least help with the puddle. We were informed by both that it is a county road and therefore not the village’s responsibility to fix. Yet the ARB wants to be able to dictate what type of fence we can put there? Something is missing in this equation.
I love Sag Harbor for what it is; the un-Hampton, the one place that managed to remain (relatively) unchanged when compared to surrounding towns. I also appreciate historic preservation where applicable and am happy for the ARB to continue doing what they do best to help the historic sections of the town in any way they can. But my tolerance for the ARB and its member’s input ends when they feel compelled to specifically cite this one fence in the village’s main news publication. My grandmother and family are of course regular subscribers and readers, and have been for decades. To hear how disheartened they were when this fence was pointed out, even if they were not named directly, was heartbreaking.
That we have had problems for years that led to the choice of this specific fence isn’t considered. Instead the notion that if Mr. Brown et al. had been invited to be involved in the decision making they would have been capable of making a better aesthetic choice is frankly insulting. My father, his father and his father before him have been responsible for an endless list of work and construction around Sag Harbor. They laid the brick work on the steps of John Jermain Memorial Library, repaired the Broken Mast memorial in Oakland Cemetery, and helped dredge out what is now Baron’s Cove to fill in the swamp land where many homes now reside. They developed Joels Lane (Joels is short for “Joe Labrozzi’s”, my grandfather) where I grew up and built the current incarnation of the aforementioned Getty gas station in 1960. My grandmother toiled in the former Bulova Watchcase Factory for many years and work on the building that my grandfather did there earned him a gold Bulova watch that I proudly wear on my wrist today. And these few examples are just a tiny fraction of a much, much larger list. My family is a big part of historic Sag Harbor and has been for generations. That is why it hits home all the more to be called out in our town’s newspaper for this decision we made.
I don’t mean to seem defensive over this small mention in the article, but it strikes me from what I’ve read that the ARB doesn’t really know what it wants out of this expansion. If the main purpose of this expansion of jurisdiction is to address commercial properties, as is suggested, then why was the foremost example then that of a residential fence? It sounds as though if the jurisdiction is expanded and we had to seek Mr. Brown’s approval, we would not have had any say in what fence we chose. The current one clearly does not fit his personal taste, though we have gotten numerous comments on the fence from other locals. The mentality that people cannot make informed decisions about their own homes without the input of a village board and having to consider visitor’s first impressions based on their choices is ridiculous. Simply, I should hope that visitors to Sag Harbor won’t be deterred or come away with a bad impression based on the perceived beauty, or lack thereof, of a simple fence, but instead by the overall charm and warmth of the place and its people. I have never boiled my impression of our town down to a fence or gas station, but rather the community that thrives here all year round and the charm of the place as a whole.
Peter A. Labrozzi
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of our supporters who have been coming down to the Summer Concert Series at Marine Park. This has been a tradition that has been enjoyed for many, many years by all of us.
As you know, the Chamber depended on sponsors each year to fund the concerts and due to the recent economic climate, funding for these concerts have dried up. Last year we even passed the hat, but we had very little success.
Simultaneously, the Chamber along with Save Sag Harbor and the Lions Club, have taken on an additional task of raising funds for the restoration of our iconic Windmill. The Windmill, now named in honor of our former mayor, John A. Ward, is in terrible disrepair. The Windmill, along with the Sag Harbor Cinema sign, is the most recognized symbol that is synonymous with Sag Harbor.
Therefore, the Chamber of Commerce decided that in order to focus attention on the Windmill and raise funds for its restoration, that the Chamber would re-frame the concerts in a smaller venue at the Windmill.
Our concert series this year, called “Windmill Wednesdays,” would help raise awareness around this issue.
However, in moving to Windmill Beach, we had to consider the logistical challenges, such as where to accommodate the musical groups/audience and most important, the public safety challenges, such as the vehicular traffic at the intersection of the bridge, Main Street and the Wharf. In order to keep the concerts going, we scaled down the venue and chose the safest times for pedestrian access and safety. The concert times are purely a safety factor, and, as anyone knows, that intersection can be challenging.
I would be remiss if I did not thank the village and police for letting us “try” this new venue.
The Chamber also realizes that the concerts are a way to say “thank you” to our local community who patronize and support our businesses year round. We continue in this fashion with HarborFest, voted two years ago as the “Best of the Best” local event on the East End. One very important benefactor of HarborFest is our local Sag Harbor Food Pantry.
Two years ago, we tried a winter event, called “HarborFrost”. This was a fun way to say thank you to our community in the middle of winter and also to give our local businesses a much needed “boost” in February. We are proud that one important benefactor of HarborFrost is the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps, which raise monies through the Polar Bear Plunge. HarborFrost has become wildly popular and the Chamber has decided to expand HarborFrost and downsize the concerts.
I thought it was informative to let our supporters, the village community and members know why a change was made and how valuable our local community is, with respect to the Chamber. We provide scholarships to Pierson graduates, we fund all the holiday trees and lights during Christmastime, we still are having concerts, we sponsor and run the Easter Bonnet and Ragamuffin parades and we will always help our local organizations raise monies for their causes. We are all volunteers in this community.
To us who will miss dancing at Marine Park, think of the Grucci fireworks in the middle of winter or come on down to the Windmill and show your support with a small donation.
Thank you all for your support and understanding!
Robert Evjen, President
Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce