John Jermain Memorial Library Eyes Cultural District

Posted on 12 December 2012

By Kathryn G. Menu

The John Jermain Memorial Library has its eye on a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant for creative placemaking that could lead to the creation of cultural district in the village. The idea would be to connect a group of not-for-profit entities that would be charged with promoting the arts and culture that makes Sag Harbor a special place.

According to Eric Cohen, the library’s technology and multi-media coordinator who is spearheading this initiative, the library intends to apply for the grant in 2014. In order to be successful, the library – which intends to be the lead agent in the application process – needs the support of the Village of Sag Harbor, which must partner with JJML in this endeavor.

During Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, Cohen gave a presentation on the grant proposal. He said the library will make formal application to the village later next year as it moves closer to filing its request with the NEA.

While the proposal is still in the conceptual phase and something Cohen said village residents will be asked to weigh in on in a substantive way, at its core is the creation of a Sag Harbor Village Cultural District encompassing geography around five entities – Canio’s Books, JJML, the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, the Sag Harbor Custom House and the Sag Harbor Historical Society.

“The point of the cultural district is an acknowledgement of what already exists in Sag Harbor,” said Cohen Tuesday night. “It is also a mechanism for Sag Harbor’s cultural institutions to work together for the benefit of ourselves and community.”

Cohen said ultimately the idea is to strengthen the community and make it a more desirable place to live, but also the district would serve as an economic engine, attracting more visitors to Sag Harbor specifically because of its arts and culture.

While ideas have yet to be solidified, Cohen said over the course of the next year, joint programming between these not-for-profit organizations will be devised as a first step towards making the cultural district a reality.

The NEA grant, which JJML Director Catherine Creedon discovered while looking at different grant opportunities for the library, is for creative placemaking – a personal passion of Cohen’s.

According to the NEA, in creative placemaking “partners from public, private, nonprofit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, tribe, city or region and arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire and be inspired.”

Grant funding ranges from $25,000 to $200,0000, depending on the project. Cohen said projects within the grant could be as simple as creating a needed dance studio space or sponsoring a series of outdoor art exhibits. Creating a cultural district is also one of the initiatives supported by the grant.

“We want the community to help us plan this together,” said Cohen.

Police Debate Continues

While the Village of Sag Harbor and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) have made little headway in negotiations for a new police contract, on Tuesday night resident Robert Turner urged the board to find some way to agree to a contract with the PBA and discouraged any discussion about using an outside agency to police Sag Harbor Village.

Turner said one of the reasons he and his wife moved to Sag Harbor was because it had everything they were looking for in a village — including a local police force.

He also suggested that figures detailing salaries of officers and the original 4.5 percent request for a salary increase made by the PBA did not go far enough in showing residents what the actual impact on their taxes would be if that contract was approved.

“What is the assessed value cost in this contract as opposed to the old contract,” he asked.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said the last contract was for five years and gave officers over that period a 26 percent increase in pay, with even larger increases for night differentials and longevity.

According to Mayor Gilbride, he expects the contract dispute will likely move to binding arbitration.

In other village news, the board accepted the formal resignation of Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals Chairwoman Gayle Pickering, with regrets, and appointed board member Anton Hagen as the board’s new chairman effective immediately.

The board also accepted the resignation of Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board member Michael Mensch.

In a letter to the village board, Mensch cited personal and professional reasons for his resignation.

“I have enjoyed the position and my fellow members immensely, and hope in the future I can be recommended again,” said Mensch.

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