Sag Harbor Traffic Calming at Standstill

Posted on 25 June 2014

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An aerial map of Sag Harbor Village highlights key intersections being explored for improvement under a traffic calming initiative spearheaded by Serve Sag Harbor. Photo courtesy of Serve Sag Harbor

By Stephen J. Kotz

Plans for a series of traffic calming measures in Sag Harbor Village remained stalled, with the Village Board on Tuesday, again declining to give the green light for a pilot project proposed by two civic organizations, Save Sag Harbor and Serve Sag Harbor.

“We’re not going to do any of that without a professional telling the village it’s a good or it’s a bad thing,” Mayor Brian Gilbride said of plans to use large planters as part of the traffic calming designs at various intersections in the village. “Personally, I don’t think it’s a good thing.”

That appeared to signal a reversal from May when the mayor told traffic calming proponents that they could begin fundraising efforts to pay for the pilot program—a move they interpreted as tantamount to an informal approval. When the board met earlier this month, fire and ambulance volunteers expressed concern that efforts to slow down traffic would make it difficult for emergency vehicles to respond to calls.

Mr. Gilbride said he wanted to wait until Dunn Engineering, which the village solicited for the work just this week, has an opportunity to weigh in on the appropriateness of the designs.

“At this point, I’m going to be cautious and protect the village,” said Mr. Gilbride. “Ninety percent of the people who grab me are not in favor of putting flower pots in the road, I can tell you that.”

The mayor’s apparent change of heart spurred Susan Mead of Serve Sag Harbor, the group that plans to pay for the project, to urge the board to move swiftly so it could have at least a bare bones pilot program in place for the height of the summer season.

Trustee Robby Stein said that while it was important to iron out any concerns over liability if a driver were to hit one of the planters, he said the village should move forward.

“I like the fact that this is a volunteer organization that wants to partner with the village,” he said. “There are lots of intersections in the village that could use work. Without belaboring this, I’d like to see if we could go forward with this in some way.”

“If it doesn’t work, fine,” he added. “If it does work, it’s still not permanent and then there is another discussion.”

“They couldn’t start painting while we wait for an engineer?” asked Trustee Ken O’Donnell, who has also expressed his interest in getting some kind of traffic calming program up and running this summer.

The problem with that, Ms. Mead said, is “people do not pay attention and stay within painted or colored lines.”

Trustee Ed Deyermond also expressed reservations about planters being placed in roads. “If you put a flower pot in the middle of the road, in the middle of the straightaway, that’s where you are going to have trouble,” he said.

But Mr. Deyermond said he liked revisions made to the installation proposed for the intersection of Oakland and Jermain avenues. The original plan would have directed vehicles away from the center of the street and to toward the curb, but it has been revised to keep vehicles in the center of the road and provide more space at curbside for pedestrians.

Ms. Mead assured the board that adjustments could be made on the fly but encouraged it to take action quickly.

“If we sit around and talk about this and we have an accident, we are all going to be sorry,” she said.

Mr. Gilbride cited a letter that he had received last month from a village resident bemoaning changes to a historical whaling village.

“A Range Rover traveling down the road at 45 mph—that doesn’t happen in a whaling village, either,” said Jonas Hagen, an urban planner who has worked on the traffic calming project.

“I don’t want to be a downer,” he said, “but something happened recently in Water Mill, and this is exactly the kind of thing we are trying to prevent from happening.” He was referring to the death of a 6-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a car while crossing a street in the hamlet.

Page at 63 Main

The board also met with chairmen of its regulatory boards to ostensibly discuss ways that communication could be improved to prevent one board from approving an application that runs counter to the wishes of another, but it soon turned into a discussion of changes at Page at 63 Main Street.

“My sense is the system is being gamed,” said Neil Slevin, the chairman of the planning board chairman. “Very often what is happening in these application is people are playing games. They throw up all sorts of smoke…. The objective is to make it difficult for people making decisions to see the big picture.”

Speaking of Page, Mr. Slevin pointed to the development of the site to include “The Back Page,” which is advertised as a café, on the Division Street side of the property. The planning board, he said, had not intended for the restaurant’s owners to move a Dumpster from a conforming location and install a stone patio, in an area that was shown on the original surveys accompanying the application as grass.

Those changes, he said, have expanded the restaurant’s serving area and eliminated a driveway, where delivery trucks could park. “If you look at it as it exists right now, I would say that it is clearly larger and more intense than the original application that came before the planning board,” he said.

The modification of the plan slipped through, he said, because board members were focusing on a proposal to convert the second floor of the restaurant building to an aquaponics operation.

Last week, the village Zoning Board of Appeals agreed to grant variances allowing the Dumpster to be moved. “It seemed like a simple variance application,” said ZBA chairman Anton Hagen, who said he was unaware of the Planning Board’s concerns. “I didn’t get  clear signal that there was any subterfuge,” he said.

Denise Schoen, the village attorney for the planning and zoning boards, said that the restaurant went ahead with its construction project  without a building permit and the village was prosecuting it in justice court.

On Wednesday, Gerard Wawryk, one of the restaurant’s owners, said the restaurant did not play it fast and loose. “We even got a copy of the approved survey that came in the mail” after the planning board reviewed the case, he said.

He admitted, though, that work was done without a building permit. “It took 14, 15 weeks to get a building permit,” he said. “What was I supposed to do, wait another year? If that’s how the village wants to operate, I haven’t got time for that.”

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3 Responses to “Sag Harbor Traffic Calming at Standstill”

  1. Patricia Sweeney says:

    I’m so tired of this village declining to put pedestrians first when there are so many pedestrians that are CHILDREN. I’d much rather see a speeding car hit a planter than a child on those straightaways where cars have no business traveling at 40-45 mph. Apparently the speed limit is unenforceable. And speaking of liability, when a municipality fails to protect its pedestrians, there is potential significant liability. Protections are proposed and the Village declines to act – doesn’t the Board see the liability there?

    Jonas Hagen IS a professional and grew up in this Village. I can’t thank him enough for his help as well as the initiative of Serve Sag Harbor. The pilot program is a much needed step in the right direction. Action is required right now to help keep our children safer this summer, not sometime-who-knows-when-maybe. I would urge the Board to stop listening to cranky complainers and start listening to people with practical vision and solid ideas for the good of all.

  2. Lynn says:

    I have to respond, as we are NOT cranky complainers. It is common sense that this plan will not work. What about the First Responders and Fire Personnel who MET with this group, and advised it would NOT work??? When a fire truck or ambulance can’t go through an intersection, what do you think happens? LIVES are on the line, seconds, not minutes count. We are all for public safety, this is just not the solution. We need to ENFORCE the speed limits, which means higher more police officers. Does anyone remember the ill fated traffic circle at the Park and Otter Pond?? It didn’t work then, and these planters and circles are not going to work now…

  3. Nav1 says:

    I go through the village every day. Average speed on the main roads are 30-35 MPH. What roads and time of day is this speeding generally happening? I do see police with radar on Jermain Ave and upper Main St quite often enforcing the speed limit.

    I do see people running the Otter Pond light well after it has changed, pulling U-turns on Main St to grab a parking spot, parking in no parking zones, parking in handicapped spaces with a permit, all typical of the type of people who hang out here every summer.

    Speed bumps are illegal on public roads, but maybe rumble strips are in order on certain sections of the main roads through the village.


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