By Kathryn G. Menu; image courtesy of Serve Sag Harbor
Serve Sag Harbor board member Eric Cohen drives down Jermain Avenue daily on his way to work as the technology and media coordinator at the John Jermain Memorial Library.
“It’s a nightmare,” said Mr. Cohen of the intersection of Jermain Avenue and Madison Street. The intersection is just one of several the non-profit has asked Michael King of Nelson/Nygaard and Jonas Hagen, a Sag Harbor resident in the doctoral program in urban planning at Columbia University, to look at in the development of a pilot program to create traffic improvements throughout the village.
“We have a problem and that is clear, especially on Jermain Avenue where people cut through on their way to East Hampton,” said Mr. Cohen.
Mr. King, who has been educated in architecture and urban design and has worked in transportation for 20 years, will present a preliminary report to the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees Tuesday, April 8, at 6 p.m.
In addition to presenting plans highlighting traffic improvements at key intersections throughout Sag Harbor, Serve Sag Harbor will also revive long-dormant plans once favored by trustees for a bike lane around the village, according to Save Sag Harbor board member John Shaka.
In an interview on Monday, Serve Sag Harbor board member Susan Mead noted that much of what Mr. King will present on Tuesday night involves improvements to intersections that can be made with the use of paint, occasionally planters, and little else, making them not only temporary and easily removable but cost-effective for a pilot program aimed at studying the effectiveness of these improvements.
“This set of plans is meant to acquaint people with the possibilities of what can be done at key intersections to facilitate traffic calming,” said Mr. Cohen. “There are a lot of options, and while some are very particular to a specific intersection—we take a look at Suffolk Street and Jermain Avenue, which is a really horrible intersection and the solution proposed there is very specific to that spot—others offer more generic solutions. “
Mr. Cohen added that the plans are not meant to be set in stone, but open for discussion and revision by the village board, if deemed necessary.
When reached by email overseas on Tuesday, Mr. King said rather than looking at a strategy, he sought to identify the issues in order to come up with a solution for some of the traffic woes in Sag Harbor. He identified issues like too much traffic, traffic moving too fast, bypass traffic, and streets bisecting village institutions like schools and the library when the streets could be used to bring them together. He also focused on issues such as too few children walking to school and gaining an inherent sense of independence, as well as traffic calming improvements that were economical, he said.
“I’m a strong believer in organic, iterative design especially in the public realm,” wrote Mr. King. “When altering public space, it is almost impossible to predict how people will react, so best start with something malleable. We use the best models and predictions, but nobody is perfect. Also, pilot projects make the changes real, which tends to diffuse acrimony and sharpen everyone’s focus (pro and con).”
If adopted by the village board, Sag Harbor Village would not be the first community to look to Mr. King to help address traffic woes. He has launched pilot projects in New Paltz and St. Louis. Ossining should be rolling out a pilot project on its Main Street this spring, he said.
In addition to the $13,000 the organization has spent to fund the traffic improvement study, both Ms. Mead and Mr. Cohen said with the village board’s approval the organization is committed to raising enough support through fundraising to fund all of the temporary traffic improvements as part of this pilot program.
“We want to give this a real shot,” said Mr. Cohen.
If the improvements are deemed successful, said Ms. Mead, the village could explore expanding the program, and in that case, Serve Sag Harbor would aid trustees in looking at county, state and federal grants to continue to make village streets safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
“This is a first step,” said Mr. Cohen, “And if this works out we would want to look at a total of 19 intersections throughout the village and maybe make more significant improvements.”