Categorized | Main Street 2012

Taking a Pulse

Posted on 16 February 2012

By Claire Walla

A few weeks ago, The Sag Harbor Express sent a survey to 2,000 people in the greater Sag Harbor community to gauge how the community feels about the current state of Sag Harbor Village. With a few empty storefronts and several construction projects in play, the village seems to be in a relative limbo, which prompted this overall question: How do you see the future of Sag Harbor?

The survey was composed of 19 questions, most with responses rated on a five-point scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree, and responders were invited to leave brief comments at the end. We received responses from 255 people in total. Here are the results:

While the community as a whole is divided over what the future will hold, one thing’s pretty clear: Sag Harbor Village is changing, and only 20 percent of responders agreed that these changes are a good thing.

For some, concerns over the village’s future are futile. A few responders respectfully questioned the need for this survey in the first place, and wrote: “Sag Harbor has changed for the better from the past,” and “Sag Harbor is, gratefully, no longer a small village.”

But, these sentiments were few and far between.

Many of those who responded wrote in with concerns that the community preserve the “character” of Sag Harbor Village, which for many people is manifest as Sag Harbor being the “un-Hampton” of the East End. For some it came down to more visceral characteristics: “soul,” “charm,” “small town feel,” “harmony and balance”—one said, simply, Sag Harbor is “special.”

Still, whether this “character” will remain seems uncertain. For some, the glass is half empty: “It’s terribly sad to see this village lose its heart.” While, for others, the future it optimistic: “I don’t mind change, but the flavor should stay.”

In fact, this community seems overall to be divided over the direction the village is headed. When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the notion of Sag Harbor inevitably turning into a luxury village, 38 percent of responders agreed with that assessment versus the 41 percent who didn’t.

The one thing most responders did agree on (almost universally), however, was that the village offers a better balance of businesses than East Hampton Village. A strong 63 percent agreed that Sag Harbor Village is “well balanced,” while only 14 percent believed the same was true in East Hampton.

“Do not let Sag Harbor become East Hampton,” one responder wrote. “East Hampton is an example of what not to be,” wrote another. “Sag Harbor’s value is precisely that it is NOT East Hampton!”

However, the “affordability” of Main Street seems to be a topic that is not overly contentious one way or the other. About 46 percent of survey responders claimed to do most of their basic shopping on Main Street, with only 45 percent disagreeing with that statement.

Similarly, while 46 percent of respondents believe there is no place in Sag Harbor to buy an affordable lunch (15 percent of that number strongly agreeing with the statement), still 45 percent of the village disagreed. According to one person who disagreed with the statement: “One could buy an affordable lunch at a deli.”

And it doesn’t seem like the community, as a whole, wants the village to make efforts to embrace a more vibrant nightlife (43 percent agreed versus 44 percent who did not).

When it comes to guiding the village into the future, survey results show there is some contradiction within the community.

For the most part, survey responders feel the village businesses should have the freedom to charge what the market will bear for goods and services (56 percent agree or strongly agree).

However, most in the village are not willing to completely go all Ayn Rand: 56 percent of responders also disagreed with the statement that the free market should determine the future of Sag Harbor. And—even more significant—65 percent of those who responded agreed that building owners should be expected to take less than the market will bear for rental space, to encourage affordable businesses to stay downtown.

Many comments were very critical of the prospect of big box stores and larger retail chains coming in close proximity of Main Street Sag Harbor. While a solid 54 percent of responders disagreed with the statement: If a Target opened on Main Street I would shop there. A staggering 40 percent of all responders “strongly disagreed” with the statement—making the highest percentage of those who strongly disagreed to any question on the survey.

While most people (54%)decided that a “Mom and Pop” shop is any business that is family owned, 25 percent believe the definition falls more along the lines of any business that is owned by a local resident. Either way, 78 percent of responders believe this type of establishment is disappearing in Sag Harbor Village (versus 9 percent that claims it’s not).

In the end, a large majority of responders—69 percent—feel the village’s elected officials should take a more active role in reshaping Main Street. (Only 12 percent disagreed.)

“Leaders can use policy to do what the market can’t,” one wrote. And someone similarly added, “We need to come up with an urban plan!”

Because, in the end (in the words of another), “We get what we plan for and incentivize.”

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