Tag Archive | "Jermain Avenue"

Pierson/Bay Street Meeting Sparks More Conversation, Draws No Conclusions

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


By Claire Walla


Finally, the two boards came to the same table.

On Tuesday, January 31, school officials and Bay Street Theatre board members held a meeting on the Pierson Middle/High School campus to discuss the potential for a collaboration between the two. The idea of the Bay Street Theatre collaborating with the Sag Harbor School District to create a new theater venue has been floated for a few years. And with Bay Street’s impending move from its current location on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, discussions have been spurred with greater urgency in the last few weeks.

The dialogue oscillated in scope for much of the two-hour meeting, wavering back and forth between small details (like whether it’s possible to obtain a liquor license on a school campus since Bay Street serves alcohol), and larger ideas, such as the school and theater working together to build an entirely new performing arts center in Sag Harbor.

But, while no board member on either side of the aisle completely put the kibosh on the potential for collaboration, there were aspects of this hypothetical partnership that raised red flags for both.

“I don’t want to throw any cold water on the issue, but I can’t possibly see how [an independent theater] can be in this school district, in this area,” school board member Walter Wilcoxen said.

Based on a memo the school district received from its attorney, Tom Volz, Wilcoxen pointed out some of the smaller issues, like limited parking and storage capacity.

But Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street Theatre’s executive director, expressed some concerns with the overall picture.

“One of the biggest issues for us, from a creative perspective, is we need to be able to have complete control over what we produce,” she said.

Though Mitchell and the theater’s creative director, Murphy Davis, assured the school that no expletives would be used on any signage related to the theater, some of the theater’s productions can be a bit, well, “racy.”

While Davis said there are elements to what Bay Street does now that could shift to conform to a different production model — for example, the theater could stop selling alcohol if it managed to secure other revenue sources — creative freedom is non-negotiable.

“We can do some pretty racy content,” he continued. “It’s imperative that we don’t feel hemmed in by that.”

Then there’s the time frame.

At best, school superintendent Dr. John Gratto said the process would take three years to complete. (Later, he explained that the time frame would more realistically take up to five years.) It would take six months for the school’s architect to draw-up a new design and then for the state education department to review the plans, another three months for the school to bid the project, then at least a year to construct the building.

“We’re talking two years after voter approval,” he continued. “And voters would have to approve such a project.”

The district’s current design for a 415-seat theater comes in at an estimated $12 million. Even if private funds were used for the project, Dr. Gratto said state aid would still kick-in for 10 percent of the cost, but that would trigger the need to put the project up to a vote.

Mitchell said the theater has a certain degree of flexibility for discussing future plans because it’s not scheduled to leave its current space until spring of 2013.

“The board would be able to back us renewing our current lease if we were working toward a pre-approved plan,” she said. “But, what we can’t do is say it’s going to take us another year to figure out whether we can get through these hurdles, and in the process lose all our other options.”

According to Mitchell, the theater is actively pursuing all possible options, including in Sag Harbor the Schiavoni property on Jermain Avenue, the National Grid lot on Long Island Avenue, the Sag Harbor Cinema, and in Southampton Village the soon-to-be vacant Parrish Art Museum space on Jobs Lane. At this point, Mitchell said the theater has put together several committees to further explore these options.

“It doesn’t sound like [the school] is going to be at the forefront,” Davis stated at the end of the meeting. Besides issues of parking, storage space and creative control, he said the time frame doesn’t seem viable.

“Just what I’m hearing tonight, it makes me uncomfortable that we’re going to have to wait,” he said.

And while nestling into the Pierson campus may seem like a dream sequence too riddled with legal complications to become a reality, school board members were energized by the idea of a potential collaboration off-campus.

Dr. Gratto directed interests to the piece of empty land directly across the street from Pierson, at the intersection of Division and Marsden streets, where the Trunzo family owns four parcels. According to community member John Landes, who’s already investigated the site, the cost would roughly total $4 million — just to purchase the land.

As for the overall idea of collaboration, Bay Street Board Member Robbie Stein said, “When you look at it, there are a lot of problems. But, on some level, starting this dialogue is bringing to the community the idea of: is there a place for arts in the community?”

The Bay Street Board will meet again next week to further discuss all its options.

Letters January 8, 2009

Tags: , , ,


The Chosen

 

Dear Editor:

In a country that has come to be defined by greed — it is in the nature of all republican political systems — public school teachers are, apparently, the chosen of the earth. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the public school enterprise of the Sag Harbor School District. The teachers receive a remuneration that is a combination of salary and wage payment. Where else, in the world, are civil servants (which public school teachers are) paid extra for overtime or for non-teaching activity incidental to the execution of their teaching duties and the mental and physical well-being of their wards, e.g. Café/lunch period supervision? (Do they also get extra pay for walking children to the park?)

Add to this free post-retirement health care for themselves and family members. Wow! Who would not want to be a public school teacher? Plus, no one inspects their classroom performance for quality of service. (Why have a state commissioner and a state department of education?) So, no one to tell whether or when their work is “garbage in, garbage out.” And, given that U.S.A. students generally rank lower than those in other industrialized countries in regard to performance, it is little comfort claiming that Sag Harbor (Pierson High) students go to the best colleges after graduation.

In the prevailing circumstances — a tanking economy, housing foreclosures, factory closures and rising unemployment — it is hardly surprising that Sag Harbor public school teachers stand pat for contract raises in addition to annual salary increments: completely oblivious to what is going on around them and in the rest of the country. With the New York State in deficit and cutting down on “school aid” they expect school district taxpayers — some with mortgage problems, loss of 401(k) retirement funds and jobs — to support their lifestyle without any sacrifice on their part: no suspension or deferment of annual increments or renegotiation of existing contracts.

Property taxpayers have themselves to blame for this absurd situation: dumbly (or willfully) bearing a responsibility (public school financing) that, under New York State Constitution, belongs to the legislature. The state legislators condone the violation of state law in return for election and re-election campaign funds from the public school teachers’ unions. Corruption and the rule of men, not of laws — even while hell freezes over.

It is pertinent to note that Albany will investigate the use of Community Preservation Funds, but not how school taxes are spent. My school taxes rose by $42 or 1 percent from 2006/07 to 2007/08, but by $472, or 20 percent, from 2007/08 to 2008/09. Thus the increase in 2008/09 is over 1100 percent of the increase in 2007/08. Good take by the public education enterprise while the economy is collapsing. Apotheosis of greed by teachers and legislators.

Yours sincerely,

David Carney

Sag Harbor

 

How Much Can Taxpayers Afford?

 

Dear Editor,

The co-presidents of the Sag Harbor Elementary  School PTA, Kim Marcelle and Christ Tice, emotionally responded in their letter to the editor entitled, “Responsible to Support School” (Sag Harbor Express November 27, 2008) to my letter to the editor entitled, “Cut School Spending Now.” With good intentions, they attempt to defend a school district that does not need protecting. They misconstrue my objective eye and they attempt to read my mind with a crystal ball. I am not “offended” as they say by an elementary librarian with superior qualifications earning $122,000 plus an additional $36,000 for benefits. However, I am “shocked” by the $158,600 total for this one employee. I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Marcelle and Ms. Tice when they “feel a fiduciary responsibility to support a public educational system that provides the absolute best education “we can afford to offer.” The key here is what “we can afford to offer.” By equating spending with achievement, they miss my point.

I speak from experience, a nurse who’s done doctoral work in Nursing Education and Administration at Columbia University. When a hospital trims its budget, patients must be given the same care. Somehow hospitals achieve this difficult and sometimes life-threatening goal. So why can’t schools do the same? Ms. Marcelle and Ms. Tice misconstrue and distort my suggestion to cut the budget by 10 percent. Who said anything about cutting programs? Gov. Patterson and Sheldon Silver both predict the $15 billion deficit “will not be closed with only a five percent cut in health and education.” Somehow the district’s administration will attempt to meet the challenge of maintaining programs while cutting spending by evaluating the worth of the programs they offer. As governor Patterson said, “Nothing is sacred,” including education and health care.

The generous post-retirement package was given to public school teachers to compensate for salaries not commensurate with the private sector thirty or forty years ago. Likewise, tenure was instituted to protect teachers from arbitrary and capricious boards of education. Unless a teacher does something egregious, he has a job for life. Now that the public school teachers’ salaries are comparable to those in the private sector, can we still afford the unfair, unreasonable and unaffordable post-retirement benefits? No matter what happens to a district’s revenues, the teachers’ retirement system sends each district a bill to compensate for their decrease in revenue from the retirement system’s investments. The taxpayers have to make up the difference. How much can we afford? Can taxpayers still afford to pay automatic increases of 2.6% every year? This also has to be evaluated. Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools, advocates an increased salary for teachers who voluntarily give up their tenure. In time, maybe this innovative idea may take hold in New York State. The teachers’ union, like the United Auto Workers, has to compromise and deal with the economic situation. There are no more entitlements. The key question is how much can taxpayers afford to offer?

Who is comparing the academic achievement of Manorville and Sag Harbor? Again, only the PTA co-presidents do that. In my letter I cite how different districts are handling the decrease in state aid. All districts have the same mandates and deal with mid-year cuts in state aid differently while still meeting New York State requirements.

Since 2004, our school population has steadily decreased and has leveled off. So where is the rise in enrollment that the co-presidents claim?

There is no enmity in my statements, only the cold, hard facts. This pain avoidance must end. The board promised academic and fiscal responsibility. The current economic situation will test their sincerity. Superintendent Gratto is moving the board in the right direction by cutting $300,000 in spending. Thank goodness he is at the helm of the Sag Harbor School District.

Jo Rizzo

Noyac

 

Safer and More Efficient

 

Dear Bryan,

An article in the  December 25th Express (Making Safer Routes) discusses initial plans for Jermain Avenue to the Bridgehampton Sag Harbor Turnpike. One of the three main components being studied by Dunn Engineering, the firm selected for the planning, is the intersection of Jermain Avenue and Suffolk Street. One idea Dunn has suggested is to prohibit right turns for eastbound and westbound traffic at this intersection. That must be a mistake!!!  Going westward from Madison on Jermain and turning right on Suffolk presently presents no traffic problem, there is an exit lane. Prohibiting right turns when going eastward however would make it impossible for residents of Suffolk Street to get to their homes; it would be necessary to add mileage, (to an important Village official and at least fifty other residents) forced to go around Madison across Middle Line Road and then down Suffolk. The existing STOP sign at the corner is sufficient.

LEFT turns ,on the other hand, ARE a big problem. Sight lines for drivers coming out of Suffolk onto Jermain are terrible, creating a definite potential for accidents. Creative thinking will be necessary there; perhaps a traffic calming device in the center (not a roundabout); a high bump or a flag pole so the cars can move out and be seen by oncoming traffic from both directions.

There has been a lot of thought put into the revamping of that crossing for at least a decade, and at the time of the state’s upgrade of 114. There are residents who feel they do have answers to this dangerous traffic situation. Certainly Dunn Engineering should seek the opinions of informed villagers now.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Valerie Justin

Sag Harbor