Tag Archive | "John Jermain Library"

Local Stories On Irene

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By Claire Walla

By midday last Saturday, August 27, Main Street in Sag Harbor looked almost abandoned.  Though a smattering of shoppers and diners continued to mill about, many storefronts were boarded up with plywood (a first for most), or else covered with adhesive tape.

All were preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irene.

In the height of her projected force here on the East End, at one point Irene was expected to cut a path straight through Sag Harbor, bringing winds that topped 100 miles per hour and rains that would fetch up to 10 inches of water.  While the tropical storm didn’t quite bring the devastation many in here Sag Harbor expected, her presence on Main Street was certainly felt.  Here are some of the stories from last weekend’s tropical storm.

Schiavoni’s Market

Food has been flying off the shelves at Schiavoni’s IGA Market. Unfortunately, owner Matt Schiavoni said it’s partially been a bit of a purge.

Last Friday, customers waited in long lines behind carts piled high with enough food to get them through the storm. The market sold 50 cases of water last Thursday, and at least 100 cases on Friday, Schiavoni said.

But by Monday, Schiavoni was piling food into the dumpster out back. He even had to call in a second bin.

Without electricity in the wake of Irene, the Sag Harbor IGA lost all frozen and perishable foods, like meat and dairy products. (Judy Schiavoni even trolled Main Street on Monday handing out ice cream for any and all takers.)

When all was said and done, Schiavoni said the damage really couldn’t have been any worse. Aside from the building sustaining physical damage, which he said fortunately it didn’t, “all the damage was caused when the power went out.”

An inventory was kept of every item tossed into the dumpster and will be recorded as an insurance claim. Meats and deli items were delivered on Wednesday. And when Schiavoni’s gets its next shipment of ice cream this Friday, the store will be up-and-running, just as it was a week before.

No More D Batteries

Emporium True Value Hardware Store

In the midst of shuttered storefronts and taped-up windows, Emporium True Value Hardware was an anomaly this past weekend: it looked the same before and — thanks to milder winds than originally predicted — after Irene came to town.

But inside, in the days leading up to the storm owner Frank D’Angelo said he sold-out of “D” batteries, flashlights and radios. Business was bustling Friday morning, as dozens of shoppers looked for amenities to prepare for Irene.

“It was absolutely insane,” said an employee. “At least a dozen people were waiting outside before we opened at 7:45 a.m.”

Signs were posted in at least three locations in the store informing customers that “D” batteries were out of stock.  And employees continually informed inquisitive customers that the store was also out of flashlights.

“We’re literally selling key-chain flashlights,” the employee said. Emporium True Value was also sold out of lanterns, lamp oil, radios and 6-volt batteries.  “Those were the first to go,” he said of the 6-volts.

Anticipating a flurry of returns on unused items, the store posted a hand-drawn sign near the battery display last week informing customers that batteries could not be returned. By Tuesday this week, it had been moved to the front counter next to the register.

However, D’Angelo said the store did not see any batteries back in its midst.

“Not a single one,” he confirmed.

Our Gig Too, Taping Inside adjusted

Our Gig, Too

As she stretched beige-colored masking tape across the length of her store’s front windows last Friday, Denise O’Malley of Our Gig, Too worried about the destruction Irene might bring. She said she was headed to the store’s basement next to move all merchandise to higher ground, in anticipation of flooding.

But Irene brought little of that.

Though her store was still “half-with-half-without” power by Tuesday afternoon, all in all O’Malley said the village was lucky.

“Everyone was expecting some water to come” with the storm, she said. But, like most businesses on Main Street, she said her shop suffered little damage.

“It looks like we prepared for nothing,” she continued. But …when you think of all the disasters we’ve seen recently — like Katrina and the tsunami in Japan — it seems like anything’s possible.”

O’Malley took a moment before continuing.  “If we had a tsunami…” she trailed off for a moment more. “We’d have no place else to go.”

Harbor Heights adjusted

Harbor Heights

Last week, Harbor Heights Gas Station hit “record breaking” sales.

That was what owner John Leonard declared on Friday as a steady stream of cars flowed through the station. Thousands of East End residents flocked to gas stations across the East End to fill up their tanks as a precautionary measure in preparation for the storm.

On Friday, Leonard said his station had been so busy, in fact, that “I’ve been working here for the past two days, non-stop!”

He added that the station received two truckloads with 9,200 gallons of fuel on Saturday and Monday to replenish the station’s stock. While the Getty station on the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike ran out of fuel late Thursday afternoon, Leonard said he was ready for the barrage of vehicles that remained constant at Harbor Heights through Saturday.

“We were prepared,” he affirmed. Having been through several hurricanes in Florida himself, Leonard anticipated the gas-pump rush.  “I had my orders in on Tuesday for the week.”

The end of the week saw multi-car lineups at gas stations in East Hampton and Southampton, prompting 20-minute waits in some spots and even verbal altercations between drivers.

Leonard said there had been none of that at his gas station. Though he did add that one man stirred up a bit of trouble Friday when he tried to jump the line of cars; however, the situation was abated before the gloves came off.


Still wearing her wedding gown — with a pair of orange high tops — when she arrived at the bar of The American Hotel last Saturday night, the sight of Debbie Hunekan and Carl Brandl, her tux-clad groom, was particularly surprising.

Despite the dire weather predictions, Brandl and Hunekan, who came to the hotel after tying the knot, decided to go through with their Saturday evening ceremony — which concluded just hours before the first winds set in.

“The wedding was supposed to take place on Long Beach,” Hunekan said this week.  “We called Judge Eddie Burke and he said, ‘I don’t think that’s going to happen. Long Beach is covered in water.’”

So the show moved south, to Hunekan’s mother’s house in Water Mill.

And while the couple had the perfect backdrop for a memorable occasion — they made their wedding song “Come Rain or Come Shine” and switched the evening’s cocktail to a Dark and Stormy — Brandl said the most touching part of the evening was seeing friends and family come together to keep the ceremony alive.

Friends stepped in to cater when the company they hired backed out; and, even though he had canceled all other events for Saturday, Hunekan said Steve Clark of Sperry Tents kept their wedding canopy in place for the duration of the evening.

Of their 90-or-so invited guests, 85 of them showed up.

“That made it all the more meaningful,” Brundl continued. “That they still came.”


On Monday morning, though the John Jermain Memorial Library was open for business, the light streaming through the windows of its temporary home on West Water Street was the only light patrons had to read by.

On Wednesday, director Cathy Creedon beamed at the prospect she was able to open the library so soon after the storm, and was even more pleased at the number of patrons who stocked up on books beforehand.

On Monday, Creedon pointed to the practically empty new fiction stacks and said, “It looks like the battery section of the hardware store.”

But last Friday, Creedon nervously watched as adhesive flashing was placed on the roof of the historic JJML building on Main Street in preparation of the storm. Leaks at the building have grown over the last two years. While the library nears approval to move forward with restoration and expansion, each storm that arrives before the project is completed has the potential to damage the structure further.

Before the storm, Creedon said the library also removed from the exterior of the structure scaffolding that has been in place since 2006 to protect patrons from the crumbling façade. Library staff noticed the wood holding the scaffolding in place had rotted and worried that the storm could wrench it loose, creating a hazard.

On Monday, Creedon said the dome did not appear to show signs of more leakage, however a leak in the stairwell to the third floor rotunda had grown larger and the library’s terra cotta roof was also showing signs of water infiltration, a “grave concern” for the library board.

However, on Monday, Creedon remained happy that the library was still providing service.

“We will probably close when the angle of the sun no longer shines into the building,” she said late Monday afternoon.

“Yeah, like after its dark,” library circulation director Pat Brandt added wryly.

boats packed adjusted


Usually at this time of year, the Ship Ashore Marina boat yard is a dusty expanse that curves along a few hundred feet of Sag Harbor Cove.  While boats tend to come in and out of the water at regular intervals, they’re either stored in a massive shed on the property or tied up to the dock near the shallow shore.

Hurricane Irene changed all that.

“They’re packed like sardines!” one boat-owner exclaimed last Friday as he walked through the yard.

According Gayle Pickering, whose husband Rick owns Ship Ashore Marina, boat crews pulled about one boat every 20 minutes and ultimately pulled precisely 60 boats last Thursday, August 25, bringing the total number of land-bound vessels to roughly 170.

By Wednesday of this week — after the storm brought milder conditions than originally predicted — Rick Pickering said he was exhausted.

“Everyone’s walking around with stars in their eyes!” he exclaimed, noting that he and his crew had already put 126 boats back in the water since Monday. There are approximately 14 that will stay grounded, but he said he’s still got about 25 to go until Ship Ashore is back to basics.

Library Earns State Grant, Readies to Move

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By Kathryn G. Menu

This summer, patrons of the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor are poised to be treated to water views as the library staff is getting ready to transition to a temporary space on Long Island Avenue. According to JJML director Catherine Creedon the space will likely open in time for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

On Tuesday, Creedon excitedly noted that the move has potential to open up the library to new patrons in Sag Harbor given its close access to the business district and post office, which is directly across the street from the transitional space. More importantly, it will allow the library to begin repairs to its historic Main Street building, stabilizing the existing library this summer while the library board awaits approval to begin a restoration and expansion project that will more than double the size of JJML. Those approvals are needed from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and Sag Harbor Village’s Harbor Committee and Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board.

On Friday, May 13, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced that the library has been awarded $137,667 public library construction grant. This money will help fund the major, phased exterior stabilization project that is a part of the library’s restoration.
According to Creedon, the state has recognized in the grant offering that this year will be the first of a multi-year project to stabilize the library’s roof, dome and lay light.

“This opens the door for us to apply this year and next year for future library construction grants,” she said on Monday.

According to Thiele’s office, the grant funding comes from $14 million in capital funds earmarked in the 2010 state budget for public library construction projects. In a release issued on Friday, Thiele noted that libraries across the state are in dire need of restoration and renovation.
More than 40 percent of the over 1,000 public library buildings in New York are over 60 years old, said Thiele. Another 30 percent are more than three decades old. A recent survey, he said, showed a documented need for public library construction and renovation projects totaling more than $2.5 billion statewide.

In addition to this state grant, Creedon said the library also received a $6,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities. That grant paid for Laura Hortz Stanton, the director of preservation services for the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, to come and assess the needs of JJML’s historic collection. Specifically, she will address how the library can stabilize the collection, pack it and what kind of facility it should be stored in while the library is in this period of transition.
Unlike the current library, once the expansion is completed at JJML, the new library will feature a state-of-the-art archive for historic materials.
The library has also collected private donations to help with the expansion. In 2009, voters in the Sag Harbor Union Free School District agreed to pay almost $10 million towards the restoration and expansion of JJML. At that time, Creedon and the JJML library board promised to fundraise $2.5 million in additional monies for the project. Creedon said to date the library has already collected around $600,000 through grants, direct donations and pledges.

In the meantime, on Tuesday, Creedon said the library will likely close for almost two weeks starting Monday, June 20 while the move from JJML to Long Island Avenue takes place.

“It’s a beautiful space,” she said. “All the public spaces look out over the water and it is filled with beautiful, natural light. We have carved out a teen and children’s space, a small seminar room for our English as a Second Language and writing classes, and we will have public computers, so all of the services of JJML will be there.”

Southampton Town Adopts PDD Reforms
Last week, the Southampton Town Board adopted reforms to its Planned Development District, or PDD, legislation, according to a press released issued by Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s office.
A PDD is a zoning tool that allows the town to overlay zoning in favor of a project otherwise not allowed on a parcel or several parcels of land in return for the project sponsor promising to deliver “community benefits” as a part of their application. Examples of that benefit might be affordable housing or the preservation of open space.

“Land use policy is perhaps the most important responsibility we have as town board members because the manner in which our community is developed informs every aspect of our way of life, from traffic to taxes, environmental health to economic sustainability,” said Throne-Holst in a statement. “The PDD tool — which has enabled many very large scale developments throughout the town ‘— has been a source of intense public controversy for more than a decade, and was the number one issue community members urged me to address when I became supervisor.”

The changes resulting from the PDD legislation reform include increased public participation, including a pre-submission public hearing in lieu of what now is a pre-submission work session for applications, meaning the public does not have the ability to weigh in on a proposal. Town CACs will also be guaranteed a place on a PDD oversight committee, which will be established for the life of each project.

Early referrals from the department of land management to advisory boards, like the planning board, for each PDD application are also required under the new law. In addition, time lines have been established to ensure project sponsors follow through with the community benefits they promise in a timely fashion.

Developers also must show in their initial applications how their project fits into the planning goals of hamlet where they are seeking to develop a project. They must also describe how their project is consistent with or will improve community character and what the project’s cumulative impact will be in relation to other developments within a hamlet.

A hamlet specific list of allowed community benefits will also be developed and regularly updated by the town.

A full list of the changes is available on the town’s website at http://www.southamptontownny.gov.

“Our overarching goal in revising the legislation was to create a more predictable process that would result in projects that fit well with the surrounding community and offer adequate, hamlet-specific community benefits in exchange for the opportunity to development a property in a unique way,” said Throne-Holst. “We’ve also included a requirement to review the status of pending PDD projects and the legislation itself on a regular basis to ensure it continues to work as well as possible.”

Library Officially Approved by Zoning Board

On Tuesday night, the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals officially granted the John Jermain Memorial Library 10 variances to allow the library to move forward with plans to double the size of its Main Street facility with an over 7,000 square-foot modern addition.

The variances will enable the library to seek its final approvals from the village, namely from its Harbor Committee and the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board, both of which are expected to take up the application next month.

After the library receives nods from those agencies, all that will stand in the way of the restoration and expansion project is approval by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services for a new on-site septic system.

In other ZBA news, Josh and Irina Siegel were denied a variance to construct a six-foot high driveway gate at their 175 Hampton Street residence. The village code only allows four-foot gates and fences. Board member Anton Hagen, citing the Siegel’s desire to protect their young children front entering the busy roadway, voted against the denial. Adrienne and Dennis Quinn were granted a variance to allow them to keep a roof at their 20 Hillside Drive residence. The roof was in violation of the village’s pyramid law. Lastly, Arleen Auerbach was given several variances to legalize the construction of a deck, stairs, patio, stoop and addition to her 18 Franklin Avenue property.

Discussion on Harbor Heights Market Continues

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By Kathryn G. Menu

While Harbor Heights Gas Station owner John Leonard is hoping to bring a little convenience to Sag Harbor residents with a proposed “country market” included in the re-development of the decades-old gas station, getting approval for the project appears like it will be anything but easy.

On Tuesday night, at a Sag Harbor Village Planning Board meeting work session, the board discussed a number of issues building inspector Tim Platt has raised with initial plans for the project, as well as a number of outstanding questions that could change the design and scope of the development.

Leonard has proposed to demolish the existing 1,874 square foot gas station on Route 114 and replace it with a new 1,842 square foot building. Within the gas station, Leonard proposes a 600 square-foot “country market.” Gas pumps, now on Route 114, are proposed to be moved to the north side of the property and covered with a standard gas station canopy, and would boast an additional pump.

The project would also expand the Sag Harbor Service Station, a business owned by Gregory Miller, from 1,245 square feet to 1,595 square feet, and would also include landscaping and a curb cut to create one entry and exit to the station.
In a January 24 memo, building inspector Tim Platt said the size of the convenience store within the station does not include spaces in refrigeration units or candy racks located below the counter. That would put the size of the store over the maximum 600-square-feet allowed for a convenience store in the village code.

“In talking with John today, his concern is the store gets so small if you have to include the refrigeration units, which are about three-feet deep,” said attorney Dennis Downes. “It really cuts into the display area and we would probably have to ask the zoning board of appeals for a variance or a new determination.”

The project already will need two variances from the ZBA — to maintain its setback to Route 114, and for a side yard setback to a neighboring property.

Downes said he is also awaiting a determination on whether or not the new canopies are considered a part of the gas station, or are viewed as accessory — an issue Platt previously raised as a question. If they are viewed as accessory, that will require a height variance from the ZBA.

“We need to come to consensus on some of these issues,” said Downes.

Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren also wondered aloud if the project would constitute the expansion of a non-conforming use, for both the gas station and the service station, and asked Platt make a judgment on that issue before the project moves forward.

Warren also added that because the project proposed 26 parking spaces, it will likely need to go through State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) by the village.

“I’ve gone up there and they have the rendering inside and I walked around to envision the layout, which was helpful,” said board member Greg Ferraris. “It’s a huge improvement, safety wise, up front, and I think we just have to get past some of these other minor issues.”

JJML Clears Environmental Review
After over a year of reviewing plans for a 7,725 square-foot modern addition to the historic John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor, the village planning board signed off on its environmental review of the plan Tuesday night, stating it will not have a significant adverse impact on neighbors, or the village at large.

This paves the way for the library to seek approvals from the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board (ARB) as well as a number of variances it needs from the ZBA. According to JJML director Catherine Creedon, because of the village calendar, the library has missed the deadline for the February ZBA meeting and the project will likely be presented at its March meeting. She added the project will not likely be presented to the ARB until after it is viewed by the ZBA.

It will also open the door to voter-approved $10 million in funding for the project. In August of 2009, over 80 percent of voters who turned out for a public referendum on the project approved the funding, but the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York — a lending agency for public projects — will not release those funds until any proposal has cleared its environmental review.

The library project will be back before the planning board for site plan approval in February, which Warren said could be wrapped up if all goes smoothly by March.

Hot Books for Cold Weekends

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web OOTC

By Helen A. Harrison

On a cold winter weekend, what could be better than a hot book? The two I have in mind aren’t hot in the best-seller sense, since they’ve been around for a while. You’ll have to call the John Jermain Library and order them through inter-library loan, or you can find them for sale on the Internet, in either the original hardcover editions or paperback reissues. These books are hot in the other metaphorical sense, dealing as they do with the sex lives of two of the art world’s most colorful female characters. No bodices are ripped—these gals willingly shed their garments.

The gals in question are the celebrated art collector Peggy Guggenheim, whose memoir, Out of This Century, with a jacket design by Jackson Pollock, was published by Dial Press in 1946, and Ruth Kligman, mistress to the stars and author of Love Affair: A Memoir of Jackson Pollock, published in 1974 by William Morrow. Kligman added a preface in 1999, when her book was republished in paperback by Cooper Square Press. Guggenheim updated hers in 1960 and again in 1979, when Macmillan brought it out as Confessions of an Art Addict.

Guggenheim has been the subject of three biographies, but no one tells her story with the verve and candor that she brings to the saga of her scandalous escapades as an expatriate heiress in interwar Europe, where her modest fortune went much further than in her native New York City. It financed a bibulous social life, complete with a cast of world-class eccentrics, adulterous liaisons, verbal (and sometimes physical) conflict, and whirlwind travels punctuated by the acquisition of a fabulous collection of modern art. Peggy chronicles it all breathlessly, often at her own expense. When the book was first published, her horrified family reportedly said it should have been titled Out of Her Mind, and tried to buy up all the copies.

She came into her inheritance at the age of 21, just as World War I ended, and within a year was in Paris, where she lost her virginity to Laurence Vail, a neurotic, alcoholic would-be writer and artist whom she called the King of Bohemia. In the original 1946 edition, she identifies him by the pseudonym “Florenz,” an odd conceit considering that he was well known as her first husband and the father of her two children. Some of her other lovers who were then living are discreetly disguised—Samuel Beckett as “Oblomov,” Douglas Garman as “Sherman” and Marcel Duchamp as “Luigi,” for example—while others, even those inconveniently married to other women, are allowed to sail under their own colors.

During World War II, people named Guggenheim were not welcome in Hitler’s domain, so Peggy returned to New York with her art collection and a retinue that included her current lover (soon to be husband number two), the Surrealist painter Max Ernst. In New York she opened a gallery, Art of This Century, which showcased her treasure trove of abstract and Surrealist art, as well as local talent of the vanguard persuasion. Among her discoveries was the then-unknown Jackson Pollock, who became her protégé. The Pollock biopic, starring Ed Harris as the artist and his off-screen wife, Amy Madigan, as Peggy, gives them an abortive love scene, but if such an encounter did occur the memoir is uncharacteristically silent on the matter. Indeed, in the expanded version, written after Pollock’s death, Peggy describes their relationship as “purely that of artist and patron.”

Whether that implies any extracurricular duties on his part is left to the reader’s imagination—just about the only thing in this tell-all that is.
Kligman’s book, on the other hand, leaves no doubt that her knowledge of Pollock was carnal; the title alone makes that clear. By turns gushingly romantic, deeply delusional and painfully conflicted, it describes her brief, turbulent involvement with the artist at the end of his career—in fact, at the end of his life. They met in the spring of 1956 at the Cedar Bar, the artists’ hangout in Greenwich Village, where a drunken Pollock would bait his colleagues and make passes at their dates. Even though, mired in alcoholism, he was no longer painting, he was still top dog among the abstract expressionists.

An aspiring artist herself, Ruth (18 years his junior) was star-struck. She threw herself at him, and to no one’s surprise—except maybe Pollock’s—he caught her. After a steamy encounter in her apartment, they declared their mutual love, and the affair was off and running.

That summer Ruth wangled a job at the Abraham Rattner School of Art in Sag Harbor (the former Baptist church that now hosts Larry Rivers’ legs sculpture), handily close to Pollock’s home in Springs. No longer would their trysting require a Long Island Rail Road commute. Inevitably Pollock’s wife, Lee Krasner, noticed that something was up, especially when she caught the errant couple sneaking out of his studio the morning after. This led to the predictable ultimatum. To her credit, Ruth is frank about her doubts that the relationship had a future, although she had a habit of jumping back into the deep end in spite of her misgivings. When Lee took off for Europe, she moved into the Springs house, where she fantasized about reviving Pollock’s creativity and despaired over his black moods and violent temper.

It all builds to a climax on an August night, when a drunken driver, a misjudged curve and an overturned convertible spelled serious injury for Ruth and death for Pollock and another passenger. This section of the memoir is both cinematically vivid and melodramatic to the point of bathos, including a flashback to her rejection by a judgmental father. And by the time the book appeared in 1974, her pledge of enduring devotion:

“That great romantic love. It can never come again,” was sounding a little hollow. Pollock’s body was barely cold when she took up with his great rival, Willem de Kooning, followed by a veritable Who’s Who of male art-world luminaries. Nevertheless, for the rest of her life—she died last March at the age of 80—Ruth dined out on Pollock, and I don’t mean the fish.

Preserving Library’s Past For the Future

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Sag Harbor’s John Jermain Memorial Library has received a grant for almost $6,000 to aid its efforts towards historic preservation. This comes as the library embarks on an expansion that will allow the 100-year-old institution to expand its archives for researchers and residents alike.

During the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) Board of Trustees meeting on December 15, JJML director Catherine Creedon announced that history librarian Jessica Frankel was awarded a Preservation Assistance Grant for Smaller Institutions by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The organization funds small to mid-level institutions, such as libraries, museums, historical societies, archival repositories, municipal records offices and cultural organizations, as well as colleges and universities.

The foundation grant was specifically geared towards institutions and organizations looking to enhance the preservation of their humanities collections. The NEH provides grants up to $6,000 through the program and in her application, Frankel secured the full $5,9777 she requested.

“It is worth noting that in an age of reduced governmental funding for the humanities, the John Jermain project and local history collection has attracted this level of federal support,” said Creedon to the board last Wednesday.

The grant will enable the library to hire Rolf Kat, the director of planning and development at the Conservation Center for Arts and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia.

According to Creedon, the grant Frankel secured will bring Kat to JJML for a study on the library’s current historical collection. It includes photography, works once owned by William Wallace Tooker, a collection of Bibles, historical records from the village, county and state, material on the whaling industry, personal history and artifacts from some of Sag Harbor’s celebrated families, as well as some items yet to be specifically identified, like a child size cap from the Civil War.

“Artifacts like that are so wonderful because they allow us to imagine,” said Creedon. “We don’t have documentation about why this is in our collection, so we begin to ask ourselves, was this a young child piper? Was it passed from generation to generation? How did it wind up here?”

Creedon said the expansion will include a dedicated room for historic artifacts that encompasses the kinds of temperature, humidity and light controls the current collection lacks.

“Going forward, one of the things I want to do is craft a mission statement about what the nature of what our collection is all about,” she said, noting the library might ultimately decide focusing on village history, rather than state and county records is its priority.

“Even in out new space, we will have a finite amount of room,” she said.
Creedon said she would like to see JJML expand its holdings of whaling related materials, as well as oral histories of current residents with stories about Sag Harbor’s culture and history, as well as relics pertinent to village history.

“I am also interested in collecting materials to the history we are making now,” said Creedon. “A lot of our history is wrapped up in whaling or the Custom House, but what we don’t think about is the history we are making now. We have this amazing sustainable food movement taking place on the East End. Our vineyards are accomplishing so much, Mecox Bay Dairy is looking at traditional ways of life. That reinvention of classical material is ripe for our archive.”

Creedon would also like to document the wave of immigrants, both past and present, that have descended on the East End. For Sag Harbor, she noted, immigration has been a constant and continues today.
“What is fascinating is 100 years from now people will want to know what was the culture of Sag Harbor in 2010,” said Creedon. “And we will be able to show them.”

Land For Septic to Help Out Library

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Sewage has been a sticking point for the John Jermain Memorial Library in its efforts to expand. But Sag Harbor Village officials announced this week that they will work with the Suffolk County Health Department to make the library’s hopes for expansion a reality — at least as far as the septic system is concerned.

On Tuesday, December 14, Sag Harbor Village Trustees empowered village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. to work with the Health Department on a deal that would trade a small portion of 26-acres of village owned land on the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike for the library’s right to build an on-site septic system at their Main Street property.

On Wednesday Thiele said the some of the acreage, which is adjacent to the Long Pond Greenbelt, the transfer station and the village’s department of public works, is ripe for conservation anyway, creating a “win-win” scenario for all involved parties.

“This is a way to allow for a good public project and consistent with overall plans for the Long Pond Greenbelt,” said Thiele.

Similar to the use of Pine Barren credits by developers hoping to expand beyond their allowed density, if a deal is reached, the village property would be preserved from future development, and in turn, the library would gain enough density credits to move forward with their plans.

Earlier this year, the library presented plans seeking to hook up to the Sag Harbor Village wastewater treatment plant in order to accommodate the septic needs for its over 7,000-square foot expansion. After neighbors bristled at the idea, the library went back to the drawing board, crafting a plan for an on-site septic system. But because the proposal would exceed density and due to the fact that the village sewage treatment system is nearby, the health department denied the library’s request. The library will now appeal to the health department’s board of review with the details of the village’s credit swap plan.

Knowing an on-site system would not meet health department standards, the village originally denied the library’s request earlier this year, but vowed to help the library by offering village-owned land in return for the increase of density at the library parcel.

Tuesday night, the board of trustees reaffirmed that commitment with Thiele suggesting that as little as one or two acres of the 26-acre spread could be “sanitized,” or its septic credits taken by the county, to earn the library’s approval.

On Wednesday, Thiele said he is looking for an informal meeting with the board of review, the village and the library in the hopes of maximizing the library’s chances of approval. A location within the 26-acres will likely be chosen then, said Thiele.

Ted Conklin, owner of The American Hotel, wondered if East Hampton and Southampton towns should kick-in on the effort as well, as the library district encompasses the whole of the Sag Harbor School District and is not confined to village boundaries.

“I am not thinking about it like that,” said Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.

Deputy Mayor Tim Culver said he was in support of the concept, but would like to ensure as much of the 26-acre property remains in village ownership, which Thiele said would not be an issue.

In other village news:

The board of trustees officially ended plans to adopt a proposed expansion of the village’s accessory apartment law, which would have paved the way for the legalization of existing apartments in outbuildings like garages and pool houses.

According to Culver, the village will take a second look at the law and resubmit a new draft plan in coming months.

“There was a lot of to and fro, for and against, and no consensus,” said trustee Robby Stein. “What is clear is this doesn’t work. So this should now be thrown out and with input we should revisit this issue.”

Elizabeth Dow formally received permission for a zoning change at 48 Madison Street, the former United Methodist Church, to village business. This change will allow her textile and wall covering company and school to move to the location.

The village did place restrictions on the property that would prevent it from ever becoming a convenience store, bar or tavern, laundromat, dry cleaning business, movie or live theatre, gym, yacht sales center or any kind of food service business.

According to Dow’s attorney Tiffany Scarlato, the change of zoning will only go into effect once Dow has site plan approval from the village planning board. Scarlato added her client will not make that application until she formally closes on the property, which she is purchasing from former Southampton Town Councilman Dennis Suskind.

Lastly, trustees named John Christopher as an alternate member to the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee.

Kimble Humiston

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The professor at the Institute of World Cultura Studies, who will speak at the John Jermain Memorial Library next week, on the state of culture and society at the time of the library’s founding 100 years ago.

Was the creation of the John Jermain Library occurring at a time when there was a boom in public libraries?

Education was being driven by an economic paradigm. The growth of libraries was greater in this part of the country because of New York City’s growth as an economic nerve center. America was on the eve of becoming a political super power. That connection of the large scale to the local level, was driving the growth of repositories for knowledge.

Was there a general understanding that the public had to take on a greater responsibility in education?

At that point in American history there were a lot of things happening in the social consciousness. We were four years away from World War I and there was a greater awareness of what was going on in the world. Until then we had been isolationists;

and at this point we began questioning whether we could continue that isolationist thought.

Progressive thinkers had a more global awareness, and spearheaded that type of awareness in the communities.

We were riding the wave of industrial revolution.

Was there an opening up of knowledge?

Generally, yes. Knowledge had been cloistered in universities and such. The first wave of that continued to grow through the 20th century.

How closely did Sag Harbor follow the prevailing social and cultural changes of the day?

I think another part of the country, where circumstances were far removed, may have lagged behind. But because of its closeness to an urban center like New York City, it was very current.

How do you think these changes were received here?

They were invited because they were a reflection of the change that was already occurring. Their cultural antennae were up and they anticipated these changes.

This was the first rank of the human race that was receiving these changes in culture.

Who were some of the people driving the changes locally?

Largely people from the community who wanted to have a knowledge base out here.

What do you think Sag Harbor was like in the days when the library started?

A quiet backyard of New York with characteristics of a rural settings; but with an undercurrent of anything but a typical rural community. It was very much on the level of social and global awareness; a hotpoint for this kind of development in the state. There were people with wealth who traveled globally. There was a very interesting confluence of two different levels of society. At the time, it was almost a foreshadowing of America’s need to prepare itself for the coming need to be more socially aware.

Kimble Humiston’s presentation, as part of the John Jermain Memorial Library’s 100th anniversary, will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 14 in the library’s rotunda.

Library Director Cathy Creedon Named Sag Harbor Person of the Year

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Susan Merrell loves three things about Catherine Creedon.

“One, she is the most trustworthy friend a person can have,” said Merrell. “Two, she is a great cook, although I am hesitant for people to know this because I am a personal beneficiary of her talent, and three, I love the way she dresses.”

When Merrell speaks of Creedon in glowing praise, it is also clear that one of the things she loves most about Creedon is her dedication to the Sag Harbor community and its aging library, which clings onto its historic edifice, awaiting a voter-funded and not yet village approved restoration and expansion of its historic shelter.

Creedon has been the director of the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) since 2007, as the library board of trustees revisited once more how it should expand and restore the current building with public support and financing. After a failed 2004 referendum, still caught in the wide-ranging community debate and divisiveness over the future of JJML, Creedon was hired to fill the directorship left by Allison Gray. As many library board members and staff recount, a new era began at Sag Harbor’s hometown library.

“I remember running into her on the street a week after I met her and having this amazing conversation about books and we were just so simpatico,” said Merrell, a longtime friend and former board member at JJML, who urged Creedon to apply for the position when Gray left Sag Harbor.

Creedon was a book hound early on, who was assistant librarian in the Hennepin County Library in Edina, Minnesota, from 1975 to 1981 before taking a number of positions from curator to cataloger to director of children services to research librarian at a number of libraries including The Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton, the Suffolk Cooperative Library Systems in Bellport, even working as a children’s literature specialist at workshops hosted by the Walker Art Center and Minnesota Center for the Book, as well as the Peconic Teachers Center.

Merrell and Creedon’s friendship blossomed over a decade ago, in a writing group organized by Merrell where Creedon wrote her fantasy novel for children, “Blue Wolf,” which was published in 2003 as one of the inaugural titles in the “Julie Andrews Collection” imprint at HarperCollins.

Merrell said she was desperate early on for Creedon to have the directorship at JJML, and when the job opened, Creedon initially declined to interview for the position.

“I remember she was writing and in a more creative place,” said Merrell, who asked Creedon to meet with then-JJML board of trustees president Christiane Neuville. Creedon grudgingly agreed, but warned Merrell she would still not apply for the job.

“They had an hour long conversation and then I think they had tea and she called me and said, ‘You totally manipulated me,’ which I did not intend to do,” remembered Merrell. “Talking to Christiane, I think she figured out she would have the ability to do what she really believed in at the library.”

“I begged her to apply because I could see she had a lot of potential,” said Neuville. “She is an unusual person because when you first see and meet her you do not grasp all that she can accomplish. When I see what she is able to do, especially now, with everything that has been going on, she is a true leader.”

“I had never met Cathy until she came in for the interview, and I immediately fell in love with her,” said board of trustees member Carl Peterson. “She was far and away our choice. She was perfect for the job.”

John Jermain Memorial Library technical coordinator Eric Cohen, who served as co-interim director with Pat Brandt prior to Creedon’s appointment as director, has known Creedon casually for years. Upon hearing she was a candidate, and knowing she was “a lovely person,” Cohen said a number of staff members lobbied the board for her appointment, also feeling it was important to have a Sag Harbor resident in charge of Sag Harbor’s library.

Once she was hired, Cohen said she arranged meetings with every employee at JJML, with Cohen and Brandt first on the list. Creedon asked the pair if there was anything she could do to make the transition easier on them, and what she could do to make their jobs more enjoyable.

“I thought, this is pretty cool,” said Cohen. “It was a great way to start off and I think everyone had a similar experience with her during those first interviews.”

Neuville said the biggest pleasure she had as president of the board was hiring Creedon, who she called “irreplaceable.” Neuville added she believes Creedon was instrumental in the successful passage of a $10 million referendum this summer. Those monies, following village approval of the project, will enable the board to restore the historic Main Street, Sag Harbor structure and expand the library by 7,000 square-feet.

“I know that each of the board members spent many hours on the phone talking to people about the vote, but she went to every single organization,” said Neuville. “I don’t think she missed one. In fact, she showed up places we never even knew existed.”

Neuville said it was not only Creedon’s dedication to the project, but how she presents ideas and listens to people that was her greatest asset leading up to the referendum.

“She has a very non-threatening way about her – people listen to her,” said Neuville. “She never raises her voice, but speaks with real strength.”

“She was probably 99 percent of the reason [the referendum] passed,” laughed Diane Gaites, the most recent president who stepped down from the trustees this year after 15 years on the board.

Gaites said when the board resumed discussions about how, and where, the library should be expanded with Creedon as director, “we were nine different people with probably nine different ideas and opinions about what should happen.”

Gaites, the only board member left from the failed 2004 referendum said she carried baggage from that loss, and that it was Creedon who made the board see they all had the same goals for the library despite their differing views on how it should be carried out.

“I think she had a great way of making sure we did things together, through consensus,” said Gaites. “Eventually, she made us realize we had the same interests at heart. We became more cohesive.”

Peterson agreed that Creedon has had a unifying effect around JJML and the community at large.

“I think because of everything that is so great about her personality, she was able to bring a lot of different communities in Sag Harbor together,” said Peterson. “I do that a little too, but nowhere near what Cathy does. I think we all worked hard for this, but a lot of it was Cathy.”

“I don’t think Cathy came to the job with any preconceived notions about what should happen,” continued Peterson. “She went through her own process and digested the issues and people watched her mind work and respected the conclusions she came to. Instead of having all the different factions on the board, everyone liked Cathy so much that we started letting go and let her be the one voice, rather than have one voice for this position, one voice for that position.”

“I think — which she doesn’t appreciate about herself — that Cathy has a natural gift to connect groups of people,” said Cohen. “You always know she is speaking from the heart.”

Cohen added that Creedon “worked her butt off” to get the referendum passed, going to groups more than once and keeping her office door open for anyone who had questions about the expansion plan – a trait she continues post referendum as the library gears up for the village’s review of their project.

“She never patronizes people and always takes concerns to heart,” said Cohen. “I think people saw that we were taking a responsible approach to the project and really listening to what they had to say. The full board deserves a lot of credit for this as well.”

It was Creedon’s love for what libraries can bring to a community, and her particular fondness for JJML – Creedon’s hometown library – that made her such an ideal candidate for director in Gaites’ eyes.

“I had to look at the position as not just for someone looking to run a library, but a person who had a connection to Sag Harbor and knew how to take a library and really play up its strengths,” said Gaites. “It is not just a business to her, or a job even. It has great personal value for her.”

Gaites noted Creedon has accomplished far more than a successful referendum, implementing a slew of new programs and rearranging the current space at JJML to make it more efficient.

“She looked at the space differently,” said Gaits. “She has been able to physically fit more in and in a very innovative way.”

“Her vision is larger than just books,” said Gail Slevin, a member of the Friends of the John Jermain Memorial Library. “With extraordinary limitations – a leaking roof, no heat, she made physical changes like moving the reference department downstairs from the third floor where it was so inaccessible. She carved out places here and there, she cleaned. The overall effect has been wonderful.”

Circulation at JJML, in Creedon’s tenure, is up almost 20 percent.

“For a long time before Cathy, we kind of felt like the library was not going anywhere, not serving the needs of the community as well as we thought it could,” said Cohen. “She brought an ethic of wanting to serve the community to the fullest.”

Like nearly everyone interviewed for this piece, Gaites said it is her hope Creedon has found a lifelong home at JJML and in Sag Harbor.

“It’s like she came home,” said Gaites. “She went other places, but here, she kind of is home. Personally, I don’t see it in her to lose that enthusiasm for this place. We have a lot to be thankful for.”

Diane Gaites

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The Sag Harbor Middle School teacher and North Haven resident talks about how it feels to step down from the John Jermain Memorial Library Board of Trustees after 15 years of service.

Does having your term end right after a successful referendum to restore and expand JJML give you a sense of accomplishment?

It obviously does and I just think it is a good time to leave because one of my original intentions in joining the board was to help bring about a successful referendum. We achieved that and I think it is time for other people to step onto the board and bring some fresh eyes to it.

I was the person who represented a historic connection – a connection between the old board and the new board and I always believe it is time for new people to come on board. Everyone comes to the board with a new idea. Sometimes, I think, when you are on a board for so long you can almost have blinders on, thinking, how could you think to do something different.

John Jermain Memorial Library Director Catherine Creedon says you have a historic, institutional memory about this library. Why is that?

Probably because of the people I served with when I first came onto the board with Jim Ash and Jimmy Lattanzio, Gail Ratcliffe – those people were so good at keeping me abreast of the library and its functions. They had just finished the downstairs expansion, so they had gone through getting variances, having discussions with the village. I always look at them as giving us a solid foundation.

Since then, it is probably because of my longevity; and because of how I used the library — knowing how my own kids enjoyed it before I joined the board.

I think when the referendum failed the first time it made me see the library in another light, not just as a building, not just as a library, but as the center of our community. Sometimes you need a splash of cold water in the face to recognize that this means a lot of different things to a lot of different people in a lot of different ways.


How did you first become involved with the library?

It’s a funny story. Not that it is not an honor to serve, but in those days when people were asked to serve, a lot of the times its was people calling around asking if you had a free night a week to spare. Gail Ratcliffe called me. A couple of other mothers and myself had reinstated the summer reading program here, so she knew my connection to the library.

There have been good times, some upsetting times, but the progress I have seen the library make in becoming the hub of the community has been because of a lot of the people who came before me and will continue to progress after I am gone.

In your view, what does the ideal library offer a community in this day and age?

For this day and age, with what is going on, I think the biggest thing is probably just providing a place of refuge, a place you can feel comfortable, a place where you do not have to spend money to learn and to interact with people. That is especially true here, as the programming has really evolved to suit the community’s needs. It is a more open place. People are so comfortable just coming inside. I think before, people did not realize how much the library had to offer and could offer. Before I came onto the board, the library had kind of slip-shod hours – it would open at 10 a.m. one day, noon the next, sometimes it was closed on Saturdays. But that really has changed. Gradually we finally put in Sunday hours, which I was thrilled with. Working at the school you realize the kids need that. We extended Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday hours until 7 p.m. when we used to close at 5 p.m. The programming has also gotten better and the relationship with the Friends [of the John Jermain Memorial Library] – they are so valuable to us, and have done a lot, especially for our children’s programming.

As a resident, do you intend to remain involved with JJML as it goes through its approval process with the Village of Sag Harbor?

I would hope so. I am sure there will be a little break where I sigh and say, wow, it is the third Wednesday of the month [when they hold library board meetings] and I have nowhere to go. If there is not direct involvement, I am sure at least I will be knocking on Cathy’s [Creedon] door. I wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite either. Here I have been at board meetings telling the public they have to get to meetings so the village knows how important a project this is and you have put that in print, so I will kind of be forced to do it.

I want to stay involved, not to say, ‘hey, why are you doing it this way,’ but more to appreciate the work the trustees are doing and give them the credit, because like I said earlier, I think it is always good to bring fresh perspective to something like this.

What do you see as the library’s strengths and weakness?

Definitely a strength is our director, Cathy Creedon and our great Friends [of the John Jermain Memorial Library]. They are just so helpful and supportive of us. The staff is great. They are more than willing to bend backwards for the patrons, and are so flexible when Cathy wants to move something around. And this building is a haven. A weakness, on the other hand, is this building could offer a lot more, or at least provide a space where programming can be explored further. It would be good for the staff, who have worked so hard for so long, to have a space where they can relax.

There are so many pluses to the library and to the physical building itself; so while it can be a minus, this staff and Cathy have taken the best of it and turned it into a really positive place.

Will you miss being on the board?

I think so. I have made some good friendships. I think it has helped me get along with people and appreciate people for what they bring to the table and not be so cynical about things. Sometimes you start relationships with someone on the board and your ideas are opposed; but when people do talk, eventually you come to respect each other’s opinions and ideas and you learn they are not as far apart as you first think they are.

Banned Books, No Simple Matter

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By Richard Gambino

I attended three high schools. Large ones in Manhattan and Brooklyn, then in my junior and senior years, the smallest public high school in Nassau County. In this last school, a teacher one day talked about Voltaire’s 1759 novel, Candide. He described it as a witty, bayonet-sharp satire. Two young people, “Candide” and his female friend, “Cunegonde,” each encounter brutal, stupid, corrupt and cruel behavior all too common in different societies. I decided I wanted to read it.

However, at the local public library, I was told the book was banned to those under the age of eighteen. But a sympathetic librarian told me that if I got permission in writing from a teacher to read it, I could take it out. I did both, and in reading the book, Voltaire’s use of dark humor to get us to reflect on societies’ and individuals’ worst behavior was fulfilled.

I had also heard in a class that Hitler, in his 1925 book, Mein Kamph (My Struggle), had pretty much telegraphed to the world what he would inflict on humanity if he ever came to power. This book too was banned to minors, but I got another teacher’s permission note. I read it, and found that Hitler had written just as said in class, so the teacher’s point came home to me with stark force: The world in the 1930s had ignored it. After World War I, the attitude of millions in Europe and the U.S. was that war is horrible beyond description — which is true. About fifteen million people had died in that war. And, it was thought, the Great War had proved that in modern war “no side really wins.” So Hitler’s intentions were willfully ignored in massive denial and in wishful thinking for peace — for a great many people, right up to the point when he started another world war by invading Poland on September 1, 1939 — a war that would kill some sixty million people.

Learning to read controversial books critically had a powerful influence on my life. The experience helped set in me a life-long desire to understand the world as best I could — including a career in scholarship and education. So, when I learned this autumn that Sag Harbor’s Jermain Public Library was conducting a week-long banned books program for teenagers, I became very interested. The censoring of books for young minds is not a cut-and-dried simple issue. For too many, it only seems to be a problem when the banned book is morally or politically correct — of course, from their point of view. But, Candide contains “casual” accounts of rape and mutilation, not to mention other crimes and various forms of human corruption. Hitler’s book is full of hate, notably, but not exclusively, against Jews. But its disgusting anti-Semitism goes on at length, and one might reasonably ask why a young person, or anyone, should read it, if not for its historical value — which trumps its offensiveness.

The Jermain Library’s list of books actually banned, or that people wanted banned, in various places includes other famous ones which contain material that would make any decent person cringe. For example, in Mark Twain’s 1884 novel, Huckleberry Finn, characters routinely use the “n” word, the most racist word ever directed against African-Americans. But the book does not merely reflect the racist views of the late 19th century.

A mind that is informed about the history of racism in the U.S., and the methods of effective literary satire, especially biting humor, goes beyond a first and lasting wincing at the word to see the great condemnation of racism that is in fact the heart of the novel.

Just as an informed mind that has been educated in the modes of literary satire appreciates that Candide is a very effective assault on those who prefer to turn their eyes away from human evil, in Voltaire’s time, and in ours, choosing to think this is “the best of all possible worlds.” The lunatic evil in Hitler’s mind is better understood and made offensive to all decent people by the education of his book’s readers — education in history, psychology and morality. In fact, learning how to discern the moral or political agendas in a book, and evaluate them with an independent mind, is critical. What is the point of having a young person read a controversial book if not this? And the program at Jermain aims to help accomplish these important goals in the education of teenagers. It encourages them to read books on the list, and a librarian discusses questions regarding censorship with them.

Again, the matter of censorship can be very challenging with regard to some books. For example, Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice is the most troubling work I’ve considered. I can’t see it as satire — in which humor is used to seem to say something, but clearly at the same time ripping that something apart. Merchant is a work of genius by the best playwright and poet ever — and the play is one of his most powerful. But not only is its anti-Semitism ugly and relentless, but also, as is generally true of Shakespeare’s plays — sometimes maddingly so — he doesn’t judge his characters. In contrast, say, to Dante who did so overtly, placing some in heaven, and others in purgatory or in hell in his Divine Comedy. Shakespeare presents characters who are all too realistic and let’s us judge them. For example, the murderous tyrant, Richard III, in the play of the same name, who delights in his sadistic oppression of people. But in Merchant, the anti-Semites triumph. “Shylock,” an anti-Semitic stereotype, who is routinely referred to by other characters as “the Jew,” is completely broken and humiliated. The sometime triumph of great evil is part of what makes Shakespeare a “modern” writer — as is seen too in the death of Lear’s only good daughter, “Cordelia,” in his great play, King Lear,

The stereotyping of Shylock, and the vile, long, hate-filled treatment on stage of him by other characters in Merchant in fact is an effective primer for any student of the long, atrocities-filled train of anti-Semitism in European history, and especially after its escalation into modern anti-Semitism that starts with the First Crusade in the year 1095 and culminates in the Nazi Holocaust. (The same Holocaust our kids hear denied by the current head of Iran’s government.)

So yes, as part of their education, teenagers should be encouraged to read — and especially in how to read — some of the books that provoke many people to call for their being banned from public libraries. Reading and thinking about Candide, Huckleberry Finn and The Merchant of Venice can contribute to the growth of one’s mind and soul. I salute the Jermain Library for its banned books week, and urge its staff to expand it into a year-round program.

RICHARD GAMBINO is Professor Emeritus at Queens College, holds a PhD in philosophy from NYU, and lives in North Haven.