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Sagaponack Offers to Share Bridge Renovation Costs

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By Stephen J. Kotz

It might not look like much to most people, but the low-slung bridge across Sagg Pond that connects Sagaponack and Bridgehampton is apparently worth a lot to the Sagaponack Village Board.

On February 27, Sagaponack Mayor Donald Louchheim, accompanied by three village board members, told the Southampton Town Board the village would be willing to chip in up to $500,000 to renovate the span—provided the town abandoned plans, proposed by Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, to redesign it meeting federal standards so the town could qualify for a matching grant of a similar amount.

“We feel quite passionately that the bridge should, as much as possible, be repaired and maintained as it is,” the mayor said. He called the bridge “an important centerpiece” between the village and Bridgehampton, which got its name from an earlier span at the same site on Bridge Lane.

Mr. Louchheim said the design, first unveiled in December by Mr. Gregor at a community input meeting at which little input was sought, would result in a bridge with “industrial, galvanized steel railings” that would lead to slightly narrower lanes and a narrower pedestrian walkway and eliminates an existing curb separating foot traffic from vehicles.

“We have had no progress trying to have a dialogue with the highway superintendent on this,” Mr. Louchheim said. He added that Mr. Gregor had told village officials the design specifications were required for the town to qualify for the federal grant money.

Mr. Gregor did not return calls seeking comment, but in his official capacity as highway superintendent he has the authority to oversee design plans, with the town board limited to choosing to fund or not fund projects he wants to pursue.

Before coming to the town board, village officials had mulled annexing the 35-foot section of the bridge that lands on the Bridgehampton side, but Mr. Louchheim said such a procedure “would be messy.” Instead, he said, the village had decided the easiest route would be for it to “step in and take the place of the federal government and provide matching funds for this project.”

The village, he added, “would agree, effective immediately to fund 50-50 any repairs, maintenance, or capital improvements to the bridge that both boards agree to for now and in the future.”

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, who had obtained the federal funding for the town, had assured her that the town, which has already earmarked $500,000 of its own money for the project, would be able to apply the federal grant money to another transportation-related infrastructure project elsewhere.

She pressed Mr. Louchheim to agree that the village would pay for any additional design work that would be required as part of the new project. Such an agreement might make the project “more palatable” for taxpayers elsewhere in town, she said.

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming also endorsed the scaled back plan, saying that pedestrian use of the bridge, whether for fishing, crabbing, walking or biking should be preserved. She also said the town should consider seeking landmark status for the bridge and asked Sally Spanburgh, chairwoman of the town’s Landmarks and Historic District Board, to look into that possibility.

Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, who on February 24, voted to support Sagaponack in its efforts, also attended last week’s meeting.

Mr. Louchheim urged the town to act quickly before work is begun on the bridge. “I think what we are proposing would be a better outcome,” Mr. Louchheim said, “certainly on how people feel on both sides of the pond. We would make the taxpayers whole on the cost of this project. Plus you’d have the option of using that funding for another town project.”

East End Towns Honored for Preservation Efforts

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East Hampton TH SPLIA

Above: The historic Adelaide DeMenil and Edmund Carpenter homes before they were converted into the current East Hampton Town Hall. (Photo courtesy of SPLIA.)

By Claire Walla

The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) semi-annually awards projects and local efforts to boost preservation in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. And this year, while pouring over the various preservation projects that came to fruition here on Long Island in 2011, SPLIA’s Director of Preservation Services Alexandra Wolfe said two projects from the East End stood out.

On Sunday, April 22, both East Hampton and Southampton towns will be recognized for their efforts to preserve history here on the East End.

SPLIA is honoring the architectural firm Robert A.M. Stern for its efforts to restore the Adelaide DeMenil and Edmund Carpenter houses and turn them into the new East Hampton Town Hall facilities.

“East Hampton got a lot of flack about the funding for the project,” Wolfe admitted. (The overall cost of the project was about $6 million.) “But, the bottom line is that it really is a beautiful project. These buildings were incorporated into a complex arrangement, which speaks to the history of East Hampton and serves a very important function.”

The project incorporated two, two-story homes, which now serve as town hall offices, and two old barns (all buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries), which now serve as town meeting spaces. The buildings’ exteriors remained intact, while their interiors were modified to accommodate the current uses.

“By recognizing their good work, the hope is that it will influence the town at large to incorporate preservation into its larger policies,” said Wolfe, like in Southampton, where SPLIA recognition is being paid to the town-wide effort to promote preservation, rather than a specific entity.

“It can be a project, an organization or an individual,” Wolfe clarified. “It’s really about who comes forward and does good work.”

One big effort that came to the forefront of discussions was the efforts of the town’s advisory Landmarks and Historic Districts Board, led by Sally Spanburgh who also works at the Bridgehampton Historical Society, to update town code as it pertains to demolition permits. Now, the building department is required to run proposed demolitions by the Landmarks and Historic Districts Board before buildings are torn down.

But the other big change came from Zach Studenroth, who was hired last year as the town historian. He had been working as a consultant for the town since 2006, but last year his efforts to preserve the town’s historic burial grounds made a lot of headway.

“There are tombs here from as early as the 1680s,” Studenroth exclaimed. “And these carved stones are out in the open, unprotected.”

Studenroth was able to organize a slew of volunteers to help clean some of the headstones in the 10 cemeteries (of 40) actually governed by the town. He estimated there must be about 2,500 headstones that need to be maintained. He said a lot of restoration work still needs to be done.

“Some of the stones have toppled over and are broken,” he said. “We realize that the scope of the work far exceeds the resources of the town.”

He has been reaching out to local civic associations to help with the effort, and said that so far North Sea has gathered residents to clean up the cemetery there, realigning headstones and trimming some of the trees.

“The next stage is raising funds to hire professionals to realign some of the more heavy stones,” Studenroth added.

Wolfe explained that Southampton Town is also being recognized for the fact that it managed to involve the community in this effort to preserve local history, but also the creative steps it took to provide information to the public.

Working in conjunction with the Town Clerk’s office, Studenroth ultimately helped to create a searchable database online, providing the names of those who have been buried in Southampton Town and the locations and conditions of their tombstones.

Ultimately, Wolfe said Southampton Town is being recognized for “its creative approach” to preservation.

“It’s an initiative that has a much larger application,” she said.

This Sunday, Southampton and East Hampton towns are being recognized at SPLIA’s headquarters in Cold Springs Harbor, during a ceremony at 3 p.m.

Other award winners include The Seatuck Environmental Association, for its dedication to preserving “Wereholme,” the former Scully Estate, for use by the Suffolk County Environmental Center. And the Aquinas Honor Society of the Immaculate Conception School in Jamaica Estates, Queens for their ongoing efforts to report on local history.