An overflow crowd filled the Sag Harbor Village Board’s meeting room Tuesday night to support traffic calming and a dog park. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz
By Stephen J. Kotz
An army of residents of Sag Harbor and the surrounding area crammed into the Sag Harbor Village Board’s meeting room Tuesday night, spilling out into the hallway and sitting on the floor.
They were there to lobby the board to approve a traffic calming pilot project promoted by the organizations Save Sag Harbor and Serve Sag Harbor and to show support for a Bay Point woman’s request for the village to set aside a portion of Havens Beach as a dog park.
Traffic calming proponents, who were hopeful that they would finally be given the green light to launch their pilot program, left deflated, as the board tabled the matter yet again. While dog park supporters were buoyed by the board’s agreement to form a committee to further study the request.
“Can I at least tell the people who have donated their time that we’ll be on the agenda next month?” asked Susan Mead of Serve Sag Harbor, who has spearheaded efforts to fund the traffic-calming project.
Board members promised that they would pick up the discussion either at their July meeting or at a work session later this month.
“I support the concept, but I have a lot of issues,” said Trustee Ed Deyermond. “I’m not prepared to vote on this.”
Trustee Ken O’Donnell said he also wanted to move forward, as soon as possible. “Let’s pick an intersection and get it right,” he said.
He also complained that he had not been given adequate time before Tuesday’s meeting to review the proposed sites and lashed out at Mayor Brian Gilbride over the lack of communication.
“I gotta look at Facebook. It’s the only way the board finds out about traffic calming tonight is to look on Facebook,” he said.
Trustee Robby Stein also pledged support for the pilot program. “We’re in agreement that something has to be done,” he said, adding that he wanted to make sure that concerns of emergency services representatives were also met.
Mayor Gilbride, who has in the past encouraged the traffic calming supporters, waffled a bit on Tuesday. “Being born and raised here, I’m not seeing the need for it, he said, adding, nonetheless, that Save Sag Harbor and Serve Sag Harbor had done a good job and he would support a pilot program.
“Traffic calming happens in Sag Harbor every summer,” the mayor later quipped, “because you can’t go that fast.”
Earlier in the meeting, a steady stream of visitors stepped up to the podium, most of whom were strongly in favor of the traffic calming measures.
Among the supporters were Neil Slevin, the planning board chairman, and Anton Hagen, the chairman of the zoning board.
“I’ve lived on Main Street for 34 years. Traffic and speed have always been an issue,” Mr. Hagen said.
“Main Street has gotten so much busier than when I moved in 28 years,” said Mr. Slevin. “I’m asking you as a neighbor and as a leader of this community. I’m asking you to give it a chance.”
Bob Plum, another Main Street resident, also called for the board to support traffic calming. “I think in the big picture this is a great opportunity to establish a precedent,” he said. “Robert Moses can roll over in his grave.”
Drivers speed down Main Street “as they try to catch the light” at the intersection with Jermain Avenue and Brick Kiln Road, said Mary Anne Miller. “No one ever abides by the speed limit. I believe it will do a great amount of good for the village.”
April Gornick of North Haven was one of several people from outside the village who supported the traffic calming effort. “We’re trying to make this as flexible as possible,” she said. “I think the benefit would be enormous.” She added she hoped that Jermain Avenue and Madison Street could be targeted because the intersection is so close to the school.
“Change has come. Whether we like it or not, we’re all under siege by cars,” said Eric Cohen of Collingswood Drive, just south of the village.
“Until we try something we don’t know if it will work,” he added. “Try this. If it doesn’t work, try something else.”
Jane Young, a resident of Northside Drive in Noyac, said, “I think traffic is getting crazier and crazier out here by the year I hope you will give the pilot program a chance.”
But not everyone was in favor of the program. Rue Matthiessen, a Main Street resident, said while supported “efforts to control traffic,” she opposed the changes proposed for Glover and Main streets that she said would reduce the width of the road. “There have been attempts to explain to us that putting obstructions in the road will not narrow the road, but we fail to see how this is possible,” she said.
Ann Marie Bloedorn, a Hampton Road resident, said putting planters in the road would make it too hard for fire trucks to maneuver.
Sag Harbor Fire Chief Jim Frazier agreed. “It was stated earlier that or trucks didn’t have difficulty negotiating some of those circles. That’s not the case,” he said.
And Ed Downes of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps said that when traffic lanes are narrowed to slow traffic, it also slows emergency responders. “It makes it more difficult for us to get to the ambulance or get to the person in trouble,” he said.
Tina Pignatelli of Bay Point, whose dog Huckleberry was struck and killed at Havens Beach a month ago, appeared with a phalanx of supporters to devote a portion of the field on the southeast side of Havens Beach as a dog park.
“I want to make this park safe for dogs, so what happened to Huck never happens again,” she said.
Ms. Pignatelli said she wanted the park to be a place for people and pets to enjoy and repeated her vow to find private funding to landscape an area for the project.
Ms. Pignatelli’s father, North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander also spoke. “The loss of Huck was devastating to her and our family,” he said.
A steady procession of speakers also supported the proposal, for which the landscape architect Jack deLashmet has agreed to provide plans.
“I support something like this being done down there,” said Mr. Deyermond looking over a rough sketch of the proposal. “I’m afraid that this takes up most of what’s there.” He asked if the plan could be scaled back.
Mr. Stein also said he would support the plan, but would like to make sure it is landscaped with plants that would prevent erosion and runoff into a dreen that drains into the harbor.
“I tell you, I never thought that was a spot for a dog park,” said Mayor Gilbride before addressing Mr. Sander. “You sure you don’t have an property over there, Jeff?”
Despite the joking tone, Mr. Gilbride promised to set up a committee to work with Ms. Pignatelli to come up with more formal plans.