Tag Archive | "Ted Conklin"

Kate Plumb

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web Kate Plum

The Sag Harbor resident, former owner of the health food store Provisions, member of Slow Food Long Island and organizer of the East Hampton Farmers’ Market talks about why she thinks the East End is poised to return to its sustainable roots.

Where was your interest in local farming and food culture born?

I was thinking about that and I actually think my first experience with health food was in 1968. I was living in Vermont in an unheated log cabin near Goddard and one of the fellows would buy buckwheat groats, cashews, almonds and such for the commune we were living in. It was the first time in my life I distinctly remember eating that way. I came from baloney sandwiches and fish sticks. My parents both worked with five kids in the city and would have our monthly delivery of frozen meats, so that was what we ate –that and fish sticks. But in Vermont we ate this other way, eating rice, buckwheat, nuts, dates and things like that. One day someone brought a chocolate cake in and I had not had sugar in my system for so long I got violently ill. I think that awakened my interest in eating and how important food is. Since then, I have always been interested in food, which I think is healing. It really landed full square in 1982 when I lived in Sag Harbor in a rented room with Linda Sherry and Linley Pennebaker (Whelan) asked me to join her in buying Provisions, which was where D.J. Hart is now … In those days, health food was nothing. Don Katz said to me years later that he bet his wife $100 we would not make it. The oatmeal craze, to lower cholesterol was the first big hit we had and it just sort of took off. People came in looking to buy one item and bought more. It was effective, and that was that.

Farmers’ markets on the East End have grown in popularity in the last five years. When did you see this trend take hold and why is it so popular to eat locally?

In 2004, Brian Halweil got onto the village Harbor Committee after he and his wife Sara bought their home in Sag Harbor after summering here for a number of years. As trends move from west to east, he suggested we have a Farmer’s Market in Sag Harbor as a part of HarborFest and the girls at Dockside allowed us to use their lawn. It was suppose to be a one-day event, but we finished out the month of September and went through October. I was involved with that market as a founding member of the EECO [East End Community Organic] Farm, which I was on the board of and whose farm stand I helped run for a number of years. There were about six of us that Brian got together to compose the first Sag Harbor’s Farmer’s Market.

Elise Collins had already started a market in Westhampton Beach, but there were not many before 2004. Certainly since then it has grown. Montauk just started its market on Thursdays and Southampton Village has opened theirs. We have another at Hayground in Bridgehampton on Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. that is just wrapping up and Friday mornings we have the East Hampton market at Nick and Toni’s, and of course, there is Sag Harbor on Saturdays.

I think they are popular for a number of reasons, perhaps the most overarching one being what happens to you when you shop at a local farmer’s market – the emotional quotient of seeing your neighbors, talking to the person who is producing your food – it becomes a fun place to shop. There is that side, and of course, the taste of the food because it was just harvested that morning, not shipped over the last week from California or Florida. But most importantly, the farmers’ market has become a community center, which is how it traditionally has been in Europe and Central America. They are the center of a village. They also enable young farmers to sell to their customers and get the most return. This will in the long run help local farmers like the Wesnofske Brothers in East Hampton, a third generation Polish farming family, that will be able to continue farming because of opportunities like this. It is a way of making a living as a farmer once more.

What is your hope for the future for local farmer’s markets?

I think there should be one in every village and hamlet. I hope they get bigger. I encourage more people to produce, catch and make their own products. It would be great to find a building year round for the markets. It would help farmers’ grow year round, which is possible. We need a building – that would be the wave of the future.

Amagansett does not have a traditional farmers’ market, although the Peconic Land Trust did purchase the Main Street farmers’ market and has leased it to Eli Zabar of Manhattan. Would that kind of space suit a year round farmers’ market?

I think that would be fine, although the space is not heated so whether it could be used year round would require some investigation. Someone has suggested the Polish Hall in Southampton and I do not know what Southampton Town has planned for the old Marders Building once the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton has completed construction [and moves out of the Marders Building]. It would be great to have a year round farmers’ market with a commercial kitchen in it, opening the space up to allowing people to make prepared foods and teach classes.

As a member of the local chapter of Slow Foods, what are some of the initiatives you would like that organization to tackle locally?

I am so happy that Josh Viertel is now the president of Slow Food USA. They have taken on this whole real food in schools initiative because Congress is getting ready to re-authorize the Child Nutrition Act in the fall and the money government reimburses to our schools mostly is for transportation, hard costs, not for food. Slow Foods strongly wants to ask Congress, and Labor Day is a national day of action, to up the ante and add one dollar in reimbursements per child so schools can have local foods in their cafeterias. We will locally host an Eat In at the Bridgehampton School from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Labor Day. There will be 250 of these events nationwide.

What are some of your favorite local farm stands?

I go to the farmers’ markets a lot, but when I go to farm stands it is usually what is on the way. I go to Marilee Foster and Pike Farms because that is on my way to Sagg Main Beach. When the apples come into season, I will go to the Milk Pail.

What chefs on the East End do you think embrace sustainable food culture?

Ted Conklin of The American Hotel was a pioneer because he was a farmer before he was a restaurateur. Also, Nick and Toni’s in East Hampton has been on the forefront. Like Ted, they have a garden at their restaurant. When [former owner] Jeff Salaway was alive he and Joe Realmuto and Mark Smith showed a deep commitment to local food, which Joe and Mark continue today. It’s a very special place. Talking to Balsam Farms is a good way to see what chefs are using local products because they know who is buying it. I know James Carpenter at The Living Room at The Maidstone Arms is focused on it and I hear Rugosa is as well, although I have yet to eat there. When I worked with the EECO Farm I delivered to Della Femina, and I know Yama-Q is very conscientious. Our farmers’ markets have a lot of chefs placing orders with the vendors.

Given the wealth of local food products at the end of the summer, what is your ideal Labor Day menu at home?

Eric Braun of East Hampton Farmers’ Market, one of the last of the dying breed of bay men, his fish and his scallops are divine. He also smokes his own bluefish. I would get corn from Balsam Farm and tomatoes from Marilee. I would get peaches from Wesnofske Brothers and blueberries from Pikes. Melons are just delicious right now. Balsam also has some wonderful fingerling potatoes and Sang Lee Farms has wonderful greens for a salad. And then there are pickles … I could just go on and on. I can’t think of anything better than all these different foods. The fruit pies are heaven right now. We are really so blessed with everything that is available to us right now. I feel very grateful.

Harbor Committee Weighs In on New Code

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Harbor committee meetings are usually relaxed, quiet affairs, but on Monday evening, members of the public and Sag Harbor’s planning consultant Richard Warren shared a charged conversation over the proposed new village zoning code, particularly over the zoning revisions that will be made to the waterfront district.
The committee opened the meeting with an hour-long public work session, in which Warren explained changes that would be made in the waterfront district if the proposed new village zoning code passes. According to the chairman of the committee, Bruce Tait, Warren paid particular attention to explaining permitted and special exception uses in the waterfront district.
After the work session, the meeting was open to the public and several community members, including Ted Conklin, owner of The American Hotel, and Lou Grignon, owner of the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard, voiced their concerns over the code.
The harbor committee had called Warren in to clarify their confusion over permitted and special exception uses. A majority of the uses in the waterfront district are deemed special exception under the proposed code. These special exception uses include boatyards, commercial fishing charters, yacht sales and charters, marinas, boat dealerships, restaurants and yacht clubs. Many of these uses are permitted under the current code.
After the meeting, Tait said re-categorizing these uses, from permitted to special exception, will help the village safeguard the harbor in the village, where there is a premium on space, and keep the uses diverse.
“With the harbor so built up, [I feel] it is appropriate for the village to make the most of special exceptions … A special exception use is still a permitted use but with special criteria [the project] has to meet,” said Tait.
“This gives the village a chance to look at each project to determine its appropriateness,” added Tait. “I don’t think the special exception will handicap any of the harbor businesses.”
Grignon, however, believes letting the board decide if a special exception business is appropriate within the waterfront district gives the board too much power. He feels marina businesses should remain permitted uses.
“My question is how come the most water-dependent uses are now being made [into special exception uses],” asked Grignon.
Grignon feels the proposed code is inconsistent with the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP), a planning document for Sag Harbor which protects the harbor and encourages maritime business.
“The LWRP states that the village should avoid legislation that will adversely impact [marina] businesses,” said Grignon.
Tait, however, feels the proposed zoning document and the LWRP are in accord.
“As I looked at [the new village zoning code] through the eyes of the LWRP, in general, I didn’t have a problem with it,” said Tait.
Conklin’s concerns were of a different sort. He claims the village board of trustees didn’t fully incorporate the harbor committee into the drafting process of the code as it pertains to the waterfront district. Although Tait conceded the committee could have been more involved in the process, he added that Warren frequently updated the committee on changes made to the zoning document.
According to Tait’s understanding of SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) procedure, the committee couldn’t fully weigh in on the proposed zoning code, and give it a consistency report with the LWRP, until after a final version had been drafted.
The committee, however, did manage to come up with a few suggestions for the board during Monday’s session. They suggested adding additional maritime operations into the use table, like sail storage and sail repair shops. Warren said these additional uses would likely be adopted by the board as they are in line with the village’s vision for the waterfront district. Warren added that listing art galleries as a permitted use in the new code was actually a typo, and won’t be permitted in the waterfront district.
At the close of the meeting, the committee agreed to draft a letter to the board of trustees asking for more time to further review the proposed zoning code. The committee plans to hold a special meeting in the coming weeks.

New Village Zoning Code Nears Final Draft

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After two-and-a-half years of zoning planning, code drafting, public forums and numerous revisions, the proposed village zoning code might be enacted as early as April. A public hearing on the new code held on Friday, February 13, yielded less public comment than in previous sessions. The discussion during the hearing was mainly devoted to the revisions which have been made to the code. An amended version of the code will be published in the near future.

The key revisions made to the code include second floor uses, the purview of the Historical Preservation and Architectural Review Board, the timeline for filing a Certificate of Occupancy and day care center and bed and breakfast notification. With the revisions, second floor spaces in the village business district are allowed to be used for retail, office or residential purposes. A confusing piece of language concerning the ARB’s jurisdiction was rewritten, and now clearly states that the ARB does not have jurisdiction over the uses of a retail space. Under the proposed zoning code, a new owner has thirty days to attain a Certificate of Occupancy. In addition, those interested in creating a bed and breakfast or day care center will need to notify their neighbors within a 500-foot radius, instead of only 200 feet.


Sag Harbor Planning Consultant Richard Warren presented two flow charts detailing the process for expansion and change of uses for retail spaces in the village business district. One flow chart showed the process for spaces 3,000 square feet and under, while the other chart detailed the process for spaces above 3,000 square feet. Warren added that special exception uses, which have received a measure of scrutiny from the public, are still permitted uses but simply have to meet a more stringent set of criteria, since they often involve more intensive uses. Warren gave the example of a shoe store changing into a restaurant, which is a special exeception use and requires more parking and sewage usage.

Members of the community still raised concerns over the ARB’s ability to govern interior designs which are visible from the street.

“This seems to restrain certain freedoms, [especially] the freedom of expression,” said Susan Sprott.

However, this provision predates the new zoning code and was enacted in 1994, said Sag Harbor Village Attorney Anthony Tohill. Members of the board added that the purview of the ARB doesn’t extend to merchandise in the retail space.

Overall, members of the board seemed satisfied with the revisions made to the code.

“I do think it went fairly well,” said Trustee Tiffany Scarlato of the hearing on Friday. “I think we are pretty much at the end of the line. I am pretty happy with the end result. Everyone didn’t get exactly what they wanted, but there was certainly a compromise.”

Throughout the discussions over the new zoning code, the issue of parking has come up again and again. According to mayor Greg Ferraris, the new zoning code was intended to handle zoning issues within the village, and not to ameliorate some of the village’s infrastructure problems, including parking.

Parking has been a highly debated issue within the village, well before the new village zoning code was proposed. During the summer season, village parking is often scarce and can lead to traffic congestion. At a recent public hearing on the new zoning code held on January 29, Alan Fruitstone, the owner of Harbor Pets, said many of his customers refer to Sag Harbor as a ‘drive through village’ in the summer months, due to parking and traffic problems. He implored the village to incorporate parking solutions into the new code.

The proposed village zoning code, however, does amend the village’s solution to traffic problems, by eliminating the parking trust fund. Culver commended the village for this move.

“I think eliminating the parking trust fund is a step in the right direction,” said Culver, during a later interview. “It created an unnecessary tension between business owners and the village.”

Culver also contended that parking is an issue which should be addressed in the coming years. He believes it is an opportune time for the village to create parking solutions.

“Now we have a group of folks who are focused on planning issues. Maybe we could now think of the future of the village in a visionary way and generate a discussion [on parking]” added Culver.

During the hearing on Friday, Ted Conklin, proprietor of the American Hotel, articulated these sentiments. Conklin hopes the village will also look into village infrastructure issues, including parking and sewage. “We need to commit ourselves to a visionary plan for the whole of Sag Harbor … Something that generations from now will be proud of,” said Conklin.

The next public hearing on the proposed zoning code will be held on March 19. If no revisions need to be made to the code after this hearing, the board will have to wait at least ten days to enact the new zoning code.


Above: Ted Conklin, owner of the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, calls for a “visionary plan” for the village. 


See video excerpts from the hearing at www.sagharboronline.com


Conklin Calls for Visionary Plan

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