Tag Archive | "Turnpike"

Gateway Plan Gains Support

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Though there have been many meetings on the changing face of the gateway into Sag Harbor from Bridgehampton, Tuesday’s Southampton Town Board meeting was the first public hearing since the plan was amended in December to include a larger study area.

The Gateway Study, as it has come to be known, is an examination by Southampton Town of the area immediately south of the village along the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike and it recommends that town officials look at the area for possible re-zoning.

Currently, the area is zoned as highway business (HB), but is under consideration by the town board to be changed to hamlet office (HO). If that zoning change happens, large highway businesses such as lumber yards or car dealerships — which are currently allowed — would be prohibited.

While the public hearings on the Gateway Study in the past have been lengthy with speakers both for and against the change having their say, Tuesday’s meeting took on quite a different feel. The statements were kept short – all speakers except one having spoken on the record about the issue in the past.

Jefferson Murphree, town planning and development administrator, who explained the current status of the project to the meeting room on Tuesday, outlined the goals of the Gateway Study. According to Murphree, one of the biggest reasons for proposed zoning change is the potential environmental impact that an HB zone could bring to the area.

“Zoning can do a lot in this case,” said Murphree, “through the zone change we can better achieve land uses.”

Eric Cohen – a member of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) – who represented the John Jermain Library at the hearing, expressed gratitude to the town board for considering the change. He said the library is supportive of the re-zoning. Cohen pointed to a map and showed where the library is hoping to build an annex on the turnpike near Mashashimuet Park.

“Highway Business would tend to encourage a lot of truck traffic and with a library in that area we need to take steps to ensure the children are protected,” he said.

Only one speaker spoke out against the proposal on Tuesday. John Landis, owner of Bay Burger, a restaurant on the Sag Harbor Turnpike, argued the change of zone would eliminate possible business options for properties located within the study area. Landis said if the area were to switch to HO, he would not be allowed to return his establishment to the wholesale bakery it was prior to his purchase of the property. Nor, he added, could it be used as an outpatient care facility. He further argued that the HB zone would allow 82 different types of uses, and HO would only allow 15.

“I would always be concerned of any change and reducing employment opportunities,” Landis said.

Town supervisor Linda Kabot called the public hearing a “re-do” because the study area was expanded after the last public hearing in December to include four additional residential properties, not originally included in the study. Kabot put out a vote to roll over all the previous information from the earlier public hearings into the record. It was unanimously adopted.

Councilman Chris Nuzzi said the four additional properties — all zoned R-20, a purely residential designation — petitioned the town to be included in the study area.

Priscilla Ciccariello, also a member of the Sag Harbor CAC, said she is in favor of the zone change. Ciccariello has spoken on the record at town board meetings many times in the past, arguing why she believes the zone should change to HO. One of her main arguments has been the environmental impact zoning might have on Ligonee Brook, which runs adjacent to the properties in the study area. On Tuesday, however, she also said the zone change would be great for what may be built in the area in the future. She discussed both the library and the building site of the new Sag Harbor United Methodist Church – which is within 500 feet of this study area. She said for both these reasons there should be traffic calming in the area.

“It will help to set a nice character for this area,” said Ciccariello, “we are really reaching for a nice character and opening to the village.”

Noticeably absent from the public hearing was Robert Reid, owner of Reid Brothers Inc, an automotive repair shop in the area who has been speaking against the zone change from the very beginning. The Reid family was collectively arguing the change in zoning would reduce certain business opportunities for them.

At the Sag Harbor CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee) meeting on Friday March 6, CAC chairman John Linder noted the re-zoning of the gateway area would be a “crowning achievement” for the CAC. With the Gateway Study, Linder felt the town board seriously considered the concerns of local CACs and looked to them as legitimate advisory boards, which Linder said was a departure from the previous relationship between the town board and the CACs.

In an effort to work more closely with CACs and members of the public, Nuzzi attended the CAC meeting and said “I give credit to the Sag Harbor CAC for this study … the CACs exist for a reason. They are made up of residents who live and work in the community, and they should always be encouraged to participate in the process.”

Because the Gateway Study would affect the town’s Comprehensive Plan, the county needs to review the document. According to Murphree, the town is now waiting to hear back from the Suffolk County Planning Board and the Suffolk County Planning Commission. The public hearing on the Gateway Study was adjourned for two weeks and will be on the agenda again on March 24 at 6 p.m.


Tales From The Turnpike: Well-traveled byway is also something of a history mystery

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It’s a stretch of roadway that many people drive every day with nary a thought as to what has gone before. But in addition to glimpses of ponds, woodlands, neighborhoods and the commercial fixtures of modern day life, those willing to slow down and open their eyes may just notice subtle pieces of history emerging all along the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike.

As stretches of road go, it’s certainly one that has long intrigued Stacy Dermont. 

“I live in Sag Harbor and I’ve always been strangely fascinated by the Turnpike,” admits Dermont, program director at the Bridgehampton Historical Society. “One time, my husband [Daniel Koontz] and I were driving down the road and I said, ‘It’s so straight, it must be a new road.’ But he said, ‘No, it’s so straight — it must be an old road.’”

The logic behind Koontz’s thinking is that old roads are straight because they were built before small plots of land were snapped up by individual buyers. It’s newer roads, he reasoned, that meander and curve because they have to — in order to avoid the interests of a myriad of private property owners.

Curiosity about the Turnpike drove Dermont to dig into the road’s past and on Monday, January 26, a new exhibition, “Bridgehampton’s Historic Turnpike” opens in the society’s Corwith House. Co-curated by the BHHS photo archivist, Julie Greene, the exhibit looks back at the history of this utilitarian stretch of roadway — which runs 4.5 miles from the center of Bridgehampton to Sag Harbor — through photographs, paintings, official documents and artifacts.

As it’s name implies, the Turnpike actually was a toll road —with a gate and toll house — built in 1834 across the street from the present day Sag Harbor Recycling Center. It opened for business on March 29, 1837 and operated through 1905, when it was decommissioned and the gate removed. The toll house stood another four years, until it burned in 1909. 

While the idea of a toll house seems quaint by today’s standards, the Turnpike was created purely for commercial purposes. Prior to the 18th century, Dermont notes that Bridgehampton farmers used Merchant’s Path to get their produce and livestock to port in Northwest Harbor. But by the early 1800s, trade had shifted to Sag Harbor, and that’s where Bridgehampton farmers needed to take their products. In the years before federally funded and maintained highways, farmers relied on well-maintained private toll roads for getting wagons, animals and goods to market.

Originally called the Cart Path to Great Meadows (a.k.a. Sag Harbor) the road was renamed the Sag Harbor and Bull’s Head Turnpike when it became a toll road. Bull’s Head has long been the name of the neighborhood near the intersection of Montauk Highway and the Turnpike.

“When the gentleman started this toll road, he had to apply to New York State as we understand,” explains Dermont. “It was a legislative charter.”

‘This was a roadway from 1700 — a cart path with two ruts — a nasty thing,” says Dermont. “The road was improved using a six foot wide sand scraper and two yokes of oxen. 

Dermont notes that investors paid $25 per share for a stake in the road. 

“It was a group of Sag Harbor businessmen,” says Dermont. “It wasn’t about making money on the road, but enabling trade to come to your business. It was typical of New England toll roads that they didn’t turn a profit — but this one made money — until the railroad came in.”

The arrival of the railroad, indeed, spelled eventual doom for the Turnpike, which was one of three toll roads leading to Sag Harbor. The others were at Sag Harbor’s border with East Hampton on Route 114, which operated from 1844 to 1905, and the Penny Bridge from North Haven to Sag Harbor, in operation from 1834 to about 1868. 

Tantalizing pieces of ephemera related to the Turnpike are included in this historical society show. In addition to postcards, the curators have turned up the fee schedule for passing through the toll gate (prices started at 8¢ for a wagon or cart drawn by two horses and went up from there), an original oil painting of the toll house and gate by Bruce Crain, which is on loan from the Terry Wallace Gallery, and a tiny engraved silver spoon that commemorates the toll house. The spoon was created by the Alvin Manufacturing Company of Sag Harbor and is part of the collection of historian Dorothy Zaykowski. Dermont surmises the spoon was sold as a souvenir, not unlike the Sag Harbor merchandise visitors find today at the Variety Store.

 “I’m satisfied I have a nice selection given the space,” adds Dermont. “But there are so many unanswered questions. It’s a history mystery and I’m looking forward to finding out more.”

Also along the turnpike was a brickyard that operated north of Scuttlehole Road from 1891 through the 1920s. It produced bricks used in the construction of Pierson High School, the Fahy’s Watchcase Factory extension and the Sag Harbor Train Depot, to name a few. The brickworks began life in 1891 as the Sag Harbor Brick Company. In 1902, it was purchased by the Long Island and Fisher’s Island Brick Company and after that point, bricks from the factory had the name “Griffing” imprinted on them — the name of the brickyard’s cofounder, Arthur C. Griffing.

“He owned a house right near where the brickworks sat,” explains Tony Garro, a history buff, Southampton Trails Preservations Society member and avid “turner of bricks” who loves to flip them over in search of a maker’s mark whenever he comes across them in his travels. 

In conjunction with the exhibition, Garro will lead a Southampton Trails Preservation Society sponsored walk along the Turnpike on February 21 and is particularly eager to talk about the brick factory, which has been described as an open air structure with a roof held up by beams and an oven made of bricks. Dermont notes the brickworks was capable of firing 400,000 bricks at a time.

“That whole area — Clay Pit Road, Brickiln Road — has large clay deposits nearby,” says Garro. “It’s an educated guess that’s why they put the brick works there. We think we found some remnants across the way — very large excavations — that couldn’t be anything other than clay pits.’

Garro and Dermont also think that the brick workers, many of whom were Italian immigrants, were housed in close vicinity to the brick factory.

“Some maps show structures in the area,” said Dermont. “When we went to the site, in addition to pots and dishes, in the refuse was a whiskey bottle.”

“But we don’t know when that was put there,” cautioned Garro. “It could have been fairly recent.”

While they have found some physical evidence of the factory’s existence, what is missing, however, are official documents or written material describing the brickworks.

“There is an amazing lack of information about the Turnpike or the brick factory,” says Garro. “I find it very strange that we’ve found no paperwork. We spent three or four hours in the John Jermain Memorial Library, went through a great deal of material. We could find almost no reference to the factory.”

“It’s just like you don’t write a letter about how to dial a phone,” says Dermont, who hypothesizes why so little written details can be found about the Turnpike’s history.

Despite the lack of written records, the roadway was a vibrant place and home not only to immigrants who worked at the brick factory, but migrant workers as well who toiled in Bridgehampton’s fields. 

 “There was a lot of small workman housing along the Turnpike in the 20th century,” says Dermont. “Some came to work in households, clubs and summer resorts. There is also this black population along the Turnpike too. Some families, we know when they got here. Many arrived as migrant workers and many stayed. I think it’s miraculous they could do that given racism and economics.”

 “It is somewhat odd there isn’t more information,” says Dermont. “We’re planning in 2010 to have an exhibit about Ocean Road. In 2012, we hope to combine that and the Turnpike show and expand the theme. It’s ongoing and we’re begging for artifacts. I’m sure somewhere someone has a shoebox full of permits, time sheets or letterhead.”

“Bridgehampton’s Historic Turnpike” opens with a members’ reception on Friday, January 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Corwith House, 2368 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton. The public can see the show weekdays from January 26 to March 6. Tony Garro’s “Turnpike Hike” is at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 21. Hikers should meet on the Turnpike at the end of Scuttlehole Road. For details call 537-1088.

Top: Postcard of the Old Toll Gate, Bridgehampton Turnpike looking north toward Sag Harbor

Above: The Rates of Toll for using the Sag Harbor & Bulls Head Turnpike


Gateway is Both Salve and Threat

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by Melissa Lynch


One of the major gateways into the Village of Sag Harbor, along the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike, was the subject of debate at Tuesday’s Southampton Town Board meeting. The public hearing was held as part of the board’s plan to change the original zoning of the area from highway-business (HB) to hamlet-office (HO).

 Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, said the reason for the proposed change of zone is to preserve the rural character of the area and prevent over development along the turnpike.

 “‘The Sag Harbor Gateway Plan” includes eight parcels just beyond the village’s southern border that would be subject to the rezoning.

Several of the subject properties belong to the Reid family and brothers Pat and Mike Trunzo. The Reids own an automotive repair business on the turnpike and the Trunzos have been exploring the idea of building affordable housing on their parcels. 

One of the speakers at the public hearing was Katherine Reid who explained that she bought the property in December 1984 because it was commercial property.

“I am destroyed with what’s going on” she said on Tuesday, “people are saying that I can’t do this — well why can’t I?”

 “It’s not American and I’m sorry.”

Southampton Town Planning and Development Administrator Jefferson Murphree explained that the gateway is defined as being a rural and environmentally sensitive area.

Jeremy Samuelson of the Group for the East End, a non-profit environmental watch dog organization, said on Friday that the area that is being talked about “is next to one of the single most significant natural resources in the state.” He explained that Ligonee Creek, which begins at Long Pond, goes under the turnpike and empties into Sag Harbor Cove, is the sole connection for drainage out of the Long Pond Greenbelt. 

But he added, “It is important to provide opportunities for growth, affordable housing and for families to make a living. For doctors and walk-in medical care there is a lack of affordable space.”

“We know that there is a sensitivity because of the proximity to the village and complimentary to that stretch of the road,” said councilman Chris Nuzzi. “There are so few opportunities for affordable housing.”

“The irony of it is – it [rezoning] doesn’t impact what currently exists, it offers alternative scenarios to surrounding areas so that they can benefit,” said Nuzzi after the hearing.

“You are chasing away business and taking money away from working families in this town,” Bruce Anderson, an attorney who represents the Reid brothers said at the hearing. “You should do something to enhance the economic base of this area. Could the looks be accomplished by landscaping and making the businesses look prettier?”

 “We are not looking to stop business,” said Priscilla Ciccariello, member of the Sag Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC). “We are looking for a way to make it compatible to all that live there.”

Eric Cohen, also of the Sag Harbor CAC said, “The Sag Harbor CAC is in favor for recommendations to see this be adopted and the intent is not in any way looking to preserve it as open space. We would like to see it available for affordable housing but what we would not like to see, however, is the  continuation of random development.”

Cohen continued by saying that intensive business use in the gateway area would not help current businesses along the turnpike, nor would it help maintain the historic nature of the village.

“Why is it that the Reid family gives up everything for the environment?”  asked Robert Reid. Though the Reid’s business would be pre-existing, non-conforming under the new zoning, they would not be able to develop a more intensive use of the property. He also asked if anyone from the press or other groups had been up to Ligonee Creek, which runs along his property, to have a look at it.

 “It’s a dry creek,” he commented.

 “It comes down from Long Pond and is considered wetlands,” countered Ciccariello. “It is the main artery for the nine ponds of  the Greenbelt area.”

“Not only does the creek have this ability but it would affect the bay and all the fish and the crabs — it would affect everything that goes on,” she added. “It’s a subtle environmental contributor.”

John Landis, co-owner of Bay Burger on the Sag Harbor turnpike, said that his property is one of four parcels that should be kept at HB zoning.

“It is an asset to the community,” he said on Tuesday. He said he has developed a thriving business and created jobs for the people of Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton and is concerned that if the area is switched to an HO he will not be able to change the type of business operated from the location.

Councilwoman Nancy Graboski proposed the town consider a hamlet commercial (HC), or a mix of HO, HC and HB if necessary, which Kabot said has been done in East Quogue and North Sea.

The Southampton Town Board asked the Department of Land Management to prepare the Sag Harbor Gateway Study in February, 2007 and make recommendations for future land use development. In June of this year, the Southampton Town Board hired Cashin Associates for the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA) of the area. Most recently, in August the town’s planning board reviewed the draft Sag Harbor gateway plan and asked the town board to continue implementing the recommendations of the plan.

On Tuesday Southampton Town board adjourned the Sag Harbor Gateway study for one more month. The public comment period remains open.