About 60 people attended last week’s Sag Harbor Village Board meeting and saw a variety of issues addressed, including dramatic changes to village-owned waterfront property and objections to the renewal of Madison and Main’s liquor license.
But those in attendance on Tuesday, October 8, were there for one reason and one reason only: Save Sag Harbor’s traffic-calming presentation.
In February, Save Sag Harbor, the community-based effort to sustain the village’s traditional feel, sponsored a workshop for residents to air grievances about traffic and vehicle speeds, and to work on short- and long-term goals to eradicate those problems. With 33 residents in attendance, problems areas such as Main Street, Hampton Street, Long Island Avenue and Jermain Avenue were identified, as well as seven intersections and several sidewalks that were problematic for pedestrians and bicyclists. A litany of ideas were floated, including lowering the speed limit in the entire village to 20 mph and installing pedestrian safety measures.
Those ideas were condensed into a report presented to the Village Board last week. The report was written by Jonas Hagen, an urban planning consultant for Despacio, and the son of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals chairman, Anton Hagen. Despacio is a non-profit organization based in Colombia with a mission to improve quality of urban life through the Slow Movement philosophy, which focuses on sustainability and forward-thinking, responsible decision-making.
Mr. Hagen’s report asked the village to consider pursuing a restriction for all future road projects to implement “complete street” ideals, which make streets accessible to cars, bikes and pedestrians.
The report also aims to slow cars and trucks through curb extensions with “reduced radius corners,” with the idea that the tighter the turn radius, the slower a vehicle has to go; raised, high-visibility crosswalks; pedestrian islands; additional radar speed signs, which the report says reduces speeds by 6 to 8 mph; and narrower 9-foot travel lanes, which can reduce speeds by 3 to 7 mph.
The report was presented to the Village Board at last week’s meeting, with the request not only that the group’s ideas be considered but that a standing committee of residents and Save Sag Harbor members be established to continue addressing traffic concerns going forward.
“What I’d like at the end of the day is something very specific,” Save Sag Harbor board member John Shaka told the Village Board. “That you folks set up a committee to think through various issues involving traffic calming and transit issues … that will come up with actionable items that will make a difference in the community.”
Village Mayor Brian Gilbride seemed open to the idea of a committee, saying, “I wouldn’t mind opening up a room or the [municipal] building to allow a committee to get together and bring their ideas to us.” Mr. Gilbride even went so far as to suggest adding a crosswalk that lights up when pedestrians are crossing, such as the one in East Hampton Village. “We need people to use the crosswalks instead of the middle of the street more, and I know I’m a violator myself of that,” he said in touting the idea.
But Mr. Gilbride jokingly responded to Mr. Shaka’s assertion that such a committee would expedite response time to the group’s requests by the board by saying, “There’s not a thing you’ve said tonight that [Village Board member] Robby [Stein] hasn’t at some point brought before this board.”
When Mr. Hagen stepped to the podium, he began by relaying his experience growing up in Sag Harbor, walking to and from school without a second thought. Today, kids that bike or walk to school are “taking life into their own hands, and parents are borderline neglecting them if they allow it,” according to Mr. Hagen.
He went on to say that his request of a 20-mph speed limit isn’t arbitrary, but a specifically chosen safety number. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 20 mph, Mr. Hagen said, has an 85-percent chance of survival, as opposed to a 15-percent chance of survival at 40 mph.
When asked if any of these proposed safety measures, such as raised crosswalks or speed bumps, would place the village in the position of being liable for damages to cars, Mr. Hagen replied, “To my mind, it’s better to lose a few mufflers than to lose a child or a senior.”
Susan Mead, the vice president of Save Sag Harbor, also announced at the meeting that the newly established Serve Sag Harbor, the fundraising wing of Save Sag Harbor, had raised $4,700 in a matter of a half hour of calling up neighbors in order to implement electronic speed limit signs.
“Because I’m on Main Street, I know there is rampant speeding on that road,” she said, describing a nightly scene of trucks going as fast as 50 or 60 mph—to the extent that sensors on the top of the under-construction John Jermain Memorial Library dome, set up to warn builders of any instability, go off periodically because traffic moves by the building so fast.
“Our houses are shaking at night—it’s hard to have a decent quality of life,” she continued. “Those of us impacted are willing to put our money where our mouth is, though.”
In a similar vein, the board approved a measure proposed by Mr. Stein to reduce the speed limits of Sag Harbor’s Redwood neighborhood from 30 mph to 25 mph. The roads affected are: Amherst Road, Cornell Road, Cove Road, Dartmouth Road, Harvard Road, Notre Dame Road, Princeton Road, Redwood Road and Yale Road.
Bruce Tait, chairman of the Harbor Committee, sought permission at the same meeting to apply for a matching funds grant from both the federal and state government to re-imagine the small beach at the base of the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge, opposite Windmill Beach. Mr. Tait wants to modernize a plan proposed in 1996 by famed landscape architect Edmund Hollander to add two docks, a couple of picnic tables and a bench to what he called an “underused, derelict piece of property.” The plan also calls for a walkway underneath the bridge to Windmill Beach.
A similar plan was recently floated by East End Ventures, the company that has unsuccessfully tried to build luxury condos in the area, as part of their condominium plan.
Mr. Tait told the board that he believes the village has a great chance at receiving the funds because places with a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan and a Harbor Committee seem to always receive the grants, an assertion that State Assemblyman and Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. agreed with.
Mr. Tait said that, over time, the docks will pay for themselves and will become a revenue source. “By the way,” he added, “it will be undoubtedly the best place to watch the sunset in Sag Harbor.”
The idea to proceed with the grant process was approved unanimously by the board, and Mr. Gilbride even offered to get the village’s grant writer involved before next month’s harbor committee meeting.
For the second straight month, a liquor license application by Timeless Hospitality Group LLC, the owner-operators of Madison & Main, was before the board. After board member Ed Deyermond said, “They are not being good neighbors here,” citing a multitude of issues of overcrowding, Mr. Gilbride noted that the restaurants had “tons of violations.”
The board also took exception to the restaurant’s sidewalk seating arrangements, with board member Ken O’Donnell saying, “It is a privilege, and they’ve violated that privilege where others haven’t.”
No one was at the meeting on behalf of Madison & Main, and Mr. O’Donnell, also the owner of La Superica in Sag Harbor, said that the liquor license renewal was holding up the sale of the business to new owners.
The board decided to respond to the motion by sending the State Liquor Authority back the application with all of the violations attached.