If I Were Mayor, Proposals for the Hamptons Towns

One of the nice things about editing a newspaper is that you can pretend you are mayor. You can write how you think things should be. You can order this, table that, give a thumbs down on something. You can really, to a certain degree, be running the town. Because everybody has to listen to you, if they read you.

And you don’t have to deal with all the other folderol, which is what real mayors have to deal with. You don’t have to deal with citizens who claim that as “taxpayers” it is their right to express outrage about this and that at the top of their lungs while being right in your face. You don’t have to keep running for office over and over again. You don’t have to deal with any stupid budget. And you don’t have to keep holding fundraisers where you make the same old stupid speeches because the law says you have to run again for the office almost right after, it seems, you just won it the last time.

Also, and this is a big plus, we don’t live in one of those countries where they shoot the editors if the editors don’t agree with the government.

So here goes.

At Coopers Beach in Southampton, I would tear down the old beach pavilion there and build one that in tradition and beauty rivals the one in East Hampton. That stretch of Southampton has some real precious and historic structures—jewels of this community. They are Dune Church, the Meadow Club and the Bathing Corp. Two of these structures, the Meadow Club and the Bathing Corp, are private and restricted to members, but the Dune Church, perhaps the most beautiful of the three, is open to all, and so is Coopers Beach just beyond. But the present pavilion there is quite makeshift. Hire an architect. Build one that Southampton deserves.

In the center of downtown Southampton, the Village has two empty but very beautiful structures to make decisions about now that the Parrish Art Museum and the Rogers Memorial Library have moved elsewhere.

I give my stamp of approval to the efforts of my fellow mayor Mark Epley (there for a few more terms, I suspect, but then gone while I remain) to make the old Parrish into a cultural and performance center. But I would also add a new component to the complex. Build a 1,500-square-foot addition to that building and in it put a museum to celebrate the summer people who first settled Southampton in the late 19th century. They were wealthy New Yorkers, many of them having achieved success in steel, coal, the railroads or the great Manhattan retail establishments of the day. Let people see how they lived summering out here. I have seen a museum like this in Newport, Rhode Island, where people from similar backgrounds settled at that time. Southampton deserves something like this—a museum of art, fashion, furnishings, photographs, sports, etc.

I might note there is plenty of acreage and parking already in place at the old Parrish site. A museum would be no big deal. The same cannot be said for the site of the old Rogers Memorial Library, however. Beautiful as this building is, there is limited parking behind it and even more limited parking on the street. Turn this building over to the commercial community and have it become a row of stores, provided that the architecture of the building remains untouched.

There are two proposals on the table in Southampton for shopping centers nearby to town but not directly in it. Both proposals should be rejected. The one in Tuckahoe will greatly disrupt a well-established residential neighborhood. The one proposed for the corner of Hampton Road and County Road 39 is probably the most awful imaginable. The corner is already a bottleneck of traffic. To make it worse is beyond imagination. No, no, no.

If I were mayor of Water Mill I would keep it exactly as it is. I wouldn’t allow a single new thing to come into town. With its water mill and its windmill on the town green, it is just too cute for words.

I should note that at the east end of town, behind where Water Mill Cupcake Company is now, a whole new group of office condos have recently been built adjacent to the old Water Mill railroad station. It appears none have been rented and few people know they are there. If the village needs to grow, it will grow there. These are charming structures, in keeping with the community, and well out of the way. There’s also ample parking.

Even as mayor here, I have no ability to approve a bingo hall on the site of the Shinnecock Indian Reservation. That is a matter for the tribe, guided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to decide. But I will say that I think such a facility will bring the outside community closer to the tribe, which would be a good thing for both sides, and I think that in this 21st century, in an age of nudity on cable, bloody video games, violence in the movies, and other gambling facilities (OTB and others), such a facility would not be the Sodom and Gomorrah that some people think. It will also be a financial benefit for the tribe. But I also want to be clear that what is allowed there is a bingo hall, not a full gambling casino. Big gambling casinos have no place on the East End.

I expressed what needs to be done in Sag Harbor in an article here four weeks ago. I want a dotted line painted down the center of Long Wharf indicating that it is the border between East Hampton and Southampton (which it isn’t, by several hundred feet, but which I would make it). I want a War of 1812 cannon placed at the end of the wharf and, in the summertime, palm trees in big pots be brought in to line the back of the beach between Long Wharf and the bridge to North Haven.

I would, at a ceremony, give the keys to Sag Harbor to Curtis J. Bashaw, cofounder of Cape Advisors, for what they have done in Sag Harbor.

Cape Advisors, in 2006, took an option on the old four-story abandoned (since 1981) Bulova Watchcase Factory building in that town. They proposed to turn this eyesore into an apartment building. Rebuffed by the Village, they did not go away. They persisted. It was their intention to do exactly what they said they wanted to do, rather than what many in the Village secretly thought they wanted to do, which was to buy it cheap, then turn it over at a profit to still another owner who wouldn’t build anything. Cape Advisors then stopped moving the project forward after the bottom fell out of the economy in 2007. But after the Village and developers rethunk the plan and made revisions, a new agreement went ahead. Today, in the continuing recession, the building is in mid-construction and should be done within a year. Saving the old building, Cape Advisors has preserved a big part of town. Now they have turned their sights on Baron’s Cove Inn. Whatever they want, let them have it.

In East Hampton Town, I’d give 10-year temporary parking permit approvals for any business that is pre-existing (pre-existing zoning), has land upon which to put an adequate temporary parking lot, is very popular and, because they are very popular, draws crowds. The temporary parking areas could be gravel but to code, and therefore, if 10 years go by and circumstances change, removable. I would also, upon completion of the lot, allow only limited parking on the street.

At the present time, I can think of four places of business that fit these requirements and which have made application for parking and other improvements to no avail so far. They are Damark’s Deli on Three Mile Harbor Road, Cyril’s Fish House in Napeague, and in Montauk, East by Northeast on Edgemere Street and, reportedly, Ruschmeyer’s on Second
House Road.

Opponents to these applications cite the many auto accidents that take place on the street in front of their establishments and blame them on the popularity of the businesses—if only fewer people would show up at these places.
One newspaper recently blamed a horrible traffic accident on the existence of the business—Cyril’s.

Dangerous traffic situations on the street in front of a place of business are the responsibility of the town. Not fixing it is a disgrace. Blaming it on the business is way out of order. And hoping that the place will simply become less popular someday so there is no need for more parking is folly.

Cyril’s is a perfect example. It used to be a moderately popular clam bar with what, for a clam bar, was adequate parking. Then it became the darling after-hours spot for the yuppies and everybody wants to be there. Is it simply because of Cyril? Probably. Someday, he will be gone. But he’s here now. Allow a temporary lot. In 10 years, if the fad is over, you take out the parking and restore the field. It’s pre-existing after all. Meanwhile, nobody gets killed.

Another place like this in East Hampton right now is the wildly popular Round Swamp Farm on Three Mile Harbor Road. They’ve got plenty of land at the farm. As far as we know, they haven’t applied for more parking, but they should. People park all over the road. Give the farm a 10-year temporary lot permit. And give it a concrete path down which to push shopping carts. It will all work out.

I also want to tip my hat to the man who arranged to create the East Hampton Town Hall complex out of old 17th- and 18th-century private homes that were, otherwise, going to be bulldozed.

Supervisor Bill McGintee may not have been very good at managing money, but he sure had a great and very original idea for a town hall that he was able to carry out. I would also strike a medal, the Croix de Guerre, and give it to Adelaide de Menil, and, in memorium, to her husband Edmund Carpenter, who donated these historic homes and paid to have them moved to the town hall site.

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