A crowd gathered on Madison Street in Sag Harbor on Monday as a group of protestors clashed with Highway Department workers over a scheduled pothole repair. Traffic came to a near standstill as curious motorists and pedestrians watched the fracas, which occurred just as school let out, forcing the Highway Department to retreat and allow buses to pass.
“We did it!” one elderly protestor roared, waving his “Save Our Pothole” sign high, to the delight of his compatriots.
The group calling themselves the Hamptons Community Action Council (CAC) descended upon Madison Street around noon Monday after learning the Highway Department would be filling numerous potholes caused by recent weather fluctuations, as well as a few older holes nearby. “This particular pothole has been here since at least 1962, when I moved to Sag Harbor,” protestor Merle Winters said, asking, “Why change it now?” The 82-year-old activist pointed out that the hole is closer to the edge of the street than the middle, noting, “It’s not practical and it may not be particularly safe, but it’s been here so long.”
The assorted Hamptons CAC members nodded in agreement and explained that the “reliable old pothole” offers some sense of comfort in a rapidly changing world. “Nearly every day I have to swerve around that hole or take my lumps,” Edna Garrity said, chuckling. “I’m not saying I like getting banged up when I hit the thing, but I know what to expect,” she added. “Do we have to change everything ‘to meet the needs of this growing community,’” Garrity continued, mocking the words of local officials.
While the Highway Department’s efforts were foiled on Monday, it released a statement Tuesday morning saying the pothole would be filled. “We do not take this kind of rabble rousing lightly,” the statement says. “The Hamptons Highway Department is more determined than ever to fill that hole, and we will do everything in our purview to ensure the thing is erased—like it never existed,” it continues. “Payback’s a bitch, so be prepared.”
For their part, the Hamptons CAC says they will guard the hole 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until the Highway Department backs off for good. “We are retired, we are united and we are very, very stubborn,” Winters said, noting that his group has made pamphlets to educate the public about the pothole, and those attending it will pass out materials to drivers and passersby. “John Steinbeck may have driven over this pothole,” Winters said. “Maybe even during his travels with Charlie. It’s historic and beloved by many who feel connected to old Sag Harbor.”
The Highway Department did not return calls, but insiders say their next salvo in this battle will be “something big.”