Some Look Askance as Work Begins on Steinbeck Park Amphitheater in Sag Harbor - 27 East

Sag Harbor Express

Some Look Askance as Work Begins on Steinbeck Park Amphitheater in Sag Harbor

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A load of fill was placed in John Steinbeck Waterfront Park as part of a plan to create a small, grassy amphitheater with stone seating. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

A load of fill was placed in John Steinbeck Waterfront Park as part of a plan to create a small, grassy amphitheater with stone seating. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

A load of fill was placed in John Steinbeck Waterfront Park as part of a plan to create a small, grassy amphitheater with stone seating. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

A load of fill was placed in John Steinbeck Waterfront Park as part of a plan to create a small, grassy amphitheater with stone seating. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

authorStephen J. Kotz on Nov 30, 2022

The intermittent work on John Steinbeck Waterfront Park in Sag Harbor has resumed this month, with the arrival just before the Thanksgiving holiday of approximately 500 cubic yards of clean fill that was deposited along the boardwalk on the west end of the park.

The fill, which has already been sculpted into an angled semicircular shape, will be the first phase in creating what landscape architect Ed Hollander has called “a soft, low amphitheater” that will allow people to look out over Sag Harbor Cove or watch a performance on the boardwalk that runs parallel to the water.

Hollander, who has donated his firm’s work to creating and executing the park’s master plan, said the area would be planted with grass, and about 25 rectangular stone benches would be installed.

The project, which Hollander said he hoped would be finished by Memorial Day, also will include the planting of a small grove of red oak trees, which are native to the area, and which Hollander said would provide habitat for butterflies and other pollinators. Additional plantings will screen the park from the Water Street Shops building to the south, he added.

Hollander projected the total cost of this phase at about $50,000 and said the Sag Harbor Partnership, which has been raising money for the park project, would help cover that cost.

He added that he had recently had what he said was “a productive meeting” with members of that organization about its continuing support of the park, despite the nature of the master plan, which has advanced in fits and starts as money, materials and volunteer labor has been found.

He said donations of materials and services had come from Diversified Services of Bridgehampton, Ruddy and Sons Masonry of East Hampton, Peterson Irrigation of Southampton, and Summerhill Landscaping of Sag Harbor.

Despite what Hollander called a “feel-good story,” some members of the Sag Harbor Village Board said they knew nothing about the plan to move forward with the amphitheater proposal and wished that they had been kept in the loop by Mayor Jim Larocca.

Trustee Aidan Corish said he learned of the work while riding his bicycle over the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge the day before Thanksgiving when he looked out and saw mounds of fill in the park.

“My issue is not with the work. I think Ed Hollander is fantastic and has done great work for the park,” Corish said. “It’s with the process. Here’s what I think is a major undertaking in the park, and I know nothing about it but what I see. When people ask me what’s going on, I have to say, ‘I don’t know,’ and that’s not a great way of building confidence in local government.”

The three other trustees, Bob Plumb, Tom Gardella and Ed Haye, said they had not been notified either.

“The work is good,” Plumb said. “The problem is just a lack of communication.”

Gardella, who serves as deputy mayor, said, “It could have been an oversight on Jim’s part. A lot of this stuff is donated, so you have to strike when the iron’s hot.”

Still, he conceded, “A lot of the issues in this village are because of poor communication.”

Haye, on the other hand, said it sounded like people were making a mountain out of a, well, a mound of clean sand that the village had obtained for free.

He pointed out that the windfall became available just before the Thanksgiving holiday, when board members, including the mayor, who was out of town for the week, were preoccupied. “This is a good thing,” he said of the undertaking.

Larocca, too, said he was puzzled by the criticism. “We are working on the plan that has been in place for three or four years now,” he said. “We move on when we have the resources.”

He said the work was almost done last spring, but the village was not able to obtain enough fill at that time. “I thought this was just a routine step in this continuing job,” he said.

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