Yes, Virginia, it takes a village to raise an issue. And ours — the Village of Southampton — has been AWOL for the past four years.
The issue is the misrepresented, unsustainable, multi-unit housing project (or is it “facility”?) that has come to be called Liberty Gardens.
Packaged and constantly touted by Jay Schneiderman and the developer (Concern for Independent Living) as “workforce housing” and a means of “easing traffic” to ease the local “crisis,” this density-driven proposal was, from its inception and funding, mandated “to provide community housing and treatment programs to meet the physical, emotional and social needs of persons with psychiatric disabilities, the homeless, veterans, and low-income families.”
When residents of the Hillcrest community became alarmed in 2018 because they were targeted to accept traffic, and by their proximity to a sewage treatment plant, they brought it to the attention of then-mayor Michael Irving and the Village Board.
Irving wrote a strong letter to Schneiderman, putting the town on notice that a small portion of the property was in the village, that the village had not received any notification or information from the town, that any use inconsistent with R-20 was of “particular interest” to the village, and that the town should not proceed even with a work session without notice.
Irving also pointedly reminded the town that the village is on record in “opposition to development on County Road 39 and along its borders that … increases or exacerbates traffic … and that what was proposed is not providing local workforce housing.”
Relying on residents’ voices, and the newspaper, for information, Irving’s letter illuminated the ambiguities, clarified the issues and reasserted the village’s standing.
Then he was upended in his reelection bid, in favor of a neophyte mayor and board packing a set agenda that has ignored the looming threat, the dismissal by the town and all opportunities to have a say.
Why have awareness, concern, protection, diligence, integrity and participation been forfeited? Having avoided all interest and participation in the process, having ceded all authority to the town and shunning the blitz of articles and letters in every paper, the village now is pleading with an indifferent Schneiderman to enter the process as it closes down. The village has “no standing” is the view now imposed by the town and too readily accepted by the village.
So, yes, Virginia, it does takes a village, and ours, it seems, was up for the taking. By placing itself out of the loop, it gave a hefty gift of silent acquiescence to Santa Schneiderman and his merry band of “contacts.”
And for us: a lump of coal and a post-mortem engineering consideration, which may or may not be read.
One fine body…