Progress Report - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2038785

Progress Report

The Steinbeck Writers’ Retreat working committee, all volunteers, has been working very hard, as we said we would. We’ve been busy fundraising. Here are a few details of the proposal that have become further refined:

1. We believe that leasing the property to the University of Texas will be a real win for the writing center. UT, unlike other universities we contacted, was very enthusiastic. UT has a proven track record of running world-class writing centers, has a collection of Steinbeck’s papers at its Harry Ransom Center, and has a nexus with New York already through its UTNY program. We believe that UT will bring real breadth and depth of experience to this project.

2. Funding: We have raised approximately $1.2 million in private dollars for the Steinbeck Writers’ Retreat.

3. State grant: State Legislator Fred Thiele is assisting with a $500,000 grant for the Steinbeck Writers’ Retreat for the purpose of acquiring the Steinbeck property.

4. Community Preservation Fund: The Town of Southampton has proposed a substantial amount for the purchase of an open space and restrictive use easement on the property.

5. Purchase of the property: The working group has been diligently working toward the purchase. Assuming a price is agreed upon and we go to contract, the following will occur:

• Creation of a new not-for-profit, the Steinbeck Writers’ Retreat, and a wholly owned LLC. Board members of that not-for-profit could include representatives from the Town of Southampton, the Village of Sag Harbor, the John Jermain Memorial Library, a local bookstore, Bluff Point Lane, residents, the Sag Harbor School District, Stony Brook University, plus other members of the community.

• Negotiations of the restrictions with the Town of Southampton, which we anticipate will include use restrictions, required access for the public (but with definition, so the retreat serves as such for the writers), and mandatory public outreach by any writer in residence. There no doubt will be other restrictions after discussion with the director of the CPF, such as no expansion to the buildings and low-impact use.

• Lease with the Michener Center at UT, which will operate and maintain the building and grounds, subject to the town’s easements and conditions and, most importantly, UT’s creation of a large endowment fund over time.

Given that we hope to have institutional board members and an educational institution experienced in running writing centers, we believe the writing center will be quickly operational.

We believe that the creation of the Steinbeck Writers’ Retreat will preserve a historic piece of Sag Harbor literary and cultural history and would benefit both the Village of Sag Harbor and the Town of Southampton.

We have received wonderful support, and we truly appreciate it.

John Avlon

April Gornik

Diana Howard

Susan Mead

Kathryn Szoka

The Steinbeck Retreat Working Group

Sag Harbor