On a beautiful day with Summer on the horizon, it was so great to see the connection, not the fractures, in Sag Harbor Village. People—like you, me, and John Steinbeck—love this place and draw from its boundless inspiration. It’s easy to see why people have and continue to hold Sag Harbor Village so close in their hearts; however, finding ways to ensure that the many abundances of beauty remain accessible to the public is another story entirely.
Steinbeck Park is a much-needed “win” for the people of Sag Harbor Village—an embodiment of the mutuality shared by the community. Development, growth, expansion, zoning, ordinances, etc., can try to direct development toward the greatest good. Still, local governance issues can often leave the community strained under acrimony between neighbors.
Replacing a sizeable unoccupied building (see dictionary under “eye sore”), Steinbeck Park is now open, just across from Long Wharf and overlooking the Marina. Benches overlook the water, and a gently sloping grass lawn with hardscape stone seats forms an amphitheater. The Park will be a highlight for the already-bustling waterfront downtown, able to accommodate large events and informal meetups.
I love the open and inviting layout; it’s designed for everyone—perfect for live music, speakers, community workshops, afternoon coffee, ice cream, or reading a good book. A free library is next to the bay view benches, so bring some of your old favorites for someone else to enjoy. There is plenty of parking all around, and I’m sure there will be pop-up mobile food on-site in the future.
And that’s just Phase 1! Constructed thanks to Southampton Town’s Community Preservation Fund, there are hopes for an additional Phase 2 in the future. The project is expected to wrap around the water, from Steinbeck’s Park to the previously renovated Long Wharf.
Speakers included Sag Harbor Mayor Jim LaRocca, Southampton Town officials, and the head builders, frequently mentioning a common refrain: This park was born of the people’s passion.
Tommy John Schiavioni compared this park’s year-long planning and building to protecting Sag Harbor Village from the invading British.
Jay Schneiderman was emotional speaking about creating this project, “seeing it filled with people gave the real sense of the park, the humanity of it. Everyone can share the view of the water. Very similar to the view John Steinbeck shared, where he was inspired to write great novels.”
Sag Harbor Village is generally (and rightly) described as historic or charming. There is still a mingling between the aesthetic hold-overs from its whaling village past and the evolving and expanding Main Street, now bustling with some of the best restaurants and shops in the Hamptons. Community Preservation Funds and public support are vital to protecting and ensuring Sag Harbor Village retains its character and community. Ensuring that the public actually enjoys the most desirable views and public spaces is no small task.
Getting everyone to see the vision isn’t easy, but the people of Sag Harbor rose to the occasion, “Proving how much support we had from the community, look at this grass! For weeks, we asked that you not walk on the grass, and you listened! That’s saying something!”
The CPF generates funds through a 2% allotment from selling every new home. These funds are used to preserve historically significant locations—like the newly purchased home of John Steinbeck in Sag Harbor Village, which will be open to the public for viewing—and places that bring the local community together, like Steinbeck Park. Today, the Southampton Town CPF has over $200M of funds earmarked for preservation.
From all of us who will enjoy this beautiful, peaceful space – a deepest thank you to those involved. In Steinbeck Park, taking views as the sunsets over bay point is a poignant reminder of the history here in Sag Harbor Village and a hallmark of an enduring passion for place that will remain forever protected by the park.
To close, words from Jay Schneiderman:
“There is a lot of history behind us and even more in front of us.”