Southampton billionaire Derwood Hodgegrass delivered a public plea Tuesday in support of building a boardwalk in Sag Harbor. The wealthy inventor, artist and bon vivant told assorted officials and puzzled onlookers near Long Wharf that he likes Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait’s idea of creating a wooden walkway and waterfront park in the former whaling village—and he says he’ll foot the bill.
“If Sag Harbor can get it together and approve this thing, I will personally pay for the boardwalk itself, any benches and landscaping, and, of course, all casinos, carnival rides, game booths, arcades, kiosks and food stalls,” Hodgegrass said. “Unfortunately, this village seems to enjoy battling over every silly variance, sign, fence and street light,” he continued, “But I suspect everyone will agree that a boardwalk to put the likes of Seaside Heights, New Jersey, Longbeach and Atlantic City to shame would be quite a boon for this little burg.”
Though Hodgegrass said he was initially tempted to place a three-week timetable on the boardwalk project approval, he has agreed to allow local officials and civic groups—including the newly formed “Stop That Boardwalk” organization—until spring to find some common ground.
“To the men and women of Stop That Boardwalk, I ask that you consider seriously how progress has virtually halted in New York and New Jersey boardwalk towns in recent years,” Hodgegrass said. “This project will be in keeping with Sag Harbor’s history and old-world charm, but in time it will also fulfill your need to see growth and development cease,” he explained. “It might take a few years, but eventually you may actually see buildings collapse, businesses shutter and things slowly revert to exactly where they are now—worse even—so please consider my offer.”
Should Sag Harbor manage to approve Hodgegrass’ boardwalk plan, he admitted that it could take years before locals would enjoy any serious decline and end to progress. “Before any of that, the Sag Harbor waterfront could be a glorious, neon explosion of light and sound,” he said. “Imagine walking along Main Street, only to look up and see a roller coaster looming overhead, roaring with speed and movement, the music of Mötley Crüe and screams from terrified riders—all while crisscrossing above the bay!”
Before climbing into his chauffeur-driven helicopter and departing, Hodgegrass pointed out that the new boardwalk would also ignite the local T-shirt and tattoo industries, providing an economic boost for everyone involved.
Village officials said they are considering the billionaire’s proposal, but its passage will likely depend on whether or not affordable housing could be added amongst the new attractions.