A group calling itself Sag Harborites for Literary Verisimilitude (SHLV) launched a protest Wednesday against the design plans for John Steinbeck Waterfront Park, a park that has been proposed for Sag Harbor Village.
The protestors, numbering about 100, gathered at the site of the proposed park to deliver speeches critical of the park’s design, and Hamptons Police Department officers were on hand. At issue for many of the protestors is what they perceive as a mismatch between Steinbeck’s gritty literary subjects and the tasteful, tranquil design of the proposed park.
Edward Pesca, founder and president of SHLV, was forceful in his message. “It’s clear from looking over the plans that the designers have never even read Cannery Row. If they had, would we be looking at walking trails with benches and drought-resistant fescue lawns? Would we be looking at a children’s playground? No! We would be looking at a paved wasteland of tumbledown industrial buildings and brothels. We would see a place welcoming to the colorful ‘whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches’ Steinbeck wrote about with such affection. This park is a travesty against all that Steinbeck sought to immortalize in his writing!”
Pesca added that it’s especially galling how the designers are missing the opportunity to pay authentic tribute to Steinbeck at a waterfront location in the lauded author’s hometown. “This is a chance to recreate a Steinbeckian ghetto, and they’re blowing it.”
The protest ended without incident, but Pesca and SHLV intend to bring forward a new site plan that’s “more in tune with the real Steinbeck vision” at the next Hamptons Municipal Board meeting.