The longtime African American communities in Sag Harbor are circulating a petition to help stave off overdevelopment in Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah.
The “Don’t Pillage Our Village” petition, which can be found at ipetitions.com/petition/dont-pillage-our-village, asks the community to oppose Trustee and Architectural Review Board approval of any “out-of-scale homes” in the historic Sag Harbor neighborhoods, noting, “The Special Permit process, allowing homes above 4,000 sq. ft., threatens the integrity and character of our community.”
It goes on to explain that the recent application for 48 Lincoln in Ninevah was turned over by the Village Board to the ARB, despite what they claim were the objections of many of the neighbors in the immediate and larger Sag Harbor Village community. “Approval of this application sets a very threatening precedent and scope creep not just for Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest, and Ninevah subdivisions (SANS)–a community historically referred to as “Cottages by the Bay”—but also for ALL properties and neighborhoods with historically modest, middle class homes,” the petition says, adding, “The combination of lots in these quiet, rustic neighborhoods encourage and foster McMansion compounds under the new GFA Code. These out-of-scale structures will have grave implications to ambiance and sense of neighborhood and community.”
According to recent Sag Harbor Hills resident Victoria Sharp, she and others from the three neighborhood associations created the petition as a way to let the Sag Harbor ARB see the community support behind these size limitations. “This was the beginning of our effort to convince the Village not to build their mega-mansions,” Sharp says, pointing out that the petition already had 255 of the 300-signature goal. They hope to have all 300 signatures in time to present the petition at the next ARB meeting on October 13.
As a member of Sag Harbor Hills, Ninevah and Azurest’s white population, which she says is around 30 percent, Sharp confirms that the petition is not about keeping Caucasion people out of the traditionally African American communities. “People would like to maintain the scale of the neighborhoods,” she reiterates, noting that the demographics will change, but the scale doesn’t have to. “Four thousand square feet is already a pretty big house.”
One supporter of the petition, North Haven artist April Gornik, sent out an email drumming up support for it on Saturday. In it she writes:
“You may not know that Amelia Island and Hilton Head, to name a few, were also communities settled by African-Americans at a time when it was difficult to get mortgages, and vacationing was a nightmare for black folk because of discrimination and segregation. Our communities on the southeast side of Sag Harbor were formed in the mid-20th Century, and were started by a fascinating female professor at VA State University who was an architect, Amaza Lee Meredith, who made purchasing land and building on it possible. Now, with the growing popularity of Sag Harbor, developers are coming in and trying to coax land from longtime residents, and many who’ve summered here for generations find their communities in jeopardy. McMansions would change its character forever.”
Gornik also notes that the area has been home to, or visited by, many notable African Americans, such as authors Langston Hughes and Colson Whitehead, Roscoe Brown of the Tuskegee Airmen, singer Lena Horne, restaurateur B. Smith and Secretary of State and Four-Star General Colin Powell.
You can sign the petition here.
To speak for or against it, attend the Sag Harbor ARB meeting at Village Hall (55 Main Street) on Thursday, October 13 at 5 p.m.