A necessarily small group of dignitaries from NY State, Southampton Town and Sag Harbor Village assembled in front of the Sag Harbor Cinema for a Covid-respectful dedication ceremony at 2pm, Saturday, September 26, 2020. Included were Eric Getler from the Empire State Development Corporation, First Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni and Sag Harbor Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy.
After an introduction by Sag Harbor Cinema Chair April Gornik explaining the dedication, which was to honor government and legislative officials who had both financially and culturally supported the Cinema, and thanking them for their extraordinary efforts, she also thanked the First Responders who had so valiantly saved the Cinema after the fire of December 2016. Gornik then thanked Board representatives of the original 501c3, the Sag Harbor Partnership, who were thanked for their drive, determination and generosity in initiating the resurrection of the Cinema.
Gornik next introduced and thanked Cinema Board Treasurer Susan Mead, without whose hard work and wherewithal the Sag Harbor Cinema could never have reached fruition. Mead stepped “into the breach,” as she put it, at a time when the original Treasurer for the project had to step down, and as a land use lawyer, knew to look for the very essential grants and governmental help that the afternoon’s dedication was honoring. Mead acknowledged all representatives present for their responsiveness. She then invited Eric Gertler to speak, who cited the Cinema as being an ideal example of a governmental-and-private partnership situation which ESD was happy to support, because of its broad and integral position in the Sag Harbor community. He also humorously mentioned that he was going to support a local business afterwards by taking his daughter for ice cream on Main Street.
Fred Thiele fondly remembered his Sag Harbor childhood, and how the theater has for over 90 years been the true center of the Village, and spoke about the Community Preservation Fund he had inaugurated that was able to provide $4.5 million to the Cinema as a way of maintaining culture and preserving community. His attachment to the Cinema genetically precedes him with his parents’ attachment, their both having been in the theater when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and to which they returned after the war. His speech was personal and heartwarming.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who was in charge of the disbursement of the CPF funds, reflected on the creativity of the people in and around Sag Harbor, and the members of the Cinema team that had been rebuilding it, and said that he, too, had had to envision a creative use of CPF funds in order to help the Cinema. Besides the more usual façade easement which the Town graciously granted, he realized that a use easement based on mandating that the Cinema would always be that type of venue would afford a more generous amount of money, and in fact totaled more than $4 million. After having thanked April Gornik for spearheading the effort to buy and rebuild the Cinema, Gornik expressed the Cinema team’s many individuals’ deep appreciation for this largest of donations received by it, and the fact that the East End’s governing bodies so well understand the importance of culture as an essential part of life as well as being an economic driver.
Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, introduced as the very important Cultural Liaison for Southampton Town, spoke like Mr. Thiele about his childhood attachment to Sag Harbor and his enduring commitment to its broad-based, diverse and creative composition.
Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy offered stirring remarks reminding everyone of times that the community had stepped in to help save the Cinema, first referencing Brenda Siemer, who saved the old Cinema sign from being replaced, and then of the way that our First Responders’ valiant efforts saved the Cinema in December 2016, and Main Street in the process. She followed this by an acknowledgement of Twin Forks Moving and Storage owner Chris Denon, who the evening of the fire also stepped in to save the Cinema sign once more, storing it in his facility at his own expense. It is that kind of ground-up community initiative, she said, that has helped make the Cinema rise from the ashes.
Remarks were followed by Board President John Alschuler, who had in fact provided an important Economic Impact Study from HR&A Advisors for the Cinema early in its fundraising efforts. Alschuler stepped up and invited ESD President Eric Gertler, Supervisor Schneiderman, and Mayor Mulcahy the opportunity to cut the red ribbon that stretched across the front of the Cinema, saying that in true moviemaking fashion, that they should do so when he yelled, “Cut!”