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Aug 20, 2014 10:29 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Highway Superintendent Tells Town To Sell Bridge To Sagaponack

Aug 20, 2014 10:29 AM

After months of tug-of-war over the proposed renovation of the tiny Bridge Lane bridge linking Bridgehampton and Sagaponack, Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor this week threw up his hands and recommended that the town sell or give the bridge to Sagaponack Village, and let their taxpayers fund the nearly $1 million in renovations.

Mr. Gregor said he recommended to the Town Board that the village be asked to repay the cost of the engineering designs that the town had contracted, between $70,000 and $80,000, he said. He also said that he asked that the $420,000 the town appropriated four years ago for its share of the renovation costs be redirected to the repair of other bridges and culverts around the town, and that he be allowed to direct the $500,000 federal aid grant earmarked for the renovations to another infrastructure project.

“If Sagaponack don’t want it, it should go somewhere people will be happy as hell to get it,” Mr. Gregor said of the federal money. “I just want someone to fix the bridge before someone gets hurt. So I told [Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst] to let them fix it. If they don’t want us, we don’t want them.”

Town officials reportedly embraced Mr. Gregor’s acquiescence and have already directed the town attorney’s office to begin crafting legal agreements for the annexation of the bridge by the tiny village.

When Mr. Gregor and engineers hired by the town to design the renovations unveiled their plans last winter, residents of Sagaponack and Bridgehampton were angered by planned changes to the railings on the edge of the bridge, as well as the proposed elimination of a small curbed sidewalk along one side of the bridge that is a popular spot for pedestrians, fishermen and crabbers. Critics said the new railings would destroy the quaint appearance of the bridge, and that eliminating the sidewalk would make it a much less safe roadway for pedestrians.

The Sagaponack Village Board quickly became the official voice of the opponents and urged the Town Board to steer Mr. Gregor away from his plans. First, the village offered to split the costs of the renovation with the town if the plans could be altered to leave the original railings in place, which would have required abandoning the federal grant. Then, the village offered to take over the bridge entirely and take on the financial responsibility of its renovation and future maintenance. There had even been hints of a legal attempt by Sagaponack Village to seize the bridge though eminent domain should the town decide to proceed with its renovation designs.

The Village Board will not meet in its official capacity again until September 8 to discuss its offer of annexation as a real possibility. On Tuesday evening, Sagaponack Mayor Don Louchheim said he had not yet heard of Mr. Gregor’s proposal firsthand. “It’s what we originally offered them when they said they weren’t interested in sharing the costs with us, so I think the [Village Board] would be receptive to it,” he said. “But I can’t speak for them—a lot of water has gone under that bridge since then. Literally.”

The bulk of the renovations needed are actually focused on the bulkheaded footings that support the ends of the span, and on new drainage and paving. But Mr. Gregor had been firm that he wanted the railings replaced with modern ones as well, saying they are an important safety component of the bridge. Opponents noted that there has never been a serious accident on the bridge, a statistic they attributed to the slowing effect on traffic the bridge’s narrow roadway and sidewalk create. Removing those features could make it less safe, they said, even while making it less likely a car would careen off the bridge itself.

Sagaponack had just this month agreed to hire a New Hampshire engineering firm to draft new designs of the bridge renovation that would employ railing designs more sensitive to the aesthetics of the area’s rural tradition.

“The bridge is their community, and this will let them be able to design and get the railings they are, hopefully, satisfied with,” Councilman Brad Bender said on Tuesday. “The most important thing for us is that we need to make the bridge safe, and the longer we drag our feet, the harder the project becomes.”

Mr. Gregor said his about-face on the bridge was spurred by his continued clashes with the Town Board, and particularly Ms. Throne-Holst, his erstwhile political ally and now frequent foil. The most recent butting of heads between the two was over Mr. Gregor’s memorial dedication of a Water Mill roadway in honor of a nun killed on the road by a hit-and-run driver in 2012; the supervisor’s office had ordered the sign taken down after residents of the street complained it was an unwelcome reminder of the tragedy. Mr. Gregor accused Ms. Throne-Holst of bowing too eagerly to wealthy residents and said this week that he realized after the battle over the sign that he was fighting an uphill battle with the bridge as well.

“It was as plain as the pimples on my face that I was never going to get between her and the 1 percent,” he said. “So, good luck to them, and God bless. We’ll move on.”

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Right on Alex!
By Justsay'n (42), Southampton on Aug 20, 14 6:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
Very happy the bridge will not be "modernized." Make it safe but in character with the beauty of the surroundings. Glad the people won this one. However the sign honoring the wonderful nun killed by the hit and run driver needs to go back up.
By BillWillConn3 (180), Scarsdale on Aug 20, 14 8:39 PM
Very happy the bridge will not be "modernized." Make it safe but in character with the beauty of the surroundings. Glad the people won this one. However the sign honoring the wonderful nun killed by the hit and run driver needs to go back up.
By BillWillConn3 (180), Scarsdale on Aug 20, 14 8:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
There is an even more dangerous bridge that has been renovated 2-3 times without any regard to safe passage for humans on foot, bicycles and horses at the Sagg Road LIRR overpass. Police refer to it as the Launch Pad as motorists speed over and become airborne. There is a desperate need to create a safe way for non-motorists to cross this bridge before any more accidents occur.
By bambi (76), bridgehampton on Aug 21, 14 6:54 AM
1 member liked this comment