March 05, 2014

The Little Bridge That Could

Last Thursday morning, Sagaponack Village Mayor Donald Louchheim met with the Southampton Town Board to discuss future restoration plans of the 90-year-old bridge located on Bridge Lane in the hamlet.

Louchheim, along with the Sagaponack Village Board, is pursuing the legal options necessary to claim full ownership and responsibility of the bridge, which is currently owned by Southampton Town and whose maintenance is under the charge of Southampton Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor.

Although structurally sound, the bridge needs to be rehabilitated. The village is suggesting the town pass on using federal grant money secured by Congressman Tim Bishop, freeing it from having to adhere to the modern codes, much to the chagrin of Gregor, according to Louchheim.

If the grant money were utilized, modern-looking steel railings would have to be installed and traffic and pedestrian lanes widened, thus affecting the current aesthetics of the locally cherished bridge.

Ownership of the bridge would also let the village take on any project costs above the $500,000 the town's already committed to the project. According to town officials, renovations to the structure may cost as much as $1 million.

Last December, dozens of residents of Sagaponack and Bridgehampton gathered at the Bridgehampton Community Center to express their concerns over the project, fearing a newly furbished, more modern-looking bridge would change the face and character of the picturesque area.

Built in 1923, the bridge used to be owned by Suffolk County, who attempted to demolish it and replace it with a modern steel structure over 25 years ago. According to Louchheim now "history is repeating itself."

"It may not be a historic landmark," the mayor said, "but it's worthy of preservation as it is. We've not had progress with having a dialogue with the highway superintendent on this." Taking over the bridge may be the village's only way to "save it," according to Louchheim.

The village's boundary is in the middle of Sagg Pond, placing about 55 feet of the bridge in Sagaponack Village and the other 35 feet in Bridgehampton in Southampton Town. The entirety of the bridge could be given to the village with town board consent.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst suggested having a conversation with Sally Spanburgh, chair of the Landmarks and Historic Districts Board, who was in the audience at the work session.

"I think we need to continue to pursue this discussion," Throne-Holst said. "It's a sensitive one, but it needs to be put into motion as soon as possible. You have a commitment from us." She'd like to find a way to redirect the grant money Bishop procured.

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