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To Revive a ‘Dying Village’

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 12:32

Jerry Larsen, the former East Hampton Village police chief who is running next June for village mayor, offered proposals for revitalizing the commercial district last Thursday, at a campaign event with business owners at Babette’s restaurant.

If he is elected, Mr. Larsen said, he would like to see “a very simple law” that would allow restaurants to use public sidewalks for outdoor dining. “That would set a different tone for the village,” he said.

He also has plans to increase parking on Newtown Lane, improve the traffic flow in the Reutershan parking lot, and upgrade the district’s sewage system without using taxpayer money, he said. He did not disclose details of those proposals.

Sandra Melendez, who is running for trustee on Mr. Larsen’s slate, attended the event, as did about 25 shopkeepers and managers, who vented their frustrations about operating a business in the village.

Barbara Layton, the owner of Babette’s, read from a statement she had made to the village board last year, in which she described the commercial district as “nothing more than the Rodeo Drive of the East End.” She said the streets, even during summer nights, are “morbidly quiet,” which, she said, was indicative of a dying village. Her assessment remains the same, she said on Thursday.

Colleen Moeller, the owner of the Petit Bleu children’s store in the Reutershan lot, which is behind Main Street, said in an effort to attract customers she had placed a large stuffed giraffe in front of her shop, but that code enforcement officers had made her remove it. 

Robert Rattenni, the owner of a commercial building at 55 Main Street, said a “lack of vitality” in the village has made it increasingly hard for shopkeepers to stay in business. The village, he said, needs more places where people can congregate at night.

“You guys are living the problem,” said Mr. Larsen. As mayor, he said, he would launch an office of business and tourism that would focus on helping shopkeepers and bringing more life to the community. That office, he said, would operate out of Village Hall.

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