C.D.C.H.: Ideas Needed

East Hampton Town has begun soliciting proposals from organizations that seek to occupy the former Child Development Center of the Hamptons charter school off Stephen Hand’s Path in East Hampton, but at the outset, no consensus on how the building should be used has emerged. Our impression is that town officials would prefer to be landlords as opposed to program managers there, which is understandable but might not be in the public’s best interest.

Considering the track record of public spaces in East Hampton, the idea of the town’s partnering with a private group is seductive. The so-called Arena on Abraham’s Path in Amagansett and the RECenter in East Hampton Village ran into a host of challenges before they were handed off to outside organizations. Now, both are used well, if somehow less than the community centers initially envisioned. The East Hampton Town Parks and Recreation Department already has a full plate; adding another job at the C.D.C.H. could have implications for staff and budget.

Discussion of the way forward on Stephen Hand’s Path has been less than conclusive, along the lines of “We’ve got this thing. Now what are we going to do with it?” This seems risky. The town has a terrific opportunity to build something that truly meets a public need. Punting the decision to outside suitors may not produce the best result, the benefits of cost-saving not necessarily outweighing the potential. The public must first decide what it wants the former C.D.C.H. to be. The rest should follow.