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Senior Center Scale Matters

Wed, 01/29/2020 - 12:29

Why a proposed senior citizens center needs to be quite so large is a question that ought to be reconsidered. Several East Hampton Town Board members back a plan for a more than 18,000-square-foot building. Some, including Councilman Jeff Bragman, have, in effect, said, “Huh?”

To put the scale of the proposal in perspective, if it came to be it would be close to twice as big as the maximum allowed by East Hampton Town’s “superstore” limit. Though current board members may not have been paying attention during the pitched battle that led to the passage of a 10,000-square-foot limit, it was the result of many months, if not years, of hard work — and for a number of reasons. For one, there had been a proposal during the 1980s for a 13,500-square-foot retail space near the Montauk Firehouse. For another, people were exercised for years about the prospect of a giant supermarket on the old Stern’s department store site at Skimhampton, across from Spring Close Highway.

Quite perplexing, too, is why the town board majority was poised recently to name a new committee with the express order to “reaffirm the configuration and proposed size of 18,730 square feet.” The word “reaffirm” was changed at Mr. Bragman’s urging to “re-evaluate.” But that did not answer the larger question — why?

It was no surprise that Mr. Bragman took a ration of guff from other members of the board, notably Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, for having the nerve to raise the question. This strikes us as uncalled for, especially since there have been rumblings from some who attend the senior center and others involved with elder services who have felt cut out of the process. Clearly, the town is in a bit of a dilemma. As the baby boomers age, there will be both a need for more activity-based programs and day care for older people with significant dementia. Evaluating the options will take more than reaffirmation, whatever that was supposed to entail.

Right now, it seems as if the board majority is trying to ram this project through as proposed. When the new center is finally complete, it is unlikely that the town is going to immediately build a new one, which is why it is critical to get it right at the outset.

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