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Southampton Supervisor Pitches New Sports Field Possibility in Sag Harbor

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 20:12
At left, Jeff Nichols, the Sag Harbor School District superintendent, dropped a significant announcement during a special school board meeting on Thursday night.
Christine Sampson

Amid the ongoing and contentious debate over the use of the Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund to help the Sag Harbor School District buy land on Marsden Street for a sports field, Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman has introduced another possible use of C.P.F. money in Sag Harbor Village.

In an email sent late Monday night to Jeff Nichols, the Sag Harbor school superintendent, Mr. Schneiderman pitched the idea of using C.P.F. money to buy development rights at Mashashimuet Park in addition to the possible Marsden Street purchase.

Mr. Nichols announced during a special school board meeting Thursday that Mr. Schneiderman had "laid out a conceptual framework wherein the C.P.F. would explore purchasing development rights to Mashashimuet Park, and the funds used to purchase the development rights would then be used by Mashashimuet Park to fund renovations similar to those proposed by the school district."

Prior to the beginning of the Marsden Street conversation, officials of the school and of the park — a nonprofit organization upon which the district relies heavily for athletic facilities — had been working on a joint renovation plan for more than a year. That renovation plan, which had not been finalized, was put on hold after the town made a formal offer of $6 million from C.P.F. toward the purchase of four lots on Marsden Street.

Also in that late-Monday-night email, the superintendent said, Mr. Schneiderman suggested "a scaled-down development plan for Marsden that would not include an athletic field."

"To cut right to the chase, this plan essentially does not address the facility needs of the school district, and as a result the school district is not interested in pursuing it," Mr. Nichols said.

Within minutes of that concluding statement by the superintendent, the school board adjourned to executive session to discuss "contracts," presumably pertaining to the new developments — at least in the minds of the approximately 25 people in attendance in person and many additional folks watching via Zoom.

The brief special meeting, which began with a public comment session dominated by supporters sharing reasons why the school should push to acquire the Marsden Street lots, raised perhaps more questions than it answered.

"The school doesn't necessarily perceive the properties to be as vital if they can't put in a field. I'm sad for that," said Michele Liot, a parent who has advocated for the school to put up a bond referendum for the outright purchase of the Marsden lots. "As a longtime community member . . . I do think our school needs more property, and I would continue to compel them to choose 'in,' as opposed to choosing 'out.' "

Mr. Schneiderman, who took heated criticism from Alex Kriegsman, a Sag Harbor School Board member, during the board's regular meeting on Monday night for his alleged about-face on the Marsden proposal, could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday night. The Southampton Town Board is to continue its public C.P.F. hearing on the Marsden proposal on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

This is a developing story that will be updated as more information becomes available.


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