Nothing screams “suburban streetscape!” quite so loudly as Belgian block, at least to me. East Hampton Village’s recent tidying-up has included replacing the old wooden frames around the sidewalk trees with ones made of granite. Neither granite nor the pine boards are native to these parts, but wood had a way of blending into the scenery. Not so the stone blocks, which might signify class to some but seem out of place to me.
The Belgian block fad began sometime in the last decade or two with the arrival of driveway aprons, which did not appear to offer any practical advantage but looked fancy-Hamptons. “Curb appeal should begin at the curb!” I can imagine someone on HGTV exclaiming. It did not matter to property owners where the driveway aprons were going in, whether along a farm lane or among the beachgrass. Shelter magazines said they were great, so they had to have them.
East Hampton Village has been getting a buffing since a new mayor arrived, eager to make an impression. One change of which I approve is the removal of a chain-link fence that blocked access and the view into Herrick Park. But the Belgian blocks? Sheesh. Who needs ’em?
Newbie politicians like to put on a show in general. For some reason Jay Schneiderman’s arrival as East Hampton Town supervisor sticks in my memory in this regard, when he asked to have the walls of the old Town Hall courtroom painted then crowed about it during the first public meeting of his term. Changing the drapes, so to speak, is an inexpensive way for an elected official to signal “I’m in control here.”
This past Christmas, the new East Hampton Village administration ordered the old-fashioned multicolored tree lights replaced with white ones. Classy, right? I know I felt a lot more important driving home to feed the dogs and get supper going.