Letter to the editor of the Southampton Press

In last week’s Press, a group called “Southampton Citizens for Accountable Tax Spending” paid for a full-page advertisement, with the misleading title “Save Pond Lane and Taxpayers’ Money.” This group does not list its members or who actually funded this advertisement.

Informed public debate must be based on the facts, not misinformation or a whisper campaign. The conservancy has repeatedly offered, to no avail, to meet with those who we believe paid for this advertisement.

Here are the facts:

The conservancy is not asking village taxpayers to fund the public gardens designed by Peter Marino. Southampton is one of the wealthiest — and most philanthropic — communities in the world. Even before starting formal fundraising, we have secured commitments approaching the $10 million needed to install the gardens. We intend to raise at least another $10 million for a maintenance endowment, and to raise funds annually for maintenance.

The advertisement ignores that “historic” Pond Lane, with its 90-degree curve and limited sight lines, was built for horses and buggies. While the advertisement pooh-poohs as “obvious nonsense” the impact of toxic runoff from the road, Dr. Chris Gobler believes that the absence of any buffer along a quarter mile of the lake threatens public health. And the road is dangerous for the hundreds of walkers, joggers and bicyclists who must dodge cars and trucks every day.

The Pond Lane right-of-way is not wide enough for a substantial vegetative buffer, a two-lane road, walking and bicycle paths, and a safe entrance for visitors to the gardens. The road will remain open to emergency vehicles, and the fire department can continue to hold events along the lake.

The advertisement falsely suggests closure of the road is motivated by some undisclosed private benefit. No member of the conservancy board lives adjacent to Pond Lane. The Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund will pay the Paulson Foundation exactly what it paid for the larger lot, while the foundation will donate the smaller lot, worth over $10 million, for the gardens. The foundation purchased both lots, with the full support of village and town officials, to save this land from circling spec developers.

The public will benefit directly from the increased value of this newly “waterfront” land by gaining a quarter mile of direct access for sailing, kayaking and, hopefully, swimming. And the business district will benefit, because Southampton Gardens will be a catalyst for the village’s growing arts district.

Finally, Nelson Pope Voorhis traffic studies show that closure of part of Pond Lane to motor vehicles will not adversely impact village traffic. As proposed by the village master plan, it will allow adults, teens and children to walk and bike safely to the village center.

Robert J. Giuffra Jr.
Lake Agawam Conservancy