Letter to the editor of the Southampton Press

At the August 22 Southampton Village Board meeting, the Lake Agawam Conservancy unveiled preliminary plans to provide public access to one-quarter mile of Lake Agawam and to create the beautiful Southampton Gardens, designed by Southampton resident and world-renowned architect Peter Marino [“Plans for Park Expansion and Peter Marino-Designed ‘Southampton Gardens’ Unveiled at Southampton Village Work Session,” 27east.com, August 23]. These plans were developed with the participation — and full support — of Southampton Village and Town officials, including Mayors Bill Manger and Jesse Warren.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to add 8.4 acres of parkland and gardens along Lake Agawam to 2.9 adjoining acres already owned by Southampton Town’s Community Preservation Fund, for a total of more than 11 acres for the benefit of all Southampton residents. The alternative would be two large McMansions.

The acquisition of this parkland is also necessary to allow the village to install a cutting-edge algae harvester next year in Doscher Park. With the conservancy’s support, the village has secured $10 million for this algae harvester, which will treat up to 3 million gallons of Lake Agawam water every day.

As recommended in the village’s 2022 Master Plan, unanimously approved by the mayor and the trustees, the conservancy proposes that a portion of Pond Lane be closed to motor vehicles to create direct public access to Lake Agawam for walking, jogging, biking — and, hopefully, swimming when we achieve our goal of a healthy lake.

The closure of Pond Lane to motor vehicles will allow the installation of a critical buffer to protect Lake Agawam and our beaches from toxic runoff. It will eliminate the risk of another fatality on what is probably the village’s most unsafe road, with its 90-degree blind turn and packs of geese. It will allow for safe and tranquil visits to the Southampton Gardens.

In the late 19th century, Pond Lane was built for horses and buggies, not trucks seeking to avoid Hill Street. There was no need for an environmental buffer to protect a then-clean Lake Agawam. There is not enough room within the existing Pond Lane right-of-way for an environmental buffer, walking and bicycle path, entrance for the gardens, and a safe two-lane road.

Regrettably, even before the conservancy’s proposal was publicly unveiled, unnamed “Concerned Citizens” began circulating an unreliable internet petition, which could be signed anonymously by anyone — not just village residents — multiple times. This Change.org petition, ominously titled “Save Pond Land,” inaccurately and incompletely describes the conservancy’s proposal.

There will always be some opposition to even the best of plans. Before its construction, some Parisians opposed the Eiffel Tower. Some New Yorkers opposed closing Central Park to motor vehicles.

The conservancy wants to work with the entire Southampton community to address any concerns. This proposal should be a cause for celebration, not controversy.

Robert J. Giuffra Jr.
Lake Agawam Conservancy
Southampton Village