Last Thursday’s hearing on the Lake Agawam Conservancy’s multi-part plan to restore Lake Agawam as the jewel of Southampton was troubling for what the opponents said and ignored.
One opponent charged that the plan was motivated by “greed, political deals and financial gain.” That is demonstrably false. No one involved in this proposal stands to gain financially.
Another accused the conservancy of a lack of transparency. Not true. The conservancy worked with both the village and town boards to develop this proposal. The village’s widely vetted master plan specifically recommended the expansion of Agawam Park and Pond Lane’s closure to cars and trucks.
The opponents ignored Nelson Pope Voorhis studies demonstrating that Pond Lane’s closure to motor vehicles will not adversely impact village traffic. In fact, it will reduce the use of Pond Lane as a cut-through for the trade parade, and dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lanes will increase safety and get residents out of their cars.
Some opponents said that the village didn’t need a bigger Agawam Park and world-class gardens — but the tax revenue from two more McMansions. By this logic, the village should sell Coopers Beach. They even suggested, in violation of environmental laws, that the village put its wastewater treatment facility right next to Lake Agawam.
Several cited the length of their families’ residency in the village. What those opponents ignored was that they — and decades of village leaders — allowed Lake Agawam to become one of the most polluted lakes in New York State, with unfiltered septic sludge from the business district streaming directly into the lake.
The opponents even ignored that Pond Lane doesn’t have any buffer along its one-quarter mile next to the lake — and the right of way is not wide enough for both a two-lane road and a buffer of at least 25 feet. That’s why the Peconic Baykeeper supports the conservancy’s proposal.
Without a buffer, according to Professor Chris Gobler, the expert on Agawam, toxic runoff flows unimpeded directly into the lake, in front of our homes and onto our beaches. This past summer, Gin Lane Beach had to be repeatedly closed after the lake’s drain pipe was opened following increasingly heavy rainstorms.
Next year, with the conservancy’s support, a cutting-edge algae harvester will begin cleaning 3 million gallons of Lake Agawam water every day. As Lake Agawam becomes cleaner, more village residents will want to sail, kayak, fish and swim on and in the lake.
The convenience of driving on a road that does not comply with environmental and traffic standards is far outweighed by the transformational benefits to future generations of a clean Lake Agawam, direct access to a quarter-mile of lakefront, and more than 12 acres of new parks and gardens.
Robert J. Giuffra Jr.
Lake Agawam Conservancy
Letter to the Editor of the Southampton Press