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Sep 8, 2009 7:50 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Montauk sidewalk sale cancelled after widespread protest

Sep 8, 2009 7:50 PM

The East Hampton Town Board’s approval of a Montauk sidewalk sale over the Labor Day weekend provoked so much controversy that the sale was cancelled on Thursday.

Laraine Creegan, the executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, had asked the board to allow the sale as a way to stimulate local business after a slow summer. The sale would have allowed retail stores to put a card table of merchandise outside their shops on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

But after the board approved the sale at its September 1 work session, board members were inundated with complaints, which ultimately resulted in Ms. Creegan withdrawing the Chamber’s request for a permit for the event.

“I got more e-mails and phone calls about that issue than I did about the 24-percent tax increase last year or reassessment or beach stickers or anything in recent memory except for the YMCA,” said Town Councilwoman Julia Prince.

Members of the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee were the largest group of opponents to the proposed sidewalk sale. Lisa Grenci, the chairwoman of the committee, said that because the CAC did not have a chance to meet between the time the sale was proposed and Labor Day weekend, Town Councilman Pete Hammerle had requested that Ms. Grenci poll committee members as to whether they supported the sale or not. Out of the 22 that responded, 17 opposed the sale.

Conversely, out of 40 Montauk business owners, 35 had told Ms. Creegan that they supported a sidewalk sale.

Ms. Grenci said the opposition’s responses varied but generally argued one specific point—that the approval for a sidewalk sale had been granted too quickly, without the due procedure, as sidewalk sales are not allowed under the town code and require special permits.

“The gist of it came down to the fact that we have long-standing town codes and members felt the town codes are there for the protection of the citizens,” Ms. Grenci said. “If the board wants to change the code in any way shape or form, a public hearing should be held so everyone has a right to speak on whether they are favorable or unfavorable,” Ms. Grenci said.

“People were appalled that it’s that simple to suspend town code.” She added that leaders and members of other citizens’ advisory committees in East Hampton Town, including Richard Myers of Wainscott, had also contacted her, worried that if the Town Board 
had allowed a sidewalk sale in one hamlet, it could happen in their hamlets as well.

Other concerns were that the sidewalk sale would be a “honky-tonk” event, Ms. Grenci said, reminiscent of Coney Island or Mulberry Street in Manhattan, even though Ms. Creegan had said that the sale would allow only for small card tables, as opposed to racks of clothing lining the curbs.

“I think even the Town Board members didn’t realize it was going to be such a controversial issue,” Ms. Grenci said. Ms. Prince said that almost every time there is any sort of mass gathering or special event, the board suspends parking restrictions or some aspect of the town code. She said she originally had seen the request for the sidewalk sale in a similar manner.

Ms. Creegan said that if there is still a strong desire to do a sidewalk sale in the future the Chamber will plan it well in advance.

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The merchants on MaiN St in WHB have been doing Sidewalk Sales for the past couple of years, we are having one this upcoming weekend and aagin the first 2 weekends in October. The merchants and the customers have been enjoying these great weekends of shopping along Main St in WHB, A great way to get out and support your local stores. Everyone might not agree with the idea but the majority do .Come and see what WHB has to offer , We are open year round
Good Luck to the shops in Montauk keep ...more
By shock (70), whb on Sep 8, 09 3:59 PM
2 members liked this comment
Once again the Montauk CAC has stymied something montauk merchants. I am sure the town was inundated with phone calls---all from the same five or six numbers. Minority opinions with the loudest mouths. Montauk desperately needs incorporation. Allow businesses to have a chance out here. What a joke the CAC is. Hopefully, the new administration will appoint a more fair--minded person to head it
By earl (31), springs on Sep 8, 09 4:32 PM
I can't believe it, sidewalk sales, it adds a little pizzaz to the business area. What are they thinking, business's are suffering, "do you hear me CAC members" economically troubled times are here. What is it you want Montauk to become a ghost town? thats where your heading people. If that's the way its going to be then go shopping on Westhampton sidewalks and have fun while saving the car gas!!!
By nazz (22), Flanders on Sep 8, 09 10:42 PM
2 members liked this comment
IOW, the CAC reacted about being bypassed, and an outdated "code" took precedence over the benefit to the communnity of merchants who supported the sale.

How sad. Looks like the CAC and the code both need an overhaul.
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Sep 10, 09 7:05 AM
1 member liked this comment
Let the Stores and community have a little fun...what the hell is wrong with a sidewalk sale?...all this commotion over what?...a chance for store owners to make some money and communicate with the community. Wow..what a boring town.
By wolf22 (7), Montauk on Sep 10, 09 2:30 PM