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Jun 2, 2010 11:29 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Post Office's au naturel lawn turns heads

Jun 2, 2010 11:29 AM

Is it exercising a green thumb, or just sticking out like a sore one?

This is the question prompted by the shaggy vegetation on the Southampton Post Office property, which opened its doors on North Sea Road last summer.

As part of its pending Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) application status for the new building, the U.S. Postal Service adopted a plan of “xeriscaping,” a method of landscaping that employs drought-resistant plants in an effort to conserve resources, especially water. The idea is to foster an environmentally sustainable yard that requires little to no watering, mowing or fertilizers. Native grasses and other selected plants are supposed to carpet the lawn in an aesthetic manner.

The Postal Service has touted the new post office as the federal department’s first LEED-certified facility. Yet with weeds inching ever higher and clover proliferating rapidly, the site has been turning heads, often for the wrong reasons.

“Everybody’s mortified by the post office,” Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley told the Southampton Village Board last week. “It’s a real insult. I understand it’s a LEED project. It’s supposed to be natural, etc., etc., but the volume of clover and the dirt patches and overgrown weeds and the posts that they left up are not native to this area.”

The metal posts that Mr. Epley noted were part of a fence encircling the post office property during construction, but have remained in place long after the fencing was torn down.

“I know they’re hurting financially—but, jeez, get a goat,” he quipped.

The mayor has been so disgusted with what he considers an unkempt property that he set off on a mission last week to snap dozens of photos of the area, as well as neighboring properties that he considers better maintained, like Schmidt’s Market across the street and the Southampton Village Police Department headquarters on Windmill Lane, whose lawn is manicured by the village. “Schmidt’s has a nice green, plush lawn, and they don’t put sprinklers out there,” he said. “People don’t pull up and say, ‘Gosh, what an unattractive place.’”

The village has no jurisdiction over the post office, because it is under the auspices of the Postal Service. Mr. Epley said he plans to send his photo documentation, along with a letter, to the Postal Service, as well as the local post office, to encourage a tidying-up of the property.

Other Southampton Village trustees have scorned the clover patch of a yard. Trustee Richard Yastrzemski has called it “horrendous,” while Trustee Paul Robinson called it “horrific” and an “eyesore,” adding that the new Hampton Road firehouse, which will also be designed to meet LEED criteria, will have a manicured property.

Meanwhile, it was recently discovered that the low-maintenance lawn required some work that was not getting done. A contracted landscaper whose duty it was to maintain the yard was fired this month for failing to meet its contractual requirements. The U.S. Postal Service has since hired a new landscaper to trim the greenery and provide maintenance, as well as remove the unwanted fence posts. Mr. Epley noted that part of the fencing was left obstructing the sidewalk after the construction was completed, leaving the Southampton Village Highway Department to remove it.

“We had a problem with the landscaper. They did not live up to their contractual obligations,” said Tom Gaynor, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service. “We have a new one coming out at the end of this week or next week. They’ll go and get it in shape.”

Mr. Gaynor said he did not know the names of either the former or newly hired landscaping companies.

David Wenger, president of Wenger Construction Co. Inc., which built the new post office, explained that it is prudent for post offices to begin embracing environmental standards. “It’s a special mix of grass that needs time to take root like any new planting,” Mr. Wenger said of the post office lawn before declining to comment further. He then deferred all questions to the project’s architect, Bill Brady of William F. Collins AIA Architects LLP of East Setauket.

Mr. Brady, as well as Southampton Postmaster Walter Marsicovetere and George Schramm, the architect/engineer for the U.S. Postal Service Northeast Facilities Office, deferred all questions, in turn, to the Postal Service.

Not everyone shudders at the

au naturel

sight, however.

Jim Cantwell, a landscaper from Hampton Bays who works in the village, said as he stood in line to mail some documents last week that he finds the wild aspect of the post office greenery refreshing. “Everything looks so prim and proper,” he said, referring to other properties. “It’s nice to have it a little natural.”

One thing that both vegetation-lovers and -despisers agreed on was that the parking situation at the post office was ill-planned.

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This is an idea whose time has come, despite all the folks who can't get past their lifelong fealty to the ideal of a neatly mowed lawn, which is now known to be an environmentally harmful practice. Unfortunately, the Postal Service gives the movement a black eye when they neglect the minimal maintenance that even this kind of hands-off landscaping needs, and especially when this neglect occurs in a highly visible place. Come on, USPS, if you're going to be a shining example of the new way, then ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 3, 10 11:12 PM
Agree on all points. We must move past this irrational love of perfectly-manicured lawns - they could, however, employ xeriscaping techniques while still maintaining a much better look than current.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Jun 8, 10 10:51 AM
be careful what you wish for....
By politcal pawn (121), Flanders on Jun 4, 10 12:17 AM
Looks like a foreclosure sale. Next thing you know Enzo Morabito will have a for sale sign on it.
By we could run this town! (129), wonderful Wainscott on Jun 4, 10 8:16 AM
who cares about the lawn?? what a waste of time and money. How about discussing the terrible planning of the parking lot? it's a nightmare just to get in and get out of the post office, let alone to look at the unsightly lawn. Fix the traffic problem first, then work on making everything pretty.
By youngdem (16), Southampton on Jun 5, 10 6:20 PM
The "landscaping" is something you would see in Tijuana, thanks USPS for a third world experience.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 6, 10 11:41 AM
Why "Tijuana"? You never miss an opportunity to make race an issue even when talking about grass.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Jun 8, 10 10:49 AM
Given your hypersensitivity, it would seem you're the one for whom everything is "about race".

By the way, what race is "Tijuana"?
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jun 8, 10 8:40 PM
Oh, please, realityfirst, we all know exactly what you meant, we've read your other posts.
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Jun 10, 10 7:04 PM
I've stopped chemical anything-ing my lawn. I still mow it, though.I pray for pretty green moss, as the damn ticks LIKE tall grass...
By Jean (79), whb on Jun 6, 10 7:08 PM
Me too, Jean. No chemicals, but as long as I mow the clover it still looks green and well-kept. In the shadier areas I have beautiful, green moss! My neighbors have their lawns sprayed so often that I am sure they are polluting the water table and god knows what else, but we can't allow the ignorance of those around us to be an excuse for doing the same.
By lablover (104), Southampton on Jun 8, 10 11:23 AM
make the horrible lawn ANOTHER parking lot!!!!
By C888 (11), East Hampton on Jun 6, 10 7:11 PM
It was easier to park at the old address! Poor parking lot planning by someone. I go to Watermill, at least I can get a parking spot in the back.
By Talbot77 (53), southampton on Jun 7, 10 1:06 PM
I'm with the others on the parking lot.. The lawn is way below on the list of priorities...

Seriously, who developed the parking lot plans? What a mess and constantly dangerous situation... How many accidents have there been in the parking lot and trying to get out of there???
By localgirl (17), southampton on Jun 7, 10 1:39 PM
You can't be serious?

The parking at Nugent Street was only tolerated, hardly celebrated. Or did we forget that we actually parked in "the bank's" parking lot next door? The truth is, there weren't any on-site parking spaces at the old Post Office; just a few spots on the street.

I've observed those using the parking lot at the new facility and the problem is primarily with the driver, not the lot. Yes, there could be more spaces but those who use the lot act like "parking ...more
By Dodger (161), Southampton Village on Jun 8, 10 10:50 AM
If my lawn looked like that, Code Enforcement would be knocking at my door.
By Q333 (161), Southampton on Jun 11, 10 8:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
By HBPatriot (19), Hampton Bays on Jun 12, 10 10:51 AM
I for one have "controlled weeds" myself, and they are quite low maintenance. In fact, it is all indigenous grasses, and VERY drought resistant.

Frankly, I don't really need my lawn to be the consistency of my living room rug, wasting such a precious resource as fresh water.

There are still places in the world today where people die over fresh water, and there are just too many who squander it on expensive, unnecessary landscaping.

Just my opinion though...
Jun 11, 10 11:56 PM appended by Mr. Z
Oh, and lest we forget about nitrate pollution, I should make mention of it...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 11, 10 11:56 PM
it sure is easy to obtain a nys driver's license.learn how to drive at the richard petty driving school experience.q333 you are so correct
By asurest (117), easthampton on Jun 12, 10 8:48 AM