As spring on the South Fork really gets under way, a jarring discrepancy between how we think about this area and how run down it looks in many places is becoming apparent. For a resort and second-home community of such renown, East Hampton Town is looking a little down in the dumps these days. Litter is everywhere. An increasing welter of utility lines mar the overhead view. Roadsides, at least those outside the incorporated villages, are left without mowing or maintenance. Trees downed by Hurricane Sandy, now more than six months on, are still in evidence.
Our streetscapes, though they are likely to be visitors’ first impressions, are becoming a blight across the town. This is sharply at odds with how the area is perceived by outsiders and portrayed in the national media — and something that must be included in the conversation as the campaigns for elected office proceed this year.
Compare, for example, the roadsides in Bridgehampton and Wainscott. Both are bisected by the state’s Route 27, both are part of their respective towns, yet Bridgehampton is tidy and pleasing to the eye while Wainscott, well, looks like hell. So, too, does much of Springs-Fireplace Road and some places in Montauk. It is a shame and an embarrassment.
Current town officials should be held accountable for not doing more. But, if they respond at all, they are likely to engage in a reflexive spasm of buck-passing, protesting that many of the eyesores are on county or state roads and, in any event, the financial crisis touched off in Supervisor Bill McGintee’s era cut too deeply into the budget to do much about it. To this we say, nonsense. It costs nothing for town officials to badger and browbeat the state and county, as well as the utility companies, in the hope of action, and as far as we know, they have not done so. Moreover, the visual hodgepodge of illegal signs that tart up many roadsides are entirely within local authority.
Southampton Town and the Villages of East Hampton and Sag Harbor manage to keep things looking good. So what’s their secret? Why can’t East Hampton Town Hall follow suit? Is the solution a sort of townwide Ladies Village Improvement Society? An increased mandate for the citizens litter committee? These are questions the November hopefuls need to address. Voters should ask for answers.