Congratulations to the joint leadership of the Oyster Bay and East Norwich Civic Associations in their fair and open approach to the many thorny issues surrounding the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Museum and Research Center.
Cool heads and balanced dialogue calmed the passions of all attendees of last week's meeting at the Italian American Club, allowing for a serious discussion on the merits of the case.
By giving equal time to diverse points of view, permitting guests to ask multiple questions and identifying topics where more information is needed, the Civic Leadership demonstrated a balanced and restrained respect for the concerns of residents and merchants alike.
When listening to the two guest speakers and the subsequent audience commentary, we learned that there are more "sides" to this proposal than facets on a diamond.
Various alternative locations and substitute proposals were discussed, including establishing a modest visitor center with trolley in downtown, which could take visitors to a series of destinations including Planting Fields, the Waterfront and Sagamore Hill.
It was reassuring to hear from an "unofficial town official," how carefully the Town will review traffic patterns and other studies and hear him debunk the myth that the proposed parking garage can blithely "give away" parking spaces to other organizations in an attempt to make everyone fit at peak season.
Caroline S. DuBois, spokesman for the Coalition to Save Firemen's Field, was logical and persuasive when laying out reasons to build the museum elsewhere. She presented a long list of current summertime users, future transportation hub needs and possible environmental concerns, which all require serious consideration.
Meanwhile, Bradford Warner, a vice president of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, which is pro-museum, was equally eloquent when he explained the long-standing admiration this community holds for President Theodore Roosevelt, and their desire to honor him with a more comprehensive display.
Tom Kuehhas, director of the Society, enthusiastically outlined the potential benefits of archival synergies, which could benefit our community from a shared world-class research facility. He allayed fears of potential hotel expansion by stating that most of his research visitors stayed in New York City or elsewhere on the Island.
It was too bad that not a single representative from the remaining pro-museum group could find the time to attend this meeting despite repeated outreach to them by the joint East Norwich and Oyster Bay Civic Association.
Numerous calls were made to the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Association and the Theodore Roosevelt Association (TRA) itself, but no one was available to speak up on behalf of the proposals or answer relevant questions.
The consensus which emerged at the end of the meeting was the need to slow down the decision making process. Much more time and thought are needed in order to obtain accurate information on a long list of topics, including numbers of visitors expected, the size of the proposed museum and parking garage, alternative locations to be explored, impacts on traffic and taxes, and to analyze the results of a comprehensive environmental impact statement
The issue is much more complex than initially laid out in earlier Main Street and TRA meetings and press releases. The future of the hamlet of Oyster Bay is at stake and there should be no rush to judgment before all the facts are in.
At least we know now that the leadership of the two Civic Associations has everyone's best interests at heart, can run a dignified meeting and want to shed light, not heat, on this controversial proposal.