Standing are: Rob Brusca, George Di Martino, Gary Drury and President Bill Von Novak. Seated are: Vice President Stan Spiegelman, Linda Rea and Judy Barnett.
The Oyster Bay Civic Association has made a list of projects they see as a viable agenda for moving the hamlet forward. The list was created at their Thursday, March 19 meeting at the Italian-American Club. Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce members attended with the intention of working with the civic association on improving the hamlet, but when the meeting began and members opened up some wounds that needed healing, President Alex Gallego stood up and said he and Vice President Paige Dawson and Michele Browner would return at another time when the group was ready to discuss working together. Had the chamber members stayed they would have heard the civic association come together and make a list of projects including: using the Hamlet Plan; fixing Firemen's Field with lights, trees and drainage; supporting the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum to help its planned piazza happen; cleanup of the streets and more.
Vice President Stan Siegelman said, "The scope of the Oyster Bay Civic Association covers the business, religious and civic areas and we all work together. We are going to work with the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce board to see if we can work together." He suggested they could get the merchants involved in Rob Brusca's newsletter that reaches 800 email addresses. It is already sending out information on town regulations on garbage removal in the hamlet.
Fran Leone had suggested the group refer to the Hamlet Plan which contains good ideas to act on including to keep the hamlet clean. She mentioned that when living in an apartment on West Main Street there was no place to put household garbage. Many apartment dwellers resort to using the waste receptacles intended for street litter causing them to overflow. She complimented Michael Hambrook of the Oyster Bay Frame Shop for sweeping and washing the sidewalk outside his building.
OBCA President Bill Von Novak took down suggestions for the list: use the Hamlet Plan; get the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum and plaza going with the help of government. John Wallace added Firemen's Field to the list for a cleanup and to improve the view of the hamlet for people coming by train. Joan Drury mentioned the Hamlet Plan suggested greenbelt areas in the hamlet. She then asked when the Theodore Roosevelt statue would be moved to the triangle, saying, "That is where it belongs."
Mr. Von Novak said there is an issue to solve between the town and the state in that some of the curbing is on state property. They are waiting for good weather because it is quite a production to move the statue so it should happen in the spring.
As for cleaning up the hamlet, Rob Brusca has created a document he is circulating through the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Calendar email list. Promoted by the Hispanic Cultural Center; Friends of the Bay, the OBCA, and the East Norwich Civic Association, the item, meant to be used as a flier, is a reminder of how to handle refuse in the hamlet. The email also contains a Spanish language version. Mr. Brusca encouraged everyone to download the flier and get it into the hands of every merchant and resident in the hamlet.
Mr. Brusca suggested the new "To-Do" list include a large picture concept to popularize the hamlet such as "The Bay" or the "Historic Value" of the area. He said he recently joined the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum board and called them a hardworking, well-intentioned group doing a small doable project which restores the old LIRR Oyster Bay stationhouse and the turntable, each located at different sides of town. They need money and the help of the municipality to achieve their proposed plaza. "It's a nice connection to the park, one of our most precious resources. Let's put our support behind the railroad museum. It's doable. Add to that getting Firemen's Field landscaped and drained, and properly lit."
He included in his list to make sure TR Park is renovated and to see that the community ballfields are improved.
Joan London added to the list a cleanup of some of the commercial area on the north side of East Main Street, which is looking "dilapidated and filthy." She added that the area is being used for the pickup of day laborers.
Caroline DuBois brought up the problem of speeding up Route 106 and near the Roosevelt School. She questioned the light at Nobman's saying it is long and not in sync with other lights. She also suggested re-constituting the TR Park Advisory Committee that was active in the OBCA some time ago. She also agreed to "Dust off the Hamlet Plan and find quick doable things that can be done."
She asked if the railroad museum plans still called for changing the entrance to TR Park. She added, "We want to protect TR Park."
Fran Leone of the Citizens to Save Theodore Roosevelt Park said, "Why disturb the promenade?" The park is an Olmstead-type design with an alley of trees with walkways on both sides and a view in the distance of the American flag at the sea wall. "It's charming and shouldn't be disturbed. It was designed by architects." She was critical of the town's recent work on the park which included cutting down yew bushes and putting up split rail fences. "It's sacred. Don't trash down its historical value."
Board member Judy Barnett suggested that the civic association give out awards to property owners who keep their area beautiful: something the group had done earlier.
Several people talked about the need for identifying a vision and setting up a plan to make them happen. George DeMartino said, "In Oyster Bay we have to take baby steps." He said, "For years we have been talking about the Carousel, AvalonBay and the Museum - that since August 2007 - if we just get focused on the clean-up, Firemen's Field and the ballfields in TR Park that will bring people to the downtown area. The fields will make the hamlet the center of town. There will be a domino effect and the town has some money to revitalize Firemen's Field. Maybe the town can have some tax abatement for new businesses. Let's work from the inside in baby steps. The museum was a five-year project. We need to do little things right away."
Others suggested forming a vision and planning strategically to get the community together to make things happen.
The Oyster Bay Civic Association had a great deal of business to accomplish at their March 18 meeting and that included updates for the community, and answering questions and hearing from its members. Pete Hosey asked about a rumor that the town is moving to the AvalonBay Communities site. Mr. Brusca said the town was not contemplating moving there since the cost of the site would be about $9 million or $10 million.
Stan Spiegelman said Legislator Judy Jacobs is working on getting a left hand turn signal at South Street and Berry Hill Road for southbound traffic.
Bill Bertolotti asked what people would like to see at the AvalonBay site. Mr. Von Novak said it would be possible for Golden Age housing, something OB-EN residents at the present time are not eligible for since there is none locally. [There is however some senior housing in the town complex on Lexington Avenue.]
Joan London commented on the "excessively large utility poles" going up on South Street, Lexington Avenue and Shore Road. Mr. Brusca explained that LIPA is replacing poles and the older ones will eventually be taken down. They are not duplicate poles he said.
Mr. Von Novak said in response to a question about BMW of Oyster Bay, that it is in receivership and still doing business. He took the moment to tell members that the East Norwich Civic Association will have the OB-EN Board of Education members at their next meeting on March 26 at the Community United Methodist Church in East Norwich starting at 7:45 p.m. Members of the OBCA are expected and welcome to attend.
Bob Santos of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Youth Athletic Association was a guest speaker for the evening. He asked for the support of the OBCA and received it. Mr. Santos said there was a two pronged problem with fields in the OB-EN area - lack of fields and their poor quality. "We need safe and fun fields for our kids," he said. The sports groups now have the use of Marino Field on Berry Hill Road, a field at TR Park and access to some at the school fields at Vernon, Roosevelt and the high school. Most teams don't use school fields, he said, but in this district it is necessary because of the lack of open space. Mr. Santos said, "We operate as a group." The baseball, soccer, lacrosse and football leaders joined together for their mutual needs. They made a presentation to the town a year ago to get SEA Fund money for fields. Recently they got the town to improve the Marino fields. Phase One is on track, as the town starts work in the spring and will finish with Phase Two in the fall. The OBEN YAA was recently presented with a proposed field at TR Park [along with the plan for the museum to be placed over the sump]. They are hoping to have the field where it was originally placed, near the baseball field and spreading out into the parking area. It would take from 10 to 30 parking spots but they hope additional parking spots could be found elsewhere.
Mr. Santos said, "Our priority is the kids and ballfields for the kids. Having ballfields will bring people to town. The town has been agreeable but have had their own problems with the museum and AvalonBay."
Mr. Santos said relocating the tennis courts was not in their plans.
"Our strategy was to stay together," said Mr. Santos. Baseball will get the first field but soccer and lacrosse are next."
Mr. Santos said when he first went to town hall he had letters from every association. They delivered the letters of support to the town. "I didn't miss anyone," he said.
"The model you set bringing everyone together to work together and to get the results you wanted was brilliant. If we can do that we can get things done," said Isaac Kremer, Main Street Association executive director.
Mr. Von Novak said they would give the OB-EN YAA a letter of support. "We were going to ask you for a letter. We want you to know we are all together and we need you by our side."
Mr. Von Novak said the Joint Civics will get together on Friday, May 29 for a great time and for a fundraiser. The location is still in discussion, either at the Sagamore Yacht Club or the Pine Hollow Country Club. Greg Van Dyke has offered to sponsor the group at the Sagamore Yacht Club if that is the chosen location. Last year Jack Bernstein sponsored the civics using the yacht club.
Oyster Bay Civic Association President Bill Von Novak began the March 19 meeting talking to members about the disbanding of TRMCAT, the Theodore Roosevelt Museum Citizens Advisory Team of which he was a member. His membership was a result of the OBCA helping to fund the visit of Dan Burden of Walkable Communities, who was invited by the MainStreet Association to facilitate the possibility of a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Museum at Firemen's Field.
Mr. Von Novak said with the TRA stating they were putting the museum on hold there was no need for the group. He said, "Some people on TRMCAT were in favor of the museum and some were not. They are all going their separate directions. So TRMCAT is gone; the museum is dead, at least not in my lifetime. It is not even on a back burner; it is not being discussed." He reminded the group that the OBCA position is that they don't take a position until all the facts are in. The facts never came in; and the OBCA never polled its members on how they felt about the museum, although Mr. Von Novak added the TRMCAT group was divided in its opinions.
Member Joan Drury suggested that Sagamore Hill was still a viable location for the museum and although TRA President Jim Bruns had said it would take a long time for Congress to approve having the museum there - with this economy there was time to wait. There is a huge field between the mansion and the Old Orchard Museum.
OBCA Board member Rob Brusca said there were some issues there: Waiting for government approval could be time consuming; does the NPS want any change to the site after creating their current master plan to highlight the site during TR's presidency; and is the museum at whatever size they determine to be viable, and appropriate to the site?
Caroline DuBois of the Citizens to Save Firemen's Field added that there was also a control problem, between the NPS and the TRA. She added that it was disingenuous for Norman Parsons to say that only the economy was the reason for not having the proposed TR Museum. "It was disrespectful to the people of Save Firemen's Field; as well as to the Hamlet Plan; and the use of TR Park. I believe they were hearing the push of the community based on those issues. And the town saved itself from dual lawsuits to protect TR Park and to save Firemen's Field. The TRA saved itself from going through the study process only to be stopped by the court. Also the town changed the sump designation to a waste water sump for the use of firefighters squirting water. I have photos from the '40s when the park was given to the town and there was a pond on the field. I believe the town wouldn't allow it [in the long run]."
Ms. DuBois asked the board if they felt the membership was well-served by not having been part of the push-back efforts. "You could have pushed back. You were a bunch of cowards," but later she took back the comment and qualified herself saying "I wish there had been a stronger public push-back." She said she wished there had been a show of hands of the people in the meeting room to see where they stood. She felt that the board had been fence-sitting.
Mr. Von Novak said there were people both for and against the museum in the organization. He said, "You cannot vote on an issue when many couldn't decide before we had information. Was there an environmental issue because someone thinks there is?"
Ms. DuBois said, "I think there were a handful of issues."_
Board member Rob Brusca defended the board's postion saying that they and the East Norwich Civic Association had gotten the word out about the museum to residents as well as giving pertinent information to the town. In October and December they held joint meetings about the proposed building. "Internally we argued long and hard and went tooth and nail to get information out and discussed whether we should take a vote," he said.
But proving that there were issues to be answered, O.J. Donovan asked about the confidentiality that Mr. Von Novak agreed to when signing on to TRMCAT. Mr. Von Novak said surprisingly nothing came up that was confidential that didn't end up in the newspapers. He said if a problem with confidentiality did come up he would have resigned. He said it turned out that the main issue was confidentiality in the case of a real estate deal/proposal so as not to mess up the negotiations.
Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce President Alex Gallego stood up at that time and said he was leaving, saying, "Whether we agree or disagree these people championed your cause and we don't have to agree. We have to agree on how to come to a solution. I'm here to fix Firemen's Field. If this is what is going to go on, I'm leaving to take care of business. Rob, you did a great job. Thank you." Gary Drury asked him to stay. Rob Brusca said, "It is appropriate that we get things out." Mr. Gallego said, "It is not appropriate."
Charles Doering, too, tried to have the chamber members stay but his comments appeared to exacerbate the issue. He said, "Many organizations are proud of what they do. I always thought our duty was to our constituents." He added the comment that he believed Mr. Gallego would have the community's interest at heart since he was a local resident but that he doubted people working in town but living elsewhere would understand the issues. Shortly thereafter Mr. Gallego got up and walked quietly out the door. He was followed by Vice President Paige Dawson who said, "We'll be here for another meeting." Michele Browner also left.
Mr. Brusca said he was a little surprised why the chamber members had to leave. "These are issues of importance to everyone."
OBCA board member Judy Barnett commented to Ms. DuBois and Mr. Doering that she was opposed to the statements. "We worked long hours and our duty was to give the correct information to the community. There were no facts. What is the purpose of stirring up the community with no real facts? We have board meetings that last two to three hours. There were different positions but with a common ground. We put out our hand to the Chamber of Commerce and to Main Street to work together for our community."
Fran Leone said, "We are like a dysfunctional family but there should be no name-calling."
Main Street Association Executive Director Isaac Kremer reminded the listeners that the three groups working together had raised $35,000 for the holiday flowers, cornstalks and lights. He added, "At 7 a.m. Alex is out with a broom and a sweeper every day and he goes down as far as South Street to clean up Audrey Avenue. We are working together."
People seemed confused by the walkout but President Von Novak pointed to a letter that had gone out to the membership asking people to work together. It appeared that the chamber members left because of the internal group discussion. Mr. Von Novak said the carousel was defeated, AvalonBay Communities proposal was defeated, now the TR Museum is gone, "There's got to be something good we can focus on. These issues are dead. Where can we cross lines and say we can be a part of making a better town?"
New board member Gary Drury said they need a vision so they can set goals to achieve that vision.
Fran Leone suggested the village has two nonprofits, Raynham Hall Museum and the Oyster Bay Historical Society that can profit from attention by having something such as Boston's Freedom Trail that points out all the historic sites. "It can help them, too," she said.
George DeMartino said it was unfortunate the chamber members left and explained that the Oyster Bay and East Norwich civic groups are unique in that they are willing to air all opinions. "We have been open to everyone. We brought in Matt Whalen of AvalonBay Communities as a speaker when many people were against him. We invited Jim Bruns to come [after the museum location was announced] but he turned us down. We have been open to everyone." Mr. De Martino said, "Other groups just put out people who disagree with them. We always let others come and speak their mind and get everything in the open... We air things out. We agree or disagree. We are open and honest." The audience applauded.