Written by Renee Doboy Friday, 13 August 2010 10:20
At her recent retirement party at the Crescent Beach Club, in Bayville, Mayor Victoria Siegel was presented with the distinction of having the Bayville Bridge named after her. Her reaction was understandably emotional. “It is a tremendous honor,” she said. Her face glowed with the memory. She indicated that there will be a sign posted by the bridge, with its new name, on August 31. After serving for 24 years as mayor, Ms. Siegel plans to remain an active private citizen. She is also considering remaining in government, or possibly starting a local retail business.
One of Siegel’s ongoing projects, now thrust into the hands of the new mayor, Doug Watson (who has served on the village board for the last 18 years), involves the repaving of Ludlam Avenue; and also a sizable section of Bayville Avenue. Sidewalks will be fixed, realigned, and will be made more aesthetically pleasing, containing more brick. More crosswalks will be established. A compass motif will be imprinted in the blacktop, at the intersection of Ludlam Avenue and Bayville Avenue. Additionally, the police booth will be relocated, adjacent to the Bayville Bridge. A sculpture will be erected in the landscaped area next to the sidewalk, where the police booth now stands.
Since the inception of her career as mayor in 1982, Bayville was destined for change. Ms. Siegel began by pointing out the obvious differences she sees today; she noted that it is more populated now, and has “more pockets of wealth,” as the demographics have changed. She has always felt that improvements are beneficial, but certain improvements can alter a place, causing it to lose its essence. She doesn’t want to see Bayville lose its unique vibe.
An unfortunate thing that she has noticed is that people today in the community don’t depend upon each other the way they once did. Siegel noted, for example, that instead of looking to a neighbor for a needed ingredient, residents are quick to jump in their car and run to the store. Many aren’t even familiar with their neighbors. Looking to the future, the former mayor sees Bayville continuing to improve, but also remaining the same. She is confident that industry will never touch the village, but that it may be in danger of eventually losing its “Mom and Pop flavor.”
Over the years, the former mayor, also an expert in Municipal Law, has been completely immersed in the happenings and needs of her village, and has been locally recognized as one of the few full-time mayors, always giving much more than what was expected of her. She has even given back her salary to the village, in the amount of $2,500 per year. When questioned in this regard, she advised “anything you love, you put your whole self into. I love this village. It’s a little piece of Americana that you just don’t find in existence anymore.”
It’s easy to see why the former mayor is so attached to the village. Among the many reasons are clean water, a nearly non-existent crime rate, amazing local schools, and the feeling of community and safety. Ms. Siegel pointed out that Bayville has always been a place where it is safe for kids to play outdoors. It continues to be that place today. “We must preserve what we have here. It sets us apart.” Ms. Siegel explained, proudly.
When asked what she thought to be her greatest accomplishments while in office, she cited the improvement of the local flooding issues. She was responsible for putting into action the complete overhauling of the village’s drainage system. This new system greatly reduced flooding, and also significantly limited the amount of run-off into Mill Neck Creek and Oyster Bay Harbor, during heavy periods of rain. As a result, much of the rain water is now diverted back into the water table. This has greatly improved the integrity of the ecosystem in Mill Neck Creek.
Additionally, Ms. Siegel is proud of her success in acquiring 16 acres of shoreline. One property the village purchased is now known as Soundside Beach, which was previously Pump’s Park, the site of a commercial boat rental business. Areas also included are along Mill Neck Creek, and West Harbor Drive (The Bayville Preserve), down as far as West Harbor Beach.
Seated at her kitchen table, she gestured out the window, indicating the incredible panoramic view of the pristine wetlands, east of West Harbor Beach. “Where else can you enjoy all this?” she asked. The former mayor also feels that she contributed to restoring vitality to Bayville in the early 1990s, during a time when there was tremendous despair. After a devastating nor’easter in 1992, many home and business owners were faced with damages that seemed insurmountable. However, through her tireless efforts, and the obtaining of grants, Mayor Siegel was able to help restore the village to its former prosperity. She also managed to boost the community’s morale to previous high levels.
Overall, family and church were the factors which most influenced the way she governed Bayville as Mayor. Her family was very kind, active in the community and did a great deal of volunteering. “We’re all here for a reason,” Ms. Siegel believes, “what that is eventually becomes clear to us.” It appears that Mayor Victoria Siegel’s purpose was to help shape the Village of Bayville into the thriving, picturesque community that it continues to be today. Residents will continually be reminded of her accomplishments, as they cross the Victoria Siegel Bridge.