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Sag Harbor's Long Wharf pier gets first railing as part of $4.9M overhaul

Sag Harbor Village Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy on the

Sag Harbor Village Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy on the recently renovated Long Wharf, with village resident and landscape designer Ed Hollander, who donated his services, in Sag Harbor on Monday Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A horse, a 40-ton coal car and even the young son of Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy are among the creatures, things and people that have slipped off the edge of Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf pier and into the bay.

But visitors can now reasonably expect to avoid such incidents with the installation of a railing — the first in the pier’s 250-year history — added as part of the village’s $4.9 million wharf overhaul. 

“It took a long time to make beautiful,” Mulcahy said during a recent tour of the renovated space, where construction began in September. 

The mayor’s son, Colman Vila, was no worse for the wear after his mother swiftly rescued the then-5 year old after the 2000 fall. The horse, which made its fatal jump in 1865, and the coal car, which plunged into the water in 1905, were not as lucky.

Originally built in 1770, the dock welcomed whaling ships to what was once the fourth-largest whaling port in the world. The historic strip became a railroad spur and popular steamship stop and had several owners over the years. It was transferred from the village to Suffolk County in 1947 and back to the village in 2012.

Lately it’s been a parking lot for the village as well as the megayachts lined up along its edge. It will still serve that purpose, but the upgrades have made the space more attractive and walkable, officials said.

“It’s an exercise in making the waterfront more accessible to residents and village visitors,” said the project’s landscape architect, Ed Hollander, of Manhattan-based Hollander Design.

A crew with Chesterfield Associates Inc. of Westhampton Beach stripped the pavement down to dirt and widened the wharf by 18 inches on both sides. The extra space allowed for a boardwalk along the pier’s edge made of sustainably harvested Ipe wood, said Hollander, a part-time village resident who did the design work pro bono. He also donated his services for the village’s soon-to-be-built John Steinbeck Waterfront Park.

“This is home to me,” Hollander said. “I’m as proud of this [the wharf project] as anything I’ve ever done.”

Low-level lighting will illuminate the pathway with minimal effect on the nighttime sky. Also improved is the pier’s drainage, which previously flowed right off the blacktop and into the bay. Filters have been installed to treat the water and remove contaminants before discharge.

The project also added two new pedestals that can supply electric power for up to four large yachts, cutting down on the number of big boats running on gas-powered generators while they dock in the harbor. The village will offset the $550,000 cost of electric upgrades through revenue from boat-docking fees, Mulcahy said.

Coinciding with the project’s completion is the release of “A Short History of Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf,” a book published by East Hampton photographer Michael Heller.

“Long Wharf has always been the heart of the Sag Harbor community for over 250 years; a special place where history has been — and will continue to be — made,” reads the book’s back cover.

Long Wharf Rehabilitation Project

Price tag: $4.9M

Funding: State grants, bonds, reserve funds

Includes New Ipe boardwalk, resurfaced road, improved drainage and lighting, electric power available for boats

Parking spots for cars reduced from 98 to 93

Source: Sag Harbor Village

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