To "the" or not is no longer a question in an East Hampton hamlet, at least according to a trio of new welcome signs.
The debate over whether to call it “Springs” or “The Springs” has publicly surfaced several times in the past few years, with some considering using “the” to be favored by newcomers over the objection of deep-rooted locals.
Now it appears the town board has cast a deciding vote in favor of Springs by approving three new welcome signs bearing that name, angering some members of the town-appointed Springs Citizens Advisory Committee.
“This has nothing to do with pronunciation and gentrification. It has to do with what is historically accurate,” said resident David Buda, a fierce proponent of calling it The Springs who resigned in protest last week from the advisory committee.
Buda said the committee requested in April that the town replace or refurbish a pair of aging “Welcome to The Springs” signs installed in the 1990s and leave them as-is.
Instead, the board voted 4-0 at its Oct. 17 meeting to remove the two signs and replace them with three soon-to-be installed ones reading “Welcome to Springs” and place them on Three Mile Harbor Road, Springs Fireplace Road and Accabonac Road. Councilman Jeff Bragman abstained, citing a need for more historical research.
“I know the Springs CAC wanted to keep the signs as-is, and I appreciate their comments and I honor their opinion,” said Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, the resolution’s sponsor and a hamlet resident. “But at the same time … it [the advisory committee] doesn’t really represent the entire Springs community.”
The evidence for either name, it appears, is mixed, and Buda conceded it is an “unresolvable conflict.” The hamlet is referenced as The Springs on various maps, yet the town seal reads Springs and the school district and fire department don’t use “the.”
The town board resolution references a letter from town historian Averill Geus reading "Springs has always been Springs since the late 1600s."
"I don’t want to see any more Manhattanization of this town," Geus, whose family settled in East Hampton in 1650, said during the meeting.
Buda resigned from the advisory committee after the decision, and another member has asked not to be reappointed next year.
Buda called it a capitulation to the most vocal advocate for calling it Springs, Martin Drew. Drew has raised the issue at countless town board meetings and filed two small-claims lawsuits over the signs, one against the town and another against Suffolk County. Both were dismissed.
Drew has said using “the” is favored by the hamlet’s “artist’s community” and doesn’t reflect the preferences of working-class locals. Springs was the home of painter Jackson Pollock and is considered the cradle of the abstract impressionist movement.
When reached this week, Drew, a Springs native now living in Rincon, Puerto Rico, was elated by the board’s decision.
“They [newcomers] are desperate to rebrand us as The Springs,” he said. “As a person from Springs I feel vindicated. It told me what I’ve always known.”