To “the” or not to “the” is the question in the East Hampton hamlet of Springs.
While many Long Islanders bristle when outsiders mispronounce their hometown — be it Ronkonkoma or Quogue or Yaphank — residents in the East End neighborhood are grappling over three letters.
Springs residents — or perhaps it’s The Springs — can now use their car bumper to broadcast their vote in the longstanding argument over their hamlet’s moniker. The Springs Improvement Society has introduced a bumper sticker faceoff and is selling two versions, one that reads “I [Heart] Springs” and another that reads “I [Heart] The Springs.”
The stickers are available at Ashawagh Hall and will be for sale this summer at Springs Improvement Society events, according to organization president and Springs resident Loring Bolger. They cost $3 each or are two for $5.
Results will be tallied at the end of the summer, though the winners will receive little more than bragging rights. Bolger, who has both stickers on her car bumper, stressed that the contest is all in fun and likened it to the red and blue coffee cups sold at 7-Eleven around the time of recent presidential elections, thought to be predictors of the winning candidacy.
“My stance is I don’t care,” she said of the true title of the hamlet. “I’m happy to accept either designation.”
Bolger said that the society does not have a current count of stickers sold, but that the results appear to be close.
The evidence for either case, it seems, is mixed.
The hamlet got its name from the freshwater springs at the head of Accobanac Harbor, according to the 1970 book “The Springs in the Old Days: The History of a Long Island Village.”
Two signs welcome visitors to “The Springs,” and the hamlet is referenced as such on various maps, yet the town seal reads Springs and the school district and fire department don’t use “the.”
Residents have informally debated the hamlet’s name for years, but one passionate Bonacker — an abbreviation of Accobanac Harbor and the nickname for the hamlet’s locals — took the case to court. Martin Drew, a lifelong resident, filed two small-claims lawsuits in 2016, one against the town and another against the county, demanding that the welcome signs on Springs Fireplace Road and Three Mile Harbor Road be removed. Both suits were soon dismissed.
Drew, who has spoken several times before the town board on the matter, points to a 1957 town board resolution adopting the town seal, which lists East Hampton’s five hamlets including Springs.
“Since then it clearly states we are Springs,” he said. “I don’t know what is hard for the “The” crowd to understand.”
David Buda, another resident and frequent speaker at town board meetings, has become the most outspoken voice for the opposing position.
“I think that anyone who does their research would realize that The Springs is the historically accurate name,” Buda said.
What’s in a name? Sometimes ‘the,’ sometimes not
- The town seal, adopted in 1957, lists the hamlet as Springs
- The local fire department and school district do not use “the”
- Signs designating the hamlet’s historic district do not include “the”
- Two hamlet signs welcome visitors to “The Springs”
- Famed midcentury abstract artist and hamlet resident Willem de Kooning created a 1983 painting titled “Morning: The Springs”
- The sign outside the local library uses “the”