Facing the face of Route 114 — Part II

MARTIN BURKE PHOTO
A burst of light and color along a wood fence on Route 114 in the Center.

A campaign has been underway by Supervisor Gary Gerth to assist owners of properties along Route 114 in sprucing up the Island’s main thoroughfare, which has some boarded-up stores and businesses that are operational but less than attractive.

In an interview with the Reporter, Mr. Gerth said he also recognizes that the town could take serious steps toward improving the look of the traffic circles, with better landscaping and lighting. “We really do need some uplifting theme,” Mr. Gerth said, adding he plans to create a committee to explore ways to beautify the Center.

During the evening hours there’s decorative lighting at the IGA, but that’s not all that’s coming to improve the look of that corner, Mr. Gerth said. He’s spoken with Diane Peronace of IGA who told him there are architectural changes in the works.

One improvement he expects is a two-phase project to create a bike path along Route 114. The first phase will run from North Ferry to the Center and the second phase will finish the route all the way to South Ferry. Mr. Gerth is working with Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) on funding that could happen over a two-year period.

Bike lane, finally?

Designated by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) as a “State Bike Route,” from its start in Greenport and end in East Hampton, the route gets an upgrade in definition when it reaches North Haven to Sag Harbor where there are “bike lanes” dedicated solely for bicycles.

Four years ago, the state worked on several improvements along the Shelter Island leg of the road for bicycle traffic, including cleaning of pavement surfaces, re-striping, replacement of signage, weeding and removal of plants encroaching on the shoulder.

According to the DOT at the time, drainage grates would undergo inspections to find out which ones need to be reset or replaced with bicycle-friendly grates. But since then — nothing. There has been no work done to create bike lanes on Shelter Island.

When the Reporter asked Mr. Thiele last July what, if anything, was happening to ensure the safety of bicyclists on the state road, he said he had some answers from the DOT, which he characterized as a state bureaucracy that often operates at a glacial pace.

The state had come up with three options for the Island, only one of which, Mr. Thiele believes, is practical.

The first option is a 4-foot-wide paved lane running ferry to ferry on Route 114 with an estimated bill of $13 million. The state calculates that out of that, $5 million will go for land acquisition and rights of way from property owners along the route to expand the road; $6.5 million would be for construction costs; and the balance will pay for design plans, environmental review costs and miscellaneous expenses.

Option two would provide bike lanes on 30 percent of the state road and cost $2 million. The remaining 70 percent would be shared lanes — or “sharrows” — between vehicles and bicycles. These sharrows would have symbols painted on the road indicating they must be shared.

The construction cost of this option would include widening of the shoulders, construction of manholes, utility pole relocations and the new pavement markings.

The new, 4-foot-wide bike lanes would be at several spots along Route 114, including Duval Avenue to the traffic circle in the Center, in front of the school, and West Neck Road to Manwaring Road.

The third option calls for no new construction of bike lanes but sharrows from ferry to ferry at a cost of $200,000.

Mr. Thiele is in favor of option two, with partial bike lanes and sharrows. He noted that the $2 million price tag would be easier to shake loose from state coffers than $13 million for full bike lanes the length of the road.

In addition, he noted that with option one in place, property owners along Route 114 would resist giving up their land to the state.

“It could become an eminent domain nightmare,” the assemblyman said last summer, whereas option two has no provision for taking property.

Empty and abandoned

As for empty stores in the Center — some vacant for years — there are ideas being explored with the owner of three properties to bring them back to life, Mr. Gerth said.

He has had what he described as a long, friendly acquaintance with Dan Calabro, who owns the former In Between, which has been dark for a decade or more, the vacant pizza restaurant, and the former deli in the Center, which have been unoccupied for several years.

Next to the deli — what was Fedi’s and then Schmidt’s — is Mr. Calabro’s Dandy Liquors, which is managed by family members and continues to operate. Mr. Gerth said Mr. Calabro would like to bring a deli into the vacant space and has been actively looking to find someone with experience to lease the space.

The pizza shop, long occupied by Bella Vita, has been empty since December 2015, and Mr. Gerth said Mr. Calabro told him he has considered operating a restaurant there himself.

As for the In Between, empty for years and a crumbling eyesore, Mr. Gerth said Mr. Calabro is entertaining an offer that has been made on that property.

But a consideration for Mr. Calabro, like other property owners, is weighing the financial balance between taking a tax write-off or taking income from rentals or sales, Mr. Gerth said.

Mr. Calabro had no comment to the Reporter.

Mr. Gerth said the boarded-up properties have been inspected and all are safe and without violations.

Improvements

There have been improvements on other properties along Route 114. In one case, neighbors’ complaints drove the process and in another, a needed ZBA variance was secured.

Marcello Masonry occupies two sites on Route 114. The first is well-screened from the road, but there were complaints about the second, located south of Shelter Island School.

It has been improved with the movement of some vehicles and relocation of other materials on the site, plus screening of the site from the road by bushes.

When John Sieni wanted to expand his storage business across the street from Marcello’s, he was required by the Zoning Board of Appeals to take steps that would curb noise on the site and shield the front area using plantings and fencing.

The Islander has always presented a clean face to the roadway, just as it did during the many years it was operated as Pat and Steve’s. The restaurant, along with the charm of Black Cat Books and the welcoming presence of the small shopping plaza across the street, could serve as an example of how other businesses can operate without showing their worst face to those passing by.

The Reporter will cover the committee to be charged with the Route 114 face-lift, when it is appointed.

Part I of this report appeared in the Reporter’s March 18 issue.

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