Saltaire Summery

by Hugh O'Brien |

By Hugh O’Brien

“You mean, you’re not giving me the whole bowl?”
Phoebe becomes the lone cat baptized during St. Andrew’s blessing of the animals in October.
(Photo by Catherine O’Brien)

Hi there, and welcome to the latest addition to Saltaire’s never-ending, ever-spending roster of civic improvements. This year, it’s reached right into the heart of civic-ness, and unless you veer left or right on Bay when you trundle off the dock, it’s one you neither can, nor will want to, miss. You can’t spell “Village Hall” without “Voila,” well, except for the o, so, voila – our new Village Hall.

Yep, right where the old one stood a new one has arisen from the Phoenician ashes, fittingly as it’s a monument to early Phoenician architecture, and while the exterior (or “outside” as the builders call it) looks fairly similar the big news is the revamped interior, with a larger library (enough that we can expand the sign so that it no longer reads “libary”) and a bathroom respectful of its patrons’ privacy on the first floor, plus a second-floor office that’s more open, spacious and conducive to the work ethic. It also has a mandated lift to enable disabled access to the office, so that never again will anyone claim that the Village Administrator’s elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor.

The real crowd-pleaser is an upstairs alcove especially carved out to house the popcorn machine that the Village has for years used to fulfill the requirements of the free-lunch program mandated for the camp by the Department of Health and Human Services. At the building’s dedication ceremonies the machine was singled out for attention by Colonel Orville “Red” Husk of the Suffolk County Marine Bureau, a longtime backer of the community who frequently pops in to chew the fat with Mario during the winter. We were going to go whole-hog and purchase a brand new machine to complement our brand new Village Hall, but funds ran low and it was either that or the elevator, which won out by a 3-2 vote of the Board once we’d agreed on how many doors it should have. So, same old machine, same old popcorn, same old bags (popcorn, that is), but it looks great in its new location. Oh, yeah, there’s an office, meeting room, bathrooms, library, utility areas and stuff surrounding it in the form of a building.

Of course, in a project of this scope, erected under harsh winter working conditions, the occasional mishap is bound to occur. Two of the workers disappeared the day we finished closing up the downstairs wall, but, you know, I’m sure they’re okay, probably in Atlantic City, and what, worst case scenario, they’ll have quite a tale to tell when the place gets its next renovation in 2100. Not to mention all that accumulated overtime. Incidentally, we just left the contracts for that undertaking; since the Village’ll be flush once we finish paying off this year’s projects in 2096. It’s all very efficient, and after all, you can’t spell “efficient” without the e, t and one of the i’s in “Saltaire.”

Next year we’ll be boasting about our rebuilt 14 Bay Prom, which will add the post office and courtroom to its current tenants, Public Safety and the Medicine Show. Meanwhile, an oft-asked question is, where will the post office and courtroom be this year? Well, as a Village official, I can forthrightly state: beats me. Okay, there are temporary locales set aside for each, but we’ll save those surprises for the first person given a summons for tampering with the mail. Oh, I almost forgot – we have a 40 percent reconstituted Lighthouse Prom way out east, all done up in shiny new wood. Ran into a few problems this year (water) but got it all sorted out, and the remainder should be hammered out by the start of summer 2020. It looks beautiful, will survive a comet-generated tidal wave and, being wood, is of course trip-proof, skid-proof, sand-proof, cut-openyour- foot-on-a-nail-proof, and will slow down traffic so much cars will actually back up through town. Imperial Rome’s roads are unrivaled no more.

Speaking of civic virtues, our municipal elections are set for Friday, May 24, and for the first time in five years all the candidates are running unopposed: Village Justice Frank Markus (four years) and Trustees Nat Oppenheimer and Hugh O’Brien (two years). I don’t know whether that indicates satisfaction or exhaustion on the part of the electorate, but either way, we’re grateful for your confidence and, of course, a campaign less taxing than the Board.

Now, there were a few post-Labor-Day highlights last year. First weekend after Labor Day, the SVFC held a wet-down for the trio of new vehicles added to its fleet during calendar 2018 – pumper, ambulance and pickup. Personnel from neighboring departments (Ocean Beach, Ocean Bay Park, Kismet, Fair Harbor) helped celebrate these automotive acquisitions in the traditional fire service manner, namely, blasting heavy streams of water onto the vehicles, which of course in this climate does them a lot of good: a baptism of water before the baptism of fire. Much more effective than attacks with a Super-Soaker, which should at least reassure homeowners nervous about just how much water we can pump onto an actual burning house. Both home and visiting vehicles sounded their horns and sirens as accompaniment, a boisterous din much appreciated by neighbors and tennis players. Equally boisterous will be another pancake breakfast hosted by the SVFC Sunday, May 26, from 8 a.m. to around 11 or so.

However, fire trucks weren’t the only ones baptized last fall. On Sunday, Oct. 7, the minister at St. Andrews held a blessing of the animals. Seven dogs and one cat, each given a sprinkling of holy water and praised by the minister for the love they give their families or, in the case of the cat (Phoebe), that mask of contented expectation that passes as love. Very sweet and a lot of well-behaved fun, though several of the pups seemed disappointed that the water came from a bowl and not the nearby hydrant. “Good God!” exclaimed one passerby. No: “Good Dog!” Amen.

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Hugh O'Brien

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