Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. may have some competition in his bid for a final term this spring.
Richard Vandenburgh, owner Greenport Harbor Brewing Company and president of the village Business Improvement District, announced plans for a mayoral run with an ad in The Suffolk Times last week.
“It has been incredibly difficult to follow all the changes and pivots from previously announced objectives and goals. The vision to protect, preserve and guide our Village’s character is not and has not been clear. As residents and stakeholders, we need broader planning,” he wrote, urging village residents to attend a “Future of Greenport” discussion at Floyd Memorial Library on Wednesday night.
In an interview with The Suffolk Times, he cited his experience collaborating with the village through BID on initiatives such as the parklets as an “insightful” experience that led to his decision to run.
“Experiencing the communication flow, the operations between the different village departments, that sort of thing, really shed some light on the fact that it doesn’t operate as smoothly as you would hope at a lot of times,” he said. “There’s this breakdown of clearly planning what we want to see happen in the village in a way that is appropriate, measured growth while at the same time respecting residents’ opinions.”
He cited his success running a business for 13 years and his legal background as some of his key attributes.
“As my parents always taught me, I always try to leave a place better than when you found it, and I am hoping that I will be able to bring some of that to the village, following more of the broader planning documents like the local waterfront revitalization plan,” he said.
He emphasized the need for a code committee and soliciting public input throughout the process of drafting legislation. He also highlighted the need to address the housing crisis in Greenport, noting the village needs “to have the ability to continue to be successful and offer people a livable sustainable wage and a job that allows them to live in the area.”
The village should also expand its ability to secure funding and grants by bringing back a community resource officer, and negotiate a fairer share of the Community Preservation Fund from Southold Town, he said. He added that the village should impose a hotel tax that could be used to fund more code enforcement.
Mr. Vandenburgh also addressed a potential moratorium, which is due to be discussed at a village work session on Thursday. He noted that while he generally opposed moratoriums, they can work so long as they’re accompanied by a “plan and clearly defined objective.”
“I think the moratorium proposal is something that has kind of arisen out of necessity because of the wildly differentiating opinions about what should be happening and a haphazard approach to code changes. It can be a slippery slope because it can also then impact and devalue and create additional potential litigation with developers,” he said. “We have to make sure that we clearly understand where the end game is on that moratorium. I don’t think that’s clear at all at the moment.”
Extended deadlines for the moratorium could have a “chilling effect” on investor interest in the village, he said. “I am very concerned about the moratorium and there’s more to be heard at the next regular meeting.”
Mr. Hubbard, who was first elected in 2015, announced plans to run for reelection over the summer. He told a reporter he wants to use a final term to complete ongoing projects in the village such as a mini railroad planned for Moore’s Park, a sewer connection to Sandy Beach, and projects to revamp the ferry queue and microgrid.
He noted village election campaigns usually kick off in January with candidate petitions circulating in February. He pointed out that mayoral candidates need to reside in the village, which Mr. Vandenburgh does not.
“I appreciate the support I’ve gotten in the past from everybody in the village. I think we’ve got a lot of good things done in the last eight years. And like I said, I just want to finish up all the projects we got going on, take on a few new things, and then I’m finished if I get reelected at the end of these four years,” Mr. Hubbard said.
Mr. Vandenburgh said he’s in the process of moving into a rental apartment on First Street in the village and plans to have lived there for around four months by the time of the election. He added that he has worked in the village for more than 13 years and said he “may spend more time in the village than the mayor does.”
“I’m not somebody from New York City looking to come in. I’ve raised a family here for more than 30 years on the North Fork and been intimately involved in all sorts of different organizations,” he said. “While I may not at present technically live within the four corners of the incorporated village, I will be there by the end of this month, 100%.”