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Village Board declines Christmas tree donation for Mitchell Park

Greenport has declined an offer from local firefighters to plant a live Christmas tree in Mitchell Park. 

Peter Harris, who represented Phenix Hook & Ladder Co. #1, said at last Thursday’s work session that village officials informed him around Halloween that the proposal to donate a live tree had been turned down with three dissenting votes. 

“This was to be a gift to all Greenport residents to be admired not only as a holiday tree with lights in December, but moreover, to enjoy its natural beauty 12 months of the year,” he said, noting he had otherwise received positive feedback following local coverage of the pitch. 

“I’m no Johnny come lately. I was born and raised in Greenport, I’ve served for over 51 active years protecting this village as a volunteer firefighter,” he said. “I’m not looking to do something that will end up lining my pockets with money, I’m just a concerned Greenporter speaking for something I feel strongly about.” 

Mayor George Hubbard Jr., who voted against the donation, said when a tree was planted in Mitchell Park in memory of his father, his family was “attacked and trashed on Facebook” for taking up open space dedicated to the public. 

“I said, ‘I don’t want to go through that again,’ and I said, ‘I’m not in favor of it.’ And that’s a personal reason for something that hit me hard when it happened,” he said. 

Trustees Jack Martilotta and Peter Clarke also voted against the donation. Mr. Martilotta said his concern was that “a small tree would become a big tree,” and Mr. Clarke said he “did not see an additional large tree as suitable at this time as a permanent installation in the park.”

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips read an email she sent to the village clerk in response to explain her vote: “The offer from Phenix Hook and Ladder to fund planting a permanent Christmas tree in Mitchell Park is a generous offer to the Village community. The placement within the park is one I believe should be the Village Board’s decision.”

She noted, however, that a few people expressed concern about the tree taking away from open space at Mitchell Park. 

Trustee Julia Robins also read her email to the Village clerk. She said she supports the donation, but also said the village board should have input on the selected location prior to planting the tree. 

Mr. Harris emphasized that the firemen are willing to work with the board to choose a location to avoid blocking the view at the park. He added that as an original member of the Mitchell Park committee, he feels it would be possible to find a location to plant the tree while preserving open space in Mitchell Park.