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INTERVIEW: Sag Harbor Partnership's April Gornik Dishes About The Outpouring Of Support For Sag Harbor Cinema, Upcoming Events, And The Phase 2 Campaign

Nicole Barylski

Once all the permits have been approved and the Cinema raises the $3 million needed, the restoration effort can begin. (Photo: www.facebook.com)

The Sag Harbor Cinema and Partnership are gearing up for a very busy summer of fundraising, which will commence just before Memorial Day weekend with A Yard Sale for the Cinema at Christ Episcopal Church on Saturday, May 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

While the loss of the Cinema has left a gaping hole on Main Street, the Sag Harbor Partnership is working hard to ensure that the gem is replaced soon.

"It is completely not done at all," April Gornik, Vice President of the Sag Harbor Partnership and Cinema Executive Committee Member, said about the status of the physical theater. "We haven't gotten our building permit yet. We've been able to go in and shore up some of the stuff that needed to be done - like there was a leak in the roof from the fire that we have fixed. The building's in excellent structural shape - which amazes me because it's so old. All the structural engineers that have been through it say that it's in fantastic shape, but that's the theater part of it that's still intact. The interior is moldy and needs a lot of remediation - so we're going to have to strip all of what's there out and clean it and put in a new HVAC system."

Although the permit process can be tedious, the Cinema has reached an exciting milestone. "We haven't been able to do any work because we've had to do our due diligence and go through every Village Board - we're happy to do it and we get why that's important and we want everyone to be happy, but it's not a fast process," Gornik shared. "However, we did just jump over our last hurdle at the ARB a couple of weeks ago so now we're filing for our building permit. Hopefully we'll have that soon."

Once that's approved, the Cinema hopes to already have the funding in place so they can move onto the next step. "Our construction team, which is a really great team of people who really know what they're doing, have told us that if we can raise $3 million by July 1st, we'll be able to begin building. We're very cognisant of the fact that summer on Main Street is a really important time for merchants and we are not going to be bringing in huge, heavy trucks and tearing up the middle of the street, and rerouting traffic and forcing businesses to be threatened by this. We have a lot of work we can do through the back and we can get building as soon as we get the building permit and $3 million."

The Cinema's currently nearly at the halfway mark for the necessary funding. "To be wise about the whole thing we don't want to start on a shoestring and have to catch up. We have a little over $1 million now and we've launched our phase 2 campaign - that's what we're doing right now," Gornik said. "We're seeking donations and to do that we're going back to people that we spoke to last year and were very generous to contribute. We're contacting new people, we're trying to do every benefit and offer that comes our way and we're happy to be doing it. It's great to be doing stuff on all different levels. That's what we're about anyways; we're about the whole community."

Part of the funding will no doubt come from what's turned into a summer tradition. "We're going to be doing a food truck event at Estia's in June, which I'm very excited about," she noted. "We're also going to be doing The Big Tent which is a huge lift and we're looking for sponsors for that because it's going to be a little more expensive because we have to take the tent down quicker - so that's an added expense."

And while July is still a ways away, many pieces of The Big Tent are already falling into place. "Many of the artists have already signed on, the HooDoo Loungers are coming back to play, restaurants on Main Street have already said they'll donate," Gornik said. "The Fire Department is going to come and grill hamburgers - that's one of the best things."

"I know after we did that [The Big Tent] last year a lot of people were inspired to help because they saw that the Partnership, and by extension the Cinema, is all about reaching out to the whole community and making a place where everyone can participate in the Sag Harborness of everything," she added. "That's July 8th."

As for the Yard Sale, that's just another example of the community coming forward to lend a helping hand. "The Reverend there, Karen Campbell, she's so dedicated to the community and diversity and helping on so many levels. They have this big lawn next to the church that's perfect for a yard sale and she just extended the offer for us to use it," Gornik gushed. "She's just wonderful and I feel like the longer we're doing this, the more we're making friends and connecting with more and more people in the community, and more aspects of the community - that in itself has been truly satisfying and inspiring for me. People that I never knew existed are coming forward and helping and that's exhilarating."

The Cinema is still looking for donations of coffee table books, new clothing and shoes, relatively new electronics (purchased within the last three years), furniture, DVD's, jewelry, purses, linens, pots, pans, glassware, dishes, antiques, frames, small kitchen appliances, artwork, prints, collectibles, new children's toys, gardening items, gift items and holiday decorations for the Yard Sale.

"We're hoping that people will bring stuff that day," she explained. Those interested in donating an item can reach out to info@saghaborpartnership.org for more information. In the case of inclement weather, the event will take place in Christ Episcopal Church's basement.

The story of the iconic "Sag Harbor" sign is another one that exemplifies goodwill. "These three guys have made it their mission to save and repair the sign. That would have been a $50,000 repair - we had it priced because we didn't know they had it, at first," she explained. "We knew it was in storage, but we didn't know they were helping. It's things like that - the community coming to the forward, the fact that most of the people that are working on this, we're all pro bono. We're a volunteer force of people who care."

For those thinking, can I really make a different? The answer is definitely and the 2017 Cinema fundraising campaign is a prime example of that. "Last year we had over $1 million raised from people who donated $1,000 or less. That in itself was very inspiring," Gornik said. "The other thing is that Nick Gazzolo, who is our President of the Partnership, he'd gone over our donation records, we're doing voluntary audits, and he was going over our donation list and it was close to 98 percent that was going to the Cinema; we're defraying admin costs whenever possible, we're doing everything we can to make this possible."

In addition to all the fundraising efforts, the Cinema is also presenting Zita Cobb: The Possibility of an Island Film, Fish & Art on Fogo Island at Pierson High School Auditorium on June 2. The free lecture with creator of Shorefast - whose mission is to "build cultural and economic resilience on Fogo Island" - will cover art, film, culture, economics, sustainability, and impact.

Christ Episcopal Church is located at 5 Hampton Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit www.sagharborcinema.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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