Future of East Williston tag sale is point of contention

Future of East Williston tag sale is point of contention
East Williston Village Hall. (Photo by Jed Hendrixson)

The Village of East Williston board on Tuesday weighed whether to move forward with the Annual East Williston Village Tag Sale this year.

Mayor Bonnie Parente and the village trustees discussed the pros and cons of a village-wide tag sale with resident Elise Vaidya, who said she would act as a chairperson for the tag sale and is married to Trustee Rushi Vaidya.

Board members discussed cons, such as a steady decline in participation and unsafe habits at prior village tag sales.

“I participated several years ago. I feel like it was still in its infancy and it was a little more of a community event,” Trustee Raffaela Dunne said. “Last year…it was all people from out of the area, so it really didn’t feel like a community event last year at all, and then it got really sketchy at the end. It really did, like the last hour and a half.”

The tag sale is usually held on one day in September from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Residents purchase permits, which cost $20 in past years, to sell their belongings from their front yard or driveway.

Those who set up a garage sale but do not purchase a permit must buy a day-of permit or risk being issued a violation. On the day of the tag sale, maps that highlight all of the participating homes are distributed at Village Hall.

East Williston has a longtime village rule prohibiting residents from holding garage sales on their property. Hence, a once-a-year tag sale allows neighbors to responsibly sell and recycle their belongings. The mayor said there are currently no plans to nix this village rule.

But the mayor and village trustees debated whether the tag sale was necessary this year since the number of participating homes has decreased.

Last year, about 40 homeowners participated, the trustees said. In pre-pandemic 2019, 55 homeowners participated.

In prior years, up to 80 homeowners regularly participated in the sale, Elise and Rushi said.

Parente, Dunne and Trustee Anthony Gallo mentioned “sketchy” behavior that included out-of-towners seemingly scoping out homes during tag sale day, pushing homeowners to sell specific items and loitering in neighborhoods.

But Elise Vaidya said a villagewide tag sale is an important event that fosters community bonding.

A point of contention was the inclusion of a rain date if the tag sale is held.

“The thought, which we had said in the past, was that having a rain date means you’re asking residents to give up an entire weekend, and not everyone is in favor of even having a tag sale,” Parente said. “The boards in the past have not been in favor of a rain date. I’m still not in favor of it for that reason.”

The mayor said it was unfair to ask non-participating residents to block off an entire weekend when they might want to host a party or an event at their own house.

The village trustees discussed the possibility of rain occurring on the rain date, in which case the tag sale would be canceled, and questioned why the sale would not just be canceled during the first day of rain.

Elise Vaidya argued that a rain date was necessary to prevent a last-minute accommodation and scramble, which she said happened last year.

“I think last year kind of proved that a rain date is necessary for an event like this and everyone was reaching out at the last minute saying what are we going to do? Is it happening? Is it not happening?” she said. “If you look at the history of the tag sale, it really had a rain date every year until 2022.”

The mayor, board and Elise Vaidya discussed preliminary plans for a tag sale, including the sale price of permits, the distribution of maps, the hiring of a public safety vehicle, the cost of advertisements and a recycling truck and more.

Ultimately, the board tabled the tag sale conversation for another meeting when the discussion about rain dates dissolved into yelling.

The mayor and Elise Vaidya discussed an independent survey that Elise Vaidya created and sent to random participants.

A little more than 30 residents completed the survey, which showed that 17 approved of the tag sale in its current format. Parente said Elise Vaidya did not notify the board of the survey’s existence before the Tuesday night meeting.

As the mayor and Elise Vaidya spoke, Rushi Vaidya repeated “I think we’re getting derailed” four times throughout their conversation, his voice raising in volume each time.

After his loudest comment, the mayor said at a similar volume, “Excuse me, Rushi. We’re having a conversation and I don’t think you’re in charge. Thank you.”

Elise Vaidya then asked the mayor why she was yelling.

“He [Rushi] just yelled. Are you kidding me?” Parente said.

A final decision on whether the tag sale will be held this year and whether it will include a rain date has not yet been made.

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