Letters to the Editor

Our readers' comments | October 10, 1996

Not A Burden
East Hampton
October 8, 1996

To The Editor,

   As in many things, the Town of East Hampton has its disabled stars. We have Dennis Oehler, a para Olympics medalist in Atlanta, whose feats in amputee track and field events rival those of Carl Lewis in the "abled" Olympics.
   We have Bruce Damark, whose grace and dexterity in a wheelchair often reduces the most cumbersome ramps to tears of frustration.
   But for every Bruce and Dennis, we have hundreds of people whose inadequate hand and upper body strength preclude such self sufficiency, hundreds of people who want to participate in the life of their community as much as Bruce and Dennis, and, who, in 1990, rejoiced in the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act because they saw it as an opportunity to do so and to contribute to East Hampton rather than be a burden.
   The United States Congress, which may not be as unenlightened as we like to think it is, passed the Americans With Disabilities Act overwhelmingly, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals alike, because it understood it was legislation that was both fair and frugal, fair to the millions of disabled people who want to be a part of life and frugal to the taxpayer for whom it is less costly to free people than warehouse them.
   Recently, a representative of the Heritage Foundation think tank who I ungraciously suspect was trying to drum up business by scaring people, stepped forth onto the television screen and, holding up pictures of Beethoven and Stephen Hawking, proclaimed in effect: "Be like them."
   Go forth with your deafness and write a Ninth Symphony, with your paralysis and be one of the age's great scientists. We can't afford this law, they claim, it is hurting business.
   The facts are that the law was carefully drafted not to be a burden on businesses. In a recent Harris Poll, some 80 percent of chief executive officers of the country's 50 largest corporations said the law should be left as it is or even expanded.
   And if any business, large or small, believes that putting in a ramp, widening a doorway, installing an audio and visual fire alarm, or any such other accommodation is an unreasonable burden, it has only to demonstrate this and it need not comply.
   We are coming out of the closet. I am going to go with my friends to the movies and hear with the FM or infra-red system required by the A.D.A. (and New York State law) rather than sit stoically, with some micro, miniature, presumably invisible, in-the-ear device that can't do the job, and pretend I'm having a great time.
   Mary Walsh is going to go to the Old Whalers Church in Sag Harbor, bypass its steep steps by using its wheelchair lift, and hear Pete Seeger rather than sit home and settle for the tape.
   Deborah Hoey is going to use our restaurants. We are out of the closet and we are going to do this. Believe me, we are. We are going to do this because it is fair, it is the law, and it makes sense.
   And we will happily pay our way.



Not Accessible
East Hampton
October 6, 1996

Dear Editor,

   The other day I was reading another article about the Hamptons Film Festival. This will bring in movies from all over the world, and they'll be shown at the United Artists Cinema in East Hampton.
   This is the same theater that the East End Disabilities Group fought a nine-month battle with to make the entrance, bathrooms, concession counter, and seating accessible. The group also got United Artists to put in an infra-red sound system for the hearing impaired.
   This took nine months of letter writing, meetings, phone calls to the headquarters of United Artists, more meetings, and finally leafleting the weekend before Memorial Day to ask people to boycott the movie theater until it stopped its discrimination of the disabled. Finally, it did the right thing.
   The Hamptons Film Festival has a chairperson of its board of directors, Toni Ross, who also happens to be the co-owner of the Honest Diner, Rowdy Hall, and Nick and Toni's. All three of these restaurants have problems with accessibility.
   The Honest Diner most of all - from the parking lot to the bathrooms. I had first mentioned this about three years ago when I was eating in the restaurant. I believe it was the manager, and she basically "yessed" me and said she knew exactly what I was talking about.
   This summer, I had to call Newsday because it had given a review of Rowdy Hall, and, in it, it said that the place was accessible. It was not and still isn't. I have hand-delivered a letter to Rowdy Hall addressed to its owners and sent a certified, return receipt letter also. There has been no answer.
   A friend of mine has a sign from the old days hanging on her porch which says, "Irish need not apply." If a sign were hung outside of the Honest Diner and said, "Handicapped people will not be served," I believe people would be outraged.
   I believe that if Christopher Reeve was coming out and was going to stop by the Honest Diner for a cup of java there might be some action. But right now, there isn't. How do I get people to see this problem? What do they need to become aware of the problem?
   It has been said that down south when black folks had to ride in the backs of buses the average person never thought about it. They just accepted it and went on with their business. Maybe Toni Ross and Jeff Salaway can get on a wheelchair for a little while and see how they would get into the Honest Diner. Maybe then they would see the problem.
   I know that Toni Ross is a sensitive person. She has to be because she is chairperson of the Hamptons Film Festival. People involved in the arts and in education have always been sensitive people - people who have fought for the rights of people less fortunate than them.
   The great writers like Dickens, Hugo, and Zola have always brought issues to the forefront and raised the consciousness of thousands, even millions, by their works.
   Many of these novels were turned into great movies and reached even greater audiences. Laura Hobson's Academy Award-winner, "Gentleman's Agreement," Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," and Ron Kovic's "Born on the Fourth of July" all had a powerful effect on the social consciousness of the times.
   Let me say this as clearly as I can. I can't understand how someone like Toni would be unaware of what the problem is. If this was the day after the Honest Diner opened, okay. Or let's say six months, even a year, but not three years.
   Three years and Toni Ross didn't know that she was discriminating against the disabled, the old Kathy Lee Gifford two-step. (Her investment was all the way down in El Amagansett.) This is not even close.
   Is Jeff coming down to hand out money at the next disabilities meeting? There must be a reason. Could it be money? Toni should know that there are tax benefits for making an establishment like the Honest Diner accessible. Also, our group will help you get low-interest loans if you need them.
   Last, but not least, if Toni and Jeff open up their books and can show financial hardship, they are entitled to an exemption.



Rights Of Disabled
East Hampton
October 6, 1996

Dear Editor,

   The East End Disabilities Group, a not-for-profit corporation, first approached the owners of the Honest Diner restaurant three years ago, asking them to make their place accessible to people with disabilities.
   The East End Disabilities Group was created for the sole purpose of fighting for the rights of the disabled, and it is charged with the job of making the East End of Long Island accessible. We should not have had to do this, as they are required by law to do so.
   Now in 1996, three years later, nothing has been done. There is no handicapped parking, no path to the entrance, no accessible entrance, and bathrooms that do not comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
   Rowdy Hall (formerly O'Mally's on Main Street), owned by the same people and renovated this year, does not have an accessible entrance (it has a makeshift plywood ramp that can be dangerous and does not comply with the law) and needs modifications in the bathrooms. Nick and Toni's, again same owners, also have problems with their parking lot.
   Specifically, they do not have the correct number of handicapped parking spots and unloading zones and the one parking spot is not properly identified. The lip at the beginning of the entrance ramp is too high and dangerous. People with mobility impairments, such as stroke victims, can trip on that lip very easily and it is a barrier to people using wheelchairs.
   The East End Disabilities Group has established procedures that seek to obtain accessibility for disabled people while respecting the needs and problems of business. In 1993, during our effort to obtain accessibility to East Hampton and Southampton United Artists Cinemas, we contacted the owners and only took action, protesting and leafleting outside the theaters, reluctantly when they failed to respond to us. Our organization never requests any accommodation that is not required by the law. Now we face a similar situation with the owners of these three restaurants.
   There can be no question that the owners know what needs to be done. There is also no question that they have been served ample notice. The only question that remains is what will it take to get them to obey the law and respect the rights of the disabled.


Board Members,
East End Disabilities Group Inc.

   A story on the subject appears today. Ed.

New Web Presence
Blanchard, N.M.
October 4, 1996

To The Editor:

   Congratulations on your effective new presence on the Web. It's almost enough to negate the need for the hard copy that I have been receiving at the Serafina Post Office here in Blanchard, N.M., for years.
   But last week's issue sure won't light the wood stove fires as well, now will it? It doesn't smell the same, either, like home ya know. I don't think you have anything to worry about as far as losing subscriptions to Hamptons Online is concerned. More pictures! Thanks.

East Hampton High School, 1970

On The Web

East Hampton
October 7, 1996
Dear Editor:

   I really enjoyed your recent article on who's on the Web. Please check out the home page for the Kiwanis Club of East Hampton at www. hamptonsweb.com/kiwanis (hyphen not included). I think you will find that we are one of the first service organizations to go on the Web.
   We plan on keeping this updated on all upcoming events that we will be sponsoring. Should anyone like to contact us, we can be reached by writing to East Hampton Kiwanis Club, P.O. Box 1902, East Hampton 11937, or E-mail me at VKquick @msn.com (hyphen not included).


Kiwanis Club