Letters to the Editor: 03.07.13

Our readers' comments

Zoning Change for Cyril’s
    March 4, 2013
Dear Editor.
    At tonight’s town board hearing (March 7, 7 p.m.), the rezoning proposal for Cyril’s Fish House will be considered.
    Changing the zoning to neighborhood commercial will create more problems than it will solve. It would be akin to the American Automobile Association arriving to help a stranded motorist who has run out of gas and installing a new gas gauge in the vehicle indicating “full” rather than supplying gas.
    On the East Hampton Town Web site under Planning, the following is the Planning Department’s  own recommendation:
    “Montauk Highway Corridor — Restrict the amount of commercial and residential development which could impair the functionality of the Town’s main roadway and change the intimate, small scale character of the area to a congested retail strip mall.”
    There are many existing problems with Cyril’s, but allowing this zoning change would be a step in the wrong direction for East Hampton and the residents of Amagansett.

Dangerous Precedent
    March 5, 2013
Dear David,
    Tonight at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, the East Hampton Town Board will open a can of worms: They will hold a public hearing on an ill-considered plan to rezone Cyril’s Fish House.
    The big unanswered question is Why? Most residents know this outdoor bar on the Napeague stretch as the wildly overcrowded watering hole that spills unsteady customers out onto Montauk Highway where massive numbers of cars are precariously parked, creating a season-long hazard. What some may not know is that there are 24 outstanding violations attached to this property, and that the East Hampton Planning Department has written a weighty report citing negative findings on the application from town, county, and state agencies. It is their professional opinions that rezoning this property from Residential to Neighborhood Business would be detrimental on environmental and land use grounds.
    In addition, it seems obvious that town board approval of Cyril’s change of zone will create a dangerous precedent for other nonconforming sites in this fragile area, a FEMA flood zone.
    And, of course, this looks like spot-zoning; in fact, this request to rezone reminds Amagansett residents of the questionable attempt, a few years ago, to rezone a historic residence on Main Street to Neighborhood Business.
    The Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee, a group known as much for its diverse political views as for its community advocacy, has overwhelmingly and unanimously announced its strong opposition to this application.
    The public hearing is open to all. The board should reject this application.

Gone Are the Days
    March 4, 2013
Dear David,
    After building my home in East Hampton Town over 50 years ago, I felt that I had experienced almost all the vagaries that could happen in a small community. There were several discussions regarding the town building code (which I lost), but finally I had my little piece of paradise to share with my family. I salved any irritation I may have had with the thought that the town was protecting the very points that made me want to live in East Hampton township.
    But over the last five decades I have seen those very same idealistic qualities that made this area endearing to many of us, lost forever. Gone are the cranberry patches, covered with yards of fill and topped with McMansions. Gone are the quiet beaches where the children could play without worrying about four-wheel drives zooming past. Ditto the custom of taking back from the beach what you brought up to the beach. Gone are the days where animal waste or loose newspapers didn’t dictate where you could lie on the sand, or empty liquid containers threatened your bare feet.
    We now have homeowners planting beyond their property lines up to the very edge of the macadam (on town property) so pedestrians and other users must walk in the street, endangered by heedless traffic. And now we have a town government failing to back up decisions made by their appointed boards.
    My 85 years of life have taught me that financial gain is the universal driving force,  but is it too much to hope for a little law and order to protect our life values?
    The loss of low points that formerly contained and controlled storm runoff will in the future entail massive costs for positive drainage and repaving because of the loss of natural drainage. Loss of proper sight distances at intersections because of over-landscaping  will make the town the butt of many, many lawsuits.
    While these and other errors in judgment or oversight will not be immediately apparent, future rise in taxes caused by these errors will make East Hampton Town inhospitable to working families and retired people.

The Rule of Law
    March 4, 2013
Dear Editor,
    Considering your editorial titled “Election 2013: The Rule of Law‚” I think it’s perceptive, and I agree with you in nearly every point and example of how WilkQuig has abused all of us in the last three years. The most recent example is the fact the town attorneys ­didn’t bother to show up at court to defend a Z.B.A. decision and the code the decision was founded on — something that’s unprecedented and morally, if not legally, against the oath to defend the people and laws of East Hampton.
    You were diplomatic and said there’s growing “speculation” that the town lawyers weren’t there by design. Reading the list of examples of questionable actions undertaken by WilkQuig, and that they’ve been often thwarted, it’s hard to not “speculate” it’s by design. Anyone who needs to “speculate” ­hasn’t been paying attention.
    One thing we don’t need to speculate on is WilkQuig recognizing they have ­only 10 months left in their term and only 10 months left to burn our house down. I hope Councilwoman Overby, Councilman Van Scoyoc, and especially Councilman Stanzione, who is key, will continue to pay attention and save us.
    This is not a joke. The serious damage WilkQuig can do will harm us for many years and only Overby, Van Scoyoc, and Stanzione can stop it. We must support each of them.

Headed Out the Door
    February 26, 2013
Dear David,
    Now the political screenings seem to be over, and our Emperor William and queen of mean “Theresa the Terrible” are headed out the door. No wonder and what took so long?
    We all know how brilliant they are and no one measures up to their intellect . . . as they so often rant.
    A constant acerbic, demeaning, and utter disdain, not only toward other elected officials but employees and the public as well. Enough of this Mirror, Mirror on the Wall. The sudden resignation of his assistant — a lawsuit coming?
    I have never seen such a compounded display of boorish arrogance, disrespect, and downright meanness ever displayed by an elected official at any governmental function! I assume they felt they were Don Rickles at a celebrity roast.
    They are so self-absorbed by their own sense of importance. This below-juvenile behavior is so stupid, and enough to label them as a laughingstock embarrassment. Maybe they should look at the professional demeanor of the other elected board members.
    Emperor William and his charming personality has been left standing naked in the rain by his own party. No one promotes a definite loser.
    Ms. Quigley declines to run? Oh my! Her stellar record of abusing people and outlandish remarks and decisions could have gotten her elected, especially with  residents in Springs and her disgusting “Nazi” comment that the Emperor William refused to condemn. They have and will continue to cause enough damage here.
    So their end-of-watch party can be held in a telephone booth. I think there is one remaining — in Foggy Bottom, Kentucky.

Montauk’s Erosion
    March 4, 2013
Dear David,
    The sensible approach to downtown Montauk’s erosion is a basic beach nourishment and dune restoration project. It could be shovel-ready much sooner than the engineering solutions being discussed by the town erosion committee. An Erosion Protection Tax District could be established later to maintain the beach over time.
    Additionally, floodproofing buildings to FEMA flood standards is a better way to protect them than with hard structures. And it would attract federal mitigation money to alleviate costs.
    However, in its rush to secure Hurricane Sandy relief funds to protect the Montauk motels, the erosion committee, prodded by Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, has put forward a proposal for an “engineered beach‚” and floated the idea of a dune constructed with a “rock core.”
    “Engineered beach” means one designed by the Army Corps of Engineers, whose predilection for groins and jetties is well known. A dune with a rock core is another name for a rock revetment covered with sand. Bob DeLuca is one committee member who has cautioned against hard structures and their effect on the beach. Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc is also unconvinced.
    Hard structures on ocean beaches, including rock revetments, are contrary to town policy and against the local erosion protection law. Changing the policy and laws involves amendment of the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, as well as rewriting town code. That process requires public notice and hearings, probable environmental impact statements, and approval by state and federal agencies. It will take time, and there will be opposing views, as there should be.
    Hard structures are precluded on the ocean because they cause scouring and aggravate downdrift erosion. They can have unintended consequences. For example, a hurricane could just as easily flood downtown Montauk from the bay side through Fort Pond, in which case revetments would retain floodwaters behind them. Damage would increase from a so-called “surge‚” as trapped floodwaters try to escape to the ocean. Think bathtub.
    The committee has not analyzed specific threats and appropriate responses, such as the magnitude of storm surge in a Category 1, 2, or 3 hurricane, or the long-term effects of sea-level rise, predicted to be at least one to three feet this century. On the tax map there is a street that is already under water off downtown Montauk, part of its layout from the 1920s. That occurred with less than a foot of sea-level rise over the last century. Need we say more?
    A broader historical and scientific perspective of Montauk’s erosion problem will guide the community toward simpler and less risky solutions.

Rational Path
    March 4, 2013
Dear David,
    The town’s airport attorney and noise consultant have told the town board that the town must determine what restrictions it wishes to impose at the airport. This simple demand should be the starting point for those with opposing views to begin to work together.
    The first step is to form a broad-based committee to work with the town board to determine what noise and access restrictions to seek. Secondly, the committee and the town board need a real financial review, including an interactive spreadsheet, that studies the financial impacts of proposed changes in number of operations and in various fee structures. The financial review can determine if the airport can be self-sustaining with minimal or no taxpayer subsidy.
    Once adequate noise and access restrictions are determined, the town board can move forward with a Part 161 noise study. It can then try to legally establish these restrictions, even before some grant assurances expire on Dec. 31, 2014. However, it is critical for the success of this approach, as well as to preserve all options, that the town not accept new Federal Aviation Administration money until the town is successful in winning adequate restrictions. This approach will allow those with opposing views to move forward together.
    It is obviously less costly to run the airport if the town receives F.A.A. money for capital projects. But whether the town can get adequate restrictions in this scenario (and for a reasonable legal cost) is the question that no one can predict with any certainty. However, it is rational to try. It may cost more in legal fees to impose restrictions now, while under a stricter F.A.A. contract, but if the town wins, it can receive money in the future for capital projects without losing the controls that it has won.
    On the other hand, it will be easier to impose restrictions once the grant assurances have expired. According to the F.A.A. response issued through Representative Tim Bishop’s office, when the grant assurances expire, the roles of the town and the F.A.A. will shift in a way that is favorable to achieving the town’s goals of controlling air traffic.
    However, the same document indicates that there will still likely be legal and regulatory hurdles that could cost millions of dollars to overcome. It will be easier to win — but not easy. Nonetheless, the legal cost of achieving any specified set of restrictions will likely be lower, and the probability of success will likely be higher compared to attempting the same restrictions before Dec. 31, 2014.
    It is also strategically helpful to not accept any new F.A.A. money while the town tries to convince the F.A.A. to allow restrictions while grant assurances are still active. Our bargaining position is strengthened because the F.A.A. knows it will have less authority after the grant assurances expire.
    Lastly, the town has sufficient funds to move forward. The $80,000 deer fence study and $500,000 Part 161 noise study can use money from the airport’s $1.5 million surplus. There is also over $500,000 available in the 2013 budget to pay for outside contractors and professionals beyond the $415,000 already available to pay for the control tower.
    In summation, the two sides can disagree on which approach is better — trying to impose restrictions now, or later, when grants assurances expire — but there is a rational path forward upon which they should both agree: move forward on imposing restrictions now and do not take more F.A.A. money before the town achieves adequate noise and access controls.
    We must begin to find common ground and work together as much as possible. Otherwise, there will be endless legal and political battles which may lead to rash actions that unnecessarily impose great harm to many residents.

    East Hampton
    March 4, 2013
Dear Mr. Rattray,
    Contrary to statements by the East Hampton Airport opponents, the airport is not being expanded. Just the opposite is true.
    After a 10-year process with a dozen public hearings, the town recently approved a new airport master plan which eliminates a runway, shortens and narrows another runway, and keeps the third runway the same length as it was built in 1936.
    The airport master plan has been upheld by the courts and nothing can be done at the airport for many years to come that is contrary to the plan.
    Further, the East Hampton Airport aircraft traffic is contracting, not expanding. According to the latest town figures, since 2007, helicopter and jet flights have each declined by 16 percent while flights of other types of aircraft have declined by 42 percent.
    We urge the town board to commence repairs of Runway 4-22, needed for safety reasons by local small-plane pilots.
    East Hampton Aviation Association

An Essential Facility
    February 24, 2013
Dear David,
    It’s obvious to me from Stephen Levine’s sarcastic apology for his creative and completely erroneous enhancement of my résumé that he is a person with strongly held opinions and little understanding of the subject. I think it unlikely that he would allow fact to interfere with his agenda.
    Mr. Levine, you might try actually reading what I wrote instead of trying to put words in my mouth about what my interests are and where I stand in regard to the airport.
    The fact that I’m a pilot does not eliminate me from having a legitimate right to support a facility that I and many others find essential to the town’s infrastructure, whether one uses it or not.
    Perhaps if you would be honest and admit that your real goal is to see the airport closed permanently and are not interested in any noise mitigation initiatives being pursued by the town, we could get past some of the roadblocks and delaying tactics being used by airport opponents and start some meaningful dialogue.
    I have never said there wasn’t a noise problem and have, as a matter of fact, spent considerable amount of time and effort over the last 20-odd years attempting to get the town to address the issue. I have served on three different noise abatement committees during two different administrations and always the same result, no follow-up by the town board.
    Town administrations come and go and just give lip service to airport issues, promising everything to everyone and delivering nothing to anyone, with the one exception of Dominick Stanzione, who appears to have paid a heavy price for having the audacity to take on the problem with little help or cooperation from the town board.
    At the expense of repeating myself for the umpteenth time, whether the town seeks federal funds or not, as long as East Hampton Airport is a public-use facility, air traffic is under the jurisdiction of the F.A.A., not the town.
    David Gruber and company have been preaching to their followers that when several grant assurances expire at the end of 2014, the town will be able to impose “reasonable” restrictions on air traffic as an answer to the noise problem. The remainder of grant assurances actually continue until 2021.
    It would be interesting to see the comparison of how the F.A.A. views reasonable vs. how Mr. Gruber interprets it.
    All this hinges on completion of an F.A.A. Part 161 noise study which the town had the opportunity to initiate over a year ago and has still not started. The noise study will take some time to complete and is sure to be challenged anyway, just like every other study ever done.
    Speaking of closing the airport, here is something to consider for those who resent the “wealthy minority who use the airport.” Imagine, if you will, a local real estate broker trying to sell a megamillion-dollar beachfront property to a prospective buyer. Since we have full-disclosure laws concerning real estate sales, the buyer is entitled, and the broker is required to provide, all pertinent information about the property.
    The dialogue might include such things as the enormous property tax that will be paid into the town coffers, the largest part of which is school tax, even though the buyer’s children most likely won’t be enrolled here. These hefty taxes will help to keep the property tax of “locals” low compared to, say, Nassau County.
    In addition there will be the 2 percent sales tax collected for the Community Land Preservation fund to purchase undeveloped land and development rights so we can acquire more open land. This fund has had many uses, sometimes to even balance the town budget!
    Oh, and by the way, we plan to close the airport, so you’ll have to use our overburdened two-lane highway to travel to your new home. But not to worry, you can load up all your friends, family, and pets in your Prius, and if you’re lucky enough to make it to the Long Island Expressway, you can cruise in the HOV lane and relax while you listen to your MP3 player.
    And, in the case of a major catastrophe like the Hurricane of 1938, or Sept. 11, or Hurricane Sandy, if emergency supplies and medical evacuation is necessary, you’ll be out of luck unless you might want to try our Coastal Evacuation Route with the thousands of other residents trying to get out because, in our infinite wisdom, we chose to eliminate the airport.
    For those who have set their opinion about the airport in stone, and are not interested in anything less than the closure of the airport, please disregard my comments.
    To those who are in favor of listening to real facts and figures and wish to make up their own minds as to whether the town benefits from having a well-maintained and efficient facility, remember that opponents of the airport have done their best to cloud the issues and have cost the town millions of dollars to defend itself against lawsuits and appeals that have never prevailed in court, using the same arguments that they use in the media and town board meetings.
    If the courts don’t believe their arguments, why should you?

Witty Headline
    East Hampton
    February 27, 2013
To the Editor:
    Congratulations to your headline writer for the witty headline “Springs Hopes Eternal” in your Feb. 21 issue.

Dog Walkers Care
    March 2, 2013
Dear David,
    I was heartened to read the numerous letters over the last two weeks written in support of the right of people to take their dogs to the village beaches.
    There may be little to add to the discussion other than another voice, but the risk of having this right and pleasure taken away makes every voice important. As others have written, everyone has things that annoy them, but that is not a reason to start banning everything that bothers anyone. If that is going to be the case, let’s get rid of vehicles on the beach, catered beach parties, cycling on Further Lane, Kadima, loud people, and bathing suits that show too much.
    Dog owners care about their right to use the beach, but they also care about the beach itself. In addition to cleaning up after their pets, many dog owners clean the beach of forgotten cups, cans, bottles, balloons, and firework shells in the mornings. If this ban does come to pass, the next issue will be the amount of trash left on the beaches, trash that most people had no idea gathered along the tide lines overnight, only to be picked up by the dog walkers in the morning.

Lunch and the Play
    East Hampton
    March 4, 2013
Dear Editor,
    The senior citizens wish to thank the East Hampton High School students and staff for inviting us to lunch and the play. We enjoyed the music while lunch was served by students.
    The play was wonderful with a great cast. There were several faculty members, including Superintendent Richard Burns, in the cast. We also wish Serena Seacat the best in her new endeavor. She will be missed.

Costs Mounted
    March 4, 2013
Dear David,
    When Superstorm Sandy hit our part of the Island, most people experienced a power outage that was inconvenient and lasted as long as a week to 10 days. However, there were a handful of East Hampton folks who suffered a bit more. I refer to those us who were surged by LIPA, resulting anywhere from severe losses of electrical equipment to shorts and small fires.
    I was one of those unlucky people. In my case, LIPA workers, in haste to restore power as quickly as possible, neglected to look up at the wires connected to my house and notice that a wire was hanging. This important wire is called the floating neutral. Without this connection there is an excessive amount of electricity roaring into the house, thus electronic equipment is literally fried. Everything from stoves, alarm clocks, TVs, a router, telephones, microwave, a computer, hot water heater, furnace, even light bulbs was lost. If it was plugged into an outlet it was lost, except for the fridge, dishwasher, and washer-dryer, and only God and the company that makes these appliances know why they weren’t lost.
    Where did November go? I spent the month going back and forth to P.C. Richard as each device in my home was declared worthless by service people and had to be replaced.
    I submitted a claim to LIPA, determined that my insurance company should not have to pay for LIPA’s carelessness, only to be told that it was the storm that broke the wire — duh! Since everything worked beautifully before, of course, the storm was implicated, but so was LIPA.
    After the costs mounted, I decided to get in touch with Representative Tim Bishop. Tim put me in touch with his office in the person of a young man named Bilal Malik who facilitated the LIPA’s claims adjuster coming out to my house and finally settling the claim with me. The final sum garnered cannot cover all the tangential expenses (no stove for a month), but at least I was able to recoup a portion of my losses.
    The stress involved in one month of getting my house back to normal can never be repaid, but without Tim Bishop, I would be dealing with an insurance company, its deductible, and it would probably raise my rates. Thank you, Mr. Bishop and Mr. Malik, for good service.

Reforming the Economy
    East Hampton
    March 3, 2013
To rhe Editor:
    In the Sunday Review section of The New York Times there is an article called “The Great Divide” by Monica Prasad. The questions she poses and the observations on government — its size, its efficacy, and its purpose — should frame the debate in our country over what we want our economy to accomplish. But Mr. Obama in the center and the Tea Party on the far right don’t ask any questions, and what they want to accomplish resolves little of our current problems.
    The Tea Party wants to make government smaller (like it never was before) and reduce the deficit. Admirable as a small piece of a larger package of reforming the economy, but pointless and really stupid as separate pieces. Mr. Obama wants to stimulate the economy and create jobs but refuses to recognize that the economy he wants to stimulate doesn’t really work for most of us. Neither of the two approaches is willing to deal with reality and “suspend disbelief.” In other words, they are relative degrees of being full of crap.
    Ms. Prasad writes that ours is a consumption model. Eat and buy ourselves into prosperity. Taking on huge debts to continue consuming, because real wages and income have been dropping for the past 30 years. So we create alternative economies that function within yet apart from the general economy. Richard Brill’s March 4 Time magazine story on the health care system is a perfect example of a part of the economy functioning as a disconnected subculture, health care being vitally important but essentially detached and running amok.
    Yet even more detached and troubling is our descent into widespread poverty. Historically in America, as the economy expanded, people’s incomes grew along with it. As incomes grew, people were able to consume better-quality and more expensive goods, and shops and services were created to provide for this demand. We seemed to grow in that relationship, however sporadically, until 1980.
    In 1980 we see the beginning of an economic transformation to lower real incomes and debt accumulation. As the pattern continues and people have less disposable income, the necessary infrastructure to service a poorer economy surfaces. Cheap fast-food chains, dollar stores, Wal-Mart. As incomes continue to slip, the ability to provide cheap goods and services becomes a function of paying lower wages, and what was once an upward spiral is now moving in the opposite direction. With the minimum wage stuck in place for more than a decade and goods being made cheaply in Asia and South America, cheap local labor, the critical component, became available.
    But it is unrealistic to expect someone to survive on $7.50 an hour without benefits. So the government provided the SNAP program (food stamps) as a subsidy to corporate companies specializing in providing cheap products to the population.
    This really sucks from any ideological perspective. With 46 million people on food stamps (15 percent of the population) and growing, we are not talking recession.
    The economy doesn’t work for these 46 million (and maybe the real number is 146 million and possibly 246). The conversation about our economy has to happen. Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?


Always Misleading
    March 1, 2013
To the Editor,
    The United States of America is spending $37,895 per second on our debt, when we have so much waste, fraud, and abuse in our government. When you hear of millions being spent on studies not necessary you want to scream. When you hear it took years and years to realize that doctors and walk-in clinics beat the government out of millions with false Medicare claims, etc., etc.
    Now let’s talk about the president with his background of first responders: Aren’t you getting tired of his background to make a point, everyday people in the Rose Garden getting fitted for white coats and graduating to title of doctor, now first responders who are not going to lose their jobs because of the sequester? He jumped the gun on the sequester, which he owns as of 2011 and all Democrats voted for, but now that it is here they blame everyone but themselves.
    This sequester is not going to make a difference, but the president did his gloom and doom campaign on the road crying about all the jobs that are going to be lost, jumped the gun with pink slips to teachers, which I believe has nothing to do with sequester. I don’t know who let the illegals out of jail claiming because of the sequester they can’t afford them. Who did this when the sequester didn’t even come yet?
    This president is always misleading the public, has a credibility problem. Obama only received 52 percent of the vote, not a landslide, and thinks he’s entitled to get everything he wants. He has an unwillingness to bargain. It’s my way or the highway, and the White House threatens everyone who disagrees with him. As of today he is backtracking on the sequester; all of a sudden it won’t be so bad. And, as far as threats, what do we have in office — a Chicago thug? Mr. President, come down to Earth and try to lead.