Gas-Powered Equipment Is Debated

A proposal to improve the nearly eight-acre Herrick Park in the heart of East Hampton Village put forth by a committee led by Rose Brown and Arthur Graham, trustees, was considered last Thursday by the East Hampton Village Board. At the urging of Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr., the board also removed an exemption for municipal properties and golf courses from a proposed law that would prohibit landscapers from using gas-powered leaf blowers and other landscaping equipment in the summer.

Herrick Park, which is leased by the school district, contains three tennis courts, two basketball courts, baseball and softball fields, and a playground. 

Ms. Brown said the committee had been holding meetings since the fall with village department heads, including Chief of Police Michael Tracey, as well as members of the Ladies Village Improvement Society, the Garden Club of East Hampton, the East Hampton School District, and others about plans for the park.

A path that runs through the park from the Reutershan parking lot to the long-term lot would be made handicapped accessible, Ms. Brown said, and in an effort to increase safety, lighting would be added. 

The committee has recommended replacing playground equipment and creating more formal entrances to the park from Newtown Lane and the Reutershan lot. It also recommended removing an existing handball wall, and, at Chief Tracey’s suggestion, relocating a shed used by traffic control officers from a site across from the John M. Marshall Elementary School to one near the long-term parking lot. 

“The largest undertaking will be the tennis and basketball courts,” Ms. Brown said. “The village engineer confirmed that they are beyond patching and need to be rebuilt.” 

The village is seeking proposals from interested firms for an improvement plan.

Under existing law, golf clubs and municipal properties are exempt from the times  designated for use of gas-powered lawn equipment. They also had been exempt from the latest iteration of a proposed summer ban until Mayor Rickenbach questioned their exclusion. “Any rationale why that is the case?” he asked board members. “I don’t want to have a duality,” he said, that is, enacting a law that would apply to professional landscapers but not to employees of the village or golf clubs.  

The proposed ban would prohibit such equipment use between June 1 and Labor Day, and at all times on Sundays and federal holidays (including between Labor Day and May 31).

“The best way for the village to proceed is to have no exemptions,” Mayor Rickenbach said on Tuesday. When a public hearing is held on the law, he said, affected parties will be able to voice their opinions and make a case for their exclusion. 

Richard Lawler, who along with Barbara Borsack led a committee that consulted residents, landscapers, and others prior to the drafting of the proposed law, said gas-powered devices were often necessary to clear large parcels of public property. Without them, he said, we “would leave ourselves open to having a lot of incomplete work.” 

Southampton Town, he said, allows its parks supervisor to determine when such devices are needed, and he recommended the village give its superintendent of public works the same authority. Ms. Borsack said her review of similar legislation in other municipalities revealed they all included exemptions for public property and golf clubs.

An early draft of the law, which was discussed  by the board last November, included village properties and golf courses. When Arthur Graham, a village trustee who is a member of the Maidstone Club, suggested that golf courses should be exempt, the mayor accused him of trying to protect the interests of the club.

Last Thursday, Mr. Graham once again argued for excluding the club from the law. “The Maidstone Club is taking care of 208 acres now,” he said. “It’s not somebody’s lawn, and they have special requirements.”

Ms. Brown said the village’s Public Works Department already uses electric leaf blowers when feasible, including to clean off sidewalks. She also pointed out that the law would not impose new restrictions for homeowners. 

The current code states that between June 1 and the second Friday of December, a homeowner or tenant’s use of gas or diesel-powered lawn equipment is limited to Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., on Saturday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., and on Sunday and federal holidays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. People other than a tenant or homeowner‚ in other words hired landscapers, must follow the same restrictions on weekdays and Saturdays, but they also are prohibited from using such equipment on Sundays and federal holidays.

The board will continue the discussion of the proposed law at a meeting on April 18, Becky Molinaro Hansen, the village administrator, said on Monday.

In other business, Steven Ringel, the executive director of the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce, sought the board’s approval for a summer fair in Herrick Park on Aug. 3. To distinguish the event from the village’s spring and fall festivals, he said, it would have a country-fair theme and include three-legged sack races and a pie-eating contest.  

Mayor Rickenbach said he was in favor of the idea and suggested the fair be scheduled to coincide with, and create a boost for, the annual Artists and Writers Softball Game, which Mr. Rickenbach said has had less attendance in recent years.