Neighbors worried about the current East Hampton Village administration’s designs on Herrick Park are rightly concerned. Almost since taking office, Mayor Jerry Larsen and his mentor-slash-benefactor, Brad Billet, have focused their attention on the century-old recreational space at the heart of the village. Why they are doing so is the question.
Herrick Park was functional as it was, yet the mayor and Mr. Billet have over and over sought to change it. At a recent village board meeting, a resident whose property line abuts the park objected to a revision that would expand the definition of the park to be a “cultural and recreational hub.” Then the mayor lost his cool.
Clearly something larger is afoot. Mr. Billet’s East Hampton Village Foundation has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into park projects. This would be a notable sum under almost any circumstances, but the foundation has been funded almost entirely by a single $1 million contribution from an anonymous donor whom Mr. Billet — and the mayor and village attorney — have steadfastly refused to name. In response to a freedom of information appeal seeking a public document containing names of the foundation’s donors, the village claimed without explaining why that giving up the information would be an invasion of privacy. Whose privacy, we wonder.
In the absence of openness, some kind of quid pro quo involving the mayor, the park, and Mr. Billet might be assumed. Indeed, at the recent board meeting, the mayor testily accused a member of the public of lying about being presented with a concept drawing for the park that included “pickleball, a permanent concert stage, all kinds of stuff — an ice-skating rink.”
Already, the mayor and co. have turned Main Beach into a live music venue on Tuesday nights. (Amplified sounds used to be prohibited at village beaches.) That should be enough. They simply need to be good caretakers for Herrick Park and stop messing with a good thing.