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Letters to the Editor: 02.20.20

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 10:34

Heart of the Legion
February 13, 2020

To the Editor,

Hi, just a little note of thanks to the lovely ladies of the American Legion Post 419 auxiliary. I was the recipient of an overflowing, wonderful Thanksgiving wash-basket. In an early time it would have carried an East End family through a long, cold winter, supplemented with fish and venison, of course. The ladies of the auxiliary are really the beating heart of the Legion — then and now.

As a young sailor back in the ’50s, I was patrolling the icy waters of the North Atlantic with my submarine squadron 10, 21 years old, just married. Did I miss my sweetheart back home! They were all sweethearts back home. Those girls were our dreams, always. They should always remember how important they were. Today, they form the auxiliary, still supporting their guys. Thank you, beautiful ladies. Thank you for your service.


P.S. : Still got my sweetheart of 67 years. Her name is Jeanne.

Duck Food
East Hampton
February 17, 2020

To the Editor,

On Saturday, I visited the Nature Trail in East Hampton to feed the ducks. Upon arrival, I was very disappointed not to see any signs that said do not feed the ducks bread. I looked in the water and saw Cheerios strewn all over at the bottom of the water.

Please do not feed the ducks bread or any other kind of people food. You can pick up duck food at the local pet store. And I also urge the village to please put up a sign. Thank you.


Absence of Blue Jays
East Hampton
February 15, 2020

Dear East Hampton Star,

Where are my blue jays? I returned from my annual six-week holiday season visit with my family in the city about Jan. 11 or so. I got around to filling the feeders a few days later. The birds found the feeders within a day or two, and three days after they did, I had most of the birds I’m used to seeing in winter at the feeders almost constantly. This included a northern cardinal, white-throated sparrow, dark-eyed junco, song sparrow, house finch, American goldfinch, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker — I even had a visit from a mourning dove.

The thing is that, comparing my lists from previous years, as well as my own expectation, there were three missing species. The red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches are both somewhat irregular visitors and, in the case of the red-breasted, it has only been seen in my yard for about four years. The trouble is that for the past three previous years, both were among the first to return to the feeders. Two days ago, I finally saw the white-breasted nuthatches which have been back every day since. Still no sign of the red-breasted nuthatch though.

What concerns me most deeply, however, has been the absence of blue jays. I can’t remember any time when there were not blue jays in my yard. This goes back a good 45 years to my childhood feeding birds on the same property. After any absence on my part, blue jays have usually been one of the first, if not the first, birds in my yard to find that the feeders were restocked. They were coming to the feeders in typical numbers before I left in late November, now they seem to be M.I.A.

And it’s not only in my yard. In being out and about, I’m used to seeing them occasionally from the car or as I walk past someone’s property where they have a feeder. I haven’t seen a single blue jay since being back. I have even asked several people.

Those whose opinions I trust most have all checked back with me to say that they haven’t seen any blue jays either. A few others insist that they remember seeing them but can’t say exactly when. This is not to say that there actually is something wrong, and you may actually be seeing blue jays in your yard. I would have to do a much wider survey and actually go out looking for blue jays to really say if anything is off. What I do know is that in my yard there is something different.

It’s not the food. I’ve been offering the same foods for more than 20 years with only slight variation when I couldn’t get one or another for some reason.

It’s not the location. My feeding station has been where it is for more than 30 years.

It’s not new predators. At least I don’t think so. I’ve had cats and hawks in the past and they have never deterred any of my birds. In fact the jays are the watchmen of the feeding area.

I’ve wondered if it has to do with a lack of acorns, as we had last winter.

I also wonder if it has anything to do with the massive spate of tree removal in my neighborhood. My reason for doubting this is that I still have cavity-nesting birds in quantity. Surely they would be scarce if this was a problem. It simply doesn’t fit with blue jay ecology that they would vanish because of tree removal. At least what I know about them.

I’ve also seemed to notice a lack in crows, both fish and American. Blue jays belong to the same family, Corvidae, which comprises crows, jays, and magpies. Could there be a new corvid-specific disease going around? Possibly, but I have not been able to find any information so I doubt it.

The continued absence of blue jays at my feeder remains a bit of a puzzle. It’s a well-publicized fact that the blue jay population in the Eastern United States has dropped by 20 percent from 1985 to 2015. This has not been enough to qualify them as endangered or even threatened; however, any bird which is in decline should be a worry.

I keep thinking of Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring,” in which she speculates on a future in which birds have vanished from the world and their songs are no longer the underscore of spring — or any other time of year. Food for thought.

Thanks for reading.




Thinking back at trends,

In the turn of the century

the actresses had big ends!

It was lovely to be just

portly and round,

and Lillian Russell didn’t

take off a pound.

This might be the way again,

if what goes around

comes around.


Plastic Signs
East Hampton
February 13, 2020

Dear David,

As we approach election time, I’m reminded of the awful billboards that used to litter the Napeague stretch in the ’50s and ’60s. There aren’t many of us left who would remember, but they were unsightly.

My Dad, Al Conklin, and Robert Vetault, under Supervisor Tom Gilmartin had the foresight and common sense to pass a law abolishing these signs. Some were constructed of wood and given three years to recoup their profit and other steel ones were given five. Then they had to come down. No one asked the Department of Environmental Conservation or Department of Transportation or worried about darter snails or discarded clamshells that might be wampum — they just did what was good for East Hampton. Today we’d have to do a three-year impact study costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Back then, our town fathers had foresight and common sense not so common today. I started by mentioning earlier that election time is upon us. The candidates are going to try to sway our votes with lies (Who said, “No more zone gas prices?”), radio ads, and roadside cardboard or plastic signs everywhere; when did one ever sway your decision? You won’t see them in the village because the village fathers passed legislation banning them.

I am asking our current town elected officials to have common sense and pass the same legislation to keep our town beautiful.

Thank you!


Cruel and Shameful
February 17, 2020

Dear Editor, 

I was disappointed but not surprised to read Manny Vilar’s letter to the editor dated Feb. 10, in which he employed scare tactics to criticize New York State’s newly enacted Criminal Justice Reform Law.

It is the beginning of election season after all. And just as we saw prior to the 2018 midterms when President Trump and the right-wing media exploited the immigration issue by blasting out fabricated warnings about a caravan of dangerous migrants threatening to overrun our southern border, we are now witnessing the latest iteration of politically expedient fearmongering, with bail reform as the convenient target.

Through cherry-picked information and one-sided narratives, we are being led to believe that Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio are releasing hordes of violent criminals onto the streets to terrorize law-abiding citizens. It only takes a little bit of research to understand that this is not at all accurate. And I would contend that the greater danger we face right now, both locally and nationally, is one of falling victim to widespread misinformation and manipulation.

I agree with Mr. Vilar that “facts are stubborn things.” With that said — and in the hopes of promoting calm, reasoned, and informed discourse about the important issue of bail reform — I’d like to share the following information:  Pretrial detainees make up more than 70 percent of the U.S. jail population — approximately 536,000 people. Many of them are only there because they can’t afford bail. Defendants who don’t have the funds to pay a bond premium are forced to await trial in jail.

Pretrial detention has dramatically negative effects on the outcome of a defendant’s case. Those who are held pretrial are four times more likely to be sentenced to prison than defendants released prior to trial. Pretrial detainees are also likely to make hurried decisions to plead guilty to a lower charge to spend less time behind bars rather than chancing a higher charge and longer sentence at trial.

Bail practices are frequently discriminatory, with black and Latino men assessed higher bail amounts than white men for similar crimes, by 35 and 19 percent on average, respectively.

I had hoped to keep this letter from being long-winded, but I have one last and very important point to make. In an attempt to deny the historical and data-driven evidence of racism in the American criminal justice system, Mr. Vilar regrettably cherry-picked his information when he wrote that, “Over 30 years nationwide, there were only 2,398 overturned convictions. In New York State, there were only 281, with 53 percent of those being black Americans. This is hardly an epidemic of racial injustice.” Aside from the offensive tone of his misguided conclusion, it is blatantly incorrect.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, where Mr. Vilar obtained his statistics, “Black people are more likely to be wrongly convicted — they make up 12 percent of the population but 46 percent of exonerees, and collectively represent 56 percent of the life years lost to prison.” Black exonerees also spend more time in prison before are cleared and released (10.7 years vs. 7.4 years for white people) and receive less compensation when they get out, on average, $42,000 less per year of incarceration.

Furthermore, a survey of data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year found that when black men and white men commit the same crime, black men, on average, receive a sentence almost 20 percent longer. The research controlled for variables such as age and prior criminal history.

I hope that Mr. Vilar will take the time to study America’s cruel and shameful legacy of racial injustice in the forms of lynching, prisoner leasing, the school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration, stop and frisk, racial profiling, and the war on drugs in order to better understand why criminal justice reform is long past due — and that in the future he focuses on constructive and informed criticism rather than destructive fearmongering, especially since he is in a position of leadership and represents the G.O.P. here in East Hampton. 


Spreading the Word
February 17, 2020

To the Editor,

Tomorrow will be week eight (week 79 for Greta) of a Fridays for Future/Fridays for Climate strike at East Hampton Town Hall. I will be there from 9 until noon.

Only a few people have come and stood with me these past seven weeks. I was feeling a bit disheartened and discouraged about my efforts to raise awareness of the urgency of the global climate crisis facing humanity, Planet Earth, and all life. Then I mentioned this to my wonderful daughter Elyse. She told me that the people in her office in Indianapolis had seen Facebook postings and pictures of me striking and were actively discussing climate change and getting more active. She reminded me of other things that demonstrate that my efforts are spreading the word.

Still, we need lots more people. Please come join me some Friday, any Friday, and help to raise the consciousness and awareness. Exponential growth in awareness will give us enough people to have our voices heard by the companies and politicians that need to change behaviors and policies. Together we are strong. Together we can do anything. We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.


Energy Needs
Massapequa Park
February 17, 2020

Dear David,

Ordinarily, Long Islanders would not care what New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio does unless it affected them in some way. Well, his decision with regard to where to purchase the city’s energy needs clearly impacts us here on Long Island.

Instead of investing in solar power and the offshore wind that will be generated locally, something that would assist in creating jobs here, the mayor wants to buy renewable energy for municipal use from Hydro Quebec, a Canadian hydroelectric company.

As Long Islanders, we ask the mayor to reconsider his decision and choose to buy the city’s renewable energy locally — and give its neighbors on Long Island the bonus of solid, long-term jobs.


East Hampton
February 13, 2020

Dear Editor,

The article titled “Enviro Groups Salute Town” that appeared in the Feb. 6 edition of The Star was comical and a great example of greenwashing.

To suggest that the Town of East Hampton should be recognized for sustainability efforts when it does not have a municipal sewer system, a composting facility, curbside recycling, recycling at its shoreline parking lots, and its recycling operations are not operated effectively and efficiently, does not say much for the sustainability standards employed by the Sierra Club and the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. Apparently, sustainability of the oceans was not considered either, given that the town refuses to remove debris from its shorelines. Some of this neglected trash is dangerous to those walking the shorelines and much of it ends up back in the ocean.

To suggest that wind power and solar power are green technologies demonstrates lack of understanding of the various minerals that go into the production of the wind turbines and solar panels as well as how and where these minerals are sourced. It also does not take into account the myriad issues surrounding the eventual disposal of the wind turbines and solar panels.

A recent Los Angeles Times article mentions a startup that has developed a method to repurpose the blades, but their capacity is limited and they are “just gearing up.” Until their capacity increases and there is more demand for their outputs, the blades will be going to municipal and commercial dumps.

Solar panels utilize conflict minerals that aren’t green when considering sourcing, supply, and disposal issues. Wouldn’t a sustainable approach require that disposal issues be figured out prior to investing in windmills and solar panels?

Let’s not forget the many externalities associated with a wind farm that is offshore. The ocean and its inhabitants are already under great pressure because of poor decision making and lack of respect by humans. They don’t need to suffer more because of another poor decision: supporting the offshore wind farm.

When you minimize the hype regarding the offshore wind farm and solar panels because of greenwashing, the Town of East Hampton isn’t worthy of sustainability recognition. A town administration that actually took sustainability seriously would be worthy of recognition.


Live Music
February 13, 2020

Dear Editor:

The proposed changes to the pre-existing music permits, using potential fire code violations as an ax over every Montauk restaurant, are an unnecessary and unsustainable legislation that will deeply hurt our tourism economy. Live music is an essential element to our culture, if you put an establishment’s liquor license at risk, for the slightest infraction, live music will be dead, just as it is in the rest of East Hampton.


Protect the Aquifer
East Hampton
February 17, 2020

Dear David,

I read with recognition and affirmative head-nodding the letter in Thursday’s paper about Sand Land and the pollution therein. This could be our sand mining fight here in East Hampton to protect the aquifer.

Even if they don’t dump on Middle Highway, it’s still interfering, with the aquifer, if you keep digging, the bad stuff gets into the aquifer. Do the science. It’s the same sole-source aquifer either way, just a different location town-wise. It’s the same water we all drink, whether you’re a well-water user or on town water, as we are. Though some in our neighborhood still have wells.

Noyac, Wainscott, East Hampton, Amagansett, and Montauk, we are all in the same boat. We all live here on this end of an island we so love that serves us — but do we serve her? How do we honor her beauty and lush nature — by polluting the groundwater with these incessant sand mines and dumping grounds? Have we learned nothing from our past behavior, like polluting farm fields with pesticides or arsenic causing illness when once we perhaps knew no better? It’s the same thing.

Cover your ears. Close your eyes. Stick your head where the sun don’t shine. It won’t go away. And neither will we. We will fight for groundwater protection until everyone hears us. We are growing in number with new young, local families realizing their babies won’t have clean water to drink or clean waters to swim in. Is that our legacy?

Our town officials are listening now because our perseverance paid off, but the state needs an investigation and a reboot — or a swift kick with a boot is more like it.

You, my fellow townspeople and community, let’s be part of the solution. Sign the petition for Noyac and let’s get one going for East Hampton. Storm the castle. Take back our beautiful town and protect the water. It’s all we will have, or we shall not. The power lies with all of us. Don’t ever give that up.



Lack of Concern
East Hampton
February 12, 2020

Dear David:

If the town board spent half as much of their time on such important concerns as the Amagansett parking lot (you know it borders two of David Lys’s properties and the lot will probably have water fountains and expensive trees right next to them) and the Gann Road hatchery, now rejected twice, that’s right, twice by the state for any funds (they know a vanity project when they see one), we would have a new senior center by now!

Remember the senior center? What has it been, a year or two years of some discussion and no, nada action of any kind?

The board’s handling of this important matter shows the lack of concern, sympathy, care, or significance for seniors. Any discussions by the board makes one feel as if they are in the Twilight Zone. The liaison to the center, Kathee

Burke-Gonzalez, usually has nothing to say, but now that there is some disgust growing, she has offered this same statement several times already, “I asked the seniors what colors they would want in the center.”

The fact of the matter is that a lot of people were shocked when they saw the design of the center because an engineer, not an architect, designed it. Can you imagine, this town is loaded with fine architects who would have worked on the project if asked, but we get an engineer!

It is still not completely understood why the land being used now cannot be used for a new building. Someone’s mother dedicated a small area for a garden and a relative is very upset that this will be demolished. Let’s get the best of the nurseries here and have them design a small but beautiful garden for the front of the new building. No, instead the board is supposedly looking for another property on Springs-Fireplace Road, a superhighway for heavy-duty industrial trucks.

Seniors can be very delicate people. They require physical care, unique activities, medical advice, and the help of social services. A center is often the core of their world. If this government won’t take aggressive and meaningful action in a timely manner, then we must question whether this board should be re-elected.


Drag Queen
Howard Beach
February 17, 2020

To the Editor:

Really? Front page of Feb. 6 edition shows drag queen from Sag Harbor at the John Jermain Memorial Library, singing songs and storytelling. What’s this world coming to?

I know The Star is a liberal paper, but let’s show the kids a man dressed as a woman! I think it’s crazy. Children have enough to deal with as far as acceptance, bullying, etc. I say it’s in poor taste to put on the front page of your paper. I wonder what kind of questions those young children had for their parents when they went home. I find it appalling.


East Hampton
February 17, 2020

Dear David,

Ross Douthat’s article “The Age of Decadence” in The New York Times of Feb. 9 is intriguing in what it doesn’t say, as much as for his analysis of our current condition. Douthat defines decadence as economic stagnation, institutional decay, and intellectual exhaustion.

I would be a proponent for another definition of decadence: moral decay and unfettered promiscuity, but that’s not our problem.

When we try to differentiate between greed and debauchery, I would take the side of debauchery because there are physical and mental limits associated with it, while greed is insatiable, it has no limit or goal beyond endless accumulation.

Douthat may be right in his analysis, but it implies a certain degree of historical honesty and the ability to self-analyze. If we were looking to compare ourselves to Europe or Japan, for example, we are stymied by our historical deception and the flatulence of our ability to self-analyze.

When we look at the condition of the country, the prime motivation is indisputably greed — the soft underbelly of capitalism is its fascist nature and it is not reparable until we admit that it exists. So greedy, nasty greedy, deranged greedy, make believe we are not greedy.

When the Japanese killed 500,000 people in Nanking, they never claimed to be the good guys. When the Hutus massacred the Tutsi in Rwanda they were simply brutal killers. When we enslaved millions of people in Guatemala, we were bringing democracy. Always a fabrication. Always unfixable or incurable. Always denial.

Douthat somehow believes that there is nothing wrong with our culture that can’t be reworked with more attention to details. He doesn’t accept the flaws in the design, the fissures of truth in the fabric of our society.

Our problem is not economic stagnation as part of the cyclical patterns of mature economies. It is the greed-based socioeconomic mantra of corporate America in collusion with our political parties. It is more a Marxian theorem of cannibalism as the inevitable outcome. It is by design, not a pretty one.

Last night I listened to two men on Fox News discuss the scam element of single-payer health care — Douthat’s dystopian example in living color. Both sounded knowledgeable but were totally ignorant of European health care systems. Almost anyone who isn’t suffering from severe cranial malfunction knows that our system genuinely sucks and we should be stealing every idea that the Europeans have. I don’t think he would describe that as decadence. The misinformation they were spreading was venal and corrupt. Of course, health care as a right never came up.

The coronavirus is standing the world completely on its bum. It demonstrates the interdependence we all have with China and one another. Furthermore, it highlights the idiocy of MAGA and other nationalist movements in the face of this interdependence. We can’t pee if China doesn’t sell us the handles for the toilets. Simply put, the cost of the disconnections dwarfs the inconvenience of community.

Douthat’s piece was smart, well written, and probably right on target. Yet, without the missing pieces one has to wonder why he bothered.


Prefer the Latter
February 14, 2020

To the Editor,

Paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson’s little-known Jan. 16, 1787, letter to Col. Edward Carrington (“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”), I send the following love letter to The East Hampton Star:

Were it left to me, Richard Siegelman, to decide whether we should have a Donald Trump presidency and government without The East Hampton Star, or The East Hampton Star without this Trumpian federal government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter!


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