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Letters to the Editor for June 18, 2020

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 18:20

Deeply Grateful
Springs
June 15, 2020

Dear David,

On behalf of all the volunteers at the Springs Food Pantry, I want to thank head golf pro P.G.A. Tim Garvin and the membership of the South Fork Country Club for creating and holding such a successful charity golf match on Friday, June 5. Live-streamed on Facebook and hosted by George Stephanopoulos, the event was really quite exciting for those of us who were able to attend — even without the betting.

From our standpoint, the betting options were beautifully designed, as the charity match netted over $115,000, to be divided between the Springs Food Pantry and the East Hampton Amagansett Food Pantry. At our pantry, the number of households seeking food has risen 300 percent from this time one year ago, and we desperately need the funds in order to continue providing fresh dairy, meats and poultry, produce, and fruit.

We are deeply grateful that Tim and the members of the South Fork Country Club thought of us at this time, when so many small businesses and working families are struggling to survive what in ordinary times would be their most profitable season of the year.

Sincerely,

PAMELA BICKET

Moderator

Springs Food Pantry

 

The Power of Art
Springs
June 9, 2020

Dear David,

What a terrific idea! Thank you, East Hampton Star. We live in a community that has a storied history of famous artists and writers and appreciates the power of art to inspire and shed light on the problems that confront us.

The Covid-19 pandemic is demanding higher levels of social responsibility as exemplified in maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. Are there additional ways to engage the art community to use their talents to produce signage or various artworks that could be used to promote unpolitical messages that encourage positive social change?

JOSEPH CZEKALA

 

Thriving
East Hampton
June 8, 2020

Dear David,

I wanted to write to remind readers that the Garden Club of East Hampton’s community gardens are thriving and actively being taken care of by our volunteers. Please consider looking over a fence, driving by, or stopping in to enjoy the beauty of these gardens and for a respite from the worries of these troubled times.

The Dortmund roses at the East Hampton Train Station will flower shortly. They’ve been flourishing under the care of our member, Abby Jane Brody, who prunes and weaves the canes with great skill to maximize blooming. Our wonderful partner, Mike Bouker, deputy superintendent of Public Works for the Village, keeps the split rail fence that supports the roses in good order and has completed needed repairs. The fence has never looked better. A few of the roses on the north end are struggling compared to their neighbors — the nearby linden trees are notorious consumers of all available water, and the site has no irrigation.

Just a few weeks ago, deer ate many of the buds on the roses at the south end of the station. This has never happened before, but with so many fewer people traveling on the train or waiting at the bus stop, this isn’t a surprise. And so the Garden Club has begun to apply deer repellent to prevent further damage. Yet despite these various setbacks, most of the roses on the north end are full of buds and in another week will be well worth a detour down Railroad Avenue. With luck, those at the south end will bloom as well, but a few weeks later.

We’ve added additional planters to the Millstone Garden Park on Main Street opposite the Chase Bank, and the village recently returned two benches to the park. This garden was always intended to be a place for visitors to the village to stop for a rest away from the traffic on Main Street. Soon the Kousa dogwoods will bloom and a bit later, the white Annabel hydrangeas.

The Mimi Meehan Native Plant Garden, next door to the Star, is lovely all summer. It has a wonderful selection of native plants that thrive in East Hampton, and is a place to study not just native plants, but how Abby Jane Brody, garden curator, has arranged plant combinations. While there are few labels, readers can consider downloading an app called “Picture This” or iNaturalist. Either one is a useful tool for quickly identifying plants on the spot and both are surprisingly accurate.

The Garden Club under Leslie Clarke has renovated the beds at Rachel’s Historic Dooryard Garden at Mulford Farm, and while at the moment the gate is locked, the garden is small and easily enjoyed by walking around the perimeter fence. This garden is designed much as Rachel Mulford might have planned her garden and filled with plants she would have grown for various kitchen and household uses. It’s a gem of a small garden, one that anyone could build in their own backyard. And it’s a wonderful example of the charm of a formal layout in a garden where it’s easy to tend the plant.

Further down Main Street, is the Mary Nimmo Moran Garden at The Studio. The garden is based on Moran’s oil painting of the border she designed that graced the path leading up to the Moran’s house from a wood gate on Main Street. It’s filled with flowering plants typical of the “grandmother’s garden” style of the late 19th century when the American garden movement had gained momentum and nurseries were shipping seeds and plants to East Hampton from Long Island and from up and down the East Coast. These gardens were often painted by the American Impressionists, and again, this is a garden that anyone could easily build as the palette of plants is limited and repeated to create rhythm and draw the eye along the length.

The other gardens we care for include the Pollinator Garden at Town Hall, visible as you drive into the Town Hall complex in front of the historic building where the supervisor’s office is located and the gardens around the East Hampton Post Office where the blue Nikko hydrangeas will start to bloom soon. And finally, there is the Nature Trail, designed by our members in the 1930s to entice local school children and visitors to learn about our own flora and native birds. It’s now cared for by the Garden Club with the Ladies Village Improvement Society.

We are deeply committed to maintaining these gardens for the people of East Hampton, so that they can benefit from what the neurologist Oliver Sacks calls “the restorative and healing power of nature and gardens.” Please visit and enjoy!

Yours,

JULIE SAKELLARIADIS

President

Garden Club of East Hampton

 

Pick Up and Move
East Hampton
June 8, 2020

To The Star:

Now that construction is again permitted, it reminded me of the disparity of regulations in noise regulations between East Hampton Village and the Town of East Hampton. Those of us who live outside the village face different noise regulations than village residents. Construction and landscaping activities are restricted by code in the village, and I recommend consideration of parity by East Hampton Town.

Currently, in East Hampton Town, construction and landscaping are permitted 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week. Crews generally arrive earlier and stay later than these hours. Today, Monday, the crews just drove up with heavy equipment at 6:30 a.m.

In contrast, East Hampton Village code permits these activities in the village as follows: Leaf blowers: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Construction: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

While village residents can enjoy a quiet weekend morning and dinner outside all week, this code also ensures that the crews who are working in the village will pack up and move to a job site in the town, where they can work for several more hours.

Many people complain about the noise from planes and helicopters, but that noise is short-lived, as the planes travel on, while construction and landscaping noise at times continues uninterrupted for 13-and-a-half hours per day.

I recommend parity with the village code for all residential areas in the Town of East Hampton.

SOPHIE FRENCH

 

Disappointed
Amagansett
June 8, 2020

Dear Editor,

Your June 4 article on the for-profit school Avenues — above the fold! — reads like an advertisement for the $56,000-per-year institution. I was very disappointed that valuable print real estate was used in this way, particularly during these times. I have no doubt that the school has a healthy advertising budget and does not need free promotion in The Star.

MEGAN MCKENNA

 

Minor Mistake
Springs
June 12, 2020

Dear David,

I was delighted to read Ana Daniel’s enthusiastic review of “A Guide to Historic Artists Homes and Studios” in the June 11 issue. At a time when we’ve all become armchair tourists, the book is a welcome window into this unique collection of evocative sites. It’s also a great resource for planning our future getaways — some, as she points out, in our own backyards.

Ms. Daniel did make one minor mistake, however, in her description of the Pollock-Krasner studio. Lee Krasner did not have the floor covered in order to preserve Jackson Pollock’s markings after his death. As the book notes, the floor was covered in 1953, when Pollock was very much alive, as part of a project to winterize the building. The preserved colors and gestures document the period from 1946 to ‘52, his most productive and innovative years.

Stay well,

HELEN A. HARRISON

Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Director

Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center

 

The Parrish
Sag Harbor
June 15, 2020

Dear David,

Maria Matthiessen is completely correct in her letter to The Star of May 28 that enormous credit for the Parrish Art Museum is still owing to Trudy Kramer, who served as director for 25 years, from 1980 to her retirement in 2005.

It was a pleasure to see Terrie Sultan carry forward this wonderful institution during the past 10 years, and since the Parrish shut down in mid-March, I have missed being able to attend the many fine exhibitions, events, and talks that developed during her tenure. I wish her every success in her next venture.

When Trudy assumed the directorship, the Parrish museum consisted of two parts: the lovely brick building on Job’s Lane built at the end of the 19th century by Samuel B. Parrish to house his collection of European Renaissance art and classical sculpture, both donated by the philanthropist to Southampton Village as a cultural resource, and the Parrish museum corporation formed in the 20th century to manage the museum and collect new works.

It remained a fairly static place until Trudy arrived and gracefully but quickly began implementing her vision of the Parrish’s potential as a major regional museum. We met when she invited me to create some institutional brochures, and I watched as she worked to focus the collection on eastern Long Island artists, concentrating on William Merritt Chase and Fairfield Porter, already owned, as cornerstones; increasing regional holdings, and bringing in talented new curators to present exhibitions of exciting scope and impact.

When negotiations with Southampton Village to renovate and enlarge the original building reached an impasse around 2000, Trudy and the Parrish museum board embarked on an arduous search for a new location, eventually purchasing the land on which the Parrish sits now, on the complex process of selecting an architect, and on fund-raising for the new building.

Although she could not see it through to completion, Trudy’s role in the move and expansion and current character of the museum is incalculable. The Parrish is a magnificent world-class destination. Contributors who helped make it happen are permanently acknowledged on an entrance wall of the new museum, and Trudy Kramer’s name is a glaring omission. I hope to see it added soon.

Respectfully,

MYRNA DAVIS

 

Louse Point Beach
Amagansett
June 15, 2020

To the Editor:

Within the last couple of weeks or so, Louse Point beach, in addition to the kayak racks already there, has been invaded by three new kayak racks measuring about 34 feet in length and almost 10 feet in width. They have been plunked down right in the most-available beach area. These racks have been placed in such a way as to force people to sit closer together at a time when social distancing is mandated. This presents a health risk at worst and an intrusion at best. In addition, the kayak has to be dragged to the water’s edge, disturbing people sitting near the water.

Louse Point, one of the most beautiful spots in the world, is enjoyed by baymen boating out to sea, people fishing from the shore, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, and beach loungers. There is already a lot of beach and water activity for a small beach like Louse Point. Miraculously, everyone has managed to amicably respect each other’s space.

When these racks appeared, many people were upset, as they are also an eyesore, disturbing the beauty of nature.

I am not against kayaking and enjoy that sport myself; rather they have been placed on the side of greatest activity, which covers a relatively small area. Although the beach extends further, it does not house much activity, probably because it’s shallow water. Why do we need 34 feet of kayak racks on a beach already clamoring with activity?

There are other suitable locations for kayak racks. Gerard beach, for instance, already has a small number of kayaks. Why not there or anywhere else? It appears whoever is responsible for kayak racks acted irresponsibly in arbitrarily choosing a beach already humming with activity. These new racks should be removed from Louse Point. Our beloved Louse Point, like all our beaches, needs to be kept manageable and beautiful.

Sincerely,

DR. JANET A. GELLER

 

Overuse and Abuse
East Hampton
June 12, 2020

Dear East Hampton Star,

I know that by now, after many years weighing in on the subject, I sound like a broken record, but the problem seems to get worse every year. Longtime readers of my letters will probably already know what I’m talking about and some will probably be saying, “What, this again?” I’m talking, of course, about the problems our community has with sharing the roads. Those who know what I’m talking about just bear with me for a moment.

Time was when East Hampton (and the rest of the South Fork) was actually a nice, pleasant, and overall safe place to ride a bicycle or go for a jog. In part this is because there were simply fewer people using the roads, and it was possible to share most of them without too much problem. People used to plan rides to take the safest and most shareable routes. In those days, also, people riding bicycles knew the rules of the road - they were taught in most schools and if not, there has always been a chapter devoted to bicycle regulations in the New York State Drivers Manual, the one they give to every prospective applicant for a driver’s license. This was prior to 1988, I would estimate.

Since those days, things have changed in the Hamptons. A lot. First of all, there are more people here year round. Second, there are lots more lawn and tree-service trucks cluttering up the roads. The stress of overuse and abuse of the roadbeds has caused more and more potholes and uneven pavements. There seems to be permanent construction on practically every street. Add into this the sand, pebbles, leaves, oil slicks, and permanent puddles which have always been there and you begin to see that the roads out here are not really suited for bicycles. Most are so narrow that there is no way to share the road safely no matter what the signs tell you.

My favorite example is Old Stone Highway. For much of its length, it is narrow and winding with lots of blind curves. The roadbed has steep banks on either side, and there is no margin or shoulder. There simply isn’t room on such a road for cars and bicycles. Or joggers. Or skateboards. Then you add to this the fact that most people riding around the Hamptons a) don’t know the rules and b) think the roads are like the park drive in Central Park, which is closed to cars on weekends.

Cyclists will complain that cars don’t respect them and are often rude and pushy. This happens to be true. However, the reason that most drivers don’t like cyclists is that all too often the cyclists don’t know the rules and regulations, and often behave like road hogs. They ride in clusters, often taking up most or all of the road. When there is a shoulder, they tend to ride on the painted line instead of in the middle of the space designated for them. And most of the cyclists I see out here are riding racing bikes, which are flimsy and will skid or flip in gravel or sand. Also, people choose to ride at poor times of the day, such as early morning and evening. Unless you are wearing reflective clothing, it’s likely that a car may not see you until it’s too late. And speaking of being seen, the new LED headlights on some bicycles are so bright that they blind oncoming drivers. The idea is to make yourself detectable without causing a problem.

The main reason I am writing this reminder to everyone to be safe is that I have heard from a lot of people this season who have had problems with rude, arrogant, and bratty cyclists who couldn’t care less if they are causing a traffic violation. They don’t stop for red lights or stop signs. They ride on sidewalks - even in the village, where it is forbidden by law (but not enforced, sadly).

I’ve written many letters over the years on this subject and I have reluctantly switched from trying to help arbitrate an understanding to falling on the side of cars in this one. The thing is that with the many changes to the community over the last 30 years or so, it has become unthinkable for most people to stop driving a car. It would be nice to think that there might be a switch to cycling, but the arrogance of the human race has made that impossible. Many of us need to drive great distances to get our daily shopping done. Tree and lawn services seem to think they need big, loud, obnoxious equipment, which requires that it be chauffeured in a wagon towed behind a pickup or van. A lot of drivers also are just negligent and-or ignorant of the rules of the road and tend to run red lights and merely slow down a tad at stop signs. K

Knowing what I know about local roads, and their use and abuse, particularly by visitors and weekenders, I have come to the conclusion that the best course, though drastic and leaving a bad taste in my mouth, is to ban bicycles altogether. And the reason is that people have shown that they have no intention of sharing the road. Cars are a necessity and bicycles (and other forms of transportation) are not.

Therefore, the safe option is to reserve the roads for cars and, of course, you can’t ban pedestrians. I wish it were different but in the last three days I have seen too many near misses on our roads. Today alone I have heard no fewer than six people complaining about all the bicycles and how dangerously they are riding. My advice right now is that unless you are experienced in cycling out here, and with riding in general, you should not be riding on our roads. This advice applies even more strongly to children and teens. The roads are simply too dangerous.

Thanks for reading.

Stay well, all.

MATT HARNICK

 

Dishonest Company
Wainscott
June 8, 2020

Dear David:

I was appalled today to learn that the majority of our town board is planning to allow Orsted Deepwater Wind Eversource to perform test borings at Wainscott Beach on Beach Lane this summer, with the intent to leave equipment parked overnight at the end of Beach Lane, along with potentially hazardous waste from the test bores.

Yet again, this is clear evidence that Orsted Deepwater Eversource says one thing and does exactly the opposite. It does as it wants. How we can conduct business with such a dishonest company is beyond me. Yet it seems the town will do anything for money.

From the start, Orsted Deepwater Eversource has stated it would not perform these borings, or test digs, between Memorial Day and the end of September. Yet the town has evidently approved this, for a fee of course, and yet the time has run out. Now the town wants to give them approval to do the borings at the beach during the summer season, when everyone is using the parking lot and our beach. (That must be a good payoff I am sure).

Enough is enough! The town must be brought to task on this outrageous decision to circumvent not only the residents of Wainscott but all those that enjoy the use of our pristine community beach. There is only a small amount of parking available here as it is, and the noise that will be generated by the drilling equipment and vehicles associated with this endeavor, starting at 7 a.m. and continuing till 7 p.m., is totally unacceptable.

This is our community and it does not belong to Orsted Deepwater Eversource.

MICHAEL MAHONEY

 

Backward Notion
Massapequa Park
June 12, 2020

Dear Mr. Rattray,

Long Island is moving rapidly toward a clean energy economy. This is in accord with New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which enshrines into law the goals of a 70 percent-renewable electric grid by 2030, and a 100 percent-renewable electric grid by 2040.

It sounds to me that under this law, no more fossil-fuel infrastructure should be built in New York whatsoever. Yet energy company National Grid, having just failed to achieve its plan to build the Williams pipeline under New York Harbor, now wants to boost local natural gas supplies with a new pipeline in North Brooklyn, and new liquefied natural gas facilities and compressor stations. Even National Grid says we don’t need more natural gas capacity. Electric heating and cooking and energy efficiency more than meet the need that additional gas might fill.

Yet Plan B, this backward notion, is still on the table. We need to go forward toward developing renewable energy projects and stop using fossil fuels. Governor Cuomo: Reject Plan B and halt building of fossil fuel infrastructure.

KAREN C. HIGGINS

 

Refutes the Myth
Wainscott
June 14, 2020

Dear David,

As challenging as the pandemic has been, there have been some benefits. If one is fortunate to have a home here, appreciating nature and the spectacular June weather has been uplifting. What’s more, with the airport traffic akin to what it was 15 to 20 years ago: There are virtually no helicopter or seaplane flights, few jets, and the occasional single-engine plane. An inactive airport is having no negative impact on our local economy. Construction and home maintenance services are thriving, beaches and food stores are full of people, and inns and restaurants are coming back to life.

This refutes the myth falsely propagated by the tiny minority of airporters that an active airport is essential. What’s irrefutable, however, is that a vast majority (in East Hampton Village, Northwest Woods, Sag Harbor, Wainscott, Sagaponack, and all over Long Island and New York City), are celebrating being outdoors at this time of year — without being assaulted by air, noise, and visual pollution for the first time in decades. 

BARRY RAEBECK

 

Reopening
Amagansett
June 15, 2020

Dear Dave,

I had a Zoom meeting on Saturday afternoon with my college surf team. My friend in Ecuador, Patricio Tamariz (former executive director for the Ecuador Tourism Authority), organized it, and of course one of the first things on our minds was Covid-19. Patricio said, “It kicked the shit out of me, and I lost 14 . . .” I think we were all sure the next word out of his mouth would be pounds, when he said: “. . . friends.” My God, 14 friends!

People need to take the reopening protocols seriously, and there needs to be stiff punishment for those who think their good time is more important than the health and safety of others!

RUSSELL BENNETT

 

Rendered Irrelevant
Springs
June 15, 2020

To the Editor:

RE: “Morning Update: Rollbacks Threatened in Response to Violations, Many in Hamptons, Manhattan.”

At Atlantic Avenue Beach yesterday. Beautiful day. Parked, got out of car, told to put masks on by police officer and again by lifeguard; followed sign to enter beach on the right. Once on the sand, told we could unmask.

Beach was pretty full, but not crowded. Most blankets separated by six feet or more. But half of the groups occupying those beach blankets numbered 6 to 12 people, separated by anywhere from 12 inches, two or three feet at most. Looked just like beaches in Florida or Texas seen on the news. Friends socializing, not social distancing.

It seems to me that if the town’s enforcement of masking in the parking area, where everyone is already appropriately distanced, and transient, it is pretty much rendered irrelevant by beach-blanket behavior once on the beach, where people are pretty much staying closely in place. It does not make sense [to me] that you can have it both ways.

GEOFFREY DRUMMOND

 

The Power of Art
Springs
June 9, 2020

Dear David,

What a terrific idea — the mask contest! Thank you, East Hampton Star. We live in a community that has a storied history of famous artists and writers and appreciates the power of art to inspire and shed light on the problems that confront us.

The Covid-19 pandemic is demanding higher levels of social responsibility as exemplified in maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. Are there additional ways to engage the art community to use their talents to produce signage or various artworks that could be used to promote unpolitical messages that encourage positive social change?

JOSEPH CZEKALA

 

Getting Serious
Amagansett
June 15, 2020

Dear David,

You know this is serious when you see Harry Ding with a mask!

Yours in good hope,

CAPT. HARVEY L. BENNETT

 

Whole New Look
East Hampton
June 15, 2020

Dear David:

As the school year ends, I, as a retired educator and member of the Retired Educators of New York, would like to commend and recognize our local teachers for their leadership, guidance, and compassion in educating our students.

Governor Cuomo closed schools in March, ending the school year, as we once knew it. Teachers had to take a whole new look at how to deliver subject matter, as well as connect with their students and parents. Online classes have provided continuity of instruction during these uncertain and trying times.

Thank you,

MARY ELLA MOELLER

 

Early Voting
East Hampton
June 12, 2020

To David:

On behalf of the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, Shelter Island, and North Fork, I wanted to be sure to thank you for Chris Walsh’s article on the June 1 Zoom candidates debate for U.S. Congress, and to thank Mark Segal for his article on the June 8 Zoom candidates debate for New York State Senate.

Both comprehensively covered the questions that were asked and shed light on the positions of the candidates, to help citizens decide who to vote for before the primary election on June 23.

The debates are still available on the YouTube channel of SeaTV Southampton and have received hundreds of views.

We scheduled the debates early, because many people have already received their ballots in the mail, and today was the start of 10 days of early voting, June 13 to 21.

As a matter of fact, I myself went to vote this morning at East Hampton Town’s early voting site, instead of sending in the paper ballot.

(I’d better send out a news release, giving the dates, times, and locations of the two early voting sites in East Hampton and Southampton Towns, along with the reminder that the debates are still viewable online.)

Thanking you again for your dedicated coverage of elections,

ARLENE HINKEMEYER

Vice President and Publicity

League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, Shelter Island, and North Fork

 

Bridget Is Delivering
Springs
June 13, 2020

Dear David,

Now more than ever, we need Bridget Fleming to represent us in Washington. We need her strong working knowledge of local issues and we need her ability to work with people to get things done.

That’s because Bridget embodies what each of us wants in our elected officials — she’s thoughtful, she’s open-minded, she’s empathetic, and she is a strong communicator. I so admire how articulate and passionate she is about the things that matter to her constituents.

Over the years, Bridget and I have been together at festivals and street fairs and community picnics. And I have witnessed firsthand Bridget’s natural ability to connect with people and to understand their issues. But what takes it to the next level is that she quickly pivots to solving those issues.

Bridget has dedicated her career each and every day to improving the lives of our children, our seniors, and our hard-working families. And back when she was an assistant district attorney in New York City, she committed herself to ensuring that victims of sex crimes and victims of fraud received justice.

When I heard that Bridget was taking on Suffolk County bus transportation, I thought to myself, “Now that’s a hornet’s nest.” Her work on the county bus routes to ensure that they run more effectively and better serve the needs of the community so moms could get their sick babies to the doctor and it not take three hours to get from Springs to the pediatrician in East Hampton because of all the transfers, and so that riders would have safer bus stops was a monumental undertaking.

But Bridget tackled this issue as she does every other issue she takes on thoughtfully, methodically, and by listening to folks who ride the bus. But she didn’t stop there. She gained firsthand knowledge by riding the bus herself! For me, that’s leadership.

I should point out that Bridget and I don’t just meet up at street fairs; Bridget and I also meet up at the East Hampton Senior Center. In fact, Bridget has been instrumental in bringing critical programs to our seniors. Two informational sessions that she orchestrated stand out to me. One was for tick-borne illnesses with experts from Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and the other was for those telephone scams that prey on seniors. It is truly shameful how scam artists target seniors, whether they claim to be from the I.R.S. or they try to convince a senior that their grandchild is in trouble and needs money wired. The presentation was eye opening. And it was truly incredible how many seniors at the center had actually received these fraudulent phone calls.

I could go on all day listing the ways that Bridget has supported all of us here on the East End. And I haven’t even touch on the fact that Bridget is delivering a $7.6 million infrastructure project — the reconstruction of Springs- Fireplace Road — this very minute.

I can close my eyes and I can see Bridget in a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee asking thoughtful questions while taking witness testimony because Bridget has been building up to this moment her entire career.

So let me end by saying that it is my honor and privilege to endorse Bridget Fleming for Congress, as Bridget has spent her career making a difference as an assistant district attorney, a town councilwoman, and a county legislator tirelessly advocating for and improving the lives of our children, our senior citizens, and our hard-working families.

So, join me and cast your vote in the Democratic primary for Bridget Fleming. Because she has the experience, the record, and the demeanor to represent C.D. 1 in Congress.

Take good care,

KATHEE BURKE-GONZALEZ

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez is a member of the East Hampton Town Board. Ed.

 

Election History
Springs
June 15, 2020

Last week, The Star’s editorial, “Fleming for Congress,” was a respectable endorsement for Bridget Fleming to win the Democratic primary in Congressional District 1. But the editorial’s demotion of Perry Gershon was done in a dismissive manner that contradicted the Star’s prior writing.

Less than two years ago, on Oct. 31, 2018, The Star strongly endorsed Perry Gershon over Lee Zeldin in an editorial titled “For Congress: Hope Over Hate.” That editorial began: “At this point there is little to add to the reasons why Perry Gershon is the better choice for the East End in Congress than Lee Zeldin . . . but Mr. Gershon is better for the country as well. He has proven himself levelheaded and admirably determined.” The same editorial said, “Mr. Gershon is accessible. . . . Mr. Gershon favors improving the nation’s gun laws. . . . Mr. Gershon wants health care for all.”

Your only comment of Mr. Gershon in last week’s editorial was that he lost in 2018 so he has no chance this year. First, The Star’s knowledge of election history seems absent, as a significant number of people who were elected to the United States’ Congress, Senate, or president lost their first election to those offices. In the year 2000, President Obama lost his first run for U.S. Congress in a vote of 61 percent for Bobby Rush and 30 percent for Obama.

Secondly, The Star ignored the strong gain in 2018 that Perry Gershon made for himself and for the Democratic Party. When Perry Gershon began his campaign, there was little expectation that he would win a Democratic primary and then he did. After he won the primary, the initial predictions, though not made public, were that he would lose the First Congressional District election by over 20 percent.

Lee Zeldin was so popular in C.D. 1 that even the Democratic National Committee considered it unwinnable and determined that no national Democratic funds should be given to Perry. I worked with Perry as a friend and as a member of the county and East Hampton Democratic Committees. I was hoping, but could not say this to others, that he would not lose beyond a single digit, such as 8 or 9 percent. When Perry came within 4.1 points of beating Zeldin it was an enormous achievement, mainly done by himself.

For several years, I have been a friend and supporter with both Bridget and Perry. I believe that either Bridget Fleming or Perry Gershon can beat Zeldin, and that either of them would do excellent work. Endorse and vote for the candidate of your choice, but, please, do not produce or accept inaccurate attacks on any of the candidates.

ZACHARY COHEN

 

Better Equipped
Springs
June 15, 2020

Dear David:

I was quite disappointed by The Star’s editorial and endorsement of Ms. Fleming. It was almost as if the candidate had written it.

Chiding Mr. Gershon’s loss in the 2018 election ignores the fact that he began his campaign in the face of a 16-point thrashing of Anna Throne-Holst and with no name recognition in the district. If you review the results of the House races in 2018 you will find no instance in which a Democratic candidate beat a Republican incumbent who had won their prior election by 16 points. By narrowing the 2016 deficit to four points, Mr. Gershon actually outperformed other similarly situated candidates. And, Mr. Gershon bested Mr. Zeldin in many areas that leaned Republican.

As for your pick of Ms. Fleming over Ms. Goroff, who are, as you say, ‘running neck and neck in a recent poll,’ you fail to mention that the poll you rely upon was a robo-poll (which are inherently suspect from the get-go) conducted by Ms. Fleming’s campaign rather than an independent polling expert. Moreover, a few of the ‘preference’ questions presented favorable information about Ms. Fleming and-or unfavorable information about an opponent, and then asked if the respondent preferred Ms. Fleming or the opponent. Such questions are designed to produce a certain outcome, which it did, and are thus an invalid basis on which to draw a preference conclusion. An analogy would be the question: Coke is better for your health than Pepsi: Which soft drink do you prefer: Coke or Pepsi’ I am surprised that The Star chose to give its imprimatur based on such an inferior polling methodology.

Nor is Ms. Fleming the odds-on favorite if the results of a valid poll are considered. Last Friday, the Goroff campaign released its own poll, conducted ‘live’ by a reputable pollster (Global Strategies), that was fielded at the same time as the Fleming poll. The Goroff poll showed Perry Gershon leading by two points over Ms. Goroff with Ms. Fleming a distant third. This poll is much more likely to accurately measure the race than the information cited by The Star.

From the cheap seats, it is my view that because of the work and effort Mr. Gershon put in during his last run, he is far better equipped to deal with the issues that are most important to our nation and our district than either Ms. Fleming or Ms. Goroff. You should have reread the endorsement of Mr. Gershon penned back in 2018.

Sincerely,

BRUCE COLBATH

 

We Must Persist
Sag Harbor
June 12, 2020

Dear David:

It is very shortsighted to suggest that since Perry Gershon came close to defeating Zeldin two years ago that he is incapable of defeating him this year. In just a few years our political climate has changed drastically, and we should not carelessly dismiss a candidate who has honestly and diligently committed himself to defeating Zeldin over the past four years.

Zeldin also lost his first challenge, and didn’t quit. He persisted and won on his second try, to go on to be the worst representative for Suffolk County in recent history. His continued neglect of his actual constituency, and his blind allegiance to Trump, inflicts critical damage on Suffolk interests daily. We must persist and do better.

It is obvious that Gershon is committed to protecting and developing Suffolk, and is not a part-time wishful candidate. His career background provides a substantial base of experience, and an understanding of the needs of this constituency and the skills to implement.

We need a truly committed candidate to send to Washington in our behalf to lock horns with the current administration and to pursue a strong and effective battle.

ANTHONY CORON

 

To Beat Lee
East Hampton
June 15, 2020

Dear Editor,

I just cast my absentee ballot for Bridget Fleming. Bridget is running in the Democratic primary on June 23. We need the strongest possible candidate to beat Lee Zeldin and empower the change needed in Washington. She deserves your vote. Bridget is the only Democratic candidate who has won a general election. Her political experience and career as a former prosecutor make her highly qualified to run for Congress. But most important, she is an effective, brave, and honest leader who brings people together. She is passionate about our district and will represent us with energy, compassion, and a great knowledge of who we are, and what makes us unique. Please vote for Bridget Fleming.

Sincerely,

SARA DAVISON

 

True Blue
Springs
June 15, 2020

Dear David,

Driving around the East End one is overwhelmed by the signs for Bridget Fleming, when in fact she just won her seat as county legislator in the last election in November, only months ago. Now she has thrown her hat in the ring to replace Lee Zeldin as congressman for District One, even though she knows that her competition, Perry Gershon, lost to Zeldin in the last election by a very slim margin.

But what does she care! Beating Zeldin, a Trump favorite, is not her goal. Fleming is for advancing Fleming. She uses her good looks and nice legs (which I heard a man say about her) to get what she wants. She is a politician in the lowest sense of the word who lacks a moral conscience. To win an election and months later throw that job to the wind is a sign of inferior morality. Well, I can’t throw my precious vote away on someone of her caliber, which is I why I support Perry Gershon. I know he has what it takes to beat Zeldin and is a true blue kind of guy.

Sincerely,

PHYLLIS ITALIANO

Ms. Fleming was elected to the Suffolk Legislature in 2016 and re-elected in 2019. She was voted in as a member of the Southampton Town Board in a 2010 special election and was re-elected to a full term there the following year. Ed.

 

Proven Record
Bridgehampton
June 15, 2020

Dear David,

Our country is in need of intelligent and compassionate leadership. We need leadership that we can trust to work hard on behalf of what is right, just, and fair. We desperately need a congressional candidate who has strength of conviction and dedication to persevere in times that are unstable and worrisome. Most of all, we need a leader who will endeavor to truly represent the people’s needs first and not focus on their personal political agenda. We must have a leader who has a proven record of success in achieving solutions to often-difficult yet significant goals. We need a representative in Washington who can work across the aisle with her colleagues to achieve desired goals in a professional manner.

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming is a proven leader. Her experience and successful years of public service set her apart from other candidates. Bridget is an accomplished candidate with impressive credentials and has tirelessly worked to bring to fruition numerous achievements for our county and the East End. She recognizes the reality of climate change and its impact on our coastal environment and is a determined advocate for clean water, affordable housing, infrastructure, public transportation, health care, senior citizens, and so much more. Bridget is diligent, consistent, and indefatigable. She shows up to tackle problems and solves them. And from what I’ve witnessed, Bridget never seems to take a day off from the work she loves — representing the people!

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming’s career has prepared her well for this next position, as evidenced by her years of service to the public. First, as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan under Robert Morgenthau, Bridget prosecuted fraud, sex crimes, and domestic violence cases. Later, Bridget served as a Southampton Town councilwoman before being elected twice to her position as a Suffolk County legislator.

Repeatedly, Bridget has demonstrated the necessary fortitude, strength, intelligence, and focused direction on the topics and issues that are crucial to our improving government and our lives on the East End. Her leadership skills are imperative to our democracy and future. Bridget Fleming is an exemplary legislator and she will be a formidable candidate for Congress who can and will win the election in November.

We are proud to endorse and support Bridget Fleming for Congress and ask that our friends and neighbors vote for her on June 23 in the Democratic primary and again in November.

For more information about Bridget Fleming see her website: flemingfornewyork.com.

Sincerely,

PAUL F. and SUSAN MCGRAW KEBER

 

Existential Cry
Springs
June 14, 2020

To the Editor:

My dad used to say (about bigots and know- nothings) “to leave them alone and they will fall down by themselves.” But Dad, they have not. We can never change any of their ferociously held dogmas. Instead, we have to turn that energy to action and change their ability to act out their prejudices and hostility. By viewing and attending several of the “I Can’t Breathe” demonstrations, I was most impressed by the age group and multiracial demographics of the leadership and attendees. For the first time since Martin Luther King was murdered, do I feel that real change can, must, and will take place. It is also now global, and that makes a really big difference.

We are once again a second-class nation that must change if we are to become what we (straight white men) said that we were, “the moral leader” of the free world. Our leadership’s hypocrisy, duplicity, and fascistic authoritarianism have been exposed. Our young “citizens army” now on the streets must be supported by the rest of us if true change is to come. We must both talk the talk, as well as walk the walk, by condemning the lies, malfeasance, and distortions emanating from the White House, Senate, and its presidential clones. We must get out the vote and show these reactionaries and self-aggrandizing, so-called “public servants” that we have their number and that their party is over.

We must also say to the Democrats that we, too, must change and make room for the talented young people whom we give lip service to wanting, but in practice discourage their participation, unless it’s on the terms that we, the establishment, approve of. Republican citizens who are embarrassed by their party’s capitulation to those reactionaries who kneel at the feet of a sick and dangerous megalomaniac must also speak out and work for a new party representing those whose views are more egalitarian, just, and less divisive of our neighbors of all colors, orientations, and social and economic status.

Finally, all of the above will be mute if we do not remedy the catastrophic rape and pillage that we have heaped upon our environment and planet. As a planet “we cannot breathe” is the existential cry that will kill us all, if remedial change does not take place now.

For all our sakes, and to truly Make America Great now, get out and vote and tell (from under your masks and six feet apart) at least three others to do the same for both the primary and national elections — please.

Who will I be voting for? Glad you asked. Perry Gershon and Joe Biden, who else?

LARRY SMITH

 

No Longer Silent
East Hampton
June 12, 2020

Dear David,

In our country, since the time of slavery, people of color have been the subject of racial prejudice. The murder of George Floyd is the latest murder of black people. The cause of these horrific events is the false belief that people of color are inferior to whites. When will it end?

I accept all people for who they are; yet I am at fault for not challenging people who I have heard expressing that prejudice. I will no longer remain silent on this matter.

Babies are not born prejudiced; it is learned from their parents, friends, and so-called leaders of our country. Perhaps the worldwide reaction to George Floyd’s murder will cause changes in attitudes. We are all God’s children, and all people deserve respect.

The modern science of genetics has traced the origins of humans through the study of DNA. Modern humans first appeared in Africa. This means that every person on Earth is descended from black people. I wonder if this knowledge has any meaning to racist people? Very interesting.

Always hopeful,

ROBERT BUDD

 

Insensitive
East Hampton
June 12, 2020

To the Editor:

I don’t think I have lost my sense of humor, but I find this week’s cartoon by Peter Spacek totally insensitive to the times.

Equating the thousands of peaceful protesters to rioters and making light of the job the police have is not funny.

VIRGINIA GIBBS

 

Crime Statistics
Springs
June 15, 2020

Dear Editor,

In my letter last week, I provided crime statistics. At the end of my letter, I made a passing reference to a racial breakdown to which you felt the need to comment so as to cast doubt on the statistical data provided. The figure you provided, although true, was not a reflection of the overall statistical data, not reflective of the data I provided. Hence this week, allow me to expand on last week’s letter.

There are two parts to a problem — the cause and effect. Failing to identify the cause will never provide a positive and productive solution. To achieve a positive solution, there must be an honest conversation with all stakeholders regarding race, it’s the relationship to crime and the socioeconomic factors.

Delving into the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, it is evident that public perceptions about crime in the United States often don’t align with the facts or narratives being presented by politicians, activists, and many in the press.

Crimes in the U.S. have been at historic lows for all races, and this is a good thing. Sadly, the percentages of black-on-black crimes remain stubbornly, unacceptably high. Additionally, F.B.I. data shows significant differences from state to state and city-to-city in which various factors influence a particular area’s crime rate, including its population density and economic conditions.

With a firm understanding of the statistical data, years of experience in the criminal justice field, and based on my observations of the press reports, I draw some conclusions.

First: Figures lie when liars figure.

Second: Many in the press will never let the truth or facts stand in the way of a good story.

Third: Never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.

I pray that politicians and activists can put their political differences and ideological opinions aside to address the real problems of our society, the breakdown of the family, lack of productive education, the need to create economic empowerment, and the lack of empathy for those less fortunate in our community. God loves all, and we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of the Lord, regardless of ethnicity.

The East Hampton Republican Committee is the local party dedicated to working families, a living wage, environmental conservation, equality, diversity, and economic development for all. We believe in bipartisan solutions regardless of financial status or political party affiliation. Access to the government should not be based on what you can afford or how much you donate to a national or local political party. Town government should be fair, equitable, open, and transparent to all.

Come and check us out at our next monthly meeting. We will not judge. Nor will we demand that you follow a national, state, or New York City political doctrine. Let us work together for a better East Hampton for all.

MANNY VILAR

Chairman

East Hampton Town

Republican Committee

 

Genuine Conflict
New York City
June 3, 2020

Dear Mr. Rattray,

I laud Mr. Bellone’s speaking at length, in his daily briefing, about George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers. But Mr. Floyd’s death is only a single case of an entire second pandemic, the disease of police violence; and protesters, by wearing masks, have been expressing their genuine conflict about how to protest without hurting people by spreading Covid-19.

Of course, because of the institutional racism that afflicts every aspect of our society from where we are able to live to how good our medical care is, black people are vastly more likely to get Covid-19 and die of it. This racism is the heart of the current protests.

Our society is rotten with racism, and the police forces of our country are not a force for positive change. Instead, let’s start by looking at how much we spend on the police and the military compared with education and jobs, housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, and medical care, and get things better balanced.

LAURIE JOAN ARON

 

Challenging Crossroads
Springs
June 15, 2020

Dear David,

It was reported this week that Kennedy Mitchum, a 22-year-old black woman from Missouri, convinced Merriam-Webster to change the official definition of the word “racism” to include not just prejudicial beliefs and assumptions, but also the systemic oppression that is its result. A lover of words and meaning, I’m heartened by this small cultural development because it reinforces the idea that to find a solution, we must first define and recognize the problem.

In recent weeks, the confluence of the Covid-19 pandemic and multiple killings of unarmed black people by police has focused attention on many crucial and shameful issues in our country, including economic and health inequities, rampant police bias and brutality, and deliberate voter suppression. At the same time, we are hearing the rising voices of the Black Lives Matter movement, and we see the growing diversity of the movement’s supporters.

Some people in our community are disturbed by the recent “unrest.” In my opinion, unrest is appropriate because this is not a time for resting, but rather a time for waking up from complacence. White people who think of themselves as nonracist must finally understand that is no longer good enough. It’s time that we must be proactively anti-racist.

As a member of East Hampton’s Anti-Bias Task Force, a group of concerned citizens who work together to promote diversity, unity, and understanding to eliminate bias and prejudice, I believe all politics are not just local, they are personal, and if we do not define, recognize, and actively fight against pervasive racism, bigotry, and injustice in our personal lives, workplaces, and institutions, we are each part of the problem.

I grew up in a white Jewish family in Plainfield, N.J., an integrated town that experienced racial tension and rioting in the late 1960s while I was a high school student. As a result, I came early to the understanding of social disparity based on race, ethnicity, religion, class, and gender. As a college student in the early 1970s, I gravitated to the women’s movement and made gay and lesbian friends who were feeling a breath of freedom. Even though a “counter- cultural revolution” was taking place, racism persisted.

Through all these years, I have wrestled with my own privilege. I believe that most of us are carrying some level of ingrained racism, picked up either through our parents’ fears of “the other,” skewed versions of history taught in schools, or media depictions that fail to address the diverse citizens who built our nation.

Since its founding, our country has been haunted by bigotry and racist attacks. Now, with such violence recorded on cellphones and spread across the internet, we have all become witnesses to the murders of innocent children, men, and women. White people like me, who have not been the target of these attacks, can no longer look away. We have to figure out what we can do to move forward.

This is why today’s national conversation is so important. In response to Black Lives Matter, when someone innocently asks, “Don’t all lives matter?” I find that it can be an opportunity to educate them. I’ve heard this easy explanation, and I recently shared it with an acquaintance who needed to hear it: When your house is on fire and you call the fire department, you don’t want to hear that every house matters. Your house is on fire and you are the one who needs help now. Black lives are under assault in America, and this injustice needs immediate attention. I am frightened. I am angry, and I want to help, knowing that words are a start, but action must follow.

I find it encouraging, though, that people who never thought about this before are listening now. We are truly standing at the most challenging crossroads of our lifetimes, when radical and lasting change actually seems possible. The Black Lives Matter movement has defined our national problem, and the rest of us are coming to recognize it. The steps we take now can start us on a healing path, and we must keep this conversation going, for as long as it takes, until we find a solution. To find out more about the East Hampton Anti-Bias Task Force, you can visit ehamptonny.gov/435/Anti-Bias-Task-Force.

VICKI LURIA BLATT

 

Proactive Ally
Amagansett
June 10, 2020

Dear David,

Talking about race is the ultimate challenge for white people. They have little or no practice doing it. At the dinner table, white friends and families rarely talk about the life-and-death challenges facing black people while navigating a world dominated by white people.

It is hard to recognize one’s role in the oppression of others, even if it is unintentional. It is rarely a conversation that takes place between black and white people due to the persistence of segregation in everyday life. None of this is new. None of this is news. The difference is what we do about it.

I have always recognized race as a source for the inherent injustice in society. But my thinking about racial injustice — and my own role in it — has developed over years by working as a teacher with black children, educating myself through reading about the experiences of black people, and learning through diversity workshops and conferences how to become a proactive ally.

We cannot let this issue once again become yesterday’s news. Now is the time for white people not to pull back from this challenge but to confront it head-on and make lasting change. You can participate in the Anti-Bias Task Force here in East Hampton. You can donate to organizations promoting social justice. You can elect representatives who will introduce positive change.

Each of us must learn how to engage in these difficult conversations honestly — but also knowledgeably. Progress can only be made through the hard work of self-education, open dialogue, and concerted action.

Working together, we can make the United States better, safer, and fairer for all.

LOUISE BERGERSON

Town of East Hampton Anti-Bias Task Force

 

Huge Mistake
East Hampton
June 15, 2020

Dear David,

I want to start by saying that I was appalled by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the vast majority of the country feels the same about it. It triggered protests all around the country, and I fully support the First Amendment right of the peaceful protesters.

Locally the protests have been nonviolent. In other parts of the country, although the majority of the protests have been peaceful, unfortunately there have also been rioting, burning, and looting. The police have been put in a difficult situation of trying to protect innocent people from harm, as well as protect property from damage and theft, using the minimum amount of force and confrontation that is possible.

From what I have read, as well as my personal observations, I strongly feel that the large majority of the police are doing their best to carry out their duties fairly and without racial prejudice. The “bad cops” are a problem that has to be addressed, and valid proposals have been presented to be able to identify and remove them, so that proper policing is always maintained. There have to be reforms put in place to be able to do this, because sometimes politics and unions make it difficult to solve these problems. The reforms should include better reporting on the use of deadly force, and on the use of “no knock” search warrants. Also lynching should be made illegal, and more police body cameras should be used.

There is a movement in many places around the country to defund rather than reform the police departments. In a recent New York Times article by Dionne Searcey, et al., this movement is cited as happening in New York City, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Nashville, Portland, and Denver. I would think probably in many other places, as well. Last Friday, the New York City Council announced its intention to cut the police budget by $1 billion, and reallocate it to other areas.

Defunding police departments is a huge mistake. It would reduce the amount of police presence needed during these difficult times, as well as reduce needed training and monitoring. If more money is necessary for things like youth and social health services, it should come from all areas of the city budget, not just the police budget. This letter is not going to be seen around the country, but there are many people from New York City who will read it and should make their feelings known to the City Council and the mayor. This is a very important issue, and everyone should do whatever they can to make it better.

JON HOWARD

 

‘Chauvinism’
Montauk
June 6, 2020

To the Editor,

So far no one has made a connection between the name of Derek Chauvin of Minneapolis and chauvinism.

The old French soldier E. Chauvin, from whom chauvinism originated, was only an enthusiastic, vociferous supporter of Napoleon 1st.

Over the past 200 years the word has meant various expressions of prejudice, always with excess.

It is regrettable that long ago “chauvinism” was a feeling expressing patriotism and now might be associated with cruelty and murder.

LOUIS C. MARTIN

 

Stop Doing Penance
East Quogue
June 15, 2020

To the editor;

I just received an email from the local Drawdown organization, a group that is commendably dedicated to planetary survival. This email was in the form of a letter from one of their members, in which she included this confession:

“I now recognize that the same inaction taken toward climate change is the same inaction taken toward racism. By not realizing that we are deeply responsible, my silence and my ignorance have created the situation. I am a de facto racist — something that I’ve just come to know.”

No, dear Dorothy. You are not a racist. This vituperation is intended to impose blanket guilt on every person of the wrong color, which today happens to be white. It is guaranteed to alienate allies and those who share concern over police brutality and discrimination. It is a meaningless term because it applies to thought or attitude, both of which are subject to the principle of free expression.

It is racist acts that are deplorable, and must be punished. Blanket condemnation of all whites, few of whom are complicit in slavery or discrimination, is racist itself. Get the courage to defend your own principled behavior and stop doing penance for crimes you never committed. You are being manipulated, and the end result will be not harmony but doubt, conflict, and hate. Don’t play this treacherous game. The wholesale indictment of all whites, charging them with innate racism, is intended to evoke guilt and penance. But it is more likely to incite resentment or apathy and alienation from the justified grievances of the black community.

Sincerely,

LORNA SALZMAN

 

The Aftermath
Amagansett
June 14, 2020

Dear David,

It’s been confirmed what we’d already suspected: that America is in a recession. This past week, the National Bureau of Economic Research announced that the recession officially began in February, ending what had been the longest economic expansion in American history.

The Trump recession won’t be as bad as the Great Depression, but it will inflict considerable pain and damage on our most vulnerable populations. It already has. Let’s hope that it’s short-lived and that, after November’s elections, a new administration will lead an economic recovery that benefits all levels of our society. This is not simply a matter of the stock market or my 401(k). If we’ve learned anything in the aftermath of the George Floyd tragedy, the problems we’re experiencing run deep and wide across society and have for decades, if not centuries. The Trump recession simply exacerbates them.

A final thought, and a cautionary tale:

The 2016 presidential election was a test of the character and the wisdom of the American people. We failed that test. The past three and a half years have demonstrated the devastating effects of that failure, including Trump’s totally botched handling of the Covid-19 crisis and the Trump recession. In November, let’s see if we, as a nation, can retake that test and pass it this time. That’s all I ask.

Sincerely,

JIM LUBETKIN

 

Fell in Step
East Hampton
June 4, 2020

To the Editor,

A number of years ago I saw a film called “Shoah.” I think it was a Spielberg film; it was about the Holocaust. There’s a scene in that film where a farmer is out in his field, a train passes by packed with Jews on their way to the gas chambers. The farmer, who is not more than 200 feet from the train, seeing all the hands sticking out of the train as if asking for help, he looks for a moment then looks away and a moment later continues his farming duties as if nothing unusual had happened.

Today, here in America, I am reminded of that scene because we are all standing by watching a crazy man ruin our democracy and our lives; we look for a moment and then look away. That’s the dilemma: Why do we look away? Are we afraid; are we like sheep who need to be led? Part of the reason for our current circumstance, I believe, is that we are a culture that has raised the past few generations in the lap of luxury compared to our parents’ generations. We have somehow made our children believe that if they make waves they may lose what we have made them believe is so important to have. We have become a nation of citizens who are spending our lives acquiring material objects and we’re afraid of losing the comfy plump lives that we have gotten used to. It has taken the poor and underprivileged in our society who had nothing to lose to rise up, take to the streets, and show us the way.

Protesters are marching peacefully in the streets of our nation because a policeman killed an innocent black man, and our nation is shocked. All the talking heads on television keep saying why did this happen? Well, it’s been happening for many years, the difference being that almost everyone today carries a camera so we are witnessing, firsthand, police brutality. Do we really think that policemen are more violent than the general population? The answer is, yes they are, and studies have proven that. More policemen beat their wives and children than any other occupation. More policemen kill their spouses than any other occupation. So it is clear that police work does attract men, and a few women, who crave control and have a propensity to violence. They enjoy the power that wearing a badge and a gun gives them. This translates directly to what happened to poor George Floyd, whom the country watched on television being murdered by a policeman.

One of the things that has to change are the requirements for getting on a police force. We’ve got to be able to weed out the persons with tendencies toward control and violence. Certainly that can’t be so hard to do with a few hundred questions on a written test, and, in fact, wouldn’t it be great if after the testing we kept a record of those who failed? Then we might be able to save many a life. Certainly, qualified psychologists can help in that endeavor.

Of course, that alone won’t solve the racism in America. We need really good training with competent teachers talking about and teaching white privilege. I fear, and we should all fear, for the future of our great nation. Our president actually ordered tear gas used on a peaceful protest so that he would have a clear path to walk to a pseudo-religious photo op. We should all be concerned not just with what the president ordered them to do, but with the fact that they actually did it. The policemen fired rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tear gas on their fellow Americans who did nothing wrong, only because the president who we all know to be a little nutty told them to do it. This clearly is what occurred in Nazi Germany when Hitler gave similar instructions to the troops and they blindly fell in step and followed orders.

It’s taken more than three years for those who worked or are working in the White House to finally talk about the immaturity, selfishness, and uncontrollable temper that our supposed leader shows. What has come to light is something our forefathers could never have imagined, which is the reason that our Constitution is so often being tested by this sick man-child, whom we elected to the White House. But worse even than that is the complicity of our elected officials, who permitted this to go on for so long. History will hold them accountable even if we don’t.

MARILYN FITTERMAN

 

Dark History
Amagansett
June 14, 2020

Dear David,

The following is about systemic injustice. Corruption and misconduct in our criminal justice systems, both federal and state. Much of below is from firsthand experience. I want you to believe what I’ve written. Therefore you should know some of my pedigree.

In 1966, I graduated from Hofstra University and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Going through Parris Island was my first encounter with poor blacks, poor Hispanics, and poor whites. Almost all were teens. I was the oldest and the only college grad. We were together going through Parris Island boot camp and advanced infantry training. All were friendly to one another.

I am a Mustang, a Marine who rose through the ranks from private to captain. In 1967, I volunteered for Vietnam, served 13 months as an infantry officer with the First Battalion Third Marines. In 1970, I mustered out of the corps. That same year I started Brooklyn Law School under the G.I. Bill.

In 1973, I graduated from law school and was hired by the Legal Aid Society Criminal Defense Division. After a training course I was assigned to the Drug Part in Kings County Criminal Court.

The Rockefeller drug laws had just come into effect. The laws were draconian. The harshest in the nation. Mandatory minimum 15 to life, if convicted of possessing or selling one ounce of heroin, cocaine, or methadone. And our “finest” used the new laws to target the unfortunates.

Representing poor blacks, poor Hispanics, and poor whites showed me firsthand the systemic misconduct and corruption embedded in our criminal justice system, including cops, detectives, prosecutors, and judges. It is ongoing. Many of my clients in the Drug Part reminded me of Marines that I served with in Vietnam.

In my first felony jury trial, I represented a Vietnam veteran who was indicted for an A-1 felony. If convicted he was facing a mandatory minimum of 15 to life. The same sentence for murder in the second degree. He was framed by two anti-crime cops for possession of one ounce of methadone. He had distinguished himself in Vietnam and was honorably discharged.

The jury found him not guilty. The anti-crime officers lied under oath, were never held accountable. We have a phrase for when officers commit perjury in court. We call it “testilying.” Can you believe this is America?

I am proud Marine General Jim Mattis (“In union there is strength”) came down hard on Trump. And reminds us, “Equal Justice Under Law” is carved on the outside of the Supreme Court of the United States.

On April 4, 1968, word came down from Battalion that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. We passed the word around our perimeter. The Marine Corps, shortly after World War II, was the first service to be fully integrated. In the field we had a custom called “get checkerboard.” It meant that every fighting position had to be both black and white. No exceptions. Many black Marines along the perimeter got word about Dr. King from a fellow white Marine.

While I was working in the Drug Part, the local papers covered a story about a young black teen shot to death by a white police officer. From all accounts, it appeared the officer had no reason to open fire. A request went out for legal observers to attend a protest in front of the officer’s precinct. I felt a compulsion to go.

I didn’t realize at the time the source of the compulsion. Now I realize I felt a connection to that young black man — a Nam connection. In Nam, shooting any person for no reason was murder. It happened all too often. The killers got a pass because no one spoke up.

On the evening of the protest, I took the subway to attend. It was being held in front of the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn. Several hundred people, all black, were demonstrating against the police killing of an innocent black kid. I realized I was the only white person among the protesters, and there was no media present.

The protest was nonviolent. After about two hours, word went through the people there that someone had broken a store window. Moments later, about six police vehicles drove straight at the protesters, myself included. One vehicle jumped a curb to get at me and some others. Their tactic scattered the demonstrators. Within a very short time, the whole area in front of the precinct was emptied.

The officer in question was never held accountable. It turns out white police officers killing young black men was not unusual, and a given that the officer would be given a pass. What follows is what I know of a horrific murder of an innocent young man named Jose Sanchez.

In mid-February 1990, I was retained by Modesto Sanchez, who had been indicted by the Brooklyn D.A. for selling and possessing cocaine. On Feb. 6, 1990, the Brooklyn South Narcotics Squad, along with the elite Organized Crime Investigation Division, 28 officers, executed a no-knock warrant at his family home at 219 55th Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. During the raid the officers arrested Modesto Sanchez and killed his brother, Jose Sanchez, who had nothing to do with the crimes charged against Modesto.

That night, the police spokesperson, Edward L. Burns, told the media that more than 15 narcotics detectives had forced their way into 219 55th Street and had been met by a hail of gunfire. To protect themselves, Burns said, detectives had returned the fire, striking Jose Sanchez once in the chest. In police jargon it was considered “a good shot.”

The next day, the media reported the official version. Three weeks later, the Kings County grand jury cleared all the cops of killing Jose Sanchez. The office of District Attorney Charles Hynes stated Sanchez was shot once in the chest. All the actions taken by the detectives and prosecutors involved was a bald-faced cover-up of the heinous murder of Jose Sanchez, done with a certain belief in their impunity and their unaccountability.

For nine months, I and co-counsel Paula Deutsch, a Legal Aid attorney, filed motion after motion seeking disclosure of all police reports concerning the raid and its consequences. The assistant D.A. assigned to the case kept saying in court that the shooting was separate and unrelated to the drug case. Finally, Ms. Deutsch got a judge to sign a subpoena for the autopsy of Jose Sanchez and the crime scene report concerning the scene of the shooting.

The autopsy report revealed that Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Ferenc reviewed the body of Jose Sanchez and discovered 16 “gunshot wounds to head, torso, and limbs with injuries including perforation of heart, lungs, liver, and spleen.” Ferenc described the holes, including a bullet that entered “on the right back of the head,” traveled through the brain, and lodged itself “below the level of the right angle of the jaw.” Ferenc also found two bullet-graze wounds to the head, one on the rear left side, the second on the right forehead, arching up from the eyebrow. Five of the wounds were to Sanchez’s back, including one bullet that entered just below the base of his neck. The medical examiner called Jose Sanchez’s death a homicide. In Vietnam I never saw this type of wanton shooting/desecration of a person. It makes me wonder what kind of men would do that. They all have one thing in common: They did this under the color of law. The autopsy report was never presented to any grand jury.

The crime scene report disclosed that all the bullet casings found strewn in and around Jose’s room matched weapons fired by the police. There is no statute of limitations for murder. This means that the killers have been held unaccountable for 30 years. In a different place in a different time, they could have been held to account.

Unaccountable killers under the color of law is ingrained in our dark history. It is happening as I write this. Can it be stopped? I don’t know. However, the fight starts in the trenches. Meaning with the cops and detectives on the beat. All law officers take an oath to serve us by upholding our laws. A sacred trust that way too many have violated because they thought they were above the law or maybe below the law. The first line of accountability is a mandate with no exception that every police officer and detective have a body cam and a car cam that has to be on during every encounter with us. Accountability also mandates that we civilians be involved with our law enforcers. That means civilian access to all police departments. I would rather call policemen “watchmen” and civilians that watch them “watchdogs.”

A good part of my career as a criminal defense attorney was spent fighting in court against corruption and misconduct by cops, detectives, prosecutors, and judges. A close Mafioso friend told me, “The worst kind of criminal is the one that has a badge and a gun.” That’s for sure. In every endeavor there are the good, the bad, and the ugly. Those who have taken an oath to enforce our laws must always be accountable to those they are supposed to serve — us. Point of interest: Everyone who serves in the armed forces takes an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That includes our constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable seizures and killings.

In June of 2015 the Veterans Administration declared me permanently disabled and unemployable due to several service-connected disabilities. The worst being chronic ischemic coronary heart disease, caused by exposure to Agent Orange during my 13-month tour in Vietnam. This means that I can never practice law before the court, no more forever.

At present I’m involved as a witness in two pending federal cases. Both involve systemic corruption and misconduct in our criminal justice systems, federal and state. One case started out as a local case. William Cuthbert v. the Town of East Hampton and Police Officers Frank Trotta and Barry Johnson shows systemic corruption and misconduct by police, prosecution, and courts. The other case, U.S.A. v. Fred Oberlander Esq. and Richard Lerner Esq., has been pending in the Eastern District of New York for over 10 years. Both attorneys are being persecuted by the F.B.I., Department of Justice, federal judges, and Felix Sater, a well-known F.B.I. informant who recently testified for Special Counsel Mueller against Michael Cohen, Trump’s ex-lawyer. Why? Because both attorneys have discovered, during contentious litigation involving F.B.I. informer Felix Sater, ongoing secret federal court proceedings involving Felix Sater, who had extensive business dealings with Trump while working for F.B.I. director Mueller. Mueller was our F.B.I. director from 2001 to 2012, under both Bush ‘43 and Obama.

I’m wrapping this up for now, but I’ll be back. My dad said many things to me. Like “Never judge a person by their color,” “never show emotion in public,” “lose your head, lose your fight,” and “the word is mightier than the sword.”

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Semper fi,

JOSEPH GIANNINI

Capt. U.S.M.C. Retired

 

Slave Holders
Springs
June 14, 2020

To The Star:

A year before the end of the Civil War, on April 12, 1864, at 10 in the morning, Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, with a detachment of 3,000 troopers from his Confederate Cavalry Corps of the Tennessee First Division, attacked Fort Pillow on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in Tennessee. The fort at the time was garrisoned by 600 Union soldiers, divided evenly between white and African-Americans.

By 3:30 in the afternoon the Confederate forces had breached the outer defenses of Fort Pillow and General Forrest paused his attack to demand the unconditional surrender of the entire Union garrison. The Union commander, Maj. William Bradford, asked for an hour to consider the demand for surrender. General Forrest replied that he would give Major Bradford only 20 minutes to accept the offer of unconditional surrender, and “if at the expiration of that time the fort is not surrendered, I shall assault it.”

Major Bradford refused to surrender and General Forrest ordered his bugler to sound the charge. The attack was lightning fast, furious, and vicious. Confederate sharpshooters arrayed on the outskirts of the fort poured murderous gunfire into the fort as other Confederate forces quickly outflanked the Union defenders and flooded into the fort itself. Union soldiers began to break ranks and began running or dropping their guns and surrendering en masse with their hands up.

At this point, the Fort Pillow massacre, as it later came to be known, began. Confederate soldiers with wantonness and ferocity, yelling “no quarter, no quarter,” began shooting and bayoneting the surrendering Union soldiers, particularly targeting the African-American soldiers.

Many African-American soldiers trying to surrender or escape ran down the bluffs to the banks of the Mississippi River, where they were met by Confederate soldiers who tackled them, and with their bare hands held many of them under the water until they drowned. The others were shot in the head as they tried to swim to safety.

In the fort itself, African-American Union soldiers were grabbed and lynched, many had their heads bashed in with rifle butts or bayoneted in both eyes to kill them. Some were buried alive, and in some cases they were nailed with hammers to the wooden floors of their tents or the wooden walls of buildings inside the fort, and then burned alive to kill them.

When the slaughter ended that evening only 58 of the 262 African-American soldiers in the garrison had survived. The majority of the whites in the garrison were spared and taken prisoner, but three-quarters of them would die later in Confederate prisons.

A Confederate sergeant, Achilles V. Clark, later wrote his sister that, “The slaughter was awful. Words cannot describe the scene. The poor deluded Negroes would run up to our men, fall on their knees and with uplifted hands scream for mercy, but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. The white men fared but little better. The fort turned out to be a great slaughter pen. Blood, human blood, stood about in pools and brains could have been gathered up in any quantity. I, with several others tried to stop the butchery and at one time had partially succeeded, but General Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and the firing ceased.”

General Forrest himself proudly called it “the wholesale slaughter of the garrison at Fort Pillow.” He went on to write, in his official dispatch, “The river was dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for 200 yards. The approximate loss was upward of 500 killed, but few of the officers escaping. My loss was about 20 killed. It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that Negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.”

Historian Richard Fuchs, writing in his book “Unerring Fire” about the massacre, concluded that, “the affair at Fort Pillow was simply an orgy of death, a mass lynching to satisfy the basest of conduct — intentional murder — for the vilest of reasons, racism and personal enmity.

General Forrest’s enmity toward African-Americans was well known to his contemporaries. He was known as a virulent racist and before the Civil War he had made a large fortune as a slave trader. After the war, he went on to finance and build a failed railroad line, but he is best known after the Civil War for being a founding member of the Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee at the beginning of Reconstruction.

In 1867, he became the Ku Klux Klan’s first leader, and was called its grand wizard. That infamous title was chosen because he had been called the “wizard of the saddle” during the war. He was the Klan’s first and only grand wizard. Subsequently all the leaders of the K.K.K. have been called imperial wizards.

Throughout the American South today there are over 43 memorials of all kinds dedicated to Nathan Bedford Forrest. That includes monuments, statues, busts, counties, towns, streets, parks, and even schools — three high schools, two junior high schools, one elementary school, and even a preparatory preschool. Only seven years ago, in 2013, Jacksonville, Fla., finally got around to renaming its Nathan Bedford Forrest High School after years of bitter protests by many that the city change its name.

One has to ask themselves if there should ever be any memorialization anywhere erected to such a man as Nathan Bedford Forrest, not only for his atrocities at Fort Pillow, but because he was a founding member of the Ku Klux Klan and its first leader. His story is not that different, though, from any of the other traitorous soldiers and prominent citizens of the Confederacy who are memorialized throughout the South.

Yes traitorous. It is important historically to always remember that soldiers and prominent citizens of the Confederacy were all traitors to the United States. That’s why they were called rebels by Union forces. Most of those memorialized were slaveholders and inveterate racists. Whether or not they were slaveholders or racists doesn’t even matter: They all fomented sedition against America, or fought and killed their fellow Americans, to maintain the abhorrent and immoral institution of slavery. Many, like Nathan Bedford Forrest after the Civil War, became members of the K.K.K. or other white supremacy associations both secret and public, like the Red Shirts, the White League, and the Daughters of the Confederacy, that proliferated across the South during Reconstruction.

Never forget that even Gen. Robert E. Lee, the most memorialized Confederate figure of the Civil War, with over 230 memorials to him around the country, fought and killed thousands and thousands of his fellow Americans so he could continue to trade, sell, breed, profit from, and personally whip his own slaves as if they were livestock animals, not human beings.

In just three days at Gettysburg he killed over 3,000 of his fellow Americans so that he could maintain his right, as he had always done, as a slaveholder and master, to pour brine into the open wounds on the backs of his slaves he had just whipped, as an extra measure to dissuade them from escaping. Gen. Robert E. Lee fought and killed his fellow Americans almost every day for four years in the Civil War so that he could maintain the right on his plantation to continue to break up every slave family he owned, except one. A particularly heinous act of family separation feared by slaves almost more than anything else that their owners could do to them, and unlike Lee was even contrary to the practices of many other slave owners in the South who kept their slave families together. His slaves called Lee, “the worst man I ever see.”

Aside from Nathan Bedford Forrest, for some historians a war criminal, founder, and first leader of the Ku Klux Klan, should any of these soldiers and citizens of the Confederacy be memorialized in any way at all in America today for killing their fellow citizens to maintain slavery? Should schools be named after such men? Should American military bases be named after traitors? The moral imperative for all of us is to clearly and indefatigably say no. This memorialization of Confederate soldiers and figures is repugnant and must end.

L.W. GREEN

 

Security Blanket
East Hampton
June 14, 2020

To The Star:

Someone once described racism as the gift that keeps on giving. Amazingly, 400 years into our country’s existence we are finally trying to have a conversation about institutional, systemic racism. Racism to most of us, nonwhites excluded, is like a sore back that bothers us when we think about it but something we learn to live with. What we seem not to understand is how much it impacts our lives and how our acceptance is substantially detrimental to our own existence.

Racism, as a way of life, is really simple. It requires no understanding of complex ideas or sophisticated beliefs. It simply states that people of color, any color, are inferior to whatever color you might be (in U.S. white). It is so simple that as long as you have the visual capacity to see someone’s skin color you are home free. You don’t need an ID or a Ph.D. or a CVS card. Racism fits all sizes and shapes who aren’t color blind.

(Think religion: The struggle between Protestants and Catholics or Sunni and Shia. Complicated stuff about what God really wants or told someone or sent down in a message on a tablet. Conflicts fabricated, fraudulent, convoluted, incomprehensible, as if the one God, who hardly anyone believes in, sent out all these conflicting messages about being chosen. When both Christians and Muslims missed the chosen boat by 3,000 years.)

What’s really great about racism is that it provides a security blanket for everyone who feels uncomfortable with their place in our societal pecking order or feels unsure about their self-esteem. You can fail in school, work at a crappy job that pays poorly and that you hate, be in lousy relationships, have kids who can’t stand you, have friends who make fun of you, and still feel okay about yourself because there are people worse off than you and you know who they are. You can see them in the street, on the television, in the movies, and think that no matter what, I’m cooler than they are. Thank God for people of color.

Yet, while poor self-esteem can be modulated by invidious comparisons, the problem of transference is painful. Transference with regard to race is that once we had systematized a way of treating people and gotten away with it, we found it irresistible not to treat lots of other people the same way. So, while we couldn’t enslave white people, we could treat them like slaves or close to it. Once abuse, as a way of treatment, is normalized it becomes infectious. See the treatment of white workers, white soldiers, white drug addicts, and white trash.

During slavery, slaves didn’t get paid. The best example of transference is that between 1980 and 2020, U.S. workers’ real incomes declined by more than 20 percent. The only place in the entire world where that happened. Intentionally! The leverage lost by the white working class when the Democrats went soft and unions were kicked away left them susceptible to big business trickle-down fraudulence and globalization. Pay them low wages, without benefits, and find cheap stuff for them to buy. Their skin color doesn’t matter and the system is already in place.

So, you are 65 and your 40-year-old son is taking Oxy. He’s not working. Not taking care of the kids. He’s really in the shit, and you begin to wonder if you shouldn’t try it yourself. Then you read about the crack epidemic in the early ‘80s that decimated black and brown-skinned communities, and you learn that the only place to buy crack was in the inner city and that the jokesters called it ‘n- base.’ And you get 10 years for five grams of crack and six months for a pound of cocaine. And you say ‘holy shit,’ what’s the difference.

It’s when you start to feel the good stuff slipping away and the dream becomes a nightmare, and you realize that no one in government gives a rat, that you turn to the orange charlatan. Bunker boy, pussy grabber, top-notch racist will bring it all back. Except that he’s one of the guys who put you in the crapper. And at the end of the day with a crappy job and overdue mortgage you can’t really say that that black family is worse off than you are. All the good stuff about racism has disappeared, and when you look in the mirror you understand that you’ve gone to the other side, and it isn’t very pretty.

NEIL HAUSIG


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