Leave With Gratitude
December 3, 2021
I want to wish you, and all at The East Hampton Star, an enjoyable holiday season.
As well, I want to thank you all for your continued coverage of the town issues and issues that pertain to the town of East Hampton’s various boards and committees.
As I have been chairman of the zoning board of appeals since May in 2014, I want to inform you and your readers that I will be stepping down from this position at the end of this calendar year. I am doing this, as I will be coming up on eight years in this position, and I believe that the various boards in our town (town board, planning board, architecture review board, and the zoning board of appeals) should be boards that are evolving and fluid as time goes on, without board members staying on beyond eight years. I believe in these boards being representative of all our town citizens, and I encourage younger people to get more involved in the future of their town. I am stepping down now, so that the new town board can appoint a replacement in 2022 as chairperson, and a new member to the board. I certainly hope that my vice chairman, Roy Dalene, will step up to chairing the Z.B.A.
I must say that I will miss being on this board and working with my fellow board members: Roy Dalene, Theresa Berger, Tim Brenneman, and Ed Johann. This fine people are hard-working and focused. For those of you who tune into our Tuesday meetings on LTV (more than 40 per year), you have witnessed how informed and dedicated these board members are. Every application is considered as thoughtfully as the next. It has been such an honor to work with such a group of town citizens.
I am extremely grateful to have worked with the various Z.B.A. attorneys and most recently, NancyLynn Thiele. The planning Department is staffed with professional, dedicated planners who do all the legwork behind the scenes, caring only for upholding our town code, the well-being and future of our town, and the environment. I have great respect for these planners and for the Z.B.A. secretaries who have served our board since 2014, when I started.
I thank the town board as well for their confidence in our board and in my chairmanship. There has never been any pressure in the slightest on any of our applications and determinations. The town board has left the Z.B.A. to do our work without any interference whatsoever. This has been a portion of my career that I will always cherish. I leave with profound gratitude to have served on this board and with friendships that will endure well into the future.
Protected From Harm
December 5, 2021
I’d like to take a paragraph or two to say thank you to Mae Mougin and Ross Kauffman and their stellar filmmaking team for their glorious testimony to the phenomenal gift that is the John Ryan family. John’s brainchild of love and care, the Junior Lifeguard Program and other educational initiatives to keep our community protected from harm in our waters, is the subject matter of the award-winning film “Waterproof,” which we saw at a screening at the Sag Harbor Cinema today.
Knowing Mae’s long commitment to this project (she was filming back when our son, now 21, was in the program), my feelings in witnessing this film come to fruition on the movie screen are especially poignant. I’ve repeated frequently through the years how exceptional this program is, how proud we were that our son participated in it, and I feel a sense of relief to know that our beaches are filled with resilient, water-brave youth. Thank you to all the folks who contributed to make this beautiful film possible and please, everyone, try to see it.
All East Enders can support the efforts of John Ryan by helping to make sure these imperative programs continue, have the backing they need, and are accessible to every single young person, from all walks of life, on the East End. To learn more about the work being done to “waterproof” our community and how to help or to donate, please visit ehvor.org. The film’s website is waterprooflifeguardsforlife.com.
This cinematic ode to the remarkable Ryan family is a powerful gift to all of us and their lifelong work is a true community-building act of love. When we witness how this program brings out the best in us all, we are especially proud to be East Enders.
December 6, 2021
A reminder: The duck and goose season reopens on Saturday, and small game is open (the upland season), and the bow season for deer is open. So use caution on your walks on the beaches and in the woods,
And be kind to the hunters. We all can enjoy the outdoors!
Yours in good sport,
CAPT. HARVEY BENNETT
East Hampton Village
December 5, 2021
The East Hampton Village board’s decision to allow Telsa and Electrify America to install 16 electrical vehicle charging stations on village-owned property at 8 Osborne Lane is a textbook example of malfeasance. By providing little or no benefit to residents, the mayor, board of trustees, village administrator, and village attorney willfully neglected to perform their duty to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust without reasonable excuse or justification.
It’s disheartening that the only beneficiaries are Tesla, one of the world’s highest market-capitalized companies, exceeding $1 trillion, and Electrify America, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Volkswagen Group of America. The fact our elected/appointed village officials did not conduct the necessary due diligence or take into account the interest of the taxpayers account suggests fraud.
The Telsa agreement calls for the installation of 12 proprietary chargers and Electrify America will be installing four “universal” chargers. Tesla will not be paying for their 12 spots, instead it will be “managing” the location. I suspect this includes landscape maintenance. As for Electrify America, it has agreed to lease each space for $200 per month — generating an annual revenue of $9.6K for the village coffers.
At the same time, Tesla and Electrify America will be generating significant revenue and profits from each charging station. Goldman Sachs estimates that Tesla could make more than $25 billion in annual revenue by expanding its charging network. Electrify America has a similar revenue forecast.
Today, the E.V. market is relatively small; only 7 percent of Americans own an E.V. As for brands, Telsa continues to lose E.V. market share to G.M., Ford, and V.W. While the market will grow, there will be a greater need for universal chargers, not Tesla.
Contrary to Mr. Baladron’s assessment, the deal is not “a big win” — it only benefits Tesla and Electrify America at the expense of the residents’ best interests.
In 2017, the village purchased the land for $989,000.00. I’m disturbed by Mr. Balderon’s comment that the $9.6K annual revenue “is chipping away at the $1 million price tag.”
Well, in today’s dollars, it will take 103 years!
I stand by these accusations and characterizations.
If afforded an open forum, I’d welcome sharing these allegations and support directly with the village officials.
December 5, 2021
To the Editor:
Lys Marigold claims to be “perplexed” by the deep concerns expressed in an open letter (East Hampton Star page C5, Nov. 25) from a significant group of prominent artists — including Laurie Anderson, Eric Fischl, April Gornik, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Julian Schnabel, Frank Stella, and Ai Weiwei — about the destruction of the fragile ecosystem that is LongHouse Reserve.
Rather than blame concerned artists for their “act of annihilation,” Ms. Marigold might start by asking her wife, Dianne Benson, co-president of the LongHouse board of trustees, the following questions: Why is LongHouse hemorrhaging longtime generous donors? Why are significant sculptures such as “Tumbling Woman,” “Mandala,” and “In Trans/Sit” literally being pulled out of the LongHouse grounds in protest? Why have the Larsen textile archives housed at LongHouse been reclaimed for safekeeping in a Brooklyn warehouse by the firm that owns the archives?
Ms. Marigold might further ask Ms. Benson and the other members of the executive committee of LongHouse — co-president Nina Gillman, Lee Skolnick, Sherri Donghia, Mark Levine, James Zajac, and Alexandra Munroe, as well as board members Caroline Baumann, Richard Dranitzke, Derick George, Fitzhugh Karol, Ayse Kenmore, Deborah Nevins, and Suzanne Slesin — why they are not contesting the terms of Jack Lenor Larsen’s final revocable trust, signed six days after his 48-day hospitalization in the intensive care unit at Stony Brook Hospital and mere weeks before he died, in which millions of dollars that Jack had long intended for LongHouse were reassigned to a trust created for Peter Olsen, who remains on the board of LongHouse despite being the beneficiary of significant alterations to Jack’s estate toward the end of his life?
The artists who signed the letter, along with scores of donors, volunteers, educators, and other members of the LongHouse community, are united in their love and appreciation for LongHouse and deep concern about its continued viability. They — and we — demand answers.
(Tony Rosenthal’s Mandala)
Rosenberg Fine Art
Johnson Family Foundation
Very, Very Distressed
December 4, 2021
To the Editor:
Recently, Lys A. Marigold wrote a letter to the Editor taking issue with the full-page ad about LongHouse Reserve, in the previous issue of The East Hampton Star. Ms. Marigold stated “signers (and instigator) of this ad are the ones who are bent on an act of annihilation.” Realy?! This ad was signed by many longstanding large supporters of LongHouse, who knew and valued the work and vision of its founder, Jack Larsen, and its former executive director, Matko Tomicic.
How insulting to insinuate that signers of this ad, artists of international museum renown, need an “instigator” and cannot make their own decisions, and are “bent on an act of annihilation.” One signer is Ai Wei Wei, the great Chinese-American artist and activist, who unfortunately experienced annihilation and destruction, and perhaps that’s why he signed, as this group of distinguished signers cared enough to advertise to warn the public about the destruction of a local institution (LongHouse) and “continuity of LongHouse is now threatened.”
I agree with Ms. Marigold’s statement, “In his last two years, Jack [Larsen] was perfectly aware that changes needed to be made to support future growth.” That is why, at that time, Jack Larsen and Matko Tomicic invited supporters and donors of long standing to a generous supporter’s beautiful Hamptons home, where Mr. Tomicic and Jack Larsen discussed plans for LongHouse Reserve after Mr. Larsen’s death with the group and answered questions. Lovely setting, beautifully planned afternoon, and how uplifting to know Jack Larsen and Matko Tomicic were progressing on a detailed long-range plan for successful transition, while preserving the founding vision. I know, I was there — as, I believe, quite a few people who are now very, very distressed with the current board’s abrupt dismissal of Mr. Tomicic, Jack Larsen’s executive director for over 25 years. Mr. Larsen and Mr. Tomicic worked together. With Mr. Larsen’s death, Mr. Tomicic has the international and national contacts to carry out a successful transition.
Yet, the current board, Caroline Baumann, Dianne Benson, Sherri Donghia, Richard Dranitzke, Fitzhugh Karol, Dr. Derick T. George, Nina Gillman, Ayse Kenmore, Mark Levine, Alexandra Munroe, Deborah Nevins, Peter H. Olsen, Lee Skolnick, Suzanne Slesin, Jim Zajac, abruptly dismissed Matko Tomicic, after over 25 years, and less than one year after Jack Larsen’s death, because they wanted to proceed in a different direction. Really?! The current board’s summary of their priorities is a rehash of the Jack Larsen/Matko Tomicic priorities already discussed years ago and in progress.
The current interim director is, according to Ms. Marigold’s letter, “Brilliant interim director who comes with vast experience in running a museum.” The incredible beauty and power of LongHouse is that it isn’t just any museum — it is one genius’s vision expanded and can be enjoyed on so many different levels. LongHouse Reserve is both very personal and universal, and Jack Larsen gave LongHouse — his house, his collection — to us, for us to experience that. And he gave LongHouse an executive director, Matko Tomicic, whom he trusted for over 25 years, to keep and expand on that legacy.
My hope is that great institutions and collections worldwide, not just LongHouse, reassess and respect the enriching value of history, context, and intent — after all, would you want George Washington’s Mount Vernon directed by someone who had “vast experience in running a museum,” but little or no knowledge of George Washington?
I know Ms. Marigold recently married Dianne Benson, the current co-president of the LongHouse Reserve board, so understandably her view might be a bit biased. But her statement that LongHouse is a “vibrant, healthy nonprofit” with an “endless supply of energetic supporters” is belied by the full page ad in The East Hampton Star, the many letters to editors and social media, and the many supporters, of which I am one, who are withholding contributions to LongHouse Reserve until Mr. Tomicic is restored as executive director. Per LongHouse’s published fall newsletter with financial disclosure information, this current board’s donations are on the skimpy side, so alienating so many supporters might have fiduciary consequences for this board.
Onward and upward,
Search for Truth
December 5, 2021
The letter of Nov. 29 from a “perplexed” Lys A. Marigold scolding those who are criticizing the trustees of LongHouse has two glaring omissions.
The letter did not disclose that the writer of the letter is married to Dianne Benson, the co-president of the board of trustees of LongHouse. As everyone knows, love is blind and certainly cannot be expected to bestow objectivity or credibility.
The letter also failed to mention that the wonderful things she praises about the LongHouse were, in large part, the result of work over 26 years by Jack Lenor Larsen’s right-hand man, Matko Tomicic. He was the executive director who was inexplicably fired by the trustees in September. That firing sparked the outrage now being expressed by a host of LongHouse members, donors, and artists (myself included), additionally because it may be linked to actions by some of the trustees which are inconsistent with their duties to LongHouse.
The LongHouse affair looks like it is going to be a long-running saga in the pages of The Star and elsewhere. At the moment, what is known about the matter does not make the trustees look good — and their feeble, standard public relations responses make things look worse. I prefer to rely on impartial and verifiable information to decide whether some trustees of LongHouse are paragons of virtue or untrustworthy schemers.
For those who want to better prepare themselves to follow this dispute and reach independent and intelligent conclusions, the internet is a wonderful source of information. To find useful educational material, I suggest searches using various combinations of the words, “nonprofit,” “trustees,” “breach of trust,” “self-dealing,” and “undue influence.”
Those who want to delve deeper may want to look at the website of the Charity Bureau of the New York State Attorney General, the official responsible for supervising the conduct of nonprofit organizations such as the LongHouse.
Finally, some may wish to explore the proper use of public relations firms in these matters. That is well explained in an article from Forbes magazine titled “13 Golden Rules Of PR Crisis Management.”
By the way, I’m a longtime member of the LongHouse with no special attachment to anyone or anything except the beautiful vision Jack Lenor Larsen had for the LongHouse and the wonderful way Matko Tomicic made it real.
Let the search for truth, justice, and the LongHouse way begin!
Begin at Home
December 5, 2021
Politics often involves the art of compromise. Unfortunately, there can be no compromise with climate change. We can compromise with a reasonable opponent, but not with a deadly disease or the laws of physics. Half measures won’t stop rising atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, disappearing glaciers and ice caps, ocean acidification, droughts, insect infestations, or tree die-offs. We are too far gone for that. Good intentions are useless without action. And we need action at all levels: local, national, and international. There is so much to be done; the good news is we can begin at home.
There’s no reason to continue poisoning ourselves, our neighbors, and our planet with our gas-powered lawn equipment. The Energy Department estimates we use 1.2 billion gallons of gas each year for mowers alone. As far back as 2011, an Environmental Protection Agency study reported our gas-powered lawn equipment was dumping 26.7 million tons of pollutants into the air. These machines were producing as much as 45 percent of our non-road gasoline emissions. We’re talking about hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and carcinogens like benzene, butadiene, etc. The little dust storms thrown up by gas leaf blowers expose us to fine particulate matter known to lodge deep in our lungs. They are a hazard to all, especially the workers who use them for hours on end every day.
When I was a boy, every autumn, we raked our leaves out to the curbside and burned them. We thought it was the necessary thing to do, an indispensable fall ritual. For good reason, we no longer believe this. We’ve moved on. Some day we’ll feel the same about our outmoded lawn practices. That day cannot arrive too soon.
Our lawn obsessions are slowly killing us, but not so quietly. They are also killing the insects we need to sustain our ecology. Blowing, cutting, manicuring our yards into pristine green deserts, we are depriving absolutely necessary insects of habitat. We need to stop and think about what we are doing. It’s already a little late.
We all have a role in changing our harmful habits. The Star, for example, needs to do more stories about climate emergency gardening and lawn care. Government and private interested parties need to be doing more to educate us about changing our habits to meet the challenges in front of us. Young people, who have the most to lose because of our selfish behavior, need to wake us up. The town and state need to act more forcefully to ban, or at minimum, severely restrict two-stroke gas lawn equipment. And homeowners need to change.
There are truly attractive alternatives to our lawn monoculture. (Stop by the Mimi Meehan garden next door to The Star or visit the Garden Club of East Hampton web page for creative examples.) Time is running out.
Vote for Chip
December 5, 2021
To the Editor:
Throughout this year I have attended meetings of the Montauk Board of Fire Commissioners. The board of fire commissioners manages our money and sets the budget and priorities for our critical fire and emergency medical services. As a result of attending these meetings, I became aware that a change in the board is needed. There is a chance to make just such a change in the election to be held at the Montauk Firehouse on Tuesday between 2 and 9 p.m.
Montauk needs a fire commissioner with relevant fire and E.M.S. experience who strongly supports and respects the vital role that the dedicated men and women (all of whom are volunteers) of the Montauk Fire Department play in our community. That commissioner should be Charles McLean. Chip retired after 38 years in fire communications for New York City (most recently as a chief dispatcher) and has been in Montauk full time for the last several years. Chip volunteers with the Montauk Fire Department, where he is an emergency medical technician and a driver for the ambulance. The unique qualifications he would bring as a fire commissioner will benefit the Montauk community.
The incumbent has served 15 years on the board and, if re-elected for another five-year term, will have served a total of 20 years on the board. The time for change is now for our community: Please exercise your right to vote for a change. Vote Charles McLean for fire commissioner on Dec. 14.
December 5, 2021
On Tuesday between the hours of 2 and 9 p.m. there will be an election held at the Montauk Firehouse for fire commissioner. My friend Charles McLean is seeking that position.
His family roots here in Montauk go back to the early 1950s. Chip is well qualified for this position as he has served in many capacities in the New York Fire Department. For example, being an emergency medical technician in the city as early as 1976, he has recently refreshed his E.M.T. license. Among his other qualifications are his past volunteer responsibilities as a chief officer for a volunteer rescue squad on Staten Island. His duties in the F.D.N.Y. as a Chief Dispatcher were being responsible for maintaining critical fire suppression levels throughout New York City. He is a proud member of the Montauk Fire Department, where he currently serves as an E.M.T., driver, and emergency vehicle operator instructor.
So join me in supporting Chip as fire commissioner. He surely would appreciate it.
December 6, 2021
My name is Charles McLean. I am running in the Tuesday election for Montauk Fire District commissioner.
During the five-year volunteer term, a commissioner manages the over $2.3 million fire district annual budget while ensuring our dedicated volunteers are provided with the most up-to-date equipment so that they can provide the highest level of community safety in the areas of emergency medical service, fire suppression and control, as well as fire prevention and education.
I have loved Montauk all my life. My parents, passionate fishermen from Staten Island, bought property in Ditch Plain in the early 1950s. They built a vacation home where I now live. While Montauk has changed over the decades, the incredible spirit of community expressed by so many of my Montauk neighbors has not. When I retired after 38-plus years of service in the New York City Fire Department, I looked forward to contributing my own skills and talents to the community by volunteering with the Montauk Fire Department.
I am uniquely qualified based on my career and past volunteer responsibilities to serve as a fire district commissioner. As a chief fire alarm dispatcher in the F.D.N.Y., one of my duties was to ensure that critical fire protection levels throughout New York City were maintained. Resource management has prepared me to manage district resources. Effective management of resources, both personnel and financial, as well as timely filing of documents and updates as required by county and state regulations, are of critical importance to create a sound public emergency service.
If elected, I will work to increase transparency and will practice good governance, affording my Montauk neighbors an opportunity to get their concerns and questions answered promptly. As a member of the Montauk Fire Department, I am privileged to serve with volunteer women and men of immense talent and dedication and I am committed to having their voices heard; they deserve to have a bigger voice in Montauk Fire District decision-making, and I pledge to work to make that a reality.
I urge all Montauk voters to cast their ballots in this important Montauk Fire District election at the Montauk Firehouse on Tuesday from 2 to 9 p.m.
November 30, 2021
To the Editor,
Pet stores often claim that they buy puppies and kittens from responsible, humane breeders, but is that true? Not by a long shot. Import records show that many New York pet stores bought puppies in recent years from a notorious U.S.D.A.-licensed puppy mill. This Iowa puppy mill, owned by Daniel Gingerich, racked up at least 190 U.S.D.A. violations this year alone, and yet kept his license to breed animals for months and months. Dogs at this property were found severely emaciated, suffering from severe heat distress and open wounds, left without water, diseased, and some who were even found dead on the property.
Puppy-selling stores argue that their breeders are U.S.D.A.-licensed and therefore humane, but as evidenced by the cruelty at this Iowa puppy mill, U.S.D.A. licensure does nothing to ensure the welfare of animals. Each time U.S.D.A. inspectors conducted an inspection of Gingerich’s facility, the Animal Welfare Act violations simply accrued, and Gingerich was allowed to carry on for months, business as usual. All the while, his dogs were purchased by N.Y. pet stores, to be sold to unsuspecting New Yorkers. Unfortunately, Gingerich is just one of many U.S.D.A. facilities that continue operating despite troubling animal care issues — and we must end our participation in this cruel industry.
I urge my fellow readers to ask their State Assembly member and Senator to cosponsor the New York Puppy Mill Pipeline bill (A.4283/S.1130) — legislation that will finally end the sale of cruelly bred dogs, cats, and rabbits in New York stores, and stop our participation in this cruel industry. We must pass this legislation to ensure that cruel puppy mills, like this one, cannot profit by selling to unsuspecting New York pet lovers.
Asleep at the Wheel
December 3, 2021
To the Editor,
A recent issue of The New Yorker (Nov. 1) flippantly refers to the controversy over possible closure of East Hampton Airport as “the one percent versus the two percent.” In actual fact, it is more like the 1 percent versus the almost-100 percent, with the possible exclusion of those huddling in their presumably soundproofed mansions. We are all subjected to aircraft noise, admittedly some more than others.
The recently erupted lawn signs proclaiming “Keep East Hampton Airport Open” also deserve a response. Some of them insist that this will hurt the East Hampton economy and jobs, others that this is an East Hampton tradition. Both of these are specious, to say the least, as has been extensively documented. Many of our former traditions have been thankfully abandoned as unnecessary or harmful. There are no more uncontained bonfires or enslaved people.
The East Hampton board has unfortunately been asleep at the wheel on the airport issue. Perhaps they have been hoping that the town will let this slide, at least until the summer, missing an opportunity for the community.
Which brings us to another East Hampton “tradition” that needs to be reassessed. Of the nine East Hampton Town trustees, three have been assigned the care and preservation of our beaches. In this, they have been totally derelict in their duties, as we watch our shrinking beaches turned into World War I-style trenches and eroded from heavy driving. East Hampton Village gets $500 per vehicle for the privilege of using the village parking lots for parking, and driving on our beaches is absolutely free! All that is needed is to renew your free permit every five years. Parking lots don’t deteriorate from driving — beaches do.
I know that there will be a huge hornets’ nest if we limit beach driving, but living as we do in an era of rising sea levels and beach erosion, something has to be done, the sooner the better. A small suggestion initially would be to institute a small fee for that beach permit, say $50 at first, to be raised at the same rate as beach parking permits.
P. DAVID FREEDMAN
Vehicle owners who are not East Hampton Town residents can purchase annual beach-driving permits. The cost in 2021 was $500 per vehicle. Ed.
The Big Pit
December 1, 2021
So, we’re four weeks past the town board election. Anyone reading this letter likely is aware that a few key issues dominated the discourse over the many months leading up to the vote: affordable housing, cellular service, public beach access, and most of all, the airport.
It’s no surprise that the airport consumed our political and emotional airspace townwide, as it is not only a tangible environmental concern and a very real problem that degrades the daily life and transgresses the peace of mind and the property rights of a rather large swath of our population, but it is also a broader, symbolic rendering of the profligate, self-interested excess that is overwhelming and undoing our town with scorching levels of overconsumption and overdevelopment that remain unchecked.
But as we’ve all been gazing skyward looking for solutions to the noise and the pollution that rain down upon us from the incessant air traffic above, most of us have been overlooking that there is something big happening on the ground — right in the airport’s front yard — something that potentially could have character-altering impact on the future of Wainscott and beyond in East Hampton: the development project in the advanced planning stages known formally as the Wainscott Commercial Center.
For those who are not familiar, the commercial center is the proposed subdivision and development of a 70-acre mostly vacant tract of land into a 50-lot industrial park type complex on the site referred to locally and colloquially as the Sand Pit. This decommissioned sand and gravel mine (zoned Commercial-Industrial by the town) runs from the north side of Route 27 up to the Long Island Rail Road tracks and is bounded on the west by Wainscott Northwest Road and Hedges Lane to the east, both of which are existing residential areas.
The developers of this project boast that this will be “the largest commercial subdivision and development on Long Island’s South Fork.” Moreover, they tell us repeatedly their private profit-making project is proposed solely to facilitate the economic domination of East Hampton by the construction industry at the service of second- (third-, fourth-, etc.) home owners, as well as tourists.
So let that sink in for a moment: The single biggest commercial-industrial development ever here will be jammed into our smallest hamlet, right smack in the most disorganized, unaesthetic, least pedestrian-friendly strip of 27 in East Hampton, on top of one of our worst traffic pain points, and just yards from the fragile, already environmentally compromised waters of Georgica Pond in order to cement (pun intended) East Hampton’s servitude to the McMansion owners and our real estate and developer overlords who look only to extract dollars rather than sand and gravel from this land.
Though this project has been idling on the tarmac for many years — working its way through state, county, and local studies — it now appears the engines are revving and that the commercial center is getting ready to barrel down the runway for takeoff.
I’ll admit, even though I’ve spent the last couple of years educating myself and engaging pretty deeply in a lot of local East Hampton issues, I hadn’t heard about this project until an agenda item regarding it popped up on the Oct. 27 planning board agenda. At first I thought it was probably just me — that somehow I alone had missed this. But when informally I polled 10 people I know who I assumed would be knee deep in sand pit issues, their awareness level about the project also was slim to none.
The intent of my letter here today is not to promulgate any singular opinion about what should or shouldn’t happen at the Sand Pit. I write only to implore my fellow East Hampton citizens to “get grounded” A.S.A.P. on the topic.
And by get grounded I mean get educated by digging into the facts of the matter, read the key documents including the draft environmental impact statement, the planning board memos, and watch related town meetings; get engaged by alerting neighbors, connecting with local groups who care about our community so they also know that this issue is pending, and get active at town and hamlet meetings to advocate for an outcome on this site that also benefits citizens’ needs and sustains or even enhances quality of life and character of East Hampton.
The commercial center has been before the East Hampton planning board publicly now for four weeks in a row for several hours at a time to review the completeness of the environmental impact statement. One of the biggest challenges in the pending review process is that beyond the basic subdivision, the applicant’s proposed site plan buildout is hypothetical. Once subdivided, graded, and prepared with roads and utilities, each of the lots will be developed one by one, depending on tenants’ interests and economic conditions, over several years. As part of the hypothetical site plan, the applicant estimates individual lot building coverage will average 17 percent, equating to 376,000 square feet of structures and 40 acres of impervious surfaces at buildout.
However, without perpetual restrictive covenants around size and usage, in contrast to that 17 percent, town commercial-industrial zoning permits building coverage up to 50 percent and lot coverage of 75 percent. So, in reality (depending in part how waste streams will be treated on site), we could see density and intensity of use far greater than the applicant’s current estimates. And because full buildout might take a decade, East Hampton citizens not only will have to live through and around a perpetual construction zone, but we will also have to live with significant uncertainty and risk from this project for many years to come in an area of East Hampton which is already in dire need of re-envisioning.
There is an alternative vision for the Sand Pit site: the 2019 Wainscott Hamlet Study, adopted May 2020 into the town comprehensive plan. The study states one of its central priorities: “Redevelop in an environmentally sensitive fashion the former sand & gravel mine, promoting mixed use development & workforce housing, and delivering meaningful transportation/traffic and pedestrian access improvements.” Per Planning Department documents: “Both the board and the Planning Department have consistently favored a [Wainscott Commercial Center] layout that is in keeping with the recommendations of the Hamlet Study. . . .”
However, based on their comments at planning board meetings, the applicant looks to be trying to delegitimize the hamlet study as nothing more than a pie-in-the-sky wish list, deriding the notion it is actually a “plan” or even a set of recommendations the commercial center developers are beholden to consider, let alone incorporate. Messrs. Tintle and Eagan have indicated little motivation to incorporate critical town priorities and have stated that they’ve “no interest” in having affordable housing on this site.
All in, they reject the notion the town planning board has the right to delve into anything to do with the scope and scale of the buildout or possible incompatibility with the needs and the character of the town. At the Nov. 3 meeting, Mr. Eagan asserted, with more than a whiff of litigiousness, that the planning board has no jurisdiction over anything beyond what he declares to be nothing more than “a simple subdivision application . . . period.”
I suggest that no concerned East Hampton citizen assumes all will turn out well and that the applicant will be compelled to do the “best” or the “right” thing, as there will be those who will follow the scent of money or at least prefer to take the path of least resistance. As we see again and again, educated, organized, consistent, persistent, inspired citizen engagement is the one thing that can really make a difference in situations like these.
The Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee is, of course, active and engaged in this matter and will provide the key thought leadership in the discussion. But residents outside the hamlet shouldn’t simply dismiss this as a Wainscott-only issue. Like the airport, the effects of the commercial center will wash across much of East Hampton.
Most important, this is not about fighting against things, such as owners’ property rights or a profit motive or the development of commercial and service businesses. Instead, this is about standing up and fighting for something: Consider that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deploy a considerable part of this 70 acres to a multi-use outcome that better balances ownership rights and stewardship responsibilities in order to benefit and build value for a full range of community stakeholders.
So by all means, we should continue to keep our eyes on the skies and the fate of the airport, but from here on out, we need to have our feet firmly planted on the big pit in the ground.
December 6, 2021
A few years ago I went to visit my mom, she was extremely busy cutting papers with a cuticle scissor. I asked what she was doing, her reply she got a job with the government cutting paperwork. To my surprise, she was emptying neighbors mailboxes and cutting up their mail.
I took care of this offense and took care, of mom, until Alzheimer’s took her.
My point, look at Joe Biden, and getting away with his untrue statements. They keep piling up and he’s insisting they’re true. His truck driving days. Once, he took a picture sitting in a truck; he swears it was his job. Biden is having of problem with his plagiarism and what we sometimes call senior moments. Joe Biden also slandered a man in the matter of the death of his first wife and daughter. Police reports show it was Mrs. Biden who was at fault for this terrible accident. There is so much more listings of his problem, so I don’t understand why his wife and family allow him to embarrass himself in public.
It seems there’s plenty of news about Hunter Biden and his father’s 10 percent income plenty of devious workings in progress.
Goodbye to the Cuomo brothers. Old expression, every dog has its day, may take awhile, but here’s to the truth.
De Blasio can’t get out of office fast enough. The damage he’s doing to New York is heartbreaking. He should be thrown out now, stop his insanity.
In God and country,
December 6, 2021
Now the G.O.P. legislators and pundits blame President Biden for the raging pandemic in states that voted for Mr. Trump? For much of the year, the G.O.P. was content to criticize and obstruct President Biden’s efforts to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. The more the White House took steps to save lives, the more G.O.P. voices complained that these efforts violated Republican’s philosophical beliefs about individual freedom.
The Biden administration fostered nationwide availability of vaccines, issued mandates where possible to push Americans to vaccinate, increased testing to protect Americans from those infected. These efforts were met with states official’s effort to obstruct vaccination efforts and mandates, filing lawsuits against White House Covid policies. And anti-administration pundits continually spewed misinformation. All of this was designed to cripple the administration’s efforts to stem the viral tide.
In one starkly troubling example, a Republican Congresswoman, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, appeared on television and continued the G.O.P. assault advising viewers that natural immunity offered 27 times more protection than vaccines. Never mind that dozens of medical studies concluded exactly the opposite. For a sitting Congresswoman to imply that people should roll the dice and get infected rather than a vaccination is just irresponsible — especially when the former comes with a crushing death toll.
Well, it should come as no surprise that in the face of the Trumpian opposition to President Biden’s efforts, the Covid-19 virus has ravaged states that supported Mr. Trump in the 2020 election. A recent study by NPR found that people living in counties that voted heavily for Mr. Trump were nearly three times more likely to die from the virus than those in areas that supported now-President Biden.
These numbers don’t lie, so faced with such a daunting electoral iceberg in an election cycle, what has the G.O.P. done? Blame President Biden for not curbing the virus. This is like a runner tying her shoes together and then blaming the official for not winning her race.
Our congressman and wanna-be governor, Lee Zeldin, has been in lockstep with the efforts by his party to derail President Biden’s efforts. He has criticized vaccine mandates, masking requirements and virtually every effort taken by the president to curb the virus. And he wants us to believe he will protect us! That thought is just ridiculous — but potentially deadly.
December 6, 2021
Dear Mr. Rattray,
I hope this holiday season finds you in good spirits and excited for the new year to come. I know you’ve been very good these past 12 months, except for the time I saw you push an elderly woman with a walker into the intersection of Main and Newtown. At least you apologized immediately after, so bravo! Okay, maybe I just made that up, therefore maybe I’m the one who hasn’t been so very nice these past 12 months.
Example? Sure, easy. One day last week Mary and I were having breakfast and I made some snarky, unkind remark about something trivial that was bothering me. And Mary said, “Why do you go to these places? You should be thankful for all you have!” (She said something like that — maybe I wasn’t focusing on what she was saying? I can’t remember.)
So I said, “Well, so every day you wake up and you’re thankful?” She didn’t hesitate.
“Absolutely, every day. I’m thankful for my daughters and their amazing husbands, thankful for my grandbabies, and I’m thankful for you!”
So now I was on the spot, Mr. Rattray. I mean, I wake up after some weird dreams and I have to stretch before I do anything else. Gotta do that or start walking like a hunched over old man. So right away I’m thinking about myself and my stiff back, which I’m not too thankful for, by the way. I’m also not thankful for the bunion on my right foot. Still, I realized she was probably right, and I should feel and exude more thankfulness, so I’m not just sending out messed-up L.G. wisecrack vibes.
So. Saturday in New York City, I was returning from a (thankless) visit to Bloomingdale’s and waiting to cross the corner at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. Standing next to me was a New York City traffic police officer, also waiting for the light to turn. And I turned to her and said, “How is your day going, officer?” She looked at me and smiled and said, “Going all right. I woke up this morning and thanked God for giving me another day!”
Now this brought out my Better Angel immediately (she loves getting some oxygen), and I said, “What a wonderful thing that is!”
The officer took it further. “I’m thankful for every day!”
And I replied, “Well I’m confident you’ll have 10,000 more days to be thankful for, officer. Have a great day!”
Pretty awesome, right, Mr. Rattray? Mr. Rattray? Think you could postpone your nap a few more minutes? Thank you! Okay, let’s go back to Bloomingdale’s for a minute, where I had just exited without a Big Brown Bag. After spending over 45 minutes selecting the things I was looking for, the lovely saleswoman said, “If you open a Bloomingdale’s account, you can save an additional 20 percent, on top of the 25 percent you’re already saving! Would you like to do that, Lyle?”
“Sign me up, Lisa!” I replied, thankfully.
“Okay, you’ll need your driver’s license.”
“Oh, I don’t have that with me. How about my credit card? Will that suffice?”
“No, I’m sorry, we can’t sign you up without your driver’s license. It’s corporate policy.”
“Shit. All right, I’ll come back tomorrow with my license. Can you put these things aside for me?”
That evening I’d been invited to attend a birthday celebration for a friend at a trendy French bistro in SoHo. (Oh, right, Where’s Mary on a Saturday night? She’s in Denver, visiting a daughter, son-in-law, and two grandkids who won’t be coming east for the holidays, so shut up! Oops, sorry.) Anyway, before heading downtown for the 7 p.m. gathering, I decided to stop at Macy’s and pick up a token gift. Two pairs of funky socks! Plus some underwear for me; mine were far past their expiration date, according to Mary . . . whatever. At the checkout counter I said to the sales clerk, “How’s everything today, sir?” And he replied — and this is verbatim — “It’s good, sir. I’m thankful to be here!” I was kind of amazed. It was Macy’s basement, for Christ’s sake!
“So happy to hear that, and I thank you for helping me today.”
“Do you have a Macy’s account?”
“I don’t think so, why?”
“If you open a Macy’s account, you can take another 20 percent off your purchase, in addition to the 30 percent friends and family discount you’re already getting. Would you like to do that?”
“Do you know how much time it could take?”
“Just a few minutes and you’ll be on your way!”
“Let’s do it!”
“Okay, I’ll need your driver’s license.”
This time I had my driver’s license. My application was approved immediately, and my sales representative put the socks in a special gift box. I thanked him kindly, wished him a happy holiday season, and headed out the store to catch the 1 train downtown to SoHo. I was a little late for the 7 o’clock reservation, but didn’t see any familiar faces in the place. Took a place at the packed bar (where no one had been asking for proof of vaccination), then received a text from my friend — a close friend of the birthday guy — saying there’d been a mix-up and the reservation wasn’t till 8:45. Now my Better Angel was somewhere out on the street, and special words were dancing in my head. I decided I couldn’t hang around drinking for another hour-plus till people arrived, so I left the place and went back to the Upper West, where I had an amazing dinner at my favorite place, met a lovely couple — and now the funky socks will go to one of my sons-in-law for Christmas. Hello, Better Angel!
The next day, Sunday, I returned to Bloomingdale’s, walking through the park from the West Side and exiting at Central Park South near Sixth Avenue. My nose was running from the cool air and I’d forgotten to bring a Kleenex (which is a registered trademark of Kimberly-Clark Corporation, so stop calling that stupid store brand Kleenex! Oops. Sorry), so, seeing a Sabrett hot dog cart, I approached the vendor and politely asked, “Sir, would you be able to spare a napkin?” And he immediately answered, “No!” which I thought was wonderfully awesome. Then he reached for a bunch of napkins and handed them to me with a wry smile. Fooled me. Fantastic. Now I could continue on to Bloomie’s with a dry nose and a renewed love of my city.
Back at the counter with Lisa and my stuff, I handed her my driver’s license and we completed the Bloomingdale’s credit card application process. Took about 10 minutes. And then I heard the special voices in my head. Well, as soon as Lisa said, “Lyle, your application has been declined. I’m sorry. Would you still like to complete your purchase?”
“Um, sure, yeah.” And of course my credit card “cleared” Bloomingdale’s financial security tower, no problem, and I walked out of the store with my stuff. Maybe not totally thankful.
But thankful for a lot of things, okay? No more going negative when some little thing hits the fan, okay? Thankful for Mary especially, and her (our) beautiful family, my daughter and grandson and my amazing siblings, our dear friends. Thankful for Amber Waves Farm, Central Park, the hot dog guy, the traffic officer, the Macy’s sales clerk. Thankful to the town board for closing the East Hampton Airport for at very least a measurable period of time (you are doing that, right?). Thankful to Post Malone for “Circles,” and, sure, thankful for The East Hampton Star. (Still reading, Mr. Rattray? Happy Holidays, sir!)
Cheers and thanks!