October 24, 2022
On Saturday, a team of 35 dedicated volunteers came out to help remove the nutrient-sucking floating wetlands from Fort Pond. These floating wetlands were first installed in Fort Pond in 2021 as an innovative way to help control the excess nutrients which have fueled harmful algal blooms in the pond. The removed plant material has since been donated to the Montauk Community Garden for composting.
Our weekend removal event couldn’t have been possible without the planning, setup, transportation and storage assistance from the East Hampton Town Shellfish Hatchery, East Hampton Marine Patrol, Montauk Community Garden, Fort Pond Native Plants, Gurney’s Resorts, and Mickey’s Carting.
Over the past two years, we have seen the length of the harmful algal bloom decrease dramatically, so our motivation continues. Our efforts to save Fort Pond must continue. And the community’s efforts to reduce pollutants from entering the pond must still continue. We have a long way to go, but together we can make a difference!
Concerned Citizens of Montauk
East Hampton Village
October 24, 2022
To the Editor:
Could somebody please catch us up on what is being done to remediate the horrendous condition of our dearly beloved centerpiece of the village: Town Pond?
Poor thing was under siege for all those months with scary, intrusive machines, and I assumed that all that disruption would result in the restoration of the pond to the serene, glassy body of water we all treasure, not to mention the return of the poor, shook-up, dislocated ducks and swans. Haven’t seen any of these creatures in months and months — and who can blame them? No self-respecting duck or swan would swim or nest in the pond in its current pitiful state.
I’m not certain who rules the waves on the pond, but I sure would love a report from whoever they are to let us know when all will be right again with our sweet pond.
Looking forward to some reassuring, much-appreciated intel.
Call to Action
October 24, 2022
Your article this week about the decline in insect populations should serve as a call to action for homeowners in East Hampton to both stop using pesticides and to plant more native plants, as opposed to non-native ornamentals and lawn.
Conversion of farmland and destruction of wooded lots in order to build houses has been a major driver of the decline in insect populations on the East End, especially because so much land has ended up as lawn, as you point out, and because the Environmental Protection Agency notes that homeowners use 10 times more pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides) per acre than farmers do. Pesticides end up in our aquifer, with serious adverse consequences for human health, as well as for the wildlife around us. Homeowners in East Hampton can make this situation better by reducing or, better yet, halting, their use of pesticides and planting more native plants.
Nestled between The Star’s building and Clinton Academy, is the Mimi Meehan Native Plant Garden, maintained by the Garden Club of East Hampton as a gift to the community. Its purpose is to demonstrate how to create a colorful and appealing garden using a diverse palette of native plants and without using chemicals. Abby Jane Brody, who designed it, notes that flower color is an especially important consideration in its design. The small area of lawn is beautifully maintained with corn gluten applications and no herbicides. Mimi’s garden features native plants that bloom from March through October and all of which abound with native pollinators. Visitors can easily identify the plants in the garden using their smart phones (Picture This and iPhones both identify plants from photos).
I urge your readers to visit Mimi’s for ideas about native plants they can include in their own gardens, to consider reducing the acreage they devote to lawns, and to stop using pesticides.
October 24, 2022
Thank you for your “A World without Insects.” Along with the recently issued “State of the Birds” report, it makes for grim reading. But it’s nothing new. We’ve been on alert since the 2021 National Academy of Science document, “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” which stated “most biologists agree that the world has entered its sixth mass extinction event.
This is not about insects or birds. Sadly, most of us don’t care about them. Just do a Google search mentioning insects, and your top hits will be extermination services. It’s about the destruction of the ecosystems that keep the birds, insects, and all of us alive on a green planet. It’s about Georgica Pond and just about any surface water in East Hampton that suffers nitrogen overload. It’s about droughts and record temperatures. It’s about the declining fertility of croplands and the catastrophic loss of topsoil.
Every time we remove a piece of Long Island’s forests or grasslands, we remove the ecosystem services they provide. We remove the “essential workers” that clean our water, keep the ground alive with untold numbers of microbes, fungi, and macro-biota. We destroy the soil food cycle that is the foundation of biodiversity, and the consequences cascade all the way up to the top of the food chain: us.
When we replace complexly woven ecosystems with monoculture lawns and exotic ornamentals, we make war on the native, indigenous plant communities and ecosystems that made this such a desirable place to inhabit before we arrived.
I agree with you. We need big solutions. But some of those solutions start individually with each one of us. There are about 135 million acres of residential land in the country. By comparison there are about 85 million acres of national parks. We need to enlist our yards in restoring the ecosystems that keep the insects, birds, and all of us alive. It’s not that hard. Once, our lawns were habitat. Now they are mostly sterile cultural displays.
How much of our lawns do we actually use? I’ve never seen my dear neighbors set foot on their immaculate front yards. The only ones who walk there are the mowers and blowers who come once a week to keep them immaculately trimmed. It’s in our own interests to rethink the spaces we inhabit. They were once living habitats, highly functional ecosystems. They have become ornamental displays at great cost to the environment and our well-being.
East Hampton, with the private donations of Change Hampton and the design work of Abby Clough Lawless, will be replacing the rather scruffy lawn at the entranceway to Town Hall with a pollinator native garden. We hope it will be a model for reimagining built landscapes. The options are abundant; there is no one way to rethink our dysfunctional landscapes. But our current paradigm of the “great lawn” is killing us, as well as the insects and birds Mr. Rattray aptly laments.
October 20, 2022
Solace from the ever-present problems of our human-centered world can be found in the natural world, even in our backyards.
It is a beautiful fall morning with clear, clean air, the rustling of leaves, and peaceful chirping of birds — well, at least it was a beautiful, quiet fall morning.
Now, they blare constantly. The birds have vacated. The air smells of exhaust. The few leaves that are blasted from here to there have fallen on driveways, decks, and patios. Wooded areas are being denuded of leaves, which nourish the soil and trees as well as provide habitat for all sorts of life.
The use of gas-powered leaf blowers is harmful to all on many levels: The workers in particular, as well as the neighbors who are exposed to excessive noise, carcinogenic exhaust, and fine particulates — all significant health risks; the increasingly warming climate; the many creatures who are just trying to survive, and all of us who would simply like to enjoy our properties in peace.
In this chaotic world, allow your neighbors the right to enjoy the natural one. Make gas-powered leaf blowers a thing of the past.
CHRISTINE GANITSCH, M.D.
October 24, 2022
This Election Day, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make billions of dollars available for urgent environmental needs in New York State. The Clean Water, Clean Air, Green Jobs Bond Act is on the ballot and deserves everyone’s vote.
Projects supported by the Bond Act will safeguard clean drinking water, preventing contamination and pollution; update aging or failing water and sewer infrastructure; mitigate climate change by supporting clean energy infrastructure and resiliency, and preserve woodlands, wetlands, and other wildlife habitat.
The potential benefits to East Hampton from the bond act are tremendous, and Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation, like more than 300 other environmental, public health, and labor organizations supports the bond act.
If passed, the bond act could provide funding that could match federal infrastructure funds, as well as our own community preservation funds to make expensive but necessary projects, such as sewage treatment plants, less costly to residents.
At Georgica Pond, possible projects include installation of green infrastructure, such as a bioswale or constructed wetland at the headwaters of Georgica Cove, where now a large pipe built in the 1930s drains stormwater directly into the cove. At the Route 27 rest stop and kayak launch, stormwater at present runs directly from the highway into Georgica Pond. Erosion control and green infrastructure designs to mitigate this problem will be shovel-ready for funding by the bond act.
Lastly, bond act funds can be used to purchase sensitive groundwater recharge properties in the Georgica Pond watershed. Many other water quality and land acquisition projects throughout the town would also be eligible for funding.
Everyone who is registered to vote in New York State can vote on the bond act. On Nov. 8, please remember to flip the ballot over and vote “yes” for Proposition 1, the Clean Water, Clean Air, Green Jobs Bond Act.
Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation
Fire District Vote
October 24, 2022
To the Editor:
Annually on the second Tuesday in December throughout most of New York state, local fire district elections are held. This year, election day is Dec. 13. This election will determine the makeup of the five-member board of fire commissioners. The Montauk Fire District board holds monthly meetings where, among other things, they create and manage a budget that funds the provision of fire protection and emergency medical services, including staffing, apparatus purchase and maintenance, and building management. The candidate elected to this five-year term of office will determine how our critical fire protection and ambulance services will be resourced.
All residents registered to vote in the fire district are eligible to vote in this election. Despite that fact and the importance of the position, these elections historically have a low voter turnout. Hopefully, you now know enough about this important position to encourage you to vote!
My name is Donna Hitscherich. I am a New York State-certified paramedic and Class A firefighter with the Montauk Fire Department and I am running for fire district commissioner. My family and I have been members of the Montauk community since 1965, when my parents bought a Leisurama in Culloden Shores. It is and has been my honor to serve my community as a member of the Montauk Fire Department.
In my professional life as a lawyer and investment banker, I counseled boards of directors on an array financial matters. I currently am a member of the finance faculty of the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University, where I serve as the director of the Private Equity Program and a faculty leader of the Bernstein Center for Leadership and Ethics. If elected, I pledge to use my combined personal and professional experience to ensure that our community receives the best fire and emergency medical services in the most cost-effective manner.
As an E.M.S. provider for over 16 years (almost half spent as a paramedic), I am acutely aware of the challenges of providing critical emergency services to our residents. Indeed, I have already put my skills to work for the benefit of the Montauk Fire District by securing almost $300,000 in federal aid for much-needed state-of-the-art E.M.S. equipment to serve our residents and keep our volunteers safe.
Please reserve time on your calendars now to vote at the Montauk Fire Department on Dec. 13. I may be reached at [email protected].
Nothing Was Done
October 18, 2022
To The East Hampton Star:
I read your editorial concerning the need for enforcement increase. To my disappointment, I saw no mention of the fact that the code enforcement unit itself is not enforcing codes that they should be enforcing and that they are well aware that they exist, which in my situation is causing problems with my health, literally making my life unbearable by allowing my neighbor to sentence me to living in a few junkyards.
When I first made code enforcement aware of the fact that my neighbor was amassing huge amounts of firewood on his residential property where no one resides, a code investigator said he would go over to the property, which he did and then called me and told me that the huge pile of firewood was definitely a fire hazard and that one little spark could precipitate a huge fire. He said it was definitely a code violation, and the code inspector cited other violations.
However, when the code enforcement inspector became aware of who the owner was of the said lot, he changed his mind and just recently told me that he would not order the owner to remove the firewood and even asserted that he never said that the pile of firewood was a fire hazard. This even though when I made a claim to code enforcement three months ago I mentioned this code investigator by name and quoted our conversation. But regardless, the owner is using a residential lot for commercial purposes. And when this code investigator speaks to me over the telephone he raises his voice, which accommodates his hostility. I can no longer speak to him.
A few weeks ago, I had to call the police because this owner of the said property encroached on my property, and when the police officer came over to inspect and when he noticed the pile of firewood he immediately exclaimed that it does not belong on residential property, never mind the fact that the owner stores this firewood in a hideous fashion making it a breeding ground for rats and termites, as the code investigator confirmed, and improper storage of firewood causes carcinogens to be emitted when the firewood is burned. and also noted that the firewood is within five feet of my property.
So what we have here is an irresponsible owner using his property for commercial purposes; the owner just added a fresh batch of firewood since winter is approaching, and many people will buy. The rest of the property is a junkyard where one could hear deafening noise. Who knows what this owner is doing on the property, as he is running a business with no oversight. And the Town of East Hampton is emboldening this owner to feel free to do whatever he wants. Actually, sometime ago I and a few neighbors signed a petition asking code enforcement to stop this owner from using his residential property for commercial purposes and to put an end to commercial vehicles traveling back and forth spewing dust and particles, but nothing was done. Now things have gotten far worse.
I had the opportunity to speak to a very well-known attorney (The Star would recognize his name). I told him my situation, and he said, and I quote, “With the Town of East Hampton, it is all politics.”
In July I called The Star and asked to speak to someone in the investigative unit. I was connected to Tom Gogola, who expressed interest in writing an article about this matter. But that never materialized.
I am attaching some pictures. I am also attaching a copy of the complaint I made to the town after being urged to do so by the code investigator mentioned in this letter. But in any event I know nothing is going to be done.
Thank you for your attention,
October 23, 2022
To the Editor,
“Lay the hammer down” was said aloud at the Oct. 18 meeting at Town Hall in East Hampton. This was in reference to the potential hiring of additional inspectors for code enforcement. Spellbinding enough if this is how the town board wishes to express enthusiasm for enforcement. It’s certainly been deterred due to the same individuals who sit in those five seats, letting transgression remain five years later.
None in Springs
October 18, 2022
Can I comment on three letters with one? In her Oct. 8 letter, Deb Sherman states that affordable housing projects “tend to be planned in Springs.” This is patently false. There are, in fact, no publicly funded affordable housing projects in Springs. There are two single-family residences only — one built by Habitat for Humanity and the other was a lot sold through the town’s homeownership program almost two decades ago. Two houses.
The vast majority — 402 — of the 531 East Hampton affordable housing units are in East Hampton North, specifically Freetown, Whalebone Village/Woods/North, Olympic Heights, and Kingstown Heights/North, Windmill Village II, Accabonac Apartments/Woods, Springs-Fireplace, the Manor House Condos, and Green Hollow. All are in the East Hampton School District.
There are 77 affordable rentals in Amagansett (St. Michael’s and Gansett Meadow), and in Montauk, 17 affordable rentals (Avallone), and 27 single-family residences (Camp Hero). The Cottages are eight rentals in the Wainscott School District, in the Sag Harbor area.
Lawmakers have historically avoided supporting the creation of affordable housing in Springs because it is in Springs that the free market historically placed modest homes. That is changing fast. Springs is gentrifying. If you want to maintain the quaint Springs vibe, you should consider supporting the community housing fund. Otherwise, any available property will be gobbled up and “improved” well beyond most local folks’ ability to stay. To keep Springs as it is, the town needs the resources to compete with the free market investors, speculators, and second- home buyers.
In his Oct. 9 letter, John Potter asserts that the housing fund will consume 1,000 acres of land in the construction of 2,000 new units of housing, adding 5,000 to our population. Mathematically, that could only be true if the fund were used to create a suburban landscape of half-acre, single-family residences that were sold exclusively to nonresidents. I am fond of John, but not this fearmongering.
And to Mr. Karpinski (Oct. 9), I say this: The East Hampton Town Planning Department keeps statistics on “buildout,” which is my source. Are you perhaps confusing community housing efforts with the free-market activity that is rampantly tearing down perfectly good homes, erasing the East Hampton vernacular by destroying local character, pushing building envelopes to the property lines on small lots, and constructing 10,000-to-15,000-square-foot “homes” with 10 bedrooms and 12 baths?
The community preservation fund preserved the community character; the community housing fund will preserve the community characters. Vote yes.
East Hampton Housing Authority
What Is Being Done
October 24, 2022
The near-absence of economically accessible community housing in East Hampton is stunning. According to officials, less than 3 percent of total housing units in town qualify as “affordable.” Lack of affordable housing, whether for rent or for purchase, is a problem all over America, in cities big and small, as well as in most resort-economy-based towns, either snow-driven or beach-based.
But no matter how widespread the problem, given the astounding amount of wealth that sloshes around our 70 square miles, the fact that there is virtually no dependable availability of year-round, quality affordable housing in East Hampton — let alone accommodations for seasonal workers upon which our economy and local business owners are dependent — is absolutely shameful.
And when I say this, I mean not to finger-point at any specific person or entity — many are we frogs who have been boiling for years in this pot of water. Back in 2005, the East Hampton Town Comprehensive Plan estimated that there would be a need to create another 2,000 affordable housing units over the coming years. I imagine that need has grown.
The upcoming referendum to establish a half-percent purchaser-paid real estate transfer fee to create the new community housing fund brings tangible hope. Millions of dollars collected annually, enhanced by the power of judicious bonding, will be a critical localized resource; the housing fund plan envisions a dozen ways funds might be used.
Even with this money, it’s going to take some time to dig ourselves out of the hole. With real estate prices being where they are and facing vicious competition from voracious developers for buildable parcels, it will indeed be a challenge for the town to close the gap quickly. Indeed, town officials are cautioning, “We won’t be able to build our way out of this crisis.” I understand the sentiment underlying this slogan. However, in the short run, we do need to build a way forward.
A solution requires some meaningful amount of new construction to jump-start economically accessible housing supply, including additional multiunit projects similar to Gansett Meadows, building or finding opportunities to convert single-family into two-family residences, as well as adding affordable accessory dwelling units on individual properties.
I fully support the housing fund, and I’ve spent a good amount of time engaging with fellow citizens to educate about and advocate for it. Nearly everyone I’ve chatted with acknowledges the crisis and reason for the housing fund. However, a substantial number are not yet comfortable with how the money will be spent. The most common objection I and others hear expressed is, “I don’t want more ‘density’ in East Hampton.” So, I recently crunched some data that might put things in perspective to address this fear.
Many of your readers will be familiar with the new eight-lot subdivision on Handy Lane in Amagansett. However, I’m not sure everyone understands the full magnitude of what is being done there by the New York City-based spec developer. The lots range between .29 and .83 acres and total 4.3 acres. They’ve been cleared 100 percent, stripped of all their woodlands, wildlife habitat, and natural soil biome. The eight new houses together add up to 41,947 square feet of living space, a total of 51 bedrooms and 65 bathrooms. In addition, there are eight pools, eight pool houses, and a lot of hardscape. If sold at the listing prices, this will be a $46.2 million payday to the developer and will perhaps yield $2.8 million in commissions to enabling real estate brokers.
But Handy Lane isn’t just a one-off. As developers continue to strip-mine the land, they’ve been reshaping East Hampton with a massive increase in density over the last five years. Some more data: Right now, of the 400-plus properties in East Hampton listed for sale on Zillow, there are 98 new mega-million, spec-construction houses being marketed. In total, it’s nearly 600,000 square feet of additional living space, adding theoretical occupancy of perhaps 1,000 more persons — now, that is a lot of density and it’s made even more outrageous when we consider that this is among the most extractive, nonproductive land use possible. This is just a current for-sale snapshot; it doesn’t include everything else that is now being built or working its way through the permitting pipeline, let alone all that has been completed during this multi-year frenzy.
I find the concern, “I want affordable housing, but I don’t want more density” mostly misplaced. It should not be a reason to vote “no.”
Is it not inconsistent to oppose well-regulated 600 or 800-square-foot accessory dwelling units while accepting endless construction of hulking 6,000 or 8,000-square-foot, new luxury second homes, along with all their accessory amenities maxing out lots from corner to corner? How can people look derisively upon a new complex that might house 15 or 20 hard-working families, yet not object to 15 or 20,000-square-foot, three-level monoliths rising regularly now on two-to-four acre lots?
Why are people suspicious about “who” exactly will be allowed to live in a new affordable apartment in East Hampton, fretting that they might not be “from here,” but yet show no concern that much of new single-family home development these days is obscured behind limited liability corporations, being financed by mysterious far-flung investors and anonymous entities, let alone not worrying about transient population streaming in and out of these big houses when they turn into seasonal or illegal short-term rentals?
Finally, if we’re to fully address our affordable housing crisis, we need to build, as well as “unbuild,” our way out. By unbuild, I mean two things: First, apply the brakes to these ongoing perverse, profligate developer-driven land-use trends. I’m not talking about just pumping the brakes. I think we need to slam on them before we go fully off the cliff.
And by unbuild, I also mean that town zoning code begs for meaningful adjustment. Our code allows these speculators to overdevelop, in a process known as “as-of-right,” because the current suite of dimensional allowances is far too generous. All building metrics (house size, coverage and clearing ratios, height) need to be scaled back, and many of the review and approval processes for demolition and expansive new development should be rethought.
Only by adding rational restraint in the code will we begin to restore balance, start to reverse the damage, and create space to adequately address this affordable housing crisis. So, there are two things I hope citizens will do. First, on Nov. 8, flip the ballot and vote “yes” on Proposal 3, and second, reach out to our town board to urge them to evolve the code.
October 23, 2022
To The East Hampton Star,
Now that a New York State Supreme Court justice has halted the town’s attempt to privatize the airport to deal with residents’ many and ongoing complaints about, in your words on the website, “a ruined quality of life,” perhaps we should begin to honestly describe this unquestioned and very real ruined quality of life.
I’ll just cite one example here: Route 27 is no longer a minor connecting roadway simply to provide access to the towns and villages of the East End. It is now a drastically overused highway with a never-ending steady stream of cars, vans, work trucks, and enormous construction vehicles, most of which flout the posted speed limits. It also happens to be the “Main Streets” of our villages, pretty much ruining certain qualities that have made these villages appealing for centuries.
Well, money talks, and big money talks loudly and drowns out the more feeling and gentle voices. Is it time to just acknowledge that an area loved by many for decades now must be considered a kind of lost “Camelot” or “Brigadoon,” replaced by something quite different and almost unrecognizable?
October 23, 2022
A friend who is a local lawyer recently asked me how the town board and its lawyers could have closed East Hampton Airport, an action that was so patently illegal. It’s a fair question. I have thought from the git-go that the town’s legal position made no sense at all under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which clearly requires environmental review before official action is taken, not afterward. That is not even a close question. In my opinion, this was a case where the client told the lawyer what result the client demanded and the lawyer went ahead and put the client’s absurd position into a lawyer-signed pleading even though the lawyer had to know the client’s position was totally without merit.
I guess we will never have a Jan. 6-type committee to find out exactly what happened here, but in my judgment, both the lawyer and the client should be sanctioned for their conduct that the court found to be arbitrary, capricious, and illegal.
Second, how could the town argue that petitioners were not entitled to relief because they don’t live in a neighborhood that would be affected by new airport activity, given the petitions filed by residents of East Lake Drive, not to mention Tom Bogdan, who deserves a medal for this? Have town board members never taken a walk or ride on winding East Lake Drive: no shoulders, hairpin turns (20 miles per house — a joke) regularly utilized by walkers, runners, bicycle riders, and caregivers pushing baby carriages?
None of the town positions makes any sense to me. Never did.
I have not focused on the judge’s Airport Noise and Capacity Act rationale, but it seems sound to me on its face and I think District Judge Siebert and the Second Circuit would, as before, likely come out the same way.
Four town board members specifically promised again and again to take no action that might result in increased traffic to the Montauk airstrip, yet they went ahead, without doing any environmental analysis, violated SEQRA and federal law, and attempted to close East Hampton Airport when the evidence was indisputable that this would produce a dramatic increase in Montauk airstrip traffic. The only answer I can guess at from the facts that they have so far published is that the town board members engaged in a disgraceful political surrender to a small group in the town that was extremely well organized and vocal. In so doing, the board members compromised their fiduciary duty to the majority of the residents of the town and illegally caved to the demands of the noisy few. And in that process, they spent millions of taxpayer money (whether from our airport funds or our town budget). What’s more, they caused their constituents to dig further into their own pockets to defend themselves against the board’s expenditure of their money!
Question: Does the board have the courage to lick its wounds, face up to reality, and drop this project, or will they drag this out to the further detriment of the town and expose themselves to additional possible personal liability? And what remedy do the taxpayers have for the afore-described breaches of duty? I dunno, but my guess is that somebody out there has a good idea.
East Lake Drive
October 23, 2022
To the Editor:
At last Thursday’s town board meeting, a resolution was quickly and unanimously passed concerning a Montauk water quality project. The resolution dealt with the purchase of an 18.8-acre vacant parcel of property, with the address of 66 East Lake Drive, Montauk, for the price of $4,250,000 plus closing costs; the funds to be distributed through the General Municipal Fund or “other sources of funding.” All very well and good but for the fact that very same Montauk property has already been approved by the town board as a community preservation fund-funded project. Why would the board want to reverse an already approved C.P.F. project and expend $4.2 million of taxpayer money to acquire the very same Montauk property that would have been a zero financial burden to the community? No specific reason, strategy, or plan given.
The town has scheduled a live town hall public meeting to be held at 2 p.m., next Thursday. It will also be available electronically by video and live stream on the LTV website, ltveh.org. Montauk United will monitor the meeting and report back to the Montauk community, however, given the town board’s past and very present, aggressively negative policies toward Montauk in general and specifically that of the citizens of East Lake Drive, it is essential their plans and motives be carefully viewed and considered. Montauk United urgently requests all who care and respect the well-being of Montauk to attend the meeting in one form or another.
October 24, 2022
Many months of concerted efforts by numerous people have yielded a major rewrite of the town zoning code for personal wireless service facilities. However, in one significant respect the outcome achieved is seriously flawed and poses a danger to the public. As of now, the prior sensible standard of protecting all “habitable structures and places where people may congregate” by requiring specified fall-zone separation distances from new macro cell towers has been eliminated. It appears this startling result was an unintended oversight.
Both the old and new wireless codes define a fall zone as being “the area within which there might be a potential hazard from falling debris or collapsing material.” From the information provided by the town’s consultants, planners and attorneys, I was under the impression they had reached a consensus of opinion to reduce the fall-zone standards from being two times the height of the tower to being one times the tower’s height. This change was reportedly required to be made to comport with current legal rulings and engineering standards, so it was one that I could accept. But that is not exactly what happened.
Although it remains a defined term, the new wireless code actually does not use “fall zone” in any of its substantive provisions. The new code does not provide all reasonably necessary public safety protection standards. All that is now required is that new macro cell towers must “have a setback from adjoining property lines equal to or greater than the height of the proposed structure.” That standard only provides for the protection of habitable structures and human activities on neighboring properties. Why not also require the same common-sense safety standard to be applicable to habitable structures and human activities situated upon the tower applicant’s own property?
The new wireless code now permits the owner of a hotel, school, medical facility, restaurant, commercial warehouse, residence, firehouse, etc., to apply for approval of a new macro cell tower that would be located less than one times the height of the tower from a habitable structure or place where people may congregate on the tower applicant’s own property. How smart is that?
This conundrum was pointed out, by me, to the town board at the public hearing held Sept. 1. However, only a minor and ineffective change in the language of the code was made in response. They did not make the substantive changes that are needed. The new code finally adopted on Sept. 15 does not contain any fall-zone safety standard protecting people inhabiting or using the tower owner’s property. All the new code requires is that “New wireless structures shall have a setback from adjoining property lines equal to or greater than the height of the proposed structure.”
I reviewed the assistant planning director’s presentations to the town board on June 21 and to the planning board on July 27. What he articulated was a clear intention to retain the “one times the height of the tower” fall zone. Mr. Schantz told the town board the minimum safety distance would apply to both “property lines” and “any [habitable] building.” He told the planning board that the new code would “stick with the single fall zone requirement.” However, confusion and error resulted from deleting a reference to any fall zone and instead only using the concept of property line setbacks. He also stated all involved in the major rewrite of the wireless code “are going to try to get this right the first time,” but acknowledged that some “tweaks may be needed down the road.”
I hope the town board will now take a Mulligan and do the right thing to correct this no-fall-zone snafu. This hope is buttressed by the fact the town board failed to comply with the jurisdictional requirement to publish a 10-day public notice before making any zoning code changes. The board shorted the public on the legal notice requirement by just a little: a couple of days. But I find the new wireless code shorts the public to a very large degree by failing to ensure public safety.
Very truly yours,
Sick at Heart
October 24, 2022
Last week, town code was amended by cutting the required setback (the “fall zone”) for cell and radio towers from proximate homes from two times to one times the tower height. This change was made to accommodate the Springs Fire Department goal of gaining after-the-fact approval for the illegal, 150-foot tower they built in 2015. After the zoning board of appeals revoked the building permit for the tower later that year, the Z.B.A. decision was upheld after the Springs Fire Department sued and lost an appeal before the Supreme Court of New York.
Cutting the fall zone in half is a Trojan horse that paves the way for the approval of the Springs Fire Department location, notwithstanding that their application (which they have still not submitted to the planning board seven years after the Z.B.A. directed them to do so) must still pass an environmental review and the approval process required by town code. The chances for approval of the illegal tower have been greatly increased because by halving the fall zone to one times the tower height, the major impediment to gaining approval, which was violating the fall zone, has been removed. This is the case because none of the 13 houses (including my own) that fall within the two-times fall zone will now be inside the truncated one-times zone. But the planning board and town board have no justifiable basis for cutting the two-times setback to one times. That is true because the fall zone is not some arbitrary, anti-development statute peculiar to East Hampton. But rather, it is a national and international safety zone included in the Building Code of America and in international building codes as well. Cutting this safety zone in half contradicts national and international building codes and is nothing more than a cynical concession to the Springs Fire Department’s seemingly ineluctable political clout and ability to deliver (or take away) many votes at election time.
To its credit, the planning board previously determined that Camp Blue Bay and the Crandall Street site were preferable to the Springs Fire Department location. Now that Camp Blue Bay is a done deal, the choice for a second tower (if indeed a second tower instead of a mesh network is the solution to the service gaps that will remain after the Camp Blue Bay tower is up and running) may well be between Crandall Street and the Springs Fire Department. The disadvantage of the Springs Fire Department location is that neighboring homes will be located much closer to the tower than at Crandall Street. Under the two-times setback, 13 houses proximate to the Springs Fire Department are within the fall zone, whereas no houses whatsoever at Crandall Street are within the two-times fall zone. So, cynically cutting the fall zone in half to curry favor with the Springs Fire Department will not change the reality that the Springs Fire Department tower will endanger far more persons than a tower located at Crandall Street.
Of course, I would not presume to tell town board members or the planning board where to locate a second tower, if in fact a second tower is advisable in the first place. But rather, I argue only that homeowners adjacent to the Springs Fire Department should be treated fairly and not subjected to a tower shoehorned into their backyards by a political calculus whereby candidates or elected officials gain as opposed to lose votes.
My neighbors and I are not only outraged by the cynical reduction of the fall zone, but we are sick at heart because we are not being accorded equal protection under the law and feel as though we have lost our cherished homes in the Springs. Must we once again be forced to litigate to protect our lives?
Last point: Elite Towers, which built the illegal tower, has stated that the annual fee they will pay the Springs Fire Department would be only $108,000. The Springs Fire Department firemen readily admit that, besides improving public safety, their motivation is to raise revenue. But their monetary argument is not compelling: There are 8,000 persons who live in the Springs, so an annual per-capita tax of only $13.50 would make the Springs Fire Department whole if the tower were located elsewhere, or, alternatively, East Hampton could earmark $108,000 of fees earned by the Camp Blue Bay tower as recompense to the Springs Fire Department.
Way It Was Done
October 24, 2022
The recent reduction of the fall-zone criteria for cell towers is amazing and appalling to me. The document “Fires and Collapses” at ourwebofinconvenienttruths.com, which illustrates dozens and dozens of cell tower failures with outcomes that would be disastrous in a residential neighborhood, makes me wonder what was the town thinking?
How soon we forget that a section of the cell tower at the East Hampton Transfer Station flew off of it a few years ago — and not during any major hurricane or storm. I can’t see how reducing the standards for fall zones would be consistent with a duty of care for the well-being of the community by those whose fiduciary duty is to protect the people who live here. What is especially troubling is the way this was done.
It seems there was less than the required notice period for public comment prior to the vote to change the code. Given how notoriously contentious this issue is, that doesn’t smell good. Years after a proposed tower at the Springs Firehouse was voted down (when the public was given notice), the residents of Springs around Fort Pond and Talmage Farm Lane had the existing Springs cell tower put up without any public notice or opportunity for public process. The recent code change looks a lot like that. Sneaky conduct by public officials is shameful.
If the town is going to consider, or allow cell towers in residential neighborhoods because of reduced fall-zone requirements, then the town should make sure that towers are located over the people’s heads who are so vocal about wanting them, and not put them over the people’s heads, or in the view, of the people and neighborhoods who do not want them. Once the threshold is crossed to allow towers in residential neighborhoods, then it should not be mob rule that determines where they are located. The advocates for more cell towers should walk the talk and organize their neighbors and petition the town to put them over their own heads and viewsheds, not foist them on someone else. Let’s not put up with double standards like, “I want cell towers but not in my backyard. I want them in your backyard.” That kind of pointing guns at your neighbors is deplorable. If cell tower advocates can’t get their own neighborhood to go along with having them in their backyards, then they should clam up.
If the Crandall Street site was unsuitable for a cell tower, then the Springs Firehouse is in every way far less suitable. Without the code-change sleight of hand, the Crandall tower fall zone barely grazed one house whereas the Firehouse Tower fall zone would have been threatening to 9 to 13 houses by my estimates. Any Springs tower would be in a much more visually glaring location, not buried in a seven-acre wooded lot the way the Crandall tower would have been. A tower at the firehouse is visible from designated historic and scenic areas. I chose to live on Talmage Farm Lane precisely because it is in a scenic area. To turn that into an industrialized area because of mob bullying would be totally cynical and irresponsible.
With regard to needing more sites for more coverage, the firehouse is only a mile or so away from the Blue Bay site, and cell coverage would be largely redundant. The Blue Bay tower will completely eliminate the need for emergency services at the Springs Firehouse. If any new cell towers are placed, they should actually serve the purpose they are intended to serve and cover areas that are not already covered by existing or approved towers.
The strong push to have a largely redundant tower at the Springs Firehouse begs the question why the huge fuss over the Springs tower? It is clear to me the Springs Firehouse tower is all about the money and it has been used as a very effective political tool to antagonize the incumbent town board members. Those are bad reasons to burden residents who are directly impacted by siting industrial facilities in their neighborhood. If the fire department needs more money, then the whole community they serve should provide them with the extra money. The burden should not be placed on the unlucky few who live within the tower’s impact zone. Spread over the population of Springs, the money paid to the fire department from a tower company would be equal to a few dollars per person on the tax bill for Springs residents.
I welcome Jeremy Samuelson’s effort, as stated in The East Hampton Press, to: “Start conversations with property owners who want to be part of the solution.” That is the appropriate way to proceed, not by gaming the system with code changes that force cell towers down the throats of people who hate them.
KRAE VAN SICKLE
October 24, 2022
To the Editor:
When we think about the war in Ukraine, it’s important to remember that we’re not spending billions just to help a people who have been brutally attacked through no fault of their own. We’re doing it in our own self-interest. The fate of Ukraine is closely tied to our own future. The reason for that can be stated in one word: Taiwan.
China is watching us closely. If we abandon Ukraine, China will feel it has a free hand to enslave the only democratic part of China that is left. And were China to succeed in that, freedom worldwide would be under dire threat, not only from Russia and China, but also from local would-be dictators seeking to emulate the successes of Putin and Xi.
Some people warn of the danger of a nuclear confrontation with Russia. This is not to be scoffed at. But if we give in to Putin and then resist China’s inevitable land grab to follow, the chance of that starting an all-out nuclear exchange will be much greater.
Ever since Pearl Harbor, the Republican Party has supported the maintenance of America’s strength in the world. Recently, however, prominent Republicans have begun to edge toward appeasement. Not all Republicans, for sure, but some very influential ones, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
If the Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives in this fall’s election, it will signal Putin that America is on the way to giving in. That’s why all of us, whatever our party affiliation and our feelings about other issues, need to cast our votes to prevent Mr. McCarthy from becoming speaker. Even if you’ve never voted for a Democrat in a national election before, you need to make an exception this time and vote for Bridget Fleming.
Thanks for listening,
For Public Safety
October 15, 2022
Public safety is also front and center in this election, that’s one reason the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association has endorsed Democrat Bridget Fleming for Congress. Bridget was a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office for 10 years, a member of the sex crimes prosecution unit, and chief of a unit devoted to attacking fraud in public programs. The Suffolk P.B.A. knows that Bridget Fleming, a 20-year resident of Long Island, has the prosecutorial experience to effectively put public safety first. Newsday has called Bridget one of the most active and effective lawmakers in the county. A vote for Bridget Fleming for Congress is a vote for public safety.
Everything We Need
October 19, 2022
I was horribly embarrassed that I was represented by Lee Zeldin when speaking with my colleagues across the country. Every time he praised Trump, I would cringe.
In contrast, I will be very, very proud to be represented by Bridget Fleming, should we elect her to be our representative in the United States Congress. She is everything we need in Washington: She’s smart, thoughtful, responsive to her constituents, forward-thinking, and very well informed.
I’m looking forward to voting for Bridget Fleming on Nov. 8. Early voting starts Saturday.
October 22, 2022
To the Editor:
I have been around since 1930. While I have not seen it all, I do get the feeling that history often repeats itself.
It seems to me that World War II was never over. The same lethal forces are at work, and democracy, as we know it, was never signed, sealed, or delivered.
We are at the same moment of truth now as we were then. Just this week 20 folks were arrested in Florida for voting!? Families are separated at our borders, Hooligans storm our nation’s Capitol, and psychopaths promise the world to the few who consider themselves the “true patriots.” This election may be existential. It can happen here — is it? Will this be our children’s legacy?
Never again? Someone once said, “Never say never again.” When will we ever learn?. When will we ever learn?
Vote Democrat — yes, there is a difference.
October 21, 2022
This is a reply to the letters written to The Star by Mr. Manny Vilar (the current chairman of the East Hampton Republican Committee) and Mr. Reg Cornelia (the former chairman of the East Hampton Republican Committee).
Gentlemen, no one is attacking Lee Zeldin’s military record while he served in Iraq. We all know it was and is a very dangerous place. We all know that he was over there to serve as an attorney, and we are all sure that he encountered many dangerous situations while he served there. However, I must point out that his attempt to portray himself as the second coming of the warriors Lawrence of Arabia, John Pershing, George Patton, Chesty Puller, John Paul Vann, and Colin Powell falls rather flat.
To be blunt, Zeldin is not Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy of Patchogue, who gave his life to protect his men and gave his last full measure for his nation. I also do not understand why the so-called pro-vet Zeldin voted to deny health benefits to vets dealing with health problems from fire-pit burnings in Iraq. I can only assume that he was never there at a fire-pit burning.
The last issue I would like to address that Mr. Cornelia broaches is the fact that few of our East End legislators have served in the military. So what? Perhaps they viewed public service in social services, the police departments, prosecuting rapists, and teaching as other avenues of improving our society.
To me, the real kicker here is that Mr. Cornelia failed to mention that his hero, Donald Trump, never served in the military. Trump was a cowardly draft dodger who paid a doctor to give him an exemption to the draft. My memory is a little vague on the reasons why, but I seem to recall that his feet were too flat, his buttocks were too large, and his brain was severely damaged due to narcissistic pathological feelings of grandeur.
Violated His Oath
October 24, 2022
I don’t care that Lee Zeldin embellished his military record. I do care that he violated his sworn military oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, when he voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election on January 6 and continued thereafter to parrot the nonsense about a rigged election against a mountain of evidence and court opinions to the contrary. It’s mind-boggling to me that any former service member would support a man who chose fealty to Donald Trump over his military oath. Maybe Zeldin forgot that his favorite president called American prisoners of war losers and wanted to keep disabled soldiers out of a military parade because it didn’t “look good” for him. Or maybe Lee is just a phony and an opportunist who cares more about his political career than the democratic ideals represented by the flag he loves to wave.
Danger to the Community
October 22, 2022
To the Editor,
Only in the coddled bubble of the Hamptons do we see editorials completely ignoring the legitimate concerns of those who live in the boroughs of New York City. We are not disputing the crime statistics; we are validly concerned with has become a “catch and release” environment as a result of bail reform. Violent incidents where no weapon is involved frequently fall under Class A misdemeanors, which are not eligible for bail.
New York is now the only state in the country where danger to the community cannot be considered under the bail reform law. Chain stores such as CVS are closing locations in Manhattan due to rampant theft; many, many items are now locked behind Plexiglas. Many of us no longer wear earbuds when out in the street, as we must now be very aware of our surroundings. We stand in groups near the fare booths for safety when waiting for a train on the subways.
From your gilded perch, you condescend to, and ignore, those of us who do not have the luxury of homes in the Hamptons. Our concerns are neither mentioned nor addressed in your editorial. Shame on you.
Out of Control
October 23, 2022
Crime is out of control! New York has not been this unsafe since the 1970s and 1980s.
Elections have consequences, and if you vote for candidates from a party that supports cashless bail and defunding the police, you should expect those candidates to do just that.
I must admit I find the claims of Bridget Fleming being a tough prosecutor and somehow trying to explain the way her position on defunding the police or, in her words, reallocation of funds, humorous. If you describe prosecutorial misconduct as tough on crime, we will have to disagree.
In the case of People v. Griffin, law professors filed a grievance regarding Bridget Fleming’s serious misconduct while prosecuting People v. Griffin on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office of New York County. The Appellate Division found that Fleming intentionally violated the trial court’s explicit order and that Fleming’s misconduct was so egregious that it violated Griffin’s constitutional right to a fair trial, contributing to a reversal of his conviction.
Worse yet, the grievance calls for the committee to investigate and issue public discipline, including suspension of Fleming’s law license. It also calls for a broader investigation into other cases prosecuted by Fleming and to determine whether DANYC’s supervising and managing attorneys complied with their duties under Rule 5.1 of Professional Conduct.
Oh, and the videos where Bridget Fleming states she supports defunding the police by calling for the reallocation of police funding to other “priorities,” such as social services, and claims “there is no question that there is widespread inequity and racial injustice in systems of government, throughout government, and in law enforcement” can be found at this web address: billiondollarbridget.com.
Lastly, if you were a 100-percent guaranteed vote in the Suffolk County Legislature to raise my salary, I would endorse you, too!
This election, we need to get tough on crime and inflation. We need Lee Zeldin for governor, retired New York Police Deputy Inspector Allison Esposito for lieutenant governor, Michael Henry for attorney general, Nick LaLota for Congress, Tony Palumbo for Senate, and Peter Ganley for Assembly.
Only you can save New York.
East Hampton Town Republican Committee
October 18, 2022
Mr. Zeldin is still an arch anti-abortionist. Remember back in May, when the G.O.P. candidate for governor, Lee Zeldin, pandered to what he perceived to be his base and went on an anti-abortion rant? He promised to make New York a pro-life state, committed to appoint an anti-abortion health commissioner, and promised that anti-abortion activists would have open-door access to him in Albany. These promises echoed his long-held views.
And then the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs overruling Roe v. Wade. In its aftermath, G.O.P. anti-abortion candidates found that voters rose in wrath against the G.O.P.’s decades-long attack on Roe. The dog had indeed caught the bus, and the G.O.P. found that the nation’s voters were in deep support of the abortion rights set forth in Roe. Suddenly, G.O.P. candidates found their anti-abortion rants to be anathema to their voters.
His finger always testing the direction of the political wind, Mr. Zeldin would have us think that he has flipped on his abortion position. Knowing that New York has among the strongest protections for a woman’s right to choose, his campaign has abandoned his vision of creating a “pro-life” New York. He now professes that he wouldn’t change a thing if elected governor.
Tigers can’t change their stripes, and neither can Mr. Zeldin. His anti-abortion positions have been cast in stone while he was in the State Legislature and during his years in Congress. He has been a staunch anti-abortionist for decades, supporting an absolute abortion ban with no exceptions. He has voted time and again to defund Planned Parenthood. He recently submitted a questionnaire promising to vote against funding for abortion and again to deny funding to Planned Parenthood.
While he has no power to change New York law, there are dozens of ways a Governor Zeldin (sends shivers down your spine, doesn’t it?) could influence funding with the goal to restrict the availability of abortions and contraception.
He has shown that he still wears his anti-abortion stripes, so don’t be fooled by his “born again” stance on abortion. It’s just a campaign act — dangerous to us all.
October 20, 2022
To the Editor:
Migrant tent shelter on Randalls Island. Three meals a day, laundry done for free while Americans starve and pay more under a failed Biden agenda. Are any of the morons who voted for open borders and a failing economy taking any illegal aliens in? What a joke. You people failed America.
October 23, 2022
In World War I, 20 million people died. In World War II, 60 million people died. The differences in new weaponry and technology probably accounted for 10 million alone. Today, the level of technology has surpassed World War II technology by tenfold. World War III could easily kill half a billion people in a month.
After World War II, there were a few sane leaders who thought that something needed to be done to prevent the next world war. It was so clear, so obvious, so simplistic that only a total village idiot couldn’t comprehend the possible damage. Voila, the United Nations and dozens of treaties and arrangements between nations aimed at preventing World War III. The idea that people are kind of all the same and deserve to be treated similarly was an archaic American concept from the United States Constitution. The world went there, veto-proof countries excluded, as best it could. Sixty-seven years without a hint of World War III. Bravo to the world.
America first, a bewildering garble of brain-dead bullshit and chicanery, was the basis for all those dead people. America (symbolic of every country in the world) First is the primary fear for World War III.
First, America, like every country, since forever puts itself first before everyone else in the world. We collectively are always and have always been first. So the idea that we need to put ourselves first is idiot box sophistry like selling people the air they breathe and talking about how amazing that is. Second, America first means nothing beyond self-serving egocentrism. It is hollow policy with no substance. So, when politicians talk about America first, you need to check your wallets and your zippers because they are after something you don’t want to give them.
The U.S. has dozens of repugnant examples of America first but the best one belongs to the English. The English empire savaged the world for several hundred years. Everywhere it went it left a trail of disease, death, and misery. In that same spirit the English made a decision to starve the Irish to death in the 1850s (needed their food). Same race, color, language (kind of); kill off the entire population. Not a big deal. We may have killed off 15 million Indigenous people but we took a hundred years to do it.
So, it’s 1945, and insanity is still in the air. All those bodies and destroyed countries and misery and pain because Germany, Japan, and Italy first blew the lid off the world. How bloody crazy can people be? Are there limits to our insanity and inhumanity? No more America first, or MAGA, etc. — it’s suicidal.
Yet, 77 years is a long time in the ahistorical world of the U.S. Half the population doesn’t know who fought in World War II, barely 20 percent, World War I. Yet, across the country politicians are screaming, “America first!” They are batshit. They are scammers. They are selling us the air we breathe.
We are buying it.
Dressed to Kill
October 24, 2022
To the Editor:
Trying to find something that Mayor Eric Adams has done for New York is crippling my brain. It seems Hizzoner is a party man, out every night with celebrities, dressed to kill. He seems to be a big BS artist. He is a talker, not a doer, accomplishment zero. We have poverty, homelessness, crime, and filth. We have garbage all over the city streets, mice, roaches, subway crime. For the crime in the subways, he blames the media. Is this guy for real?
It seems Eric Adams can’t fix anything but salaries. His brother has been hired at a six-figure salary, beginning to sound like de Blasio and his wife.
A deal seems to have been made with the board of education guy; the mayor hired his girlfriend, and the board of education head hired Hizzoner’s girlfriend, with super salaries.
Meantime, the governor of New York is still collecting fantastic donations to her campaign and, in return, contracts are given to the donators.
In God and country,