Living Without Fear
May 16, 2022
As I write this I am sitting in Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris after a trip to the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
For the last decade or so I have made this trip twice a year to visit with my Czech friends Josef Jezek, his wife Jana Jezkova, and their daughter, Adele, as well as Vilem Cerny, Karel Bartes, Petr and Lucie Sulkovi and their two boys. This year I also added a visit to my friend from Slovakia, Vili Cillik.
With the friendships of these people I have found a second home and will continue my visits whenever I can. But Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine altered the meaning of this latest visit for me. His desire to re-establish control over former Soviet bloc nations meant that my friend’s lives and way of life might be in danger, and I needed to see for myself.
The Czech and Slovak people are working in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, as is the rest of Europe and the United Kingdom. Most of my time was spent reassuring myself that all was as well as could be expected. As I toured Prague with Josef, we talked about the refugee situation, and from his responses, I realized the depth of compassion expressed by the majority of the Czech people toward the refugees. The person-to-person help I saw brought the big crisis into focus as one-on-one assistance.
As I traveled with Vili to Zilina and the High Tatra Mountains near Strbske Pleso, I experienced a sense of normalcy that I had not expected. We had a great experience together, but I wondered when I would run into the conflict that was so close to Slovakia’s border. I found that because World War III has not happened, people are living their lives without fear.
I attended a concert in Bratislava in support of the people of Ukraine that featured poetry from Pavol Hviezdoslav’s “Bloody Sonnets,” written about World War I, which aptly describes the universal horror of a war such as Putin’s. On a previous trip I had rented an apartment on Hviezdoslav namesti and was determined to find out who he was and bought an English translation. A poem like this was read at the concert:
“And nation turned against nation like a gored
yet living beast, with murderous
and vandal rage; guns cracked and cannon rent,
earth groaned, air shrieked, and churning waters roared
as Ashtoreth flung lightnings from her hoard.”
In the end, I returned to my Czech friends, and we went to my friend Vilem’s hometown of Jesenik. Those people who have seen me walking for miles and miles should know that it was in preparation for the High Tatras and the welcomed workout my friends put me through. We climbed to what seemed to be the highest points in Jesenik and attended a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the spa above the town with bands, a party, and fireworks, and we roasted sausages on an open fire at Vilem’s brother Jaroslav’s house. Again, normalcy everywhere.
When we returned to Prague, Vilem used the “solidarity” term that I have used here to describe what was going on between the people of Ukraine and their hosts. My friends in the Czech Republic and Slovakia don’t want me to be “proud” of them for acting like human beings but we all could learn some lessons from them.
May 15, 2022
It is that special time of year to send out a big thank-you to the women and men of the East Hampton Village Ambulance Association for providing lifesaving care to our community (village and town) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are teachers, artists, mechanics, store clerks, landscapers, accountants, real estate brokers, nurses, office workers, but, most important, they are our neighbors.
Ranging in age on life’s journey from college students to retirees, it is their mission to respond day or night, rain or shine, hot or cold, pandemic or not. Their response dramatically improves survival and recovery for anyone experiencing sudden illness or injury. Therefore, please join me in recognizing and thanking our local E.M.S. members during National Emergency Medical Services Week (May 15-21). The theme for 2022 is “E.M.S.: Rising to the Challenge.”
Let me reassure everyone that our volunteers not only meet the challenges, they embrace them. God bless each and every one of our outstanding E.M.S. volunteers.
DOREEN M. QUARANTO
East Hampton Village Ambulance Association
May 15, 2022
Fairly soon the East End will experience the yearly arrival of the Wall Street Warriors and the Fearless Hedge Fund Fighters with their Audis and BMWs for another fun-filled summer. Hitting the beaches, bars, and restaurants are top priorities.
Locals ask only that these folks be polite to servicepeople like deli clerks, bartenders, waitstaff, and landscapers. For example, when ordering a drink, please refrain from using the words, “I need,” as in “I need a van Gogh dirty martini straight up with three olives.” The truth is that there is no real need here — only a desire. It would be much better to say, “Dear bartender, when you get an opportunity please prepare a van Gogh dirty martini with three olives straight up. I see that you are very busy here with the 75 screaming patrons at the bar.”
Another faux pas is the use of the words “Hey, buddy” or “Hey, chief” or “Hey, babe” to get attention of waitstaff. They are not your buddies, nor are they chiefs, and women are not babes.
In short, please remember what your mom and kindergarten teacher taught you — be nice.
The Next Step
May 14, 2022
Thank you for The Star’s ongoing coverage of efforts to protect the Norfolk-Crandall woodlands from all development. The petition to fully protect these seven acres arrived on the May 12 agenda of the nature preserve committee. More than one dozen advocates showed up in support of it, overflowing the room’s capacity.
The meeting was a congenial event. People with 10, 20, 30, and 40 years of experience in these woodlands spoke convincingly of the petition’s merits. An evaluation from the Planning and Natural Resources Departments is the next step.
All who care about the nature and community preservation principles of this town should be all in on this one: Put the Norfolk-Crandall woodlands in the town’s nature preserves. Thank you in advance!
May 15, 2022
Last week, my neighbors made the case for adding the Crandall-Norfolk woodlands in Springs to the town’s nature preserves. We’re grateful to the members of the nature preserve committee, who came out in strong support of the nomination. One of the members, a fellow Springs resident, rightly emphasized the critical need for open space woodlands in our densely populated Springs community, pointing out that the neighborhood abuts the commercial corridor on Fort Pond Boulevard.
Our neighborhood is made up of East Hampton’s year-round working families — teachers, police officers and other municipal employees, local small-business owners and employees, artists, hairstylists, and landscapers. Our community cherishes these woodlands, which is why last month together we hauled away 2,000 pounds of trash that had been dumped on this public land over the years. The town board responded by erecting “no dumping” signs — a step up from a cell tower I suppose.
The woodlands are where we hike, walk our dogs, sled in winter, ride bicycles in summer, watch birds, and, as my neighbor said, “just go to think.” We know that at least some of the land was purchased by the town for this precise reason, to preserve open space and reduce density. Adding the Crandall-Norfolk woodlands to the town nature preserves will ensure that the original intent for the land is preserved for generations to come.
May 14, 2022
I’m writing this letter about your editorial of April 7 titled “A Plea For More Science.” You must have irritated a nerve because you got a response from Robert DeLuca of the Group for the East End and Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University, the trustees’ Leonardo da Vinci.
It seems to me Mr. Deluca is arguing we have the scientific facts and there’s no need for more science; it’s time to act. Dr. Gobler is saying, though science isn’t perfect, we already know the science of the problem and the solution; it’s time to act. But haven’t we acted already? Shouldn’t science show even slight improvement in order to be confident we’re acting correctly?
I’ve written in this forum before about oyster farming in our waters, and, as a commercial fisherman, my observations of the decline of the health of our bays since large-scale oyster operations began. One thing I’ve learned is the health of our waters is subjective: If one is sipping cocktails on the stern of a yacht afloat in crystal-clear waters or making a fine living from farmed oysters, how bad can it be? And if you’re a scientist or politician with reputations and money on the line or have a vested interest because you’ve preached for years we’re doing the right thing and it will be getting better as promised, just steer the course. Don’t ask.
If, however, you see no fish, no beneficial seaweed, no clams, the near extinction of scallops and the men and women working on the bays. Um, not so good. I was going to ignore this little tete-a-tete between the editor and Mr. DeLuca and Mr. Gobler because who am I to argue with those whose education and paycheck allow them to condescend and tell everyone they know what’s best? But as it happens there was an article about aquaculture published in Scientific American magazine in the May issue. I hope the trustees, the editor, Mr. Robert DeLuca, and Mr. Gobler will accept that the authors of this article have credentials.
The authors focused on the aquaculture industry in Maine because that state has extensive farming in both fin and shellfish. We have few finfish being raised here, so I’m going to ignore that part except to point out some things of interest. According to the article, finfish are difficult and expensive to rear and pose environmental hazards. For example, the pens they’re raised in concentrate disease and parasites, which then spread to the environment. That leads to the use of antibiotics and chemicals.
They’re fed a diet with added soy beans, rather than all fish. Feeding fish to huge numbers of fish impacts the food chain. They digest little of the bean protein, so it’s passed through, or they don’t eat it at all, which causes organic pollution and leads to toxic algae blooms, anoxia, and fish kills. Fish farmers, in an effort to minimize these problems, determined they would move onto land only to discover nothing had gotten better. Indeed they were more severe with the added burden of more expense and energy use. It seems a large farm has the carbon footprint of 759,000 metric tons of CO2, or the same as 47,000 homes annually. In spite of offshore windmills, that doesn’t make economic or environmental sense. Why not let real fishermen continue to fish sustainably?
When it came to shellfish aquaculture, the authors waxed enthusiastic. It seems because oysters and mussels don’t move and only eat and poop, they’re cheap and easy to raise, with the added benefit of being high in protein. They suggest if mussels became the major part of America’s diet, our seafood problems would be solved.
The Scientific American article also described a downside to shellfish farming. Take nitrogen for example. Oysters and mussels fix nitrogen but excrete almost all of it as ammonia, which is extremely poisonous in a watery environment, especially to the bottom of the food chain and larval fish. The nitrogen cycle is immutable. All nitrogen will return to the environment; it just depends on how long the cycle is, and oysters have a short one with added ammonia to sour it. But some see it as a benefit because they can plant kelp to fix that problem. Great!
So we fix one problem by introducing another? Then another? Did Dr. Gobler forget to tell us everything and use a nitrogen scare for his own ends? Yes, Peconic Bay isn’t Maine and because of that the problems are worse. Our bays are dead-end estuaries, and oysters were a rarity even many years ago; no fishery existed.
It’s fair to say oysters in such numbers are an invasive species, and all invasives will eventually cause havoc. Like pine beetles in our woods, oysters are changing everything. As the article said, the only thing oysters do is eat, and, as touted, they do a good job. It’s said they filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day in order to breathe and eat, and I would guess they aren’t choosy what’s in the water. They filter plankton, the base of the food web, and eggs of other species, including their own, the next generation. It seems oysters are eating all the available food. That’s why there are fewer baitfish and fewer predator fish like fluke and striped bass. They’re starved, so they swim away. Scallops can’t.
Even if the end cause of species collapse is disease or global warming, wouldn’t they be more susceptible if they’re starving? I know this is a long letter but I hope it may make us wonder. It’s certainly time for the trustees, the Star editor (a major guiding light in East Hampton), and maybe even Mr. DeLuca to wonder what the hell are we doing to ourselves. Ask questions. Get answers.
What Is the Plan?
May 16, 2022
The East Hampton Town Trustees just agreed to have Christopher Gobler do more water-quality monitoring. This will end in October. In October of 2020, we were told at a trustees meeting in regard to dredging Napeague Harbor that, in reality, we are a couple of years away. A couple would be two; a few would have been three. October 2022 is very close. What is the plan? It would certainly render any current study obsolete.
Though I would like to know about hypoxia, we’ve known for years the harbor needs to be circulated and the main inlet open again, as its closure has expedited erosion in front of homes. Perhaps we can know why so many terns died last year? We already can speculate that avian flu was rampant in our backyard.
Though our fate seems to have been sealed by inadequate or unknown plans by the trustees and Peter Van Scoyoc, as recently quoted in this paper. This area “may become an archipelago,” which is coming from the same man who only a decade ago stated with the potential of the major inlet closing just may “exacerbate” the erosion in front of houses on the bay side.
You know we know the answers. It’s been asked to be done properly almost as long as I’ve been alive. Unless a series of islands is the final goal, it seems the end game has already been laid out. It’s unthinkable enough as it is been allowed for years for some of us to be robbed of our rights. Now you want us all to lose our homes. What a stand-up group of elected officials. Still here.
May 16, 2022
To the Editor:
In spite of needed additional work, there has been considerable improvement along the Springs-Fireplace Road industrial and commercial corridor.
I would like to cite, in particular, Bistrian Materials, for its effort to maintain a clean entry to its property on the road. It has begun to improve the surface of its truck parking facility to prevent drag-out of dirt and mud, and it is cleaning on a daily basis whatever is dragged out. In addition, as a good citizen, it has adopted the section of Springs-Fireplace Road between Grant Avenue and Woodbine to clean trash. As such the entire length of the road from North Main Street to Woodbine has been adopted by one organization or another. Thank you, Bistrian Materials.
Unfortunately, other commercial establishments have not been as civic minded and either have not completed site plans requiring extensive screen planting or additional exits to other roads than Springs-Fireplace Road to reduce traffic or made required paving on their lots to prevent drag-out of mud, dirt, and dust. Other establishments either do not pick up litter in front of their establishments or do a minimum and disregard areas just outside their property lines where litter accumulates because of the food or other products they sell.
Each month, Corridor Watch picks up many bags of trash between Grant Avenue and Queen’s Lane and notices those who do not make any effort to keep their doorsteps clean. With regard to site plan implementation, there is no apparent mechanism to require speedy completion of approved plans. Owners are allowed to operate their businesses with partially complete plans, earn income, and then never complete plans entirely. Of course the part of plans that require planting and screening from the road, or that would reduce drag-out of dirt and mud never seem to be finished. Why spend the money? Certificates of occupancies never seem to be issued, and building permits are simply extended each year. Owners use the issuance of building permits as approval to operate their business, when, in fact, it should be certificates of occupancy that show completion of site plans that should allow the operation of the business.
Corridor Watch will continue to push for improvements to the industrial corridor and thank some owners for their efforts to improve the quality of life along the corridor.
May 16, 2022
To the Editor:
Several years ago, the board of trustees of Guild Hall did a brave and honorable act by relinquishing their stewardship of the Moran House. The recognition that the preservation of the Moran House was more important than who owned it, in no small way, saved a historic piece of East Hampton.
Could it be that it is this same board of trustees who want to destroy the iconic, historic, much-revered John Drew Theater?
There are many of us who are hoping this current board of trustees will come to recognize, appreciate, and respect what has become a treasured part of Guild Hall and East Hampton and do the right thing: Save the John Drew Theater.
Worth the Expense?
May 16, 2022
I write as an individual and not in any of my professional capacities. I simply must ask this question of the Guild Hall board of directors: Is the proposed renovation worth the expense in good will and the destruction of the decades of historic preservation efforts of your many predecessors?
I understand the desire to improve the facility, but why must it be so costly, not in dollars and cents but in community character, historic preservation, and the trust of the community?
Energy and resources have been expended to date and those forces can be hard to slow or push against. However, I suspect that any donors to the program would rather be part of the rich, historic heritage of Guild Hall by preserving the important interior spaces, so beloved by this community, rather than as the group that destroyed the John Drew Theater. I urge you to please withdraw your application and revisit what may actually be needed, such as access for disabled persons.
Surely this is a strange hill to die on — and, one must inquire, for what exactly? A little better sound system?
Reconsider Its Plans
East Hampton Village
May 15, 2022
To the Editor,
I’m glad to read in your pages that Preservation Long Island has also chimed in with a plea that Guild Hall reconsider its plans for the interior spaces, particularly the theater.
Surely the equipment necessary for lighting the stage and amplifying sound when necessary should not be considered some kind of excrescence on the spaces. These things are a part of the events, and one really doesn’t notice them during the show. They have their own logic and are a fully acceptable part of pretty much any truly working theater. And I promise everyone that the proposed designs would look dated and unattractive in record time.
A Secular Shrine
May 11, 2022
To the Editor:
Although I find it hard to believe, I have been informed by people I trust that Carrie Barratt, the new executive director of LongHouse Reserve, is living in the main house at LongHouse together with another person and a dog. This smacks of desecration of a place where the late, great Jack Lenor Larsen lived and devoted himself to enhancing his life and the lives of others with arts and crafts. This is a very special house on its way to being a secular shrine dedicated to a person who embodied the ideals of living in harmony with nature and human handicraft.
Does this mean that Jack’s living quarters, which were the epitome of his taste and philosophy and an inspiration to visitors, will not be part of the vaunted transformation of the house into a museum? That would be a great shame and would severely diminish the beauty and importance of the museum. Entry into his living quarters would be a transformative experience comparable to entry into the preserved living spaces of other great departed artistic spirits around the world. It would add immeasurably to the uniqueness and attractiveness of LongHouse.
In a blog earlier this year Ms. Barratt rhapsodized about Jack’s collection of hats saying, “We are assessing at LongHouse, respectfully opening closets and kitchen cabinets and medicine chests.” She added, “Only a year since he moved to another sphere, now an angel, but he left lots of stuff.” It didn’t take long for that respectful assessment of an angel’s earthly remains to turn into a disrespectful exploitation.
The previous executive director, the stalwart Matko Tomicic, managed to continue his work at LongHouse after Jack’s passing without violating the living space sanctified by his memory.
I also can’t help wondering, aside from the spiritual offensiveness, whether this occupancy is consistent with the special status of LongHouse as a nonprofit charitable corporation and a chartered educational institution. In addition, is the priceless collection insured against possible damage? With a dog in the house, no less! Even if this occupancy turns out to be technically legal, it is still morally and aesthetically objectionable.
Did Ms. Barratt live in one of the wings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art when she worked there? Is the chief executive of the private, nonprofit foundation that runs Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello allowed to sleep in Jefferson’s bed and use his dishes?
In short, the trustees of LongHouse should include Jack Lenor Larsen’s living quarters as an integral, historical, and supremely meaningful part of the museum-to-be. I urge them to find Ms. Barratt a proper home for the duration of her employment, free of the angelic presence and museum essence of Jack Lenor Larsen’s sanctum sanctorum.
Not Legally Zoned
East Hampton Village
May 15, 2022
To the Editor,
“We’re not going to fight with the neighbors through the press or social media. We’re confident in the legality of our project and confident it will be done in a way that’s compatible with the neighborhood.” That’s what Alex Balsam, a representative of the unwanted and unnecessary Toilsome Lane Brewery beer-pub tavern that violates the legal zoning codes of the Village of East Hampton, told The East Hampton Star.
Since my home is adjacent to the proposed site of what has been called “. . . simply one of the worst development ideas propounded for a village that takes pride in its 372-year history,” it would and will be easy for me and my neighbors, some of whose roots go back to the 1600s, to go “through the press,” be it local or beyond to elaborate on the moral issues that include the destruction of a quiet residential neighborhood by unwanted noise, garbage, and a drinking establishment being located next to a 90-degree blind curve that could cause severe maiming or deadly accidents to happen. That’s why I have brought a lawsuit against Mill Hill Realty, the owners. It is not legally zoned to be a beer hall, brew pub, or tavern as well as being morally incorrect!
So I must ask Mill Hill Realty, “Why not talk to the press? Why not try to justify why you want to build this gigantic beer garden that could bring thousands of partygoers to a residential neighborhood? Is it for the money? You could always build a legal “restaurant” on that land and still make money or perhaps even better, sell it to the Village Preservation Society of East Hampton.
Mill Hill thinks a tavern is legal, but several lawyers concur that only a restaurant is legal, not a tavern.
While waiting for the courts to make a ruling, why can’t Mill Hill Realty justify to the press why they want to build an inappropriate and unwanted beer garden on Toilsome Lane?
Needless to say, I am more than willing to express my views with the press, and I welcome Mill Hill Realty to join the “club.”
May 16, 2022
You’re 100 percent right! Besides, what they are building is already too small for the community, with no room for expansion.
Yours in good sport,
CAPT. HARVEY L. BENNETT
May 16, 2022
To the Editor,
It has come to my attention that a proposed parking area on Dolphin Drive in Amagansett is being considered. This is contrary to East Hampton Town law and policy, which protects coastal communities. Additionally, it is highly disruptive to the nesting of the East End’s beloved piping plovers and other indigenous fauna and flora. Most shocking is the potential destruction of primary and secondary dunes, which aid in the protection of our homes. Please join me in helping to preserve our beautiful and very necessary dunes!
Over the Dune
May 16, 2022
To the Editor:
I live on Dolphin Drive, in a home I purchased in 1997. I am here full time, and I vote here. We are a few hundred feet from the Atlantic Ocean.
In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit and despite its ferocity, there was relatively little damage to the homes in our neighborhood. We were protected by the tall primary dune that runs along the edge of Napeague Beach. This dune today is, however, even more wounded and fast eroding than it was in 2012, due to human pressure created by people who mostly don’t live here and don’t appreciate the importance of the dune to our homes and our lives.
Last week, Town Councilman David Lys announced at a town board meeting that he is planning to introduce a resolution to put five parking spots at the foot of this primary dune. This plan, which surges up every 5 or 10 years, has never made any sense. It will drive more foot traffic over the primary dune, which protects us from hurricanes, and bring more of the people we see trampling the dune.
No one here is opposed to beach access. But we already have a paved parking lot and access one street away at the foot of Atlantic Drive. Placing additional parking below the dune on Dolphin would contradict everything the town is actively doing, in its coastal resiliency program and other efforts, to protect its shorefront residents everywhere else in town. The town board should reject Mr. Lys’s proposal.
Work of Art
May 16, 2022
Two weeks ago, I wrote to you about a particular real estate listing for 472 Further Lane that, like many others, highlights several elements of East Hampton zoning code I believe need some adjustment. But that listing also shines a light on something else, beyond code, that begs changing — our overall mind-set about land use and development. One sentence in particular sums up the prevailing attitude: “this property is a virtually blank canvas on which you can develop a true Hamptons Estate.”
I see this “blank canvas” trope regurgitated by many Hamptons brokers: the notion that a parcel of land is just a clean sheet of paper upon which buyers can sketch their “masterpiece,” or on which developers can print their money.
But the idea that any plot of land in East Hampton is a blank page, or empty stage, upon which one can act without regard for the impact on others or the community more broadly, is anathema to a balanced view of land use and a proper land ethic.
A parcel of land, especially in a place like East Hampton that’s defined by natural resources, shorelines, and centuries of rural history, is anything but a vacant lot just waiting for someone to dig into it with gold-plated shovels, build it out from corner to corner, and stuff it full of “amenities” to suit 40-days-a-year, jet-in-jet-out wants and whims. Nor is a parcel of land in East Hampton an empty mirror to reflect, like a Narcissus pond, an inflated sense of greatness, or from which to snort one’s own supply of giddy and grandiose entitlement.
Not only is a parcel of land in East Hampton not “blank,” but it’s the very opposite: It is a work of art, full and alive with the complexity of nature, climate, history, and the precious character of our town.
Indeed, a parcel of land in East Hampton is a canvas already painted — with the purples of ripened beach plum, the yellow of the goldenrod, the autumn gold of the silver beech, the red of the winterberry, the indigo of high bush blueberry, the apple greens and chartreuse of spring budding, the deep dark greens of cedar, pine, and holly, and, like a sepia-tone photograph, the 50 shades of brown that are our extended winter.
From dawn until dusk each day, the magical, shimmering East End light illuminates each parcel and paints its warm chiaroscuro. Sea-laden mists roll over it, rendering moody, vaporous tableaus. And at night, the land glows under the moonlight and a vaulted ceiling of stars.
Glacial till, sandy soil, or rich agricultural loam carpet the parcel; moorlands, woodlands, wetlands, dune lands, meadowlands, or an old field will define it.
A parcel exhibits the sculpture of natural features like moraines, bluffs, and fluted hoodoos, the topographic contours of dunes, swales, kettle holes, and our shape-shifting shorelines.
Our life-sustaining aquifer streams beneath the parcel, groundwaters bubble mere inches under the surface, while vernal pools fill and recede.
Parcels rustle and babble and whisper the ambient sounds of critter talk, of breezes and birdsong, and the ancient language of trees; they broadcast the ocean’s rowdy persistence in the distance or the rhythmic lapping of a bay close by.
Each parcel of land sways and surges with the movement of native grasses, windswept shrubs, and the swirl of leaves.
Far from vacant, every parcel is home to a top-to-bottom ecosystem. It is habitat to the wildlife we see — deer, bunnies, turkeys, frogs, and the occasional fleeting fox — and also to what is not apparent to our eye: myriad insects busying themselves in the understory, all the way down to the organisms teeming beneath leaf litter into the ground.
Each parcel is varnished with the layers of time: the progression of geological and archeological eras, the lives and traditions of indigenous inhabitants, the plunders and pursuits of colonists, the travails of farmers and fishermen, the colorful stories of so many prior generations, and each lot is a curio cabinet filled with the memories and nostalgic musings of so many of us today.
And finally, while a single parcel is its own framed landscape painting, each is also one pixel of the bigger picture: the compelling and cherished view sheds that characterize East Hampton at the most fundamental level. It is these vistas that define us and sustain property values.
So, properties are not empty canvases. But you know what is “empty”? — the soulless megaboxes, erected one after another, having chewed up acres of natural resources, consumed extraordinary amounts of building materials, and generated tons of construction waste, but now idle, vacant — uninhabited nine months of the year, guzzling energy and water while discharging emissions and effluent aplenty. Notwithstanding the heady level to which these parcels are bid up by aggressive and speculative buyers at any given time, in reality, the proliferation of these oversize and overwrought monuments-to-self undermine the character and erode the value of our bigger picture.
If we are able to own a home in East Hampton, we do have the right to make our own marks upon a parcel of land within its defined boundaries; we add new features and we write new stories where we dwell. But, as climate has been telling us with more urgency each year, what we think we own — what some might think is theirs and theirs alone — we’re merely renting from Mother Nature. So, the marks we leave — our fingerprints and footprints — or the reshaping we attempt, should be wrought with restraint and minimally necessary impact.
Yes, I embrace that individual property rights have been and remain core to American democracy, but that fundamental proposition has been twisted and exploited for centuries by conquerors and corporations, and more recently and locally, by a hegemonic culture of egoistic, extractive elitism and excessive consumption. The notion of individual property rights has become so entrenched and overextended that many have stopped thinking critically about it, even as we come to understand we’ve shifted into a new and more challenging era on the planet that demands evolution of our mind-set about land use and resources.
So, it’s time we consider construction more constructively. It’s long been understood that individual property rights often conflict with the rights of others and the common good. Happily, also a part of American democratic tradition is a process, generally via discussion in the “town square” and the mechanisms of the town council, where communities convene to debate and decide appropriate boundaries to individual property rights.
Two things need to be altered in East Hampton: our zoning code and our mind-set. The process to change zoning code can be arduous and tedious, and it might be a blistering, political hot stove on which an elected official might place his or her hand. But the basic steps in the process are well defined. On the other hand, the process of shifting hearts and minds is indeed more nebulous.
But both can and will be shifted when citizens speak up and ask for change, and when there is full and honest debate around well-reasoned ideas. This year, I started the citizens’ engagement group Build.in.Kind/East Hampton specifically to work to enhance both. It is my goal that we can come together to build, from the ground up, a new consensus about building.
May 15, 2022
I have stood back now for several years as a local dispute between Alec Baldwin and John Halsey against Randy Lerner has festered. I live on Stony Hill and have often walked the path that borders to the north on Lerner’s property.
First, let me say that I have known Randy Lerner for some 25 years, over which time he and I have become very close friends, as have our families. I have watched Randy’s oldest son, Max, grow up here and have enjoyed seeing him play various sports at Amagansett grade school and East Hampton Middle and High School.
As I understand the dispute, Randy Lerner hired a local land-use lawyer, Denise Schoen (currently a town attorney for Sag Harbor Village), who reviewed the applicable encumbrances regarding an agricultural reserve and signed off on his right to clear consistent with local town law. What’s more, it is my understanding that Ms. Schoen worked with Rick Whalen, who was the East Hampton Town attorney at the time the Potter subdivision (on which the agricultural reserve on which this dispute lies) was approved. Therefore, it has been my assumption all along that Lerner had received very informed, credentialed advice when he hired Marders to clear the agricultural reserve in question.
Of particular disturbance to me personally, however, is my knowledge that Job Potter, who represented the Potter family in the subdivision application process with the town and who was also a town official himself (both on the town board and planning board), had early on sent a letter to Mr. Halsey explaining that Lerner was “within his rights” to clear the ag reserve. This letter, I have had it confirmed, was received by Mr. Halsey and his lawyer, Len Benowich (and I assume Alec Baldwin) in early September 2019, before the lawsuit really got underway.
So, given Mr. Potter’s letter exonerating Lerner (even going so far as to state explicitly that “it was not our family’s intention to preserve trees”) and the fact that Lerner had hired experienced local counsel, why is this dispute ongoing? Why on earth was Potter’s letter explaining his family’s position not enough for Mr. Halsey, his lawyer, and Mr. Baldwin to let it go? Why not save the Peconic Land Trust’s donors, and Baldwin, the cost of an expensive, multiyear litigation, and, similarly, get this off Lerner’s back? And as for me, as a longstanding member of the Amagansett community, I have to wonder aloud why are we standing by while a local not-for-profit alongside Alec Baldwin continues fighting when the original grantor made clear from the outset that “Lerner was within his rights”? Are these not valuable members of our local year-round community who should be digging away at genuine, urgent, and very real local issues, rather than fighting what feels more like a grudge-match while dividing local loyalties for very little apparent reason?
Night Sky Is Awesome
May 15, 2022
A nice day with a friend on Friday, brought various temperatures — mood weather, if you will. The morning cool, early afternoon warm, as if summer had arrived suddenly, later cloudy and cool as we sat enjoying uttapams outside Chutney. There was a sprinkle earlier, too. By nightfall, warm and foggy in Amagansett.
People do come here for the weather. Our pristine, gorgeous beaches (that don’t need booze, I’m thinking) and our plethora of restaurants to enjoy cocktails by the bay, pond, and ocean. Mostly, they love our peace and quiet. My friend was jarred by the noise in the village. Trucks roared by. The train came in twice as we sat eating. Our conversation halted various times. She resides in a quiet Irish town, so returning out here to visit was interesting. I told her we might have a beer garden or brewery in the village. She thought that a good idea, but not the drinks at the beach. “Can’t people just go swim and read? Maybe they shouldn’t have phones allowed either.” She’s funny, my friend, but I take her point.
Are we overstimulated much? People can’t even pay attention to a conversation if you don’t talk fast and get to the point. They’re on to their next thing. It’s kind of rude. And you know what else is rude? Destroying the fishing and disturbing the fish with the turbines. Sorry, but this needs a bigger think. You can spare it; use the time you didn’t waste on our aquifer and not closing the sand mines yet, or the airport and the town’s money on shoring up the tide with those damn bags.
Beautiful story, Lyle Greenfield, about your new granddaughter, Ava Marie. Beautiful name. One does wonder what is in store for these amazing grandies. The world could be their oyster, but will they be able to enjoy an oyster or a clam from our bays? One can only hope. That was my mother’s thing, hoping. “We hope people behave better. We hope for peace. We hope we live a long, healthy, happy life.” Mom, the eternal optimist. She’s still fighting and won’t leave this life until she’s ready. Maybe she’s sorting out more things to hope for, for everyone. She believed strongly in her faith and especially Mother Mary, or “The Lady,” as she called her when she was little.
Mom had her own visitation in church, off hours lighting a candle with her friends. The Lady told her, “Everything will be all right.” She alone heard her voice, and I believe her. So the Lady of Fatima letter touched me. Thank you. Women march again for our rights, and so many men (and some women) think they know better than ourselves on how to live, when to give birth, and they want to govern our bodies. I think of Mom and her nonjudgment for women who chose other than she.
I try to catch the birdsong; that makes more sense right now. Can you drown out rhetoric and insults with nature’s sounds? Out here, we are lucky to be indulged with a cacophony of night frogs and all-day birdsong in the woods. The night sky, when it’s clear, is awesome and expansive. I bought yellow lightbulbs for the porches. Thanks, Dark Sky lady! They do work.
As if I need help finding my tears these days, I watched “This Is Us,” the finale. No spoiler but, good grief, I bawled like a baby. Then I watched “Rebellion” on Netflix to get my Irish up. It’s brilliant. Women fought alongside their male neighbors for freedom and home rule. It is humbling to imagine how hard our ancestors fought for freedom from the English and from slavery and for the right to vote, for Blacks and women in America. How did we wind up in this conundrum? This isn’t my father’s America. Stop judging women who can’t or aren’t breastfeeding. Where’s the dang formula? Moms are sharing their extra breast milk. Excellent. Mothers are so creative and lovely. The new daddies are grand, too. Well, we did raise them, so no surprise there.
The Desiderata poem comes to mind: “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit. Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.” By that last bit, the poet meant you are no sinner and God loves you. No matter what. One could learn.
May 16, 2022
To the Editor,
Gatorade’s purposely unadvertised “shrinkflation” of its previously full-quart drink bottles, from 32 ounces to only 28 (a 12.5 percent reduction of contents), while not reducing their prices is made even more deceptive and reprehensible by the company’s disingenuous claim that their reason is to make the bottles “easier to grab” and “more aerodynamic” — which would suggest that Gatorade wants to make their almost-two-pound bottles easier to throw through the air and injure the people (marchers? protesters? police officers?) they hit.
Blood on His Hands
May 8, 2022
Tucker Carlson has blood on his hands. For years, he has spewed the noxious notion that Americans are being victimized by what he calls a grand “replacement theory.” According to Carlson, “legacy Americans” are in danger of losing “their” country to the nonwhite populace. Night after night, Carlson uses his platform to stoke white panic over the nation’s changing demographic. Carlson directs his toxic diatribes against every demographic group that is not white, Christian, and male — his idea of “legacy Americans.” A particularly cruel venom targets Black America with unparalleled viciousness.
Carlson’s chickens came home to roost over the weekend. An 18-year-old white kid got his hands on an assault rifle and carefully laid plans to kill a bunch of Black Americans at a supermarket in Buffalo. He lived 200 miles away, in white, rural New York. Why Buffalo? That’s where he figured he could find the most Black people. Ten died.
Shortly after the shooter was captured, a manifesto believed to have been posted online by him emerged. His manifesto evidences his enthrallment over Carlson’s replacement theory. The manifesto is riddled with racist, anti-immigrant views that claimed white Americans were at risk of being replaced by people of color.
It is difficult to fathom why the Fox media network continues to tolerate Carlson’s war against America. It is equally mystifying why millions of Americans find his venom to be the voice of their grievances. Now that someone has taken Carlson’s poisonous rhetoric to heart, leaving 11 dead Americans as the result of taking Carlson seriously, perhaps saner heads will prevail and kick Carlson to the curb. Don’t let dollars stand in your way.
A Horrible Job
May 15, 2022
Joe Biden did a horrible job with Afghanistan and continues his destruction in connection with Ukraine and the citizens of the United States of America. When this man took office, he swore he would bring this country together. He’s done everything but. I sit and wonder: How much do Biden and his handlers want to destroy our country? His latest, besides the gas crisis, he now has baby formula on his list of destruction.
A company in January or February had found a major problem with baby formula, exactly four to five months ago, giving more than enough time to get on the horn and fix the problem. Alas, no, positively no, fixing this problem. Parents are out all hours of day and night looking and begging stores for formula. Please note: It’s costing a small fortune for the gas they’re putting in their car.
Of course, this is what the green deal people want so you’ll buy a $40,000 electric car. With all this said in reference to baby formula, how come it’s been observed that pallet after pallet of baby formula has been seen being distributed to the illegal immigrants? Americans have less help from their own government.
Biden’s next step to tear America apart: He has canceled the lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska. This is a major victory he will fight to end federal and gas drilling. It would take one year to get the drilling up and running. (We already lost one year.)
As this president looks past his huge teleprompter and lies to you every time he appears on TV, going off script makes him a babbling fool.
Janet Yellen believes if states ban adoption it would harm the U.S. economy. What a statement.
Joe Biden continues to blame everyone and anyone for our country’s rising inflation, fuel, formula, and tanking of the stock market, but he won’t admit his spending and refusal to make a serious push to increase production of oil. His fault. Also, fear his own party would revolt if he did something good for us.
In God and country,
May 19, 2022
Context: The issue of abortion is a bag of crap. It is the nasty drivel of a political world that pits people against each other in order to obstruct and obfuscate real issues. Life, in America, has always been cheap. Religion is just a tool for maintaining order, yet we battle the irrational and make the unmakeable case. Just another stick in the eye.
Trying to fully grasp the mad energy around the abortion issue, I listened to my son and then read Ross Douthat in The New York Times last Sunday, and it is clear that the issue centers around religion and the struggle between secularism and religion in a democratic society. When coupled with the issue of sexuality, it reaches an absurd level of toxicity.
If we assume that religion is the crux of the problem then there are only two possible solutions: killing each other, the historical solution, or agreeing to disagree. The “right to life” idea may exist in some religious texts and many people believe fervently in it, but it has never been practiced by any religion. In the U.S. it is too embarrassing to suggest that we ever remotely believed in the idea.
For 260 years in America, abortion was handled by women. With the advent of the American Medical Association, men began playing a more significant role, and by the 1880s abortion was no longer legal in the country. It took almost 90 years for abortion to return to its previous state of legality. Fifty years on, we seem to be returning to the mind-set of the 1880s.
The defining policy of the expansion of the U.S. to the Pacific Ocean, coined in 1845, was Manifest Destiny, our God-given right to expand our values and our system of beliefs beyond our current boundaries. What we legally did was to terminate the existence of a significant group of Native Americans (estimated at 15 million), terminated, aborted, ended their lives and culture. Abortion as a tool of the U.S. government to make us great: Native Americans all had heartbeats even if they “didn’t have souls,” sanctioned by God (ours not theirs).
What is most difficult to understand is the religious perspective that abortion needs to be halted. When the Constitution was written it was unquestionably clear that religion and government, especially democratic government, were not simply incompatible but were diametrically opposite to each other.
The essential philosophy on the separation of church and state was the English experience with the Divine Right of Kings. As the religious and secular leaders, the kings wreaked havoc on anyone who didn’t agree with them. In Christianity, the teachings of Jesus were limited to those who supported the kings. There was never any conflict between doctrine and practice. The barbaric nature of Christianity was easily compatible with the messages of love and humanity from Jesus.
Religion was to be tolerated because it was a useful tool for ordering and controlling the population. The primary concern was the ease with which religious beliefs are distorted and manipulated. Once galvanized, religious groups need only a target to attack and will do so blindly and to the death.
The root problem is that God may not exist and everything based on God’s existence is questionable, at best. Religious leaders feel entitled to fill in the missing-God gap and when it goes off the rails it provokes extreme behavior.
To avoid this historic problem, the separation of church and state became a requisite for American democracy. What was rarely questioned was the violence that our system engendered and the support of this violence by our churches. It might seem horrific that 15 million Native Americans were slaughtered since our inception but equally horrific was the behavior of our churches in its support for this form of genocide. In truth, there has rarely been a time that U.S. churches didn’t support our wars and our aggression domestically and internationally regardless of their justification.
Reading Justice Alito’s decision, it is obvious that he has issues. His religious fervor is more like an inquisitor than an impartial judge. He may be brilliant but he is also deranged and irrational. He violates the oath of office in the name of religious fervor. While we debate the substance of his decision, we can’t avoid the obvious fact that there is something wrong with him. His deviant side engenders a perversion of justice that is influenced by his misogyny.
What the Constitution allows is the right for people to practice their religion but not to impose it on anyone. The founders anticipated the potential fallout of extreme religious actions. If my son and Douthat are correct in describing the abortion struggle as between religious and secular groups, then there is no question that the Constitution can’t support the pro-life side.
So, when the religious fervor to repeal Roe v. Wade arises we are obligated to ask ourselves what the rationale behind this issue is. What engenders so much religious fervor when the religion has never practiced a right to life agenda? Why are we so strongly obsessed about doctrine when the practice is significantly different? Is it really about abortion? Or is it about women’s rights and sexuality and the mindless political machinations of our politicians? Doesn’t seem necessary to ask the question.