May 2, 2022
On Sunday, East Hampton Village sponsored its first (hopefully annual) Stop the Stigma May Day 5K. The purpose of the race was to raise awareness (and money) to help combat the mental health crisis that our community is facing.
As Treasurer of the Old Montauk Athletic Club, which co-sponsored the race and helped organize it, I want to thank the East Hampton Village Foundation, East Hampton Village, and specifically Mayor Jerry Larsen, Marcos Baladron, the village administrator, Police Chief Mike Tracey, Drew Smith, the beach manager, David Collins, the Department of Public Works superintendent, and all of the village employees who supported this race 100 percent from start to finish. It was a pleasure to work with this group of amazing individuals, and we cannot wait to do it again next year!
If you were at the race on Sunday, you saw what an amazing event it was. Mother Nature gave us the perfect day, and the community turned out in full force. Mayor Larsen started the race, which nearly 700 people completed! Families with strollers, runners, walkers, dogs, high school sports teams all showed up and this combined effort raised over $18,000 for the Family Service League of Long Island.
I would be remiss if I did not give a shout-out to the two girls whose idea this was and without whose efforts the event would not have been such a huge success, Dylan Cashin and Ryleigh O’Donnell, both sophomores at East Hampton High School. Both have been open and honest about their struggles with anxiety over the past few years and both credit counseling from the Family Service League as helping them get through it. They want to stop the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
Mental health is health and those struggling with these issues should be cared for and supported just as we care for and support those with physical illnesses.
Thank you to The Star for the reporting, thank you to our sponsors, and thank you to all who showed up. It was an amazing day.
All the best,
Old Montauk Athletic Club
East Hampton Village
April 30, 2022
East Hampton should have a poet laureate and it should be Simon Perchik, and at 99 years old, it should happen now.
Simon has given so much to this community. He has outlived two sons, Dean and Rossetti, and is considered the most-published unknown poet in America.
This, however does not even begin to tell the story. To find out more about this remarkable man, you’ll need to delve into some of this 35-plus self-published books. I have outlined some in a website that I lovingly produced for Si at simonperchickpoet.com. Or, you can head on over to wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon Perchik.
Simon once said to me, “Nobody wants to buy my books. I can’t even give them away.” I made a bet with him that I could sell them, and he said that if I did, he would take me out to dinner. Within a week I had sold 20 for $10 apiece. I delivered the money to him. That was two years ago, and I am still waiting for that dinner.
Simon’s house in Springs has been undergoing a renovation and he has been staying with his daughter, Dorian, in Manhattan. While there, he contracted Covid and then, pneumonia. I spoke to him yesterday, and he will hopefully be back in East Hampton in a few days. I can’t wait to see him.
I am dead serious about the poet laureate thing. Let’s make it happen. Write to the town supervisor. Do it while Simon is still with us!
A man can love another. I know. I love Simon as a friend and as a treasure.
April 29, 2022
Last week’s Star contained two side-by-side front-page articles of man’s inhumanity to man. One article involved prominent East Hampton leaders bearing witness to the suffering of enslaved peoples here in East Hampton over 200 years ago; the other involved an East Hampton rabbi’s recent journey to the Ukrainian border in his attempt to bring Ukrainians’ stories home to East Hampton.
The East Hampton town trustees rethinking and renaming a scholarship fund named after a Sag Harbor resident slave owner of 1778-1809 draws historical parallels to Rabbi Joshua Franklin of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons and his trip to raise consciousness in our community to the suffering going on half a world away.
In both cases, these are stories of individuals bearing witness, trying to help our East Hampton community look at past and present injustices so people will do the right thing. Both are no-brainers.
Find a more suitable individual to name the scholarship after. Show your solidarity with the Ukrainian people through humanitarian aid and refugee support groups.
Thank you, David, for these important and poignant articles.
To the Forefront
East Hampton Village
April 23, 2022
People are unhappy with all the change being foisted on them by the local governments, nonprofits, and art institutions. The East Hampton Star has become a must-read for your editorials and the letters to the editor alone.
How fortunate we have your gifted writing and observations and a vehicle where residents can speak their mind. At a time when the public lacks open forums to express their displeasure The Star remains steadfast.
Thank you for placing these contentious and vital environmental, cultural, and historic preservations issues to the forefront. Thank you for giving us a voice.
On Not Giving Up
What a gift of goodness
it is to see the tree as a
bearer of our burdens.
She is God’s example
of being right with the
world, no matter what.
I give to you she says
I clean the air so you
can breathe I share
beauty, provide shade,
use the cycles to
reproduce and I keep
on keeping on
b/c life is worth it no
matter if your mother
Or your husband tells
Or your children do
not care about your
morality or their
I give to you because
that’s what I do. I
am true to my
heritage and to
You may ignore me
or adore me. You
admire my strength
in spite of circumstances
and wonder how I stay
alive and even thrive.
Do you see yourself in
me? I’m a tree.
What do you do to
keep on? Do you dance
and bend in the wind
Do you allow others to
care for their young
embraced in your arms?
Do you fight to survive attack
Do you give shelter
and comfort to the weary
offer love to
the sick and saddened
Do you bring hope when
all hope seems lost
Do you forgive
the vagaries of life
Do you know
the briefness of beauty
and acknowledge that
without deep roots
life is empty and short
Do you live to scatter
your seed and see
your species evolve?
I do and therefore
My Local Crows
East Hampton Village
April 26, 2022
Dear East Hampton Star,
It’s been a while since my last letter, and I wanted to let people know that I have not fallen off the face of the earth — yet. I also wanted to share an interesting observation about my local crows; it begins with squirrels.
For decades, I have fought the difficult battle of keeping squirrels from getting at my birdseed. That problem was fairly well solved around 20 years ago with the invention of the Squirrel Buster feeder. Now my squirrels have to be content with whatever the birds drop or they can shake loose. They have been the iron-fisted rulers of the spill. Then about three years ago, most of my neighbors began fencing off their properties to keep out deer. This also excluded the growing wild turkey population which was then funneled into my yard. Turkeys can fly, but they’re lazy and prefer to walk and take the path of least resistance. They have been holding an April mating hootenanny in my backyard each year since. For the squirrels, it’s as if a herd of dinosaurs has moved in and are aggressively keeping them away from the food.
This spring, there is a new twist, however. A local gang of four American crows has also moved in. It’s not like I had never seen crows before, quite the contrary since they’re a daily occurrence. It’s just that I’ve never seen them under the feeder fighting for the peanuts. This has been going on for a couple of weeks and between the crows and the turkeys, the squirrels are apoplectic.
I just wonder why the crows have been so persistently at the feeder this year. Is there possibly a lack of natural food sources? It would be interesting to find out.
On the subject of crows, according to the dictionary, the proper term for a group of crows is a “murder.” Although I understand the idea since crows (and ravens) were long associated with scavenging dead bodies, I came up with a more palatable term: an “opera.” This is because they are so vocal and, if you’re not in the mood, annoyingly so. Just like an opera.
Anyway, welcome to spring and let’s all plant sunflowers.
April 30, 2022
Feeling overwhelmed by the problems facing the world? One solution in response to the feeling of helplessness one can experience after listening to world events is to occasionally focus on what can be accomplished locally.
To the group who performed the herculean task of clearing the Crandall-Norfolk woodlands of dumped and thrown trash, many thanks.
To the members of the Springs GAG (Group Against Garbage), thank you for picking up eight bags of trash on Gerard Drive and the beach, including trash found within throwing distance of the road. This Earth Day event was the third in a continuing series of pop-up pickup sites. Previous sites have included Maidstone Park and Pussy’s Pond Nature Preserve, both of which resulted in 10 full trash bags.
To those many groups and individuals who are seen, bag or bucket in hand, collecting trash on our roadways, beaches, and woodlands, a sincere thank-you. As members of the East Hampton community, we’re all in this together.
In addition to doing what we can on an individual level, a townwide effort is also needed to create awareness to prevent, as well as strategies to mitigate, the abundance of litter in our open spaces, beaches, and roads — our home.
Group Against Garbage
Stand of Bamboo
April 19, 2022
Dear Mr. Rattray:
Bamboo! Rather than one of the beautiful areas of Jack’s garden, the new director of LongHouse chose a stand of bamboo, one of our area’s most invasive and hated species, in which to be photographed for her introduction to our community! Inconceivable!
Plans for Better
East Hampton Village
April 11, 2022
Every 25 to 30 years, or so, The Star writes about physical changes to Guild Hall and stimulates much commentary.
I am no exception, having written a rebuttal, years ago, to a well-intentioned member of the historical or preservation societies. He (she) complained that contemporary sculpture had no place on the Main Street — next to Guild Hall — of our picturesque village. I argued that it was of essence to Guild Hall’s role — as the area’s major arts convener — to offer all variations of various artists’ visions.
I was invited on to the Guild Hall board for a long stay, including many years as co-chairman, with multi-award winner Peter Stone, of Guild Hall’s Academy of the Arts.
Historically, as a community, East Hampton has led the way in art, as well as preservation. We have been a creative resource, well beyond Disneyland and Williamsburg. Even right now, Bill King’s joyous “Jitterbug” sculpture perfectly complements the old barns used as town Hall.
Responding to plans for better acoustics, improved stagecraft, more comfortable seating, better sightlines, etc., critics lament the loss of the kitschy, anachronistic ceiling design — of Guild Hall’s theater — which apparently excited very few through its decades of existence.
The ceiling, fireplaces, etc., are not unimportant. It is a good suggestion to create a replica at the present theater that could be on view in the lobby. As or constructing a new theater elsewhere, Sag Harbor is currently documenting the problems that arise from trying to convert Bay Street Theater from a charming barn to a worthy house in which theater can be thoroughly enjoyed.
In such tough choices, my vote goes to the continuing of arts in spaces that enhance performances.
East Hampton Village
May 2, 2022
I read with dismay your article in the April 28 Star covering the village trustee meeting where the mayor so rudely dismissed any questions raised about serving alcohol at the Main Beach concession.
As a resident of Ocean Avenue, living on the sharp curve coming from Main Beach, I vividly remember the car accidents that seemed to occur with regularity when I was a child. The Sea Spray Inn existed back then and served alcohol. People would have a wonderful day of sun and swimming at the beach and that combined with alcohol obtained from the Sea Spray Inn would result in a loss of control as they rounded the sharp curve and they ended up going through the post-and-rail fence into our yard. If a tree was there it would stop the car (usually with a trip to the hospital for the passengers). If they missed one of the trees, they ended up in the yard where we used to play. My parents added a whole row of evergreens to protect us from the out-of-control drunken drivers.
I loved the Sea Spray Inn, but when it burned down, the accidents stopped and things became more peaceful. We did not keep a record of the number of accidents that occurred, but as a child, the memories of them are vivid.
In my opinion, there should have been much more thoughtful discussion of this new plan and it should have been put out for review and discussion rather than just rammed through by the mayor. I’m deeply disappointed that there was only one person — Mr. Graham — to raise any questions about the plan.
East Hampton Village
May 1, 2022
It’s disheartening witnessing Jerry Larsen’s rampant dishonesty and fraudulent abuse of power. Unfortunately, there are no checks or balances. His administration is composed of willing participants or others who rely on his “benevolence” for their livelihood.
Jerry’s fabricated, unfounded, and inconsistent statements are this administration’s hallmark. One recent example is his assertion that Hampton Chutney’s tables and benches are owned by the village. However, no public procurement record or document exists supporting his contention. Jerry?
Potentially the most egregious abuse is before us — serving of alcohol at Main Beach. Our mayor, board of trustees, and licensee, the Seekamps, have not been forthcoming or transparent about their intentions. The process has been stealth-like, with no public hearing and limited public discourse.
Obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, the State Liquor Authority application gives the Seekamps exclusive possession and control of all 10 tables under the pavilion with an occupancy of 60. This is contrary to Jerry’s claim of “about six tables.” They plan to rope off and play recorded music — will it be velvet rope and disco? Moreover, they will have exclusive control from the interior to any outdoor seating area, preventing anyone from walking from one side of the pavilion to the other.
As for security, the beach manager, Drew Smith, has offered his lifeguards to be an “extra set of eyes should Ms. Seekamp need any assistance.” But he doesn’t “foresee this as being an issue.” I don’t know about Mr. Smith’s law enforcement background, but I’d prefer the lifeguards to look at the beach, not the bar. Will Chief Tracey be training and deputizing them?
Besides prioritizing the concessionaire’s financial desires, does serving alcohol meet the needs and desires of village residents? My vote is no!
Finally, the mayor, board of trustees, administrator, and village attorney need to be held accountable. Statements and comments need to be fact-checked and challenged when necessary. In a recent meeting, the deputy mayor said, “those that like the tables [at Hampton Chutney] outnumber those who do not.” May we see the quantitative research study?
East Hampton Village
April 25, 2022
To the Editor,
Dear David and Dear Mayor Larsen: As a taxpaying village resident, I am beyond dismayed to see the continuous, ongoing unsanitary conditions in our public restrooms! I encourage you, Mr. Larsen, to make an immediate inspection with your staff to correct this facility ASAP! The garbage cans remain full with blackbirds having a feast. The women’s bathroom has overflowing water on the floor for the past two years, and the sink station is unusable. This is not acceptable and must be ameliorated now! No more excuses.
The village has a large staff of workers who need to be assigned maintenance duty on a continuing basis. The status of this very important facility is a blight on the Village of East Hampton.
Mr. Larsen, please show us you are a man of action and get this dangerous situation remedied now!
Thank you for your attention,
A top-to-bottom renovation of the Herrick Park restrooms is planned. Ed.
East Hampton village
May 1, 2022
To the Editor,
The Village Preservation Society of East Hampton said it in its spring newsletter that just landed in our mailboxes: “This will increase traffic on that small village street, which is already used as a bypass around downtown and the compatibility of a drinking establishment with neighboring residential uses seems questionable at best.”
Michael Braverman said it in The Star: “It is simply one of the worst development ideas propounded for a village that takes pride in its 372-year history.”
Concerned residents of East Hampton have said it with an abundance of phone calls and letters to our village officials and our local press.
The East Hampton Star has said it in its editorials.
Many of us are saying: “We do not want the Toilsome Lane beer hall in our neighborhood!”
Even if by some miracle the tavern should win the first round of the lawsuit against it (Aaron v. Mill Hill Reality) in State Supreme Court, Mill Hill Realty Beer Tavern will not be welcomed at 17 Toilsome Lane by the caring residents whose community will be so sadly disrupted.
So instead of having to deal with what could become years and years of litigation and fighting caring neighbors, why can’t Mill Hill Realty look for a solution that can replace the illegal beer garden with a venue that is acceptable and make “peace” with the residents of East Hampton?
For example, when I purchased my home on the property next door to the proposed beer garden in 1983, there was a lovely restaurant called the House on Toilsome Lane. The couple who owned it were cherished by their neighbors and clients drove many miles to enjoy their delightful cuisine and ambience. When it closed in 1985, it saddened many of us to lose our wonderful restaurant.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Mill Hill built a high-quality restaurant that would enhance Toilsome Lane, an establishment that would take pride in serving delectable fare and would not be in need of any unwelcome outdoor entertainment? Where the guests would leave sober, so the dangerous blind curve would not be worrisome. Where on-premises parking would be plentiful, so we would not have to worry about patrons walking to their cars on a poorly lit Toilsome Lane. Where garbage on our streets and lawns would not be left behind. Where neighbors would welcome a warm friendship with the owners of a delightful restaurant.
One of the most important assets for a great restaurant is the chef, but perhaps Mill Hill might not be aware of it, but they already have that important ingredient on their team! Damien O’Donnell, one of the principals involved in the Mill Hill project, wrote a letter sent to the village zoning board of appeals on Jan. 31 in favor of the brew pub. In his appeal to them he stated, “I am a 1997 Culinary Institute of America graduate and have worked for many top restaurant and chefs around the nation. Before moving to East Hampton almost 17 years ago, I started my career in catering, from there worked at top restaurants in N.Y.C., Boca Raton, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas. I was also a corporate trainer for Roy Yamaguchi and assisted with openings of his new restaurants. I have training in French, Asian, and American cuisine. Over the years I have learned to cook any style of cuisine you can imagine.”
From what I have read we might have living in our midst here in East Hampton a potential Pierre Franey or Paul Bocuse who, if the beer garden was built, Chef Damien would be wasting his talents on buffalo wings, coleslaw, and soggy French fries!
So please, Mill Hill, go back to your drawing board. Look at the great talent you have on your team and consider opening a welcomed restaurant with outstanding cuisine that would make all of us happy, especially Chef Damien, who will be able to express his true culinary talents and make East Hampton an even better place to live.
If anyone would like to receive an updated “Beer War Press Release,” please send your request to [email protected].
Amount of Light
April 28, 2022
There is going to be a lot of confusion now that the old-fashioned incandescent lightbulb will no longer be available. This is a good thing: Over 75 percent of the energy to illuminate those bulbs was emitted not in light, but in heat.
However, the newer bulbs can be confusing because the number of watts is no longer an indicator of the amount of light. As a guideline, around 900 lumens is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent; 500 lumens is equivalent to a 40-watt incandescent.
Additionally, we need to make a decision about “Kelvin” (on the packaging) because LED light sources are high in blue light waves, which can damage our eye health and interfere with sound sleep (and blue light waves contribute more to sky glow). The lower the Kelvin the better. Choose 2,200 Kelvin where possible (I bought several at Ikea), maximum 2,700.
New York State Representative
International Dark Sky Association
Tragedy of the Commons
April 29, 2022
To the Editor,
I attended the event called “The Rising Tide — Montauk 2042” at Gurney’s last Thursday where a panel of coastal experts, town officials, and environmental organizations’ representatives discussed the perils of climate change and how it will affect Montauk specifically. I arrived with an air of optimism having just read the newly issued CARP report (Coastal Assessment and Resiliency Plan). I found it to be a well-thought-out comprehensive account that clearly describes the past, current, and future potential coastal erosion. It also offers suggestions on ways to plan ahead so as to mitigate the expected consequences of severe climate events. I felt encouraged by a sense of our community coming together, intelligently anticipating the major challenges facing our precious but fragile hamlet.
Regrettably, I came away thinking, we’re screwed. My optimism turned to abject doom, and my image of a cooperative, productive community curdled into an image of a disjointed group of individuals with disparate interests, all out for themselves. That sounds a little exaggerated as I write it but in a certain specific sense, it’s not.
Human beings were once on the evolutionary scale insignificant animals with no more impact on our environment than gorillas, fireflies, or jellyfish. About 70,000 or so years ago, we made a leap that no other species was able to make: Cooperating flexibly in large groups. This allowed us to do great things: the Agricultural Revolution, the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, space exploration, and many other great accomplishments. But we still carry with us the characteristic of self-interest. It’s a trait that can be invaluable when faced with a survival challenge but it can also be a detrimental vice when personal interest is put above the greater good.
That epiphany is the reason why my sunny disposition on my way in, bolstered by the CARP report, soured into doom and gloom triggered by a range of fragmented certitudes. I realized that as smart and evolved as we are in understanding the perils of rising sea levels and the certainty of looming catastrophic storms, at the end of the day, our primary concern is “numero uno.” The environmental activist, the 10,000-square-feet beachfront homeowner, the patron of a hotel sitting on the dune in downtown Montauk, the inland middle class taxpayer asked to pay for beach renourishment with a tax levy, the politician being pulled in diverse directions by competing constituent groups, the coastal geologist (enriched by property owners) commissioned to hold off the tide, the third-generation Montauk resident who dreams about a long-one bucolic town character — these are all people who, if they were to subordinate their selfish wants for the greater good, they and the rest of us would be better off. But as evolved a species as we humans have become, we are still imperfect in many areas.
There is a problem studied in economics called the tragedy of the commons. It occurs when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gain. The example generally used is where all shepherds, acting in their own self-interest, allow their flocks to graze on the common field. If everybody acts in their apparent own best interest, it results in harmful overconsumption, and all the grass is gone for good to the detriment of everyone. Whereas, if all the shepherds work together and control the grazing times by making personal self-sacrifices, the grass field will continue to be perennially available.
Right now, the shepherds in Montauk are allowing the sheep to feed at will and unmanaged. Unless that changes, the day will come when the field will be depleted.
May 2, 2022
Concerned Citizens of Montauk has been a proponent of a long-term coastal resiliency plan for Montauk for nearly a decade, and last week a draft version of the plan, called the Coastal Assessment and Resiliency Plan, or CARP, was released. C.C.O.M. has advocated for this plan, helped secure funding to develop the plan, worked hand-in-hand with consultants and stakeholders to craft the plan, and now, as a co-chair of the town’s CARP committee, looks forward to implementing the plan. Dare I say our work is now just beginning?
The entire East Hampton community should read the CARP. It’s available on the town’s website and easy to find in the search bar. Make yourself aware of the threats of short and long-term sea level rise, coastal inundation, and erosion.
We are a coastal community that built houses, critical infrastructure, and entire communities in areas that will sustain significant damage in less than 50 years. However, there are things that we can start doing to lessen the damage. None of them are easy, and, yes, the process will be challenging.
Humans have been adapting for centuries, adapting to new and different technologies, adapting to global pandemics, and now to climate change. We must act now, united, to save the community we all love. Mother Nature is on her way and we must prepare for her visit.
Concerned Citizens of Montauk
Ignoring the Issue
May 2, 2022
To the Editor,
Aram Terchunian is supposed to be a coastal engineering expert and the town’s liaison to the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Project. He is slated to be on the town’s agenda Tuesday to be appointed to the Montauk beach preservation committee. Yet, this is the same man who, with his geocubes, has blocked a road and emergency access going on the fifth summer. Of course, this doesn’t seem to be a concern to the town board, as they allow it all the same. Codes, laws, why enforce such things? Rights knowingly violated? This is their guy. Citizens be damned. One would suspect why even raise the issue, it’s been raised and raised again. Ignoring the issue won’t make it go away. It’s a daily occurrence. Silenced we won’t be. We’re still here.
May 2, 2022
With the understanding that managing East Hampton Town is challenging, the five-Democrat, electorally secure board must ensure that we are actually a “climate smart community,” as is proclaimed on the front door of Town Hall.
Ominous signs of climate chaos are all around us. We are experiencing the death of the pitch pines on the East End, and likely to see the entire Pine Barrens eaten by beetles that are thriving due to warmer winters. We now routinely see whales just off our beaches, a lovely thing if it were not the result of warming ocean waters that are already destroying coral reefs and innumerable species.
The degradation of our bays and harbors with pollutants leading to algae blooms is increasing. Yet here in East Hampton, we still do not even have LED streetlights. We permit awful gasoline-powered leaf blowers most of the year and single-use plastic bags always. We sell leaded avgas at our airport and don’t properly monitor the severe lead pollution there (35th worst in New York State of 965 designated sites) or at the nearby gun club using leaded ammo. We enable massive jets to fly in with one passenger, generating the carbon impact of 350 cars driving to Seattle and back. We’ve ruined at least 45 underground acres of our sole-source aquifer due to careless airport-related activities with PFAS “forever” carcinogens.
We have extreme construction-related traffic backups yet only one roundabout (which works wonderfully, by the way). We don’t have a single dedicated and protected bike lane. We encourage construction of absurdly wasteful oversize homes that sit heated, cooled, and/or vacant much of the year. We see giant trees cut down wantonly and clear-cutting of natural habitat, which is replaced by oversize lawns using huge amounts of water and toxic fertilizers leaching into that same water. Is any of this “climate smart”?
There are a lot of Hamptons “environmentalists” who bemoan the destruction of the Amazon rain forests or tundra thaw in Siberia, but when it comes to making changes right here, there is silence.
The wealthiest 1 percent of humanity contributes more carbon emissions than the poorest 50 percent. There is a time coming when there may not be anywhere safe and healthy and beautiful to fly to — even in a private jet. The time is now for East Hampton to do a lot more to heal the planet we have damaged so badly.
May 2, 2022
I begin my letter quoting someone else’s words, this from a real estate listing for a property in Amagansett newly come on the market: “472 Further Lane . . . this 2.5+/ acre property is a virtually blank canvas. . . . This remarkable offering currently includes plans for a new home with approximately 12,000 square feet of living space. If more space is needed, this rare estate sized parcel can potentially accommodate a primary structure of up to 20,000 square feet with pool, pool house, accessory structures and tennis.”
As reported in The Star, this property changed hands just 16 months ago: “Furthest East L.L.C. to Pleasant J5 L.L.C., 472 Further Lane, Dec. 24, $8,000,000.” The new listing price is $13 million, so this spec developer and collaborators stand to make a quick multimillion-dollar profit. But, as we see often with these projects, their gain might be at our expense.
This is one of about a hundred similar listings I could highlight of a certain ilk pushing over-the-top redevelopment of properties, prodding buyers to build megastructures, and promising maxed-out parcels. These all-too-common listings proclaim “Plans are in place!” that, even though the ink is barely dry on the blueprints and there’s no actual homeowner in sight, there are permits in hand.
I happen to be focusing here on this listing in part because, as an Amagansett resident, it’s a property I pass regularly. Though it has an “exclusive” Further Lane address, this isn’t a parcel sequestered down a long private drive, out of sight to everyone but its intermittent inhabitants and the battalion of hard-working people who keep it running. Instead, 472 sits prominently at an important crossroads, right at the well-traveled intersection of Further Lane with Indian Wells Highway.
This corner is central not only in location, but also to the very spirit of Amagansett. Sitting quite close to the Further Lane agriculture overlay district, as well as to the Bluff Road and Amagansett Main Street Historic Districts, it impacts the character of all three. The property as it stands now has a distinctly rural feel to it. Redevelopment of this parcel with a 12,000, let alone a 20,000, square-foot structure will have a profoundly negative impact in this location.
One might simply brush off this listing as just silly advertising hype, but these aggressive promotions jump from ad copy to actual construction very quickly these days with minimal oversight and no public transparency. This scale and scope of development is happening all around us at an astonishing and accelerating pace.
In a prior letter you, on Jan. 13, called “At Code Red,” I addressed the urgent need to evolve our East Hampton Town zoning code to address the run-amok state of real estate development. Today, I’m focusing on this listing to bring a more tactical view to the urgent need for change: This ad highlights four specific elements of our town zoning code that need adjustment.
Dimensional allowances: East Hampton Town zoning code, primarily as set forth in Chapter 255-11-10, specifies the maximum allowances for a series of building metrics: house size (measured by gross floor area), building coverage and total lot coverage, height, setbacks, as well as clearing ratios.
As we see from the development activity over the last 5 to 10 years, the current dimensional allowances are oversized and underpowered to be in step with our crucial natural resources, affordability, sustainability, rural, and quality of life imperatives. In particular, the prevailing formula used to calculate maximum allowable gross floor area — “10 percent of lot area +1,600, or 20,000 square feet, whichever is smaller” — is too generous. This is especially true in our “B” and “A” residence zones (less than one acre) and also in areas where a preponderance of parcels are undersized to lot size requirements. This code formula has been facilitating the proliferation of 5,000-to-15,000-square-foot houses that are pressuring so many of our neighborhoods and eviscerating our inventory of more modest size and affordable homes across our town. And the 20,000 maximum is too big, perhaps by a factor of pi.
As an interesting comparison, a few years ago the residents of Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard, facing a rash of 10,000-to-15,000-square foot builds, came together as a town and voted to adopt a 3,500-square-foot house-size maximum (with an ability to apply for special permit to exceed that cap in very specific circumstances). Clearly, East Hampton must decide what works for East Hampton, but the Vineyard changes provide a legitimate template for us to consider scaling back house size and lot coverage.
•Redefining gross floor area: In the listing above, one way of getting from a 12,000 to a 20,000-square-foot residence would be to add an 8,000-square-foot lower level. Our current code and permitting processes define house size with the metric of gross floor area, which is the size of the space inside the walls above ground. But this metric is insufficient to capture the overall mass, scope, and scale of development.
Gone are the days of basements being creepy dark, dank spaces for mechanicals and perhaps your washer and dryer. Now, below-grade space is built out as entirely habitable and luxurious, with multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, and a stunning array of other living and recreational spaces.
•Similarly, the trend is to build a lot of outdoor living space as part of the residence structure, particularly extensive upper-floor and roof decking. These areas — heavily furnished and comprising outdoor kitchens, living and dining rooms, with lighting, fireplaces, and even giant-screen TVs, often double the size of the house structure and loom over neighbors and roads.
All in, below-grade and attached outdoor living space add meaningfully to occupancy, intensity of use, and visual density. Therefore, it is time for these areas to be counted, at least in some part, as a part of code-based house-size calculations, by moving from gross floor area to what I’d call gross living area and also to add a volume metric to our code.
•“Grandfathering” — a nonconforming use is generally defined as a type of land use (e.g., additional structures, multiple dwellings, stories or clearing amounts) that were legal per code when established but would no longer be permitted under current zoning ordinances. The listing for 472 Further raises two of these: “pre-existing 100 percent clearing” and “potential” to build 20,000 square feet of gross floor area, both of which would meaningfully exceed the allowances specified now in Chapter 255. Perhaps, at some point in prior decades or centuries, this parcel might have included these.
In many cases, these grandfathered conditions continue in perpetuity. I can think of a few pre-existing, nonconforming conditions that should endure, but it is time for the town to rethink and revise its stance on many of these grandfathered elements and ensure that they “sunset” after some period of disuse, when ownership transfers, or when properties are redeveloped in their entirety.
•Permitting of “spec” development: Speculative developers and builders, obscured behind generic sounding L.L.C.s, secure permits from the town easily, proceeding most often “as-of-right,” with no oversight by any of our boards, and beyond the sightline of the public. Yet, they have an entirely different set of motivations than a traditional homeowner, focusing only on extracting maximum value for themselves, generally without regard to neighbors, neighborhoods, natural resources, environmental needs, or quality of life. Therefore, isn’t it reasonable they should have to conform to a different permitting and oversight process? I suggest that all spec development building permit applications, or at least those over a certain dimensional threshold, require review by of one of our boards, and all should be subject to public notice and right for public comment.
There are many other ideas that can be floated and considered for how rationally to evolve our zoning code, but these four could be a good way to start the conversation and the process.
New Senior Center
April 30, 2022
To the Editor,
What would you like the new East Hampton Senior Center to be? The town, after a long search, purchased a seven-acre property on Abraham’s Path in Amagansett to build a new senior center and will start community outreach shortly to get input. Whether you’re a current user or have never been, what would entice you to go?
I would like an inviting, state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly building, a place I could go to meet friends and have fun. Personally, I like cooking and dancing, among other things. So, I would like an open kitchen where local or visiting chefs could do cooking demos, offer tastings, and share recipes. I would like dance classes, perhaps salsa, aerobics, Zumba for seniors, line dancing, and/or an occasional Saturday evening dance party.
Maybe you’d like a walking trail to observe native plants or a place to play bocce or pickleball. Maybe a community garden to grow your own food or teach a grandchild about vegetables. Maybe a place to see movies, opera, ballet or listen to symphony music. Maybe a place to display your art or sculpture.
Maybe a dining event space for hot lunches, special breakfasts, afternoon teas, or birthday, anniversary, and holiday parties. Maybe a music or entertainment room. Maybe to volunteer at the East Hampton Food Pantry. Maybe a meeting room for book clubs, bridge or other games, arts and crafts, flower arranging. Maybe a place to teach or take art, photography, or educational classes.
Maybe an exercise room with treadmills, recumbent bikes, and a place for yoga, Cardio Sculpt, qigong or tai chi. Maybe a cafe to share a cup of cappuccino and a biscotto. Maybe wellness classes to help control diabetes or high blood pressure. Maybe adult day care or mental health counseling. Maybe a beautiful healing garden, a place to meditate or go to relax.
Maybe you’d like all the above or something else. Now is the time to let the town board know what you want. Your input is important to help shape the design of the building. Comments can be sent to [email protected].
May 1, 2022
I have a good friend who likes to say, “I’ll hold space for you,” when a problem arises — no big reaction, no drama, just space. As we run out of room out here in real time, so much building, not enough preserving to some of us, special rules for the rich and connected — really, a heliport on Springs-Fireplace Road? We’ve gone greedy-cuckoo, it seems.
We need housing for local families and local people who want to stay here and raise their own families. Can we recycle some abandoned or foreclosing houses, maybe? The town could buy them. Habitat could refurbish with the people’s help who will live in them. I think that makes sense. Don’t crowd already dense neighborhoods with affordable housing for Section 8 from afar. It bears looking into. Someone needs to listen to the people. And yes, the tide is rising, dudes. Like it or not, believe it or not, things change and Mother Ocean needs respect, not more dirty, broken sandbags.
Nothing is black and white, except death, and even that is often gray. Sudden departure in one too young for no clear reason is unexpected and shocking and sad. We mourn and wonder how this life got so complicated and mean and anxiety-ridden. Stay in touch, that’s key. Make the call, send the text, reach out. Be the “bigger one.” We all get sad and fed up, yet we don’t all find life unbearable; that’s the difference. You don’t have to “be a man!” or “put on your big-girl panties!” If you’re suffering, ask for help. Therapy can save your life. Big fan, here. It’s not beyond reach and it won’t break the bank. Call.
I’m sad today. My Mom is dying, not from a dreaded disease, no. She’s just tired of living and, at 91, she no longer enjoys the things she did, even months ago. Covid-19 caused a lockdown at her assisted living, and the seclusion led to a mental decline and a sort of depression. Mom loves being social, music, and singing. She loved books but can no longer read — no concentration. The thing that sustained her was art. Mom has always been creative and impeccable at painting, ceramics, sewing — such detail. The residents were given adult coloring pages, and my sisters, when allowed back in, took her beautiful books and pencils. Mom was off! She had so many creations, she started to gift them to us. Along with bright, jeweled bracelets she made in jewelry group, when that opened up again. That’s all over.
I visited Mom yesterday, and I see the big change. She cannot walk around like she did or get up easily anymore. She’s frustrated and over it. I understand. Mom was dynamic and beautiful her whole life (she’s still beautiful); she helped everyone else. She asked for nothing. My father lived until 91 because Mom took such good care of him. Very early this morning, she was agitated and woke up with a start, rang for help, and said quite insistently, between strained breaths, “I don’t want this anymore. My leg doesn’t work. My arm hurts. I’m tired. That’s it.”
Thankfully, she is in hospice at her residence and will not suffer when she is ready to float away. Mom is Catholic and devout in a sensible way, almost Buddha-like, in that she doesn’t insistently try to hold on to those ready to depart or insist she remain, when she wants to go. She’s brave. I’m in awe of my mother while my heart breaks for what she didn’t get in life. She didn’t have an easy or always-kind husband, never had a charmed life, no beautiful romantic vacations, no bigger kitchen to cook her fabulous meals and photo-worthy desserts in. But she never complained. She’d say, “What’s the use? We just make ourselves happy, that’s all, and love each other, girls.” She taught us about loving nature and flowers and trees.
She took us on a train every summer to Chester, Vt., her hometown, to see my Gram. She was her true self there, unencumbered by jealousy or judgment. Mom loved wholeheartedly my father, my sisters and me, her sons-in-law, grandkids and great-grandchildren, and her lucky friends. She met the latest great-grandchild on FaceTime and watched videos of his happy face and heard his cooing voice. I may not be ready to say goodbye, but I will be when she decides, or Goddess or God calls her home. Calmly, with dignity and peace.
Be good to each other, okay? Call your Mom if she’s alive and it’s feasible or will heal you. Maybe write that letter. Say what you need to say; you’ll feel better. If your Mom’s gone already, I’m sorry. Give yourself a hug, plant a flower.
Happy Mother’s Day,
May 1, 2022
Again, I hate to be right about some things, but here we are. Back in the March 31 issue of this paper we talked about inflation, rising costs, and talk of the R-word. Fast-forward to today and it is a fact we are on the march toward recession. Inflation is at 8.5 percent and has been going up steadily. Wholesale inflation has surged to 10 percent, and the abysmal news that the economy actually contracted for the first time since 2020 by 1.4 percent for the first quarter of the year is alarming.
The recession bell is ringing and will be official if we see more contraction in the economy this quarter. With war dragging on in Europe, the price of gas is inching upward again, migrant hordes ready to overwhelm our border, and human trafficking and drug smuggling are now the norm. Things are not looking good. While the cartels take control of our border and crime is skyrocketing, Biden and his Democrats seem more concerned about another border 6,000 miles away from Del Rio, Tex.
No, it seems the lefty lunatic crowd is more obsessed with a billionaire who bought one of their favorite playthings, Twitter. Biden, Pelosi, A.O.C., and the rest are having a meltdown because an African immigrant cherishes the idea of “free speech” more than they do. Faster than you can say “1984” the head of Herr Biden’s SS announced they were forming a Ministry of Truth. Oh, excuse me, a “disinformation governance board.”
Yes, while most of us read Orwell’s book in school as a cautionary tale, Old Joe’s politburo has gone all in and used it as a guide book. One has to wonder at the sheer audacity of the move — nowhere does any such power exist to infringe on the free speech of Americans. This board is just another made-up thing, an overreaction to a perceived threat to the power Democrats hold over the American people.
Instead of being worried about the billions an entrepreneur businessman spends on a company, people should be worried about the trillions a government just printed out of nothing and threw into the wind. Nearly 80 percent of all the U.S. money in circulation, about $16 trillion, has been printed the last two years under Joe Biden. When that mumbling, slurring idiot tries to blame anyone else on the planet for inflation he’s lying and he’s not even good at it.
Democrats should be down on their knees thanking Joe Manchin for stopping Joe Biden’s Build Back Better nonsense. There is no doubt if our resident lobotomy patient’s proposal had passed you would be looking at inflation closer to 20 percent. Fortunately at least one man from West Virginia could see the price we would all pay was too high and stood with those in the right. It’s just a shame the rest of the Democrats have abandoned reason and common sense and traded them for partisanship and stupidity.
MICHAEL D. BOUKER
Whims of a Governor
May 1, 2022
Our lame-duck congressman and wannabe governor, Lee Zeldin, has opted to bring his war on women’s heath rights to the governorship, were he to win.
Some three years ago, a poll found that 63 percent of New Yorkers backed legislation that would codify the protections provided by Roe v. Wade, including nearly half of the Republicans polled. Not long thereafter in 2019, the New York Reproductive Health Act was enacted. Generally, the act codified the protections to women’s reproductive rights at the heart of Roe, making abortion legally available during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. It is still law.
Where does Mr. Zeldin fit into this? If he were elected governor, Mr. Zeldin would seek to impose his personal opposition to abortion upon New Yorkers, ignoring the profound support for abortion rights found within the state populace and the law. Long an advocate of anti-abortion legislative proposals, Mr. Zeldin recently made clear his intent to inflict upon New York his war on women’s rights. During a recent virtual town hall, he announced support for appointing a “pro-life” health commissioner, reflecting his belief that “it would be a great benefit for the State of New York to have a health commissioner who respects life as opposed to what we’re used to.” Anti-abortion advocates would be welcome in his office.
Mr. Zeldin has the concept of public service upside down. His role is not to impose his personal whims upon the state and its citizens; it is not to impose by fiat personal convictions that are anathema to the expressed desires of those he would serve. Even worse, he exhibits the proclivity of almost every G.O.P. lawmaker to flout laws he disagrees with in contradiction to the oath obligating him to uphold and protect the laws of the state. His professed inclinations could not more clearly demonstrate that he would be the most toxic governor in generations.
Governor Hochul has been outspoken in her defense of abortion rights, explaining that “it’s a right that’s fundamentally deeply personal to women.” She explained that it is not a right that should be subject to the whims of a male governor or Supreme Court justices desirous of telling women what to do with their bodies.
In short, it’s time once and for all to relegate Mr. Zeldin to the dustbin of history.
What Eisenhower Knew
May 1, 2022
“Missile Envy” by Helen Caldicott in 1984 has perhaps the best war quote by an American ever: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft of those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
The quote is by our 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, as his concerns about our military-industrial complex were essentially ignored to our and the world’s detriment. The benefits of war to the entitled and powerful have always been too much for the rest of the world to overcome. Violence and war, innately evil, barbaric, inhumane, have always been rationalized and, eventually, applauded.
Perhaps the most bizarre but logical piece of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the attention given to Russian war crimes. Somehow demonizing the handcuffing and killing of civilians as worse than the massive bombing of Ukraine’s cities. Hours of endless drivel about war crimes without ever mentioning that war is itself a crime. Six of one, half dozen of another.
What Eisenhower knew was that if the leaders of the world order functioned apart from the order as privileged and unique entities, the world would never live in peace. What is happening in Ukraine is not different from Vietnam or Iraq. It’s about a built-in malfunction in the world order that we played a major role in creating. It’s a red flag, the same one that Eisenhower talked about in 1954, that has been ignored and needs to be addressed. It is not the end of what was created in 1945 but a call to redesign and make adjustments.
The severity of the problem for the U.S. is twofold: We were willing to put a complete village idiot with no knowledge or understanding of how the state of the world was a delicate balancing act as the leader of the free world. We also, as a people, have the capacity to engender massive acts of violence with little or no remorse. We won’t even allow our darker side to be exposed as part of our history. So, the concern of idiots in denial leading the world is a little more than frightening. Putting the fate of the world in the hands of amnesiacs?
No one seems to understand that the presidencies of George Bush and Donald Trump were an affront to the eight billion people who live in the world. As the titular leaders of the free world, they put at risk the balance between evil and the lesser of the two evils. Was there ever a second in their 12 years that they thought that militarism and violence needed to be brought under control and eliminated? Did they ever think that our role in the perpetuation of violence was not a great thing? Does anyone remember Vietnam?
So it’s been 66 years since President Eisenhower alerted the world to the potential damage that our military-industrial complex would inflict, 66 years with little progress and less desire for progress. No president in 66 years fully grasped the problem. They kind of got that America First was self-destructive stupidity until they didn’t. If we don’t have a true history, do we have only a fake future?