September 4, 2022
Reading The Star every Thursday has been a pleasure. Of particular interest was learning about Thomas Anthony (Tony) Nasca and his East Hampton High School class of 1951 graduates in the Sept. 1 edition of East magazine. I’m related to the Nasca family by marriage as he was my father-in-law’s (Anthony Ragusa’s) first cousin. Thank you for enhancing family history! I hope you receive additional positive feedback for this well-researched feature.
Additionally, the cover photos this summer were outstanding and prizeworthy.
As we pause to observe Labor Day, rest assured The East Hampton Star continues to shine and your dedication week after week is appreciated.
ALICE C. RAGUSA
East Hampton Village
September 3, 2022
To the Editor:
East Hampton Village has always been lovely and simple: trees, ponds, geese, ducks, no gaudy signs, no store’s outdoor products (remember the Red Horse years ago?), green vistas, etc. Herrick Park’s grassy area has always been a calm, quiet, lovely place to stroll, to sit, to think. Now a huge, silvery piece of “artwork” has been put right in the middle. The grassy green-calming view is gone. When this piece is eventually removed (the sooner the better), please do not put anything in its place!
September 5, 2022
Last week’s editorial “No Parking at Idle” was spot-on about the long-term (and short-term) environmental and health danger of motor vehicles left idling. Another local instance of this, and perhaps much more of a problem, is the Long Island Rail Road leaving its engines idling in the Montauk station for many hours on layover for their return trip.
These engines are 3,000-horsepower diesel behemoths, and often there are multiple engines running. Clearly the exhaust from these engines contributes to toxic air pollution, which, as you noted, is a major contributor to global warming. Nor does the L.I.R.R. seem to be concerned about the exorbitant cost of wasted fuel, perhaps because we pay for it.
The noise pollution the engines create is also an environmental problem. Not only is it annoying (to this grouchy old guy for sure), destroying a quite peaceful environment, increasing stress levels, and contributing to health problems (There’s a reason for all those sound barriers along the Long Island Expressway), but it affects birds, animals, and fish, the extraordinary increase in sound levels interfering with their ability to communicate about mating, food, and predators. It destroys their environment and reduces their chances of survival.
Maybe someday the Metropolitan Transit Agency/L.I.R.R. will accept that it is part of the environment degradation problem and do something about it. I’m not hopeful.
August 31, 2022
As a longtime East Hampton resident, whose parents watered our lawn for decades but let them go a bit brown in the events of low-rain episodes in order to conserve water and who would also like an excessively hydrated green lawn (yet not at the expense of our water supply), I’m rather distraught at the epidemic of overwatering that I have encountered during my long walks all summer long.
Not only are these sprinkler systems completely excessive and only seem to serve extremely narrow roadside grassy edges, but they also spew their aquatic output all over the road, to the point where walkers and cyclists have to give their showers a wide berth (or take advantage of them to cool off). Either way, it’s egregious and a serious waste of resources. Do the roads really need to be saturated with floods of sprinkler water on a daily basis?
Is this legal?
September 5, 2022
To the Editor:
Labor Day in Wainscott has been an approximation of Hell on Earth. By 5 this afternoon, there have been 90 planes — mostly helicopters — at low altitudes thundering over my roof. The day is not over. As I write, there have been five more overflights.
I have trouble imagining what sort of barbarians would inflict this on their neighbors. I have trouble imagining what sort of management would fail to protect its citizens from such harm to their health, their environment, and the value of their homes.
I need to return to Manhattan for peace and quiet — and neighborly civility.
ROBERT S. RIFKIND
Health and Safety
September 3, 2022
To read about a negotiation for a new lease for the Maidstone Gun Club raises a lead contamination issue. Decades and tons of lead projectiles lie in the ground at the range. An attempt years ago by the director of natural resources to test the sand for lead contamination was denied. It has never been cleaned out. Why?
The deepest part of the sole-source aquifer lies beneath the airport and the water authority has a drinking water well in close proximity to the gun range. The Clean Water Act is quite clear in its mandates. Nothing can be done to endanger this source.
Bonnie Brady, always a concerned citizen who championed the airport, is apparently unaware of hazards connected to the airport and the pollution it has heaped upon our health and quality of life. She mentions a percentage figure of those who want the facility kept open. That may not be at all accurate.
I have on previous occasions mentioned this critical 10-year study that was conducted at the Reid-Hillview Airport, outside San Jose, Calif., which is similar to ours. The study was conducted from 2010 to 2020. It determined that 17,000 children in schools in close proximity had “dangerous levels of lead in their blood from lead pollution emanating from that airport — all from aviation operations. We have schools in close proximity as well.
That same agency in California is now undertaking soil samples for the amount of lead contamination. Supposedly, that is supposed to happen here, but, of course, they never said what year.
It is well past the time that our local government make the health and safety of the population an extreme priority. We see the intimidation litigation from multiple aviation proponents, in addition, to prevent the use of airport funds to shift the burden to the taxpayer.
Though the town has tried its best, it must stand up for us who are the actual owners and close it as soon as possible.
September 4, 2022
To the Editor,
Five years Peter Van Scoyoc is our supervisor. Five years Bay View Avenue is blocked. Coincidence? I would think not. Considering the company that blocks the road, its owner, and the legal representation all work for the Town of East Hampton. Well, something is certainly rotten at Town Hall.
Call to Action
September 5, 2022
I appreciated The Star’s Aug. 25 editorial “(Re)Building Wave.” I thought most salient was your admonition and call to action regarding the commercial redevelopment plans pending across town: “Residents and visitors alike may not be happy with the cumulative changes these and other proposals represent and they need to put maximum pressure on elected officials to put community before profits. And the owners of small businesses . . . should be wary of projects that . . . would gobble up scarce resources including parking and workers.”
Also, thank you for giving readers an early heads-up about the just-emerged application to redevelop 136 Main Street in Amagansett — a significant and problematic proposal for hamlet and town.
For anyone not familiar, 136 is on the south side of 27, just east of Indian Wells and west of Jack’s Coffee, and across the road from the important Schellinger Farm complex site. Town code formally designates 136 as not only part of the Amagansett Historic District, but specifically enumerates it as one of the nine core historic commercial buildings, referring to it as “the Amagansett Garage.” The site primarily houses longstanding local businesses, including the small business center, One Stop Pet Shop, and Balcuns Service Center.
I only became aware of this application the week prior when I checked to see what was on the planning board’s Aug. 24 agenda and clicked on the item “Site Plan Review — Hildreth Advisors Amagansett.” Reviewing the materials posted to the agenda, I was dismayed by what the new owner, a New York City-based real estate developer and transaction company, has proposed.
Having reviewed the site plan and renderings submitted, read the entire Planning Department memo, and watched the 1-hour-12-minute-long planning board discussion, I will say that the utter disconnection from and lack of understanding or respect for Amagansett — for its historical context, its modest scale, its community character, its current pressures, and its residents — demonstrated by this application is stunning.
Over all, a low-key, gently trafficked parcel, authentically rural in character and encompassing important historical assets and local businesses will be transformed into an overscaled, multi-use business complex resembling a suburban strip mall and with as many as 17 uses (plus apartments) that could generate hundreds more daily vehicle ins and outs right smack in the biggest traffic-pain point in the hamlet.
The scope, scale, design, and potential retail intensity do not appear in any way compatible with Amagansett over all, the codified goals and guidelines for its historic Central Business District, the town’s special permit standards, or — from what I’ve gleaned so far — the wants and needs of our residents.
The Aug. 24 session was what’s known as a “preliminary site plan review” — a particular privilege accorded commercial development projects giving applicants the opportunity to pre-screen their intentions with the Planning Department and planning board to get their overall impressions, pulse-check individual members’ reactions, and see if there are any deal-breakers. Most important, the applicant can take in guidance on how to improve the application around problems and gaps needing to be addressed before submitting the final application, proceeding to formal review, and winding their way to the board’s ultimate vote. Many projects take years to get from preliminary site plan review to final approval.
In terms of existing conditions, 136 Main Street is a long, rather narrow, one-acre lot that abuts residential properties on its south end and includes two connected buildings: a modest 1,409-square-foot, two-story white building fronting Montauk Highway and, behind that, a one-story, roughly 4,500-square-foot shingled building. These historic structures cover just 13 percent of the lot, with the rest being graveled parking lot, storage areas, and open space.
The developer has proposed to build a large “multiple-business complex” on the site. With respect to the street-facing, two-story white building, its facade will remain intact but renovated internally, but the applicant wouldn’t confirm their intentions regarding internal configuration or any planned use changes.
Regarding the existing one-story shingled building and garage, the applicant classifies what it will do as a “renovation.” Though they might be able to exploit some technicality, perhaps preserving a wall or foundation, calling this a “renovation” strains credulity. The renderings the applicant submitted make clear that for all intents and purposes, this is demolition and complete rebuild of the structure that will transform the historical integrity and rural character into an expanded suburban shopping center aesthetic, with the addition of a lot of glass, a large metal roof, and six new retail storefronts.
The developer also plans to construct an additional 7,200-square-foot, 30-foot-tall building that, according to their renderings, will house another six storefronts anchored by a Starbucks on the first floor, and four “affordable” apartments on the second floor. Most of the rest of the property will be paved for 54 parking spaces, plus truck-unloading areas. All in, the plan explodes total lot coverage to the maximum allowable of 80 percent.
An Aug. 18 Planning Department memo, core to site-plan review, details about a dozen issues, gaps, and problems regarding what the applicant has submitted thus far, among them that: “The preliminary application lacks an adequate project narrative to describe the existing and proposed uses. . . . The current proposal does not meet the preference . . . to be well below total coverage. . . . As currently proposed, this development would exceed permitted density,” and, “Architectural rendering of the proposed building . . . does not evoke consistency with the historic character or current visual character of Amagansett.”
During the meeting, each member articulated issues to be addressed, with traffic being the unanimous concern among them. One board member asked, “How much worse are we gonna make [traffic], because it’s already really bad?” Other concerns cited included ingress and egress positioning, parking lot navigation problems, amount of paving, setback encroachments, significant increase of density and intensity of use and maxed-out coverage in a limited space, addition of too many unspecified retail uses, “chock-a-block” storefronts, no clarity about apartment usage, insufficient open space, and its appearance not looking “Amagansett-y” enough.
Yet, several members were also sounding positively inclined to the developer’s dreams and desires. Statements included: “There’s a lot of good things I like about the project.” “I think it meets all of the special permit standards.” “It meets the central business guidelines.” “I love the idea of affordable apartments.” “Over all, I like the project, you just have to work on a few things.” “You’ll be in good shape with the sanitary transfer rights.” “The site is primed for this kind of redevelopment.” “I’m glad the storage area will be cleaned up.” “This could work out very well . . . as a destination to buy things you can’t get elsewhere.” “I’m not so worried about the number of stores — in fact it might be a nice thing.” “It’s a lot, but I remain very, very open . . . there’s probably a path forward assuming traffic is not prohibitive.” And then the chairman concluded, “I think it can work, but needs to be scaled back . . . a bit” A bit?
I was surprised by the rather quick endorsements for an application of this significance and one currently rife with gaps, uncertainties, noncompliance, and incompatibilities. Over all, I came away from watching the meeting feeling the applicant was left with the impression that it was mostly a matter of tweaks, rather than a complete rethinking or redo, needed to move ahead.
After the 136 Main Street session concluded, the board moved on to a long-pending, contentious commercial application in Montauk. As part of that discussion, Randy Parsons posed the following to his fellow board members, “We have to draw a line with overdevelopment. When are we going to stop approving applications for overdevelopment? You have to decide where you’re going to stop. . . . It’s death by a thousand cuts. You have to decide you either want this place in the future to be overdeveloped, congested, have water quality problems or you don’t.”
To the query, Chairman Kramer responded, “For good or for ill, we deal with applications one at a time . . . and it’s hard to draw that line.” Others agreed there is a place to draw a line, but regarding the Montauk application before them, five of seven felt it wasn’t that line-drawing moment.
In my mind, Mr. Parsons’s query clearly needs to be posed for the application for 136 Main Street — it is indeed a place to draw the line on overdevelopment. Citizens, grab your pencils.
September 5, 2022
So now Republican lawmakers and the radical right have declared war on student borrowers.
Anyone with a recent college graduate, or a college student who had to borrow money for school, knows full well the problem that crushing student loan debt has on these kids.
The total student loan debt is reported to be approximately $1.6 trillion.
Not only have student borrowers had difficulty refinancing their debt, many are simply unable to repay their debt for a variety of reasons. This crushing debt has stagnated growth for these students. Many cannot afford to buy a car, and dreams of owning a home are dispelled by the cost of their loans.
Everyone is aware of the impact and depth of the student loan crisis — everyone, that is, except Republican lawmakers and the radical right.
President Biden promised student debt relief and he just took the first step by forgiving up to $20,000 of debt for federal student borrowers. The G.O.P. lawmakers opposed this relief, simply because they did not want the Democratic Congress and President Biden to have a victory, and in doing so denied relief to millions of college students. There was no effort to achieve a bipartisan proposal: They just said no. And the radical right is now scurrying to find a way to scuttle the Biden relief proposal in court.
This is nothing short of shameful. Repeatedly, the G.O.P. lawmakers have proven that they have no interest in helping those who need it or providing help to the American economy. Instead, they have mounted a continuous campaign to stifle advancement by regular Americans. And now college students have the G.O.P. bull’s-eyes on their backs.
This November, voters can change this. Americans deserve a Congress that actually works for them, rather than representatives who put party politics ahead of their voters’ welfare. The answer is easy: Wherever you see a Democratic candidate on your ballot — check that box.
September 2, 2022
Joe Biden came back to work Wednesday and expected to be overjoyed and thought everyone would be gushing over his student loan forgiveness plan. Instead, he got slammed for more irresponsible spending and drilled on the Trump F.B.I. raid. Nobody believes you, Joe, and if there is one thing we’ve learned about Joe Biden over the last 18 months, it’s that he is a serial liar. When he was asked if he knew about the raid before it happened, he denied, remarking, “I didn’t have any advance notice, none, zero, not one single bit.” Most by now have seen a detailed report in just the news that outlined how involved this administration was regarding the eventual raid.
No, Joe may not have known the exact time and day of said raid, but he surely knew it would happen.
There is simply no way that Merrick Garland would make such a move without Biden’s blessing. On April 2, The New York Times reported that Biden had told his staffers he wanted Garland to find anything to indict Trump. Could be The Times doing Biden’s bidding for him communicating Joe Biden’s wishes via a leak.
Also: With all research I did, you replied it was a lie regarding Obama’s documents. Well, now I asked Alexa. Her answer, the papers are in Chicago stored somewhere, but the news is trying to debunk that and say they are in Washington. (Obama took 33 million papers to Chicago but the press is saying not true); I say true, you say not true.
In God and country,
September 3, 2022
In 1965, the United States government began a program called Head Start — a program to bring kids into the school system at the earliest possible age, a program that existed in most European nations. It was based on two core ideas: First, that large parts of the country were disadvantaged by the economic system, and, second, that starting kids early in school would help to close the gap between disadvantaged kids and the rest of the population, a potential poverty-stopper, mitigator, partial solution.
In two years, 36 million kids participated. For more than 55 years it has expanded and evolved into a system providing schooling, nutrition counseling, etc. It was a brilliant, logical, effective way to deal with inequities in the system. In 1965 the U.S. political system still had a humanity gene (however small).
On Wednesday, The New York Times wrote a piece about the U.S. decline in life expectancy of three years since 2019 and the devastating affects of Covid on school-testing levels. Levels dropped for some groups to what existed 20 years ago.
The Times Op-Ed by Ari Schulman on the failure of Anthony Fauci to deal with Covid is the perfect connection between the mindless drivel that permeates our political expression and the simple brilliance of Head Start. Dr. Fauci was a bureaucrat faced with a complicated, dangerous problem. But the resolution required a method, an understanding, and an awareness of processes that already existed.
Unfortunately, Trump took control of the process and turned it ass-backward. Instead of a country united against a major threat, we turned into childlike cretins incapable of expressing anything beyond anger and stupidity, turning on each other instead of the virus. See the results.
Dr. Fauci didn’t solve the problem, but it wasn’t his to solve. The Op-Ed is the kind of mindless drivel that drives our country off the rails, What’s the point??
Head Start is our role model (copy the Europeans), of how we need to function. Recognize a problem and put the energy and wealth of the country to work. In the long run, rich people will get richer off the success of Head Start. Honest.