Mr. Perna to Me
February 24, 2023
I’m sorry that it took a letter from my old friend Ed Keeshan in the Feb. 23 issue of The Star for me to realize that a congratulatory email to Jack Perna (he’ll always be “Mr. Perna” to me), upon his approaching retirement from the Montauk Public School, should have been accompanied by public acknowledgement of my gratitude. The good Dr. Keeshan speaks for so many when he writes of the privilege to have been a student during Mr. Perna’s incredible half-century of service to the hamlet’s children and their parents. My thanks to Christine Sampson for a piece worthy of its subject.
Another letter in last week’s issue caught my eye. The writer quoted The Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who said that deer “are causing an ecological disaster.” I am familiar with the deer “issue” and past efforts to control the population, and understand the arguments for and against hunting or otherwise culling said population. However, having spent the last three months collaborating on a book about climate change, I have been immersed in the myriad causes and conditions that have brought the earth and all of its inhabitants to the brink of catastrophe. When I see the words “ecological disaster,” it is not deer but another species that comes to mind.
February 21, 2023
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. has long been one of the strongest and most effective advocates for change and improvement of life on the East End, but his condemnation last week of Stony Brook Southampton as the greatest slumlord in Suffolk County comes with more than a hint of hypocrisy.
Fred Thiele was very much aware of the dreadful condition of Stony Brook Southampton dorms and administrative buildings last year when he used his influence in Albany to provide Stony Brook with $500,000 to replace missing blades on the 300-year-old windmill, which Southampton Village was attempting to return to its original home on Windmill Lane.
Assemblyman Thiele, like others who attended the short-lived Southampton College, remembers that windmill as a highlight of his college days. He knew he would deprive Southampton Village, the only village on the East End without a windmill, but instead suggested the village build a replica, rather than move the historic windmill back to Windmill Lane, where it would be officially designated a National Historic Monument and confirmed as the oldest windmill in the United States.
A Toy Wagon
February 22, 2023
To the Editor,
I’ve been living in East Hampton for the past 40 years and it’s time for me to declutter! Maybe I’ll start with the shelves behind my dining table where I keep a few collectibles — a jade scarab, three netsukes, and a toy wagon from India.
A friend and I had been traveling in rural India for several weeks when we were approached by a group of young boys. They might have overheard my friend mention she wanted to buy pashmina shawls for her friends back home in L.A. “Our uncle has a shop not far from here. We can take you there.” We were on a schedule (you should never be on a schedule in India). They suggested we meet early the next morning.
At 5 a.m., we met the boys at our agreed-upon spot. As we left the hotel, a Sikh opened the door for us; Jasmin was in the air. After a short ride we entered their “untouchable” village. The dirt roads looked as if they had been recently swept, and a few women were already at the town square pumping water. Through an open door, I saw a woman wrapped in a beautiful sari sitting on a dirt floor next to an open fire pit; multicolored saris hung behind her. A young boy by her side wore western clothes. I took a picture.
After the boys gave us a brief tour of the village, we went into their uncle’s shop. Coffee was being served next to a plate of idli — Indian breakfast bread. To the left were four or five long shelves laden with pashmina shawls. At the opposite wall were a few Indian sculptures, a glass cabinet with trinkets, and an upper shelf with knickknacks. My eyes were drawn to that upper shelf, particularly to a small metal wagon.
For maybe an hour, the shop owner spread pashmina after pashmina on his worktable. He explained each design. My friend finally decided on 10 shawls, which made the owner very happy. He then turned to me, “Don’t you also want to take something back to America?” I said I would like to buy that little toy cart on the shelf behind us. “You don’t want that old thing.”
I insisted. He crossed the room, took the toy cart from the shelf, and wrapped it in newsprint. “Take it!” I gave him a few paper notes and the change in my pocket. True to their word the boys took us back to our hotel. It was now 6 a.m., and we joined the other hotel guests who were on their way to the breakfast room.
I had heard an archaeology museum had just opened in Delphi. They were exhibiting artifacts from the early Indus valley civilizations of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro; I had studied these planned communities in architecture school. Not ready to leave India, I rented a room nearby and spent the next few days at the museum. On one visit I came across a shelf labeled “Children’s Toys,” and there was my recently purchased toy wagon, or at least a facsimile!
This “toy” has been sitting on a shelf next to my dining table for the past 15 years. Shouldn’t it now be displayed on a more prominent shelf in a more public space comparable to the one at the National Museum in Delhi?
Old memories, old actions, old regrets.
It seems Town Pond will forever be lost.
The elegant swans, bright flowers, and clean water to never return.
Three or more years now.
Again and again, promises made.
Again and again promises not kept.
When? When? When?
Will the mayor do his job?
Why are the details so important?
Feels like being stuck in the mud.
Feels like it is not a priority.
I am curious for how long it will last.
There Is a Solution
February 23, 2023
I’ve spent the afternoon watching LTV’s showing of the East Hampton Town Planning Board’s public hearing on the application to develop the Wainscott gravel pit. The public comments are impressive; local citizens and civic groups gave hours of well-informed, intelligent, and articulate testimony about the folly of such a huge, ill-conceived commercial project in the already badly congested Route 27 entrance to the town.
There is a solution here, and there is precedent. The town board must request the Planning Department to design an acceptable alternative that conforms to the town’s hamlet study (which has been adopted and is now part of the comprehensive plan). An alternative plan could include at least half of the 70-plus acres in open space and recreation use, a portion of the property to provide affordable housing, a lot for a potential future Wainscott train station, pedestrian and bicycle trails, and perhaps some modest retail space in scale with the nearby existing commercial space.
In the early 1980s, an aggressive developer named Ben Heller proposed a massive development project for the Grace Estate in Northwest, some 600 acres of unspoiled woodland and shoreline that had been a favored hunting and fishing area for local generations of townspeople. The application included polo grounds, a large clubhouse, 234 condominium units on Northwest Harbor, and dozens of waterfront residential lots.
In concert with the Nature Conservancy, Town Councilman Randall Parsons successfully negotiated an agreement with the developer that included a combination of some residential lots and 516 acres of public land, through acquisition and dedicated open space. Today, the existing unspoiled Grace Estate is used and beloved by numerous hikers, joggers, schoolchildren, and other lovers of nature.
John Tintle, the owner and developer of the Wainscott Pit project, is part of a local family that has previously been extraordinarily generous with family-owned land in Montauk. Perhaps the park or any preserved green space in Wainscott could bear his name in recognition of the family’s important and enduring contributions.
Ms. Hope is a former East Hampton town supervisor. Ed.
Break Its Silence
February 27, 2023
The Tintle family has long been planning a second act for the Pit, its depleted sand mine in the center of Wainscott. The town board has been on notice for more than a decade of the threat that the derelict property posed to the environment and the Wainscott community. Nonetheless, the town board was content to sit back, to wait, to take no concrete steps to effect the shape of what was surely coming. The recent planning board hearings on the Wainscott Commercial Center showed that community opposition to the Tintle development plan is strong and not confined to Wainscott. The question is whether the breadth of opposition will be enough to rouse the town board from its slumber.
In 2018, John Tintle applied for a subdivision consisting of 48 lots of about an acre each and two larger lots for his existing businesses, Suffolk Cement and Southampton Masonry. The project would be transformative for Wainscott, and not in a good way. The Route 27 gateway to East Hampton will go from being an often-congested roadway lined by a strip of local businesses to being a nearly impassible, truck-filled, choke-point entrance to a giant industrial park. Those traveling to or from points east will long for the good old days when Wainscott delays were comparatively minor. The back roads that now offer some respite from traffic will be jammed with cars and trucks looking for a way, any way, around Wainscott center.
There are no benefits to be realized from the subdivision. The economics of the project will make the lots far too expensive to serve the needs of local East Hampton businesses. The parcels are more likely to go to 24-hour-a-day logistics companies like FedEx and UPS and to intensive-use construction-related businesses complementary to the Tintle cement business that will serve the ongoing overdevelopment of East Hampton. The subdivision is inconsistent with the vision for the future embodied in the town’s comprehensive plan. Tintle’s field of dreams will produce East Hampton’s field of nightmares.
By not showing leadership, by not acting decisively, the town has made the task of heading off or at least influencing the scope and nature of the project far more difficult than it needed to be. But it is not too late for the town board to deliver the town from the disaster that looms.
The planning board has good and sufficient reasons to reject the subdivision application based on the inadequacy of the draft environmental impact statement required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The draft impact statement is deficient in many respects, including its failure to accurately assess traffic issues, risk to the drinking water aquifer, harmful surface-water runoff and groundwater flow into Georgica Pond, or to fairly consider what the likely actual uses the developed lots will be put to. The planning board’s discretion is not unlimited, however, and anything it does to deny or restrict the development will be challenged in the courts. The town should make clear the importance of a ruling that is consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and the Wainscott Hamlet Study and that it supports aggressive use of the planning board’s authority.
The zoning board of appeals has been asked to determine whether the subdivision is a planned industrial park requiring a special permit. There is no question that the proposal meets the definition of a planned industrial park or that a Z.B.A. determination that a special permit is required will substantially increase the planning board’s flexibility in limiting the scope and nature of the development. The town board’s members should, therefore, make clear their support for an affirmative decision from the Z.B.A. and the desirability of a robust special permit review by the planning board.
Finally, the town board needs to step up directly. It must cease hiding behind the proceedings before the planning board and the Z.B.A., hoping they will save the day. The town adopted a new comprehensive plan in 2005. In a good step in the right direction, it made the Wainscott Hamlet Study a part of the plan in 2018, thus providing a framework for zoning changes to limit the development of the Pit. But it didn’t take the next step of implementing the plan with zoning changes. Now is the time to take the next step. A business overlay district focused on uses of the Pit consistent with the hamlet study and the town’s need for commercial-industrial space for local businesses would result in much less intensive and environmentally damaging use than has been proposed. It should include set-asides for open spaces and affordable housing.
The town board members have dithered for too long. It’s time to lead. The public outcry over the project should prompt it to take action. Board members should speak out against the Wainscott Commercial Center proposal, publicly recognize the risks presented by the development, and enact specific zoning changes consistent with the comprehensive plan and the Wainscott Hamlet Study.
The Suffolk County Planning Commission hearing scheduled for March 1 provided a perfect opportunity for the board to break its silence. The supervisor was welcome to attend the hearing. I hope that he used the opportunity to speak for the citizens of East Hampton and that he condemned the subdivision as inimical to the future of the town. It would be a very good start in the right direction.
JOHN H. HALL
On Deaf Ears
February 27, 2023
This year, East Hampton has an opportunity to bring the town government back to the community. We have long heard how oppressive and dismissive the town board and its appointed board under one-party rule have become unless you are a P.W.M. (person with money). Hard-working members of the community were shut down during Covid, while the uber-wealthy partied away. Some town board members vacationed at their Florida residences, while you were told to stay home.
Local businesses have found the town board and appointed boards impossible to deal with unless you can afford expensive legal counsel. From Wainscott to Springs to Montauk, your concerns fall on deaf ears as the town board stymies and dismisses concerned community voices.
These are not the values of a community but rather that of a government that has no empathy for the community.
This year East Hampton has a choice to elect Gretta Leon supervisor, and Scott Smith and Michael Wootton to town council. These dynamic candidates bring fresh ideas and a firm understanding of life in East Hampton and the importance of a living wage for our town employees. They believe in a town government for everyone, not the chosen few. They understand firsthand the economic hardships crushing our local residents.
We all have seen the town board engage in the purposeful wasting of beach access rights and fail to support our first responders, public safety and law enforcement professionals, and town assets, such as the East Hampton Airport. After years of one-party rule, the town board has a dismal track record on local environmental protections of the harbors and bays, contamination of drinking water, and misuse of your tax dollars.
As Governor Hochul proposes a takeover of local zoning to accelerate the suburbanization of communities along transportation hubs, the East Hampton Democratic one-party rule town board is silent.
This year, we can change that by electing Gretta Leon, Michael Wootton, and Scott Smith. They will bring fresh ideas and new minds to East Hampton without political allegiances to connected law firms and New York City party bosses. They will enact policies that will make East Hampton better and safer and protect our environment for all. Gretta Leon, Scott Smith, and Michael Wootton are the candidates for the people.
East Hampton Town Republican Committee
February 28, 2023
To the Editor,
Thank you for The East Hampton Star’s coverage of the local political party nominations. I am grateful to the Democratic committee for placing their faith in me to be a candidate for town board.
As was mentioned in the article, I am a proud Montauk resident and local small-business owner. For over 10 years, I have worked very hard alongside an amazing team of local managers to earn a living the way many people out here do — running a small, largely seasonal business. My stores include Homeport (books/gifts), Captain Kids (Toys), and Shine (clothing). Annually I employ up to 25 people; 90 percent of my employees are East Hampton Town residents. Every year, I give two or three kids their first jobs. It is hard, honest work that I am fortunate to operate with my team.
What wasn’t mentioned in the article is that in addition to being a small-business owner, I have been an elected member of the Montauk School board since 2016. My years on the board have been exceptionally informative about the operations of municipal government. I cannot express how highly I value the employees of Montauk School and my fellow board members. We have faced many difficult decisions and have responded to the needs of the community.
My experience working with the municipal budgeting process, the challenge of hiring, and helping direct the district toward a more environmentally sensitive footprint are all skills that offer a helpful head start into many of the key aspects of operating as a town board member.
I am also a proud member of Montauk Fire Department’s Ambulance Company 4. My colleagues are some of the finest people you will meet in this town. The education I have received, both in class and in practice, on how to manage emergency situations, has served me well in both my personal and professional life.
If there is one common thread to know me by, it is that I care immensely about the well-being of our community. I consider it an honor to serve my neighbors and this is why, with the support of my family, I am running for town board. I believe my experience in elected office, community service, and management can help make significant improvements to the lives of our residents, and ensure that our incredible environment and community character are protected for the future.
Thank you for your time and consideration, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].
Return to Campus
February 26, 2023
To the Editor,
Twelve years ago, I accepted an invitation to a symposium at Princeton University. I looked over and saw Dr. Gabriel was sitting a few seats over. I hadn’t seen him since graduation. My old college adviser and mentor, I hadn’t gotten to spend time at an event with him since our last adventure through Gettysburg.
It was nice to return to this campus, a memory I hold fondly. It almost makes one miss researching in library basements, in summer, hours spent looking at microfilm, walking around Princeton without socks on. A real Einstein feel, if you get my drift.
February 25, 2023
Welcome to the latest chapter of G.O.P. political theater, and the Ohio train derailment is the star of the latest episode. We’ve seen this ploy over and again. G.O.P. politicos throw shade and blame at Democrats for a tragedy that could very well have been of the G.O.P.’s own making.
Like those before it, in this episode the G.O.P. offers no substantive proposals that could prevent future crashes. Rather, the Trump-era G.O.P. has maintained an arm-in-arm embrace with the rail industry, which relentlessly and successfully pressured for cost cuts and regulatory rollbacks that have compromised railroad safety with the result being real, lethal effects on impacted communities.
While the cause of this crash is complex, the preliminary cause will likely focus on a failed axle caused by a melted wheel bearing on a midtrain car. As the axle failed, the train’s brakes applied but as the front of the train slowed faster than the rear the massive derailment resulted. So, the lack of sensors contributed to the failure to timely discover the problem. Then, an obsolete braking system contributed to the erratic braking of the train. The result: A community is victimized.
In 2015, the Obama administration finalized a rule that required trains carrying high-hazard, flammable materials to have electronically controlled pneumatic brakes that work on all train cars simultaneously. This braking system would allow the train to brake faster than with conventional air brakes, which are applied sequentially along the length of the train. A few years later, siding with rail lobbyists, the Trump administration repealed this rule, allegedly citing reports that found that the cost of requiring these kinds of brakes was not economically justified.
As the East Palestine and surrounding communities reel under the effects of the derailment, Trump and other G.O.P. lawmakers now play political theater, hypocritically ignoring having sided with rail industry lobbyists time and again. And the goal: Use this solely as an issue to attack Democrats while offering no remedial measures that would offer greater safety to communities through which these dangerous trains pass. This time, complete with props: Trump-branded water. Seriously?
I hope that voters are tired of a G.O.P. playbook that offers nothing remotely resembling leadership but is bent only on identifying largely irrelevant issues to create national controversies to attack Democrats. Like the Ohio freight train, the radical cohort of the G.O.P. has derailed the party’s ability to do anything constructive.
February 24, 2023
To the Editor,
Twenty questions for George Santos:
1. State flowers are one thing, George, but seriously, a “national gun”?
2. Will you also be sponsoring bills for a national bullet, knife, machete, crossbow, hand grenade, flame thrower, bomb, blowgun?
3. Are you an even bigger liar than the wife- and-son killer (okay; “alleged”) Alex Murdaugh?
4. Will you be charging your gun-toting supporters your favorite amount of $199.99 to personally autograph their national guns?
5. Shouldn’t you pay your congressional predecessor Thomas R. Suozzi $199.99 for your continued unauthorized use of his (good) name on your green, Queens office awning?
6. As a child, did you ever chop down your family’s backyard cherry tree and tell your father, “I cannot tell a lie; my sister did it?”
7. Have your pants ever caught fire?
8. Is it true that the best way to know if you’re lying is to see if your lips are moving?
9. If you had been a Uvalde, Tex., cop at the Robb Elementary School, would you have been “the good guy with a gun” who would have killed the killer with your own AR-15?
10. What would you ever say to the parents of the 20 6-and-7-year-old Sandy Hook first graders shot dead by an AR-15?
11. Okay, I lied about my number of questions.