Are We Any Safer?
To The East Hampton Star:
Your Nov. 23 editorial “Official Complicity” noted correctly “the complicity of local governments in a massive, often unsafe, and effectively unregulated housing economy. State, county, and local officials have known for years about the risk [of unpermitted and unsafe rentals]; perhaps the courts will now force them finally to act.”
We are the parents of the two girls, Jillian (then 21) and Lindsay (then 19) who were killed in the fire on Spring Lane in Noyac last August. Over the months since that horrible night claimed the lives of our daughters and shattered our family irreparably, we have seen indifference, if not outright callousness, on the part of Jay Schneiderman, James Burke, the town attorney, and other local officials. What we know about the fire marshal’s investigation and the facts surrounding our girls’ deaths, we learned not from county officials but, instead, from the numerous interviews they gave to the media. No one ever had the courtesy — the basic human decency — of informing us of the facts that led to our daughters’ deaths before they spoke with the media. The insensitivity and callousness of the town attorney and the town supervisor is nothing short of appalling and has only added to our family’s pain.
Putting our family’s situation aside, the question the East End community should be asking as we approach the high rental season is: Where is the expression of outrage and commitment to cracking down on illegal rentals? Where are your elected officials? Where is Jay Schneiderman? We’ve heard from Mr. Schneiderman the same thing that the residents of the Hamptons have heard on the issue of illegal rentals: nothing, silence, indifference.
Ask yourself: as we head into the summer rental season, are we any safer this year than we were last year? Has there been and will there be any meaningful crackdown on illegal rentals? As far as we can tell, the answer is no.
Residents of the East End can complain all they want about illegal rentals but those complaints have and will continue to fall on deaf ears. How many other children will die because of Jay Schneiderman’s and other elected officials’ indifference and failure to take the issue of illegal rentals seriously? We all deserve better; our daughters deserved better.
We challenge Jay Schneiderman to prove us wrong and to publicly state what he and his administration are doing differently this year with respect to illegal rentals. We suspect we will hear nothing.
ALISA and LEWIS WIENER
Bill of Obligations
May 25, 2023
To the Editor,
Going through the new books at our wonderful East Hampton Library, “The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens” caught my eye. We’ve had plenty of talk about our rights of late and I wondered if this book might give me pause. The Obligations: Be informed. Get involved. Stay open to compromise. Remain civil. Reject violence. Value norms. Promote the common good. Respect government service. Support the teaching of civics. Put country first.
The author, Richard Haass, admits to being part of the establishment and of having worked with both Democrats and Republicans. He is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and I find him balanced, which is something I’ve been seeking in my reading and thinking. He gives each obligation both its due and its place in our history.
I recommend this book — and I’ve returned it, in time, to the library!
May 27, 2023
To the Editor,
As the sun streamed through my skylight, I’d check the weather, pick the weather-appropriate bike clothes and pedal off to the Springs General Store, a bubbly greeting from Kristi, “Good morning Pete,” a steaming cup of coffee, perhaps one of Jenny’s corn muffins, “toasted with butter, please,” and join the porch crowd. A few Bonackers with family roots back to the revolution; refugees fleeing from the Big City; artists; Springs Fire Department volunteers; a carpenter-archaeologist; Max, a documentary filmmaker (“Hamptons Bohemia”); Carter, a doctor, and George, second team All Star New York City high school basketball, a diverse ever-changing crowd enjoying Kristi’s hospitality.
O.M.G., a new owner. The store is closing. It will be “scaled up.” A massive yard sale, and we await, when will the store reopen? Days, weeks, months go by, the new owner is battling with the town zoning czars.
A few of us trickle back, buy our coffee elsewhere and reclaim the porch. As cars drive up, “No, the store’s closed. Reopening. We don’t know.”
A few weeks ago, a few cars drive up, the construction team. The 19th-century building is structurally unsound, major reconstruction, hopefully reopening next spring. We’ve been wondering, why hasn’t the new owner come by to greet his potential customers? A food truck would probably have done well.
Last week’s Star interview with the new owner envisions customers buying a bottle of natural wine at the adjoining shed, wine store to be, pate, a baguette, and nibbling away, maybe hidden away in the depths of the Springs is a French village.
These days we tend to see our world, the world we knew, morphing into a new world, a far more expensive world. “Upscale” seems to be code for more expensive. Maybe we’re wrong. The owners are experienced restaurateurs. Maybe we just fear change.
The town purchased the Dodge house and many acres of land across the street from Ashawagh Hall, perhaps with plans for a recreated Springs village.
Kristi and Jenny are gone. You can’t go home again. And I can get used to a croissant and espresso, instead of coffee and a corn muffin, if the price is right. Maybe not a bottle of wine at 10 a.m.
Green River Cemetery
May 24, 2023
To the Editor:
It’s a shame that the historic Green River Cemetery in Springs is being neglected and not maintained once again.
After years of neglect by its former caretaker, the New York State Cemetery Association stepped in and asked the Town of East Hampton to take over the maintenance of Green River Cemetery. (The town oversees the upkeep of most of East Hampton’s cemeteries.) When the town finally took over, I was hopeful that the cemetery would be cared for after so many years of neglect. Unfortunately, even with this change of stewardship, the cemetery is still suffering from neglect.
The town of East Hampton’s Parks and Building Maintenance Department, responsible for keeping the cemetery mowed and cleaned up on a regular basis, is failing at this task. The grass often exceeds 12 inches and is infested with lone star ticks. All other East Hampton cemeteries are mowed on a regular basis. Why not Green River Cemetery?
As a historic cemetery, one would think that the town would care about its upkeep — especially during the summer months when numerous walking tours are visiting this landmark. And year round it is disrespectful to the families who have loved ones buried here.
The town supervisor’s office has been repeatedly notified of its condition, yet little or no action is taken. It’s a disgrace that one has to wade through the tall grass, step over sunken graves, see broken fence sections, drive over potholes, and come home covered in ticks. Such a pity.
May 26, 2023
Today a friend alerted me to an article in The Star about West Lake Fishing Lodge being sold. He sent me the link to the article and the single photo.
I am writing to you about that photo; I believe I recognize the man on the left. In 1976 I moved my boat permanently to West Lake Lodge marina. After several years of “studying” under a captain who sailed from there, I now had a charter boat of my own. I believe the man on the left is that mentor.
There are two men standing in front of a large freezer, where arguably the most famous Montauk captain, Frank Mundus, stored his bait and chum. I think this is an old photo and even think the man on the right might be Eddie Miller, whom I fondly remember during the many years I sailed the Mako Express out of his marina.
Is it possible to verify this? Thank you for any effort you can put toward this.
CAPT. ZAC GROSSMAN
Thousands in Sanctions
May 28, 2023
To the Editor:
A New York State Supreme Court judge, Paul Baisley, has fined the town hundreds of thousands of dollars in sanctions and its adversaries’ attorneys fees in two very different cases, the first involving Truck Beach and then, in the last few days, the airport closure case. Both these orders were issued at the request of the same attorney, James Catterson, himself a former Supreme Court and Appellate Division judge.
My concerns about our town board’s judgment should be self-evident from previous letters. However, I want to focus on some aspects of the two contempt orders that I believe have terrible optics.
The New York Court of Appeals, our highest court, once memorably said that the moral code followed by the courts of our state should be “to deal impartially with litigants; promote stability in the law; allow for efficient use of the adjudicatory process, and to maintain the appearance of justice.” These two decisions do not meet this standard.
In my opinion, Mr. Catterson has become the go-to attorney for wealthy litigants wishing to negate governance actions taken by the Town of East Hampton. In full disclosure, I have a different case with him, not being heard by Justice Baisley. In a series of successes against the town, I believe that Mr. Catterson has significantly contributed to a weakening of town authority, in zoning, managing beaches, and now the regulation of its own airport.
The dollar amounts awarded by Justice Baisley in his discretion are extraordinary in my experience. In the 40 years I have been practicing, I have seen New York courts very rarely respond to requests for fee sanctions and when they do, sometimes in amounts as little as $250.
A sanction of $10,000 or $20,000 is a huge amount and tends to be awarded when the party has repeatedly and continually flouted a series of orders from the court, after several warnings, which is not the case here. I have never seen a case in which a party was fined the hundreds of thousands of dollars Justice Baisley has assessed against the town in each of these cases. He could have exercised discretion to punish the town in much lesser amounts, which still would have been a shock to the system and quite effective. And this money is being assessed on behalf of very wealthy litigants — some of whom have not been paradigms of ethical behavior themselves.
That is our money. Yes, we live in a well-financed town, but its resources are not endless. These dollars, if not vacuumed away in these court proceedings, could have gone toward the environmental review the town is now doing regarding the airport, to affordable housing, remediation of algal blooms, controlling nitrogen emissions, or the protection of primary dunes, or been invested in solving the countless other serious problems we face. Justice Baisley might consider remitting a significant part of these fines.
I also suggest that Mr. Catterson and his clients think about announcing that, out of regard for the innocent citizens of East Hampton, they will voluntarily forgo collecting most of the amounts the court has awarded.
For democracy in East Hampton,
May 29, 2023
Suffolk County Justice Paul Baisley has finally lost it, completely.
First there was the July 2022 order fining the town $240,000 and revoking 6,000 beach permits over driving rights on a small stretch of beach. As your editorial put it, “to describe [Baisley’s] contempt finding against the town as strongly worded would be to seriously understate the degree of animus it contained.” (“Justice Gets Personal at Truck Beach.” The East Hampton Star, July 22)
Then came the October 2022 order enjoining the town from implementing an Federal Aviation Administration-approved plan to convert the East Hampton Airport from a public-use to a private-use facility, controlled by its owner, the town. Why? Because a federal statute limiting noise restrictions at public but not private airports somehow also bars converting from public to private. Go figure.
And 10 days ago, Justice Baisley went nuclear with an order fining the town $250,000 for supposedly violating his injunction by setting procedures having nothing to do with noise, and, most incredibly, by merely discussing permanent closure if the courts continue to block local control.
Just how did multiple lawsuits by Blade, aviation lobbies, and their front groups end up before this biased judge? The cases began in February 2022, and were randomly assigned to Justice Joseph Santorelli, who handled initial skirmishing for over two months. Then in late April 2022, he removed himself, entirely without explanation. Within a week, a second judge also jumped ship. And within a week of that, a third dropped out, again without explanation. Then what? The litigation landed in Justice Baisley’s lap. Surely just coincidence.
Now it’s past time for Justice Baisley to remove himself as well. The New York judicial recusal form provides a box for him to check: “I have a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party to the proceeding.” As a prominent individual plaintiff in the lawsuits admitted following the October 2022 injunction: “[Justice Baisley] must really f—-ing hate the town.” (“East Hampton loses battle to privatize airport,” New York Post, Oct. 20.)
Our Own Land
May 29, 2023
Justice Baisley’s rulings forbid our town from regulating use of our own land (the airport). How is this legal?
May 29, 2023
To the Editor,
Between the Pilot’s Pledge and the recent town board meeting that included a 2023 helicopter routes discussion, one thing is clear: The aviators and enablers are doing their best to shield East Hampton residents from the onslaught of noise and pollution. This comes entirely at the expense of neighboring towns. Unlucky Southold, Riverhead, and Southampton residents were subject to unrelenting day and night aviation noise of the wall-buzzing variety.
None of the 2023 routes are new; they are the same routes that have been used in the past and led to significant resident outcry. There is no way to abate helicopter noise. Over water is snake oil. Higher altitudes do a little, at best.
Why doesn’t the East Hampton Town Board make it equitable? Gather the address information for every air taxi user and plot the addresses. Run a regression and insist that aviators fly that route. I am confident that this type of equitable route would look nothing like the current routes. Present routes were designed to coddle the wealthy East Hampton residents who “bought close to an airport.”
May 29, 2023
To the Editor.
Uh-oh! An e-bike store has opened in Amagansett. Warning to the Town and Village of East Hampton: Take a lesson from New York City. Manhattan has become scary due to e-bikes. The e-bikes are speeding around all over, going faster than cars, going through red lights, going the wrong way, weaving around cars, riding on sidewalks. E-bikes have no insurance, no license plates, are not registered with the department of motor vehicles anywhere. The drivers do need driver’s licenses. The bikes cannot be traced.
There have been accidents, hit-and-runs, even the death of a woman. She was crossing the street and was mowed over by an e-bike that went through a red light. Where are these bikes going to park? On the sidewalks? In the car parking spots?
How about the walking trails where nature lovers go to hear birds, to be in quiet areas, to think. E-bikes are noisy and will physically destroy the trails. And what about the beaches? And what about the streets? Will they ride in the bike lanes or the car lanes or all lanes?
Beware, Town of East Hampton. Beware, Village of East Hampton (and all other town hamlets). Take action before it is too late. Require registration, require a permit, put signs up with rules, prepare restrictions as to where one may not ride and may not park. Plan in advance!
Not Most Beautiful
May 29, 2023
If you call the Village of East Hampton office its answering machine message is “Thank you for calling the Village of East Hampton, America’s most beautiful village.”
Driving into the village at the beginning of the holiday weekend, I was greeted by the sight of a dead deer at the side of the road opposite the Jewish Center. Not, as we are all too familiar with, an unusual sight, but, judging by the condition, this one had been there awhile.
Then as I rounded the corner by the lights where one normally expects to see a pristine pond with the possible sightings of herons, egrets, cormorants, assorted ducks, and, if you are lucky, the mischievous muskrats, but no, I was greeted by a pond of green filthy sludge. Not a great welcome.
Then a quick drive into the Reutershan lot to pop into the Stop and Shop. Now we all know it is never easy to park there but what greeted me was mind blowing. One side of the lot was closed due to repair work from the winter flooding (no fault of the village), but the other side was also closed and an absolute mess. God knows what’s going on there but it was the sight of the row of Porta-Potties that made me drive right out. Are you telling me that people who come to the village to shop at the likes of Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, Gucci and Ralph, Lauren to name just a few of the high end stores that have replaced the mom-and-pop stores of old, are going to be happy going to a Porta-Potty?
So no, I’m sorry, East Hampton Village, you are not America’s most beautiful village.
Paid by Taxpayers
East Hampton Village
May 29, 2023
Oh dear. This time a six-page advertisement in The Star promoting the political career of our village mayor, paid for by village taxpayers.
As I said in a similar letter some weeks ago, I believe that it is totally inappropriate for the village mayor to use village funds to promote his political ambitions.
The principal message of this week’s ad was to let residents know that the village tax rate would be declining marginally for the second year in a row. This news was actually reported in detail by The Star in the very same edition of The Star.
Another topic in the mayor’s advertisement dealt with the village reordering of Herrick Park, another subject that has been treated in detail by various news articles in The Star.
Am I the only village resident who is upset by this spending of village taxpayer funds to promote the political interests of our mayor? I hope not.
Takes All of Us
May 25, 2023
On behalf of the town of East Hampton Litter Action Committee, I want to thank you and The East Hampton Star team for helping to make our No-Fling Spring initiative such a success. Our goal was to create awareness and a buzz about making littering taboo. Thanks to The Star, the many townspeople who donned yellow vests for pickups, the students who showed up, our citizens advisory committees, the East Hampton Town Trustees, our local businesses and community organizations which lent their help and our collaborators for our amazing student video competition, we are on the road to changing behavior. It isn’t easy but with such tremendous support it can be done!
It takes all of us to keep East Hampton beautiful.
East Hampton Town Litter Action Committee
May 26, 2023
To the Editor,
Incompetence is the name of the game. A few weeks back The Star had a “Guestwords” that mentioned the overworked Building Department. Unfortunately it’s more along the line of their own gross malfeasance. If someone does something wrong, it is continually forgiven or forgotten. The Town Building Department even wrote in an email that I’ll paraphrase: We don’t have this information. It is at (insert any) department. The Building Department is to be in explicit knowledge of this information.
How did and do they issue valid permits or certificates of occupancy without knowing this information? The point is they haven’t. Even Dave Buda spoke after me at a town board meeting a few weeks ago and said he agrees with me, though, “It isn’t years. It’s been decades.”
Above the Law
May 24, 2023
To the Editor:
The Democrats continue to shout, “No one is above the law.” That is not true, if you are a Clinton or a Biden.
If you’re a Trump (or someone who supports his policies), Nancy Pelosi said it best: “You will have every opportunity to prove your innocence”
May 29, 2023
My Memorial Day will be spent first by raising the American flag. Prayers will also be said. Family attendance at the parade and coffee with friends
I haven’t watched Fox News in over seven months, however I find only short minutes from local stations mentioning conservative news.
Hey Mike, if Fox News just called you about a bridge, perhaps you should buy it, we all know where you stand: strictly ignorant.
In God and country,
Lying All the Time
May 29, 2023
In an international study, people were asked how many 2-cent stamps were in a dozen. Forty-seven percent of Americans had the wrong answer, 20 percent of French, 16 percent of English, and 23 percent of Egyptians did as well. What was remarkable was that 76 percent of Americans who identified as Republicans refused to accept the right answer.
While we often describe ourselves as the greatest country in the world, we are virtually alone in this assertion. Even though the belief is mindless drivel, it somehow gives us a sense of well-being.
So, while 60 percent of Americans think we should reduce some spending to help solve the debt crisis, one thinks of the 47 percent in the above study and we are obligated to discard the poll.
How did we get such a huge deficit? The answer is that we spend $1.5 trillion on defending the country that has been attacked once in its history. We have Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, etc., and all of them are mediocre at best. But, that alone isn’t the problem. Poverty is a huge issue, and if we ended the self-perpetuating cycle of poverty we wouldn’t need food assistance, etc.
These two areas we can work on in a reasonable logical way. Social Security and health care can’t be adjusted — people live longer and cost more. Poisoning our parents is the only real solution. No one, in government, planned for this old-age phenomenon.
Yet, the most serious problem besides the ignorance issue is the normalization of pathological lying. Is it wildly imaginable to believe the Kevin McCarthy and his crew are not lying all the time? Worse perhaps is: Do they know that they are lying?
Pathological liars are sick. Can’t help themselves. Probably shouldn’t be running the country. Would you let any of then babysit for your kids?
The Republican deficit scam is that, by reducing programs designed to help the poorest members of the society, we will lower the deficit and get people out of poverty quicker. Reduce the most dollar-effective and important programs in order to allow the rich to pay less taxes. The deficit drops by a fraction for a year or two, but the need continues to grow — reverse drivel-down economics. Thus, people migrate to other programs or even more public support systems.
Income distribution and wealth are the two main issues. Income is leaving workers behind, and much of the earned income in the country produces virtually nothing. The increasingly upward-skewered distribution of wealth is a tax issue, which the government can control but refuses to do so.
So an agreement has been reached that will not alter the taxing system, not substantially influence programs for the poor, won’t do squat for the deficit, giving the sense that the entire thing was a charade. (How important are charade skills in D.C.?)