September 25, 2023
I would like to reach out to our local Montauk emergency response heroes with a great big thank-you for all they do.
You never think it will happen to you. Until one day it does, and before you know it, helping hands are coming to your rescue -- true heroes that are waiting in the wings to swoop in and save us in our deepest, darkest, life-threatening times of need -- only to be gone just as quickly without a moment for us to say thank you.
We would like to extend a huge and very appreciative thank-you to the first responders and paramedics who assisted my husband after a fall that fractured his hip on Aug. 25. This is not the first time these heroes have saved the day, but this time I did get the names of some of these professional volunteers. With that, we gratefully wish to thank our medics, Charlie Lynch, Donna Hitscherich, Tom Barbieri, and Robert Friedberg, Maryellen Brennan -- our emergency medical technician, as well as Alan Burke -- our E.M.T. and ambulance driver, of the Montauk Fire Department. The 911 operators and the police officers (who always arrive first), you have our deepest gratitude as well. A special thank-you to the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital emergency team, the team of surgeons that assisted in repairing my husband's fractured hip, mainly Dr. Hubble, and the third-floor nursing staff and assistants who played such a big role in my husband's recovery.
These wonderful volunteers and professionals have been here time and time again to save the day. For that, we are forever grateful for their service.
September 23, 2023
To the Editor:
I read with overwhelming incredulity "The Springs Fire Department Updates Cell Tower Proposal," by Christopher Gangemi (East Hampton Star, Sept. 21, 2023). Surely, you could not print this without rolling on the floor laughing. This fiasco of deliberate bureaucratic obstruction (that has been going on for more than 10 years) deserves strong, pointed editorial comment -- not a passive recitation of the saga. Is there no longer a conviction that Democratic (sic) government should serve the people? I mean the vast majority instead of a very few property owners and their political allies. The headline and immediate follow-up blame the decades-long delay in providing adequate cell as the result of foot dragging by the fire department. Ha, ha, ha!
The funniest line (to those of us following this travesty of democratic government) is from the town's emergency communications director, Ed Schell, where he is quoted as saying, "Our hope is to be operational by next summer, but I'm not sure that's going to happen." Ha, ha, ha!
As I mentioned in my last letter, it only took four months to assemble the 152-foot-tall Statue of Liberty on an island (after arriving from France in 214 crates), only four years for the Los Alamos Project (1942-46) to create and detonate the first nuclear explosion, four years from start to finish to get John Glenn safely orbiting our planet, and only two years to build Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2. Why has the East Hampton Town bureaucracy under cover of administrative and legal shenanigans delayed and delayed again getting its residents working cell service for over a decade? The reason can only be that they do not want to do it.
Forget all the claims of competing interests and complex negotiations. In this time, Elon Musk has managed to make Space X the main rocket transporter of the United States of America and Tesla the most valuable car company in the world, in addition to co-founding PayPal, creating Starlink (currently with 4,097 working satellites), running X (formally called Twitter), or half a dozen other innovative companies. These are complex tasks. Putting up a couple of working cell towers in a 375-year-old community that is among the wealthiest in the world, is, by comparison, not such a big challenge.
The political strategy of delay, and administration confusion, must be designed to imitate this interchange from Douglas Adam's "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
"But the plans were on display."
"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
"That's the display department."
"With a flashlight."
"Ah, well, the lights had probably gone out."
"So had the stairs."
"But look, you found the notice, didn't you?"
"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying, 'Beware of Leopard.' " Ha, ha, ha!
I guess East Hampton Town dignitaries must work in an environment surrounded by lions, tigers, leopards, hippopotamuses and King Kong-size gorillas. That must be why they have not gotten a couple of cell towers up and working in Springs over the last decade. Ha, ha, ha, ha!
Block Some Views
September 25, 2023
Among the most stable of our beaches on the South Shore of Long Island are those anchored to the sand by so-called "invasive" flora. One of those areas is in Montauk within the area called the Benson Reserve. It is both beautiful and functional while maintaining our beaches through storms and other beach-depleting occurrences.
But oh, oh, these magnificent natural yet admittedly invasive stabilizers, during their growth, tend to block some of the views of the beach from some of the residential and commercial motel structures from across the road.
Didn't we agree that the best scientific advice for stabilizing the beach was by taking down a portion of the dunes and replacing it with the non-evasive (who brought them?) geodetic tubes? Not pretty or effective but recommended by "science" (Army Corps), and maybe other self-serving interests?
I guess it's what I was taught growing up: "trust science," but also "question authority." So, I'm just asking how come nobody talks about maintaining their personal view of the beach? Self-serving perhaps but at least honest. After all, it's their front yard.
By the way, the town actually has quite a few nitrogen-saturated waters and ponds, that pose a clear and present danger to the health of our community. Does anyone know if goats swim?
From the old goat,
More Critical Needs
September 25, 2023
When I first learned about the Benson Preserve project about a month ago, my reaction was twofold: "What could be wrong with this stunning expanse of oceanfront vegetation and dune that never fails to captivate me whenever I drive Old Montauk Highway back to Montauk?" My second thought was, "Why invest with such fervor in a project like this when Montauk grapples with far more pressing water quality concerns?"
How can it make sense to allocate precious state environmental grant funding to a venture that appears to yield no discernible water-quality benefits?
Shouldn't we prioritize, for instance, the installation of bioswales at every stormwater drain discharging into Fort Pond to combat toxic algae blooms? Shouldn't we address the Surfside outflow pipe, which disgorges highly contaminated water into the ocean? Or use this funding, be it private or public, to supplement existing state, county, and town septic-upgrade funding, particularly in harbor protection overlay districts, for both residential and commercial properties? Such funding could be scored and allocated based on identifying the most-critical upgrades. Another worthy initiative is to advocate for implementing septic system upgrades upon property sales. If you want to work on stabilizing a dune, look no farther than Ditch Plain. The list of more critical needs is extensive.
Regrettably, my initial ambivalence on the utility of the project turned into grave concern as I learned more about the project itself. Advocates of this project use the word "invasive" to suggest that this area is in decay and that nothing short of ripping out these so-called invasives will save it. I encourage everyone to walk through one of the well-maintained paths that traverse the reserve toward the ocean and observe the thicket that serves as a remarkable stabilizer. Visualize attempting to uproot these invasives, some of which boast horizontal root structures extending up to an astonishing 30 feet, without causing significant damage or compromising native vegetation. Even if such an endeavor were attainable and native plants could be successfully introduced, it would still take three to five years for their roots to establish themselves and render the area resistant to erosion. The feasibility of accomplishing this without the use of irrigation is questionable.
Another challenge pertains to how we can prevent the invasives from reclaiming the area without perpetual maintenance. Where will the funding for this ongoing effort come from?
Essentially, over the course of three to five years, the result would be a destabilized ecosystem that was previously in total equilibrium, leading to pronounced erosion and potential degradation of beach grass and the dune itself, particularly given the increasing severity of weather events. At this juncture we should be celebrating the existence of such an extraordinary natural coastal protection buffer -- the only one that exists in Montauk -- not destabilizing it. I would further contend that this ecosystem may not truly harbor invasives, as our environment has evolved significantly, and what was considered native 50 years ago may no longer thrive today. Moreover, I would advise against placing excessive reliance on any one expert, even those with honorable intentions, especially if they stand to gain financially from executing the project. Such a scenario represents a clear conflict of interest.
When considering the merits of this project, it is notable that the Montauk Beach Property Owners Association rejected a similar project just west of the Benson Preserve due to concerns that it would destabilize that property. There was talk of a bond being required for that project to even be considered in the event that their worst fears were realized. A similar bond should be required here should this project misguidedly move forward. An alternative recommendation to satisfy those advocating for this project to improve their vistas, is to simply hire a landscape contractor with a cherry picker and trim from the road without disturbing the root structures -- a win-win for everyone.
Having collaborated on other environmental initiatives with many of this project's proponents, I implore my friends to exercise caution and not place undue reliance on so-called experts. Let's not make the same mistake made with the Army Corps geotube project, where many well-intentioned individuals trusted experts to endorse what essentially amounts to an erosive hard structure on the beach.
This project is not overly complex. One only needs to rely on common sense and intuition. Most important, adhere to the timeless principles of "do no harm" and "do not look for a problem where none exists."
As for those who say we can pursue the other environmental projects listed above and still do this project, I suggest we score them environmentally and do them in that order. It's time to be realistic and get our priorities in order.
September 23, 2023
To the Editor,
I read your story about the town's plans to finally upgrade all streetlights to LEDs with interest, given this was something I suggested to the Natural Resources Department seven years ago. Unfortunately, after all that time they still can't choose the correct bulb to install; at the insistence of their consultant, the New York Power Authority, they'll be using lights with higher kelvin (2,700) than necessary. These lights will be brighter and harsher than the sodium-vapor lights currently used.
When the town first announced over a year ago that it would set up two new LED lights for review, it only offered the choice between 3,000 kelvin and 2,700 kelvin streetlights. At the time, I sent the town some information about lower-kelvin lights (2,200) that another town in Massachusetts had chosen a few years earlier that they were quite happy with. I asked the town to add a lower-kelvin light as an option to compare given that when the other town, Pepperell, had done the same thing, 70 percent of their residents chose the lowest-kelvin 2,200 light over our options.
This suggestion was first turned down since, I was told, they had to make a decision within a week, or they might lose a state grant. A year later and nothing has been done, it would seem, despite that deadline. Second, I was told we need the higher-kelvin lights for safety purposes in high-traffic areas with pedestrians. While this might be true for some of the lights to be installed, it certainly is not necessary for the vast majority and still ignores the fact that 2,200 kelvin lights will be 20 percent brighter than the current ones we have used for decades without a problem.
This is sadly just another example of how the town can't make what should be a fairly simple decision on their own and when they do fork over money to consultants, it is often wasted.
This was also the case with another NYPA report that was commissioned to study solar potential on town property almost six years ago. What do we have to show for it today -- a small 75-kilowatt political patronage project on the Parks Department installed by a company from Buffalo. This is only a tiny fraction of the 1 megawatt the report suggested, which is probably only half of what could actually be done.
If the town would consider taking advantage of the tax credits available now to nonprofits, it could offset all of its own operational electric usage with renewable energy and save taxpayers money over the long haul -- a win-win that should be hard to ignore for a town that declared a climate emergency over two years ago.
If it really wanted to be progressive, the town should consider providing land for a community solar project that would help both local residents and business owners to lower their electric bills while also going green. Perhaps half of the 97 acres used by the gun club that are up for renewal next month should be put out for bid for such use.
The gun club could still remain while the town would likely generate hundreds of thousands in new lease income annually from a solar project. This would also improve the resiliency of the local grid while reducing the town's overall emissions footprint, something it has claimed as a goal for almost a decade now without much besides meaningless pledges and declarations to show for it.
September 24, 2023
I would like to applaud East Hampton Police Chief Michael Sarlo for exercising his First Amendment right of free speech to endorse the reopening of the Maidstone Gun Club. His position, that the gun club greatly aids in the training and certification of his police force in pistol and rifle skills, certainly resonates with common sense. I would also like to mention that the United States Coast Guard, the military division of Homeland Security, also uses the facility for training and certification of its members.
I think that all residents of East Hampton Township will rest assured that its police force will know when and how to use deadly force, and when and how the Coast Guard will be able to do the same regarding domestic terrorism.
September 25, 2023
To the Editor,
I am Scott W. Smith and I am running for town board in the election this November. I have been on the campaign trail for almost a year and I have met a lot of people and made many friends along the way. I have also met many who are upset and frustrated on a national level. I have experienced that even in local politics people seem to be polar and tend to vote strictly for a party, not for an individual. I firmly believe voting in this way is never going to bring a country or a community together. It just confirms the division of the people. The reality is we will never move forward if we can't start somewhere.
On a local level we should be voting for the individual, not the party, an individual who represents what we all want and who will achieve that goal. I have had many in-depth conversations with individuals who all want the same thing -- to get along. I believe in solutions, not litigation. I don't believe in taking things away from the people, I believe in compromising to make it work for all of us. I believe in protecting the people and their rights. I want to bring back pride to the employees of East Hampton. I am confident that I can make 90 percent of the people happy with my leadership. I am Scott Smith, I'm running for East Hampton Town Board. I look forward to your vote on Nov. 7.
September 24, 2023
Congratulations to the Amagansett School being named a National Blue Ribbon School, one of three on Long Island, one of 22 in New York State and one of 353 nationwide. Unfortunately the article appearing in The Star had to document other issues, some deserving of continuous discussion, others appearing to be whining and examples of self-interest.
The teachers, students, administration, school board, and parents all deserve the accolades that follow this prestigious award, which seemed to be missing from those at the school board meeting.
HUGH R. KING
Two in One
September 25, 2023
To the Editor:
Manny Vilar, the town Republican chairman running for Suffolk County legislator, is two candidates in one -- he has a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde thing going.
He has written a series of broad, bland, sympathetic letters to The Star, apparently trolling for Democratic and independent swing votes from people who haven't researched him, making statements like, "This Election Day, let's move forward to protect our environment, community, and future" (Aug. 3).
In your letters pages last week, however, his contribution was from his Mr. Hyde self: "The radical Working Families Party has memorialized in their platform several positions that should be of great concern to residents of the South Fork." Observers of New York politics are well aware that the W.F.P. mostly endorses mainstream Democrats (and a few moderate Republicans). Yet Mr. Vilar, in his Hyde letters over the years, bandies about such exclusionary, marginalizing and -- let's be frank -- radical rhetoric of his own, implying that adversaries are not fit or safe to be part of the American political community.
Given Mr. Vilar's Hyde-side, and his standing as chairman of the local Republicans, here are the questions which he should be answering for potential swing voters: Does he support Donald Trump for our next president? Does he believe the 2020 election was stolen? How does he feel about L.G.B.T. people? Immigrants? What is his take on Roe v. Wade?
Mr. Vilar, I await your next letter.
For democracy in East Hampton,
Cost of Living
September 21, 2023
I'm amazed at the simplicity with which some candidates discuss traffic and housing problems on the South Fork as if they were unrelated. Both issues (traffic, and housing) are rooted in the same fundamental cause: failures in planning, and there seems to be little desire to address the difficult core problem.
In a traditional community, there is a core economic base from which a living wage and cost of living are derived. The income potential generated by that economic core base sets the standard for the price of homes and the overall cost of living. On the South Fork, a combination of bad planning and poor decisions has dramatically altered our economic core base to one based on the income potential of our second-home owners. In that model, there is a tipping point when the medium income of second-home owners surpasses the income potential of local residents. When that happens, the cost of living and homes becomes distorted. This transference of the income potential is the root core of our housing problem.
Planners, politicians, and everyone in between failed to anticipate that second-home ownership would have driven up housing prices, thus creating a local flight that would, in turn, necessitate more individuals commuting to the South Fork. East Hampton and Southampton are at technical buildout, and no large tracts of land are left to develop; if there were, the price would be cost prohibitive. Creating 100 or even 1,000 affordable homes will not fix this vicious circle.
There is no way to build enough affordable housing or other political gimmicks to change that dynamic except for one solution: creating an economic environment where the potential exists to elevate the median income of local residents.
Creating that economic environment will be challenging. It will require investment in infrastructure, community engagement, and zoning solutions to enable the growth of businesses that will create comparable salary-sustainable jobs.
As county legislator, I will work closely with our state and town representatives to seek long-term solutions. I will bring two decades of legislative and governmental experience and am prepared to lead the charge. On Nov. 7, I ask for your vote for Manny Vilar, county legislator. If you have any thoughts on this or other pressing issues, don't hesitate to contact me at 631-324-0528 or by email at [email protected].
September 24, 2023
To My Fellow Groundlings:
Previously the mention was made to follow town board resolutions. Have you? It's begun as we head into autumn. I personally can't believe the day has arrived, though not the time to yet speak to poor Yorick. As if the turn to fall has the Wayward Sisters' cauldron bubbling. From a midsummer night's dream to a true comedy of errors. Much ado about nothing but as you like it.
September 25, 2023
Please say you're not surprised to find out that Joe Biden used email accounts totally under false names so he could keep his son Hunter in his loop. He wanted Hunter in official United States government business. F.Y.I., when high officials were involved in fishy, strange activity they kept themselves shielded from public disclosure laws, so they used pseudonym email accounts, this includes ex-President Obama.
The Obama Justice Department cleaned up Hillary Clinton's criminally negligent mishandling of classified information, through her lawless server system. Hillary set up this server for her sole purpose of doing official business and, surprise, it would have implicated Obama, as she corresponded with Obama, using said server. If Clinton would have been charged, the truth is she and Obama were both using fake addresses.
The Biden corruption evidence is gaining speed, including evidence the then-vice president was full blown with his contacts and Hunter's foreign partners who were paying millions of dollars into the Biden family coffers.
In God and country,
End of Woke
September 20, 2023
In Sunday last's New York Times Opinion section Ross Douthat wrote an article about the end of "woke." He is a thoughtful, intelligent conservative writer whom I enjoy reading. Yet, this time he lost his bearings and the only reasonable way to describe his piece is dumb. Dumb for a guy who is never dumb is exponentially dumb. Too bad.
The end of woke, or woke having run its course, is the essential conundrum around American racism. If we start with George Floyd and the introduction of woke into the American mainstream consciousness it may be easier to understand. (Woke has existed in certain Black communities for 150 years; "be woke" took hold after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 as a warning for Black people to watch their backs.) Floyd was publicly beaten and killed by regular police who were conducting business as usual. The outcry developed into Black Lives Matter and a worldwide awareness and condemnation of racism in the United States.
Racism has always existed in the U.S. There is a core belief that people of color were and are inferior to white people. While the Constitution said otherwise, it didn't prevent slavery nor the Indigenous genocide. The Civil War freed the slaves but didn't change their color. De facto slavery existed in much of the country but had morphed into a different form. Even in World War II, Black soldiers were segregated and weren't permitted to participate in the G.I. Bill. Under Lyndon Johnson, civil rights legislation was passed in 1964-65 reasserting the constitutionality of equality. Voting rights laws, anti-discrimination laws, etc., were passed and ignored for another 50 years. A long time and a lot of laws about equality before George Floyd's death. Woke morphed again on the left to include many liberal concepts around human rights and freedoms, but we shall give that a pass.
The simplest and clearest definition of woke is: Take your head out of your ass and smell the roses, or obey the laws of the land and take your knee off our necks. There is no debate about personal and systemic racism. They are documented beyond question. The problem is the refusal to accept our reality, obey the laws and the Constitution and stop it. It's expensive.
So, we do what we always do: obfuscate, deny, bob and weave, and then attack the veracity of the proven truth. Woke raised consciousness that didn't want to be raised. The end of woke means nothing. Return to business as usual. Douthat had to know that, yet he wrote his piece. Eulogizing woke is essentially the crowning of racism, which already has a crown.
We somehow want or need to be racist. Is it our DNA or religious fealty? Woke tells us who we really are. Thank God it's over.