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The Mast-Head: Respect the Neighbors

Wed, 09/01/2021 - 16:33

A three-way conversation that I had by chance over the weekend inadvertently got to the root of something that underlies a lot of conflict here. The subject ostensibly was changes in East Hampton, especially since a new development-friendly majority took over Village Hall, but it hinted at much more than that, the spurious argument that residents may object to this or that project because they are simply against anything new, and therefore should be ignored. This reductionist thinking goes that opposition really comes from knee-jerk obstructionism, not substantive concerns.

The couple that I was talking to about a planned brewery restaurant on Toilsome Lane in the village really wanted to make this point. The neighbors were just against change, they said.

It took me a while to put my gut feeling into words. When they came, I said that no one had any right to dismiss the view of someone else simply because they disagreed with them. A resident chose to live in a place based on a set of conditions at the time, I said, not some hypothetical idea about what might be some day. And so, of course, that resident might find fault with something that would alter the qualities that had brought him or her here in the first place — or made them decide to stay rather than move away.

People who bought property near the town airport hear stuff like this all the time. It is their fault, they are chided, what did they think was going to happen? But what if the property owners made their choices back well before the helicopter boom and before jet flights increased to an almost farcical frequency, I said. Were they wrong to make decisions to buy at least in part based on conditions at the time?

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered where I might find this unicorn — the person against everything for the sake of being against everything — but I did not ask. The unicorn does not exist. Whether one agrees with them or not, the Toilsome Lane brewery neighbors must be respected, as should those in a section of Springs for which a towering cellphone and emergency communications pole is planned.

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