Question Housing Data

Planners say they stand by figures in report

    At an East Hampton Town Board meeting last Thursday night, Debra Foster, a former Democratic town councilwoman, questioned the veracity of some of the data included in a report on housing in East Hampton Town.
    The report, prepared by the town Planning Department to be used as a basis for town board decision making, pulls information from numerous sources, including 2010 United States Census data and the town’s own studies that were included in the 2005 comprehensive plan. However, some figures come from the American Community Survey, a federal compilation of data conducted between formal censuses, and those figures, Ms. Foster said, are drawn from too small a sample to be reliable.
    She said in particular that information regarding Springs School stood out as incorrect. With the 2010 census complete, she suggested using the formal census data instead.
    Ms. Foster said that Eric Schantz, a town planner who prepared and presented the report, and Marguerite Wolffsohn, the planning department head, had told her that they had doubts about using the American Community Survey data and had expressed them to Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, but that Ms. Quigley had told them to go ahead. Ms. Wolffsohn and Mr. Schantz both refuted Ms. Foster’s account earlier this week.
    Her statement last Thursday prompted an angry response from Ms. Quigley, who also disputed Ms. Foster’s version of events. As the oral sparring continued, with Supervisor Bill Wilkinson adding his own comments in Ms. Quigley’s defense, Ms. Foster insisted on finishing her comments, even in the face of calls from the audience to sit down.
    In statements issued earlier this week, Ms. Wolffsohn and Mr. Schantz defended the data used. “I have complete confidence in the Planning Department staff and their work, specifically the data provided by Eric Schantz for the housing needs discussion group,” Ms. Wolffsohn wrote.
    Mr. Schantz said that the data “was compiled using professional standards of disclosure and reliability,” and that “specific claims to the contrary by former Councilwoman Debra Foster are an affront to my integrity and the integrity of the Planning Department, as well as patently false.”
    The federal Web site for the American Community Survey  provides specific recommendations and advisories regarding how various entities, including municipalities, should use various categories of information generated from the survey, such as data on economic, housing, and social characteristics.
    Because of differences in the ques