On the Beach
July 29, 2011
To The Editor:
Maybe (?) East Hampton Town could — should — address at least one of the issues below concerning the beach in Wainscott on Beach Lane:
1. The sign clearly says, “No Dogs between the hours of 10 a.m.-6 p.m.,” yet dogs are on the beach morning, noon, and night. Not only do owners disobey the sign, they often unleash their dogs, thus dogs wander onto people’s blankets (some of us are allergic to dogs!), plus dog poop is all over the beach.
2. Debris is all over the beach from fires and cookouts the morning after. Foodstuff, bottles, burnt wood, charcoal, bones, and corncobs litter the beach. If this cannot be controlled, then ban fires.
3. The wood fence protecting the dunes is slowly disappearing. The aforementioned nighttime-cookout people break the fence to use for firewood. Slowly, little by little, our beaches are being ruined.
4. The 15-minute parking regulation at the top of the lot is constantly ignored, thus the turning area for cars becomes blocked. Backing down a long road with cars on both sides, bicycles being ridden, and people walking is not an easy task. Why don’t the police ticket this offense?
The police ride by every now and then, ticketing cars with no stickers. But they do little else. They say they do not have the authority to “police” the beach. Someone should have the authority and use it.
5. There is no designated area for surfers. Years ago they surfed to the far right; now they surf in the middle, straight down from the parking lot, where most people swim. This situation is dangerous for swimmers, especially children. How about a designated area for surfers away from the swimmers?
Save the beaches before it is too late.
July 30, 2011
To the Editor,
This letter is for the residents of Lazy Point who came to a meeting last February at Town Hall to discuss the erosion of Lazy Point. At that meeting a few things seemed to be agreed on. I would like to let you know what has been going on since then.
The first thing that seemed to be agreed on was that the erosion was being accelerated by the west side channel that was opened in the late 1960s. It was accelerated again when the opening was made wider by town officials who told us that by doing this, they would slow the current down.
We who live here saw the exact opposite happen. The current became tremendous and now erodes away five times more sand in every storm. That is why we went to the meeting. We thought a plan of action had been agreed to at that meeting.
The plan seemed to be that the east opening should be made wider so boats could use this as the main opening with the sand taken out being used to repair the beaches that had been eroded. It seemed we agreed that eventually the west side should be closed. I say seemed because since then this is what is actually occurring.
The town is trying to re-up a permit it had let expire to dredge the east channel. This will not open it up wide enough for boats to navigate through, and the permit requests that the sand be placed on Hicks Island. We are now being told that this will slow the current down. The only problem is that the town has done this a few times before and all that happens is that the east side closes due to the west side shoaling it up. I don’t know why they request the sand be placed on Hicks Island instead of being used to shore up the beaches as stated at the meeting.
The same person who told us a few years ago that opening the gut wider would slow it down now says he would like to get a permit to open it even wider. He believes that now this will slow the current down. This was said at a trustee meeting in June. Of course the really distressing thing about this is that at the same meeting Bill Wilkinson told us that he did not have anyone on the payroll qualified to tell him whether or not the west side opening was causing the erosion or not. Oh, really? Then who is making the decisions for the town that is causing all the damage down here?
All up and down the East Coast, beaches are being repaired and replenished at coastal resort towns but they are being done by qualified hydrologists who know what they are doing. We are a coastal resort town surrounded on three sides by water. It is time for East Hampton to get serious about repairing our beaches.
As for Lazy Point, Mr. Wilkinson did ask at a town board meeting for the Army Corps of Engineers to be contacted to see if it can confirm what the residents have been saying all along, but as of yet no one has been notified whether this has occurred.
It is terrible that people down here are losing their homes but it is worse when you realize that the very people who are charged with protecting our shorelines are the ones who are causing the damage.
Come on, East Hampton, you can do better than this.
Just Bad News
July 30, 2011
It is outrageous that the East Hampton Town Board is considering purchasing a wooded parcel on Six Pole Highway in Wainscott on the grounds that “it has an awfully nice trail running through it.”
The town, according to another newspaper, has been making a “concerted effort to purchase land in that area of Wainscott.” Really? What prompts them to buy that Six Pole property and not make any effort, concerted or otherwise, to buy a lovely 8.9-acre wooded parcel on Oakview and Middle Highways? It too has an awfully nice trail running through it.
Funny isn’t it that you had to scour the said newspaper to find the little article that reported the proposed purchase. Why no front page, if it is such a good thing? Now this newspaper, by the way, did not report an article at all, only listed it in the briefs section, one sentence. Only a very interested person looking for it would find it. Just saying.
One has to wonder how the wheels turn at Town Hall and how hard has it been trying to get the little parcel on Oakview and Middle Highways (the Webb land) listed? We have been requesting this for three years now. We were assured this would truly happen. We have been more than patient. However, we are not fools.
We will never give up, and it is high time for our request to be fulfilled. The $3.2 million to buy the 25 acres at 198 Six Pole Highway is very nice and generous of the East Hampton Town Board, but what about us? We would love a few million thrown Ronald Webb’s way so preservation can be a reality right here in our lovely woods.
The Webb parcel sits dangerously close to a Suffolk Water Authority well system supplying our drinking water. Yes, the aquifer is there, too. This is not somewhere in the future, this is what exists now. How can a town’s government ignore this? How do you not protect the drinking water? It’s downright dastardly.
Why doesn’t the town board go out of its way to offer Mr. Webb a fair price and get preservation on the table? What is the problem, boys and girls?
The Webb parcel is home to wildlife, too. We have been trying to save that forest from destruction, as the builder would have done had his plan to develop been entertained or feasible. Thankfully, we proved it was not. Thankfully the very smart planning board said no way.
The town board rezoned the property and then dropped the ball. The land acquisition committee, last we heard, was going to place Mr. Webb’s land on the preservation list. A price for his 8.9 acres was offered, we were told. Mr. Webb, the developer, turned it down. He wanted more money. Nothing has been done since. And now Wainscott’s wooded parcel is going to be preserved? Why not the nice one here? What’s up? We want to know.
A whole community is very unhappy and we are 200 local voting members strong. This situation is just bad news any way you look at it. Someone who is pulling the strings with these decisions needs to step up and deliver the right goods. Why are we ignored time after time in these preservation purchases? We will not sit idly by and witness and tolerate this runaround. Expect a fight. You obviously asked for one. I am disappointed and mad as hell.
NANCI E. LaGARENNE
Failure to Enforce
July 31, 2011
The East Hampton Town’s and village’s failure to enforce its disabilities access laws is a sad affair, caused by neglect, not by a lack of money and information as contended in The Star’s July 21 issue. Complex planning and budgeting are not necessary for basic enforcements that are simple, inexpensive, long overdue, and required by federal and local law, regardless of a structure’s pre-existing status.
For example, I cannot join friends for breakfast in either of the village’s two relatively inexpensive restaurants. In one case, the arrangement of booths and tables has narrowed the path of travel to the bathroom to a width of 17 inches, less than half the width required by federal law for 20 years and local village law for 6 years, I cannot get through with my walker or wheelchair. I reported this in early May but as of last Thursday the blockage remains though all that is needed is the repositioning of a booth or table.
In the other restaurant there are no grab bars beside the latrines. It has been so in this restaurant for the 15 years it has been open, glaringly obvious for any inspection. I reported this several times over the years, also most recently this May, but as of last Thursday there is still no grab bar. Twenty-four inch by 11/2-inch metal grab bars cost $30 locally, $20 at Home Depot, and $10 on the Internet. Hardly a matter of “budgetary concern” or “aging infrastructure.” And if for some reason such a correction unduly burdens a business, the law provides them an out if they are ready to open their books and prove a hardship.
Such neglect of compliance and code enforcement is commonplace. I couldn’t attend David Hartstein’s memorial service in Montauk because the facility hosting it had no handicapped-reserved parking spaces I could find. This facility was, I believe, opened in 2005, approximately 15 years after the federal and state laws requiring handicapped-reserved parking and easily visible signs pointing to them went into effect, also after the town law was passed. They’ve had six years to come up with a bucket of blue paint and two signs.
Even our local government defies the law — its own laws. The new justice courthouse is particularly notable — and dangerous — with its heavy, fast doors and absurdly arranged handicapped parking, which requires wheelchair-bound people to park in undefined spaces and then traverse the roadway to reach the entrance.
And, as of a few weeks ago anyway, there was no assisted-listening device for town board meetings, though there was one in the old Town Hall. I cannot imagine how all this got past the project’s architect, two town boards, the inspectors, and the disabilities advisory board. It’s not as if they lacked an example. Access to the old town board premises was excellent.
What’s taking so long? Is there stonewalling here, or are we waiting for some elaborate Rube Goldberg, bureaucratic machine to get going? There are no great complications to the disabilities laws. Enforcement guidelines were successfully spelled out decades ago. President George H.W. Bush saw to it that the Americans with Disabilities Act was implemented within a year of its passage. How many more years are we to wait for such basics as safe and accessible parking and bathrooms?
Block the Nuisances
July 31, 2011
To the Editor:
We have been trying hard to enjoy a peaceful and green summer. That has become difficult in Water Mill. Loud parties outside send people who would like to sit outside and read and have peaceful discussions into the house with something to block the nuisances.
We had weekend guests who had enjoyed the last weekend in July so much that they decided to take Monday off and enjoy our Sunday night here in Water Mill. It turned out to be a sad waste of an evening and a day at work because of the noise here in Water Mill.
Someone back in the woods had a loud set of speakers outside, and as we all tried to gather and read and enjoy nature, the music pounded and pounded. We called the Southampton Police three times; the third time a rude female officer answered and just said they were attending to emergencies first. So we all came inside, turned on the loud air-conditioners, and instead of enjoying a beautiful, green, peaceful evening, we blocked out the noise with the air-conditioning.
Four calls to the police yielded no results by 11 o’clock, and we gave up on quiet reading and sat inside with air-conditioners blasting to keep out the noise.
I am in remembrance of reading, nature, and quiet.
July 30, 2011
Montauk’s popularity as a party destination has created traffic problems, parking problems, noise problems, and health and safety concerns. A popular spot owned by some of the people from the Surf Lodge, Ruschmeyer’s, is in a residential district, and its neighbors are suffering from all these conditions in the worst way. This would be disturbing enough if Ruschmeyer’s were operating legally, but in fact this business is operating with significant unresolved code violations.
At the town board meeting on July 21, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and several board members basically said that the crowds outside the restaurant were not covered by any part of the code. They referred to a loophole. What is the loophole? Is being outside the structure the loophole? If I held a noisy party on my front lawn, with my guests drinking alcohol, blocking neighbors’ driveways with their cars, and occasionally urinating on their front lawns, the police would surely shut me down after one complaint.
Is this the same loophole that allowed the Surf Lodge to continue operating last summer, to the chagrin of many, many residents? Apparently our town board didn’t care about last summer’s problems. They had an entire year to anticipate similar or worse conditions this summer and they have done nothing.
From their experience with the Surf Lodge, the owners of Ruschmeyer’s have learned how to handle our town board. First, act concerned (but do nothing), second, let the code violations stack up (a very minor cost of doing business). In this instance, the significant unresolved code violations include operating without a certificate of occupancy. They have not received their certificate of occupancy because they never took out a building permit for the modifications they made. Also, they never sought or received site plan approval. Maybe once a business disregards our town code, everything is a loophole!
Our town board members say they are concerned, but they do not seem to give a hoot about our quality of life. They are favoring scofflaw business operators over taxpayers with legitimate complaints. We can show our displeasure when we cast our votes in November. We local residents must determine what kind of community we should be.
August 1, 2011
I read your recent article regarding the dustup between the zoning board of appeals’ vice chairman, Don Cirillo, and the Planning Department. It’s unfortunate that something that was meant to be in-house became public, but nonetheless it did, and I would like to offer a few comments of my own.
First off, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I am not writing this to antagonize the vice chairman or critique his opinion. Instead, as a Z.B.A. member for nine and a half years and currently the second-longest serving member of the board, I feel I can offer a unique perspective.
When I was appointed, I went in hearing all the horror stories about the Planning Department and the zoning appeals process. At the time, I was pretty naive about the process and thought I knew about difficulties friends and acquaintances had getting permits and believed that I could be an objective member, as opposed to all these who automatically just say no. Then I bumbled around the first six months or so, getting my feet wet, learning a new, arcane language, and slowly started to realize that marrying the town code, legal ramifications, environmental conditions, and a person’s wants wasn’t always as easy as voting yes.
I’ve never had an agenda, other than trying to make the right decision given all the particulars of an application, and many times have had to vote in a way that is unpopular. It’s just the nature of the beast.
Anyway, what is being called into question by Mr. Cirillo is what is called the environmental assessment form and it is prepared by the Planning Department for each application that is brought before the Z.B.A. Being on the board for over nine years and observing roughly 120 hearings a year, I have probably read close to 1,000 of these E.A.F.s. I hope I can shed a little light on the controversy with a different opinion.
In a nutshell, E.A.F.s all follow a roughly similar format and are a technical analysis of the property that is before the board for a variance or natural resources permit request. They highlight a multitude of variables and conditions regarding a property, including but not limited to, the current building and environmental conditions, town code implications on the property, how the project may affect the property, neighbors, and environment, and how mitigation could help offset the development on the parcel.
Sometimes, some ancillary ideas are incorporated into the E.A.F.s, to, I suppose, suggest ideas to an applicant. For instance, one of the planners, Joel Halsey, has been studying “green” technology for professional development and it has become a sort of pet project. In the E.A.F.s he has been including ideas to make a project more environmentally friendly. It has never been required by the board to have a person adhere to those ideas, but I do know of people who have been influenced enough by this inclusion to make changes in their projects and utilize more green methods. To me, this has been a good result — every little bit helps. (On a side note, I’ve often thought it would be great to incorporate green building into mitigation and allow greater relief for projects that are awarded a LEED certification.) This is an example of what is being called into question and something that I have always regarded as a suggestion, not a requirement, and not even something to be included into mitigation.
All in all, the E.A.F.s are a pretty dry read, and, after reading them for years, they can become a bit routine. They are open to the public, and I wish anyone with concerns would come to the Z.B.A. office and read a dozen or so. You’ll probably find there isn’t anything alarming, unreasonable, or particularly earth-shattering in them retarding the Planning Department’s opinions or suggestions. In fact, a lot of the time, the Planning Department recommends approval of a project, often with mitigation. Mitigation that, to me, isn’t exceedingly onerous but helps offset development on an environmentally sensitive parcel.
It may be a scenic easement near wetlands, revegetation to either bring the property into clearing compliance or to further enhance protection to wetlands, septic upgrades, or a host of other items to clear up issues on a particular property. And, too, there are those instances in which the Planning Department recommends the denial of an application. When this happens, applicants usually either choose to alter their project to gain Planning Department favor or decide to challenge the department’s opinion and make their case at the public hearing.
Either way, the board takes the Planning Department’s view and weighs it against the project and the applicant’s argument. The board is well aware that it is not bound to the opinion of the Planning Department and can vote as it sees fit.
Personally, I have found the E.A.F.s to be an invaluable tool in the decision-making process. It is a great source of information regarding a property and its potential development regardless of whatever opinion the Planning Department may have. There is typically an in-depth cataloging of the environmental conditions and site-specific particulars of a property. Usually, they incorporate the property’s current state and the potential development and how it relates to the town code. This is particularly useful to educate one to the intricacies and subtleties of the town code. Also it is a great source of institutional knowledge. I’m not sure how one could make a decision without this information. I have found the E.A.F.s to be a beneficial piece of the decision-making process and they help consolidate the multiple variables that occur when trying to develop in environmentally sensitive areas.
What is ironic in this whole situation is that an applicant has to appear before the Z.B.A. because the project they are proposing is, due to zoning restrictions, expressly prohibited by the town code. The same restrictive town code that has been responsible for protecting the environment, health, and bucolic nature of East Hampton.
When a planner sets out to write an E.A.F., he is doing so regarding a project that, without Z.B.A. approval, would patently not be allowed by town code. It is inherent in the facts and of any written summary that under the auspices of the town code there will more than likely be some sort of negative slant to any proposal. Despite these odds, if I had to venture a guess, I bet the board has approved 90 to 95 percent of the applicants it has seen during my tenure.
The E.A.F.s don’t always cite specific scientific studies but, to me, this has never been an issue because I have always taken into account the planners cumulative years of college, postgraduate education, professional development courses, fieldwork, and their independent studies as the basis for their views. Even if some of the benefits of mitigation lean toward speculation (albeit sound and rational), isn’t it better to err on the side of caution in environmentally sensitive areas? Take projects around Napeague Harbor, the only body of water in the town that hasn’t ever been closed for shellfishing, should we take all precautions to preserve the pristine nature of this area? These are the types of responsibilities a board member encounters when deciding on an application, and the information contained in the E.A.F.s has always been extremely useful.
On a final note, I have a few comments about the Planning Department. I have always known this department, under the conscientious guidance of Marguerite Wolffsohn, to be diligent, expeditious, and fair. As far as I can tell, through my own interactions and that of an observer (on a weekly basis for almost 12 years), this is a highly committed, helpful, and professional group of people.
While there have been many planners while I’ve been on the board, the front of the rotation for the most of my time has been Joel Halsey and Brian Frank. As a group, and with these two in particular, I assert that they have always been well versed, informed, articulate, and professional. Their work ethic cannot be denied, their knowledge is deep, their commitment is palpable, and they wear sharp ties. While there have been times when we have disagreed, I’ve always had a perverse sense of satisfaction when they chided me months (years) after some decisions, when, as town employees, they could just be going through the motions, collecting their paychecks, and not really caring. But these people do.
Thanks for obliging me,
Protect and Preserve
July 26, 2011
Why is it that Amagansett does not look like any other Long Island suburb?
In large part it is because East Hampton Town has a town code with stringent rules built in to protect and preserve the environment and the “look” of the villages and hamlets in this township. Ultimately, this means preservation of your property value.
This is where the Planning Department and the zoning board of appeals come in. For example, if you want to build closer to your property line than is permitted by law, you must appear before the Z.B.A. and argue why you should receive a variance because of undue duress. The Planning Department advises the Z.B.A. based on an environmental assessment by a team of professionals who are not politically appointed, but are civil servants. It is headed by Marguerite Wolffsohn, an ecologist by training, who has been in her position for about 25 years, serving both Republican and Democratic town boards. I have dealt with her and she is very helpful in trying to advise and facilitate the process for the applicant.
Don Cirillo, by contrast, is a political appointee closely tied to Supervisor Bill Wilkinson. Mr. Cirillo helped run the election campaign for Mr. Wilkinson in 2009 and was the East Hampton Republican Committee treasurer. He was recently appointed vice chairman of the Z.B.A. by Mr. Wilkinson, apparently to facilitate the process for developers and others. It is convenient that he knows who the big contributors are to the Republican Party treasury. He also appears to have taken on the role of troublemaker to ultimately either get rid of the Planning Department altogether or at least marginalize it. Do you see the trend? We are trying to catch up with all the Long Island suburbs.
The exchange of memos between Mr. Cirillo and Ms. Wolffsohn is of interest and clearly exposes the feud and the intentions of the Wilkinson administration. The memos were not “leaked,” as Cirillo, et al., would have it, but they were discussed at a public (even televised) Z.B.A. meeting and released by Phil Gamble, the respected Z.B.A. chairman. Even Mr. Cirillo states in his memo “. . . so I decided to go on the public record.” That does not sound like an interoffice memorandum. It is telling that the memo came from Mr. Cirillo, the vice chairman, not from the chairman of the Z.B.A.
Both the memo and the response from Ms. Wolffsohn need to be posted and available to the public. This is not some pedantic argument about minutiae of town government, but it really is a symptom of a Wilkinson administration that is very much a foe of environmental concerns. It is of concern to all of us who like the way our home villages look and want to keep them that way. This should include second-home owners and businesses that thrive on the summer crowds.
DAVID POSNETT, M.D.
Behind Closed Doors
August 1, 2011
Your editorial “Taking on the Planners” is quite misleading and hysterical. My confidential memorandum of June 30 to Ms. Wolffsohn (the Director of the East Hampton Planning Department) was inappropriately and unprofessionally leaked to some media. It describes (among other things) situations where Planning Department staff possibly overstepped their bounds and abused their powers as town representatives. I can think of no better example to illustrate my concerns about a staff out of control and overstepping proper bounds than the unauthorized and illegal leaking of an official government document.
Nevertheless, let us discuss the issues raised in the memo. I believe in many cases the due process rights of applicants applying for variances have been violated. Environmental assessment forms prepared by the Planning Department staff (and officially presented as fact) are often rife with personal opinion and unsubstantiated conclusions. Nowhere are applicants advised that much of the form is personal opinion and therefore not legally binding for confirmation of their variance request and, ultimately, for obtaining a certificate of occupancy. The egregious example I cited in the memorandum was a planner opining in the form that an applicant should purchase “green” appliances and use recycled building materials for their new house — despite the fact that these Planning Department opinions have nothing at all to do with the variance being sought. The impression that was left, however, was that the applicant had better follow the recommendation.
In previous discussions with Planning Department staff, I have complained that the process is needlessly complicated and unacceptably time consuming. Applicants need to hire expensive attorneys, land surveyors, and expediters often for the most simple variance requests. Often the mitigation that applicants are pressured to accept is little more than confiscation of private property that may devalue the homeowner’s investment or requires the homeowner to use their property in a manner inconsistent with their wishes. All of this happens behind closed doors even before the applicant appears before the zoning board of appeals.
My memo also requests that the Planning Department (and I have asked for this now for a number of months) prepare a step-by-step document (a flow chart would be best) to inform the public of the exact process applicants should expect to go through from project conception to final approval. The Planning Department and zoning board process must be transparent to all, but especially to the applicants. Tell me how these comments are a “declaration of war on sound environmental review”? By your own words, you admit that for years many professionals in the field and their clients have had the same complaints. How many complaints need to be made by taxpayers over how many years before you feel better solutions should be instituted?
Yet, rather than responsibly addressing these issues, you and other vested interests shriek about Republican cabals and whine that talk of any efficiencies in the process is secret code for the “bulldozer’s blade over heritage and preservation.” How silly. How hysterical. How untrue.
We have seen this method of attack before. Your unfortunate rhetoric is meant to intimidate and shut down open, professional discussion but that is the method used by cowards, not professionals. It won’t work. Not this time.
East Hampton is a glittering jewel sitting on the East Coast. Its spectacular characteristics need to be cherished and preserved through responsible, serious environmental policies and sound fiscal management. The rights of homeowners must be balanced with the need for environmental preservation. But, those rights should never be abrogated by town planning officials, operating as activists, using the enormous power of their office to cajole, coerce, and confiscate in order to achieve a hidden personal agenda.
It is critical that East Hampton taxpayers are confident that the Planning Department and zoning board approval process is transparent, fair, and reasonable. The intent of the memo was to continue discussion with Planning Department staff toward that end.
I am privileged to be a member of the zoning board of appeals, and I look forward to serving the citizens of East Hampton to the best of my abilities for the public good. If that means criticizing current processes and making suggestions for efficiencies and encouraging fairness, I am committed to doing just that.
A Lotta Hats
August 1, 2011
Dear Mr. Rattray:
I find I must respond to your editorial “Taking on the Planners.”
The editorial attacks my husband, Don Cirillo, for writing a memorandum that was addressed to the director of the Planning Department, with copies to the chairman of the zoning board of appeals and the board’s counsel. In a stunning breach of professional and ethical conduct and, a spectacular example of management indiscretion, the memo, originally intended as a discussion document for staff and board members, was leaked by Planning Department staff to favored media.
Your right to publish this editorial is, of course, unquestioned. God bless our founding fathers. But, I am curious why you thought it was appropriate to mention that Don is the former treasurer of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee? He resigned that position way back in January.
You claim that it is relevant because Bill Wilkinson, also a Republican, is seeking re-election this fall yet you do not explain exactly what is relevant. Do you think that Don is doing Bill’s bidding? Obviously, you don’t know Bill, and you certainly know nothing about Don.
I am even more curious as to why you mention me as a Republican committee member? Which I am, proudly. But, I hold no public board positions in town (or anywhere else for that matter) that can affect anyone’s life. I cannot influence public policy. I have no vote to deny a variance to anyone.
I mean, it is not like I am, hmm, let’s see now, how about Peter Van Scoyoc? Months ago, he was anointed by the Democratic Party to run for East Hampton Town Board and yet he still sits and votes on the planning board. I think that’s relevant, don’t you? Yes sir, I think it is more than just relevant when an appointed public official who is collecting a taxpayer stipend is a standard-bearer and voice for the Democratic Party and candidate for town board with a very public and vocal political agenda, apparently sees no conflict, nor does he have any good government reservations about continuing to make rulings affecting the people of the Town of East Hampton. Phew! That’s a lotta hats that guy is wearing.
Is it relevant to ask, Mr. Rattray, when Mr. Van Scoyoc votes on a homeowner’s or business’s application, is he doing so because he thinks it is the best thing to do for the town, the environment, public policy, and law, or even the applicant? Or, are his votes reflections of what he thinks is important to get him elected? Are the public remarks he makes at televised planning board meetings campaign speeches or legitimate arguments for or against a particular case? Or, maybe, just maybe, he is voting to do the bidding of the Democratic Party and its vested interests to which he currently owes much and will owe even more upon election. Just which hat is he wearing when he sits on the planning board? Objective arbiter? Voice of the Democratic Party? Political candidate? Relevancy, anyone? You betcha!
By all accounts, Mr. Van Scoyoc is a very good man. I hope that he too is reflecting on these conflicts and possible competing loyalties. I understand that the law does not require a functioning appointed board member to resign his seat upon running for town elective office. But, I hope that Mr. Van Scoyoc values personal integrity and good government over this deficient law and resigns from the board to run a campaign free of any questionable issues or conflicts. Indeed, given the scandals of the recent past Democratic administration, I would think the Democratic Party would also want to appear above reproach, show the voters they are concerned with public integrity and ethics and ask Mr. Van Scoyoc to resign or at the very least, request a leave of absence from his planning board position until after the election.
I know just how important good government is to The East Hampton Star and also to the community groups in this town, especially when it comes to Republicans. Yeah, you guys are right there pointing out every possible conflict, every possible breach of ethics, and every possible impropriety even when there isn’t one. So, I know, I just know that you and the public interest groups will be the steadfast defenders of public integrity and good government for the people of East Hampton and start asking some questions of Mr. Van Scoyoc and the Democrats.
I know you see the relevancy in all of this, Mr. Rattray. I just know you do.
Read the Memo
August 1, 2011
To the Editor:
I have read the uniformly scathing editorials and the equally snarky letters to the editor in the various newspapers. However, I have not seen in print the “notorious” Don Cirillo memorandum sent to the Planning Department director, which precipitated the reaction.
One would think that any memorandum that generates so much controversy, taking up large blocks of valuable space in our local newspapers, would be published in at least one of those newspapers. What a revolutionary idea: give the public the opportunity to read the memo and decide for itself the value or detriment of the views expressed by the vice-chairman of the zoning board of appeals.
I find it amazing that people would react through letters without even seeing the memorandum. Such reactions can only be based on what reporters and editors, who no doubt have had the benefit of reading the memorandum, have to say. So once again, we the readers are left deciding an important issue through the filter of, what to my mind can only be described as, our politically charged press.
Print the memorandum and let us decide for ourselves.
Get a Copy
June 29, 2011
To the Editor,
As expected, The Star took the opportunity to use Don Cirillo’s leaked June 30 memo to Marguerite Wolffsohn, head of the Planning Department, to continue its attack on the East Hampton Republican party as the anti-environment party.
The memo was a follow-up to a previous conversation Mr. Cirillo had with Ms. Wolffsohn about the quality and pertinence of the department’s environmental assessment forms.
The Star’s editorial, in my opinion, fails to correctly describe the essence of Mr. Cirillo’s criticism. I have a copy of that memo. It may be obtained by filing a freedom of information request with the Planning Department, the town clerk, or Philip Gamble, chairman of the zoning board. Readers of The Star should read that memo.
In brief, Mr. Cirillo’s complains that the assessment forms prepared by the department’s planners are based on opinions and not based on and with citations from the town code and in the matter of environmental impact. No scientific studies or findings are quoted.
Mr. Cirillo further points out that the Planning Department never tells the applicants of their right of appeal.
In many instances, the applicant accepts the decision, not being an attorney, and withdraws their application. The memo points out that many applicants cannot afford an attorney as well as the cost of the requested variance. Many of the recommendations are expensive, often not required by the town code, and the applicant withdraws the application.
Mr. Cirillo’s memo warns Ms. Wolffsohn that zoning board decisions based on seemingly arbitrary assessment forms are subject to being overturned by a judge, if the applicant files an Article 78 proceeding to reverse the decision. Of course, that presumes an applicant can afford an attorney.
Clearly, nothing in the memo is an attempt to destroy the Planning Department. It is meant to encourage the department to improve the quality of the assessment forms and to be more forthcoming in telling the applicants of their rights.
Mr. Cirillo, in his memo, describes a discussion with a planner about the cost of hiring an attorney. The planner replies, if the applicant can afford a pool, the applicant can afford an attorney.
Mr. Cirillo’s memo reports that a planner whose assessment form recommended the type of kitchen equipment and building materials the applicant should use. Mr. Cirillo said it was not required by the town code to obtain the variance.
By now, the readers of this paper must realize they must get a copy of the memo.
Mr. Cirillo’s conversation with the planner on the issue of kitchen equipment and building materials can be seen on LTV’s Web site by simply going to the Web site and logging onto LTV on demand and viewing part two of the June 28 zoning board meeting. Reader, you decide.
On the question of supporting the environment, one must view the May 31 zoning board meeting about the request of the Bell Estate, also known as the Broadview Association, to repair the dock at the foot of its bluff on Gardiner’s Bay.
The association’s application was presented by Inter-Science Research Associates, who also work for the Village of Sag Harbor and Town of Shelter Island. Inter-Science argued the dock needed repair and was also needed to preserve the shoreline north of the dock. Their report was supported by Larry Penny, Rameshwar Das, and a researcher from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The fact that rebuilding the dock was permitted under the town waterfront revitalization plan was presented to the zoning board.
The variance was opposed by some members of the Broadview Association who do not have waterfront property. Being a cooperative association, the members would have to share the cost of rebuilding the dock, which might cost thousands of dollars.
The zoning voted 4 to 1 to deny the application with Cirillo dissenting. I read The Star’s report on that meeting and, at best, it left out the substance of the arguments in favor of rebuilding the dock. The report made Mr. Cirillo appear to be a something of a sorehead and out of step with the rest of the zoning board.
In fact, the majority of the zoning board was unconcerned about the potential environmental impact that would result due to the failure to rebuild the dock.
The readers of The Star who are interested in understanding Cirillo’s memo should get a copy, as well as watch the zoning board meetings noted above.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and when it comes to the East Hampton Republican Party, its public officials, and members, The Star, I believe, views them with a jaundiced eye.
August 1, 2011
Beverly Bond’s assertion (Letters, July 28) that Peter Van Scoyoc should resign from the planning board because he is running for town board is an unwarranted political attack, and unsupported by law. Supervisors and town board members from Cathy Lester to Jay Schneiderman have run and been elected while serving on the zoning or planning board.
Peter is one of the fairest members of the planning board and scrupulous in his adherence to the law. Any suggestion that his campaign will affect his planning work is simply unsustainable. Ms. Bond’s claim of a conflict of interest had no purpose other than to tar Peter’s image.
Peter is a Democrat who stands for equity to all, rich or poor, consistent with law. That has been his position all along. It won’t change. It’s not a conflict.
East Hampton Town
No Longer Tolerate
July 31, 2011
Superintendent of Highways Scott King seems to be a pathetic human being. He doesn’t seem to be able to accept responsibility for his own actions and attempts to blame everyone, including me, for those actions and the repercussions that may happen as a result of his actions. He also seems to blame the 2011 election season for why his workers at the Highway Department have decided to ask the Human Rights Commissions for help. I guess he thinks he can rewrite history.
I first learned of allegations of racial and physical abuse against Mr. King around August of 2009, before the 2009 elections. In fact I was told that a young man whom Mr. King had allegedly abused had quit his job and moved to Florida, while Chris Russo was still superintendent of highways. Mr. King was Mr. Russo’s deputy superintendent. Where is the resignation letter that Scott Card sent to Human Resources on leaving?
Where is the complaint given to East Hampton Town Human Resource Department’s Pat Breen by Gustavo Almeida in 2009 that he was allegedly hit and called a stupid spic by Mr. King? Could those actions possibly constitute a felony hate crime? To set the record straight, why was Barry Forde not allowed to press charges against Mr. King for allegedly hitting him.?
On election night 2009, after Mr. King won the election, the police were called to his opponent’s house because for whatever reason Mr. King had parked his truck on Tom Talmage’s front lawn overnight. After that election there were more allegations of racial and physical abuse, even before he took his oath of office. All these complaints were brought to the attention of the East Hampton Town Human Resources Department.
Finally in June, 2010, there was supposed to be an investigation by the supervisor’s office. Whatever happened no one seems to know because the men were never given the results, and the abuse allegedly continued. After the so-called investigation, Mr. King told many people that he was not running again for re-election. The workers believed that they could tolerate Mr. King’s behavior for another year because it is very difficult to impeach an elected official.
Two weeks before the 2011 nominations for superintendent of highways, Mr. King was still telling people that he was not running, but in a surprise to many, it seemed, at the last moment it was announced that he was going to be a candidate. That was when it was decided by some of the workers at the Highway Department that they could no longer tolerate his alleged abusive actions and retaliation for speaking up. The public should know that if the situation had been handled properly in June 2010, there probably would not be a problem now.
My husband and I lived in Charleston, S.C., in 1961, and it was shocking to me to see racism at its worst. The restaurants with the signs allowing only white people and the signs on buses with racial slurs were horrible. I would never think that in the year 2011 in East Hampton Town we would ever hear allegations of such offensive racial abuse.
As far as the accusations by Mr. King that my motives are political, that is simply not true. Mr. King never came to the Independence Party screenings at all, so why would he even be considered for the nomination. I certainly believe that the workers at the Highway Department needed help, and I did what I thought was right. I did not seek out the workers; they came to me, not as chairwoman of the Independence Party, but because I have, on numerous occasions, spoken out for all taxpayers, including employees of East Hampton Town.
In Germany after the war in 1945, Martin Neimoller said, “They came for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist, then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew, they came for the trade-unionists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade-unionist, and when they came for me there was no one left to speak up.” It’s now time for the people of East Hampton Town to speak up.
August 1, 2011
The aftermath of the Frank McKay, Bill Wilkinson, Zach Cohen fiasco two weeks ago only confirms one of the many strong reasons why Marilyn Behan and I are running for a seat on the East Hampton Town Board.
We believe we speak for the majority of our community members who are tired of this type of politics. The backroom negotiations that do not represent the constituents, the promises stated in the election process, and the broad view of the tough issues of our town require focus. This type of political maneuvering shows very clearly that the party and strategies for re-election have been designed to serve a personal agenda.
The campaign goals of Marilyn and me will be to discuss the tough issues our community members are concerned about in an open, honest, and direct forum. We intend to listen to our town citizens and to place their needs before the party’s needs. This is one of the first steps in doing what is best for the good people of the Town of East Hampton. Confidence and trust in your elected officials can once again become a reality with your vote of support in November’s election.
East Hampton Town Board
August 1, 2011
To the Editor,
Regarding the recent pervasiveness of rude customer service, let me add this recent experience.
At the Empire gas station on North Main Street in East Hampton, as usual the attendant was grouchy. After paying $4.23 a gallon he handed me my receipt without a word, so I said, “You’re welcome.”
He turned to me and asked what I’d said, and I replied, “I thought maybe you said, ‘thank you,’ ” at which point he angrily actually said, “I don’t have to thank you, thank the machine, now get out of here and don’t come back!” Which of course I won’t, and neither should you patronize these people who come to America to take advantage of its many opportunities but seem to resent Americans.
I suggest this Empire station change its name to the Gashole.
July 28, 2011
To the Editor,
No nukes, no wars, save the planet — quite a challenge, but this is the generation you inherited. Our founding fathers knew their work as flawed. Thomas Jefferson, too, believed in the perfectibility of humans, or at least that they would steadily grow wiser, and wrote that the Constitution should be rewritten in every generation to avoid having society “remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
Have we become a backward nation or is this a challenge to rethink the whole thing? My hope lies in our young people, especially when ruled by a dysfunctional government. I firmly believe a change of this proportion has to come from within. Quite a challenge!
Fire Them All
July 27, 2011
To the Editor,
It is an illusion that any of the current budget plans are going to help our economic situation. They’re not being honest about cutting some of the rate in spending, because what little they cut is spread over 10 years, and they’re increasing the debt ceiling by $8 trillion to $9 trillion. Looking forward to paying the interest on that? The drop in the United States’ credit rating is called inevitable. A lower rating means a higher interest rate, just as on our town debt.
It is time to get on the phone, call Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and tell them that we cannot afford this kind of irresponsible spending and they need to block any bills that come out of the House of Representatives that increase the debt ceiling. I hope Tim Bishop is listening because we cannot afford to keep him in his job with these unending spending increases.
Our country is financially broke. The government has funds to pay our military, vets, and Social Security. “Wants” will have to take a back seat to urgent needs because there isn’t enough money to pay the piper. Overspending has taken its toll. Nobody should spend more than they take in. It is the interest payments that kill.
It is time for a balanced budget — just as we should operate in our own homes — and stop spending. Senate Democrats haven’t passed a bill in almost three years. I think we should fire them all for neglect of their duties.
Wake up, America. We cannot tolerate this financial suicide. Stand up and fight for responsible government that isn’t taxing workers into servitude through the spendthrift whims of our legislators. Balance the budget and cut spending. They answer to us, their employers, the taxpayers.
LYNDA A.W. EDWARDS