Focus on Environment

New coalition asks candidates where they stand
Members of the newly formed East Hampton Environmental Coalition gathered on the lawn of Town Hall Monday, led by Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, third from left. Morgan McGivern

    The East Hampton Environmental Coalition, a new entity comprised of 11 nonprofit groups, gathered on the lawn of Town Hall on Monday to announce one of its first initiatives: a questionnaire on environmental issues that will be distributed to all East Hampton Town Board candidates.
    The coalition is determined to bring environmental concerns to the forefront of this election, touching on such things as land preservation, water quality, and noise pollution in the 12-question survey, which asks each candidate to outline his or her particular political stance on both broad and specific topics, its members said Monday.
    Questions include some nuts-and- bolts inquiries like “What aspects of the Planning Department’s organization and function are most important for the town’s future?” as well as the more philosophical “What is the role of town government in maintaining a clean, sustainable environment?”
    “Through this questionnaire we’re hoping to not only educate residents, but find out where candidates stand and how they’ll vote on these issues,” said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. 
    Ms. Bystryn went on to say that the coalition has no intention of supporting a particular candidate; rather it wanted to use the questonnaire as an educational platform to provide a more public forum for salient environmental issues. Candidates are warned that responses should be considered public and that their verbatim responses will be reproduced and distributed.
    “This coalition represents more than 5,000 people who are hoping to have the issues put out where they can see them,” said James Matthews, chairman of the Northwest Alliance, an East Hampton group. “People want to make informed decisions.”
    Joining the Northwest Alliance and the League of Conservation Voters under the coalition’s banner are the Accabonac Protection Committee, Concerned Citizens of Montauk, the Dark Sky Society, the Garden Club of East Hampton, Group for the East End, the Quiet Skies Coalition, Amagansett Springs Aquifer Protection, the Surfrider Foundation, and the Third House Nature Center.
    These organizations, some fledgling, some veteran, are all involved in a broad spectrum of environmental issues, but what they all have in common is the desire to bring these concern back onto to the center of the radar where they belong, Ms. Bystyrn said. “East Hampton has a long history of being a leader in environmental protection.”
    “People don’t travel 250 miles round-trip from New York to see what they can see in Coney Island,” said Robert Stern, president of Concerned Citizens of Montauk.
    Candidates have been asked to file responses to the survey by Oct. 14. Their responses will be posted exactly as submitted on the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund Web site,
    Four Democratic candidates were in attendance at the meeting to hear what the coalition was proposing, including town board hopefuls Peter Van Scoyoc and Sylvia Overby, as well as the supervisor candidate Zachary Cohen and Scott King, who is running to keep his seat as highway superintendent.