Support Warranted For Housing

We hope that the several people who spoke in opposition to a proposed affordable apartment complex in Amagansett were outliers rather than representative of a majority of hamlet residents. If they were an indication of wide sentiment, this town is in more trouble than we had supposed.

At an East Hampton Town Planning Board meeting earlier this month, preliminary plans for a 38-unit development were presented by the East Hampton Housing Authority. The apartments would be arrayed among 10 low buildings. Rents would be low, starting at $1,425 for a one-bedroom and topping out at $2,400 for a three-bedroom unit, the latter about $1,000 less than a rock-bottom year-round rental of a house in East Hampton Town.

The need is indisputable. Cost of living is among the most common complaints in East Hampton. This makes life especially hard for people at the low end of the wage scale, as well as some retirees. The scarcity of worker housing is a huge issue and it has helped create a year-round hiring nightmare for many businesses. So, too, has the high cost of living been tied to the hollowing out of necessary volunteer services, with fewer young men and women coming through the ranks of our social institutions and available to become firefighters or ambulance personnel.

Concerns were raised by members of the planning board and people in attendance at the Nov. 15 meeting about four commercial spaces in the proposed apartment complex. These objections may be warranted and should be considered carefully. However, the alarms focused on the project’s effect on the Amagansett School should be understood for what they are: overblown and exclusionary if not immoral.

If anything, the Amagansett School would benefit from a few more students. In recent years, its enrollment has been minuscule, with fewer than 10 children in some of grades, while neighboring Springs School classrooms are filled to capacity. For example, enrollment in the Amagansett first grade was 6 students last year; in Springs it was 77. It also needs to be said that the Springs student population was 56 percent Latino in 2016, while in Amagansett it was only 13 percent. 

It is understandable that a few parents might want to preserve the private-school feeling provided at the Amagansett School. One-on-one personal attention is great for kids as they progress. However, it is an affront to the community as a whole for some residents to suggest that new affordable housing is fine as long as it is built elsewhere.

The 38 apartments, should they be built, would be of clear benefit. School taxes might rise a bit, but the money could be found to accommodate a modest boost in enrollment. It also should be noted that despite the school’s size it has three administrators.

Yes, the project, especially its impact on traffic and whether the commercial spaces are really necessary, should get close scrutiny. But, in our opinion, its effect on the Amagansett School would be beneficial.