Veterans Cool to Green Compromise

    On Tuesday morning it appeared that a compromise allowing both the Montauk Artists Association and the Montauk Veterans Association to proceed with their Memorial Day weekend plans, both of which involve using the Montauk green, would be struck by the time a town board work session concluded. But whether the veterans would sign on to an idea developed by Councilman Dominick Stanzione in concert with Ken Walles, a member of the group, remained up in the air.
    At a meeting tonight, however, the town board is planning to approve the Montauk Artists Association’s mass-gathering permit request, giving them use of the green on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, with the exception, on Sunday, of the area around the veterans memorial.
    Mr. Stanzione outlined the potential scenario on Tuesday: While the artists would proceed with their show and sale on the green, the veterans association would begin its Sunday parade at the western edge of town, at Second House, and conclude the march at the memorial on the green.
    The councilman said he had worked with East Hampton Town Police Chief Edward Ecker on plans to close an adjacent section of the traffic circle to cars, in order to provide more space for the veterans activities.
    On Monday, Memorial Day, the artists are to have vacated the green, which would be dedicated to the veterans use.
    Although Mr. Stanzione and Mr. Walles had gone through details of the plan, Tom Bogdan, another member of the veterans group, told the town board on Tuesday that, if the artists are to be allowed to use the green on Memorial Day weekend, his group would withdraw its request and base its activities solely at Second House instead. In return, however, he requested the board members’ “personal commitment” that the green would be reserved for the veterans exclusive use next year. “What you recommend is chaos,” he told Mr. Stanzione. “We’ll move.”
    But Mr. Stanzione pointed out that it is unlikely that the board would agree to a promise regarding next year.
    Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who said he would recuse himself from a vote on the issue, as he is a veteran, called for a comprehensive discussion, in the fall, of how the green should be used. “There is a pretty good split” of opinions on the matter, he said, with some in Montauk of the belief that the central downtown open area should not be used for moneymaking enterprises.
    Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, while acknowledging the contributions of veterans, said to Mr. Bogdan that “artists are also a member of the community.” She agreed with comments made by Hy Brodsky, a Montauk resident who stressed the meaning of Memorial Day and its history as a one-day remembrance.
    “From day one, Decoration Day — now called Memorial Day — has been a one-day event,” Mr. Brodsky said. “It was compacted, and therefore it wasn’t diluted,” he said. “The meaning and significance was clear.” He said the holiday is a “passive day . . . to think about the lives of people who died. You don’t stretch that out,” he said. “You bring it all together in one day.”
    Ms. Quigley said she was unwilling to make a promise to allow only the veterans to use the green next year.
    Mr. Walles told the board that he would have to confer with other members of the veterans group as to whether Mr. Stanzione’s solution is acceptable.
    But, he said of the proposed compromise, “This is basically the leftovers. And I think it’s time we recognize the veterans. Let’s not give them the leftovers. Let’s not treat them as secondary citizens.”