May 30, 2011
To the Editor:
In her letter in The Star’s May 26 issue, Winifred Rosen says East Hampton doesn’t have time for a pilot contraception project because the deer population is increasing too rapidly. She says “an estimated 10,000 deer are conservatively said to be living among us now,” and the number has been exploding for decades.
Where does she get the number 10,000? The only scientific study of the East Hampton deer population (and one of the few empirical studies ever conducted in New York State) was sponsored by our group in 2006. This study estimated the total deer population to be approximately 3,300. The density per square mile was slightly higher than wildlife managers prefer, but it was nowhere near crisis proportions. The deer population might have grown since then, of course, but the only way to obtain a reasonable estimate is to conduct a new study. Our group is ready to help do this.
Ms. Rosen goes on to project a deer population of 40,000 before our four-year pilot contraception study would be completed. If people took her seriously, the effect would be near panic.
If our town hopes to engage in rational discussions of how residents and deer can peacefully coexist, the discussions must draw on research evidence to the greatest extent possible. This is why our group has proposed a pilot contraception study.
Ms. Rosen’s letter is also misleading with respect to Lyme disease. Deer ticks are not the only carriers of Lyme disease. We certainly agree that Lyme disease is a serious problem. Its transmission and prevention need careful study. One step the town can take is to discontinue its participation in the November hunting season for turkeys. Turkeys are among the most avid consumers of ticks.
In addition to a contraception proposal, our group has undertaken several initiatives, including the installation of roadside reflectors that might reduce automobile-deer collisions. At our May 17 presentation to the town board, we also recommended a slow-driving campaign, as well as setting aside specific town-owned nature preserves as sanctuaries, where deer would be safe from hunters; this measure might alleviate the flight of deer into hunting-free residential neighborhoods. In each case, we see the need for the careful evaluation of outcomes before projects are maintained and expanded.
We appreciated the town board’s invitation to give a presentation on May 17, and we hope readers will write the town board to encourage it to give our various projects a high priority.
ELLEN and BILL CRAIN
East Hampton Group for Wildlife
Dock Does Harm
May 24, 2011
Earlier this week, the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals discussed an application for a variance that would allow the Broadview Association, of which I am a member, to repair or replace the Bell Estate dock. It is certainly understandable that a handful of very wealthy property owners whose homes overlook the bay would want the dock to be restored because it is an eyesore and more understandable still that they would want other property owners to foot the very sizable bill despite the severe financial hardship this would impose on many of those property owners — especially full-time residents. Who wouldn’t want someone else to pay for your own so-called improvements?
But there are very good reasons for the board to deny this request, not the least of which is the town’s own flooding and erosion policy statement known as the Town of East Hampton Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.
The statement, which is the product of vast information and analysis, explicitly recommends that no new hard structures be allowed. “Existing shore parallel structures are to be replaced only under conditions of “exceptional hardship.”
While an aesthetic mess may not be the most desirable thing, there is no circumstance, even to the effete, wealthy Manhattanites who vacation here, under which having to look out on a battered dock constitutes “exceptional hardship.” None.
The report goes on to recommend that the town “not replace groins and other perpendicular structures, except where used to protect navigational channels.” The Bell Estate dock does not protect any navigational channel. Case closed.
The report also recommends that the board not “issue permits automatically for rebuilding or emergency replacement of structures.” It calls for analysis of the erosion protection function of the structure, versus natural or non-structural protection and yet again reiterates that the town “not replace groins and other perpendicular structures, except where used to protect navigational channels,” just in case this point wasn’t perfectly clear the first time.
In short, the town shouldn’t be replacing groins nor should it let private associations replace groins.
As for the erosion analysis, the report provided an overview in which it concluded that the construction of erosion protection devices generally was “poorly conceived” and “often did more damage than good” and, speaking specifically of the beach from Barnes Landing to the Devon Yacht Club along which the Bell Estate dock lies, it concluded that “shoreline erosion protection structures have had limited effectiveness in controlling upland erosion in Reach 3.” Or put simply, there is no sound reason to restore the dock as a means of erosion control.
But there is even a huge irony in this limited effectiveness. It turns out that the Bell Estate dock has added to the private beach at the expense of the public beaches farther south. That’s right: The public has sacrificed to the private. Perhaps there is a reason for the zoning board to approve a variance that benefits private individuals at the expense of the larger public, but I cannot think of one, and I cannot imagine how public officials will tell their constituents that their public beaches are not as important as the private beach of a handful of wealthy landholders. In fact, the report calls the “sacrifice of recreational resources and public trust lands in order to protect private property . . . an unacceptable cost.”
But even if you disregard the report and assume against all evidence that the private beach provides additional recreational resources, there is a further irony: The Broadview Association has campaigned tirelessly to prevent the citizens of this community from using the beach, even to the point of petitioning the town to place boulders at the entrance of the beach and of investigating hiring a guard to patrol the beach and keep ordinary citizens out. Citizens are only permitted to traverse the beach, i.e., walk from one place to another without stopping, which hardly qualifies as an additional recreational resource — except for the wealthy individuals who are entitled to use the beach.
This dock was not created by nature. It was erected by Dennistoun Bell at a time, apparently, when the dock was actually used to dock boats — a use it no longer has. The opportunity to restore the beach to its natural state seems to me to supersede logically the opportunity to restore a dock to its pristine state, especially since it has in no way improved the beach, except, again, to shift usable beach from the public to a private association.
I certainly appreciate that when it comes to clout, the wealthy and powerful summer residents have every possible advantage over the people, like me, who live here year round, who have raised our families here, sent our children to school here, conducted our businesses here, attended the churches and synagogues here, contributed to the community here, and vote here.
I certainly appreciate that some board members may think that sparing the four or five wealthy summer residents who live on the Bell dunes from having to look out on a rotting dock far outweighs saving public beaches or restoring the beach to its natural state and that Dennistoun Bell’s so-called improvements are far better than God’s. But the only earthly reason to provide a variance for this entirely unnecessary rebuilding project is aesthetic — not to stave off erosion, not to provide more recreational resources for the public, not to provide bigger and better beaches to which the public would not have access anyway. In broader terms, it would set a terrible precedent, allowing private citizens to benefit at the public’s expense.
Make no mistake. This isn’t about saving nature or building beaches. The dock does harm, not good. This is about helping four or five people who don’t want to look out on a rusty dock and are hoping that the zoning board will simply disregard the town’s own recommendations so that they won’t have to. I respectfully ask that the board vote “no.”
Amounts to Isolation
May 30, 2011
To the Editor:
Your editorial in the last issue (“Restoring Old Views”) is a very welcome reminder of an issue which, except for the attention called to it by a few residents and officials like Dominick Stanzione, would go, I fear, completely unremarked.
There is no question that the very character of the land on the South Fork has changed drastically over the last two or three dozen years. With every dense evergreen hedge added to a new house lot we lose a bit more of the quality, the beautiful views, and the cooling ocean breezes. Now even the Napeague stretch is quickly becoming a stark alleyway between tall stands of pine trees. I remember the wonder of that long, straight drive with ocean to the south, bay to the north. I haven’t glimpsed water from that section of road in a long time.
This problem is not unique to the East End. I grew up in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area of Idaho. The views from every roadway and house of the almost barren, sage brush-covered hills giving way to pine trees and rocky outcroppings in the mountains beyond was wonderful. Now, like much of the East End and certainly all of the Village of East Hampton, all roads in that valley seem to be cut through dense walls of shrubbery and trees. Like the East End, the very character of the land, the initial attraction for so many of those who came there, is being or has been obliterated.
I hope anyone who truly cares for this unique piece of land called the South Fork will enthusiastically support Project Open Vista. All this vaunted “privacy” really just amounts to isolation.
And a particular thanks is due for printing Fran Castan’s “From an Undeclared War Zone.” I cannot imagine a more fitting way to commemorate Memorial Day.
May 30, 2011
Last week was a good one for my sense of local pride.
On Wednesday morning I joined my fellow members of the Old Montauk Athletic Club to help with the seventh annual Bonac On Board to Wellness 5K run-walk. It was a joy to see the energy as hundreds of students, faculty, and community supporters streamed across the finish line. Kudos to the village police for their provision of absolute support and safety. Long before the First Lady, this project for better nutrition and exercise initiated by the middle school nurse and health teacher has become a valuable fixture for our town.
Later that day I heard that Alec Baldwin had donated $250,000 to Guild Hall. As a committee of one I would like to thank him for using his talent, celebrity, and resources to support so many community projects and organizations in our town and the metropolitan area.
Over the years I’ve served on a number of scholarship committees. Reading the letters and school transcripts has always filled me with wonderment and pride in the kind of children this town produces and their level of achievement. It also leaves me with a sense of sadness and guilt that there are not enough resources to reward them all.
Like all towns, ours has the good and the bad, but I would not trade it for any other place on earth.
HOWARD JOHN LEBWITH