Letters to the Editor 07.21.11

Incredible Kindness
    East Hampton
    July 18, 2011
Dear Editor:
    The recent loss of David Hartstein has left a crater in all of our hearts. His wife, Heather, and their three children, are stunned and reeling from his sudden absence. His parents and his brother, his extended family, and his wide circle of friends and patients are all shell-shocked. The entire community is adjusting to an unwelcome change, getting back to the business of living in a world without Dave.
    Amidst the shock and the sorrow of having to say goodbye to Dave Hartstein, Heather and the children have been the focal point of many acts of great and inspiring compassion. Over the past four weeks, Dave’s devoted friends and chiropractic patients, fellow community members, acquaintances, and even strangers have demonstrated incredible kindness, generosity, and sensitivity toward the Hartstein family. Doors to people’s homes have been left open, fund raisers have been tirelessly organized, and the donations of time, food, service, merchandise, money, and venue have been overwhelming. The small towns of Montauk and East Hampton have proven that they are just that — small, caring towns whose people spring to action when there is a need.
    On behalf of Heather, Logan, Devon, and Shane, and both the Hartstein and Martin families, I would like to extend a profound and heartfelt thank-you. While the magnitude of what has happened may take a lifetime to overcome, the many kindnesses shown by the people of Montauk and East Hampton have helped the grieving and healing processes to begin. The beauty of this community goes well beyond its picturesque beaches.
    Heather and the children would like to offer a special thank-you to Cindi and Dave Ceva of Solé East, Heather and John D’Agostino, Karen and J.R. Kuneth, Stephanie Sacks and Rich Dec, Nancy Atlas and Tom Muse, and finally, Shira and Bob Barzilay, whose selfless, unconditional hospitality has simply redefined the word. Thank you, everyone.
    With love,
    CHRIS MARTIN



Totally Oblivious
    Amagansett
    July 15, 2011
To the Editor,
    Last weekend I was driving on Bluff Road heading east. I was driving slowly to be careful of joggers and bikers. As I approached Atlantic Avenue, a middle-aged woman darted across Bluff Road without looking in either direction. I literally missed her by a couple of inches. I didn’t even have time to hit my brakes. She had no idea I was even there since she was occupied with her headphones and looking down to what seemed to be sending a text message. She was totally oblivious to her surroundings.
    After stopping to catch my breath, a woman behind me stopped and asked me if I was all right and told me it wasn’t my fault.
    If I had hit her, I would have had to live with it the rest of my life. If I had been doing 30 miles per hour, which is the speed limit, instead of 20, this situation could have been fatal.
    I don’t understand some people’s behavior. Isn’t the reason that everyone comes here to enjoy the fresh air and scenery? Why don’t they leave their phones and headgear at home and consider their jogs or bike rides an hour or so of peace?
JAMES M. CUOMO



It’s Gucci
    Amagansett
    July 9, 20011
Dear David,
    Driving on Further Lane this morning, marveling at how the other half plants, I drive over a cap that had flown off the head of a lady biker.
    “You drove over my cap! It’s Gucci!”
    “Perhaps they make helmets?”
    In the I.G.A. parking lot I was rear-ended by an expensively tanned gentleman whose car could have paid for Sudan.
    “Oh, god, my bumper!”
    “Thanks for your concern.”
    At dinner a friend began a litany of unique (to her) physical complaints. By dessert I asked if she had a death date, or might I suggest one?
    Finally, at Guild Hall, distracted during the entire first act by the person next to me exposing their texting thingy, I extracted it and sped to the ladies’ room. I then disappeared into the night.
    As I knocked back some gin before bed, I thought of my favorite H.L. Mencken quote, “You may be right.”
    All good things,
    DIANA WALKER



Nautical Ambience
    Montauk
    July 16, 2011
David,
    This is an open letter to Mr. Peter Kalikow.
Dear Mr. Kalikow:
    As an avid kayaker, sailor, and environmentalist, I heartily applaud your recent efforts to save the eelgrass in Montauk Harbor by extending your dock. As your attorneys have successfully argued before the East Hampton Zoning Board of Appeals, the eelgrass adjacent to your property will now be protected from future destruction from the props of your big speedboat.
    Although every civic and environmental organization in Montauk has protested the expansion of your current dock, I give you credit for sticking to your principles. What do they know? Let’s face it, your maintenance costs are going to be cut drastically — no more will your big props hit bottom due to that narrow and tiny dock that you currently have. And the eelgrass will be preserved to replenish the ecosystem!
    I also have to thank you for all of those tasteful “No Trespassing” buoys that you erected in the bottom of Lake Montauk to the west of your estate and south of the Star Island causeway. What an improvement in nautical ambience! And naturally, we all understand that masters of the universe are entitled to their privacy. Although the buoys do make navigating my little kayak a tad more difficult over the surface of Lake Montauk, they have certainly forced me to contemplate what good neighbors are all about. Please ask your attorneys to inquire of the United States Coast Guard whether they are considered hazards to navigation.
    Sincerely,
    BRIAN POPE



Bertha Gladstone
    North Merrick
    July 12, 2011
Dear Editor,
    I would like to thank the friends and neighbors of Bertha Gladstone, and the Amagansett Fire Department and ambulance volunteers for the thoughtfulness and kindness that were shown to my venerable aunt over the past years.
    She was a one of a kind lady and will be missed.
    SARAH WOLKENBROD



Invasive Species
    Amagansett
    July 17, 2011
To the Editor,
    Open Vistas people: Um, so where are all the animals who live in the proposed cleared area going to go? I’m talking songbirds, as well as the poor land animals who have a hard time crossing the road safely and an even harder time finding sanctuary if they do reach the other side.
    I recently saw a pheasant trying desperately to get into some underbrush on the north side of the road, thwarted in his efforts by somebody’s deer fence (protecting some pretty, non-native plantings, I must add).
    If you really want to make Bluff Road “the way it used to be” with an open vista, I would suggest removing all the houses that have been built in the last
60 years (And what’s so magic about 60? Why not go all the way back to, like, 1492?) and leave the poor animals — and their home — alone.
    As for invasive species? That would be us. Duh. 
ALICE HENRY WHITMORE




Wish to Improve
    Montauk
    July 18, 2011
To the Editor:
    The proposal to clear brush along Bluff Road has become confusing. To what extent is the goal to remove invasive species and allow native vegetation to flourish? If this was ever the primary goal, why wasn’t the project initially named something like Project Remove Invasive Species? To what extent was the entire plan initiated by one or a few wealthy homeowners who wish to improve the ocean views from their homes? The public should be given clearer information.
    A top priority must be the lives of the animals who depend on vegetation as habitats. While this strip of thick vegetation along Bluff Road might not look like much to many passers-by, it is home to numerous birds, rabbits, and other wildlife who have already been pushed out of their previous homes. If any vegetation is truly destructive (such as invasive vines on trees) and needs to be removed for the overall health of the ecosystem, the removal should be very selective and performed with extreme care, for the animals need the Bluff Road vegetation for their nesting, resting, and hiding places. They must have it to survive.
    Thanks to Bob Silverstone for bringing this concern to public attention at June and July brown bag meetings of the East Hampton Town Board. Thanks also to Bob and Jim McMillan for their recent letters in The Star — letters that highlight how much is at stake for the wildlife.
    Please speak up for wildlife. East Hampton is their home, too. Indeed, in many cases their relatives lived on the land before humans ever arrived. In no case should their homes be destroyed simply for the sake of human pleasure, simply so humans can have better views.
    Sincerely,
    ELLEN CRAIN
    East Hampton Group for Wildlife



Get On With It
    Amagansett
    July 18, 2011
To the Editor,
    I have watched the public debate over the Open Vista project and specifically the clearing of the Bluff Road Historic District first with amusement, then amazement, and now with an appalling sense over the willingness of public officials, nonprofit stakeholders, and private citizens to ignore parts of a law that they don’t like while strictly supporting and enforcing other parts that they do.
    What I refer to is the enabling legislation that formed the Bluff Road Historic District. I am intimately familiar with the legislation, as it was drafted and negotiated between town and homeowners affected, and I was there during each session with Job Potter, as were many of my neighbors.
    While there were varying views on the restrictions placed upon us as private homeowners by the law, there were no differences of opinion on the preservation and restoration of the double dunes that I recall. The language concerning the dunes is not in the law by accident or as an afterthought. By placing the dunes in the historic district overlay and specifically including language concerning the preservation and restoration of the dunes by clearing the invasive brush and trees, we felt that the trade-off was well worth it. I remember this discussion and the ensuing (virtually) unanimous vote in favor of the legislation vividly. It is now incorporated into the town code.
    Sadly, while private homeowners in the district struggle with design restrictions and march their way in front of the architectural review board with expensive architects, lawyers, and consultants, the town has chosen to abandon its own obligations under the code. A deal is a deal, the saying goes. In legal terms, it is called breach of contract. The A.R.B. has now properly voted on and passed the first phase of the clearing project. It is about time. Let’s get on with it.
    Regarding some of the letters written here using disrespectful terms like “fat cat row,” you should know that the majority of the homeowners in the district are hard-working, low-key people whose families have been coming to East Hampton for generations. Hardly fat cats in my view but that’s not the point. The point is that we are all committed, taxpaying residents of this town with a passion for its beauty, nature, beaches, oceans, bays, and its rich history.
    As for the clearing project being considered “spot zoning” to improve our own views, be assured that my view as well as many of my neighbors’, is already great. This is a simple matter of principle and more important, the law. Laws in America are not politicized or debated after the fact. They are complied with or overturned by referendum. At least that is what our system of democracy espouses and when anyone ignores, violates, or otherwise breaches a law, they are taken to task.
    With respect to the notion that this will be a “clear cut,” the A.R.B. vote specifically puts the specifications of the project under the auspices of Larry Penny, the well-respected and incredibly knowledgeable head of natural resources for the town. Mr. Penny will surely do the right thing. A clear cut is not it and the term is being used disingenuously.
    I applaud Dominick Stanzione’s conviction that in fact this is America and a deal is a deal. I can assure you that I will be supporting the Open Vista project and am delighted to see the first pilot go forward on Bluff Road. Perhaps Pussy’s Pond, now nearly suffocated by phragmites, is next.
    Respectfully submitted,
    JOHN MANNIX

    The relevant portion of the East Hampton Town Code reads, “The setting of the historic district should be enhanced by restoring views from Bluff Road across the dunes to the ocean by selectively clearing and pruning vegetation within the road right-of-way.” Ed.



Live Together
    Springs
    July 14,  2011
Dear Editor,
    I am writing to say that birth control for deer is a good plan. Many of us have suffered the disappointment of having flower buds nipped off just at the point of blooming, after waiting all winter for their appearance. Or an expensive planting is wiped out by hungry marauders. How about car accidents involving deer? Worrisome.
    We all agree we have encroached on the deer’s territory and now they are encroaching on ours. Let’s be patient and use birth control, rather than wipe out their population and then start using birth control. They were here before us. They are with us. We live together here in the country. We all want to be here because it is the country and that includes our neighbors, the deer.
    Let’s be humane in our approach to managing a situation that is occurring because we like it here, too.
ANNE MITTENDORF



To the Whole Board
    East Hampton
    July 18, 2011
To the Editor,
    Like all Americans, I.H. Paler (letters, July 14) is entitled to his opinion on what constitutes good governance. However, his opinion would have more validity if he didn’t twist the facts and statements of the opposition. In the June 23 issue of The Star, Zach Cohen was very clear that he was proposing “a comptroller and administrative officer to increase the town’s fiscal accountability and efficiency.” How did that become a “town manager” who would be doing the supervisor’s job?
    Mr. Cohen spoke specifically of an administrative officer, working under the supervisor, who would coordinate interdepartmental work implementing policies handed down from the town board. The administrative officer’s salary could replace the budget officer’s salary in the budget.
    Just two weeks after Mr. Cohen’s suggestion was reported, the front page of The Star reported that the town had overpaid $55,000 in health benefits. Councilwoman Theresa Quigley noted that “part of the problem stems from the town’s system of disparate departments, each with its own person in charge.” Ms. Quigley went on to say, “While each person is well-intentioned and does a good job, there’s a lack of cohesion within the town.” That is exactly what Zach Cohen has said and why he has recommended an administrative officer who would be able to oversee and coordinate all the disparate departments.
    Under Mr. Cohen’s plan the comptroller would replace the politically appointed budget officer with a certified public accountant who would report to the whole board, not just the supervisor, obviously a desirable check against conflict of interest and a force for transparency. The “luxurious salary” of $120,000 Mr. Paler refers to would be paid for by the decreased use of financial subcontractors and outside auditors.
    So Mr. Paler, let’s agree to disagree on the facts, not on propaganda.
JOAN N. LESSER


Reliable Data
    Springs
    July 18, 2011
Dear David,
    There is some important information that homeowners should be aware of about upcoming East Hampton Town Board decisions that could severely affect their property values and taxes. The town board is preparing to adopt a law that would increase the number of tenants renting on single-family residential lots, sooner rather than later.
    After the town board presented an initial proposal for multifamily work-force housing in our neighborhoods, allowing nine tenants with no rental cap, and amnesty for pre-existing overcrowded houses, reaction from residents was swift and overwhelmingly negative.
    The town board then directed our professional Planning Department and a housing needs committee to collect up-to-date housing information. These groups have done a great job with the data available to them at this time. However, after four meetings, my concern is with the information they do not have yet, such as the 2010 census figures on such critical data as families with children and number of renters. In place of this official information, numbers have been taken from the American Community Survey.
    In a recent e-mail from Gretchen Gooding of the Census Bureau, she states that the community survey’s methodology is different from the U.S. Census. “Resident” is defined as anyone who lives in East Hampton for over two months. That is one obvious loophole.
    Any landlord could avoid listing tenants by simply stating they will be leaving for two months. The 2010 Census, which does not allow this loophole, presents a more accurate snapshot of East Hampton and should be included in the final housing report. Updated information will be available soon.
    In addition, after learning 92 children were enrolled in kindergarten this fall, Michael Hartner, the Springs School superintendent, revised his enrollment numbers. In the current ranking, Springs has the lowest number of students per household. His corrected e-mail changes that ranking significantly. He sent this information by e-mail on May 10 to the town board, and, as of July 7, the Planning Department and housing needs committee had not received this important update.
    I feel it is reasonable to expect that the most updated, accurate and reliable data should be included in the final housing report to the town board before any accessory legislation is proposed or enacted.
    Also, I have copies of Mr. Hartner’s e-mail and clarifications of methodology from the U.S. Census Bureau. If anyone would like a copy, my e-mail is debbrodie@optonline.net
    Sincerely,
    DEBRA B. FOSTER

    Ms. Foster is a former member of the East Hampton Town Board. Ed.



Weekend Rampaging
    Amagansett
    July 16, 2011
Dear David,
    Montauk’s residents really need a serious champion to take on their really serious quality-of-life issues. I refer to the over-the-top, illegal overcrowding, illegal parking, 4 a.m. noise, dangerous driving, outdoor drinking and its related consequences — all reported in your study of the weekend rampaging at Ruschmeyer’s and along Navy Road.
    East Hampton Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who prides himself as being a Montauk native, responds to homeowners’ complaints with a remarkably remote and out-of-touch message. He says to this group of totally frustrated citizens: “It’s something the town is living through because it’s [Montauk] become the place for a young demographic to come out and spend more time. The town board has been spending considerable time in Montauk, including issuing a request for proposal from vendors, adding parking spaces to downtown Montauk and having a new flagpole put up. A little more patience and we’ll be out of the summer.” (Italics mine.)
    Yes, indeed. A little more patience and we’ll be out of the summer and ready to vote in a new supervisor.
    In amazement,
    LARRY MARCUS



Scene Changes
    East Hampton
    July 18, 2011
Dear David:
    Imagine that you live in Montauk. You love your house, your neighbors, and the neighborhood. You love summer here. You have always had a restaurant in your midst, Rushmeyer’s, but to your surprise, Rushmeyer’s gets a new look — and new customers. The entire scene changes before your eyes, causing anguish and disbelief.
    A chaotic scene evolves. Hordes of people descend. They are in such great numbers that they flow outside onto the streets and lawns. Has East Hampton’s fire marshal checked to see how many are legally allowed in this building? Not to our knowledge.
    Bars are set up outside the building, filling the lawns with drunken people, drunken behavior, noise, and music. When calling to complain, the manager suggests you shut your window and put on an air-conditioner. There is a lack of bathroom facilities for such large numbers of people, and urinating all over the place is apparently acceptable. When the crowds finally leave at 4:30 a.m., drunk drivers swipe at neighbors’ cars as they careen home.
    Where is the Suffolk County Department of Health, the New York Liquor Authority, the East Hampton Ordinance Enforcement Department? Not seen or heard from.
    Well, surely you have the East Hampton Town supervisor, Bill Wilkinson, to help you and your community out in what appears to be an unlawful situation. Are you sitting? Here comes Mr. Wilkinson’s reply to the community directly affected: “The board has been spending considerable time in Montauk . . . having a new flagpole put up. A little more patience and we’ll be out of summer.” This from the leader of our town!
    It’s time for our community to consider sending Mr. Wilkinson out to pasture. You’ll have your opportunity in November. Don’t miss this opportunity.
NAOMI SALZ




Nonconforming Uses
    East Hampton
    July 18, 2011
Dear David,
    I am writing to discuss the application for a convenience store at the Empire Gas station and to urge all those interested (that should be all East Hamptoners) to attend. The zoning board has scheduled the public hearing for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the new courtroom in Town Hall, at 159 Pantigo Road.
    Thirteen years ago I was approached, as an architect, to develop a design for a convenience store on this site that would slip through the planning process and increase the value of the property in question. I was appalled, and told the broker who approached me so.
    This site may need many things, but a convenience store is not one of them. Actually, North Main Street has four businesses which provide that function now, the I.G.A. and the bagel store, as well as two new ones. The function has been filled.
    I knew Jerry, the former owner, who had a seasonal tackle shop there. That place was barely open, only when fish were running. That property has been rotting there for 55 years, and we have had to live with that trashed property in our sight and psyche for no reason fathomable.
    In 2001 I started a group to get the town to do something to improve the North Main area. I knocked on every door I could find, I asked people what their concerns were, and received over 100 signatures that were presented to the town board in support of reducing or controlling traffic, cleaning up the street, enforcing noise ordinances, and generally making it a better place to live.
    It is an overwhelmingly residential area, something not apparent at first sight. I started a study of the area with my office to better understand the area and document it for the neighbors and the town. That study cost me $35,000 in salaries, rent, and time. Every councilperson and committee got a hard copy, and the study went on the Web for all to see and use. The town then hired a planning firm to do a complete study, which expanded ours and provided more documentation and more community support, which they acted upon, partially.
    The town board not only repaved the street, built new drainage, and improved the plantings, they strengthened the residential zoning of the area and made an investment in buying the corner property, which would prevent any development there. That property was where the Dominy family built windmills in the 1700s and 1800s, an important East Hampton site.
    That work by the town encouraged people, both residential and business, to invest, upgrade, and improve their properties. They had the sense that the area would be improving and were assured that their neighbors would not be going down the road of inappropriate development. This proposal for a convenience store is a major step down the road of inappropriate development.
    Why do we do zoning? It’s a little like, why do we have traffic lights? Zoning is the expression on paper of how a town will grow and what it will become. In order for people to invest in a community, to live in a community, they need to know that they will be in an appropriate and safe neighborhood, or “zone.” Pre-existing uses are those that were there before zoning; illegal pre-existing uses are those that are inappropriate under the vision for the town.
    East Hampton has, unlike the other towns on Long Island, the habit of always giving new certificates of occupancy for new uses for pre-existing, nonconforming uses — a very strange behavior. It keeps property values down, encourages illegal activities, and spites our own zoning desires. No town in the country goes beyond two years of non-use; most remove the illegal use.
    East Hampton Town, as part of the community buy-in for the work on North Main, voted to buy the other station and use that property as a site for elderly housing. One year later they secretly reneged on the promise. Honesty and sunlight in government we don’t seem to have much of.
    In our case on North Main Street, the two illegal, nonconforming uses both have MTBE toxic-waste spills, as documented by Toxic Targeting for New York State. These sites have not been cleaned or addressed in any way by the owners of the properties, and these toxic spills enter our groundwater. In 2004 and 2005 there was an extremely high level of tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene) in the water around one of the sites and in the well water of my mother, Sherrill Foster. In two years she developed a rapidly spreading lymphoma and died a year later. Perch, as it is called, is a solvent used for metal cleaning, and it is a carcinogen for lymphoma.
    The removal of pre-existing, nonconforming uses needs to be a priority in order for our town to grow orderly and well, to have vitality, to maintain property values, and for the health of the people in our community.
JONATHAN FOSTER



7-Eleven Shaped
    East Hampton
    July 18, 2011
Dear David:
    Just want to make sure that everyone who has a soft spot for historic North Main Street, home of Nick and Toni’s and Serafina, knows that on Tuesday the zoning board of appeals for the Town of East Hampton will meet at 159 Pantigo Road to discuss the proposed plan for the Empire gas station on North Main Street to open a convenience store on the small plot where Pam’s Auto Rental formerly existed and where a small beauty shop still operates.
    The buildings have rusty metal facades and are generally so unpleasant to look at that some outsiders feel that any plan to tear down and rebuild is a good plan. That said, there is a code in East Hampton that expressly prohibits having a business that sells food and beverage next to a filling station. To facilitate the project, the current building inspector wrote a certificate of occupancy that indicates that the buildings predate that code. In fact, it is the use of those buildings that must predate the code, not the buildings themselves. Neither food nor beverage has ever been sold at this site.
    While canvassing the neighborhood to gain support to fight the project, I found that neighbors agree that the buildings should be brought up to code, but that is a matter for code enforcement, not the zoning board.
    Several years ago, a traffic study was conducted about North Main Street. The results clearly indicated that no businesses should be allowed to expand at this location. Traffic is terrible on North Main. Parking, nil.
    At 152 North Main, my young family lives a few houses back on an access road that begins beside the Empire station. We were not notified when Empire first presented this plan to the zoning board, though we have a North Main address. Nor was the Hoff family, who then lived beside Empire, on the other side of our small access road.
    With the traffic here, it is already quite difficult to make our way out of our access road and onto North Main. Cars turning out of the gas station gun directly for our cars. A cyclist was hit here in recent memory. The line of people getting gas at Empire often already spills out onto North Main, interrupting traffic. And that same line also at times fills the lot where the convenience store is required to have some parking.
    East End Taxi is also currently using spaces at the garage and out front for parking, making it impossible for residents to see oncoming traffic. This is not a viable location for a convenience store.
    And, if Empire has a convenience store approved, they would have the right to rent it to a 7-Eleven. No residents want a 7-Eleven on historic North Main Street, directly across from a set of beautifully restored historic houses. It would ruin any historic character that has been saved in the area. Their architecture plan, by the way, is a 1960s modern copy of the gas station, 7-Eleven shaped.
    A 7-Eleven was recently “accidentally” approved by this same building inspector in Montauk. We have yet to hear of the outcome of a site in Amagansett where rumors of a 7-Eleven have been rife. But on North Main, the convenience store under consideration has none of the required parking available of these other sites or setbacks to protect neighbors or the access to our houses.
    Small children currently live in the house behind the station, owned by the same man who operates Empire, and the fences at the house and to the station are not gated. This is a dangerous plan that needs to be stopped.
    North Main at that location is a traffic bottleneck — as well as a gateway to Springs and Northwest Woods. A recent traffic study indicated that no business zoning upgrades ought to be allowed here. We have all waited in that traffic, it is particularly bad on weekends during summer months.
    Pam’s was a sleepy business that had no traffic during weekends, and it is no longer in operation; it hasn’t been for over two years. I have never seen more than four customers at the barbershop, usually few or none.
    Meanwhile, a convenience store could fuel revelers with alcohol who leave a popular nearby nightclub at 4 a.m. (only two blocks away). Revelers presently congregate at the bagel shop in the wee hours of Sunday morning, which fortunately does not offer booze.
    As I recently canvassed the neighborhood, residents agreed that some plan ought to be made to improve those buildings and to put in businesses that are in keeping with a residential neighborhood. But residents on North Main and on side streets and access roads nearby universally agreed that access to North Main is already difficult.
    The convenience of being able to buy goods nearby is outweighed by the added traffic, congregating youths, and the selling of alcohol after hours to driving patrons.
    We want to encourage Empire to improve those buildings and install a lucrative business that is not traffic-intensive. But there is a neighborhood business overlay in the area, put in place after the traffic study. Residents must co-exist with whatever businesses crop up. The property is already uniquely overused with the gas station, a service center, and a taxi company.
     By walking house to house, I found that a number of residents are seething about so many unfettered businesses operating with no parking.
     I met a senior citizen in a wheelchair. I expected that he might want a place nearby to get a sandwich. But he was adamant that he can barely get out of his property now — his access is often blocked by parked cars and trucks. While he couldn’t make it to this meeting, his rights are protected.
    A neighbor on Miller Terrace, directly across North Main from our road, pointed out cones in place to keep people from coming up their street and turning around on their private property. A car did just that while we were chatting. The Empire plan would ensure that even more cars do the same thing.
    We all loathe these dilapidated structures, but should the owners who allowed them to fall into unique disrepair, likely with this plan in mind, be rewarded with an aggressively upgraded certificate of occupancy?
    Anyone who has joined the lines to get gas at Empire in the summer knows that the wait can be interminable. A man who runs a service center at that site mentioned to me last summer that Empire plans to run the service station from the convenience store (at that time he said they planned to add pumps). Will the same hands that pump gas spread butter on a sandwich for a child?
    So many codes are already being broken at this site, it is difficult to believe Empire will suddenly adhere to even this standard. The man who is applying for this store has often allowed several families to live in the house behind Empire. There were three cars in the driveway this morning at 5 a.m. I have seen as many as nine in recent years.
    As I walked the neighborhood to discuss the project, I heard reports of a gas attendant squatting (spending the night) in the Pam’s structure. In their present condition, do these broken-down structures have a certificate of occupancy for housing?
    These are sites that flood every year. Even if the gas tanks don’t leak, chemicals spilled by filling and fixing cars on this site travel. I believe that these spill waters travel underground from here to the bucolic pond on Main Street in the Village of East Hampton.
    Last summer, residents on both sides of North Main were pumping their basements for over a month. A standing pool forms in this gas lot every summer. It is a flood zone. This is no place to add food service when none existed here previously.
    One resident also mentioned that cars from East End Taxi were, until recently, being washed here illegally. And no, that doesn’t mean a car wash is pre-existing! The state environmental agencies strictly prohibit such uses.
    Empire in Montauk, not the same owner, illegally installed an extra pump when they expanded in recent months (on Fort Pond!). What kind of name is Empire trying to build for this business, which so happens to fall under the umbrella of a sizable petroleum company? A resident, not the building inspector, noticed the extra Empire pump. What generosity should the zoning board show the company? I had thought the message from the BP spill was that America would no longer risk citizens’ health to kowtow to large oil concerns, no matter which politicians they may support.
    This is a residential area, and the rights to a healthy and safe life of nearby residents should be brought into account when the Empire’s proposal is reconsidered.
JEFFREY SLONIM


Assess Traffic
    East Hampton
    July 18, 2011
To the Editor:
    On Tuesday, the public is invited to attend a zoning board meeting to discuss the Empire gas station’s application to replace two existing structures with a convenience store on North Main Street.
    My wife and I live at 167 North Main Street. Our house is on the corner of Indian Hill Road, at the intersection of Three Mile Harbor Road. We have the perfect vantage point to assess traffic coming and going along North Main Street.
    Replacing the two structures, the now defunct Pam’s Auto Rental and what was a barbershop, with a convenience store would greatly increase traffic going in and out of Springs. In the years since we bought our house in the mid-’80s, I rarely saw a customer at Pam’s, which finally closed its doors over 10 years ago. The “barbershop” is now a charming, very low-key beauty salon with never more than two or three cars out in front.
    On a normal Monday morning such as today, the cars are backed up five deep at the Springs-Fireplace Road stop sign, heading onto North Main Street. The traffic is moving slowly on Three Mile Harbor road coming toward our house from Springs.
    Turn back the clock to this past weekend and the scenario changes dramatically. Five deep becomes backed up all the way to Floyd Street on Fireplace and the cars moving slowly in front of our house were at a standstill. During these summer weekends we find it close to impossible to navigate through “our” intersection of North Main and Indian Hill. When our driving plans are to head into Springs, we have to take a roundabout course to avoid the intersection entirely.
    From a report by Eric Schantz, an East Hampton Town planner, dated May 5, 2010, I quote:
    “. . . where a filling station use is present ‘no supermarket, delicatessen, convenience establishment or other retail store shall be located on the same lot.’ This is the section of the code which renders the proposed retail use nonconforming, therefore limiting its expansion.” Wouldn’t this alone stop the proposed convenience store dead in its tracks?
    Our concerns move from the personal to the safety of the motorists navigating up and down North Main Street. Cars and trucks enter the gas station from both directions and leave heading in the direction they wish. The addition of a convenience store would quadruple the number of cars coming and going from Empire.
    I again quote Mr. Schantz’s report dated May 5, 2010: “The existing circulation pattern for the traffic generally consists of cars entering from the southern access point, pulling up to the gas pumps, and then exiting out of the northern access point, all in a one-way motion.”
    The operative word in the above is “generally.” At least one-fourth do just the opposite and when they do, confusion on the part of other drivers is obvious and dangerous.
    With the I.G.A. and a bagel shop just steps away, do we really need a convenience store on North Main Street? We have food and drink purveyors all over Springs. To make matters worse, such an establishment would end up being a place to congregate while snagging a late-night six-pack of Bud Light or Red Bull. We don’t need that; Empire is surrounded by residential properties.
    We are constantly subjected to horns honking in anger and often see furious drivers making U-turns onto Indian Hill Road in order to drive back in the direction of town. This is dangerous for both motorists and pedestrians alike.
    Regards,
    MICHAEL MELLA



Mistaken Identity
    East Hampton
    July 13, 2011
To the Editor,
    On Tuesday morning, July 5, I was on my way to pick up a friend on Pond Lane in Southampton while heading back to New York. While I was heading south on Pond Lane a car heading north ran over some ducks that were crossing the street.
    Upon leaving my friend’s house, a car was blocking the driveway. A man got out of the car and told me he was making a citizen’s arrest. He said he and a friend saw me run over the ducks. He said he called the police and that they were on their way to arrest me. He was sitting in his car talking on his cellphone when he suddenly drove off. Since no police had appeared, I drove off, heading to New York.
    I assumed he received a call from his friend telling him that the person who ran over the ducks had been apprehended. This thought led me to wonder how many unfortunate people are languishing in prison because of mistaken identity by some witness who was absolutely certain in their mistaken identity.
BILL NOONAN



Shows No Gratitude
    Springs
    July 12, 2011
Dear Editor,
    The recent “Guestwords” by Isabel Saavedra (July 7) was incredibly one-sided. Her criticism of the United States of America, the most generous country in the world, totally ignored the problems that illegal aliens create for our country.
    As someone pursuing a law degree after admitting her family’s illegal status in the U.S.A. for a very long time, she shows no gratitude for the opportunity afforded her by this country.
    If she only considers her side of an argument before speaking out, she will make one lousy lawyer.
FRED J. WEINBERG



Distrust of Reason
    East Quogue
    July 18, 2011
To the Editor,
    Some of you out here in the summer playground called the Hamptons, where the idle rich and those who sell or cater to them frolic on the beach, in exclusive golf clubs, on the tennis court, or in the insanely overpriced but mostly mediocre restaurants, may be surprised to know that right here, in the midst of the apotheosis of materialism and the nightmare of the spiritually inclined, there are respectable institutions that are promoting anti-evolutionary views.
    They do not call themselves creationists or overtly promote what is slyly called “intelligent design.” They are in fact among the most respected local religious institutions. In this case it is the Southampton Jewish Center and its Chabad, which is offering, almost as I write, a lecture titled “Can Evolution be Reconciled with the Torah?” This is amazing, considering that the Catholic Church long ago did a 360-degree turn and answered yes to this question, but not the orthodox Jews or Muslims.
    Here is what the announcement of the lecture said: “Theories of evolution are widely taught in high schools and universities as facts. Educated people today assume that life evolved in a random series of processes that eventually produced human beings. The Torah tells us otherwise. People who believe that G-d created separate species with man as a distinct creation are widely viewed as being uneducated and backward. In this fascinating lecture, Dr. [Lisa] Aiken will examine the facts in light of the Torah’s views on this subject, with surprising conclusions.”
    Actually they are not surprising at all since this announcement gives away the game completely. Indeed, it is clear proof that there are among us individuals who have advanced degrees and have done extensive research who still prefer to believe ancient myths and legends handed down from thousands of years ago, purportedly from invisible beings on high, and who categorically reject the findings of science and reason. These individuals — represented by orthodox Jews and Muslims alike — have in effect rejected the Enlightenment and the science and inquiry that followed it.
    But this is not all they have rejected. They are, whether they say it or not, also rejecting the corollary social and political ramifications of the Enlightenment: dissent, freedom of inquiry, the dignity of women as well as men, while simultaneously accepting without question the authoritarianism, ideology of superiority and uniqueness, and coercive social relationships that religious leaders and prophets have always professed in their unrelenting quest to convert or subdue those of other religions.
    One would think (if one were rational and reasonable) that the Jews in particular would be extra sensitive to these issues in light of the rabid anti-Jewish rants and credos of the Muslim world against Israel and the Jews as an entity. One would think that Jews would have warmly embraced the Enlightenment principles and their ethics out of self-interest at the very least. One would think, in view of the centuries-long dedication of Jews to higher learning, to philosophy, to education, self-improvement, and professional accomplishment, in which they have excelled, that they would easily recognize regressive and ultimately intellectually dangerous ideologies. Unfortunately, one would be wrong.
    There is much insanity and irrationality loose in the world, most of it in places that we will never visit and promoted by people we will luckily never meet unless we are the victims of a suicide bomber. Yet right here today, in the 21st century, we are discovering the intellectual vacuums that we thought had been filled by the advances of science. We are discovering an epidemic of anti-intellectualism and distrust of reason that may have no precedent in history, and which in its nonviolent manifestation carries echoes of the secular rantings of ideologies such as Fascism, Communism, and Nazism.
    As such, they are no less dangerous and citizens are advised to apply their critical faculties stringently when confronted with them.
LORNA SALZMAN



Civilized
    East Hampton
    July 18, 2011
Dear David,
    A friend in Germany once suggested that a town or village is as civilized as the number of bookstores it has. Yes, well, thank goodness with our four general and excellent ones from Sag Harbor to Montauk (and a few more that are specialized), our town’s rating is pretty darn high — except maybe around local election time.
    Yours always for reading,
    LONA RUBENSTEIN



Never the Same
    East Rockaway
    July 12, 2011
To the Editor,
    A Wall Street Journal columnist offered an interesting lesson on our possible default.
    He pointed out that, though a married person may make up with and forgive an adulterous spouse, the marriage is never the same.
    He believed the United States faces the same risk and reaction if it defaults on its debts for even one day. Investors will never trust us completely again. Further, every last one of us will pay the price for default with higher interest rates on everything, mortgage, car loans,  corporate loans, credit card debt, everything!
    Even with all the many faults we see and experience, we still live in the greatest country in the world, period. I cannot, for the life of me, understand or agree with the Republican-Tea Party blind rigidity with regard to a tax increase for the top 2 percent of the country.
    Though retired on a pension and Social Security, if I had a million or more income (I never did), I would gladly pay an  incremental $10,000, $20,000, or even $50,000 to enjoy the benefits of this great country.
    Time to give back a little more. Your country needs you.
STEVE HARWIN




Job Growth
    Sag Harbor
    July 8, 2011
Dear Editor,
    Why is it so difficult to figure out how to stimulate the growth of jobs? Answer, common sense is not being applied to this issue, and political ideology is standing in the way stopping the right kind of incentives to be put in place that will provide a true and long-lasting stimulus to the economy. Every now and then some politician states the reason but no one is listening. So for the record, I want to share with as many people as possible the solution. It has just three easy steps and goes like this:
    Our president must take a leadership role, stop politicking, put ideology aside, focus on the solution, and follow up on the actions he will take (listed below) to quickly stimulate job growth and report periodically to the American people on the progress being made.
    Small business, our engine for growth, will not hire more people unless there is more clarity in future expenses and profit potential. Remember, business takes risks every day, which is fine, but the government must give business a clear understanding of its future costs that can be impacted by government actions. Therefore, to stimulate job growth quickly, the president should state that the Bush-era tax reductions will have no sunset provision and he will work with Congress to lower or eliminate the capital gains taxes and lower corporate tax rates.
    There will be a guaranteed maximum cost of health care (by the government) to business that will not exceed a pre-set percent of revenues per person, so business will know specifically what its costs will be now, and in the future, as a function of their number of employees. This way, business can look into the future with confidence as to what its health care and employee costs will be.
    The president should put together a group of people by industry segments to review and make recommendations in 90 days to cut regulations for each industry that impede growth and profits for business and tell business there will be a moratorium on new business regulations for a minimum of three years. The president will then direct his administration to immediately begin to terminate harmful regulations to job growth.
    These three points could be implemented quickly and have a positive effect on job growth, financial markets, and tax revenues for the government.
THOMAS R METZ




Cover of Darkness
    Sag Harbor
    July 14, 2011
To the Editor,
    Drones, drones have appeared everywhere in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, on the Taliban, in Yemen, and Somalia, followed by the repeated cries, “Stop killing our innocent civilians.” Then our denial. Most of these drone strikes have been under the cover of darkness, the light of truth abandoned. This lack of reverence for life has caused the United Nations to request that the United States take these drones out of the hands of the Central Intelligence Agency. Can anyone still connect freedom and democracy with our military strategy, or is our goal world domination?
    Why have we continued the longest war in our history with no end in sight? Could this carnage have occurred without the corporate-controlled media joining the same corporate powers that create our wars? War is the mother of all lies. Unfortunately, her sons and daughters became sacrificial lambs much too young to die.
    On the black-wall memorial in Washington, D.C., there are 58,000 names of our young men and women killed in Vietnam. I was shocked to learn at least 58,000 Vietnam veterans have committed suicide since the war ended and God knows how many victims of post-traumatic stress disorder — the silent screams. Recently, the number of our soldiers killed has risen sharply with no end to killing. Finally, have we gone beyond anything Hitler had in mind? World domination through fear.
    In peace,
    LARRY DARCEY




Fake Pledges
    East Hampton
    July 18, 2011
To the Editor,
    When Tea Party congressmen sign no-tax and defense of marriage pledges it is reminiscent of my parochial school friends signing a no-masturbation pledge. It’s okay as long as you’re wearing gloves and no one can see you.
    It is impossible to measure the harm that this level of fidelity to stupidity does to dialogue for solving the nation’s problems. At least my friends knew that the pledge was a load of crap that kept the priests off their backs. (No pun intended.)
    Medical marijuana is a prime example. In any town in any state marijuana is available to anyone who can pay for it. It can be purchased on street corners, back rooms, mail order, or by telephone. Our 40-year-old War on Drugs has not put a dent into the pot trade. Anyone who wants to smoke it can. Yet conservative, antigovernment politicians are adamantly against marijuana as a medical alternative to the corrosive quality of prescription drugs. Despite all evidence to the contrary and a philosophical disconnect from libertarian principles, they persist in the battle against legalization. This degree of blind stupidity becomes their modus operandi for dealing with everything. So rational discourse loses out to conservative Christian retardation. Should religion be put on the banned-drug list?
    In a related situation my granddaughter was admitted to a great public school in New York City. When her father went to the school’s introduction program he learned that if he wanted an assistant teacher in his daughter’s classroom he would have to make a $1,500 donation to the school to pay for the salary. He is willing to make the donation because 32 kids in a class is a lot for one teacher but he is perfectly clear that the budget cuts that save the state money and cut services are a tax that is levied on him. “No new taxes” is such a bag of crap. It’s really transferring costs and calling them donations.
    There are no free lunches except in the dementia that surrounds the Tea Party. Paul Ryan’s plan would reduce the deficit by $3 trillion and cost the public $22 trillion.
    So instead of taking morning bike rides through D.C. parks and attending evening prayer sessions on C Street, the young Tea Party gang might be better off going up to Dupont Circle. Score some pot and a water pipe and instead of lashing themselves with nail-studded whips, relax and enjoy the pleasures of Washington. Maybe they will figure out that fake pledges, like fake gods, don’t work in the real world no matter how many pairs of rubber gloves they wear.
NEIL HAUSIG




Duly Noted
    Stuart Vorpahl of Amagansett has pointed out errors in capitalization changes made to a letter to the editor from him that appeared last week. Mr. Vorpahl’s original capitalization of the Trustees of the Freeholders and Commonalty of the Town of East Hampton correctly reflects the board’s formal name.