A Wake-Up Call
November 1, 2012
To the Editor,
They say that sometimes you have to hit people in the teeth with a baseball bat before they will listen. Well, I think we were hit with a big baseball bat with respect to Hurricane Sandy. Can you believe it, a hurricane on Oct. 31?
I think it is safe to say a new standard has been set for coastal storms. Let’s see, Sag Harbor Village completely flooded, Montauk Village flooded, Napeague stretch breached, Lazy Point flooded. Wainscott houses destroyed. Most bayside beaches flooded and eroded with damage. All ocean dunes compromised. Extensive tree damage. The beaches are in horrible shape, and it is only the beginning of November.
Clearly, our environment is changing and extremely rapidly. Sea-level rise, more frequent, more powerful storms, bug infestations, and the loss of critical marine and coastal habitats are the most prominent of these changes. All of these changes directly impact our community. What will the next big storm bring us? With some regret I have to say that the environment has not and is not a priority for many of our local planners and leaders.
Recently the East Hampton Zoning Board of Appeals approved an application for an 8,400-square-foot house on Northwest Harbor that is completely surrounded by wetlands. The Z.B.A. approved the application with a septic system setback variance and then applauded the application while in session. The subject property was several feet under water during Hurricane Sandy. The environmental impact of the wastewater from this house with a conventional septic system will be equivalent to mounting six toilets on a floating dock at anchorage and flushing them directly into Northwest Harbor. That is truly disgusting! I have never witnessed such a public display of ignorance in my life
Sag Harbor Village continues to pump thousands of gallons of partially treated wastewater in Sag Harbor near the breakwater every week. How will the addition of the new condominium project impact the local ecosystem? I can say with confidence no one involved in the project really knows.
Most of the Sag Harbor waters are deemed as dead water bodies unable to support marine life. This is truly a tragedy. In addition, Havens Beach continues to dump polluted runoff into Northwest Harbor every day. How can this be? Nothing has been done in several years since the problem was identified and proven beyond any doubt in spite of numerous objections from the Sag Harbor leaders who publicly stated it was not a problem.
I would strongly recommend that Sag Harbor immediately start a project to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant and resolve the situation at Havens Beach.
This year we lost the entire 2012 bay scallop crop west of Gardiner’s Island. Three Mile Harbor and Napeague Harbor look to have a small crop that survived the numerous algae blooms that took place this summer. The landings of all forms of finfish were down drastically this year in the Peconic Bay Estuary. Really, what will it take to make this a priority? Please think hard about what attracted you to eastern Long Island. I am confident that the natural beauty or environment will be a top-three reason for most folks.
It is very easy to make money at the expense of the environment, just look at Big Oil or King Coal, or the gas-drilling companies. Look at the devastation to the environment in North Dakota from fracking. Look at the mountaintop removal projects in West Virginia — sick kids, destroyed communities, disgusting pollution; it is truly horrible. They want to frack the Adirondacks next. Where will New Yorkers get clean drinking water if the Adirondacks are destroyed?
Who will pay the costs for our stupidity? Unfortunately it is our children, and maybe our grandchildren, if people still want to live here with destroyed beaches, polluted waters, and unsafe communities.
At the current rate of change East Hampton will be a much different place in 50 years. What is your real estate worth when it is underwater or decimated from saltwater infusion, erosion, and insect infestations?
Any semblance of environmental planning, leadership, or stewardship is absent from our local, state, and federal government. It is truly lost on so many bright, successful people.
Locally, the small Natural Resources Department and a few environmental planners are no match for the deep pockets and high-powered lawyers that applicants routinely bring to the table when negotiating and wearing down the planning process. All this so that someone can have a trophy house that will sit empty for half of the year.
The East Hampton and Southampton Town Trustees are trying to make a stand but are often distracted with frivolous lawsuits regarding beach access rights and illegal docks. At the rate things are going we will not have to worry about beach access, as we will not have any beaches.
This void in environmental leadership leaves academia (Stony Brook, Long Island University, and Cornell) and not-for-profit environmental stewards (Peconic Baykeeper, Blue Ocean Institute) to fight the good fight on behalf of the environment. Right now the deck is clearly stacked against the environmental advocates.
If Hurricane Sandy wasn’t a wake-up call on behalf of the environment, we are truly doomed as a society. The only thing sadder than the catastrophic losses so many people endured during the recent storm is the lack of leadership to help protect what remains of our coastal environment and our community.
October 29, 2012
Oddly coincidental that two weeks ago, veterans of the 1938 Hurricane articulately shared their experiences of that powerful storm, while many, as evidenced by lines at the gas pump, are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Sandy. The devastation we see and read about is humbling, as we prepare to receive another storm with predictions of greater rainfall.
I have family along the south shore of western Suffolk whose homes were flooded by this storm. Water entered their canal-front residences for the first time in 40 years. The Long Island Power Authority indicated that there would likely be no power for a month as they tested lines and fixtures to prevent fires and other mishaps once power is restored. This has been a life-changing event for them.
East Hampton, as we all know, is especially vulnerable to extreme weather events, particularly Montauk and Napeague, as well as low-lying coastal areas along the northern reaches, which can suffer flooding, even in high tide during full moon. The dysfunction of the electric grid aside, our community did very well thanks to the efforts of our fine emergency response personnel. Highway Superintendent Steve Lynch and his staff are to be congratulated for courageously stemming the breach in Napeague and making our roadways as functional as they were, post-storm.
What needs to enter the public conversation is how the ever-growing threat of sea rise will act in concert with storms of this nature and what can be done on the local level to prepare or defend our most vulnerable areas from these inevitable impacts. The frequency and intensity of such storms creates the potential for dramatic effects on our ever-growing year-round community. One can be thankful Sandy did not arrive during the month of August when so many second home-owners were still in residence.
Proof that weather events are increasing in strength and severity exists in the scientific community. Global warming and related sea rise, already several inches higher on the East Coast, compounds the problem for coastal communities such as ours. We need a conversation about the climate crisis, sea-level rise, and how local policy can protect our community from or mitigate the potential for life-changing impacts.
Urgent action is needed to properly address solutions to buffer and/or save our shorelines and the life they have provided for future generations. With this issue in particular, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
November 5, 2012
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, many local residents have found themselves dealing with prolonged power outages, no water, property damage, gasoline shortages, etc. Timing was also against us, with the end of daylight savings and the arrival of colder temperatures. My wife and I live in the village and remain powerless. We understand why and remain patient and hopeful.
My father is an older gentleman who requires special care, like many others around this area. My dad is fortunate to have his family and a caregiver, but without power, it becomes more difficult to keep him comfortable. Meanwhile, my wife is also a caregiver for a local gentleman with special needs, who remains without power.
So this past weekend, with forecasts of dropping temperatures, my wife began searching for shelters if it became necessary due to freezing. To her surprise, she found nothing. There were no heated shelters locally or information to aid her in finding one. She contacted the town offices, and they too couldn’t help.
She was lucky enough to find a motel room after three days of searching. My father, on the other hand, cannot as easily be moved. I feel the lack of operating shelters for the elderly and lack of overall information is a very serious oversight on whoever is responsible and should be addressed immediately . . . but this is not why I’m writing you this letter. It’s what happened next that makes this letter necessary.
Still frantically arranging a backup plan and searching for information, I decided to post a plea on my Facebook page via my cellphone. I then left in search of gas, found nothing, and returned home within 45 minutes. As I walked to my door a truck pulled into my driveway and I returned to see East Hampton Town Highway Superintendent Steve Lynch. He came by to tell me his mother Loretta Lynch in Florida saw my post, called him, and he sent a worker over to my father’s house with a generator.
I was so elated by our conversation, the only words I could say were “thank you” — over and over.
Fortunately, my father already had a generator, but the response and attention to my dad was worth so much more. Steve said anything my dad needed, to let him know. He also asked if I knew anyone else who may need assistance or to check on. As a member, he told me the Lions Club was determined to make sure no one was hungry or cold during this natural disaster.
When I arrived at my father’s house, I noticed a large sign on the wall next to my dad that was left by the worker. It had the gentleman’s name, phone number, and the word “anything.” I knew just then that my previous words of gratitude weren’t enough and I had to write this letter. Steve went over and beyond for my family, and I thank him with all my heart. The same goes for the Lions Club, a fabulous organization.
At this point I’d like to mention one more relevant observation. The nature of my work has me all over the town of East Hampton. On top of that, I’m a local photographer and that, too, allows me great observation opportunities throughout our area. Immediately after the storm all emergency services and highway departments, both town and village, were out putting our broken town back together, opening roadways, clean-ups, smooth-flowing traffic, putting out fires, etc., all done efficiently with hard work and long hours. Credit must be given where it is due, and I wish to applaud these men and women.
To the community as well, which always comes together to aid their neighbors. We’ve had two people come to our door to offer assistance if needed and several offers opening their homes. To me, it’s not surprising, but it’s always overwhelming.
Powerless, yet patient,
November 5, 2012
I want to express my deepest thanks and appreciation for all the help Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and his tireless and dedicated secretary, Johnson Nordlinger, gave me this past weekend.
I had been without power in my house since Monday when Sandy hit. I had to move in with my son and daughter-in-law, Rick and Kelly White, for the duration.
When Bill Wilkinson was making inquiries about those without power he heard of my plight. When I saw Johnson at church Sunday she asked about my status. When she learned I was still without power a phone call from her produced five electric company trucks on my road. By 7 p.m. Sunday night I had a trimmed road, a new telephone pole, and electric power. For the first time in six nights I slept in my own bed and had a warm house and hot water, simple pleasures I had previously taken for granted.
Saying thank you doesn’t adequately express the grateful feelings I have for my family, along with Bill and Johnson, plus the hardworking men of the power company who helped me get back into my house.
At the same time I have a such great sense of sadness for the thousands of people who are so much worse off than I. People whose lives will never be the same.
I am so thankful that we in Montauk were, by the grace of God, spared a much worse fate.
November 1, 2012
To the Editor.
I would be remiss if I did not thank the East Hampton Library and Starbucks for their hospitality during the power outage for the last five days. It was so comforting to know we could leave our cold, powerless homes and find a warm place to stay during the day and evenings. Thank you ever so much for keeping us warm and sane.
Leaves and Brush
November 4, 2012
To the Editor,
What nice things will our leaders decide to do following the Sandy storm — leaf removal, brush removal?
Try as I might, all I can hear is silence.
Everyone I know is sweeping leaves and brush into their adjacent street. Do they know something I don’t? Time our leaders loosened up!
$5.7 Million More
November 5, 2012
Now that the Town of East Hampton’s financial audit for 2011 has appeared, we can present more accurate facts about the deficits left by the last administration, as well as how the current administration has resolved them.
First, the total amount needed to fully close the general fund deficits left from the previous administration was $15.5 million — or about 50 percent of the campaign rhetoric amount of $30 million used by Supervisor Wilkinson. The actual amount bonded by the current administration to close the deficit is precisely $21.265 million. So, as your editorial of Oct. 25 stated, this administration took on $5.775 million more debt than was needed.
All of these numbers are explicitly stated or calculable from the 2011 audit and the security offerings for the bonds. The 2011 audit shows that the two general funds, the “whole town” and town outside the villages, or “part town,” began 2011 with a combined deficit of $6 million. Therefore, $6 million is the amount that should have been borrowed in 2011 to close the deficit. If you add $6 million to the $9.5 million of the first deficit bond sold in 2010, the result is the $15.5 million total that was needed to close the deficit.
What is ironic, given this administration’s repeated self-aggrandizement of their financial prowess, is that they did not need to add any new debt to close the deficit. The previous administration had already borrowed $15 million in short-term financing in 2008 and 2009 to close the deficit.
A few people told the public and this administration that the town could simply convert the existing financing into long-term bonds without adding new and unnecessary debt. Sadly, that idea was not treated seriously, though we now know that it was an accurate assessment. The $5.78 million of extra borrowing in 2011 has already added about $125,000 of unwarranted and additional interest expense to our property taxes in 2012.
October 26, 2012
Regarding a car wash on the Wainscott strip: When I was a boy, the neighbors and I delighted in washing our own cars on a weekend.
It’s simple: You get a pail of hot, sudsy water and a sponge. You clean the car. Then you get another pail of water, and you rinse.
It’s fun! You can do it, East Hampton! Rise up!
The Villages, Fla.
October 26, 2012
Let me start by saying that I do believe in freedom of speech; however, I believe it is the responsibility of the person taking advantage of this privilege to make sure they know all the facts. The person who had his letter to the editor printed in this week’s paper unfortunately does not know the facts behind the closing of Ronnie’s Deli. Reading false statements about a prominent family that has lived and ran a successful business in Montauk for decades is not acceptable, and as a former resident and business owner in Montauk I could not just sit by and read false accusations. Before anyone accuses someone of something they should have the decency to check out their facts first.
Impacted the Swans
October 16, 2012
To the Editor,
For as long as residents living on Georgica Pond can remember there have been many, many swans whose nests were our neighbors, until this year. Amongst the usual 100-plus population was the infamous swan called Fred, known for his penchant for attacking kayakers.
It is of concern that since last autumn there has not been one single swan living on this pond, as far as I can tell.
Has the water quality changed? Perhaps the increased helicopter and airplane routing off the ocean and over the pond has impacted the swans? Could their mysterious, sudden, and complete disappearance be related to two canine incidents in the Georgica Association this summer where a Jack Russell terrier died immediately after playing at the water’s edge and a Labrador’s muscles suddenly went slack after eating pond algae?
Perhaps this is a perfectly normal event in nature?
November 3, 2012
Dear Mr. Rattray,
Not everyone is freaked out about deer. Just get a white car, slow down, and turn on your parking or fog lights. Your daughter will likely be much more concerned about your endless editorial preoccupation promoting sharpshooting deer than her “trauma,” when she gets to be your age, I’ll bet.
November 1, 2012
The Concerned Citizens of Montauk would like to extend its deepest gratitude for everyone involved in our Meet the Candidates Forum on Oct. 28.
We would like to thank our candidates, Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, Randy Altschuler, and Bridget Fleming; the Montauk Fire Department; LTV, and members of the community who, despite the approaching hurricane, made themselves present and heard, making our meeting a success.
C.C.O.M. is proud to say this was our 42nd year of Meet the Candidates and we are thankful to continue to provide this important forum to the community.
November 5, 2012
The elections are behind us. At this writing the results are not known, but one thing is known for sure: A great many ordinary Americans have voted in droves, against their own self interest. Consider:
They voted for reducing Medicare coverage (vouchers). They voted for postponing and/or privatizing their own Social Security. They voted for devolving Medicaid to the states, thereby greatly reducing the program. They voted for the elimination of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which means no more federal assistance in case of a catastrophe. They voted for eliminating Planned Parenthood: no more assistance to poor women so that they can safely have babies.
And so much more.
And how did they accomplish all that, against themselves, against members of their own families, particularly the elderly?
Very simply. They voted Republican.
November 4, 2012
I wrote the following letter to my son at his request. He told me that although he favored President Obama because he has in his bones the values that I have and his grandparents had, he was having difficulty convincing himself as well as some of his friends who had supported Mr. Obama in ’08 to do so now. He sent me a copy of a letter written by a businessman that his friends concurred with.
I believe that the old adage spoken by Abraham Lincoln, “You can fool some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time,” will, for the reasons set forth in my letter to my son and many other reasons not mentioned, result in your reporting to your readers this coming Thursday the re-election of Barack Obama.
Hi Gregg: You asked me to respond to a letter forwarded to you by one of your business colleagues that was written by a disgruntled North Carolina businessman employing 14 people. And, you asked that I be brief in my response.
1. The North Carolina businessman rightfully boasts of his large, gracious home with the Mercedes-Benz parked in the driveway. I say rightfully because he worked hard to earn what he has.
2. He writes a letter to his 14 employees telling them that he will close his business because he is faced with $250,000 in quarterly taxes. A business with such a quarterly tax obligation has to be paying substantial salaries as well as earning a handsome profit for its owner (reference the gracious home and Mercedes-Benz).
3. There is a commonly accepted belief among wealthy people that the Obama administration has not supported business expansion. This belief is belied by the facts. The stock market has risen 67 percent since Obama took office, by far and away the largest increase in any presidency. Tell me that that would have occurred without the Obama stimulus package passed in ’09, and I have a bridge to sell you. (Obama wanted the stimulus package to be twice the $850 million that it was and the Republicans in Congress blocked it. Had they agreed to the larger amount our economy would be in even much better shape than it is today, resulting in a huge reduction in joblessness.)
a. Obama proposes eliminating the Bush tax cuts on those earning more than $250,000. The claim is that this would hurt small businesspeople. The truth is that only 3 percent of small businesspeople electing subchapter S status for their corporations earn more than $250,000. So Obama’s proposal would in fact help small businesses by reducing taxes on 97 percent of them. This too would reduce unemployment and stimulate business.
b. As to the businessman’s threat to close his business and retire in the Caribbean, Warren Buffett famously said he never met an investor (which the owner of a small business essentially is) who wouldn’t make an investment because of taxes on the profit. (If the angry North Carolina businessman wants to retire he can sell his business to his employees, realize a profit and allow them to continue to be employed.)
c. Obamacare (the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act) will actually cut overall medical and hospital costs at the same time that it affords coverage to 39 million uninsured Americans and guarantees health coverage to all children. Recent increases in insurance premiums have come about because insurance companies have jacked up their rates in the last two years before Obamacare restricts their ability to do so. (One must ask oneself, when one is fortunate enough to have all the medical care one needs whether: i) children or any fellow American should not have health insurance; ii) insurance companies should be able to deny coverage because of a prior existing condition, or iii) a family should be subject to losing its home and all of its assets because of a catastrophic illness (Obamacare eliminates all of these inequities).
4. The American dream: You, me, your father, and your grandfather have all realized the American dream, each outdoing the other economically. This has only come about because of, in the case of my father and myself, quality public education and free or affordable college. The dream has been lost for today’s youth, and we must restore education to the levels that allowed my father and me to do well and paved the way for you. And, to keep the U.S. competitive in the world.
5. To list all the ways that we need government and a tax structure that enables it to do what it has to, i.e., address catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy, those who are well off have to do more by way of paying more taxes. The wealth of the “2 percent” has grown enormously over the last two decades while the middle and lower classes have remained where they were or fallen back. This is not how the U.S. became the great nation that it is.
I commend anyone reading this e-mail to take the time to read an essay in the Sunday Review section of Oct. 28’s New York Times by Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics and Columbia professor, titled: “What’s at Stake in This Election.”
I want the country that my grandchildren grow up and live in as adults to be the equitable place that you, I, and my father thrived in.
With love, your dad.