February 27, 2012
Last week witnessed the formal groundbreaking of the St. Michael’s senior citizens affordable housing project. The leader of this extremely worthwhile undertaking is Michael DeSario, who has devoted countless hours over the last 10 years to the creation of needed, reasonably priced apartments for longtime East Hampton residents. In his efforts to secure approvals, financing, a site, and finally, permits, he has been assisted by the determined aid of his staff, professionals, and local politicians.
Some have pointed out the high cost per unit of these apartments, costs that exceed what a private developer would pay for comparable construction. The issuance of federal housing grants as well as other necessary government supplements carry with them the requirements of the payment of “prevailing wage” levels for the labor involved. Those levels exceed by a considerable margin what many local contractors might have charged for similar work. Each of the various lenders and grantors of funds also have legal counsel whose bills are part of the total costs involved.
Whatever the difficulties that appeared over the years of this process, Michael never wavered in his commitment to getting it done. He has done the work of all those of good conscience who care about the maintenance of community. Taking care of the elderly by providing a way for them to remain a part of the community that they helped to create is admirable, appropriate, and beneficial to us all. The prospective residents of these apartments will thus be able to remain here, contribute the benefit of their experience, and maintain friendships and family contact. Thank you, Michael, for this worthy endeavor. Well done!
STEVEN P. SCHWARTZ
February 27, 2012
Sometimes your editorials are sensible, and sometime they reek of the amateur sensationalist journalism you accuse other local papers of promoting. A perfect example is last week’s Star editorial about deer.
Your piece of opinion is sprinkled with words like “rampage” and “depredations,” and the last sentence is a masterpiece of irony: “It is a pity to think of wild lands in which a single animal reigns above the rest, throwing all life out of balance.” Fantastic line, I’ve never heard you disparage humans in such a way.
You complain of the loss of understory relating to loss of bird life. There is very little evidence to support this statement. My yard, and the lands around, host many bird species such as you mention. And you speak of new “open vistas” under the trees; if this is the case, then why is project Open Vista on such a fast track to clear the supposedly overgrown understory along Bluff Road in Amagansett?
And when talking about damage to nature, please remember that one human with a chain saw, in a few hours, can do far more damage than a herd of deer in many years. I’ve never seen a deer take down five oak trees in a day, which a human recently did nearby.
If your concern is the bird life, perhaps you could recommend everyone leave a small area of their yard unmowed, to let the grasses and and wildflowers bloom and go to seed, which would help the bird life immeasurably. And reduce the use of weed killers and fertilizers and pesticides, which inexorably work their way up the food chain.
February 27, 2012
To the Editor:
Your lead Feb. 23 editorial says deer are damaging vegetation in the woods and “the only reasonable cure is in sharply reducing the number of deer, mostly by hunting or fencing off the woods.” But hunting in our town already causes the deer to suffer terribly. Stepping it up would expand the horror they must endure. It isn’t even clear that increased hunting will reduce the deer population.
In their classic study, biologists Andreas Richter and Ronald Labisky found that deer actually have more births in areas where hunting occurs. Perhaps a truly massive slaughter could reduce the deer population, but how much killing would be necessary? You note that several bird species are having a difficult time surviving, and you blame the deer and their consumption of leaves and twigs in the woods. But are deer really the major culprits? Isn’t it likely that there are more basic causes — especially the pollutants that we have poured into the waters and the real estate developments that have destroyed the birds’ wider habitats? Don’t these factors merit our attention?
You recommend, as an addition or alternative to hunting, fencing off woods from deer. But such fences would also put the deer under severe stress. The movements of does and fawns typically center on their birthplaces in the woods. Fencing off woodlands would leave them homeless and disoriented. Surprisingly, you reject contraception, a humane, nonlethal approach to deer population control. You claim that it’s unproven and too expensive. But our group, the East Hampton Group for Wildlife, has extensively studied the practicality and potential of immunocontraception, and we believe it holds considerable promise. We have hosted public forums on the method, as well as presentations to the East Hampton Town Board. We also have provided the board with a detailed plan for a pilot contraception study. It deserves the town’s support.
Your editorial concludes with a philosophical comment: “It is a pity to think of wild lands in which a single animal breed reigns above all the rest, throwing all life out of balance.” The animal to which you refer is, of course, the deer. But let’s take a moment to look in the mirror. Our species has inflicted more damage on nature than has any other animal — and by far. We have cut down great forests, polluted lakes and rivers, and brought about the extinction of countless plant and animal species. What’s more, it is rapid growth of the human population — not that of the white-tailed deer — that poses a great threat to life on Earth. But does anyone seriously propose killing humans to thin our ranks? Of course not; for our cultural and religious traditions teach us to value the worth of each person.
Shouldn’t we also value each member of other species, including deer, and think about humane, nonlethal ways to solve the problems we confront?
East Hampton Group for Wildlife
Birds to Report
February 25, 2012
Dear Mr. Rattray,
I just want to thank you for writing about the winter bird count last week. Although I am a member of the Cornell Lab, every year I am reminded about it only after the fact. So this time I was delighted to be able to take part, mainly from my own yard.
I did make a brief stop at the Sag Harbor pier and reported 25 surf scoter, as well as one long-tailed duck, which the gulls soon chased out of their fishing territory. I didn’t report the herring gulls as they were just too widespread with many in motion. I did do a count at Town Pond and David’s Lane, where they were more stationary — also the many mallards.
Mostly basic birds to report (I got to 19 species), but I was glad to see some of my couples still together, including house finches, who once blanketed my apple tree but now are infrequent and few in my yard. Nothing really unusual to report, but it was nice to see a yellow-rumped warbler who clearly displayed his bright markings, reminding me of the daffodils soon to come.
I wished there had been a “how many deer in your yard at one time” count — for me it is seven. It might be interesting to see what a one-day count in our area would be.
Again, thanks for the timely article.
CARLA CACCAMISE ASH
Quality and Character
February 27, 2012
The people of East Hampton owe Phil Gamble a deep debt of gratitude for his more than 30 years of service to the town as a member, vice chair, and chairman of the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals.
It is not only the quantity of service that must be honored, but the quality and character he brought to what many understand can be a thankless job.
Serving on the zoning board can be thankless because, even when an application is approved, the applicant usually wants more or perceives that they could have gotten more. And if an application is denied, no amount of reasoning can usually assuage the applicant’s ire.
If one has not served on a board or committee that meets nearly every week, one cannot fully understand the weight that 30-plus years of service can be. But Phil Gamble has always been a duty-bound community person, and he openly admits he could never have performed this particular duty without a very understanding wife.
Phil did not have to leave the zoning board when he did, but he selflessly relinquished his position as chairman and as a member on his own terms. By doing so he had some say in the naming of the new chairman and the retention of another fellow member.
I wish the new members of the zoning board and those who were retained or promoted all the very best and hope that they will be as fair and as consistent as Phil tried to be. And I also hope they meet their challenges with the same mixture of toughness and good humor that Phil always showed.
So here is a small note of thanks to Phil Gamble, who did a more than excellent job for many years in what has often been termed a truly thankless job.
Light and Dark
February 25, 2012
To the Editor,
I’ve been thinking about light and dark lately. Here are a few thoughts I’d like to throw into the discussion:
First, if there is real hardship for “certain businesses” in meeting East Hampton Town’s current laws, then it certainly would be easier to amend the law to give these businesses some means of appeal, which would be preferable in my mind to simply throwing the regulations out, or rewriting the regulations to account for only those who are having a financial problem with them. But it seems to me such an appeal process would have to have strict requirements for providing supporting evidence of genuine hardship. I would suggest a requirement of three independent bids from appropriately licensed contractors along with three years of the business’s financial statements. The same requirements would have to apply to a residential situation.
In terms of inspection, surely the inspector’s workday should include hours after dark, and hours on the weekend after dark. A quick drive south of Route 27 on a summer Saturday night would result in summonses. It also seems, given the amount of in-the-ground upward-facing lighting under trees which I have seen installed in the last four years (I could provide a list), that lighting designers and/or architects and landscape designers, as well as electrical contractors, should have genuine obligations to obey our statutes as well as the property owners, and should be equally subject to penalties.
My own background in lighting is as a theatrical lighting designer, and the control of light is not a complicated matter. Frankly, one good tinsmith could solve most of the problems in town very reasonably. The beauty and prosperity of our town have been preserved by a combination of a rich history, a superb location, and years of very stringent zoning and environmental regulations. Let’s try to keep it on track as best we can.
Law is Rash
February 24, 2012
Dear Mr. Rattray:
As a free-thinking American, I believe that the role of government should be to focus on big issues that affect society. For the most part, there must be more freedom granted to the individual and there should be less intrusiveness from the government. However, that means we all must be responsible citizens — and take charge of our own lives.
That being said, you can imagine my concern when I found out from last Tuesday’s town board meeting that Councilman Dominick Stanzione has introduced a bill that would change the town code retroactively to require all pool owners to install a staircase in their pools to help dogs climb out that may have fallen into the pool. This is a well-meaning sentiment that, to me, defines the meaning of the term “big brother.” I understand this is stemming from a dog that wandered into a neighbor’s pool and drowned. I am a dog owner and a dog lover myself, and I am sorry this tragic accident happened. However, it is already required by code that a fence be installed around all pools. That should be adequate. Pet owners have a responsibility to keep an eye on their pets as on their children. We do not need government telling us how to be more responsible.
A bit of quick research has shown that there are approximately 2,600 pools already in East Hampton. I also found that a typical staircase of the type this new law would require costs about $500 each (not counting installation). Times are difficult enough right now and this law is rash as it punishes homeowners for negligent dog owners.
I urge Councilman Stanzione to drop this idea.
February 27, 2012
For several years an infectious plan to eliminate all events from the Montauk Village green has incubated and smoldered within a sanctimonious group of Montauk residents who use “TLC,” Traffic, Litter, and Crowds, as one of their reasons not to use the village green. Now, however, gridlock, debris, and congestion are no longer foils. Instead, it is the fifth annual Montauk Artists Association Village Green Art Show, planned for Memorial Day, that has complicated and interrupted the recently formed ad hoc Montauk Memorial Committee’s scheme to honor our veterans, during a three-day celebration on the village green.
Ignoring the many factual observances of ways in which American cities and villages honor our vets on Memorial Day, as researched and shared by comments on Patch.com, the group chooses not to follow the many activities United States communities include during this holiday weekend. Their disregard in observing Veterans Day on Nov. 11, which is the official date to pay tribute to our veterans, and their refusal to compromise and share the village green during the Memorial Day weekend further supports the word “disingenuous,” used to describe the obvious.
To exploit the veterans as the reason for this quagmire is an apparent cunning contrivance, especially when verbal abuse was directed at the artists during daytime events, and tents slashed, and objects of art taken under the edge of darkness. Such attitude and behavior defile the words gratitude, sympathy, respect, patriotism, appreciation, honor, liberty, valor, sacrifice, faith, and peace which our 21,000,000 veterans have given us to live by.
February 21, 2012
According to The Star’s lead article of Feb. 16, the Surf Lodge accumulated 686 violations of town code in one season. “The defendants failed to appear for multiple court dates and were issued two criminal summonses.” This without a building permit, no certificate of occupancy, no site plan approval, illegal clearing of wetlands, property maintenance issues, and overcrowding — not to mention the danger of traveling past the Surf Lodge on a summer Friday or Saturday night.
Why is the town waiting? Why have we not bulldozed the property! Certainly we have the justification and perhaps even the obligation.
Resist His Bluster
February 25, 2012
Last week in the Sunday Newsday there was a two-page article discussing the commercial fishing industry on Long Island. They said such things as the unfair quota system is “depriving the island of revenue” and “commercial fishermen are a hardy breed of small businessmen.” Kevin Law, C.E.O. of the Long Island Association, said commercial fishing is “very, very important to our regional economy.” Senator Schumer said, “Long Island is synonymous with fishing.”
Newsday said, “The New York seafood industry is a billion-dollar business supporting an estimated 44,000 jobs.” And a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration economist said, “Several thousand fishing related jobs are tied to the island,” meaning commercial fishermen with licenses. They stated the number of commercial fishermen has declined by 18 percent in the last 10 years and those with special permits for fluke have declined by 22 percent.
They blamed this sorry state on improper quotas imposed through sketchy or nonexistent data, the unwillingness of managers to be fair, and other states to sacrifice their fishermen’s quota for us. They failed to blame poor representation, high costs, little infrastructure, overzealous law enforcement, nonsensical record keeping, out-and-out hostility and lies from environmental groups, many sportfishing groups, governments, and bigotry.
Our local papers have said the same things often enough, but I can’t remember a publication like Newsday ever thinking of commercial fishing as an economic mainstay. Someone must have noticed the port of Southampton is in decline and Greenport, Northport, Port Jefferson, Freeport, and Sheepshead Bay are a whisper of what they were a decade ago. Only East Hampton is still hanging on and we’re producing more than 80 percent of the finfish in the state. We have the lion’s share of a billion-dollar and 44,000-strong industry.
In 2006 the town established the East Hampton Town Fisheries Committee to advocate for the industry. It made remarkable political and economic gains for the fishermen.
Considering the concerns Newsday wrote about, we were already there. We procured from Suffolk County $30,000 for a data collection survey to show federal managers the errors in the data used to establish quotas, and they agreed to use our information and make adjustments. We got a tentative grant from New York State for $250,000 to hire Cornell to do a comprehensive socioeconomic study of the fishing industry. We sought advice from town lawyers and discovered that when managers tried to impose a total moratorium on the lobster fishery they would be, in fact, sterilizing property and investment and must compensate the fishermen. And we were making strides in our understanding of the politics of fishery management, science, environmental concerns, and a maze of connections and deals.
Today we have a fisheries committee only on paper with a pittance of a budget that was forced on Mr. Wilkinson by Mr. Stanzione but is so small we’re no longer able to attend management meetings. Mr. Wilkinson has sat on the money for the data survey and not moved to get the grant for the socioeconomic study. He denies us our representative. He tries to sell our docks and wants to ban us from getting fuel for our vessels. He demeans us and rather than bringing us together, plays fishermen against each other. And it goes on.
What Mr. Wilkinson is doing to the fishing industry is more than wrong. It’s harming the homes, people, the heritage, and future, the worth, value, citizenship, and deep investment of every kind made by the fishermen, and it’s bad business. How can Mr. Wilkinson, who fancies himself the alpha businessman and chief politician, seek to destroy something of such value in his own town? I don’t know, but I’ve noticed that Ms. Overby, Mr. Van Scoyoc, and Mr. Stanzione, too, have begun to resist his bluster, threats, snotty remarks, and rages, and they’re getting our town back on track.
The fishing industry needs those three to restore the committee. It’s right for the fishermen and the town. The investment is so small. Please help us.
Beg to Differ
February 25, 2012
The overcrowding of Springs is not a new problem, nor is the group Concerned Citizens of Springs. For two years this group has been trying to work with the Wilkinson administration. At first we were told the apartment accessory law was broken and we needed to make it easier for homeowners to make accessory apartments. We knew, and now the town board knows, after a two-year study this is not the problem.
Springs is overcrowded, very overcrowded. Most of us who live here live on small lots on properties zoned mostly for single-family homes, most houses (but not all) have three bedrooms, one-and- a-half baths, and are ranches or contemporary — nothing grandiose, just your average house, some smaller, some larger.
A quote by Carol Buda in your article “Seek Summit on Overcrowded Springs Housing” (Feb. 23) caught my attention.
Law-abiding people also have rights. We upgrade our property and have a sense of pride in our ownership, part of the American dream, no? We pay our taxes, attend town meetings, attend school board meetings, write letters to our local papers — we are engaged with our community. We court-watch and see code violations cases in Justice Court adjudicated, and we are very willing to discuss the problems of Springs with the current administration. We know the problems; we live with them. No one on the last board or current board lives in Springs.
We are begging the board to recognize there still are code enforcement problems in Springs, and we would like to have a dialogue with a member of the board, head of code enforcement, the administrator of public safety, possibly a town attorney, and a representative of the East Hampton police. This is a question of law and order.
There are also other heavy-duty issues, like property assessment and Springs school taxes and school consolidation, but I don’t want to get carried away here! Let’s focus on code enforcement.
What is happening now is that residents of Springs are being talked at, lectured, and told there is no problem. We are told code enforcement is effective and code enforcement is doing its job. We beg to differ, and would like a dialogue, not a lecture, not a confrontation, but a genuine discussion of the problems and how we might all deal with them.
Code enforcement is not just a problem in Springs. We have been following the Surf Lodge fiasco in Montauk. We also are following developments on code enforcement with the Town of Southampton and Hampton Bays.
There is a town meeting today at Town Hall. If you wish to speak on this subject, please get there at 6:45 p.m. and sign up for public comment. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Please attend.
February 27, 2012
Dear Mr. Rattray:
It is amazing to read the letters to the editor from anti-Wilkinson operatives whose over-the-top rage makes me think a new town committee needs to be created A.S.A.P. to deal with their anger management. Since Ms. Overby is a huge fan of committees and summits, perhaps she would like to champion this one too.
Their letters in the newspapers and diatribes at the town board meetings bombard our senses like litter swirling in a menacing and expanding tornado. Their ugly hate of our fine supervisor and deputy supervisor is a powerful addiction that subsumes all rational thought and behavior. Take a breath, girls and guys!
What a shame so much negative energy is spent on attacking Bill and Theresa Quigley, two dedicated and hard-working public officials whose policies and management have saved East Hampton from financial collapse. The Wilkinson administration has set a tone for government so successful, that Governor Cuomo is duplicating the same policies in Albany. Look at what Cuomo is doing and you can see Bill’s administration was ahead of the curve, luckily for East Hampton Town residents.
But success often breeds contempt and amnesia. Can you believe there are some in this town who believe the financial problems are over, have just gone away, or even never existed? Not so my friends; those problems exist, they are just being managed brilliantly. Remember, we still have the $27 million gap-closing debt to repay. Thank you, Democrats.
Regrettably, these same people want to drag this town back to the policies that brought taxpayers bloated government, the “crony capitalism” of shady ice-skating rink deals and runaway spending. Through delay, distract, and destroy tactics, this group wants to regain its power to feed the voracious appetite of its special interests.
Taxpayers cannot allow this to happen. Attend or watch on LTV the town board meetings. Come to your own conclusions about the issues without the spin of newspaper articles and editorials. The survival of our own demands it.
February 27, 2012
Hear! Hear! to Tom Knobel for writing a letter to The East Hampton Star last week. Every person with a shred of decency in him or her who attended that Feb. 16 town board meeting should have stood up and told Rona Klopman and Elaine Jones to sit down and shut up if they could not comport themselves in a decent manner when addressing members of our community. Klopman and Jones’s splenetic diatribes and ad hominem attacks were reprehensible. They should be ashamed of themselves.
And what’s with members of the board who just sat there, dignifying what were clearly personal attacks? As someone who split her ticket during the last election, I had high hopes for Councilwoman Sylvia Overby and Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc. I’m terribly disappointed in them. The board needs to remind the public that constructive criticism is always welcome. A personal attack is not. If Klopman and Jones cannot control their nastiness and bullying, they should be admonished to do so by the entire board. If that fails to stop the tirades, Ms. Klopman and Ms. Jones should be unceremoniously frog-marched out of Town Hall.
LYNNE W. SCANLON
February 20, 2012
Thursday night I attended the town board meeting over at the new Town Hall. I came away with some observations I would like to share with you and your readers.
First, I want to compliment all four board members for their incredible patience in listening to some of our citizens who ran on for over two hours with little or no point in what they were saying in the public comments. (Dominick Stanzione was absent from the meeting.) Many speakers had important things to say but a few just wanted to hear themselves talk, I guess. They need to know this is a public meeting and not a stage for personal attention.
However, I also want to thank Bill Wilkinson and especially Deputy Supervisor Theresa Quigley for putting up with what was nothing more than personal insults and vitriol in more than one instance. These unseemly personal attacks and deliberate attempts to provoke an unprofessional response from our two elected board members were nothing short of disgraceful. The people responsible for this type of dishonorable behavior should be ashamed of themselves — but I fear that the human characteristic of feeling shame is something that is missing from their personalities.
February 26, 2012
To the Editor:
Rona Klopman’s letter says she’s glad that Sylvia Overby and Peter Von Scoyac are “minding” the East Hampton Town Board. But who’s minding Rona Klopman? She and some other rabid local Democrats seem to have formed an Occupy Town Hall mob, and Ms Klopman is clearly their ringleader. As anyone who’s had the misfortune to be near her at a public meeting can attest, Ms. Klopman is constantly talking out of turn, grimacing, groaning, and generally disturbing the peace. And that’s while she’s still seated. It gets worse once she actually gets up to speak.
Too bad Ms. Klopman wasn’t minding the McGintee board when all five members were Democrats and they managed to lose $25 million to $30 million of taxpayer money, a feat of criminal irresponsibility that apparently went unnoticed by Ms. Klopman. And McGintee’s Gang That Couldn’t Spend Straight certainly wasn’t subjected to the irrational vitriol that now spews from Ms. Klopman and her crew, directed against the very people who are trying to fix the mess.
Tom Knobel’s letter is correct. Watching town board meetings can be enlightening and sometimes even entertaining. Just make sure you’re not seated anywhere near Rona Klopman and her posse.
Pace of Play
February 27, 2012
The vehicle of government, no less than any other, needs gas to go. These days the engine of the Wilkinson administration seems to be fueled instead by small-mindedness and petty jealousy. At public meetings and work sessions designed to explore issues, the supervisor berates his questioners for “running the time clock” and holding up the “pace of play.” He growls, “I hate Zachary Cohen” and, “Don’t make me look at him.”
Deputy Supervisor Quigley berates Councilwoman Overby for talking with the planning director about lighting options, because she, not Ms. Overby, is the planning liaison. Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Quigley resist reappointment of a litter committee, because they did not handpick the members recommended by a member of the community.
Not surprisingly, the administration is going nowhere fast. As the supervisor rants “the clock is on you” to his Democratic colleagues and hurls his papers around, matters are postponed because of errors and delays attributable to the majority’s secretiveness, ineptness, or unwillingness to compromise.
After more than a year, the third (or is it fourth or fifth) version of a whole new lighting law will be unveiled this Tuesday. Since we’ve seen no memorandum setting out what the draft means to achieve, it may again prove incomprehensible and require further study before it can be scheduled for hearing. The public hearing on the resolution to extend the duration of site plan approval voted down on Feb. 16 was held last October, six months ago!
A reasoned decision on our scavenger waste facility is impossible because the board has not researched the impact of alternatives proposed more than two years ago. The board wants to bid out redoing the old Town Hall building, but it hasn’t done the specs. Scheduled action on the proposed new contractor licensing law was delayed when Ms. Quigley unexpectedly called for further discussion, then again by the Democratic council members because the discussion didn’t take place.
And numerous projects last year, like selling the town docks and Fort Pond House, the MTK concert, and the first few revisions of the lighting law were victims (fortunately) of poor planning, research, and legal draftsmanship.
The good news is that our new Democratic board members, Van Scoyoc and Overby, have brought high octane to their jobs on the board. They have initiated needed research and stressed their willingness to cooperate in trying to compromise on controversial matters. Rather than stamp their majority feet and turn their backs, Wilkinson, Quigley, and Stanzione would do well to use the minority’s contributions as an energy source for better decision making.
February 23, 2012
To the Editor,
On Tuesday I attended the town board meeting, and the scavenger waste plant was a major topic. The cesspool companies want to keep it open. Our plant needs so much work to bring it up to standard that the best thing is to close it down. We only keep losing money by using it. In the off-season we do not get enough waste to operate it, and in season we get too much.
One operator said we charge too much and that Riverhead charges less. I think they should use the Riverhead plant, as they have been doing since we had to close ours.
As homeowners, it is our responsibility to have our cesspools emptied when needed. The town has been paying to have the cesspools emptied at the mobile home park on Three Mile Harbor Road. This is a co-op owned by the homeowners. They claim they have no money to have their cesspools emptied because they are on Three Mile Harbor and any runoff would go into the harbor. So it became a town problem. Now we the taxpayers are footing the bill. The town has not come to a decision on what they plan to do about the plant. Close it.
Water Is Life
February 27, 2012
I understand the need for economic development, affordable housing and health care, public transportation, working wages, world peace, and the cure for cancer. What I do not understand is the pervasive separation between humanity and nature. Our insatiable addiction to growth combined with corporate greed that is motivated by ever-increasing profits at any cost is manipulating who we are and what we inherently need to survive. Without a healthy environment with stable, healthy ecosystems, we are just people living on a rock. The Earth is our home, and without it, all of the billions of dollars spent on economic development or anything that does not, in some way, include environmental conservation, ecosystem stability, and-or biological remediation with a keen focus on sustainability will be worthless.
The basic necessity, the common thread of all life, is water. The water we have is millions of years old and the Earth repeatedly cycles this antique resource. Only about 3 percent of all water on Earth is fresh, and of that, almost 70 percent is locked up in glaciers. Less than 1 percent of usable fresh water is readily accessible to humanity. This means that about 0.007 percent of all water on Earth is available for human consumption. Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. Millions of people are facing water shortages, and millions more will suffer the same fate in the coming years. We did receive this life-sustaining resource from the past and we are most certainly altering what we will leave to the future.
Can such an important resource be thrown away? Yes, we do it every day— we call it wastewater. Most wastewater is wasted. It is drained into nearby water bodies or the ground. Wastewater reclamation may be the way to a sustainable future. Without reclamation facilities, we will certainly need regional wastewater treatment facilities on Long Island. Wastewater contains high amounts of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. Nutrient pollution is the greatest threat to Long Island’s ground, inland, and coastal waters. From 1987 to 2005, nitrogen levels have increased by 40 percent in Long Island’s upper glacial aquifer and by 200 percent in the Magothy aquifer. We drink from this sole source of water, and once it is undrinkable, then what?
Nitrogen input to surface waters from groundwater is the largest regional issue we must address. Every day, more than 100 million gallons of sewage is discharged into the ground (and subsequently the groundwater) by way of hundreds of thousands of cesspools, septic systems, and wastewater treatment facilities across Long Island. Thirty million gallons of wastewater is discharged directly into our marine waters by wastewater treatment plants as well. This directly affects the environment, which is our economy.
The best way for towns to control their own fate may be to work with other municipalities. The solutions could be cost efficient if addressed regionally. Federal and state assistance may be available to communities who collaborate, rather than each community trying to address what is, I dare say, the challenge of our generation. The challenge of how to manage eutrophication (excess input of abovementioned nutrients), which causes ecosystem disruption by increasing phytoplankton growth and can cause harm through toxin production, high biomass, or both, must not be ignored. These algal blooms reduce light attenuation to the bottom and cause harm to photosynthetic species and other organisms. The alga eventually settles to the bottom and dies. As it decays, it consumes oxygen. This can result in hypoxia (reduced oxygen) or anoxia (no oxygen) to benthic dwellers. Get the picture?
The last generation faced land use and planning, and now we must manage wastewater in a way that will benefit us today and for those in the future. Without clean water, you can develop the economy with millions and billions of dollars, but if we continue to destroy our water, we will have nothing. We do have a new law in New York intended to reduce phosphorous input into our waters. Freshwater lakes and drinking water are negatively affected by excess phosphorus, so this new law may be a very good thing. The first Green Revolution increased our global production of food through technology and the use of synthetic fertilizers. We need another revolution that will introduce the many readily available organic products as an alternative to chemicals.
Pesticide bans would be highly beneficial. Pesticides are in our drinking water. Bans will not only prevent further decline of our drinking water, but will help beneficial insects such as honeybees and butterflies. At least 80 percent of our world’s crop species require pollination, and bees are responsible for the pollination of 71 of 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the global food crop. Pesticides do not discriminate and we are facing an impending pollination crisis. Look up Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and you will understand the problem. If you drink water or eat food, please support local (and other) environmental (or other) groups who are currently working to ban three chemical pesticides (atrazine, metalaxyl, and imidacloprid) that are in our groundwater.
Stormwater abatement through improvements to our aged infrastructure is necessary and long overdue. We did have the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems General Permit program (MS4 General Permit) in place to address this issue. However, a judge recently ruled to annul the permit because it failed to comply with the Clean Water Act of 1972 and certain terms of New York law. The ruling was made because there was a lack of NYSDEC supervision, self-certification by municipalities was deemed inadequate, and public participation was not allowed. So, what is the plan now? How do we stop or reduce the pathogens and other contaminants carried by stormwater from flowing into our coastal waters? Will our legislators step up without regulatory demands or oversight to address these issues?
Marine debris is affecting all forms of life. Our oceans are filled with an estimated 315 billion pounds of plastic and 60-year-old plastics have been found in oceanic plankton today. Flame-retardants, mercury, PCBs, you name the chemical or the item, and it’s in there. We have made the oceans into a slow-brewing toxic soup. Levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere have increased over 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution along with an increase of almost 30 percent in the acidity of the Earth’s oceans. These increases are directly related. The conditions created are problematic for calcifying organisms such as shellfish, corals, some algae, and even starfish. Many marine organisms are very sensitive to carbon dioxide and acidity changes. Effects will travel throughout marine food webs, and eventually to humans. Humans will adapt, but can marine life? Bottom line, our oceans are in crisis!
Add together lots of nutrients, wastewater, stormwater runoff, pathogens and particulates, chemical cocktails, atmospheric deposition, and everything else that flows from the air, land, and seas to the Earth’s waters and what do you get? All the water we will ever have forever. Water is life. Without it, we are nothing.
Other People’s Money
February 27, 2012
Some of us, as interested residents, attended the community forum on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Springs School. The Springs School organizers’ invitation letter said it would facilitate small group work sessions of 8 or 10 participants designed to give participants an opportunity to understand the priority of their friends and neighbors.
Apparently they carefully pre-assigned every person who signed up to attend. I was assigned to a group with 12 people. It was unfairly loaded with 10 teachers, staff, and their relatives, and parents of children in the school. It appeared that I was one of two truly independent residents. Then, almost every vote by my group on planned 2012-13 school expenses in the new Springs School budget was voted 10 to 2 in favor of all expenses!
We, the two independent residents, voted against expenses we consider unnecessary or wasteful. Each time we did so, the other 10 participants proceeded to imply that we, the only two without a conflict of interest, did not understand or were cheap, cruel, heartless, child-hating residents.
I understand the same thing happened to other independent participants. Every group was unfairly loaded with individuals with an interest in favor of spending. The organizers worked to make sure the attendees who want to spend other people’s money were in control. This was probably caused by last year’s surprise doubling of Springs citizens’ budget-voting participation, and the wonderfully surprising close vote on the 2011-12 budget. The school board, for perhaps the first time in history, came within 6 percent of losing. The event was not a community forum but a farce — a duplicitous effort to get a 60-percent vote on the excessively wasteful coming Springs School budget for 2012-13.
Last year we had a delightful lesson in true democracy when 998 Springs residents voted on the excessive Springs School budget. A huge increase over the 459 who voted the previous year. The Springs School Board was shocked by the high number of no votes and dumbfounded to receive such a low pass margin of 56 percent. After last year’s almost 45-percent no vote, the Springs School Board is frightened that the Springs taxpayers are now alert and many are angry.
In addition, because other school boards in New York State have been acting like our board, Governor Cuomo and the Legislature passed a new law to protect residents taxed like us in Springs. The new law limits excess spending by New York school boards. All school boards are now limited to a 2-percent yearly increase, unless the budget is passed by a 60-percent vote. In the past the Springs School Board had almost unlimited increases with a vote over 50 percent.
We should support the efforts of Governor Cuomo to stop the excess school spending of “other people’s money” and plan to vote against our new school budget, which is in excess of the 2-percent increase. The Springs School Board, as usual, with other people’s money, wants more than a 2-percent increase. It is working to pass the excessive Springs School budget by the necessary 60 percent this year to obtain more than a 2-percent increase.
If the school board loses the 60-percent vote on the planned increased budget, and also loses a second, later vote of a needed 50 percent on the budget within the 2-percent increase, it must work with a contingent budget, and $1,555,000 less. Most of our property taxes go to cover these Springs School expenses and our taxes would probably not increase if the budget was voted down both times.
One more point. Please be alert for misleading advice. Last week I received an e-mail from a teacher who said I was incorrect to state that Springs School teachers received recent raises. She said no raises were received by the Springs School teachers since a contract ended in 2003. I checked and learned the Springs School teachers have received about a 2.5 percent yearly automatic step-up salary increase since 2003. Because it is a step-up increase teachers do not consider it a raise! That step up each year totals about a 25-percent raise since 2003, during some bad economic times.
Let’s work together again this year against those who have a conflict of interest, the overpaid teachers and staff, the parents of children in the school, and all their relatives, and help our neighbors, particularly the elderly and those on limited incomes. Vote twice to defeat the excessive spending in the Springs School budget. Cut our taxes in these hard times and in a recession.
The 2-percent cap is on the amount to be raised by taxes, not on increases in school budgets. Ed.
February 24, 2012
To the Editor,
Use whatever adjectives you, Mr. Higer, and friends want. Your weekly columns are sarcastic, knee jerk, leftist, boring diatribes.
I voted for the current president who has turned out to be one of the poorest in my memory, but sadly will probably have to do so again. The other side is surely hijacked by the religious right and concerned with the absurd battles over abortion, contraception, and sexual preference, which should have nothing to do with politics or the national interest. Their views on the important things, economy and defense, seem to take a back seat and are no better or worse than the current administration’s.
This country is in real trouble and there is no sign of anyone running with the ability to improve the situation because if one does not pander to the religious right or you guys on the left with your P.C. and M.C., they don’t stand a chance. And of course there is probably no one out there with an innovative, independent, strong-willed, intelligent, constructive, and aggressive ability who doesn’t have some minor insignificant sexual or politically incorrect incident in their distant past, which will be discovered and ferreted out by press and opposition to embarrass them and theirs, as if any of that matters. Who needs it? Hillary or Bloomberg? Left center or right center? Nah, never happen. Just go on irrationally defending poor Mr. O.
February 27, 2012
New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks’s recent article, “The Talent Society,” has attempted to put a positive, even glorious, spin on the breakdown of the American family. Not only is he wrong, but in doing so he has exposed, in his own thinking, what remains part of a widespread, naive, and dangerous core belief system within baby boomer liberal circles. Never mind which gang the fence-jumper Mr. Brooks is spinning himself into these days.
To be sure, Brooks paints an enticing utopian picture: “Today, the fast, flexible, and diverse networks allow the ambitious and the gifted to surf through amazing possibilities. They are able to construct richer, more varied lives. They are able to enjoy interesting information-age workplaces and then go home and find serenity in a one-bedroom apartment.”
In short, Brooks lays out that the breakdown of the American family has freed people from “stifling” family situations and ushered in the age of “The Talent Society.”
Of course, anyone living outside of the ivory tower of financial liberty and wealth entitlement knows the truth: What the breakdown of the American family has really brought about is increased childhood homelessness and hunger, increased incidence of emotional crisis in school-age children, increased dropouts, increased juvenile jailing, the discontinuity of our heritage of values and rights, and a huge financial crisis within state budgets.
The vast irony of the situation is this: As the family has broken down, children and single parents have been encouraged to look to the state to replace what they lost in the family, both financially and socially. Therefore, it is more scary than ironic that Brooks’s anachronistic 1960s belief system is still widely held within the ranks of state social workers, courts, and services. Of course, state employees and finances can never replace a family. Nor should they seek to, especially in a free country, but they do.
This seems to be the reasoning: States continue to favor, in practice if not in law, the breakdown of the family because they have institutionalized a matched set of negative assumptions. First, they operate on the assumption that all fathers are violent, oppressive, and abandoning by nature. These beliefs Mr. Brooks seeks to subtly reinforce in his article. Following on those negative assumptions, the states believe that they will decrease social welfare costs over time by operating an aggressive winner-take-all custody practice, especially in the big cities.
Of course, it is an absurdity. Such practices more likely create a negative feedback loop leading to the need for additional state involvement, ipso facto, additional state jobs and payroll, as remaining parents, educators, and social workers seek venues to attempt to remediate the problems created by these practices and beliefs in the first instance. And history will show you how entrenched any rationale for state jobs can become.
But such is what happens when practice of law on the ground is dictated by bean counters and social activists rather than by the enlightened and optimistic spirit of our highest law and our founding fathers. Or maybe it’s what happens when we let pandering chameleons like Mr. Brooks guide our values discussion. Here is to hoping Mr. Brooks jumps the fence once again, this time to join his baby boomer pals on the golf course. Bronx cheer, Mr. Brooks, and thank you for publishing this letter, Star.
February 27, 2012
To the Editor,
The last superpower, Nazi Germany, now has a small army for defense. There are no flags flying everywhere as there were then. Germany refused to send troops to join in NATO to fight our war, the blueprint for disaster. Today Germany has one of the strongest economies in the world.
This time the United States created the largest war machine in the history of the world paid for by 50 percent of our taxes and the credit cards of our children. Despite our power why are we the most terrified people in the world. The blueprint for disaster.
February 26, 2012
To the Editor,
Growing up Jewish in Washington Heights, my mother always warned us about trusting the “goyim” (people of other faiths). Her concern was that her young princes of Zion would fall prey to unkosher women who, entranced by the rumors of Jewish male sexuality and intellect, would seduce and defile us with their easy ways — putting at risk the propagation of our Jewish heritage. She was right. My brother and I both succumbed and put another dent into the theology of purity.
My father agreed but added a caveat that we shouldn’t trust the Jews either. He told us that whenever anyone talked about how wonderfully observant they were, that you had to protect your wallet and your zipper. My father’s wisdom was rarely misguided.
Pop would say that never have so many people talked so much of their faith and been so full of crap. He said that politicians who talk about their faith are liars by definition. Liar being a broad term that includes miscreants, retards, douche bags, reprobates, con men, used-car salesmen, bankers, et al. Religion is a tough nut to handle. Christianity is easier than most because Jesus made it really simple. Don’t kill, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry, etc. It isn’t the least bit nuanced. No wars, no violence, no killing.
People of faith never talk about their faith. They express it through their actions. But Christianity, like all religions, has had more than one hiccup since Constantine bestowed legitimacy on the church. Its various offshoots, incantations, and denominations would certainly make Jesus’s head spin. With Jesus at the center of so many Christian variations, and even Islam giving him credit, how can anyone truthfully state that someone is or isn’t a true believer.
The lunacy of Rick Santorum, Billy Graham’s kid Bobo, and the Christian right in calling into question Obama’s Christianity is nothing less than demented perversion. Demented because one has to be demented to believe such garbage and think that it has any relevance to anything and perverse because it is directed at perverting the democratic electoral process. Furthermore, if one were to more closely examine Santorum and Graham one might find that they are both prone to pederasty and worse. Now just because I absolutely believe this to be true, even though it may not be, it’s true. So the question of perversion lies not in a behavioral context but in the distortion of reality.
Somehow, America would be better off with a smart Christian instead of a good one. Even a smart non-Christian would be acceptable. A brilliant atheist or a crafty agnostic. But then good people of all faiths have committed so many of the most hideous, barbaric acts that goodness in faith seems less important than general goodness. And we all know that when someone questions someone else’s faith in a political context, a red flag goes up which says, “Walk away, danger.”
So, the slippery slope of religious purity is best left to the miscreants and false prophets of the world. Most of us, whether we believe or we don’t, have enough trouble keeping our boats afloat and no time to worry about the purity of our wayward leaders.
February 23, 2012
I was reminded this past week of the joy, glee, and confidence exuded by the right wing as it set about its obstructionist, demeaning, disrespect of the president and the caricature they had created to depict a false picture of Barack Obama.
Oh, how they strode through the talk shows, with such confidence that they had the winning theme against this straw man they had created, as they alleged the bad economy and the loss of jobs etc., and now, suddenly, the U.S. Labor Department issued new job figures for January, far exceeding the expectations, the Dow Jones average jumped past its 2008 high, new manufacturing jobs exceeded 50,000, a level not seen since 2008!
Woe is me, what will they now campaign on — same-sex marriage, abortion restrictions, income tax reform, maybe a sudden caring for the poor?
As my 8-year-old granddaughter said to my wife, who was bemoaning the many electronic controls on a complicated coffee maker she was buying at Costco the other day, “You want some advice, Grandma?” she said, knowing the lack of electronic sophistication of her grandma, “Keep the receipt.”
Well, the Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul clowns too should keep the receipt, so to speak, and come back in 2016 to try again ’cause they are losers.
I like to applaud other letter writers except when they disagree with me.
I applaud Michael O’Neil for his letter (Feb. 23) regarding contraceptives and the Catholic Church.
RICHARD P. HIGER
February 17, 2012
I read with interest the article you published on Feb. 9 praising Margaret Sanger. While I do not dispute any of the facts in the article, there is another, less altruistic side of Ms. Sanger that is rarely portrayed. One of her purposes for promoting birth control was to “create a race of thoroughbreds.” (Birth Control Review, November 1921). “More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief aim of birth control.” (Birth Control Review, May 1919)
Sanger’s “unfit” included the “inferior classes,” the “feeble-minded,” the “mentally defective,” and the “poverty-stricken.” (Birth Control Review, October 1921).
Other of her writings include blacks (see the Negro Project), Slavs, Jews, and Catholics in her category of “unfit” to reproduce. How about this quote — “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” (from Women and the New Race 1920).
Not my idea of a hero.
February 21, 2012
I read with interest Bridget LeRoy’s article printed in the Feb. 9 issue of The East Hampton Star. Seems she studied Ms. Sanger’s writings through Esther Katz. In reading the article, I noted that no mention was made of Ms. Sanger’s autobiography in which she stated in 1916 “to stop the multiplication of the unfit.” She joined with businessman Clarence Gamble “to hire three or four colored ministers” to put forth their genocidal policies as health and welfare services. In this way, they could call it “women’s health.”
Check out an essay in the Library of Congress where Sanger urged her abortion clinic colleagues to “breed a race of thoroughbreds.” This woman also stated to one of Mike Wallace’s reporters that New York Catholics had no right to protest the use of their tax dollars for city birth control programs. . . . “It’s not only wrong, it should be made illegal for any religious group to prohibit dissemination of birth control — even among its own members.” Remember Dr. Kermit Gosnell Philadelphia, who oversaw the death of hundreds of black and Hispanic babies along with several minority mothers? Margaret Sanger was not only a racist, she was anti-Catholic, and no hero of mine.
Now that the Obama administration has issued its mandate that every faith-based entity is obliged to conform with providing services that they have a conscientious objection to, it is important to note that this is not about the Catholic Church, contraception, birth control, or the “morning after pill.” This is about the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and the Obama administration’s complete disregard for it! This administration is dictating what you can and must believe. If this assault on what you believe, whether you are a Catholic, Jew, atheist, or whatever, is allowed to continue, who knows what next will be mandated?
What can you do?
Please support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S.1467), the “Blunt amendment,” which the Senate expects to vote on later this month (H.R. 1179). Call or write your representatives in Congress and the Senate. Advise your rabbis, priests, ministers, and pastors to inform their congregations of this scourge on American liberty. As I stated to my pastor recently, “I am wondering how many priests, rabbis, and ministers regretted their silence in Germany, Russia, and all of Europe resulting in the Holocaust.”
Silent no more.