Letters to the Editor: 04.04.13

Our readers' comments

St. Baldrick’s Goal
    March 26, 2013
Dear David,
    Thank you again for helping the Montauk community support our recent St. Baldrick’s event held at the St. Therese School in Montauk. The story and coverage from Janis Hewitt was very much appreciated.
    The shavees, all kids (from 1 to 93 years young); the shavers, Pam, Rose, and Toni, and all our visitors to this event really had a great experience and a good time helping to raise funds toward the ultimate goal of finding that cure for childhood cancer.
    Your spotlight on this event broadened community awareness. Thank you!

Beyond Scrutiny
    East Hampton
    April 1, 2013
To the Editor.
    Once upon a time, there was a very polite man named Paul, Paul Politeman. One day he went to the Y.M.C.A. and politely asked if he could be a guest, and the nice people at the Y.M.C.A. said that it would be just fine.
    “I feel that I should first tell you,” said Mr. Politeman, “what it is that I would like to do here, because it is why I’m not welcome at other facilities.”
    “You see,” he continued, “when I see someone on a treadmill or other apparatus, I like to yell at them (bark, if you will) and knock them to the ground. I then like to pee on the exercise equipment, the benches, people’s towels, and even people, if they stay still long enough. Then I like to poop in the pool.”
    “Please tell me,” said Paul, “how can I do this without upsetting your membership? I want to be a welcomed guest,” he said.
    “What if I pee on things only before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. and only poop in the pool in the wintertime and promise to clean it up? Would that make me a welcomed guest?” asked Paul.
    The answer to Paul Politeman’s query is the answer the village board must have regarding people who “walk” dogs on our beaches.
    Everyone on both sides of the dog-poop argument agrees that compliance and enforcement are key. A code amendment that would require dogs to be leashed until 500 feet from a parking lot or road end only encourages people to noncompliance because they will be beyond scrutiny. This means that there will be mountains of poop 500 feet from road ends and parking lots, as there are now.
    What is to keep dogs from urinating, defecating, and attacking people while on the beach and what is to keep them in the restricted areas once they are off the leash? It has been demonstrated beyond measure that people bringing dogs to the beach are too selfish, inconsiderate, or just plain stupid to read, understand, or comply with the rules, so how is anyone to believe their dogs will?

A Measured Approach
    New York City
    April 1, 2013
To the Editor:
    Action should be taken to address the concerns raised by those who wish to enjoy a dog-free beach experience. The proposal to prohibit dogs from being off-leash on all town beaches unless they are 500 feet, or almost two football fields, away from a parking lot, however, goes too far.
    A less restrictive approach, one that more fairly accommodates competing interests, is needed. First, let’s turn Main Beach, the town’s largest beach, the only one accessible to non beach-pass holders, and which offers bathrooms, a food concession, and more, into a dog-free zone. Second, in the mornings, let’s preserve the status quo at the other town beaches, where I have rarely encountered any beachgoers camping on the sand before 9 a.m. Third, in the evenings, let’s accommodate the large number of al fresco diners by turning one of the remaining beaches into a dog-free zone.
    Such a balanced plan would not drastically burden the 98 percent of responsible dog owners who want to continue to enjoy the beach with their beloved pets, while giving viable choices to those who prefer to avoid pets. Why not try a measured approach and give it a chance to succeed.

Waterfront Construction
    East Hampton
    April 1, 2013
Dear Editor,
    As we begin to enjoy the spring months after a long snow-filled winter and the damage from Hurricane Sandy begins to be repaired, Citizens for Access Rights would like to remind the public of our position. First, we would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to those who were, and continue to be, affected by Hurricane Sandy. Due to recent storms, including Hurricane Sandy, the shores of Long Island have suffered some major erosion and will inevitably continue to do so. CfAR does not believe that this battle with Mother Nature is a winnable one.
     While CfAR respects the shoreline property owners’ rights to restore and protect their property, we strongly urge all owners and contractors performing work in these areas to obtain all necessary permits and abide by all laws and regulations pertaining to construction along the waterfront. CfAR also strongly urges the town, state, and federal agencies to follow the town’s [Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan], the town comprehensive plan, town code, and any other laws or regulations that pertain to shoreline construction and/or replenishment. While we realize emergency situations may arise where work must be done immediately, CfAR trusts that the process of rebuilding will follow the necessary guidelines, including the aforementioned procedures, in an open manner, with full knowledge to all agencies involved and with all proper permits being obtained.
    Hard structuring of shorelines has proven to be detrimental to beaches across the country and has led to loss of beaches altogether in most areas. As a result of the beach loss, CfAR does not support any new hard structuring of any kind on our East End beaches. We believe the best course of action is to let nature take it course. However, if a soft action is to be taken against erosion we support replenishment of the beaches and dunes in order to protect our shoreline.
    Acknowledging that this process is costly and may prove to be ineffective, CfAR understands that public monies are available for beach replenishment and we strongly urge the local municipalities to consider the use of these funds in protecting our beaches. Erosion due to major storms is an ongoing issue that we face on the East End, and we believe decisions regarding development or reconstruction along our shorelines should be made with extreme caution. Regardless of any methods employed, including hard structuring, we believe that if a super storm of the magnitude of Sandy was to make a direct hit on Long Island, the loss of life and property could be catastrophic.
    CfAR and its members believe that our beaches are one of this town’s greatest assets. We are grateful that the town board and the town trustees have done much to preserve the health and beauty of our beaches. We believe that access to our beaches should available to everyone. We hope that both boards continue to work together in maintaining our beaches while preserving access for all to enjoy.
    CfAR would like to thank the town board, the town trustees, the contractors, and all the public safety volunteers for all the work they did pre and post-hurricane to ensure the safety of the entire community. We would also like to extend a special thanks to all who have volunteered and donated to help those in need in areas that were so badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. We look forward to a safe and beautiful summer on our beaches.
    Citizens for Access Rights

Two Suggestions
    April 1, 2013
Dear David:
    Your call for civility is apt and when I thought Jay Schneiderman was running for supervisor I suggested solutions to the problems that now exist. Since Jay is not running for supervisor, I feel free to offer the suggestions more publicly.
    For many years the “brown bag” work sessions were held around a conference table. Progress reports were made, experts were consulted, and issues were discussed openly in preparation for resolution at the town board meeting. The press was present, and LTV later on.
    I noticed a big difference in these meetings right away when the board members had a “stage” and a wider audience in the new town hall. I suggest they go back to the conference table and leave the egos at the door. No performances, no histrionics, and no crap allowed.
    My second suggestion is that the town use Robert’s Rules of Order, or something similar, to conduct meetings. I think that the town board adopts these rules every year at the organizational meeting, but has forgotten them or has just failed to use them. A board member should be recognized, speak, and then listen to what others have to say without talking over them.
    The next town board should consider these two suggestions, as the current town board seems well beyond help of this kind. It might take some practice, but the public would be better served.

A Policy of Concern
    March 31, 2013
Dear Editor:
    For a town our size we are fortunate to have three weekly newspapers, which editorially span the political spectrum. For the first time that I remember (I have been here over 30 years), there is unanimity of the three editorial pages in deploring the irresponsible behavior of the Republican town board majority for their disregard for the town code (Ronjo, cesspool cylinders on the beach), their lack of interest in strengthening the enforcement activities (violations by the bushel) and insufficient respect for the fragile nature of our town. Surely this across-the-board message is above special interests and needs to be addressed.
    Let’s hope that in November, we will elect officials who reject the motto “business uber alles” and adopt a policy of concern for our environment, address the needs of our disadvantaged, both young and old, and above all return to a nonpolitical protection of our 300 year-heritage.

In Lieu of Parking
    April 1, 2013
Dear David,
    In response to last week’s article “Conflict on Parking Fee,” I wanted to offer a few comments and suggestions from my perspective as an architect with a planning background.
    First, the current requirement for paying a fee in lieu of a parking space is a fair and well-established planning tool that is common to many municipalities. Expansions to a business or changes in use of a business often create more intensive traffic, and a need for more total parking in a business district. A payment-in-lieu-of-parking program benefits the business by removing the even greater burden of forcing the business to buy more land to provide parking.
    To waive a fee for a particular business because it happens to be near public parking, or because the business owners happen to be local, is exactly the kind of illogical thinking that our town codes are designed to protect us from.
    However, most of our businesses are small, local, and bootstrap. The $15,000 fee per parking space creates a substantial additional burden to start-up or expansion costs. Councilman Van Scoyoc proposed an excellent solution whereby this parking fee could be paid out over time. The town might demand compensation for one-half the cost of one parking space per year. Thus, the Montauk Brewing Company would pay the town $7,500 a year for the next six years to cover their obligation for three spaces. If our Planning Department were to find this an agreeable solution, then this formula could be applied to all applications that trigger the payment-in-lieu-of-parking fee.
    Finally, if the town of East Hampton has not yet utilized this parking fund, it does not mean that the fund is meaningless. However, the current application from the Montauk Brewing Company demonstrates that our town’s parking fund program needs to be examined anew, including the cost of $15,000 per parking space, which to my mind is a rather onerous amount.
    If and when the Planning Department embarks upon hamlet studies, they will surely be able to designate potential public parking areas in our central business districts. In Montauk, the town-owned alleys already in existence can provide valuable access to small lots that might best serve that hamlet as additional public parking. Look west to Bridgehampton and you will see that their central business district has managed to cobble together several small lots, most of them behind the commercial spaces fronting Main Street. A parking fund program can cover some of the costs of purchasing such lots, and improving them for municipal public parking.

Issue Is Location
    East Hampton
    April 1, 2013
Dear David:
    I am one of the 65 concerned East Hampton residents who strongly believe that the zoning board of appeals must support the recommendation of the town’s own senior building inspector and enforce zoning law for the Dunes, a luxury rehabilitation clinic that has begun doing business in residential East Hampton. A medical clinic operating in an area zoned for residential living requires a special-use permit. Allowing it to operate without proper review has far-reaching consequences.
    This has nothing to do with the services the Dunes provides; they’re important services. I don’t know of anyone among our 65 concerned residents who has an issue with this. In fact, many of us have loved ones who have benefited from rehabilitation clinics (though not necessarily from ones that charge $46,000 a month to provide their help).
    The sole issue here is location. Zoning laws are all about location. And the Town of East Hampton has sound and longstanding laws that guide zoning policy. We have all had to abide by them. Following these established laws, written by voter-elected officials, will lead to the long-term result that is best for our town.
    The Dunes must not be allowed to evade our residential zoning laws by hiding its true identity as a luxury medical clinic by presenting itself to the Z.B.A. as a nonmedical entity “living as a family unit.” To do so means throwing our policies out the window and permitting a $5 million-a-year business enterprise to be located in residentially-zoned East Hampton without the proper planning process or a site plan review whatsoever.
    But most alarming are the larger consequences this creates. Requiring no planning process for a large-scale enterprise like the Dunes will open the door for any transient group of unrelated people to occupy residential homes in East Hampton without regulation. In short, the success of the Dunes in skirting the proper planning process would set precedent which effectively prevents the town from regulating share houses, for example, as long as renters claim to “live as a family by cooking and eating together,” as the Dunes has claimed. Giving the green light to transient occupancy in residential areas is not a direction any of us want to take.
    There is much at stake in this Z.B.A. ruling. The simplest, fairest, and most prudent answer is to require that the existing code be enforced — and not to set careless precedent by short-circuiting our established zoning process.

School Consolidation
    April 1, 2013
Dear David,
    I read the lead headline in last week’s Star, “Consolidation: School Study in Jeopardy. Districts failed to meet March funding deadline.” I knew the State of New York did not allocate $250,000 for a study of the East End school systems for a possible consolidation plan. It disturbs me that local politicians of both stripes, local school administrators current and retired, local churches, local school boards, and other interested parties just can not and will not put the effort into containing the high cost of public education on the East End.
    I went to public school in Connecticut in a town with a population of 60,000. There were 10 elementary schools, 2 junior high schools, and 1 high school. Each school had a principal and assistant principal. There was one superintendent and one assistant superintendent for the 13 schools in the system. Separate schools did not have individual school superintendents and separate administrative personnel.
    I live in Springs, need I say more. We are the most densely populated hamlet on the East End. We have a school that is busting at its seams. For example, Amagansett has one fourth grade with 14 kids; the Springs School has four fourth grades the last time I checked. This year the school population will increase — it does every year! The hamlet has septic problems, illegal renting problems, and blight occurring. We have literacy problems, we have language problems, and we have clean-water problems, and our school is so overcrowded.
    My neighbors and myself were very happy when the governor put a 2 percent tax cap on school taxes. I think if the governor had not done that, Springs would have gone Tea Party on this issue. Three years ago many of us in Springs went crazy when the school superintendent got a $20,000 raise the year before he retired, and yet another school bus was purchased and the school had outrageous school administrative costs. Every year the little school that is so overcrowded just demanded more and more dollars. The taxpayers were in a recession, property values dropped, taxes went up, and taxpayers were in a squeeze and very unhappy.
    I guess I should cling to hope. After all, we are evolving with this country’s immigration issues, and that’s a good thing. We are evolving on gay marriage and rights, and that’s a good thing. Maybe one day we will stop being selfish and self-absorbed and realize that there are some complicated problems that are compounded by inactivity. Hopefully there will be some type of school consolidation in this town, more affordable housing, code enforcement laws enforced, and a town board that will recognize and work through difficult and sensitive issues.
    I hope I am not the only person who speaks to this issue this week. I would like hear other people’s ideas and see more citizens and educators and politicians and residents speak up. This affects all of us. I hold out hope that one day we will not be so myopic and realize the public will benefit, especially students, if each school were not an individual fiefdom top-heavy with administration.
    We all believe in public education. Why can’t we make it work?
    Thank you.

Standalone Districts
    April 1, 2013
Dear David,
    I have never ceased to be amazed at how shortsighted people can be. Why is it some folks have a vision of the future and others want to go on in the same rut, unable to imagine innovation? Does the rut keep them fat and sassy?
    Though some of the school district officials joined forces again this year and tried in a failed attempt to write the grant that would initiate a consolidation study, Montauk and East Hampton refused to take part. Why? We can only suspect that Jack Perna and George Aman’s school board are just sitting a bit too pretty.
    Imagine full-of-himself Jack Perna’s remark, “Here we go again.” They would not even consider trying again. All these standalone private school-like districts rob their students — and the parents — of a brand of education that none of these districts will, in the future, be able to afford on their own, especially in light of the 2-percent tax cap. As peripheral expenses, even something as innocuous as building and grounds, soar, all the districts of the East End will be forced to cut the quality of their real educational services and our schools will suffer. And this will be for the want of people who can’t see around the corner and imagine what could be.
    East Hampton, the only district that offers a high school for most of these districts, will continue to wag the dog as less goods and services cost more and a quality education slowly disintegrates. Shame on all, who are willing to throw our districts to the dogs and who cannot understand that America must have the best educational system in the world, if she is to continue to be the greatest nation in the world.

Freedom of Speech
    March 19, 2013
Dear David,
    It would have been reasonable and respectful if the East Hampton School Board president, George Aman, had allowed me to speak to the board at the end of its March 19 meeting, prior to adjournment. I raised my hand several times to no avail.
    I did speak to the board about the credit card item on the agenda.
    I voiced my objections to the school paying for lodging, travel expenses, etc., to attend conferences, citing the fact that for l3 years now as town historian, I have never charged East Hampton Town for any of my trips all around the state. In mid-April my bride and I are going to a three-day state historian conference in Syracuse. The only benefit we receive from the town is use of a town car. I asked the board to follow my lead.
    I spoke a second time about my memorable experience with school bullies in Amagansett grade school.
    Mr. Aman could have saved me the time of writing this letter, so here’s what I could not say in public at the March 19 board meeting:
    When one of the public speakers began to criticize a board member, the board president attempted to stop this train of thought from continuing. This attempt was infringement on both the speaker and our First Amendment rights of free speech. When the Atlantic Charter was formed in 1941, President Roosevelt cited four freedoms: freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. In 1943, Norman Rockwell painted these four freedoms for the Saturday Evening Post magazine. The painting for free speech depicted a Vermont farmer, standing, voicing an unpopular opinion.
    Thomas Jefferson wrote that “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” This is what the farmer in Vermont was doing in Rockwell’s painting of freedom of speech, and what a citizen from East Hampton was doing before he was interfered with by the East Hampton School Board president, George Aman.

Pair of Legs
    East Quogue
    April 1, 2013
Dear David,
    Regarding Sag Harbor’s budget woes and downsizing the police force: How much of the taxpayers’ money is being wasted on removing a pair of legs?
    Is the village truly willing to continue wasting time and resources on what is obviously a freedom of speech issue?

Walls of Resistance
    East Hampton
    March 28, 2013
Dear Editor,
    This week a national study of the nation’s infrastructure, bridges, tunnels, and roads graded their condition as D+, estimating the potential cost of getting the grade up to a B+ at $1.6 trillion. Reports from all over the country make the D+ grade seem overly generous. Yet, in a perfect knee-jerk reaction, the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank, decried the report as being exaggerated and hysterical.
    Ass-backwards is probably the most fitting term for the American process of resolving our problems. How every issue raised is approached with the exact same process of denial and attack. Mindlessly dribbling over anything that might be contentious, we construct walls of massive resistance and battle. The kindest observation is to describe it as knee-jerk buffoonery. More realistically, it’s a kind of venal fascism.
    So instead of trying to figure out what to do about our infrastructure, conservatives deny the existence of the problem. Instead of offering alternative solutions, or any solutions, they foam at the mouth and mumble bullshit. Like after the kids and their teachers were slaughtered in Connecticut, the response to the tragedy was more guns and armed teachers. Refusing to recognize what the entire world recognizes, that this country has a problem with guns. Anyone whose head isn’t up their ass looks at the statistics and says no shit. The statistics and the dead bodies don’t lie. Guns are available to almost anyone anywhere if they have the money to pay for them.
    Global warming doesn’t exist. Voter discrimination is a thing of the past. Saddam Hussein had W.M.D.s. Unemployment is a function of the deficit. The government, not the banks, caused the financial crisis. The collateral damage from the BP disaster is worth the accrued benefits. Let the market deal with health care and it will resolve itself.
    Relentlessly, every issue is dissected and reworked to avoid any semblance of reality. The economy is the most obvious. Jobs are the only thing that matter to a country whose middle class is disappearing. Yet an entire political party and most of its supporters, who are getting destroyed by their policies, refuse to deal with the reality of jobs. Is it stupidity? These guys aren’t dumb? Does someone benefit from their policies? A small percentage of the country does. Are they fascists or unAmerican? Somewhat, but who isn’t? It’s really just a knee-jerk reaction and a serious dose of delusion to make it palatable.
    The litmus test would be to make the Republican Party disappear and see what happens. Would anyone know they were gone?
    Maybe we need to put the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement together and let them work it out. A weekend of drugs, sex, guns, and prayer would probably do the trick. Maybe two weekends. They would agree that we are all being screwed and if getting unscrewed is the desired goal they have a great deal in common.
    Sadly, our politicians are no longer part of the solution. One has to seriously wonder if we are?

His Merry Way
    East Hampton
    March 29, 2013
To the Editor:
    Let’s see. Steven Cohen, multibillionaire hedge fund operator, buys a Picasso for $150 million or so one day; he buys some sculptures for another $100 million or so the next; he buys a second East Hampton house for $60 million next to the one he already owns, both on the ocean; he agrees to pay a $116 million fine under S.E.C. investigations (of course while admitting no wrongdoing), and he puts his 10,000-square-foot apartment in New York City up for sale at another $30 million or so — all this making only a small dent in his wealth, accumulated by making astute stock market trades for himself and others. He contributes nothing to the society he earns from. He creates no jobs for others, he educates no one, he just consumes luxuries.
    While the federal government is investigating the activities of Cohen’s hedge fund, SAC, he just goes his merry way.
    Teachers influencing the lives of our children are underpaid; doctors have Medicaid and Medicare payments to deal with; firemen and policemen risk their lives for the rest of us at a reduced rate; food stamps abound; welfare carries the poor; many carry two jobs to pay the bills, but hedge fund operators and brokerage firms just pile up the loot, gamble with investors’ money, and create havoc in the markets while they profit and buy paintings.
    Try to tax these people a bit more and their Republican shields pop up. What a screwed-up society we live in!

Invasion of Privacy
    March 28, 2013
To the Editor:
    Who is raising our kids? What has happened to parents’ authority to direct the upbringing and standards of our children? We had the right to educate our children, protecting them from indoctrination, as guardians of their privacy. Not anymore.
    Tucked into the stimulus package, along with research on ants, the inequality of monkeys, and turtle tunnels, was an item called Common Core amendment. The U.S. Department of Education, with Race to the Top, has published guidelines that call for data mining of our children, including about 50 questions that ask everything from blood type to religious affiliation, from eye color and bus pickup time to family income and voting status, homework completion to a child’s premature birth. This is called neuropsychological testing, all without parental knowledge.
    Why are they gathering all this information, and what will it be used for? Remember, knowledge is power — and the data collected from kindergarten through age 20 will be available not only to educators but to corporations. G.E., Microsoft, Bill Gates, and many others have invested tens of millions of dollars each for the program to be implemented‚ “for a lasting change.”
    Is the core curriculum and national data mining intelligence-gathering for corporations? They paid for the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging bracelets that will be worn to monitor the children. Cameras may be in the classroom to monitor facial expression. Proponents have said they will be able to determine a child’s future by age 7! This is well documented in the [Department] of Education’s Common Core literature. All this, under the guise of streamlining education? Our children will be their guinea pigs, without our consent, and I’m sure the teachers will appreciate the added responsibility of reporting.
    This is being implemented across the country, dangling money to the states, but five states have already backed out, realizing the implications of the invasion of privacy. Note: a couple years ago the privacy legislation (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) was changed to allow this monitoring.
    Plus, the curriculum is not better than we’ve had in recent years. Also disturbing is the realignment of the ACT and SAT to Common Core, so children who home-school or use private schools would be ineligible for college.
    Parents need to unite against this agenda. The proponents are trying to make an end run around the parents to make fundamental changes.
    This is a major civil rights issue. The New York Civil Liberties Union has charged New York State officials of denying parents the choice to opt out‚ and failing to warn parents of the implementation already in our local schools.
    Check out ParentalRights.org for the petition, Parents and Educators Against Common Core and American Principals Association online. Do not give the state this power over our children’s future.