All But Gone
April 29, 2013
I saw something today driving home from work that made me a little melancholy. On the L.I.E., right before the Manorville exit, there in the grass median was a cock pheasant. It caught my attention because I haven’t seen one for quite awhile. It made me think, where have all the pheasants gone? Then I started to think of a lot of things that have disappeared on the East End over the years that I would like to share with you.
I have never written a letter to you before although I have read The Star for the last 40 years. I grew up on the East End between East Hampton to Montauk. I am 55 years old now. My grandfather was Capt. Russ Miller, who fished out of Montauk for many years with the likes of ’Lisha Ammon and other old salts who are all but gone now. His brother, my uncle, was Capt. Milton Miller, who like him was a longtime fisherman who devoted his life to the baymen and the waters of the East End. He passed away just recently at 98, and was active in the Baymen’s Association right up to his death. Any of the old timers who’re left remember these men. There are not many left anymore, the true Bonackers, the old baymen. But back to the pheasant. When I was a young boy I remember going to my grandfather’s house on Old Stone Highway and it would not be uncommon to see a goose, duck, or a pheasant or two lying on the front stoop ready to be plucked and cooked by my grandmother. Back then you could go hunting pretty much anywhere you wanted. But not anymore. The fields I remember as a boy are now home to mega-mansions belonging to people who are only here three months a year, the hedgerows and cornfields are gone, and where there are any fields there are bright red posted signs telling you you’re not welcome.
I remember walking through those fields scaring up pheasant after pheasant, I remember driving in my father’s car the backroads of Amagansett seeing cocks and hens on the side of the road like the turkeys that abound now. But not anymore.
Where have all the pheasants gone? But then, where have all the things and places gone that I remember, growing up out here? I remember the summers that were so special, going to the beach and seeing only your neighbors, and always having a place to park. The city people only came out on the weekends, they didn’t live here. As a young boy my cousin Mark and I would get up early and with our towels around our necks, hitchhike down Springs-Fireplace Road to Amagansett Main Beach, always getting a ride. We used to think it cool getting picked up by some rich city person in a Cadillac or a Porsche.
I remember falling in love each summer with some city girl visiting. I remember going fishing with my Uncle Frank and my cousins each night on the rocks at Maidstone. All us kids always had our birthday parties there under the pavilion. The parents would have a few drinks and barbecue, and we would dance all the slow songs with the girls. It wasn’t uncommon to hear the parents laughing and to hear a “Yes yes, bub” or a “By Jesus, bub” in there somewhere, and then to sneak down to the beach to hopefully get a few kisses from your favorite girl.
The rocks are still there, Maidstone is still there, and I drive there and sit on the rocks sometimes and I remember. I see the faces and I hear the laughter, but it seems so long ago. I remember walking down Red Dirt Road when it was just that, a dirt road. My aunt and uncle and my cousins would take the dogs and on a summer afternoon walk it to the end and back. And the dogs would run the woods, and lo and behold flush many pheasants. Ahh, the pheasant. Where have they gone?
I remember summer nights when all the kids in the neighborhood would sit out on blankets and we would talk or play spin the bottle, and then maybe all pile into my uncle’s van and ride to Snowflake for an ice cream. It seems almost magical now. A time before video games, computers, and iPhones. A time when we as kids found things to do. Simple things. But we did things together and we talked to each other and were close.
But things change, don’t they. Places change, too. I have seen so many changes here. Many I do not like. I feel bad that my 15-year-old daughter will not experience the things I did growing up here. She is in a different world. How do yo'u express the feelings of some of those magical moments in time to someone who believes their lifeline is a cellphone tower?
I will hold those memories forever. I have such a connection to the East End and I am forever grateful to have seen it in those times. But I still miss the pheasants. I believe they will be all but gone one day, like so many things out here. But like the Bryan Adams song, “sitting on your mama’s porch, thinking it would last forever, those were the best years of my life, it was the summer of ’69.” I was 13 in 1969, living in East Hampton, and they were the best years of my life. I will remember always sitting on the rocks at Maidstone, a young boy, watching the fishing boats come and go, feeling the sun and breeze on my face and dreaming of the next summer to come. For those of you who remember, cherish those memories. For I feel I will become like the pheasant, I too will fade away and become someone’s memory. I can only hope they will be memories of a man that appreciated the friendships, my family, and the beauty of the small town I called my home.
East Hampton Myths
May 2, 2013
To the Editor:
Hats off to Steve Rideout for demolishing the Maidstone myth! As long as I have been here, people have been trying to convince me that East Hampton was originally called Maidstone. I have never seen any evidence for this; the earliest entry in the East Hampton Town records specific to the community is Jan. 31, 1650, and that is to Easthampton. “Maidstone” is not in the index. Perhaps the myth will now die, though I doubt it.
While we are about it, how about demolishing two further East Hampton myths: that most of the original inhabitants came from Maidstone in Kent, England and that St. Luke’s Episcopal Church is a copy of All Saints, Maidstone, from which it gets its Elizabethan architecture.
Myth number 2: Of 30 families listed in Jeannette Rattray’s book “East Hampton History,” only two (one certain, one possible) came from Maidstone. Four more came from elsewhere in Kent, three from Devonshire, two from Wales, two from Holland (the Schellingers and the Van Scoys, of course), and one each from Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Ireland, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Sussex. The rest are unknown.
Myth number 3: Those propagating this myth have surely never seen All Saints, Maidstone. Nowadays, however, pictures are readily available on the Internet. I attach two pictures, one of the outside and one of the inside. You will see that there is little resemblance to St. Luke’s. All Saints is a large church, nearly as extensive as Canterbury Cathedral, with aisles almost as wide as the nave, so that there have to be three double-slope roofs to cover them — almost a Hall Church, in fact. Each space is high enough to accommodate a flat wooden ceiling. The tower, rather too small to fit with the rest of the structure, is off to the side at the southwest corner.
The church was rebuilt in 1397, in the perpendicular style, two centuries before the great Elizabeth. (There are, to my knowledge, no Elizabethan churches in Kent.) By contrast, St. Luke’s is a charming but tiny Arts-and-Crafts building, a nave with small aisles, all fitted under a single double-slope roof, with a rather oversize tower over the west end. The roof is left open, since there is no room for vaulting or a ceiling.
Had the architect truly wished St. Luke’s to echo All Saints, he could easily have copied the tower fenestration, the clock, the corner turret, etc., but he did not do so. About the only feature that the towers have in common is the battlements.
May 5, 2013
For those who loved Harry Carson’s Shakespeare group, this is to let you know that Dr. Alan York and a few others are trying to carry on. Of course, without Harry it’s not the same. But his spirit is there with us as we watch films and discuss them as best we can.
We hope you will join us. The meetings are held, as before, at the Amagansett library every other Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The next meeting will be Saturday.
ROBERT BORIS RISKIN
May 5, 2013
On Thursday morning, April 25, I had a medical emergency at home. I want to thank Scott Pitches, Dick Monahan, and Joe Dryer of the Montauk Fire Department ambulance company and Lt. Tom Grenci and Officers Kenneth Alversa and Gregory Martin of the East Hampton Town Police Department. Their responses were prompt, efficient, and most professional.
My sincere gratitude to neighbors, friends, and co-workers for their encouragement and support. My family and I thank you. We do live in a wondeful community.
ANITA G. PEEL
He Got Things Done
May 5, 2013
This past week the Concerned Citizens of Montauk as well as everyone in our community lost a dear friend: Gene Wolsk. Gene was a member of the C.C.O.M. board for two decades volunteering to help out at just about every event C.C.O.M. sponsored. Here was a man who had produced many award-winning Broadway shows who eagerly jumped at the chance to cook hot dogs for Montauk kids at field day celebrations or to pull garbage out of Fort Pond on Earth Day. No matter what the job, Gene was there. He got things done.
Gene also diligently tracked town code enforcement progress, or lack thereof, during the late ’90s and early 2000s when the department was virtually nonexistent.
In recent years despite being confined to a wheelchair, Gene never missed a meeting or a chance to help out from home whenever possible.
Our condolences to his family and wife, Laura: Gene, we already miss you.
On behalf of the Concerned
Citizens of Montauk
April 30, 2013
I am encouraged to read the letter from Aubrey Peterson about the East Hampton High School Environmental Awareness Club science project testing water quality in Hook Pond. I would hope, as a Hook Pond shoreline property owner, their conclusion that Hook Pond is “a borderline body of water” will raise the community’s awareness of the challenges endangering the pond’s water quality and fragile ecosystem. Their recommendation for the village board to seek the assistance of a water-testing agency is a good one.
I look forward to these students hopefully as the future stewards of our community’s natural resources.
May 6, 2013
To the Editor,
Do you know about the research class in East Hampton High School? Lisa Benincasa and Rob Strauss run this amazing class. The students choose their own topic at the beginning of the school year. The topics this year range from “investigating the effect of environmental conditions on microbial electrolysis cells” to “the effect of an educator nozzle on the propulsive force of an underwater gaseous jet.”
The students’ projects are mostly beyond college-level, yet hardly anyone in town is aware of their yearly nose-to-grindstone efforts. Equally impressive is the ease with which these students discuss their research, presenting successes and failures (which aren’t failures at all), in a scholarly manner without notes or use of a teleprompter. Each student in this class will be presenting their project May 31 in the high school.
Here is the problem: There are only 11 students enrolled out of a high school containing 989. Since each research project is unique and demands hours of individual guidance from the instructors, the size of the class is fine; the problem is that there is only one research class, while there should be four or five.
This is a local example of a growing national concern — a startling shortage of scientists. In fact, only 18 percent of U.S. high school seniors are proficient in science, and a mere 5 percent of current U.S. college graduates earn science, engineering, or technology degrees, compared to 66 percent in Japan and 59 percent in China. This shortage has resulted in an employment crisis with hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs remaining unfilled because employers can’t find workers with the right skills. The rate of technical advance is outpacing our student’s preparedness. Why is this?
Here are several contributing factors:
1. Inquiry-based science is often not emphasized due to standardized testing in other academic areas, for example, language arts.
2. Science equipment and programs are often first to be eliminated due to budget constraints.
3. Lack of public recognition and, therefore, lack of support.
I am working on several initiatives to address this issue. Would you as editor of this newspaper make a concerted effort to help by dedicating one whole page of your paper to the weekly efforts and achievements of our students in all academic areas by highlighting them, much as you do with our athletes?
Mr. Wilson is a candidate for East Hampton School Board. Voting will be May 21. Ed.
Resolve and Energy
May 6, 2013
To the Editor:
As someone who regularly attends and actively participates in East Hampton School Board meetings, Mary Ella Moeller, candidate for a seat on the board, knows exactly what she is letting herself in for, if elected.
After graduation from East Hampton high school, Mary Ella chose teaching and education for her lifelong profession. She spent 28 years as a teacher and trainer of middle-school teachers, instructing them on how to teach new curriculums.
Now retired, Mary Ella has the resolve and energy to spend many long hours working for the betterment of the East Hampton community. She involves herself in a variety of areas, political, nonpolitical, and charitable. I recently learned that she was instrumental in the establishment of a Hurricane Sandy fund to aid retired educators, and has held several elected and appointed offices within the New York State Retired Teachers Association, among them vice president for friendly services, vice president for federal legislation, and chairperson of the health care committee.
Locally, Mary Ella is a member of the Ladies Village Improvement Society, including serving on its board of directors; and of the East Hampton Town senior citizens advisory committees. She volunteers with East Hampton Health Care and is a deacon of the East Hampton Presbyterian Church.
I personally remember her efforts, along with those of her husband, Jim, to defeat the proposed multimillion-dollar bond issue to create a school bus barn on King Street. She labored tirelessly to get the facts out to the voters. Once Mary Ella begins a task, she sees it through to the finish; in that case, to a successful finish.
I believe that if elected, Mary Ella will represent all taxpayers, those with and those without students in the East Hampton public schools. She believes in the importance of raising the academic expectations of all the children. It is important to her that East Hampton begins today to meet the educational challenges that will face its schools in the future. She has stated that as an elected member of the school board she will pursue fiscally responsible avenues, while ensuring that the highest quality of education is maintained.
Isn’t Mary Ella Moeller the kind of person who should serve on the East Hampton School Board? Remember to vote on May 21.
May 6, 2013
I am writing to let our community know that I am running for the opportunity to serve the students and families of the Springs School District. As a 13-year resident of Springs, a vice president of the East Hampton Little League board, and parent of a child who has attended Springs School for nine years, it is an honor to be a candidate for the Springs School Board.
My interest in running for the Springs School Board is based on three priorities: our Springs School buildings, technology readiness, and our educational programming. Our Springs population continues to grow at the school; recent studies indicate we may have over 700 students in our building within the coming few years. Springs teachers and students need the proper amount of space and physical plant to support their learning.
With over 20 years in the technology and telecom sector, I would like to help Springs School become ready for the on-line requirements on the horizon for New York State tests. With my understanding of wired and wireless networks, I believe we can enhance the technology infrastructure to better prepare our students to take advantage of the technology investments we have already made.
Finally, I would like to help enhance the core educational programming, as well as extracurricular activities. Our award-winning fourth-grade opera is the perfect example. We need more programs such as this, within our budget, to help round out our students’ learning and prepare our children for success in high school.
I look forward to the privilege of serving our community and very much ask for your support on Tuesday, May 21.
May 21, 2013
On May 21 East Hampton School District taxpayers will vote on a proposed budget of $64.2 million and candidates for board of education. The proposed budget stays within the 2-percent tax cap. This year there were five board public work sessions, and the budget was discussed during the regularly scheduled meetings. The areas of the budget reviewed were general education, general support, special education, technology, and library. These are the areas for which you elect your board of education members to budget.
I regularly attend board meetings, and because I do, I understand the budget process involves making choices about where to spend money effectively. As a candidate, I feel that regular attendance at board of education meetings is an important qualification for becoming a member. In these times of severe financial limitations, it is important to see that fiscally responsible decisions are made while ensuring that all our students receive the highest quality education.
This year and in future years to come, the superintendent and school board will need to continue to make hard decisions in order to keep the budget under the cap limits. I feel that I am well qualified to do this, since I understand the educational priorities of the school district.
If elected, I will represent the entire East Hampton School District community in a fair, unbiased way, fighting to keep programs and academics high for all students, while getting the most bang for your buck.
MARY ELLA MOELLER
Changes at the Beach
May 6, 2013
To the Editor,
I am disappointed and puzzled by your editorial stance against allowing dogs on the beach. I have come to expect The Star to champion the few remaining simple (and free) pleasures left to enjoy in the Hamptons and this editorial comes off as resigned to ever-pervasive restrictions.
Every morning for the last three years I have walked my dogs on Georgica Beach (except when high winds sand-blast them) and have made several observations on changes at the beach over the last year.
1. Except for the summer season, I see few if any people on the beach before 9 a.m., and they are mostly other dog-walkers. They tend to be responsible and pick up after themselves.
2. I rarely see any dog droppings, but I often do see garbage that has drifted up on the beach being picked up by other dog-walkers.
3. I do see a much lower beach, and that high tide now washes right up to the base of the replenished dunes. On the plus side, for those who worry over beach hygiene you can consider this a regular beach “washing.”
4. I have noticed that these replenished dunes are made of a dark, coarse sand laced with small rocks, and that it is getting mixed into the finer beach sand with every high tide and making it less inviting.
There are a host of other local issues that are much more deserving of such high emotions. From my experience, for every inconsiderate dog-walker on the beach there are a score of inconsiderate drivers in the Reutershan parking lot. Now that’s something worth ranting about!
PAUL, HIGGINS, ELIZA, and
Animals on the Beach
May 2, 2013
Thank you for your May 2 editorial “Nuisances on the Beach.” I would like to expand on it. In order to do so, I must mention the new sign put up this week on Hands Creek Road near my home of 32 years. The sign reads, inter alia, “ No Animals 300 feet in either direction. . . .”
I could not help but wonder, which “animals” is the sign referring to? Having worked as an editor of international legal agreements for 34 years, I was perplexed by the use of the word here. In addition, I was also perplexed by the use of a “fine” being levied if the wrongdoer is apprehended.
Tell me, please, is the sign referring to the beautiful deer that roam our area, the seagulls, ducks, and swans who color our bay and beaches that we all treasure? Don’t they all leave some sort of solid waste behind?
Or perhaps, is the sign referring to those other “animals” who roam our bays and beaches? Those who come at night to drink beer, smoke, and loiter, and who leave cigarette butts, other paraphernalia, empty broken bottles and cardboard cases behind? (Seventeen bottles was my count last Friday and Saturday at Hands Creek Harbor. I picked them up — you see, I carry a bag in case my dog needs to relieve herself, though most of the time she poops on the paper in our bathroom, or occasionally in our yard, which we keep spotless.)
Is the sign referring to those other “animals” who think nothing of leaving the empty cases to the bullets they use to kill or maim those defenseless creatures, or those who think nothing of leaving their household garbage in the bin left at the bay by the town for the boaters’ or beachgoers’ use instead paying the fee at the town dump?
Enough of blaming our beloved dogs for the mess of others. Indeed, let my tax dollars go to policing those “animals” who do not have the common decency that is needed to live alongside those of us who do. It will put our government employees to work, not to mention fill up the town coffers!
Overload of Vaccines
May 5, 2013
It is clear that we are passionate about our dogs, given the recent debate in East Hampton concerning its “dogs on the beach” policy. I am sure we are equally passionate about our dogs’ health, so I decided to share our story in the hope that other dog owners will be spared our sorrow.
Sadly, my husband and I lost our dog in February. She was a mixed-breed rescue who was approximately 9 or 10 years old. In October 2012 she had an annual physical and no health issues were identified by our vet. In November, in accordance with a card we received from our vet, we took our dog for her three-year rabies, three-year Da2pp (combination vaccine for distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and parvovirus), and one-year leptospirosis vaccines. All of these vaccines were administered to our dog on the same day. She had had all of these vaccines in the past with no adverse reaction. The only difference this time was that the leptospirosis vaccine was given simultaneously with the others.
About one week later our dog became restless, started to vomit, and had a series of seizures. A few weeks after the seizures, her back legs failed and she was unable to stand up for a short period of time. Shortly thereafter, she began to refuse her breakfast and had continuing bouts of vomiting. This continued until one February evening when, after vomiting, she refused to eat at all. After each and every one of these incidents, we took her to the vet.
On each and every visit, a physical examination was performed. In addition, complete blood testing was done twice, X-rays were taken twice, an E.K.G. was done, and finally a sonogram of her abdominal area. Until the sonogram, nothing was offered at any time to explain her symptoms. The sonogram revealed several enlarged lymph nodes and a thickening of the abdominal wall.
According to our vet, this was consistent with lymphoma or worse. Although he told us that he was 95 percent sure of this diagnosis, a biopsy was recommended. We were told that the most accurate biopsy involved full abdominal surgery. By this time, just a day after the sonogram, our dog had become so weak that she could no longer stand up and vomited a dark brown substance containing blood. At that moment we knew that we could not allow her to suffer any longer and made the gut-wrenching decision to put her to sleep.
Since that awful day, I have been lying awake wondering how a seemingly healthy dog got so sick so quickly. I wondered if there was any connection between her rapid decline and all of the vaccines she had been given. I chose not to discuss this with our vet at this point.
After the initial vomiting and seizures our dog experienced, and with no explanation offered for her symptoms, I did some research. I wrote a letter to our vet suggesting a possible connection between the vaccines and her symptoms. That letter went unanswered. Adverse vaccine reaction was never offered as a potential cause of our dog’s symptoms at any of our subsequent vet visits.
I decided to contact Tracie Hotchner, author of “The Dog Bible” and host of a radio show called Dog Talk. Tracie was a former neighbor of ours who was very helpful when we first adopted our dog. I asked her if she knew of any reliable sources to determine if there was any link between vaccines and what happened to our dog. Tracie put me in touch with two vets, Dr. Donna Spector and Dr. Shawn Messonnier. Dr. Spector owns and operates a consulting practice offering second opinions to both pet owners and veterinarians. Dr. Messonnier is both a practicing vet and author of numerous veterinary and pet publications including “The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer.”
Both Dr. Spector and Dr. Messonnier told me several things I feel compelled to pass along to other pet owners.
First, a senior dog like ours should never have been given all of the vaccines she received at the same time. Vaccines are not innocuous. They affect the immune system.
Second, the combination vaccine Da2pp was likely unnecessary because her vaccine from three years prior may still have been effective. A simple blood titer test would have determined this. Also, her lifestyle, well known to our vet, as an on-leash-only dog who was rarely around other dogs made it unlikely that she would contract any of the diseases this vaccine is meant to protect against.
Third, and most important, the leptospirosis vaccine is associated with the most adverse vaccine reactions in dogs, including autoimmune anemia and cancer. This vaccine should be considered, but only with caution, for dogs likely to be exposed to contaminated water of livestock, wildlife, and rodents. Also, it is of limited value, because this vaccine offers protection for only up to four strains, out of over 200 strains, of leptospirosis. Any potential benefit of this vaccine must be weighed against its potential for harm.
If this highly reactive vaccine is warranted for your dog, is should never be given in combination with any other vaccines.
Both Dr. Spector and Dr. Messonier believe that the overload of vaccines our dog received caused a dysregulation of her immune system which unmasked and accelerated the rate of growth of a possible incipient cancer. At least this offers some reasonable explanation for how she became so sick so quickly.
The purpose of this letter is not to lay blame, but to caution against blindly trusting your vet’s recommendations regarding vaccines. Although I will never really know, I believe that if I had had the information discussed here, my dog would be here today. I hope this helps you and your vet make only the best possible decisions for your beloved pet.
Feral Cat Poem # 51
The ones who train K-9s
to sniff out explosives,
and the ones who teach
golden retrievers to be
therapist dogs —
these I salute.
But the galoots
who breed cats to be uber-feral,
mixing tame with wild
to create living room leopards
as antidotes to their ennui —
these give me pause.
Long, sharp, talon-like
May 6, 2013
Hear! Hear! After 20 years, Cathy Cahill has decided to leave her bench, where she has served the people of East Hampton Town with distinction. As was reported in your paper last week, those will be tough shoes to fill. Your reporter captured this woman’s dedication and honesty, as well as her humor. She has been a top-notch public servant.
I was a teacher at the Springs School who was lucky to have Cathy’s sons, Zach and Sam, in my classes. They are both fine young men who make their mom very proud. I write this letter of appreciation on behalf of the many students she has influenced over the years.
Justice Cahill made “house calls” to my class every year I invited her; she would let me know each spring when she was off the bench. She also hosted our students in her courtroom at Town Hall. Nothing in a textbook — or even on the Internet now — can equal actually meeting and questioning a justice who stands before you. As soon as my fifth graders knew enough to pose thoughtful questions about the Constitution and how government works, we’d send the stack of index cards over to her as bait. She and I knew they were prepared and ready for more information, delivered in person.
I will never forget the buzz in the room as I’d spot the tall justice pulling on her robe outside in the hallway. Like a bailiff, I’d dramatically announce, “All rise,” and up they’d go. Cathy would sweep in and stand at a borrowed podium to preside in order to teach and influence them. Of course, we had to hand her a wooden gavel to make it authentic. She was way cooler than Judge Judy on television! Always serious, her enthusiasm and responses electrified the room. She never talked down to children. Her high standards set the tone, and the students delivered. Our sessions would last an hour or more and just fly by. I am going on record here that our justice always received a standing ovation at the end of every session.
I remember one time on a field trip with the entire fifth grade, we sat for public hearings on issues that she knew would matter to them. Afterward she let the students examine the jail cells; she even let them go inside to feel what it would be like — and we all hoped that would be the closest they’d ever get!
Cathy Cahill helped establish the youth court, too, where students from the high school could pose as defendants, attorneys, and justices. Reaching and influencing the young people of this town has always been at the heart of her long service. She aimed to prevent young people from straying into trouble with the laws.
I wish her well in the next chapter of her life. She leaves at the top of her game, respected by all across party lines and known for being fair, but also, for her commitment to tough love.
On behalf of the Springs School and the community, I thank the Honorable Catherine Cahill for her 20 years of dedication and service. She will be greatly missed, but she will also be remembered.
May 6, 2013
The town’s spurning of its own disabilities law cannot be blamed on budget constraints, the absences of Pete Hammerle, the departure of the former Human Services Department director, Edna Steck, or the closing of the town disabilities advocacy office (The Star, April 11, “There’s a Will but No Budget, to Comply With Disabilities Law”).
True, Pete Hammerle was hardly a robust champion of access for people with disabilities, but then the town board’s liaisons, with the exception of Diana Weir, a Republican, never were. Edna Steck did not retire until 2010, long past the time the town could have and should have been enforcing the 2003 law. And the advocacy office, which I managed, was closed in 2003 and had no enforcement authority to begin with. But I was still a member of the advisory board, and at the meetings I did attend nodded positively along with the rest of the board as the chairman and code enforcement officers reported brightly that they were beginning to commence to undertake to prioritize, finalize, and effectuate the process of implementation, which had in fact largely been done for them by the state and federal laws from which our town and village laws had been drafted.
Patience and money are certainly necessary for big tasks, such as lifting sidewalks to provide access to buildings. But handicapped reserved parking spaces? Grab bars in bathrooms? Light-pressure, slow-closing doors in medical facilities and the Justice Court? An assistive listening device in Town Hall? It costs nothing for code enforcement officers to mention such rules during inspections — and to write citations when violations persist.
Were any summons written at all for the many years-long violations of these easily achievable steps? And why did the fire marshal become the proposed enforcement solution, an assignment they rejected, when disabilities codes enforcement was primarily the Buildings Department’s job?
Both the splendid disabilities code and its neglect were bipartisan — enacted under Jay Schneiderman, ignored under Bill McGintee and Bill Wilkinson. There is nothing in any law that can prevent advisory board members, who are unpaid volunteers, from becoming proactive, especially when their elected officials yawn at the law for nearly a decade.
We should be grateful to the Suffolk County Disabilities Advisory Board for interceding.
Short of Housing
May 6, 2013
The successful completion of the minimum-income housing complex at St. Michael’s Church in Amagansett should be followed by addressing the need of the moderate-income housing segment of our community. Even the best enforcement of our laws will not solve the overcrowding problem as long as the town remains grossly short of housing for its workforce. As in many other areas, this problem is most grievous in Springs. Providing affordable housing is a vital function of our town and is clearly stated as a priority issue in the 2005 East Hampton Town Comprehensive Plan.
The failure to have such a plan in effect now is infuriating. In 2010, following the dictates of the comprehensive plan, a moderate-income housing proposal, fully compliant with the town code, was proposed. It consisted of three “manor houses” of four apartments each, located on a plot which was specifically purchased for this housing complex. The plot is located adjacent to Windmill Village in East Hampton, and the project could have been significantly supported by the Community Housing Opportunity housing fund.
All that was left to be done was send it to the planning board for their approval. The two town board Democrats supported the program but the Republican majority voted essentially to shelve the proposal and to shut it down. It seems that this majority was too busy canceling leaf pickup, ending Wednesday at the dump, selling off historic property while weakening code enforcement, human resources, and school help programs for our young children, to address a real need.
I strongly suggest that the board put the project back on its agenda and get it going again to update it. If this is not done, I guess that our vote in November will have to be the key to implementing a plan that was truly ready to go almost four years ago.
The Big Issues
May 5, 2013
The meeting last Saturday presented by the Group for Good Government and the League of Women Voters was very well done. The most startling result was how many of the approximately 100 or so people, as demonstrated by a show of hands, want the form of government that was espoused by most of the participants.
East Hampton is at a pivotal point in its history. Let’s face it, it is no longer a small town. We are a town whose population swells in the summer until it is bulging at the seams, and they keep predicting that this year the seams will burst. But we have not really taken care of our town’s most important resources: water to drink, clean water to swim in, expansive vistas where the horizon thrills the eyes, our glorious beaches, and all the associated needs that are the outgrowth of our seasonal surge — affordable housing needed for workers, reasonable enforcement of laws, controlling the influx of the rowdy folks, the noise of aircraft, and so on and so on.
All these are symptoms of a town that has experienced rapid growth since the latter half of the last century, but which behaves like it were still 1970. You wanted or allowed the growth but don’t really deal with it intelligently and realistically. I have not even mentioned the changes that will surely occur on our coasts in the coming years. When I look at the ocean from a high vantage point, I shudder.
Somewhere in that equation must be the advent of the next storm looming like a deadly plague ready to wipe us out. How to prepare for it and what we can do as a town and individuals to forestall its eventuality is the task of our leaders.
So maybe it is time to give lawmakers the freedom to work on the big issues that will save this town and leave the nitty-gritty to a management-type arrangement, whichever model put forth by Cohen and Cantwell organically emerges and suits our needs. In the next election, visionary people need to hold the reins and those with the soul of an ant need to fall by the wayside.
Surrendered This Process
May 6, 2013
Wednesday evening, the Federal Aviation Administration heard from the noise-affected community loud and clear that the now-permanent aircraft control tower has made no difference in the noise problem for East End communities suffering from intolerable aircraft noise. The noise-affected recognize the tower’s primary function to safely guide aircraft in and out of our airport, but were assured the tower’s secondary function would be noise mitigation. That has not occurred.
With 60 people in attendance, and all speakers, save two, raising concerns about the inadequacy of the environmental assessment conducted for the town, which included a factually inaccurate noise study by Harris, Miller, Miller, and Hanson, one might hope the F.A.A. and our town board will get the message that noise-reduction strategy must be incorporated into any air traffic control tower operations.
This public hearing was conducted by the F.A.A. for a town-owned asset, which is unusual. No town officials were present, and for some reason, the Town of East Hampton Airport, notably, not the town board, was identified as lead agency, a term applied in proceedings of this sort to determine which department of local government will oversee these processes. In all the years I’ve been following the expanded development of East Hampton Airport, I’ve never seen a public hearing process unfold in quite this way.
It would appear that the town board has surrendered this process to the F.A.A., which is not only odd, but raises some questions and concerns. Chief among them are the inaccuracies in the consultant’s noise study, which will likely be the landmark document in any plans the town considers for access limitations available through Part 161 of the federal aviation regulations, a process in which the town board is currently engaged.
The noise study fails, again, to gauge the impacts of this expansion project by the single-event noise standard as required by the town code. Another major omission, and code requirement, is a cost/benefit analysis of this expansion of use, which is particularly important given the nearly $400,000 annual expense of running this seasonal control tower will pull from the airport revenue stream. This is a critical evaluation and key to understanding whether our airport can be financially self-sustaining. This can be also construed as an attempt to ensure that little excess revenue will be generated by the airport, therefore demonstrating a need for F.A.A. funding for large maintenance projects, and another 20-year surrender of the town’s right as proprietor to limit access to its airport, the only true noise-abatement tool.
It seems unlikely that the F.A.A. paid Harris, Miller, Miller, and Hanson for this latest flawed noise study. Even if we didn’t pay for it, it behooves our town board to make certain this study reflects parameters the board needs documented in order to proceed with current efforts to limit access to control noise at the airport, especially that of helicopters. And, at the least, that the report contain accurate, East Hampton Town Code-compliant information.
Otherwise, we’re just rubber-stamping the aggressive actions of the F.A.A. and airport expansionists to dictate important data points, which create a study that reflects that which they wish it to reflect.
The old data rubric “junk in, junk out,” certainly applies here.
We must fix it while we can.
May 5, 2013
Don’t people think it is peculiar that Jeff Bragman, the paid attorney and lobbyist for the airport opponents, is angrily and personally attacking those volunteers who disagree with him on how to make the East Hampton airport smaller, safer, and quieter, accusing them of being lobbyists while in fact, he is the only local person being paid in the debate?
Could it be that Mr. Bragman is so rude and angry because he has not won a single legal argument or court motion to dismantle the airport, throwing a temper tantrum because he is failing to accomplish what his clients hired him for?
He is suing the town to set aside the unanimously adopted town airport master plan, which eliminates one runway, narrows and shortens another, and keeps the third the same length as built and maintained with federal money since 1936. That plan was adopted after 10 years of debate and a dozen public hearings and is supported by local pilots. The courts have upheld the town plan, but Mr. Bragman continues to appeal.
He has appeared in court or filed motions seven times for injunctive relief in the airport litigation, which were heard by 10 different New York State Supreme Court Justices. His arguments have been repeatedly denied as having no merit. I know this because our local aviation association is a party to the lawsuit helping to defend the town.
Despite batting 0 for 7, Mr. Bragman continues to appeal, earning his legal fees. He continues to write letters to the editor espousing with great bombast equally meritless legal arguments about the supposed benefits of rejecting Federal Aviation Administration funding. In due course, these arguments will also be dismissed by the courts, but at an excessive and inexcusable expense to the taxpayers.
Once Mr. Bragman’s sideshow is over, we will be able to get on with the serious business of keeping the airport smaller, safer, and quieter with less bullying, more politeness, and no personal attacks, something all our local pilots look forward to.
East Hampton Aviation Association
May 3, 2013
To the Editor:
If you’re reading these words then doubtlessly you’re aware that many, many people don’t like airplane noise very much. On the other hand, a far smaller but also very enthusiastic group seems to think that the complaining is unwarranted and an unfair encroachment on the enjoyment of aviation.
To bring expert opinion to this discussion, the East Hampton Town Board has commissioned a study of the offending noise. Unfortunately, there are grounds to believe that the noise study may not capture just what it is that’s so darned disturbing about aircraft noise. The history of the firm that’s been hired to do the study, Harris, Miller, Miller, and Hanson, suggests that they’ll very carefully identify the geographic and temporal distribution of sound contours and the background sounds levels that surround them. They’ll identify patterns of sound level above background that may or may not exceed various engineering standards. Unfortunately, what they probably won’t do is measure how it affects the people hearing it. They’ll just assume that only very loud noise is bad, and it gets worse the louder it is above background. Unfortunately, the best evidence from ecological psychology and neuroscience is that neither of these assumptions capture what is so particularly disturbing about aircraft noise.
While there is an enormous amount of evidence that high background levels of noise and frequent loud noise events can be a general irritant and even a health hazard, it may not be the noisiness of aircraft that has people screaming. There are many sources of noise in our world that don’t provoke the kind of public reaction we’ve seen to aircraft noise. Leaf blowers, for instance, make a horrendous racket, so loud that the operators wear the same earmuffs worn by airport employees standing near jet exhaust. Every neighborhood has regular exposure to leaf blowers yet there is no Quiet Lawns Coalition. It may be that some aspects of aircraft noise evoke more than simple irritation, it may be that the dynamic character of noise produced by aircraft speak to a primitive defensive reaction to a threat of predation: a threat of being eaten.
It’s common knowledge that we humans instinctively react with distress and fear to a variety of inherently dangerous stimuli such as snakes and spiders. What is less well known is that we react much more strongly when we perceive that such stimuli are approaching us. Ecological psychologists describe this property of scary stimuli as “looming,” and they’ve demonstrated in the laboratory that fear reactions rise sharply with the speed and proximity of approach.
If aircraft noise, with its bass, impulsive quality, is inherently scary then measuring the intensity contours of aircraft noise source isn’t going to get at what’s making so many people uncomfortable.
Now, few of us are going to admit that we’re afraid of airplanes, we all know about Orville and Wilbur and that the growling noise from the sky is not out to get us, at least not lately in the United States. But the unease that we experience comes from a part of the brain into which education does not seep. At this level, we’re more like wildlife, which aren’t at all sure that looming airplanes are not hungry predators on the attack.
But this may not be the only shortcoming of the sound study being contracted by the town board. There is another very-well-established line of research in neuroscience that shows some paradoxical properties of the startle reflex, one of our natural emotional and behavioral reactions to a threatening stimulus.
One would think that the lower the background noise, the more conspicuous and therefore upsetting a noisy stimulus might be. In fact, the relationship is just the opposite. The startle reflex is stronger when background noise is higher and the relative loudness of the startle stimulus is lower. It is argued that this is because a potentially dangerous noise that can be heard over a noisy background must be coming from a source that is quite close. Thus when a gazelle by a waterfall hears a lion roar, it runs like crazy because, to be audible over the waterfall, that lion could be carnivorously close. Likewise, when the approaching roar of aircraft is only barely heard over the TV, or the kids in the next room, or the wind in the trees, it may be more alarming, not less alarming than otherwise.
I don’t know how the Harris firm plans to interpret the sound intensity data they are gathering, but their previous reports suggest that they won’t have done much reading in ecological psychology or neuroscience. And if not, we may get a recommendation that will fail to acknowledge the essentially biological disturbance of thousands of people exposed to aircraft noise. I’m even surer that those consultants won’t be thinking about how wildlife, which mostly live without a roof over their head or windows to close, interpret the encroaching snarl of aircraft.
As usual, the science that bears on this problem is indirect. There have not been experiments that explicitly address the effects of aircraft-approach sound patterns on human or animal emotional fear responses. Worse, since the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1980 deferral of responsibility for aircraft noise pollution to the states, it’s not likely that any such research will be funded. This is not to say, however, that the town board is without ample evidence confirming the persistent and peculiar severity of the human reaction to aircraft noise that is strongly suggested by the relevant science.
Surely the formation of several groups targeting aircraft noise, more than a few lawsuits, repeated political campaign planks, innumerable letters to the editor in every local paper, many thousands of calls to a “hot line” that never responds, many published complaint ads, frequent testimony at town board meetings, and the actual experience of positioning one’s self under any flight path on a summer Friday evening should provide all the evidence necessary to compel government to find a way to spare its citizens and neighbors and wildlife this deeply provocative and increasingly excessive assault on their state of mind.
T. JAMES MATTHEWS
New York City
May 5, 2013
To the Editor:
Shameful, monumentally shameful! As a worker in the garment center in New York City for over 35 years, I am furious at the needless brutality to the workers at the Bangladesh textile factory, which killed more than 500 and injured 2,500.
As building owners, manufacturers, stores — including some in America — point fingers and blame each other, everyone needs to look straight at themselves, deep into their own hearts. They will see that this tragedy, like too many others before it, has to do with two words: cheap labor, putting their thirst for profits over the living, breathing people who do the work, paying the lowest wages possible and skimping on workplace safety.
With working men, women‚ and even children so systematically exploited worldwide, there is nothing more important than for us to ask and answer this essential question, first asked by the educator and founder of Aesthetic Realism, Eli Siegel: What does a person deserve by being a person?
Typical Warm Period
May 6, 2013
Those who are convinced (without any research whatever) that humanity caused the current interglacial warm period, please explain how it was done. Remember please, we are in a typical warm period between periods of glaciation; total cycle time is about 125,000 years, 25,000 (plus or minus) years of warm weather followed by 100,000 (plus or minus) years of cool. Cool includes glaciation in the Northern Hemisphere down to about 41 degrees north — that would be Central Park (plus or minus). Sea levels rise and fall by 300-plus feet, the climate becomes dry as well as cool.
The Earth had been stable in the current warm-cool cycle for about five cycles, or 600,000 years. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases after warming starts, decreases after cooling is underway. Sea levels are not changing by three inches per year in the near term. Photographs of a century or more show a sea level pretty much the same as today. Were three inches per year accurate it would mean the tidal waters were 20 feet higher now than they were 80 years ago. Clearly, this is not so.
The answer is not humanity, but water. The Earth is 70-percent covered by water, and as water warms, dissolved CO2 comes out. CO2 goes into solution with water. Cold water holds more; warmer water holds less. Warm water vaporizes into the atmosphere, condenses at altitude into clouds, which reflect light back into space. The Earth cools, precipitation falls, etc. — a self-regulating system independent of current animal activity on Earth. Blue-green algae are the machines that free the oxygen and hold the carbon, taking it out of the short-term biosphere.
If our activity affects this cycle by warming, the question is, how much? Frankly, it appears that no one knows. The only clear thing is that humanity is not responsible for the majority of the warming, and, possibly, all we are is background noise.
It is foolishness to react to an imagined problem; it wastes money and time which could be productively spent. Billions spent going the wrong way is foolishness. Consensus is not science. We, America, need to do the science first, and determine a solution second. Clean up Hook Pond, Town Pond, Northwest Harbor, Three Mile Harbor. Solve the eelgrass die-off and correct it, get it growing again, recreate Two Holes of Water. The list is long, and time is short. We need to do the possible, not lament the impossible.
Not a Sound
May 1, 2013
To the Editor:
Our fearless dictator is already scripting executive orders. After a week of horror and tragedy it took Obama five hours to show his face, read from a script with absolutely no emotion, and then on Wednesday throw a temper tantrum in the Rose Garden about one hour after the gun bill failed. When Gabby was shot in Arizona, the president ranted and raved about gun laws and then within two weeks after, not a sound, not a word on gun control uttered.
Then tragedy took place in Texas. Who saw or heard from President Obama or his administration? The president is on television when he is pushing his agenda about something he wants, but when the country needs calming he’s absent.
“Don’t jump to conclusions.” This is his excuse not to use the word terrorism. This president can party hardy and celebrate with the best of them and turn his cheek on the United States of America.
Let’s have some truths on Benghazi from both you and Hillary Clinton, stop passing it off like it never happened. Four Americans are dead and we the people have no answers.
April 28, 2013
The New York Times cover story about the increasing number of kids being medicated for hyperactivity should come as no surprise. The patterns of medication for behavior modification have been expanding exponentially over the past three decades. After all, we are Therapy Nation, and medication is a quick, efficient solution to problems both imagined and real. That we are medicating our kids at an alarming rate is simply a reflection of how we medicate ourselves.
Growing up in the ’40s and ’50s we were always aware of the potential problem of taking too much aspirin. Our parents allowed us to take allergy pills to relieve the headaches and the suffering, but almost always as a short-term solution. The ’60s began the great American experiment with drugs. Alcohol was always prominent and present in our diet and diet pills for sleepless nights began slowly creeping in, but the use of recreational drugs ushered in a new wave of drug consumption. Why not be high and happy. Not that we weren’t already. Recreational drugs were not a solution for depression or psychological issues; they were for the search for higher levels of pleasure, etc.
Recreational drugs became much more personal in the ’70s and ’80s. Cocaine for the wealthy, crack for the poor. They became part of getting through life. They were no longer simply for recreation but for sustaining lives. The hippie-type rebellion of the ’60s took a harder, more realistic turn, and was a major lifestyle contributor. Pleasure turned to addiction, and then turned really weird when the pleasure disappeared and only the addiction was left.
The ’80s brought us the problems of bipolarity and depression. Shouldn’t we always be happy. As our economy shifted with the distribution of wealth, the underlying reality of the disappearing American dream started to weigh more heavily on people. The sense that something was wrong but indefinable grew. We turned more and more to therapeutic solutions.
In the ’90s came the realization that therapy wasn’t the solution because it was expensive, time-consuming, and provided no solution to the changing lifestyles. We enter the Prozac era of chemical solutions. If your problems weren’t easily resolvable because of the chemical malfunctions of your brain, chemical remediation was the solution.
Where we are today is a society that is collapsing around us, and we have been convinced and convinced ourselves that chemical solutions are the future as well as the present. The question about what to do with our children arises. If we medicate them young, will we better prepare them for the future? It they can’t sit still in class for whatever reasons, do they need to be tranquilized?
In the 1990s the “War on Drugs” combined the talents of law enforcement, the education system, and our psycho-socio community. They defined, treated, incarcerated, and medicated the druggie community. Today, law enforcement has been replaced by parents, and the targets are not rebellious druggies but our children. Too young and powerless to defend themselves, they are at the mercy of a system that medicates first and asks questions later. Brave new world or Ritalin nation. The future is strange and twisted.
It used to be that parents protected their kids from the vagaries of compulsory behaviors and ordered performance. We valued the differences and quirkiness of our children. Creativity didn’t come in a box.
Now we search easy solutions to complex problems. We don’t know the long-term effects of the drugs we are providing. We don’t question that maybe the system is at fault and needs more instead of fewer resources. We are selling our children down the tubes for a short-term piece of peace and tranquility. Our new pusher elites wear white jackets and have Ph.Ds. Growing up was never a piece of cake. Now it’s a bottle of pills and a glass of water.