Letters to the Editor: 04.17.14

Our readers' comments

Warm Feelings
    Sag Harbor
    April 14, 2014

To the Editor,
    In the article in last week’s paper regarding the Jewish cemeteries on Route 114, my comments were referring to a century-old rivalry between two Jewish immigrant groups in Sag Harbor from Eastern and Central Europe.
    Today, our entire Jewish community is largely united, and there is a warm, compatible relationship with all segments of East End Jewry.
    These warm feelings include the relationship between our cemetery and the independent Jewish cemetery, which are both committed to providing an honorable resting place for those who have passed away.


Very Much Like
    East Hampton
    April 10, 2014

    I did not read the April 3 edition of The Star, but I noted the photograph on page B3 of today’s paper. The picture looks very much like Alan J. Trages. He was a student of mine in an accounting course that I taught at Cornell University during the 1958 spring semester. He received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration in 1961 and an M.B.A. from its business school a year later.
    In those days all male undergraduates were required to spend two years in the R.O.T.C. program, and in those years of compulsory military service, most university students stayed in the program until graduation, at which time they were commissioned as second lieutenants or ensigns, requiring them to spend two to four years (the term depended on whether it was Army, Air Force, or Navy) of active duty.
    My recollection is that the Trages family was in the restaurant and catering business here in the Hamptons.


Helen Hillman
    Dar as Salaam, Tanzania
    April 10, 2014

To the Editor,
    I think the pain of loss is compounded by the duality of roles Hayes women played in the rearing of Hayes children. They were often both aunt and second mother (providing loving and spankings in equal measure). In the case of my aunt Helen Hillman, she, for me, had multiple identities. She was aunt, second mother, and “uncle.” Many years ago, I nicknamed her Uncle Herman, or Herm for short, and it seemed to stick. I honestly can’t remember the last time I called her Aunt Helen. For me she was and will always be Uncle Herm or Hermie.
    I can’t remember all the details of what went into deciding on this new title, but I do recall telling her that she was equally both mother and father and seemed to have a strength and independence that suggested that she was her own life partner.
    She was fierce in her single-parentness, and I marveled at how she boldly made her way in life and carved out her space in the Hamptons’ real estate market despite facing the obstacles of gender and race in a place and time that was not ready for her. It reminds me of a reflection I often meditate on, “Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them.”
    I remember Uncle Herm as a woman ahead of her time — an environmentalist and conservationist, composting and concerning herself with water use and paper towel waste when it was neither cool nor fashionable. I remember fun cookouts in her yard that felt a bit more glamorous and sophisticated than the norm (may have been the wine Steph and I were sneaking or Cheryl was giving to us). I spent a summer after I had my daughter, Denver, when my parents were renovating their house, at Hermie’s place. We enjoyed our routine T.J.Maxx trips and the grocery store runs with lists that contained the same items (Archway oatmeal raisin cookies and Fresca). 
    I loved being able to celebrate her 70th birthday a few years ago on the deck of Steph and Jeff’s place (my second home), and was glad to have seen her during my last trip home a few months ago, but I know she was in pain and beginning to feel lonely. She may have been her own life partner, but she loved and needed the closeness and comfort of her siblings. Now that they are gone, I believe she was ready. They knew it and they came back for her.
    The Hayesville 13 are back together again — loving, fighting, laughing, lying, and resuming their place in the pecking order — and for that I am most grateful.
    The baton has been passed. It is now up to the next generation. I, for one, am tired of funerals. We do them all too well. I want weddings and reunions and birthday parties and trips to anywhere and celebrations for nothing in particular. This is my prayer for us as a family. This is my commitment to them, my family.
    I am miles away in Tanzania — a bit sad not to be there, but a bit relieved not to be at yet another funeral. Today I will find an oatmeal raisin cookie and raise a glass of champagne (my substitute for Fresca) and be grateful for having a wonderful aunt/uncle all rolled into one who taught me to be fearless and bold in walking through obstacles and being my own life partner (until Idris Elba wakes up and claims me).

    Sending love from East Africa,

Special Person
    April 14, 2014

To the Editor,
    In the fall of 1998 I traveled to Havana to organize a series of informal softball games between my Springs team, the Maidstoners, and several Cuban teams. Thirty-three of us traveled to Cuba in the spring of 1999 and played four goodwill games. We sang our national anthems and hung up a sign that read “The 40 year rain delay is over.” Our sojourn was recounted in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and on the cover of this newspaper (covered, as it was, by Joanne Pilgrim). I never could have put that bizarre and fantastic adventure together were it not for the help of my friend Amado Torrecelli Torres.
    Over the next several years the two of us organized other sports and musical exchanges and brought humanitarian aid to Cuba. I traveled there over 25 times and got to know its people through him. Amado, like so many of his fellow countrymen, hated Fidel. His father spent 18 months in jail for having $2 in American money. His girlfriend’s grandfather was imprisoned for seven years for a similar infraction. Amado spent six weeks in jail for having my cellphone on him.
    About five years ago I was able to get him, and later his girlfriend, out. When he arrived at J.F.K., he asked a flight attendant if it was true he could say anything he wanted about anybody. Told it was true he shouted, “I hate Fidel Castro.”
    He worked with me at the Stephen Talkhouse over the last few years. His girlfriend, Yoshimi, and he lived with me. They moved to Houston in the fall of 2012.
    Last week, I learned he was terminally ill, and he died on Sunday from leukemia. He was a very special person and a very close fiend.
    On Sunday, May 11, several great local musicians will perform at the Talkhouse in an effort to remember him and raise some money for Yoshimi, now his wife, as she deals with his passing. If you knew Amado, and even if you didn’t, please consider stopping by.

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    East Hampton
    April 14, 2014

Dear David,
    I realize the community has become quite concerned about the bullying that has been evident in the East Hampton schools. I thought it would be a good idea to look at some of the other types of “bullying” that are evident in this town and village.
    The notice that the town zoning board of appeals granted permission for an extremely wealthy Wainscott resident to erect two complete houses on one parcel seems another example of bullying tactics used to circumvent the town code.
    At the same time, PSEG seems determined to bully the town into accepting its notice of refusing to pay to bury power lines. Is this not another example of those with the power dictating to those without?
    And yet we wonder where school students get such ideas while we are all surrounded by blatant examples of bullying from day to day. Perhaps we should take a more realistic look at the examples being set for students by other components of our community.


Foregoing Booze
    April 12, 2014

Dear David,
    The ongoing discussion about whether to ban or limit alcohol consumption at Indian Wells Beach is a good start to resolving the problem. For what it’s worth, I’d like to weigh in with those (whom I suspect are the majority of residents) who favor a total ban.
    I can’t see how cordoning off a section of the beach for drinkers could be enforced, and I don’t think that foregoing booze is a horrible sacrifice. I think we have to consider, as some have written, the added strain irresponsible drinkers place on our town resources and emergency services, in addition to annoying, obnoxious behavior.


Leave It Alone
    April 12, 2014

Dear David,
    Tonight at the East Hampton Town Board meeting, an important public hearing will be held concerning a proposed law defining and more importantly prohibiting permission for so-called formula, or chain, stores to be located within one mile of historically designated districts in the town.
    We don’t have to try to envision what our town would look like if that chain store prohibition was not adopted. All you have to do is  walk up and down the village Main Street and see what happened there.
    There’s Polo, Tiffany, Elie Tahari, J. Crew, not to overlook that store that symbolizes the whole problem — good, old unforgettable BCBGMAXAZRIA. The whole village downtown of the 1960s had a local dry goods store for Levi’s, an old fashioned candy store for papers and tobacco, and a drug store, all these owned and manned by locals.
    What the village has become is one big chain store owned by distant corporations, manned in many places by non-locals, and, what is not too evident, the cash, salaries, and profits generated by these stores are traveling out, rather than staying here where they belong, creating jobs for our people and using the profits to invest in new local adventures.
    When I think about the feeling that I believe the overwhelming percentage of us have regarding the impact on the look of our town with the introduction of the hallmarks of chain stores, the architecture of the buildings, the colors, the uniforms, and the product itself, I shudder.
    I can’t help chuckling when I recalled an incident about 15 years ago in Sag Harbor. In the middle of a weekday afternoon, a driver going down Main Street noticed ladders up to the marquee removing the big letters announcing the Sag Harbor Cinema. Like a typical Sag Harbor resident where the whole town is practically designated a historic district, she asked the workers what they were doing only to be told that they were going to install a more modern set of letters, as the old set was damaged. She unsuccessfully commanded them to stop immediately. When this failed, she contacted the management, found the money needed to make an identical new set of letters, waged a campaign, got the money and, voila, the Sag Harbor Cinema remained as before. That’s the kind of gumption we need here in East Hampton.
    I think I speak for both locals and “foreigners” like myself (I got here in the mid ’50s), we like the way our town looks, so leave it alone. Try to come down to tonight’s town board meeting. This law, or some form of it, is very important. Make your voices be heard.


Chain-Store Mania
    East Hampton
    April 14, 2014

Dear David,
    The town board will consider legislation this evening in what I believe will be a watershed event in terms of the direction that the entire Town of East Hampton will take in terms of its permanent appearance. Chain-store mania has already swept the entire country and already changed the complexion of the Village of East Hampton in ways that I believe are inconsistent with what a rural town should look like.
    The town board needs to pass a law prohibiting chain stores in the central business zone and historic district of Main Street, Amagansett. All other applications that are deemed a chain-store operation in central business zoning districts in the town should be required to obtain planning board approval. This ensures that the historic character of the Amagansett Historic District will be preserved and that other central business-zoned buildings will continue to adhere to the unique character of the community and promote the distinctive character that is East Hampton.
    There is already much clamor from the owners of real estate in Amagansett, as well as within the mile radius of historic districts, to prevent this law from being passed because it is they, the real estate owners, who will be denied the sky-high rents that they can expect to charge.
    Sky-high rents have negative impacts in numerous ways for the residents of the Town of East Hampton. These include higher rents that translate into higher prices for merchandise, bringing such merchandise out of the reach of the average resident of East Hampton. Higher rents force out local businesspeople, who employ local residents at fair wages, as opposed to the minimum wages that chain stores pay. Profits realized by chain-store operators do not filter back into the local economy but rather migrate to far away corporate headquarters.
    We need to show support for our town board members so that they know that the electorate at large, as opposed to the small number of property owners, are against the kind of development that brings about these results. Accordingly, any residents who can should appear at the town board meeting at Town Hall on Pantigo Road tonight at 7 and express support for the adoption of legislation limiting chain-store developments.


Out of the Community
    East Hampton
    April 12, 2014

Dear David:
    There will be a public hearing tonight in East Hampton Town Hall on legislation regulating chain, or formula, stores.
    Formula stores are defined as those with 10 or more locations worldwide. Councilwoman Sylvia Overby is proposing that there be restrictions on these businesses, including that they must be located in the central business zone and cannot be within a mile of a historic district or closer than a half mile of a designated historic building. This is particularly relevant to Amagansett, where old-fashioned, traditional charm still exists.
    The formula stores have dramatically changed the character of East Hampton Village. Neither I nor anyone I know can afford to shop in most of them. When a formula store comes in,  it is able to pay higher rents (even in the off-season) and local businesses are forced out. Profits earned by these large corporate chains are taken out of the community, and these companies have showed no inclination to contribute locally.
    For example, when East End not-for-profits plan fund-raising events, they often approach stores or restaurants for food or silent auction contributions. I’ve been personally involved in doing this, and when I approached Citarella, they said they I’d have to ask “corporate” for approval, and I never heard from them again.
    In contrast, when I asked the manager of a local food market, he not only agreed but made an incredibly generous contribution. This was true of other local merchants, demonstrating their connection and commitment to our community.
    I urge all those who believe in supporting our local businesses and preserving the unique character of our beautiful community to attend tonight’s public hearing and support this legislation.


Quickly Fading
    April 7, 2014

To the Editor,
    As a longtime resident of East Hampton, I am seeing an ongoing destruction. The bucolic vividness of the town is quickly disappearing. It is apparent at the state level, and fair conditions are emerging at local stores. They are sorely mismanaged and operating improperly. All of the iconic aura is quickly fading perhaps because of impending changes at a significant disadvantage. I am also disheartened at the disappearance of a bucolic place, to say the least, a “Gone With the Wind.” And especially here it seems all the supposed affluence is ignored.
    Perhaps it is our growing blindness that is an attribution leading to it. If history has taught us anything, we should heed it. Our semi-blindness seals out our greatness and uniqueness. There is always the troubling move to collapse that has occurred from apathy. Moving in all the erroneous directions. So let us become more focused on what is happening and what can.
    Pull in our reins and slow up!


Support the Effort
    East Hampton
    April 11, 2014

Dear David,
    I support the effort of our town government to purchase the 19 acres of 555 property in Amagansett from Putnam Bridge coming up for consideration at a public hearing tonight.
    This purchase would help save our magnificent East Hampton scenic heritage for generations to come. It would also promote a commitment to preserve land for community-based local benefits and stop the dilution of our special environmental and cultural heritage by those who would exploit it for limited, short-term gains.
    I am pleased to support a “yes” vote by the East Hampton Town Board to ensure a more appropriate use of our farmland, using resources provided by the community preservation fund.


Elm Swirl
    April 6, 2014

Dear David Rattray,
    Old socks, scuffed oxfords, corncob pipe in elm swirl of April’s lullaby.


Constant Problem
    East Hampton
    April 14, 2014

Dear David,
    The overhead cable eyesore has been a constant problem in East Hampton. I was reading the historic structure report for the Studio, Thomas Moran’s house on Main Street. In it there is a note that “In 1901 Thomas Moran joined his neighbors in protesting placing telephone poles on Main Street . . . as a result the lines were placed underground with the new electric cables.”
    We all need to join together to stop and reverse this current PSEG fiasco. We all should contact Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is responsible for PSEG actions, and let him know our feeling regarding the health, safety, and aesthetic concerns we have, including that our town laws concerning new construction are being violated. Now.


Civil Disobedience
    East Hampton
    April 14, 2014

To the Editor,
    The meeting at Babette’s on Sunday regarding PSEG seemed to be about a clearly defined and relatively simple problem. After listening to Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Assemblyman Fred Thiele express their frustration and anger regarding the disrespect and disinterest shown to them by PSEG, only one obvious solution to the predicament remained. If our elected officials who are supposed to represent our interests are dismissed as irrelevant, and we have no recourse with our current governor, we have little choice but to orchestrate a plan of civil disobedience.
    Civil disobedience is a long-tested mechanism, dating back to the Boston Tea Party, for addressing problems that can’t be dealt with through discussion and negotiation. Several years ago, when Guild Hall refused to make the building accessible to the disabled, a group of people organized by members of our local disability group chained their wheelchairs to the front doors during the film festival. When the village police were unavailable for several hours, and the protesters were not going away, Guild Hall caved. Even though it was in violation of federal law, it would not have responded unless put under the gun.
    PSEG feels it is its right to do whatever it wants in our town, whether we like it or not. How we express our dislike will determine if we can force it to recognize our existence.
    Not paying our electric bills — PSEG would threaten to shut us off, but if we send our paid bills to the town and let them be held in escrow, it would have to go to court to get them released.
    Have our local police force stop every PSEG truck and verify their papers and question the legality of all their workers. Demanding that they show proof of citizenship and the right to work in our town.
    At every PSEG work site, demand work and job permits giving them permission to do what they’re doing.
    Undo at night whatever work they do during the day, which may include disabling materials, machinery, and vehicles.
    Impound any PSEG vehicle that is improperly parked or left unattended.
    Create enough chaos so that we attract major media attention in order to make our case by embarrassing PSEG and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
    If all this fails, we track down the head of PSEG and its board of directors and take whatever measures are necessary to convince them they are behaving badly and need to change their behavior.


PSEG Fiasco
    April 11, 2014

Dear David,
    I have been watching the PSEG fiasco with great interest. I live in New Jersey, and we have had PSEG for a long time. I live in a designated “Tree City,” with beautiful, old trees lining all the streets.
    During Sandy, a big tree came down and took out the pole down the street from me. Even though everybody on the surrounding streets got their power back in a few days, we were out for 11 days. It seems PSEG was fighting with the telephone company over whose pole it really was. The neighbors even offered to pay for the pole so we could get our power back. The 75-year-old tree that fell had been “pruned” by PSEG until there was only a single big branch on one side left, and they wondered why it fell.
    In New Jersey, PSEG is known as the butcher of trees, and numerous towns have called it on its destructive behavior. Several trees on my street have no middle because the lines run through the middle of the trees. I expected no less on the East End, and was wondering how long it would take for it to destroy the trees we have all fought to protect.
    One of my friends told me PSEG pruned the top of her tree so badly she told them to cut the entire tree down because it wouldn’t live after what they did to it. Unfortunately, PSEG only cares about itself and its stockholders. It does not care about its customers.
    Given the force of winds out here during the winter, all power lines should be underground. Why isn’t the cost paid for by not only PSEG but by Cablevision and the phone company, since they all use the same poles? They certainly don’t mind taking our hard earned money every month.


Giant Squid
    April 14, 2014

To the Editor:
    PSEG is a bloodsucking giant squid reaching its tentacles into the homes and wallets of every homeowner in East Hampton and using that money to permanently scar and disfigure old trees, despoil our pastoral landscape with ugly new lines, and build a disgusting electrical substation in Amagansett, which is located at a historic crossroad in a village dating to the 1700s. And the wonder is that this multimillion dollar project is not even needed.
    According to a recent Wall Street Journal article “Electricity Use on Wane in US,” it says, “Americans are using more gadgets, but their electricity use is barely growing.” This makes sense, what with more efficient heating, fluorescent light bulbs, efficient electrical appliances, and increased use of wind power and solar panels.
    PSEG is a bureaucracy gone mad. PSEG wants to get bigger for the sake of getting bigger and spending more of our money and increasing our electric rates. It has the gall to spend homeowners’ monies on ads justifying its voracious lunacy.
    Questions: Is there no way to stop PSEG? Where were our elected officials? Where is the oversight? (We can’t always be blaming it on the other guys.) How did Southampton manage to avoid this? Why are the new lines not allowed near schools, but allowed near our homes — is it because they could possible be unhealthy?
    To quote Mario Savio of the free speech movement: “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels . . . upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”


Better Than That
    East Hampton
    April 11, 2014

Dear Editor,
    I am a 20-year East Hampton resident and lucky enough to have moved several times, from King Street to Cove Hollow Road to Cooper Lane. Last May, we moved to the other side of town, and when I drove out last month I was horrified to see giant, new telephone poles and transformers on so many quaint and quiet streets that I love. What struck me most was that every street I had lived on in the last 20 years was affected.
    Friends and I always talk about how “our” East Hampton experience isn’t the cliche that people talk about — there were no nightclubs and party houses for us. Instead, we talk of wonderful, casual dinners outside, of bike rides through the village streets, of friendly neighbors. The PSEG poles threaten that version of East Hampton life in precisely the neighborhoods where it remains.
    These gargantuan and dangerous new poles are on the streets where modest people in modest houses are struggling to maintain their piece of bucolic Hamptons life. I fear this is the tale of two East Hamptons writ large, and I think our village is better than that.


Bury the Lines
    East Hampton
    April 14, 2014

Dear David,
    Save EH continues to move forward in its demand for PSEG to stop the work and bury the lines. On Sunday, Barbara Layton of Babette’s graciously opened her doors to over 150 people in support of Save EH. Larry Cantwell, Fred Thiele, and Karl Grossman spoke eloquently in support of burying the lines and forcing PSEG back to the table. Please continue to follow the cause.
    Remember that this is a townwide issue that needs townwide support and attention. We must be vigilant and continue to press Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stop the poles and bury the lines!
    You can find a contact form at governor.ny.gov.


    East Hampton
    April 14, 2014

To the Editor,
    I thought there was a stop-work order issued on this matter. The noise this past Saturday on the corner of Newtown Lane and King Street was enough to keep me out of the house the entire day.
When I returned at 4:30 p.m., there were three more limbs down and 19 cigarette butts to pick up from the street.
    Is anyone supervising these installers from PSEG?
    An angry East Hampton Village taxpayer,


    April 11, 2014

Dear David,
    The new PSEG Long Island utility poles are toxic. I am working on a plan to have Gov. Andrew Cuomo (No-No Cuomo) and the top brass of PSEG lick them.
    I am the volunteer East Hampton Town common whipper, an enforcement position of the East Hampton Town Trustees, mislaid a few centuries back. I am going to add pole licking, utility pole licking, to the arsenal of whipper punishments.
    Should one be stupid enough to compromise the public good in East Hampton Town, licking a PSEG utility pole seems perfectly appropriate.

    All good things,

To Kill All
    April 12, 2014

To the Editor:
    At first, I wondered why so many people were in favor of killing 3,000 deer. Some of these same people usually put a lot of effort into protecting other species such as piping plovers, ospreys, etc. (which is a good thing).
    Then, they wanted to kill all the mute swans. I could not understand that either.
    Oh, then, I remembered. We live in a world that allows us to kill our own babies when they are an inconvenience in our lives, so, at last, I understood: Everything is meaningless!


Tell the Truth
    East Hampton
    April 11, 2014

Dear Editor,
    I am so glad that there are those residents in our fair village who love the truth. Let us pledge to support only those elected officials who tell the truth.
This presupposes that calling someone a liar will incorporate some semblance of intelligent thought. For instance, if a witness takes the Fifth Amendment privilege and chooses not to testify, he or she certainly can’t be called a liar. So Lois Lerner is not a liar.
    If Chris Christie spends two hours at a news conference and spews forth unbelievable nonsense about his relationship with a lifelong friend and supporter, and crowns himself as just a “puddy cat” being dishonored by his own selection of subordinates, everyone with half a brain knows he is lying and no amount of whitewash will change that.
    I also hope that all this sudden love of truth-telling brings with it a smidgen of love and understanding regarding the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves, which seems to be lacking.