Letters to the Editor: 01.04.18

Our readers' comments

Christian Community


January 1, 2018

Dear Mr. Rattray,

We were saddened to read Merrily Sanfino’s letter last week regarding the Springs Community Presbyterian Church and our friend and neighbor Bill Henderson. 

Since visiting and later joining the church, we have heard, over the past 10 years, a variety of sermons from its humble pulpit and have come to care for those who gather there to worship and to serve their community. The pastors, lay and ordained, with varied speaking styles and positions on matters of theology, have consistently delivered a call, gentle but steady, to follow the teachings of Christ: to love your God, to love your neighbor, to serve the poor, and to care for those who suffer. Far from blasphemous, the weekly service includes a reading from both Old and New Testaments, a message that focuses on the teachings of Jesus, a sharing of community concerns and joys, singing accompanied by Reg Starke’s beautiful piano playing, followed by coffee and pastries in the fellowship hall that looks out on the lovely Accabonac Harbor. 

In writing to the Corinthians, before the existence of the Bible, of which Ms. Sanfino speaks, Paul reminds this Christian community that they are “a letter from Christ, written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on the fleshy tablets of the human heart.”

Ms. Sanfino may harshly judge those who do not believe in the infallibility of the Bible or the letter of the law, but she would, we hope, be gladdened by the spirit of the heart that resides in the Springs Community Presbyterian Church and continues to lift ours.




Of Faith Roundabouts  


December 29, 2017

Mr. Rattray: 

Bill Henderson does not need me to come to his defense. Nonetheless I am moved to comment on “Hard to Comprehend” (Dec. 28). 

In like fashion, it is not incumbent upon me to comment on another person’s faith statement, namely Merrily Sanfino’s. Nor would I engage in a discussion of the phenomenology of religious experience, nor again on the sociology of religious institutions. 

From my perspective the faith experience includes questions and doubts, also critique of hypocrisy or the misappropriation of religion for political purpose. I could go on a toot here, but I will refer at least to the Jewish prophetic tradition to which Christians also lay claim (unless the shoe fits too precisely). The prophets were not exactly popular fellows when pointing out that the professed religious of their day had stripped themselves of the garments of their faith.

As for the smaller communities of faith roundabouts, such as the Springs Presbyterian Church, where Mr. Henderson is an elder, and the Amagansett Presbyterian Church, of which I know something as former pastor, it is true that these and others of our denomination are small in number. It is the same with all Protestant congregations on this East End, in contrast to larger city churches in New York, where resources permit multiple staffs and diversity of programs that reach many people.  We do not suffer even though numerically small, admitting we’d be happy to have others among us. The Springs church, including Bill Henderson, is an important part of the Springs community, as the Amagansett church is of that hamlet. There is respect for one another and an appreciation for an absence of orthodoxy that permits perspective in the faith experience.

At the same time we affirm that we are Christians who, like others of faith, take scripture seriously as an authoritative written witness to the ways of God among us. I would add, mysterious ways of God, for even in scripture it is possible to scratch one’s head and say, “What?” The teachings of the rabbis and the theological scholars of the church will help, but even then, finally, we are thrust back onto the ingenuity of our personal faith experiences, statements, and social witness. So as I see it, there is room for the Bill Hendersons among us, also Ms. Sanfino and others of like mind in their communities. Plus others of us who in our pedestrian way place one foot forward, then another, with a dash of self-deprecation and humor for good measure. Though I am supposed to be retired, I will be leading worship myself in the Springs church, January through Easter. Bill will be there too, in the pew or reading scripture along with me.


Room for Fraud


December 30, 2017


Dear David:

I was interested in the article in the recent “Guestwords.” I, too, have been concerned about the recent spate of accusations against well-known and not so well-known men accused of various sexual advances from uncategorized touching to the definitely illegal rape. I have been uneasy with various firings and dismissals due to the charges. The charges offered range from illegal to currently uncategorized charges. The charges are public and don’t seem to have a formula for defense, if justified. 

We have been fighting for women’s rights and equal representation for centuries, and should continue to provide opportunities for women, as well as all races, classes, and nationalities, to live and work in dignified climates. But there seems too much room for fraud as the current sexual charges are framed. A council should be established establishing terms of sexual charges and legal definitions to provide some structure to these charges for prosecution and defense. I identified with Francis Levy’s final reference [“Letter of Resignation,” “Guestwords”] — charges “play into an undercurrent of puritanism in American culture that makes novels like Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” more pertinent today than ever.” Let’s follow up this accusatory movement with a legitimizing legal structure.  



Bring Back the Rake


December 29, 2017


To the Editor,

Fellow East Hampton residents: Does anyone feel like we do?

What can be done about the constant drone of leaf blowers? The endless noise pollution. The daily disruption in our peaceful lives.

The issue is not with the existence of leaf blowers, but with the lack of any type of restriction on them. No day or hour of the day appears to be off limits, no matter what the town noise violation law states.

In our neighborhood, we hear the drone of leaf blowers at all hours nearly every day. Most disturbing, we hear them on Sunday morning and at 8 in the evening on a summer’s day. Obviously, leaf blowers are not just for leaves but for all manner of twigs and small yard debris.

Some days there are two or three houses with multiple leaf blowers blaring on just one property. This year, leaf blowers were going strong in our neighborhood on both Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. This seems beyond acceptable, not to mention inconsiderate and unfair.

Unfortunately, we are not in a position to teach people consideration for their neighbors, respect, or even basic manners. Sadly, since people no longer respect the basic tenets of being a good neighbor, we feel strongly it is time for the Town of East Hampton to legislate good manners.

Please make Sunday and all major holidays illegal for leaf blowers and all loud machinery. Let us once again hear the sound of chirping birds, the rustle of a breeze in the trees, and children playing in the yard — those are the wonderful sounds of a neighborhood.

There was a day when no one would run machinery on a Sunday, not even a lawn mower. It was understood that Sunday was meant to be a peaceful family day. Blowing leaves, pruning and chopping down trees, power-washing your house, or hammering a new roof, that all can be done the other six days a week, right?

Perhaps East Hampton can be one of those rare, forward-thinking communities that really does something about noise pollution. Maybe even ban leaf blowers altogether; it has been done elsewhere.

In the meantime, here’s a new movement: Let’s bring back the rake! It is good exercise for everyone and it will restore the peace in our lovely community. After all, isn’t the reason we live here not just because we appreciate the beauty of our area but the peace and tranquillity too? We would like to enjoy that peace at least one day a week with all of our neighbors. How about you?



Support Land Trusts

Dummerston, Vt.  
December 23, 2017
Dear Editor,

I lived in Sag Harbor from age zero to 16 and I visit regularly. East Enders can take inspiration from people who live near the ocean — in Hawaii and Oregon — who support land trusts and who are on the verge of saving thousands of acres of forestland along the coast from development. On Oahu, “protecting and opening over 3,700 acres of Waimea Native Forest, accessible from the North Shore, will allow for a much needed increase of public opportunities for recreation, hunting, hiking, cultural access, and education,” Leslie Uptain told me. She works in Honolulu at the Trust for Public Land.

“There are often issues around water quality in Waimea Bay, especially after heavy rainfall,” Ms. Uptain said. “This is due to brown-water runoff from the mountains above. The Waimea Native Forest property is watershed upland from Waimea Bay. By protecting the property, future reforestation efforts will significantly reduce brown-water runoff.”

Seaside, Ore., is home to some of the state’s most popular surf spots. A couple of miles down the coast, the North Coast Land Conservancy is in the final stages of a campaign to save 3,500 acres of temperate rain forest. In this area, mountains are more than 3,000 feet tall within a mile of ocean beaches. “It will be the first place in Oregon, and one of few places in the world, where an entire coastal watershed is permanently conserved, from the headwaters to the ocean,” according to the group’s website. Salmon migrate into streams in the area.

Katie Voelke runs the conservancy. She told me, “We are very confident we’re going to get this done. It’s something people are starting to rally around — not just locals, but people from Portland who visit the area.”

The United States is losing an average of 6,000 acres of open space every day, according to tpl.org/ourland. On the East End, the Peconic Land Trust is fighting to save open space. The group needs donations and volunteers.


Contaminated Wells


December 30, 2017

Dear David;

“A Killer is Loose,” written by Paul Giardina, is a startling wake-up to the town residents, especially in the Wainscott area with contaminated wells. Mr. Giardina’s facts are well researched and his knowledge of the Environmental Protection Agency is invaluable. Mr. Giardina relays a warning and indeed “a killer is loose.” 

Since they really do not know what the long-term effects on the body are, it is imperative to remedy this as soon as possible. The E.P.A. guides vary and it is similar to a roll of the dice. The only safe level is zero! As I have mentioned several times, based upon scientific research, anything that comes in contact with the skin enters the blood stream within two minutes.

I do disagree that it is not related to airport operations. Since 1934, liquids were dumped or spilled on the ground because no one was aware of potential hazards — degreasers, gasoline, oil, and an assortment.

The town’s geological map shows the deepest part of the federally designated sole source aquifer is under the airport. There are severe restrictions on any projects being conducted without express written consent of the director of the E.P.A. There are reports that illegal bathrooms have been installed in some hangars, with no health department or building permits.

About 20 years ago, the Geological Survey had test wells at the entrance to the airport and testing by our Natural Resource Department found unidentifiable solvents. I have raised the issue of “where are they” several times with no answer. There were also leaking barrels in another location. The written reports of the testing results are stored in the basement of the old Town Hall. They are crucial and should be opened and made public. Apparently nothing was done by the Department of Environmental Conservation?

The main priority now is the health of the residents in the affected area. There are bonds issued for different projects that are not an immediate danger to public health as the contaminated wells. Washing clothes, bathing, and other uses cannot be accomplished using bottled water. 

The winter has stopped any progress on installation of public water, and who pays for it? It is time for the wheels to turn rapidly to safeguard the public from a contamination, and the liability points to the source. Community preservation funds to protect water resources seem appropriate. Septic upgrades in Whalebone Woods, a Housing and Urban Development- funded project?

In another issue, kudos to David Rattray for again raising valid issues that affect the community: The “hasty secretive deal” regarding the tower. We are well aware of that sneaky blunder. Well stated, that after the 161 study it may not be necessary for a tower at all. That and other projects are not Federal Aviation Administration mandated. To expand that fiefdom with an $800,000 expenditure to increase air traffic is sheer lunacy! Where is the funding for public water in the affected areas? Indeed “a killer is loose!” That is a real priority!

Yours truly:


Cost of Instruction


December 30, 2017


Dear David,

The Springs School District was borne out of necessity long ago when Springs was sparsely populated, tran portation was limited, and the East Hampton School District was too far away to be commutable. Through the years the entire town grew, as did each of the town’s school districts. Then in the 1980s East Hampton adopted a comprehensive plan that pigeonholed Springs residents into a more densely populated half-acre residential community with a limited commercial property tax base dependent almost entirely on a residential tax base to fund the Springs School District.

Further compounding education costs was the application of the Seneca formula for calculating nonresident tuition charges. The Seneca formula was first established in 1949 in the matter of Common School District No. Eight, Town of Fayette (70 State Dept. Rep. 69). It involved the Seneca Falls Union Free School District No. 1 and thus became known as the “Seneca Falls Formula.” That decision stated that the formula should be based on the total cost of instruction for all pupils in grades kindergarten through 12, allocated proportionately among student categories, including grades 1 through 6 and grades 7 through 12. 

As home prices soared, Springs became the last bastion of affordability, which meant student population increased. The demands on the limited tax base became more and more, increasing taxes far beyond those of the surrounding hamlets, robbing community members of financial resources and opportunity. 

I feel it important to mention the teachers and staff of the Springs School District, many of whom are Springs residents, and who have performed outstanding services throughout the years to countless Springs students. These dedicated professionals are far too often blamed as a primary cause of the Springs high-tax problem. This is an unfortunate, incorrect assumption. Springs teachers and staff, as Springs residents, are caught in the middle of this complex issue.

Lastly, the recent proposal put forth by the Springs School Board and the subsequent media coverage have left many unanswered questions. I regularly deal with and have written legislation submitted to the New York State Legislature having fiscal implications dealing with millions of dollars. In each instance, there must be a budgetary memo detailing both retrospective and prospective costs. These costs should include not only construction cost but also staffing, fringe, utilities, maintenance, and more.

I believe that before any expansion proposal is submitted there should be viable alternative proposals including consolidation of school districts explored. In fact, there currently is legislation live in the New York State Legislature that would enable the creation of a unified high school district. Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Senator Ken LaValle provides that the territory of central high school districts that merge in the County of Suffolk does not need to be contiguous in certain circumstances.

High taxes are a severe problem. The Springs School Board, as well as our local town, county, and state elected officials need to find solutions that do not further increase the tax burden of a community that can least afford further increases. 




December 30, 2017


Dear David,

After closely observing the multi-channel “Adventures in Trumpland” for the past year, Rocky J. Squirrel decides to take a break from enforcing the Pax Americana in order to write a review of the Trump presidency.

On New Year’s Eve, Rocky meets the ever-affable Bullwinkle the Moose at the Gopher Hole, their favorite bar in Frostbite Falls. Rocky orders a can of Driftwood Ale, and Bullwinkle orders a bottle of Moosehead Lager.

Rocky says, “Bullwinkle, I have composed a list of what I think Trump and his Trumpi supporters consider to good, bad, and ugly. When I am finished reading my lists. I want you to tell me if I am being fair and impartial.” 

Bullwinkle replies, “O.K.”

From the Trumpi good list, Rocky reads: Donald J. Trump, lying, gold, money, Big Macs, golf, Steve Bannon, Sean Hannity, Fox News, fake news, farmers, miners, factory workers, veterans, police officers, conservatives, gun owners, plutocrats, narcissists, gropers, misogynists, obsequious Republicans, Russian dictators, Chinese Communists, Filipino dictators, Saudi Arabian princes, Israel, big rocket men.

“Now here is the bad list,” Rocky says.

Rocky then reads the bad list: Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, CNN, MSNBC, factual news, journalists, food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, socialized medicine, liberals, the F.B.I., illegal immigrants, 99 percent of Mexicans, Iranians, little rocket men, scientists, polar bears. 

Bullwinkle then inquires, “So what is on your list for ugly?”

Rocky replies, “There is only one thing that the Trumpis consider truly ugly — and that is simply the truth. So what do you think of my list?”

Bullwinkle opines, “To be honest, I don’t understand many of the words on your list, but as a proud moose I am really upset with Trump opening up National Parks to profiteers. Let’s get a few more brews. It’s cold out there.”


Internet Access

East Hampton

January 2, 2018


Dear Editor:

The Trump administration’s attack on consumers continues. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality regulations, which were put in place to protect fair and equal access to the internet. These regulations were implemented to ensure that internet access providers could not use their monopoly position to discriminate against content providers or consumers. The F.C.C.’s decision purposefully benefits the bottom line for major corporations at our expense.

Don’t be fooled by claims by the F.C.C. and the Trump administration that the F.C.C. repeal returns “freedom” to the internet. The only freedom the repeal confers will allow industry giants like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T to control the access and speed of websites, stifle online, and turn the internet into a pay-to-play forum. 

This will negatively impact small- business owners, students, content creators, access to health care, and more. Of course, costs imposed on content providers like Netflix, or online shopping sites like Amazon, or telephone providers like Skype will in turn be passed along to consumers. 

In the context of the “swamp” Mr. Trump likes to deride, the F.C.C.’s decision was championed by his pick for F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, who was a senior executive with Verizon. Apparently, Mr. Trump sees nothing wrong with fostering the increasing influence of corporations and big money in our democracy. 

A recent poll indicated that 83 percent of Americans oppose the F.C.C. repeal. It’s time to ask our congressman, Lee Zeldin, to stand up to Mr. Trump and pass legislation to reverse the F.C.C. repeal and ensure that the internet remains an open, level playing field for all.

We look forward to 2018. The New Year offers hope and gravely needed corrections for our government and environment. 

Wishing all a Happy New Year! 





January 2, 2018

Dear David:

They were there “because none of them worked.”

With those arrogantly derisive words, our congressman, Lee Zeldin, angrily dismissed those of his constituents who protested his embrace of Stephen Bannon as a betrayal of his congressional oath. His words should sting all of us, as an insult not only to retirees who worked for decades, but also to his less fortunate constituents who have no job to go to and to the rest of us who find Mr. Bannon an entirely destructive force, threatening our social fabric.

Mr. Zeldin has promised us a lot. His press releases promised efforts to reach bipartisan solutions to health care. He promised an unyielding commitment to preserving our environment. And, he promised to do his best to help reform the congressional gridlock. 

Not only has he fallen woefully short of accomplishing any of these (and other) goals, by embracing Mr. Bannon, Mr. Zeldin has shown a willingness to reject his promises while cheering on as Mr. Bannon continues his mission to destroy our democracy.

Mr. Bannon was instrumental in the appointment of Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who in that post has dismantled the agency, rejected efforts to halt climate change, implemented steps to encourage oil drilling off our shore, reversed efforts to curb pollution from a variety of industries and initiated a host of other actions wholly detrimental to our local environment.

Mr. Bannon was a ringside cheerleader as the Trump administration sought to cripple the Affordable Care Act and deprive tens of thousands of Mr. Zeldin’s constituents of health care. Let’s not forget that Mr. Zeldin was complicit in this effort, voting for the House health-care bill that would have left millions without health care.

And, rather than striving to create a more functional Congress, Mr. Zeldin has chosen to partner with someone whose sole goal is to destroy our democratic state.

Mr. Zeldin’s rationale is plain to see: He answers to the call of political opportunism, while ignoring his oath to represent the concerns of his constituents. We all need to examine whether Mr. Zeldin really shares the values of his constituents, or whether it is just window dressing. To me, the answer is clear.



Three Absolutes

East Hampton

Dec. 31, 2017


To the Editor:

The White Trash Award for political repugnance above and beyond the norm of political repugnance goes to the governor of Maine, Paul LePage. The Washington Post described him as an unhinged racist pig but on this page he is simply “white trash.” Mr. LePage, like many Tea Party Republicans, is missing a chromosome that blocks his cerebral cortex from feeling other people’s pain. So, while Mr. LePage’s callous indifference makes him seem somewhat subhuman, it isn’t entirely his fault. While there is no apparent treatment for the problem, it is recommended that holding public office be interdicted.

There are three absolutes in a functioning society — food, housing, and health care. Take any one of them away and the society begins to deteriorate. The United States was late to health care but it has come to recognize it as a major lifeline to maintaining our democracy. What we seem not to appreciate is that the attack on the Affordable Care Act and the failed Republican health care bill and the repeal of the public mandate in the new tax bill are a declaration of open warfare against the American people. 

Maine’s story is that more than 80,000 people are struggling without health care. Medicaid expansion would solve the problem. Seven times Governor LePage has vetoed bills to expand Medicaid. This year 60 percent of Maine voters approved the expansion in a public referendum. LePage has refused to authorize the program, which he strongly disapproves of. He argues that the taxpayers should not be obligated to pay for people who can’t afford health care (nonworking families) and he refuses to allow the state to increase its deficit.

The necessary funding to cover 80,000 people is roughly $54 million. Yet LePage estimates the need to raise more than $100 million to cover the cost. Seventy percent of the families to be covered are working full time but not earning enough to pay for care. LePage defines them as welfare cheats and unemployed minorities. LePage supported the Republican health care bill, which would have kicked 23 million people off coverage and the tax bill, which created a $1.5 trillion deficit. (Which provided no housing, food, and cost 11 million people their health-care coverage)

So despite a public referendum and legislative approval Governor LePage searches any means possible to guarantee that people don’t get one of the three essential pieces to living in a productive society.

Screw the will of the people. Screw the Maine legislature. Screw the American dream. For his extraordinary efforts to screw all three Governor LePage is the proud recipient of the White Trash Award.