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Letters to the Editor: 9.12.19

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 11:20

Caring Service
Amagansett
September 5, 2019

Dear David,

East Hampton Meals on Wheels . . . Yes, well, it’s not just the excellent service they provide but the outstanding, caring service. I cannot write enough about how wonderful these people are and what they mean to this 85-year-old lady.

I am told by the director of East Hampton Meals on Wheels that policy restricts disclosing names of those who bring sustenance and, yes, love, to these old bones. But clearly, the two volunteers, who know who they are, in a difficult day for me, stressed out as I ran out of my heart meds, the two volunteers surely are the standard for Bonac’s “finest kind.”

Forever grateful and God bless East Hampton.

LONA RUBENSTEIN


Balloon-Free
East Hampton
September 9, 2019

Dear David,

Last week the members of the Suffolk County Legislature voted unanimously to ban the intentional release of balloons! Accompanying me to the meeting was my friend Durell Godfrey and the new program coordinator of the Surfrider Long Island chapter, Jillian Kampf. Each of us addressed the legislative members, urging them to vote for the ban.

The affirmative vote is the culmination of the efforts and support of national and local environmental organizations, local businesses, and individuals, including students from various local schools and their teachers. Both East Hampton Town Board and Southampton Town Board members voted previously to support this legislation, as did the East Hampton Town Trustees. I submitted 36 letters of support to each legislator for his or her consideration last July when I first attended a public portion of one of their meetings. Needless to say, there is overwhelming support in favor of the new law.

I would personally like to thank Colleen Henn and Surfrider Long Island for initially reaching out to me as a trustee member. Together we have brought awareness to our community members and young adults and children. Ms. Henn was a driving force in this initiative, and she deserves tremendous credit for her efforts.

I often paraphrase one of Jacques Cousteau’s famous quotes, “People protect what they love.” I know the children feel particularly protective of our beautiful environment and all living creatures. Children understand the uselessness of balloons, and that is progress!

Our fisheries may now see fewer balloons in our harbors and ocean — and marine and wildlife and birds may have a reprieve from the dangers of non-biodegradable helium-filled single-use plastic and latex balloons.

My deepest gratitude to my fellow trustees and town board members who were first to help this success by voting for the ban. I am very grateful to Suffolk County Legislators Bridget Fleming, Kara Hahn, and Sarah Anker, the sponsor of the ban.

Coming up, Assemblyman Fred Thiele will introduce legislation in January to ban the intentional release of helium-filled balloons.

Working together with fellow community advocates has been a wonderful experience. When we work together, we can accomplish great things.

There are numerous ways to celebrate — plant a tree, blow bubbles, or with pinwheels, flags, flowers, or colorful lights. Decorate a frame with seashells or beach treasures you have found. The list is as big as your imagination.

What goes up must come down. Let’s leave the balloons behind in yesteryear.

Here’s to clean beaches and waterways and a balloon-free environment!

Kindest regards,

SUSAN McGRAW KEBER


Thing of the Past
Springs
September 9, 2019

To the Editor:

About the “Streetwear by Elie Tahari’s Son” article posted during Labor Day weekend: The younger Tahari’s new brand of men’s luxury streetwear, Anti, developed with his partners, is behind in what is trending by using kangaroo fur. Animal fur and exotic animal skins are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Chanel dropped all fur and exotic animal skins, including alligator, crocodile, and snake, from its product lines. The iconic British brand Burberry banned fur and angora from its collections. Victoria Beckham, who never used fur, stopped using exotic skins in her designs. Donatella says Versace will no longer carry fur, and more than 345 other companies have agreed to stop using cruelty-obtained fleece from Angora goats.

DONNA BROWN


The Orrery
East Hampton
September 4, 2019

Dear Mr. Rattray:

With reference to your Habitat article, Ephraim Byram was a true polymath, but he did not invent the orrery. Not even close. The first orrery was probably designed at the beginning of the 18th century by a London clockmaker, George Graham (“Honest George”), who called it a “tellurion.” Soon afterward, it was named for Charles Boyle, Fourth Earl of Orrery (1674-1731).

Byram apparently suspended his solar system from above (like a mobile) instead of using rods underneath.

The Oxford Museum of the History of Science has a website showing an early 19th-century orrery in motion at http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/animateit/orrery/.

Sincerely yours,

MARGARET DELACY


Fallen Short
Amagansett
September 8, 2019

Dear David,

Yesterday I said goodbye to my niece and her two children. They packed the car and are headed to raise their children in a Colorado neighborhood. Her husband will be joining them shortly after he finishes up a construction project locally. At another time, I would have thought that they were crazy. I’ve always thought East Hampton was the best place to raise kids. I grew up on “the lanes” in Amagansett where all you needed was a bike and a sunny day to meet up with neighborhood kids. Still, I knew that relocating was a solid decision based on our current situation in East Hampton.

My niece and her husband both had good jobs and worked all of the time to make ends meet. They loved East Hampton but knew that for a family with young children there were wonderful alternative places to live and provide a better life for their children. They tired of the rental market, spending $24,000 for an eight-month winter rental, plus paying all the expenses, and winging it for the summer. And that was considered a deal!

So many local families are moving out of East Hampton. They are frustrated with the rental situation, frustrated that home ownership is nearly impossible. No matter how hard you work, and the hours you put in, saving money in East Hampton or attempting to live independently from your parents is like trying to stop the tide from rising. Impossible.

While there are many reasons why our town does not support working families — expensive costs for food, utilities, and taxes being some, — the most pressing issue is affordable housing. And the lack of quality affordable housing has the domino effect of depleting our volunteer fire departments, ambulance squads, community police, and teachers. 

So, do we just give up? Do we as a community say that this ship has sailed? Do we just not care anymore? Are we more than the transient resort called the Hamptons?

Both Democratic and Republican politicians have been talking about affordable housing for years — but none has had the political will to take a stand. We need new ideas because the solutions thus far have fallen short. Let’s put local politics first in the November election. Take time to listen to alternative points of view and solutions from the EH Fusion Party candidates. If we think local and vote local and embrace new ideas, just maybe we can keep our working families here so that we have a healthy, well-rounded community.

Sincerely,

DAWN BROPHY


Into the Circle
East Hampton
September 5, 2019

Dear East Hampton Star,

Well, we made it through another insane summer with insane people doing truly insane things on the roads. The thing I want to address in this letter is traffic circles, specifically the rules and laws governing them. The problem is not the regulations but the fact that too many people have no idea what they are. The reason a traffic circle works in a spot where traffic lights simply can’t is that the entry points are governed by “yield” signs rather than stops. Here we run into the first problem, which is that as far as I can tell, at least one out of every three drivers can’t tell the difference between a yield and a stop sign — this goes for locals as well as visitors. All I will say about this problem is that I constantly run into it by Guild Hall, when turning onto what I think is Dunemere (it goes through the Maidstone golf course and turns into Hither Lane).

In a traffic circle, the first rule is that cars already in the circle have the right of way. In other words, if you are approaching the circle and it’s full of cars or even if there is only one car, be prepared to stop. The second is to keep the pace around 25 miles per hour or so (according to my old driving instructor). Just yesterday, at the new circle on 114, I watched a guy in a pickup truck barrel into the circle at what must have been 50 miles per hour without slowing down or even looking. It’s lucky that I had my eyes open or he would have smashed into my car. It was as if he didn’t even see what was in front of him (a common problem, I notice).

The real problem with traffic circles, after the ignorance, is the impatience factor. People with terminal “Me! Me! Me!” syndrome always have to be first. That’s a good way to cause an accident at a traffic circle, and I’ve seen too much of it this summer. It often manifests when I stop at the circle and wait for the traffic already there to clear. Even as I come to a stop, people flash their lights and honk their horns and even scream out the window. Sometimes I wish we could have a cop permanently stationed in the circle to at least tell people to be patient for a few seconds! The thing is that people should know how to behave at traffic circles just like they should know how to behave at a traffic light or how to read road markings. They’re not there for decoration, or they wouldn’t be so ugly.

As always, thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

MATT HARNICK


Fresh Hell
East Hampton
September 9, 2019

Dear David,

What fresh hell is this? For those who don’t know, the Bistrians want to expand their sand excavating and dig more than 100 feet into their long-dormant sand mine on Middle Highway, creating a large lake (!) in the process as groundwater from our sole-source aquifer percolates up. The sand mine is in a state-designated groundwater protection zone and poses an absolutely unacceptable risk of contamination of our drinking water — not to mention that Whalebone Woods is just next door. The D.E.C. says this is just fine and poses no risks.

There is a reason many people have lost faith in many government institutions, and this is definitely one of them. At a time when our efforts and attention have finally turned to recognizing our myriad water pollution problems, this mining project must be opposed at all costs. So I ask all of our favorite Nimbys in this town to make your voices heard.

SCOTT BLUEDORN


Aquaculture
Hampton Bays
September 9, 2019

Dear David,

I write in support of the proposed hatchery that East Hampton Town has planned next to the existing shellfish nursery. As a teacher for 35 years on the East End and as one married many decades to a commercial fisherman, I applaud the efforts to improve our waters that “feed us” in so many ways.

At Springs School, my last 18 years was teaching fifth grade. We partnered with the Group for the East End for Teach Environmental Responsibility Now, the TERN program. Every June we’d visit the Montauk Lighthouse and the town hatchery there, and I learned about the role of these filter feeders —scallops, clams, and oysters. I’ve read in the past year about the plan to consolidate both the nursery and the hatchery at the Gann Road site to help eliminate the losses. Almost half the scallops have been lost in the 20-mile transfer from the nursery. And though a scallop filters one gallon of sea water per hour vs. two for oysters, saving and returning most of these shellfish to our water helps filter over a billion gallons a year. Preserving all the scallops and oysters that grow from spat should be the goal. Then it’s win/win.

Aquaculture is spreading in our region and to me that is a giant plus. When people are actively involved, they spread the news. For the past four years the town public oyster gardening program directed by Barley Dunn has increased from 15 “farmers” to near 90 now. In Peconic Bay the SPAT project has been going on for almost 20 years. I live in Southampton Town and our Tiana bayside project has partnered with Cornell Cooperative; “SHRIP” vessels are busy on Shinnecock Bay. Moriches Bay has an active and growing project, and I read that the former Lobster Inn restaurant near my home will become a restaurant for summer with an aquaculture center to educate folks year round. The buzz about growing sugar kelp and eelgrass makes me want to know more. Aquaculture is happening all over. Food and improving our waters? Yes!

I’m hoping the folks involved in the plans there can all come together and work things out. That the proposed design includes a green roof, solar panels, and a bioswale. If I were still in the classroom, this is a “STEAM” project in the real world for schools and students to visit. I’m ready to volunteer.

I’m staying tuned.

Sincerely,

IRENE TULLY


Compatible Use
East Hampton
September 9, 2019

Dear David,

My family and I had a great time at Just Plane Fun Day at the airport on Saturday. I signed the petition for the airport not to be shut down without a conversation, which surprised me to hear. I know there are always complaints about the airport because aircraft can be noisy, but to think that someone would be dumb enough to want to shut it down? That airport, and the locals who make it part of their lifestyle, are some of the greatest people in East Hampton. Aircraft are amazing machines, especially the older ones on display Saturday, and the people who keep them and fly them are usually very good people. They are usually smart, logical, pragmatic, and confident — good personalities to handle a machine flying through the air. Thanks to everyone involved in putting on this event, and shame on you to whoever wants to shut down East Hampton Airport.

The hatchery debate still continues. I’ve been reviewing all the history on the project for an affidavit, and it is absolutely amazing how in this situation the town has bought the property at 36 Gann Road with community preservation water quality funds, and resolved to do demonstration projects like Permeable Reactive Barier injection wells, rain gardens, and bioswales. At the time of purchase, they resolved to convert the existing residence into an aquaculture educational center, combining the town’s shellfish hatchery and nursery sites, and therefore they retained the residence. They called using the residence for aquaculture and education a “compatible use” back in 2018 without anything going to the planning board at that time.

In the background is Governor Cuomo putting lots of grant money up for grab for aquaculture, so after the property was purchased, David Lys and Barley Dunn came up with a plan to build a new industrial municipal building on the property next to the existing residence, and successfully got the town board to resolve to commit to the idea so they could apply for a grant, before even applying for the special permit required to do it. I’ve had it with the deceitful, brazen, growth government thinks it can get away with.

The water quality improvement impacts from the injection wells, rain gardens, and bioswales are going to be de minimis, given the amount of flushing that part of the harbor sees. I’d really like to see the town do the injection wells at the southern end of Three Mile Harbor, along Soak Hides dreen, where the nitrogen flows into the harbor and doesn’t get flushed out for a long time. I’d like to see the town make the whole 36 Gann Road property one big bioswale and rain garden.

I think they should forget about building a new 5,500-square-foot hatchery building in addition to the existing residence. A new building was not in the resolutions when the town bought the property. Then this year, Councilman Lys throws this monster industrial facility out there during an untelevized meeting in Montauk, and gets the town board to support it without even putting up notices on the property so all the neighbors and residents could be made aware, and without going to the planning board with an application for a special permit first. I am disheartened and utterly disappointed by this town board’s willingness to do what no private individual would ever be able to get permits for. Shape up and fly right.

Sincerely,

MARK MENDELMAN


Wind Energy
East Hampton
September 8, 2019

To the Editor:

In a recent letter I dealt with CO2 in the atmosphere, which leads to global warming, but CO2 doesn’t all stay in the atmosphere. Much of that CO2 is absorbed by the ocean, and that is not good news because it then liquifies and becomes carbonic acid. This leads to the acidification of the ocean, which does great harm to the marine ecosystem. Carbonic acid has a dramatic negative effect not only by dissolving the hard outer shell of shellfish such as lobster, oysters, and mussels, but also by causing death and organ damage in very young fish. CO2 also causes fish to lose their capacity to smell, which plays a role in finding food and potential mates as well as detecting predators.

CO2 is the culprit in global warming and in the acidification of the ocean. CO2 is poured into the environment by burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. The South Fork Wind Farm will provide electricity to about 70,000 homes on the South Fork by using wind

energy and will not add any CO2 to the environment.

We all need to address the CO2 issue. We need our electricity to be 100 percent from renewable sources. We need to protect the fish in the ocean, which are becoming an ever more important source of our food. We need to do our part to reduce the acidification of the ocean. We need the South Fork Wind Farm.

JERRY MULLIGAN


The Dark Side
Montauk
September 6, 2019

Dear Residents:

I’ve got some bad news and good news for you. I’ll give you the bad news first. The Trump administration has plans to allow offshore oil and gas drilling, among other areas, on the Eastern Seaboard, where drilling was heretofore banned. It’s a crucial part of its “energy dominance” agenda. It will do so without any of the offshore drilling safety regulations put in place after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill because it has already repealed those regulations. These are just a few of the 84 environmental rules that the administration has moved to repeal, half of which will undercut previous administrations’ efforts to reduce emissions and fight climate change. These imperatives, intrinsic to what I view and call “the dark forces,” are engendered by short-term profit motives with no regard to long-term sustainability.

The good news is that the Town of East Hampton and the State of New York are moving vigorously in the opposite direction. We should all be proud and grateful that there are enough enlightened people here locally who prioritize the preservation of the environment over the type of profit maximization that inherently causes harm to our ecosystem.

You probably have read in various local news articles or have heard it stated around town that East Hampton has set renewable energy goals. One goal is to have all the electricity consumed within its borders produced from renewable energy sources. Currently, coal, diesel fuel, natural gas, and other “dirty” fuels are used to generate our electricity. By 2022 all electricity consumed in the entire town, if the goal is met, will be produced by mostly wind or solar sources. This is a target that many of us are striving to achieve and it is noticeably in sight. Astoundingly, there are a few prominent East Hampton citizens undermining these efforts for personal political gain, Nimbyism or due to misinformation naiveté. They have either willingly or unwittingly been indoctrinated onto the dark side.

A second goal set by East Hampton is to have all energy consumption, not just electricity but also heating and transportation, to be met with the “equivalent” of 100-percent renewable energy by 2030. This one is going to be more difficult to achieve. It is a formidable objective to convert all cars and trucks and aircraft away from using gasoline and jet fuel, in addition to having all homes and commercial buildings to do away with their oil or gas heating systems. That is why the aim is to have an equal amount or an equivalent of renewable energy produced that matches the amount being consumed by fossil fuels with the excess renewable energy production ideally exported out of the region.

East Hampton also has moved to implement many other green policies like offering home energy audits, set up a discount “solarize” program, it has facilitated a large solar farm on Accabonac Road, it has sought ways to bring in more battery storage facilities, and it is finalizing a Community Choice Aggregation program which will allow the town to gain leverage to choose greener power sources and potentially negotiate better rates with competitive suppliers.

Where East Hampton has set goals, New York State, through its recently passed New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, has legally mandated the following objectives:

1) 70 percent of the state’s electricity must come from renewable energy by 2030.

2) 100 percent of the state’s electricity supply must be emissions free by 2040.

3) 9,000 MW of offshore wind must be installed to serve New Yorkers by 2035.

4) 6,000 MW of solar energy must be installed to serve New Yorkers by 2025.

5) A statewide goal of reducing energy consumption by 185 trillion British thermal units (B.T.U.s) from the state’s 2025 forecast through energy efficiency improvements.

6) 3,000 MW of energy storage capacity must be installed to serve New Yorkers by 2030.

These laudable steps have been taken to save the natural beauty of this town that we all love so much, this country that we hold so dear, and ultimately this planet that sustains us and all other life forms. Please join us in whatever way you can to bolster these efforts. Don’t let the shrill voice of the dark forces overwhelm what you know in your heart is the moral thing to do, what your mind discerns is the exigency to act, and what your instinct senses is the urgency of this fight.

LOU CORTESE


False Accuser
Wainscott
September 9, 2019

Dear David,

The Chief Purveyor of False Information on offshore wind from Wainscott is now the Chief False Accuser, spreading defamatory and libelous accusations in a recent letter he sent addressed to “Town Residents,” but apparently it was only sent to his email list. The letter attempted to impugn the reputation of one of the finest leaders of renewable energy on Long Island, the former chairman of East Hampton Town’s energy sustainability committee, a man with an impeccable reputation for his incredible integrity, and my mentor, because he also walks the talk.

This letter had so many factual errors. It essentially attempted to change the history of how we got to where we are today on the renewable energy front. The factual errors must be corrected for the record; when they are, it will become clearly obvious there was never any nefarious activities or conflicts of interest with anyone who chaired the energy sustainability committee, nor is there any “cloud of suspicion” that “hangs over that committee’s advice” to the town board.

As per East Hampton Town Board Resolution 2013-271, the energy sustainability committee was appointed on March 21, 2013. I was appointed chairman and served until 2015. Councilman Dominick Stanzione was the committee’s liaison to the town board. 

In October 2013, in my role as chairman, I made the presentation for the recommendation of the energy sustainability committee to the town board to adopt the comprehensive energy vision. The bipartisan, Republican-majority town board unanimously adopted it.

In January 2014, Councilwoman Sylvia Overby became the committee’s liaison to the town board. In May 2014, in my role as chairman, I made the presentation for the recommendation of the energy sustainability committee to the town board to adopt the goal for 100-percent renewable energy in electricity by 2020 and the 100-percent equivalent renewable energy in transportation and heating fuels by 2030.

The bipartisan, Democratic-majority town board unanimously adopted the 100-percent renewable energy goal. It is vitally important to understand that East Hampton’s renewable energy initiatives have always been bipartisan regardless of the partisan majority makeup of the town board. It is absolutely essential to understand, in adopting both solar and offshore wind everyone benefits when we withdraw from our addiction to fossil fuels.

The entire time I served on the energy sustainability committee, now known as the energy sustainability and resiliency committee, there has never been a conflict of interest of any kind with my service on the committee, or with anyone else’s service for that matter. I never took money from anyone or worked for anyone connected with the committee’s advisory to the town board during my service on the committee or during my tenure as chairman. 

The energy sustainability committee has always served the town board honorably, and has always given its advice to the town board with the highest integrity, and this includes everyone who followed me as chair. To insinuate otherwise and to make these egregious false accusations is defamation per se; it is slander and libel. This is the evil that pervades the opposition of offshore wind. These are the tactics this opposition continuously uses, and we should never give them any consideration whatsoever.

Sincerely,

FRANK DALENE


Only Solar
East Hampton
September 9, 2019

Dear David:The letter from Jeanne Frankl claiming that electricity demand in East Hampton cannot be met with solar energy is in error, because the report she cites, written by Gordian Raacke in October 2017, is in error, and by a wide margin, despite his credentials. Powering East Hampton with solar energy is eminently achievable. Had we started in 2017, we would be done by 2022.

First, there is confusion between “deployment,” the rate at which Mr. Raacke claims various sources of energy can be deployed by 2022, and the total solar energy production achievable from different sources. He claims that the deployment rate for solar for the five years from 2017 to 2022 would meet a maximum of only 14 percent of demand. This is pure speculation. Mr. Raacke simply takes the past deployment rate to indicate the future rate. If the past were the future, the deployment rate for wind power would be zero forever. Despite that, he improperly claims the entire projected output of Deepwater Wind for East Hampton.

Let us rather consider the total acreage he claims would be required for solar generation. The figure given by Mr. Raacke is 178 acres for 14 percent of our demand, implying a need for 1,270 acres in total. This would indeed be daunting, but it is overstated by a factor of five.

The published figure for East Hampton consumption is 300,000 megawatt hours per year. One megawatt hour is roughly the consumption of a single household in a month. As a reality check, we can divide the 300,000 figure by the 22,000 households in East Hampton to obtain 1.14 megawatt hours per month per household. In our area, that would cost $234 a month. You can easily compare the community average per household to your own usage.

Based on published figures of just over 15 watts output per square foot of solar panel, and the widely accepted average of five usable solar hours per day, the land area needed to meet East Hampton’s total electricity demand would be 250 acres. As an additional reality check, 250 acres works out to 500 square feet of solar panel per household, a very typical average for rooftop solar. For additional required equipment, add 10 percent for a total of 275 acres.

This estimate is borne out by the actual experience with the solar field at the Accabonac brush dump. It has a rated output of 1.1 megawatts on two acres. Again assuming five usable hours of solar per day, that produces 2,000 megawatt hours of energy per year. It would take 150 Accabonac fields of two acres each to meet our total consumption — 300 acres! Given that Accabonac is a relatively small, hence less efficient, field, 250 to 275 acres is a very, very reasonable estimate for the total land required for ground-based solar, nowhere near the 1,270 estimated by Mr. Raacke. And that is before any contribution from rooftop solar.

Contrary to Jeanne Frankl’s claim, meeting East Hampton’s average demand with solar energy is a realistic goal, at a cost of approximately $350 million, a fraction of the cost of Deepwater Wind.

Solar and wind power are not mutually exclusive. As a society we need both. However, merely allowing a transmission cable to pass through a corner of East Hampton on its way to connect to the LIPA grid does very little to achieve our goal of 100 percent renewable energy. The wind energy will be provided to the entire LIPA customer base of which we constitute only 11/2 percent. Deepwater Wind will therefore reduce our fossil fuel use in East Hampton by the equivalent of less than five acres of ground-based solar energy.

It is constantly pointed out that the excessive cost of Deepwater won’t add much to our local electric bills because the entire LIPA ratepayer base will be picking up the tab. True. But Deepwater’s advocates cannot have it both ways. The entire LIPA base will pay the tab because the entire LIPA base will consume the energy.

To claim that Deepwater addresses our goal of 100 percent renewable energy because the transmission cable passes through is therefore to pretend — to do little or nothing, claim victory, and go home. To the passionate advocates of Deepwater Wind no matter what — the town board majority of Van Scoyoc, Overby, Lys, and Burke-Gonzalez, Win With Wind, the Democratic Committee, the Energy Sustainability Committee — I must pose the question: 

Is this really how you want to respond to anthropogenic climate change, the existential crisis of our time, by pretending?

Worldwide, all renewable sources other than solar will never meet more than a fraction of total energy demand. This is due to the laws of physics. Sources other than solar simply do not have sufficient gross energy flux in a best case. Only solar energy does. Therefore, the only solution to the energy crisis facing humanity is solar, with other sources contributing. If we are serious in East Hampton, then, even if Deepwater Wind is built and regardless of whether a small piece of the transmission cable runs through our town, we need to build our share of solar generation.

Are we serious or content to pretend? If we are serious, why do we continue to procrastinate?

Sincerely,

DAVID GRUBER


Business as Usual
East Hampton
September 9, 2019

To the Editor:

In 1969 I was hired by a Lutheran social services agency to create a program for drug treatment and prevention. The director was a brilliant guy, Rev. Robert Bauers, who had no idea about dealing with teenagers with drug problems. So we spent some time researching the existing programs in New York and quickly concluded that no one really knew what to do about drug problems. There were ex-addict based, encounter group programs, but virtually nothing that included mainstream social service professionals. For a very good reason.

Virtually no social service professionals had any experience with drugs, and only a small group had ever worked with minority or poor white kids or their families. Consequently, they were unprepared and in need of stepping outside their boxes and creating new programs.

Fortunately, I was extremely familiar with a wide variety of drugs and had worked with minority kids for almost five years. But with so little knowledge and even less awareness we needed to exercise a large dose of humility and create something that could work effectively. We kind of did okay.

We were fine on a street level or in our own fiefdoms, but the public-policy arena was a different story. I joined a group of drug program directors who went to Albany to meet with Governor Rockefeller. The governor sat behind his desk and stared glassy-eyed at the group. The consensus was that the governor was on pills and was not going to be sympathetic to our cause. A colossal understatement.

Rockefeller and President Nixon created the most draconian response to a social problem that the country ever experienced. The “War on Drugs” and the New York drug laws. Destroying the lives of tens of millions of people over the next 50 years. Fifty years ago, there were only two options to the U.S. drug problem — legalization or prison. The case for legalization was relatively simple. People had access to any drugs at any time anywhere in the country as long as they could pay for them. (Just like today.) The case for prison was non-existent (and still is).

Denying the governor’s condition was simply business as usual. No one remembers the enormous problem of middle-class suburban and city women who consumed daily doses of Miltown, Librium, amphetamines, and other mind- altering drugs to combat boredom, insecurity, anxiety, etc., etc. It seemed like all our mothers took something but no one ever talked about it.

The billions of pills sold by big pharma were a precursor to the current epidemic, but the ridiculous comparison to kids smoking pot and mothers addicted to Miltown demonstrates a deranged and twisted national mentality.

With no experience with street drugs and virtually none with poor people, our government went on the attack like a pack of rabid dogs. Putting millions of people behind bars for dozens of years was another form of marginalizing groups of people and continuing the adherence to our slave-based economy. (See the ethnic composition of the prison population.)

Making laws about something you had absolutely no knowledge of was like walking into a brothel wearing a chastity belt. Ignorance and government often go hand in hand but this screwup was so colossal that it dwarfs the damage of the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars combined. The staggering level of damage caused by the War on Drugs and the Rockefeller drug laws is incalculable. The sheer imbecility, remarkable even for us.

On a different more damning level, which we refuse to consider or try to understand, is the absolute depravity of these laws that were perpetuated on the American people. Not on some dark-skinned, war-related foreigners but on our own people by our own politicians. The level of deviance of the laws and their makers far outdistances the perceived deviance of the drug users.

So it’s a question of personal freedom or prison. Guns, climate, school shootings, all pass the freedom test easily. Drugs not sold by big pharma don’t. Big pharma, however, will save the day once it takes over the legalized pot business. Soon our prisons will be 80 percent empty, with no future prisoners in sight. We will need to create some other problem to keep the prison system alive. American exceptionalism at its very worst.

NEIL HAUSIG


Knows Better
Springs
September 5, 2019

Dear David:

Just a short few weeks ago, someone walked into a Walmart in El Paso, Tex., with an assault rifle and began shooting. When the bullets stopped flying 22 people were dead, including the parents of a 6-month old infant, and 24 more were injured.

We all witnessed Mr. Trump’s ghoulish photo op with the orphaned infant, flashing his clueless smile and giving all the thumbs up. Just what was he celebrating by giving all the thumbs up as he stood with a baby orphaned by the shooting? Just another day of carnage?

In the wake of this tragedy, no one was surprised when Trump parried away calls for more stringent gun control. No one was surprised when the spineless Mitch McConnell looked into the cameras as if say, “Who, me do something about guns?” Indeed, he has doggedly refused to bring to the Senate floor the gun legislation passed by the House largely on party lines.

More than 90 percent of Americans favor universal background checks. More than 80 percent favor “red flag” laws, which can empower law enforcement to remove guns from homes in which an occupant poses a danger to others or the public. Similar majorities favor gun licensing and banning assault weapons. New York recently passed a red-flags bill, and had enacted an assault weapon ban after the Sandy Hook shootings. Americans favor additional efforts to stem the senseless gun carnage that has left 53 dead in mass shootings in August alone. Yet, Washington sits on their hands and lets the killing continue.

In the aftermath of these tragedies, someone is taking action. After public pressure, Walmart announced a policy that it will no longer sell handgun ammunition and ammunition used in assault rifles and similar military hardware. It will no longer permit customers in “open carry” states to enter a Walmart store openly carrying a firearm unless there is a suitable police presence at the store. It estimates a loss of 75 percent of its ammunition business as a result of its policy.

We need to “do a Walmart” and replace our so-called congressman, Lee Zeldin. He has proudly bragged that he would do nothing to impinge what he sees as an absolute right for anyone to own a gun. He has opposed legislation to deny those on the terror “no-fly” list the ability to buy a gun. He has worked to successfully rescind an Obama administration effort to flag, for further inquiry, efforts to buy a gun by anyone diagnosed by the Social Security Administration as mentally disabled. Most perniciously, he is a cosponsor of legislation that would eviscerate New York’s gun laws — among the strongest in the nation. His “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act” would allow gun owners in open carry states to enjoy that privilege when bringing their guns to New York State. It is no surprise that he has an “A” grade from the National Rifle Association and has been willing to take its blood money.

Walmart’s management knows better than our congressman. Perry Gershon, whom I support as the 2020 challenger to Mr. Zeldin, knows better. In fact, we all know better than Mr. Zeldin. It’s up to us, as Walmart recognized, to do something, and for us that something is to fire Mr. Zeldin.

Sincerely,

BRUCE COLBATH


Shooting Deaths
Plainview
September 5, 2019

Editor:

At the current rate of 140 mass shooting deaths in just the first eight months of this year, a Congress-size 535 people might be shot dead before the end of 2021. But since Congress members themselves seem to be “immune” to ever being among the fatalities (with Gabby Giffords and Steve Scalise having survived their gunshot wounds), I’m afraid our 535 Congress members will remain immune from passing any life-saving gun control laws. Not to mention that President Trump’s new blue non-MAGA hat is imprinted with “USA” and “45” on it. He’d probably claim the 45 stands for his presidential “number,” but since I know that only 44 men have served as U.S. presidents, I view this 45 as him advertising the deadly Colt 45 bullets that have killed so many Americans. So the number on his next hat may well be “15,” in tribute to the AR-15 style rifle that just killed seven people in gun-loving Texas.

RICHARD SIEGELMAN


Message of Hope
Montauk
September 9, 2019

To the Editor:

Fatima, Portugal, Sept. 13, 1917, at the Cova da Iria an estimated 25,000 people arrived­­ to see Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta meet with Our Lady in the fifth consecutive monthly apparition. Many people threw themselves on their knees, begging the three children to place their petitions before Our Lady. People asked for cures for their illnesses like blindness, deafness, tuberculosis, and so on.

During her September apparition, Our Lady foretold a sequence of appearances that the children would see in October, along with the promised miracle that would convince the people that Our Lady had been appearing in the Cova.

Please read Father Andrew Apostoli’s book “Fatima for Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope.” Our Lady of Fatima, please pray for us.

VINCENT BIONDO

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