It’s A Matter of Scale
To the Editor:
We appreciated the coverage your paper has given to the proposed expansion of Harbor Heights gas station. Readers may have the impression, however, that the plans only slightly alter the current uses of the property. The opposite is true: the development is significantly larger than zoning allows, adds a 7-Eleven style retail store where there presently is none, doubles the number of gasoline dispensers, and does not provide the required buffering landscaping. Given the high visibility of the property at the entrance to the village, and its position in a residential neighborhood abutting the historic district, the environmental impact of the development (traffic, lighting, noise, etc.) will be significant. The character of the neighborhood, and indeed the village as a whole, will be negatively impacted.
Just a few years ago, and after much careful thought and public input, the Village of Sag Harbor updated its zoning rules and requirements. Included in those zoning rules are sensible limits to expansion and renovation of the gas stations in the village. The intent of these limits is to protect the character of the neighborhoods in which these businesses are located, and to prevent development which would harm the village fabric and the public interest. It is our belief that these guidelines are fair and well considered; they should not be ignored or discarded for private gain.
As residents of the Hampton Street neighborhood, and as concerned members of the Sag Harbor community, we urge all your readers to demand that plans to rebuild the Harbor Heights property strictly conform to present zoning requirements.
Supports Community Rowing
I am writing this letter in response to an article that was published in The Sag Harbor Express on March 21, 2012, concerning Mayor Gilbride’s evident opposition to permitting the Sag Harbor Community Rowing Club (“SHCRC”) to continue its use of Cove Park as a storage and launching site for its rowing program.
Our families have lived on Jefferson Street since 1980, and we have, over the years, exhibited a concern for the Village in various ways. In my brother’s case, it was founding Fighting Chance. In my case, I’ve been a committed member of SHCRC, which was founded by Lee Oldak. I started my rowing career in college, at Columbia University, and I continue to row competitively with my former Columbia teammates, and rowing with the SHCRC has been an important part of my training regime. For the reasons discussed below, I believe SHCRC is an important part of Sag Harbor’s connection to the middle school and high school rowing community in the Hamptons, and in Long Island, and retention of its current location is critical to the program’s success.
SHCRC was founded four years ago, and is the only competitive rowing program for middle school and senior high school students in the Hamptons. While the first several years were development years, the SHCRC now has 35 student athletes from local middle and senior high schools, including Pierson High School, the Ross School, the Springs School, and Southampton Middle School and Senior High School. In addition, there are 50 students signed up for training and summer rowing camp.
1. Competitive rowing for middle school and high school students is one of the fastest growing sports on Long Island. There is a broad base of student rowing athletes from middle school and high school students in Long Island, including, in Riverhead, Our Lady of Mercy and Mercy McGann, Huntington High School, Manhasset High School, Port Washington High School, and rowing clubs in Huntington, Oyster Bay, and in several private schools. There are regular regattas in which our student athletes are now competing.
2. Most middle schools and high schools in Long Island have competitive programs that charge at least $500 per student. SHCRC charges $279 per student, which is remarkably inexpensive. The SHCRC is only one of two rowing clubs on Long Island that offer competitive rowing and training for students from the sixth through eighth grades.
3. Competitive rowing is unique for many reasons, but in particular it builds teamwork, discipline, sportsmanship, and perhaps most important of all, character. All of the lessons learned in competitive rowing help prepare student athletes for success in life. I know, because I learned these lessons from my own rowing experience.
4. The unique opportunity that the SHCRC provides to a broad spectrum of students in our community, at a very affordable price, has introduced an entirely new and rapidly growing sport to Sag Harbor and adjacent communities. It is, quite simply, a new sports and training program that has created tremendous opportunity for these students. Public and private colleges actively recruit high school seniors who row, and this experience can prove very advantageous in achieving admission to college.
5. Recreational and competitive rowing can only be conducted on calm waters, with little or no boat traffic. The location of Cove Park is ideal for this program. The Park, as you may know, is under-used, so we are not dislocating any Sag Harbor residents from use of the Park. In addition, the neighbors have never complained, but have expressed an interest in the possibility of joining the recreational rowing program, as they see rowing shells going back and forth every weekend.
6. Any location beyond the bridge in the Harbor would make access to calm water essentially unavailable, and would confront every rowing shell with a continuous stream of wakes from boat traffic, which would make it almost impossible for SHCRC’s competitive rowing program to be successful.
7. It is true that the SHCRC has asked the Village Trustees for permission to install a floating dock, which would be enormously helpful to launching and retrieving boats, and likely avoid any future damage to the coastline bordering the Park. SHCRC plans to continue a constructive dialogue with the Trustees over this issue.
For all of these reasons, I think it is very important that Mayor Gilbride and the Trustees have a clear understanding and appreciation of how unique this program is to Sag Harbor, how important it is to allowing our public school students to joining the rapidly growing middle school and high school rowing
Peter V. Darrow
Sugar is not our friend
I want to commend the Sag Harbor Board of Education for preserving the health and wellness policy and Pierson’s cafeteria director, Greg Pisciotta for working hard to adopt the guidelines. While we undoubtedly face challenges, it is more important than ever that we raise the bar on our children’s health.
The debate over whether the policy needed to be amended sparked an important community discussion that I hope will continue. Consider this: drinks, muffins, bagels and candy bars are double or triple the size from two decades ago. We have lost perspective when it comes to portion size and gone overboard with sugar.
The average American consumes between 130 and 170 pounds of sugar annually; that’s more than 400 times the amount people consumed during WWII. This overindulgence in sugar is at the root of alarming increases in childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, memory loss, and attention deficit disorders, not to mention cavities.
One of the biggest culprits in our splurge is sugary drinks such as soda or “sport drinks” that are actually water with added sugar or a sugar substitute (chemicals), food colorings (more chemicals) and preservatives (even more chemicals). As I tell my kids, “Why would you want to drink contaminated water?” Schools should not offer these types of beverages and parents should be cautioned to think twice before allowing their children to drink them.
Just ask Dr. Nancy Cosenza, the only pediatric dentist on the East End. She will tell you that cavities in young children have become the norm and the consumption of sugary drinks, fruit roll ups, and gummy candies are largely to blame.
If you still can’t resist your sweet tooth, check out the 60 Minutes segment, “Is Sugar Toxic?” Scientists are finding disturbing links between sugar and cancer and sugar and drug addiction. And if you think you’re safe because you drink diet soda, you might want to check out the litany of research on how diet drinks are just as culpable in growing waistlines and other health problems.
There is good news. In the last few weeks, more than 400 parents and community members signed a petition started by Wellness Committee member and Sag Harbor parent Barbara Clarke, asking the BOE not to amend the policy. That means there is overwhelming support for high standards. Now the question is, can we live up to our lofty goals?
A wellness policy that ensures healthier choices in school is a great start, but we need to do more, such as:
• Teach students about what sugar does to their bodies in biology or chemistry classes;
• Post signs in the cafeteria that educate students about their choices;
• Organize forums for students and parents about nutrition and portion sizes;
• Create a school “cookbook” with easy and healthy lunch ideas;
• Limit the size of cupcakes and the amount of candy parents are allowed to bring into the elementary school;
• Increase sporting and physical education activities.
If there was ever a time for Sag Harbor Schools to set a much-needed example by reducing or eliminating the amount of sugar and sugary drinks offered, this is it.
As we strive for academic excellence, I am glad to see our school district strive for those same high standards when it comes to our children’s health.
Sag Harbor parent