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Graffiti Whales Descend on Sag Harbor Village

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By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller, Kathryn G. Menu & Penelope Hope

A rash of graffiti was reported last week to village police, the tags bearing an image most people associate with Sag Harbor — a whale.

According to Sag Harbor Village Police, the department has received a total of five reports of the friendly, smiling whale being tagged on buildings throughout the village.

On Sunday, September 2, the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) on Main Street was defaced with four whales — in neon shades of pink, blue, green and yellow — on plastic sheeting along the scaffolding above the front entrance of the historic library.

The library is in the process of a multi-million renovation and expansion and contractors just recently finished a laborious (and expensive) restoration of the brickwork, mortar and limestone cornice, according to JJML Director Catherine Creedon.

On September 5, a neon blue and green whale, smiling broadly, was discovered on the rear of Apple Bank’s Main Street building. The same day, a neon green whale was found painted beneath the now infamous Larry Rivers’ “Legs” sculpture on the side of Ruth Vered and Janet Lehr’s Madison Street home, although it was quickly painted over.

Not even religious institutions were safe, as the caretaker of the Sag Harbor Presbyterian (Old Whalers’) Church discovered on the morning of September 8. A more crudely drawn outline of a blue whale was discovered on the west side of the church building facing the Old Burying Ground.

The same day, a white and blue whale was found on the Schiavoni building on Jermain Avenue — that building has been the subject of several tags over the years, according to Sag Harbor Village Police Sergeant Paul Fabiano. Along with that whale was the tag reported last week by police that reads “freedumb.”

All of the whales were painted between two-to-three feet in height with a length of five-to-six feet.

According to Creedon, whose library was the first victim of the graffiti spree, her first concern is for the safety of the artist who had to scale scaffolding and actually move it around in order to accomplish all four whales at JJML.

“The whales were actually installed outside the scaffolding railings,” said Creedon. “My fear is we are going to end up with a local kid who is hurt or injured trying to do something like this.”

Creedon said in addition to a security system at the library, both contractors and police have agreed to increase patrols around the library.

“The community has entrusted us with restoring a building that is a symbol of Sag Harbor and its history,” added Creedon. “We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on restoring the exterior of the original building.”

Creedon said while the graffiti ultimately did not damage the building, if the paint had gotten through the plastic sheeting, the chemicals needed to clean spray paint off the historic brick would degrade that material, a costly and precious loss, she said.

According to Sergeant Fabiano, the department is looking at the tags of graffiti artists they have nabbed in the past, as well as tags found by police departments outside of Sag Harbor.

Sergeant Fabiano said most graffiti work does occur overnight and in this case he expects it could be more than one individual responsible for the unapproved art.

If someone is collared for the graffiti whales in Sag Harbor, Sergeant Fabiano said he or she could face a misdemeanor charge of making graffiti for each defacing. Graffiti made on private property can also carry a charge of trespassing and if someone enters a building there could even be charges of burglary, he said.

Sergeant Fabiano asked that anyone with information about the graffiti contact Sag Harbor Village Police at 725-0247. All calls will be kept confidential.

“And maybe we can put this person or these people to work in the village doing some decent artwork that is approved,” he said.

Thomas E. Gaines

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web Thomas Gaines

Thomas E. Gaines, 85, of Dayton Lane in East Hampton, died Saturday, April 14, 2012. His wife, the former Frances L. Carl, and three children were by his side.

He was the son of Thomas M. Gaines and Evelyn M. Ernest and was born in the family home in East Hampton on August 26, 1926.

Mr. Gaines was best known in Sag Harbor as head of the Sag Harbor Savings Bank. In the 1970s, as president and chairman of the board, he negotiated the company’s change from a state chartered mutual savings bank to a stock corporation. He then directed its transition and sale to Apple Bank for Savings. Upon relinquishing the helm of the bank, he agreed to stay on with the new owners as senior vice president of Eastern Operations. In 1989, after three years in the position, he stepped down to enjoy retirement and “put on my sunglasses and head south,” but soon developed health problems and, said his family, never fully realized his dream of days in the sun.

Mr. Gaines was a 1943 graduate of East Hampton High School. He joined the Navy and served aboard the USS Aiden and the USS Oregon City during World War II. After discharge from the Navy, he lived in New York City where he met his future wife, Frances. Mr. Gaines attended Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) where he earned a degree in business and commerce. He and Frances were married in June 1947 and lived in Oklahoma for three years while Mr. Gaines finished school.

In 1949, the couple and their young son, Thomas, moved to East Hampton. Mr. Gaines was working as a dairy manager at Bohack’s market when he was approached by Frank B. Smith, a trustee of the Sag Harbor Savings Bank, about a job. He accepted an entry level position at the bank and, according to his family, under the tutelage of Peter Garypie Sr., quickly rose from building shelves, sorting archived material and shoveling snow in the small parking lot to the position of clerk, then treasurer, and upon retirement of Mr. Garypie, assumed the position of president.

Mr. Gaines was a member of the South Fork Country Club in Amagansett and served on its board of directors (and as president in 1978). He became a member of the East Hampton ZBA in 1995, and served as chairman from 1997 to 1999. Mr. Gaines was also a member of the East Hampton Fire Department, a member of the Star of the East Lodge #843 (where he served as Master), and a member of The Independent Order of Oddfellows.

His family recalls that Mr. Gaines also cherished his daily Men’s Business luncheons at the Paradise Restaurant in Sag Harbor, which were often attended by John Steinbeck, whose friendship was special to him. The family adds that Mr. Gaines also cherished a cartoon dedicated to him which was penned by Warren Whipple, creator of the syndicated cartoon “There Ought to be a Law” and a trustee at the Sag Harbor Savings Bank.

Mr. Gaines was also active in the First Methodist Church where he served as a Sunday School teacher, a trustee, president of the board and delivered sermons as the Lay Leader.

“Tom will be remembered for his honesty, integrity, fairness, empathy, sage advice, infectious smile and mischievous sense of humor,” said the family.

Mr. Gaines is survived by Frances, his wife of 64 years, and children Tom (Patti) of Port St. Lucie, Fla., Ronald (Terri), of East Hampton, and Sandra Cohen (Steve), of East Hampton. He also leaves by seven grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren, as well as sisters Dorothy Sayre and Jane Kovar of Williamsburg, Va. He is predeceased by his parents and his sisters Betty and Adele.

Visitation was held at Yardley & Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton on Tuesday an Wednesday, April 17 and 18. A funeral service will be held at the First Methodist Church in East Hampton on Thursday, July 19 at 1 p.m.. Burial will follow at Cedar Lawn Cemetery.

Donations can be made in his memory to the First Methodist Church, East Hampton Ambulance Association, or to East End Hospice, PO Box 1048, Westhampton Beach, NY 11978.

Local Banks Get Personal and Win Big

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On Wall Street, the future of the nation’s largest banks, from Citibank to Bank of America, remains uncertain as the Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to slide. On Main Street, however, community banks appear to be in better shape than their Wall Street counterparts. The future for Main Street banks like Apple Bank or Bridgehampton National Bank seems calm, and perhaps, even bright.
The steady course of East End based financial institutions can be attributed to the business choices they made in recent years. As larger institutions lent money to riskier borrowers and made more adventurous investments, local banks say they created realistic mortgages and invested conservatively.
“We maintained a credit standard when we looked at loans,” said Kevin Santacroce, a senior credit officer at Bridgehampton National Bank. “At Bridgehampton, we took the time to sit down with customers and [created] loans with the expectation of getting paid back . . . In the shorter term, it seems like we are hurting the people who weren’t accepted [for the loan], but in the longer term we are helping them avoid being in insurmountable debt.”
According to Doug Shaw, Senior Vice President of Suffolk County National Bank, lending conservatively was business as usual for community banks not just on the East End but nationally.
“Many community banks tended to their nettings,” said Shaw. “As a consequence they didn’t get involved in many of the financial instruments you hear about in the media . . . It isn’t just banks on Long Island, but across the country.”
Steve Bush, the Executive Vice President of Apple Bank, added that his company placed only 20% of their overall investments into mortgages.
Although many East End banks are publicly traded, Shaw added that these banks maintain close relationships with their customers and also feel responsible to these customers.
“Most community banks know their customers better than larger institutions. When you know your customer well, you know what it will take for them pay under any circumstances,” said Shaw.
A few years ago, as mortgages were sold from one institution to another, Sanatacroce said many banks lost sight of the customer and focused merely on making a profit from the transaction. At Bridgehampton National Bank, Santacroce said he has worked with a few customers who had trouble making payments. For people whose mortgages were sold from one company to the next, it is often hard to find a person to talk with about restructuring their payment schedule. “When they made the loan, they were [often] sold right away, so the person who they sat down with when the signed the loan isn’t the person they can go talk to,” said Santacroce.
As national financial institutions continue to go belly up, many local residents are taking their business to community banks. In 2008, business at Bridgehampton National Bank grew by $200 million, which was a record year for the publicly traded company. According to Santacroce, the company’s stock price remains relatively flat despite the volatile fluctuations of the market. Bush, of Apple Bank, said his bank netted a profit of almost $30 million last year.
Santacroced adde that Bridgehampton National Bank is still well capitalized, meaning it still has a great deal of money to lend.
Shaw of Suffolk County National Bank said community banks good standing in terms of capitol is a key reason people are switching to local banks.
“We have the ability to give them the kind of lending larger institutions simple cannot access [right now] because of their colossal losses,” said Shaw.
Local banks, however, have only recently had the upper hand in the banking world. Santacroce remembered almost ten to fifteen years ago people said community banks would be forced to close down as larger banks set up shop on the East End.
“I believe there will always be a place for smaller community banks,” said Santacroce. “People don’t realize that banking is a very personal relationship . . . Finances are personal . . . And people need the person-to-person type of relationship when they are talking to someone about their finances.”