Tag Archive | "Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele"

Speaking for Mute Swans

Tags: , , , ,


Both houses of the New York State Legislature passed a bill last week that would require the New York State Department of Conservation to try non-lethal management techniques in any management plan aimed at controlling the population of mute swans.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. would require the DEC to hold public hearings in areas with mute swan populations with a minimum 45-day comment period before adopting any management plan for the estimated 2,200 mute swans in the state.

The DEC stirred controversy last year, when it declared plans to rid the state of non-native mute swans, which were introduced into New York State in the 1800s.

“Many wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” said Mr. Thiele in a press release. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or to our environment.”

“On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways,” he continued. “My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem. This legislation will require all concerned to take a step back and take a hard look before any irrevocable action is taken by the DEC.”

The bill is awaiting Governor Cuomo’s review.

Southampton Rally Remembers Sandy Hook Victims, Protests Lack of Federal Legislation a Year After Tragedy

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Gun control advocates in front of Congressman Tim Bishop's Southampton office at Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally Saturday.

Gun control advocates in front of Congressman Tim Bishop’s Southampton office at Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally Saturday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

A year after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut took the lives of 20 first graders and six school employees, New York State has some of the toughest laws on gun control in the country.

But with no legislative action yet taken on the federal level, groups advocating for gun control are continuing their fight for safety laws.

Chanting “We will not forget!” members of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, States United Against Gun Violence and Organizing for Action, an advocacy group supporting President Obama’s legislative agenda, held a Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally outside Congressman Tim Bishop’s Southampton office Saturday afternoon.

Decked in hats, gloves and posters, a group of 17 advocates for gun control braved the snow to honor the victims, survivors and families of the Sandy Hook tragedy, commemorate the actions of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Congressman Bishop in the past year and call on legislators — particularly at the federal level — to do more.

Sue Hornik from States United Against Gun Violence and Sag Harbor’s Jackie Hilly, of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, spoke at the rally. They called for closing background check “loopholes,” banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, making schools safer and increasing access to mental health services.

“While sadness can be unbearable,” Hilly told the crowd, “it should also serve to embolden us to speak out against gun violence.”

The event marked the one-year anniversary of the school shooting at Sandy Hook. After Hilly and Hornik spoke, those in attendance read the names of the 26 victims, along with personal anecdotes, and rang a bell after each reading.

Ann Howard from Cutchogue read the name of Dylan Hockley, a six-year-old killed in his classroom who had “beautiful eyes and a mischievous grin” and “a love of bouncing on trampolines.”

Hilly thanked Governor Cuomo for making New York the first state to take decisive action after Newtown. The AR-15, the assault weapon used at Sandy Hook, can no longer legally be purchased in New York. Banning such weapons was one of the provisions of the New York SAFE Act, which was proposed by Governor Cuomo and adopted by the state legislature in January, less than a month after the tragedy.

“Now with the new regulations that were adopted in New York State,” explained Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., “if we don’t have the most stringent gun control measures, we’re in the top two.”

State Senator Kenneth LaValle agreed New York has some of the strongest gun control laws in the nation.

“Right after Sandy Hook I think there was a sense of purpose, because young people were killed — senseless murder — in an elementary school by an individual who had mental health issues,” said LaValle, “ and indeed in every one of these mass shootings, the shooter has a mental health issue.”RaebeckSandyHookRally2

The SAFE Act established provisions to help identify individuals with mental illnesses and correlate reporting of such illnesses with reporting of firearm ownership. Under the new law, a gun owner living with someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness has a responsibility to make sure his or her guns are not available to that person.

“That’s kind of a good balancing, we believe, between rights and responsibilities,” said Hilly, “because you know, the other side is always talking about rights and rarely are they mentioning responsibilities.”

Additionally, mental health professionals are now required by law to alert police if they believe one of their patients is likely to hurt themselves or others — and that patient has a gun permit.

The SAFE Act also standardized the time period for renewal of permits across the state. Previously, Long Island and Westchester required gun owners to renew their permits every five years and New York City had a three-year requirement. Now, all of New York — including areas upstate that required renewal less frequently — has a maximum five-year permit renewal requirement (New York City can keep their three-year restriction). This sanction requires permit holders to reaffirm the facts of their permit, for example that they have not been convicted of a felony or diagnosed with a mental illness.

The SAFE Act enhanced the breadth and prevalence of background checks, limited the capacity of magazines from 10 rounds to seven and expanded the definition of assault weapons, such as the AR-15.

The law also aims to end the anonymous purchasing of large stocks of ammunition on the Internet. Rather than going online and having weapons delivered to your home with no regulation, ammunition must now be delivered to a gun dealer, who will then ask for identification (a permit is not required for ammunition).

Although the SAFE Act is a huge victory for gun control advocates, proponents say the state measures are limited by the lack of similar federal legislation. Although criminals are faced with these restrictions in New York, they can easily travel across state lines to purchase weapons and ammunition.

Since Sandy Hook, according to Congressman Bishop, on the federal level, “the short answer is nothing has happened.”

Of a number of bills introduced in the House of Representatives to help provide for gun safety, “none of them have moved at all,” said Bishop, who sponsored most of them.

In the Senate, an effort to bring up a bipartisan bill to expand background checks for people who wish to purchase firearms failed to garner the 60 votes necessary for it to be considered.

“You can still go on the Internet and buy firearms,” Bishop said Monday, “you can still go on the Internet and buy mass quantities of ammunition, you can still purchase a gun at a gun show without undergoing a background check, so basic things that ought to be put in place are not being put in place.”

“It pretty much breaks down on party lines,” added the Democratic congressman, “Democrats want to pass gun safety legislation, Republicans refuse to.”

Bishop said much of the proposed legislation has bipartisan support, “but the leadership of the House of Representatives refuses to move any of them.”

“I don’t want to say that there’s no hope,” he said, “but I do think that the track record of the house thus far does not give cause for optimism.”

Sag Harbor Village Board: Ambulance Corps Looks Towards Paid Help

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


By Kathryn G. Menu

For Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps President Ed Downes each passing year is a record breaker, as emergency service calls increase and volunteers scramble to ensure the community has an ambulance corps it not only can count on, but one it can be proud of.

And they are certainly not alone.

Since last spring, the East End Ambulance Coalition — a group of representatives from volunteer ambulance companies from Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, Amagansett, East Hampton, Springs and Montauk — have been working together towards a paid first responder program, which they hope will launch in the summer of 2014.

Starting this past June, the Montauk Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners approved a pilot program for this past summer, providing for one paid EMT 24 hours a day, seven days a week through mid-September.

Many departments on Long Island, including Southampton, have moved towards having at least partially paid paramedics and first responders who work with local volunteers, improving response times as a result.

During a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting last Wednesday, trustee Ed Deyermond noted with the increase in call volumes, considering a paid emergency medical technician (EMT) is something that should be considered within Sag Harbor’s fire district.

According to Downes, the company will likely seek to work cooperatively with the East End Ambulance Coalition, which was set to meet again Friday, towards a regional paid first responder program before seeking to fund a program for Sag Harbor alone.

Downes said if implemented, the coalition would have a team of three to as many as five paid responders on duty, available to respond along with one of the coalition companies to any emergency service situation from Bridgehampton to Montauk.

“The biggest problem is funding,” said Downes of the coalition’s efforts. Working with both East Hampton and Southampton towns for funding is being considered, he added, with the coalition waiting for newly elected town boards to take office before making any formal proposals.

No matter what program is implemented, Downes said all the fire districts will still rely heavily on volunteers. Working together, for example through the implementation of a daytime duty crew — a program established by coalition companies this July — is critical, he added. Downes said he expects the daytime duty crew is something the coalition will continue next summer.

A duty crew made up a volunteers from one of the coalition companies was on call Monday through Saturday to respond to any ambulance call, along with the home company the call originated from. The program gave the all-volunteer ambulance companies a back-up team to rely on.

For Downes, and the 29 members of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, while having paid first responders on-call in a regional capacity would be a welcome help as calls continue to increase, the volunteer force will always be essential.

“Everyone gives what they can and all that they can,” he said.

In other emergency service news, last Wednesday Deyermond once again brought up the need for a helipad for medevac purposes in Sag Harbor. Last month, Deyermond suggested it could be something constructed near Havens Beach. Last Wednesday, he noted it would have to support a 24 ton military helicopter.

“Maybe we can get a ballpark figure and see if this is going to fly,” said Deyermond.

The village board also passed a resolution made by Deyermond to purchase 16 new air packs for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department at a cost not to exceed more than $70,000 out of the excess budget available through the fire department, and the remainder to be funded through the village’s contingency fund.

Deyermond said the village was also looking at the cost of purchasing two new dry suits for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department Dive Team.

Last month, the fire department reported that 17 of its 60 air packs had to be replaced with newer models as they were now rated as “substandard.” Two of the dive team’s three dry suits, critical for water rescues, have been in and out of repairs.

In other village news, the board introduced two new local laws last Wednesday that will be up for public hearing at its January 14 meeting.

First is a local law amending the zoning code to require a certificate of appropriateness from the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation & Architectural Review Board (ARB) for any exterior “alteration, restoration, construction, reconstruction, demolition or material change in the appearance of such a property that is visible from an adjacent street or adjacent property.” A certificate of appropriateness would not be required for interior renovations alone.

The board will also hold a public hearing for a change to the building code, requiring sediment control during the course of a building project to protect natural vegetation and topography by requiring a project-limiting fence, mesh, straw bales, or similar devices during construction and any clearing or grading of land.

“First of all, this is usually done as a matter of course in most projects anyway but this will give the building inspector the right to enforce it,” said village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

The board was also unanimous in renewing its agreement with the Sag Harbor Community Rowing Club, which will be able to continue its program at Cove Park, a small public park near Redwood Causeway.

The not-for-profit Sag Harbor Community Rowing Club has been rowing off Cove Park since its founding in 2008. In addition to competitive rowing for middle and high school students, the organization also has adult programming and camp offerings in the summer. For more information, visit rowsagharbor.org.

The board did table a request by Martin Monteith to run a sailboat charter from outside the breakwater for the 2014 summer season. Monteith was asking the board for permission to load and unload passengers from the village docks.

Thiele cautioned the board that if it was going to allow the use of its dock space it would have to charge a fee.

The board asked Harbor Master Bob Bori to weigh in on the matter before making a decision.

The board also denied a request by Susan Mead of the not for profit Serve Sag Harbor to host a fundraising event on Long Wharf June 28 and June 29.

“I am happy to entertain it at a different venue or on a different day, but it’s just that this is Long Wharf we are talking about,” said board member Robby Stein.

Sag Harbor Heroes Honored During Veterans Day Celebrations

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Heller_2013 Veterans Day Parade 11-11-13_1839_LR

By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

In annual Veterans Day celebrations this week, Sag Harbor residents recognized that honoring village veterans is a year round duty, not a daylong event. Whether by visiting a monument, putting up a plaque or rubbing a gravestone, veterans and community members work to celebrate our heroes throughout the year, and those efforts were officially recognized with commemorative events Monday.

From Cub Scouts to World War II veterans, troops in uniform kicked off the holiday at the annual Veterans Day Parade through Sag Harbor Village Monday morning. After the parade, government officials and honored servicemen gathered outside the American Legion Chelberg and Battle Post 388 on Bay Street. Following speeches, about 40 residents headed over to the Ferry Road Cemetery in North Haven to hear village historian Joe Zaykowski present a lecture on the cemetery restoration and the lives of veterans resting there.

VFW Commander Roger King addresses the crowd at the American Legion

VFW Commander Roger King addresses the crowd at the American Legion.

At the American Legion Hall, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9082 Commander Roger King, who served two terms in Iraq, spoke of veterans’ “sacrifice for the common good,” and the symbolic significance of this year’s restoration of the federal holiday to November 11.

Veterans Day is always observed on November 11; however, in 2012, for example, the official federal holiday fell on November 12 because it was a Monday. King recognized the significance of the holiday returning to November 11 as it coincides with Armistice Day, which marks the settlement signed at the end of World War I on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

Post Commander Marty Knab said the day’s events were intended not only to thank those who fought in battle, but also to thank and honor all who have served honorably in the military in any capacity, be it wartime or peacetime. While recognizing the ultimate sacrifice of those killed in battle, Knab hoped to also underscore the fact that all who served have made huge sacrifices for their country.

“Not all veterans have seen war,” Knab told the crowd. “But a common bond that they share is an oath in which they express their willingness to die defending this nation. Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles that America does not have to fight, because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Coast Guard cutter, the Navy aircraft carrier, the Air Force Fighter Squadron, or the Army soldier on patrol.”

“Our country finds these men and women in the many small communities around our country, like our own Village of Sag Harbor,” he continued.

World War II Veteran Robert Riskin speaks in front of the American Legion

World War II Veteran Robert Riskin speaks in front of the American Legion.

Local writer and World War II veteran Robert Riskin, whose officer encouraged him to pursue a writing career, spoke of his visit in September to the World War II monument in Washington, D.C. Riskin’s trip was facilitated by the Honor Flight Network, an organization that honors veterans by transporting them to visit their memorials.

“I was not very excited about going,” admitted Riskin. “And then I thought, ‘Well, it’s free…so what the hell? I’ll try it.’”

Accompanied by Knab, Riskin enjoyed a motorcycle escort, bagpipe serenade and a welcoming reception from Naval Academy plebes on the daylong trip to Washington.

“I almost broke down, it was just such an incredible feeling of love,” he said, adding, “the memorial itself is just about one of the most fantastic things you’ll ever see … the emotions that it brings up are very, very strong.”

After the veterans’ speeches, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. presented a proclamation, “the state’s highest honor,” he noted, to Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride and dockmaster David Thommen commemorating Sag Harbor’s heroic moment in the War of 1812. Two hundred years ago in July 1813, British troops stationed off the Long Island coast attempted to invade and pillage the small seaside village of Sag Harbor, as they had done to countless towns across the island. Greeted by a group of residents and militiamen on shore, the British quickly retreated, recognizing that whatever goods they could plunder were not worth a battle against the spirited community.

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Justice Julia Schiavoni, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride and Sag Harbor Village Board Trustee Ed Deyermond honored David Thommen (second from right) for his work restoring the monument honoring the site of a Revolutionary War fort in Sag Harbor

Local officials honor Village Dockmaster David Thommen (second from right).

“We repelled the British. They never returned again until the British invasion of 1964,” Thiele joked, referring to The Beatles.

The assemblyman spoke of his own childhood playing around the old fort on High Street, but he never knew the story behind it.

“We all know it today and it’s because of the single-handed volunteer efforts of David Thommen,” said Thiele of the village dockmaster, who revitalized the fort – and the community’s knowledge of its own heroism — by dedicating a plaque and raising a flag there last July.

“This is about the veterans from the first militias in 1620 to the returning soldiers today,” said Thommen, accepting the proclamation.

Following the ceremony, North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski gave a presentation to a crowd at the Ferry Road Cemetery on Route 114. Zaykowski successfully restored the gravestones there and, in doing so, unearthed the stories of some of North Haven’s earliest residents.

North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski

North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski at the grave of Revolutionary War Veteran John Payne, Sr.

Zaykowski spoke of the life and lineage of John Payne, Sr., a veteran of both the colonial French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, who died 200 years ago in November 1813 and was laid to rest on Ferry Road. Payne’s gravestone was ineligible, cracked and scattered until Zaykowski’s restoration.

Zaykowski spoke extensively on the history of North Haven, with specific knowledge of lineages, burial techniques and even houses — several of which remain in the village today. His brother-in-law, Philip Reynolds, played period music from the Revolutionary War era on his saxophone.

In 1781, Payne received nine pounds, 19 shillings and one penny for his service in the Revolutionary War, according to Zaykowski.

“I cannot tell you that John Payne was a so-called war hero,” Zaykowski, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, told the crowd. “That’s not important; He served his country, served it well I’m sure.”

In attendance to hear Zaykowski’s talk was Alexandra Binder, who lives on Shelter Island with her fiancé Beau Payne, a direct descendant of John Payne. Eager to learn more of her new family’s extensive local history, Binder was ecstatic to have the aid of Zaykowski, who has traced the Payne’s lineage all the way back to England prior to the colonization of America.

Thiele: Montauk Highway Rehab Clears Major Huddle

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced on Monday that the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) has granted his request and that of 10 other elected officials representing areas traversed by Montauk Highway, the key South Fork arterial. The agency has agreed to amend the State Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) to include reconstruction of a 10-mile stretch of Montauk Highway from CR 39 to Stephen Hands Path. The proposed construction would cost approximately $12.53 million. State DOT already had scheduled the reconstruction of a 2.3 mile stretch of the highway from SR 114 to Stephen Hands Path for the spring of this year.

“Congressman Bishop, State Senator Ken LaValle, County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, and every South Fork supervisor and mayor joined with me to request the reconstruction of Montauk Highway,” said Thiele, referencing a February letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state DOT. “Not only did the Governor and Commissioner Joan McDonald respond favorably, they were quick in responding so that this project can get underway in 2013. I thank them for their fast action.”

The project would be funded by federal and state funds. The comment period on the proposed amendment to the TIP will end on March 22. After that, the project will be included in the TIP and detailed design work will begin. The construction of the segment between SR 114 and Stephen Hands Path will begin this spring and the remaining work from Stephen Hands Path to CR 39 will commence after Labor Day this year.

“I urge all local elected officials and the public to weigh in with the State DOT before the Friday deadline,” said Thiele.

Comments should be submitted to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, Attn: David Drits 199 Water Street, 22nd Floor New York, New York 10038 or email davis.drits@dot.ny.gov

“The importance of this highway cannot be underestimated. It is the only major road bringing people to and from the South Fork of Long Island,” said Thiele. “There is no alternative route. It is the most highly trafficked road on eastern Long Island. It is essential for both local residents and the substantial second home industry. It is important for business and commerce in that the delivery of goods and services as well as the transportation of workers and tradesmen depend on this road.”

“Most important, local fire, ambulance, and emergency service workers depend on this road to do their jobs, particularly to transport patients to Southampton Hospital,” added Thiele. “Finally, in the case of an emergency or disaster, this road is the only evacuation route for the region. At a time when the economy has suffered from a deep recession, this project will mean not only construction jobs but will also foster the tourism/second home based economy of the region. Now, the entire stretch from Southampton to East Hampton will be repaved.”

Long Island: One State…Three Counties, Not One County

Tags: , , , ,


By Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

Government can be too small, but it can also be too big.

During the Great Recession we have looked for chances to consolidate government where it would be more efficient. We should be equally diligent in looking at government entities that have become too large, expensive and unaccountable. The perfect example is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) which seems to constantly cost more and more in taxes and provide less and less in service. We would be better served on Long Island by the break up of the MTA into smaller more efficient and accountable units.

This brings me to the recent proposal by the Long Island Association (LIA) to study the concept of consolidating Suffolk and Nassau County into one county to be known as Long Island County. While I never oppose the concept of a study, this just seems inherently to be a bad idea.

First, from the perspective of the East End, if you think County government is already too big and far away and indifferent to our region, how can doubling its size and moving the center of power even further to the west be a good thing? Attempting to address the unique needs of the rural East End with its farms, fishing and tourist based economy would be that much harder as part of a county that would have more than 2.8 million people. If there were a 22 member Long Island County Legislature, the East End would have one member.

From a broader perspective, County government was not meant to serve 2.8 million people. It is local government. Nassau and Suffolk are already the two largest counties in the State outside of New York City, which does not have County government. Thirty-nine of New York’s 57 counties outside of New York City have 150,000 people or less. This new mega-county would become just as large, inefficient, and unaccountable as the MTA.

If we really want to improve government efficiency on Long Island, we should pursue the concept of the State of Long Island with three counties, Nassau, Suffolk and Peconic. State Senator Ken LaValle and I are the sponsors of A.1406/S.1453 which would establish a bi-county commission to study the feasibility of the State of Long Island, and A.2082/S.1312 which would establish a procedure for the creation of Peconic County.

Long Island is larger in area than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware. Our population is larger than 19 states. For the years 2002-2004, Long Islanders paid $8.1 billion in State taxes and received back only $5.2 billion.

As for Peconic County, it was confirmed long ago, that smaller Peconic County could better focus County resources on East End needs and reduce the County share of the property tax by 50 percent.

Admittedly, the creation of new states or counties of any sort is a long shot in the current climate. Nevertheless, it is always a fruitful exercise to focus attention on the East End as we fight for our share of government resources on the Federal, State, or County level.

However, let’s focus on what alternatives provide more efficient government. Bigger is not always better.

Transit Dilemma

Tags: , , , ,


by Karl Grossman

The East End of Long Island and public transportation—unlike love and marriage—don’t go together. It need not be that way. Indeed, a lesson through the years here: when public transportation is provided, riders will come.

Travel on the East End is auto-based. And there’s been mounting congestion as a result, particularly during the vacation season. This July 4th weekend featured bumper-to-bumper traffic on several area roadways, notably Route 27 between Southampton and Amagansett.

Meanwhile, on the same weekend there was a breakthrough in public transportation here: long-desired Sunday and holiday bus service. Rolling in a “pilot” program was the main East End county bus, the S-92. It winds from Orient Point along the North Fork to Greenport and then Riverhead, south through Flanders to Hampton Bays, then east to Southampton Village, Water Mill, Bridgehampton and north to Sag Harbor. Then it travels south again to East Hampton, hooking up with the 10C that goes between East Hampton and Montauk which also began Sunday and holiday service.

This took seven years of hard politicking by Suffolk County Legislators Jay Schneiderman and Ed Romaine. Mr. Schneiderman represents the Towns of Southampton and East Hampton and Mr. Romaine’s district includes Shelter Island, Riverhead and Southold Towns..

“It’s off to a good start,” says Mr. Schneiderman of the service expansion to seven days a week. The S-92 has the highest Saturday ridership in the county. A $1.50 regular fare, in place for almost 20 years on all Suffolk buses, has been increased to $2 on the two lines to help pay for the new service. Other fares—including 50 cents for senior citizens—remain the same.

“It’s another step forward,” commented State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor, a champion of a broad public transportation initiative—a coordinated shuttle train and bus network—that has been sought for the East End.

Mr. Thiele said funding for the “small diesel engines” that would pull the trains has now been included in the state’s capital budget for 2013. “I’m optimistic,” he says. These shuttle trains would use the tracks of the Long Island Rail Road and the goal, explains Mr. Thiele, is to have them operated by an East End Transportation Authority,  similar to the Cape Cod Regional Transportation Authority.  

There was a change of emphasis by the Long Island Rail Road when it was taken over in 1966 by what was then called the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (now Metropolitan Transportation Authority). The LIRR’s main focus became commuter service in and out of Manhattan for what in the post World War II years became a vast bedroom community for the city on western Long Island.  LIRR service on the East End has been very limited. East Enders pay over $100 million annually to the MTA—through the sales tax, parts of mortgage recording and telephone taxes and now a major payroll tax—getting very little in return.

Jim Davidson demonstrated in the following decade that when public transportation is offered here, it will attract riders. Mr. Davidson in 1974 created the Hampton Jitney—which has become an amazing East End public transportation success story.

A former advertising art director, Jim started with two vans pulling trailers, ferrying people and their bicycles to and from beaches and other points between Amagansett and Southampton. Hampton Jitney’s service now involves 49 buses transporting folks dependably and in comfort from both the North and South Forks to and from the city. The Hampton Jitney is doing what the LIRR or MTA could have easily organized—and made money doing.  In fact, the LIRR fought the Hampton Jitney as it sought a state license for its Manhattan service.

Another example of people using public transportation on the East End when it is offered came in 2007 and 2008 with the widening of County Road 39 in Southampton. The LIRR operated a shuttle train service between Speonk and East Hampton. It was too bad that when the construction ended, the service was stopped.

Nationally, a battle is underway to get Congress to provide adequately for public transportation—which “protects our environment” by cutting carbon emissions, “reduces our dependence on foreign oil….creates jobs” and “enhances our quality of life,” says the American Public Transportation Association on its website www.publictransportation. “While Americans struggle with rising gas prices and a sluggish economy, America needs public transportation more than ever.”  That’s especially true of Long Island’s East End.

Library Earns State Grant, Readies to Move

Tags: , , ,


By Kathryn G. Menu

This summer, patrons of the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor are poised to be treated to water views as the library staff is getting ready to transition to a temporary space on Long Island Avenue. According to JJML director Catherine Creedon the space will likely open in time for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

On Tuesday, Creedon excitedly noted that the move has potential to open up the library to new patrons in Sag Harbor given its close access to the business district and post office, which is directly across the street from the transitional space. More importantly, it will allow the library to begin repairs to its historic Main Street building, stabilizing the existing library this summer while the library board awaits approval to begin a restoration and expansion project that will more than double the size of JJML. Those approvals are needed from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and Sag Harbor Village’s Harbor Committee and Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board.

On Friday, May 13, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced that the library has been awarded $137,667 public library construction grant. This money will help fund the major, phased exterior stabilization project that is a part of the library’s restoration.
According to Creedon, the state has recognized in the grant offering that this year will be the first of a multi-year project to stabilize the library’s roof, dome and lay light.

“This opens the door for us to apply this year and next year for future library construction grants,” she said on Monday.

According to Thiele’s office, the grant funding comes from $14 million in capital funds earmarked in the 2010 state budget for public library construction projects. In a release issued on Friday, Thiele noted that libraries across the state are in dire need of restoration and renovation.
More than 40 percent of the over 1,000 public library buildings in New York are over 60 years old, said Thiele. Another 30 percent are more than three decades old. A recent survey, he said, showed a documented need for public library construction and renovation projects totaling more than $2.5 billion statewide.

In addition to this state grant, Creedon said the library also received a $6,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities. That grant paid for Laura Hortz Stanton, the director of preservation services for the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, to come and assess the needs of JJML’s historic collection. Specifically, she will address how the library can stabilize the collection, pack it and what kind of facility it should be stored in while the library is in this period of transition.
Unlike the current library, once the expansion is completed at JJML, the new library will feature a state-of-the-art archive for historic materials.
The library has also collected private donations to help with the expansion. In 2009, voters in the Sag Harbor Union Free School District agreed to pay almost $10 million towards the restoration and expansion of JJML. At that time, Creedon and the JJML library board promised to fundraise $2.5 million in additional monies for the project. Creedon said to date the library has already collected around $600,000 through grants, direct donations and pledges.

In the meantime, on Tuesday, Creedon said the library will likely close for almost two weeks starting Monday, June 20 while the move from JJML to Long Island Avenue takes place.

“It’s a beautiful space,” she said. “All the public spaces look out over the water and it is filled with beautiful, natural light. We have carved out a teen and children’s space, a small seminar room for our English as a Second Language and writing classes, and we will have public computers, so all of the services of JJML will be there.”

Southampton Town Adopts PDD Reforms
Last week, the Southampton Town Board adopted reforms to its Planned Development District, or PDD, legislation, according to a press released issued by Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s office.
A PDD is a zoning tool that allows the town to overlay zoning in favor of a project otherwise not allowed on a parcel or several parcels of land in return for the project sponsor promising to deliver “community benefits” as a part of their application. Examples of that benefit might be affordable housing or the preservation of open space.

“Land use policy is perhaps the most important responsibility we have as town board members because the manner in which our community is developed informs every aspect of our way of life, from traffic to taxes, environmental health to economic sustainability,” said Throne-Holst in a statement. “The PDD tool — which has enabled many very large scale developments throughout the town ‘— has been a source of intense public controversy for more than a decade, and was the number one issue community members urged me to address when I became supervisor.”

The changes resulting from the PDD legislation reform include increased public participation, including a pre-submission public hearing in lieu of what now is a pre-submission work session for applications, meaning the public does not have the ability to weigh in on a proposal. Town CACs will also be guaranteed a place on a PDD oversight committee, which will be established for the life of each project.

Early referrals from the department of land management to advisory boards, like the planning board, for each PDD application are also required under the new law. In addition, time lines have been established to ensure project sponsors follow through with the community benefits they promise in a timely fashion.

Developers also must show in their initial applications how their project fits into the planning goals of hamlet where they are seeking to develop a project. They must also describe how their project is consistent with or will improve community character and what the project’s cumulative impact will be in relation to other developments within a hamlet.

A hamlet specific list of allowed community benefits will also be developed and regularly updated by the town.

A full list of the changes is available on the town’s website at http://www.southamptontownny.gov.

“Our overarching goal in revising the legislation was to create a more predictable process that would result in projects that fit well with the surrounding community and offer adequate, hamlet-specific community benefits in exchange for the opportunity to development a property in a unique way,” said Throne-Holst. “We’ve also included a requirement to review the status of pending PDD projects and the legislation itself on a regular basis to ensure it continues to work as well as possible.”

Library Officially Approved by Zoning Board

On Tuesday night, the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals officially granted the John Jermain Memorial Library 10 variances to allow the library to move forward with plans to double the size of its Main Street facility with an over 7,000 square-foot modern addition.

The variances will enable the library to seek its final approvals from the village, namely from its Harbor Committee and the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board, both of which are expected to take up the application next month.

After the library receives nods from those agencies, all that will stand in the way of the restoration and expansion project is approval by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services for a new on-site septic system.

In other ZBA news, Josh and Irina Siegel were denied a variance to construct a six-foot high driveway gate at their 175 Hampton Street residence. The village code only allows four-foot gates and fences. Board member Anton Hagen, citing the Siegel’s desire to protect their young children front entering the busy roadway, voted against the denial. Adrienne and Dennis Quinn were granted a variance to allow them to keep a roof at their 20 Hillside Drive residence. The roof was in violation of the village’s pyramid law. Lastly, Arleen Auerbach was given several variances to legalize the construction of a deck, stairs, patio, stoop and addition to her 18 Franklin Avenue property.

Bridge Graffiti Art Will Stay

Tags: , , , , ,


Over a month ago, under the cloak of night, a lone graffiti artist spray painted an homage to a 19-year-old Sag Harbor resident killed in the line of duty in Iraq. Two weeks later, the Sag Harbor-North Haven Bridge, under which the graffiti artist penned the red, white and blue, Captain America-themed tribute, was officially renamed the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge. And now, this week, the state has announced that it will not seek to have the illegally painted mural removed, but instead will allow it to remain as another honor to Lance Corporal Haerter’s young life.

On Tuesday, December 2, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced that the mural would be allowed to stay, rather than be repainted by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). The bridge is state property, and is maintained by the NYSDOT.

“Certainly, the village does not condone defacing public property, but this is not a village owned structure so we have no authority,” said Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris. “I am glad the memorial will stay and it is a tribute to Jordan. I hope it will be there as long as its integrity is still there.”

Following the mural’s creation, state officials had confirmed that they would allow the artistic display to remain under the bridge through the rededication ceremony honoring Lance Corporal Haerter on November 15. In addition to re-naming the bridge after the fallen marine, a granite obelisk memorial was also unveiled that stormy morning in Lance Corporal Haerter’s name next to Windmill Beach in Sag Harbor.

Lance Corporal Haerter was killed in Ramadi, Iraq on April 22 during his first month of duty as a Marine in overseas combat, along with Corporal Jonathan Yale of Meherrin, Virginia when a suicide bomber drove into the checkpoint they were guarding, detonating the vehicle.

Lance Corporal Haerter’s death had a profound effect on the Sag Harbor community, where he was raised by father Christian Haerter and mother JoAnn Lyles and graduated Pierson High School. The community gathered in collective mourning to welcome Lance Corporal Haerter’s body home in Sag Harbor, lining the streets and the cemetery, paying tribute to the sacrifice the young Marine made for his country.

And it seems another person, who remains anonymous, only known publicly by the tag “AMP 26” was also touched by Lance Corporal Haerter’s sacrifice, first spray painting a bench near the 19-year-old’s grave site with the words “thank you,” and then completing the mural weeks later. A man identifying himself as “AMP 26” called The Express office shortly after a police report indicated the spray painting of the bench was a “desecration.” “AMP26,” speaking through a device that changed the sound of his voice, maintained that his work was a “tribute,” not a desecration.

“AMP 26” is not unfamiliar to Sag Harbor Village Police or Southampton Town Police, who have logged numerous reports about graffiti in Sagaponack, Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, but have yet to catch the individual in the act.

The decision to allow the mural to stay, for now, said Thiele on Wednesday, was in part due to the effort of a letter writing campaign in support of the graffiti art.

“I had gotten somewhere between 20 and 30 letters requesting the mural be kept, mostly from Pierson High School,” said Thiele.

Thiele said he reached out to the New York State Department of Transportation after hearing reports that the mural would be removed as a part of regularly scheduled maintenance, but was informed the mural’s removal was not in fact imminent. Regardless, Thiele said he asked the NYSDOT for a commitment to allow the mural to stay as long as it is properly maintained.

“As long as it looks good and presentable, they will leave it be,” said Thiele.

Thiele said that the mural will remain as long as it is not defaced or begins to deteriorate. What will happen after that, he said, will depend on the wishes of community and government leaders in Sag Harbor.

“The mural is there to honor Jordan, and the person who put it there, that was their intention,” said Thiele. “If it is defaced or deteriorated it is not an honor anymore.”

“I understand the importance of the particular mural, to a family and a community that has endured an extremely painful loss. The artist is obviously very talented. I only wish he would use that talent in a more productive manner.”

East End Digest – December 4

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Holiday Tea and Décor Light Up Cormaria

Over 100 people turned out for Cormaria Retreat House’s annual holiday tea and Christmas décor workshop on Saturday, November 29. Sister Ann Marino and her fellow sisters in the order opened the doors of the former captain’s mansion for an afternoon that featured a workshop in creating holiday table décor.

Michael Grimm of Sag Harbor Florist, a longtime supporter of Cormaria, led participants through the intricate yet straightforward creation of floral designs to grace their holiday tables. Following the workshop, guests moved into the great entranceway of the mansion for a concert of seasonal carols and hymns performed by the Harbor Bells handbell choir. At the concert’s end, Sister Ann invited everyone to participate in one of the nun’s old traditions of marking pristine white starfish with the name of loved ones ill or lost who they wished the nuns to keep in their prayers. The starfish were then placed on the sister’s Tree of Remembrance with the promise to have their loved ones remembered in prayer.

New York State: Property Tax Relief Report Accepted

On December 2, the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief issued its final report to Governor David Paterson and the state legislature. The report contains dozens of measures that are aimed at reducing the costs for local school districts and provide relief to New York taxpayers, who pay some of the highest local taxes in the nation.

The report contains 32 recommendations, including a property tax cap and several additional proposals designed to rein in school districts’ costs, therefore addressing what the state perceives as the root cause of high property taxes. Included in those recommendations are consolidation measures, a property tax cap, limiting of school district operational costs, among others. Also suggested is a STAR “circuit breaker,” which would provide targeted relief to individual taxpayers based on income and ability to pay through an income tax credit.

“This report provided many thoughtful recommendations that I am in support of,” said State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. on Tuesday. “The main recommendation is the need for a property tax cap. As one of the initial supporters of the cap, I am encouraged that the commission, as well as the governor are continuing their support of this measure.  I am also in support of the commission’s recommendation to promote school consolidation. I am currently drafting a bill based on a Maine law recently passed which will provide for such consolidation.  Finally, I support the commission’s finding that unfunded mandates are a large part of high property taxes and that they need to be eliminated.”

Southampton Town: County Road 39 Workshop

Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and members of the town’s department of land management invite all residents to a public workshop this week to discuss the future of the County Road 39 “corridor” and the issues facing decision makers regarding the area’s future land use.

Running concurrently with the CR 39 corridor moratorium, the town’s consultants and planning staff will conduct a full-fledged area study in order to make recommendations on design, zoning, and possible future uses. The results of the public workshop, consisting primarily of input from residents and business representatives, will then be incorporated into an overall plan.

The workshop will be held at the Tuckahoe Common School cafetorium on Magee Street in Southampton on Thursday, December 4 from 7 to 9 p.m.

New York State Assembly: Enforcing Gas Laws

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. has called upon State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate existing illegal gasoline pricing practices and enforce the new prohibition on zone pricing of gasoline. The new law went into effect on November 24.

“In enacting the zone pricing law, the state legislature found that zone pricing was ‘artificial price manipulation.’ Zone pricing is the setting of different wholesale prices for gasoline for gasoline retailers that operate in different geographic areas. The legislature further found such practices harm consumers around the state, including the South Fork. We have outlawed this practice. It is clear that the major oil companies are challenging the state to enforce the law. The Attorney General must meet that challenge with quick and aggressive enforcement.”

Under the law, the state attorney general may seek to enjoin violations of the zone pricing law as well as seek restitution, additional allowances and civil penalties.

“My informal survey of gasoline prices indicates that there exist price differentials of 20 cents or more between the South Fork service stations and other regions just miles away,” added Thiele. “It is clear these differentials are based only on geography and not legitimate economic factors.”

Thiele urges South Fork residents to write or e-mail his office with any evidence of illegal zone pricing, which he will forward to the state attorney general.

Sagaponack: Deadline Extended For Pike Farm

The Hopping family in Sagaponack has decided to extend the amount of time the Peconic Land Trust has to raise over $8 million to preserve and save Pike Farm Stand on Sagg Main Street. The Peconic Land Trust originally had until mid-October, but the Hopping family has decided to extend that until April.

Hallockville Museum Farm: Victorian Christmas

Hallockville Museum Farm’s annual Victorian Christmas will take place on Sunday, December 7 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The event includes guided tours of the fully decorated historic Hallock Homestead, costumed interpreters, musicians performing through the day, antique dollhouses, antique toys and much more. Something new this year is a celebration of a Polish-American Christmas in the recently restored Cichanowicz Farm House. The Depression-era home will be decorated as it would have been in the 1930s.  Sometime in the afternoon, Santa is expected to arrive in Hallockville’s own bright red 1939 Ford farm truck. There will be special activities for children, horse-drawn carriage rides and antique trains from the Long Island Railroad Museum. A holiday market in the Naugles barn will feature hand-made crafts and Christmas accessories. Admission for adults is $8 per person, including free cider, hot chocolate and mincemeat tarts served in the Homestead kitchen; $4 for children ages 6 to 12; younger children are free; and families (two adults and children 12 and under) are $20. All fees directly support the museum farm’s educational programming and mission of re-connecting the community with its agricultural heritage.

Nature Conservancy: Green Gifts 

This holiday season, The Nature Conservancy on Long Island is encouraging consumers to give gifts that will go twice as far – gifts that will delight loved ones while also protecting and preserving some of our most precious habitats for future generations.

“Interest in green gifts is at an all-time high, and starting at just $10, the Conservancy makes it easy to stretch each dollar,” said Nancy Kelley, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy on Long Island “It’s an opportunity to give your friends and loved ones a unique holiday gift that’s also a lasting and secure investment for the future of our planet.”

For 2008, the Conservancy’s green gift offerings include opportunities to adopt an acre of a threatened landscape, protect Palau’s stunning coral reefs, and plant trees in South America’s Atlantic Forest. The conservancy’s new holiday gift site at nature.org/giftguide features an interactive map, photos, and fact sheets to introduce holiday shoppers to the regions they’re invited to protect.