Tag Archive | "Bridgehampton Child Care Center"

Congressman Tim Bishop Talks Candidly About the Future

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By Claire Walla

New York Congressman Tim Bishop doesn’t seem the type to lounge around. He commutes between offices in Southampton, Patchogue and Washington D.C., and attends events across the state and across the East End, where he represents nearly 700,000 people.

But last Tuesday, October 18, Bishop sank comfortably into the cushions of a big white couch in a house off the Bridgehampton Turnpike and, surrounded by a dozen of his constituents, he began to chat.

The purpose of his visit was as part of the Bridgehampton Children’s Center’s series: “The Politics of it All.” (Past guests have included State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and County Legislator Jay Schneiderman.) And although the conversation hinged on politics, Bishop spoke candidly about his positions on all topics raised that night, from early childhood education to what he called the “repulsive” tactics of the Tea Party Movement.

While casual, the tone of the evening was relatively dour as those who attended the discussion looked to the congressman for answers to what they see as glaring inefficiencies within the U.S. political system.

Perhaps the most outspoken attendee that evening was Randall Dobler, who before he spoke distributed a five-page document titled “Randall Dobler Economic Recovery Plan.”

He asked Bishop why — especially if the United States is looking to create more jobs and lessen its dependence on foreign oil — the U.S. government is not moving faster to promote the use of natural gas as a clean energy alternative.

Bishop’s answer turned out to be the relative mantra for the evening: “political opposition.” In the case of natural gas, he said many members of Congress who have thus far been opposed to passing legislation that would give American families the economic incentive to switch from heating their homes with oil to natural gas object to the part of the proposed bill that would put a tax on carbon-based fuels. According to Bishop, they maintain that the free market economy should reign supreme.

While political opposition is nothing new in Bishop’s line of work, the assemblyman’s critique of the current political climate went far deeper than typical party spats. For example, he said there’s “no political will” among many conservative members of Congress to move away from carbon-based fuels. And then, raising the pitch of his voice in frustration, he added: “Many members [of Congress] don’t even believe in climate change!”

Bishop reaffirmed what many in the room seemed to already believe, that such fundamental differences between members of Congress have created a vast schism within government, which has steered the country to where it is now: at a relative stalemate.

After the group lamented the woes of the American work force — which event organizer Bonnie Cannon said is worrisome because it’s been flooded with many college graduates who can’t find employment — attendee Lucius Ware, head of the East End chapter of the NAACP, drew comparisons between today’s problems and the American workforce in the 1950s and 60s. The so-called “space race,” he said, “kicked the workforce into high gear.”

“This is our Sputnik moment,” Bishop agreed. “But the environment could not possibly be more adverse to get that done.”

Bishop said he is baffled by the notion that certain measures he feels would bolster the American economy — like bills to boost spending for infrastructure that would create jobs — have been shot down by Congress in large part because Republicans are unwilling to budge on the issue of raising taxes in any way, shape or form. Referencing a Republican debate back in August during which the eight candidates stated they wouldn’t even consider raising taxes $1 for every $10 of spending cuts, Bishop said, “That’s lunacy!”

“I hate to say it,” he continued, “But [the conservative right] is not about to give [President Barack Obama] a win. That sounds hopelessly partisan, but I believe it’s right.”

Bishop explained that there are currently 25 million Americans under or unemployed in the United States, and he feels there is “no chance” the conservative right will accept the president’s spending plans, which currently propose $50 million for infrastructure and $35 million for schools.

“I see intransigence on the part of Republicans,” he added. “And a total unwillingness to move [on these points].”

The group went on to discuss government cuts to early childhood education programs, including Head Start. Bishop complained that the budget passed by Congress last April included 25 percent cuts to the program. To which Bridgehampton Head Start Manager Daphne Gil, who shared the couch with Bishop that night, noted that such cuts actually have an adverse affect on the work force as a whole.

“You have to allow people to let their children go to daycare and go to school so that they can go to work,” she said.

Bishop sympathized with her complaints and said, of the cuts, “there’s not logic to it.” Bishop added that he believes these programs should be restored, and said the country needs to put more effort into bolstering math and science programs, because this, he noted, is where the future of the job market will be.

In the midst of such a seemingly bleak forecast, Cannon made an attempt to shift the discussion.

“I’m feeling a bit down,” she said with an ironic laugh. “Can you tell me there’s some light at the end of the tunnel?”

Without being specific, Bishop offered an analysis of the current political climate.

“At the root of everything is fear,” he explained. “Fear of not having a job, of not being able to send your kids to college… and that leads to resentment, resentment leads to distrust, and distrust leads to anger. And that is one of the forces at play that I think is very debilitating.”

As an antidote, Bishop said he is advocating passion; people in politics “who think we can do better.” As for how the U.S. gets to a place where passion overcomes anger, “It’s hard,” he added. “But it’s important for people to say: this isn’t the country we had in mind.”

Reaching Out a Helping Hand Through House Tour

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Community outreach is central to the mission of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Bridgehampton. This year, the church has teamed up with The Peconic Land Trust for its 41st Annual House and Garden Tour – an annual fundraiser to support a diverse group of local charities including The Retreat in East Hampton, Habitat for Humanity of Peconic, the Eastern Farm Workers Association and the Bridgehampton Child Care Center, to name just a few.

The house and garden tour will be held today, Thursday, August 6 from 1 to 5 p.m.

Father Tim Lewis, the rector of St. Ann’s for the last eight years, also serves on the church’s outreach committee, which collectively determines which charities will receive proceeds from the house and garden tour. On Wednesday, he explained organizations like the Dominican Sisters Family Health Services, Habitat for Humanity and East End Hospice have annually received funding from St. Ann’s outreach program for many years. The Retreat and the Eastern Farm Workers Association are organizations the committee would also like to continue to support, he added.

“Every year we look at the charity monies we have available and ask our membership to bring us ideas,” he explained. “Looking back over the last eight years I have been here, how much money we raise has been very unpredictable.”

Father Lewis said during a good year, the committee can expect to raise just over $30,000, but on an off year it can be far less.

“We give every cent away,” said Martha Kelly, a member of St. Ann’s and organizer of the house and garden tour. “These days so many of the big benefits benefit national charities. We do try and keep it local.”

While organizations like the Dominican Sisters and East End Hospice have long received support from St. Ann’s, Father Lewis said on Wednesday as the committee finds local organizations serving those in need, the church does what it can to offer its support.

“We watched them and we see what they do, how they are supporting the community and giving their energy to support those in need in our community,” said Father Lewis of the Eastern Farm Workers Association, noting the group provides medical and legal coverage among other avenues of support to the agricultural industry in Suffolk County.

“I describe our committee as a work in progress,” added Father Lewis. “No two years are ever the same.”

Outside of the house and garden tour, Father Lewis said the outreach committee depends on private donations to continue its work.

This year’s house and garden tour features five homes and gardens in Bridgehampton and Water Mill, including an opportunity through a partnership with the Peconic Land Trust, for participants to view the rarely seen interior of the house at Bridge Gardens.

Architect Stephen Levine designed the residence, using local potato barns as his inspiration. The steel-framed, concrete and stucco structure boasts 148 windows, and is surrounded by five acres of garden, designed to create room-like spaces including a water garden, an ivy maze and a hidden bamboo room. Created by Harry Neyens and Jim Kilpatric, it was donated to the Peconic Land Trust last fall.

St. Ann’s 41st Annual House and Garden Tour will be held today, Thursday, August 6 from 1 to 5 p.m. rain or shine. The self-guided tour costs $50 in advance, $60 the day of the tour. Tickets can be purchased at the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton, at the Southampton Chamber of Commerce and at St. Ann’s Church office. For more information, call 537-1527.

Telling N’Orleans Story in Brass Band Music

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The Hot 8 Brass Band plays the kind of music that moves feet, body and soul. Founder of the group Benny Pete says it’s music that “makes you remember, makes you hold on, gives you hope and lets you heal.”

The band hails from New Orleans and this Thursday and Friday they will be at the Hayground School and at the Bridgehampton Child Care Center.  Thursday night the band will play a free community concert at the center at 5 p.m.

Since Hurricane Katrina the band has been traveling the country, as part of the Finding Our Folk tour, making sure people remember the storm, the tragic response by the federal government and the devastation that still exists today.

“What happened in New Orleans is something we all need to know about,” said Hayground Camp artist in residence Jon Snow, “and we all need to face it and we all need to help anyway we can, even if its just by listening.”

For the kids at the Hayground Camp, the entire summer revolved around listening closely to music and even closer to the stories behind it. Snow said that’s why the Hot 8 are a perfect way to cap off the camp season. They will teach the kids the story of jazz, of New Orleans and of Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, the band traveled around to cities using their music to reconnect the roughly 400,000 exiled residents with their heritage, their culture and their home and Finding Our Folk was born. They filmed a documentary about time spent at a shelter in Baton Rouge capturing how they were turned away by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at first, only to be let in when actor Danny Glover became involved.

The tour began months after the storm and in the two-and-a-half years since, they have never stopped touring This summer they have been to Martha’s Vineyard and to Boston, meanwhile holding an 8-week workshop for young musicians in their home city. Le’Kendra Robertson, tour organizer, said, “It is a tremendous project that we enjoy doing. The band all has their own personal stories of their evacuation and what they went through. They saw this as an opportunity for healing, but its main focus is educating people on the culture and the significance of what music means to New Orleans. It is the heartbeat. It’s what keeps a lot of people going.”

Co-foudner of Hayground and local poet Kathy Engel is responsible for bringing the Hot 8 to the East End. A year ago the band came to a class she was teaching at New York University. The class focused on the intersection between art, intellect and activism. Engel said after the band played, it left her and her students speechless, and in tears.

“I think through their music they tell the stories of real people and struggles and courage with dignity, humor, pathos and honesty,” she said. “ Music cuts across boundaries, barriers and languages and grabs your soul when it’s good, in a way that almost nothing else does.”

“The authenticity of their music is inescapable. You would have to put some heavy duty earmuffs on not to be moved.”

“I can’t say I’m making an overt, political point to the kids, but the New Orleans story is a big, American story,” said Snow. “And it’s going to remain a big American story and we can’t bury it or forget about it.”

Executive Director of the Bridgehampton Childcare Center Bonnie Cannon sees a parallel between that story and the story of the center. She mentioned the people of New Orleans who were stranded in places like the Superdome or the city’s convention center for days after the storm.

“When they were there for five days,” said Cannon, “the federal government was everywhere else, but they weren’t at home. They weren’t helping out their own victims.”

“We are here at the center, and you would think that with all the wealth surrounding us we would not have a need for anything,” she continued. “But everyone turns their head.”

Cannon also sees a semblance in what the Finding Our Folk tour is trying to do and how her center got its start some 50 years ago. On a November day in 1950 an abandoned chicken coop housing 14 migrant workers, three adults and 11 children, burned to the ground after an oil lamp tipped over. Two children were burned to death. Cannon said that shocked the community into realizing something was terribly wrong. A local doctor rented his home for migrant housing and another resident offered a plot of land with a large barn, a garage and a cottage, the current grounds of the childcare center.

Cannon said she hopes by hosting the Hot 8, not only will much needed light be shined on the tragedy of the Crescent City, but also on her center, and make people realize they are in need as well. Much like the city the band calls home, she said the center has a history that is “some good, some bad, some ugly.”

“But we’ve sustained and some people have come through here with good intentions, some bad, and some bridges have been burnt,” she continued. “But at the end of the day who is really suffering? It’s the kids, it’s the community. We have to get back on track and I can’t look to the past.”

Cannon remarked on how so many people out here donate money to worthy causes, how there seems to be a different fundraiser every week. While those people have admirable intentions, there is a very worthy cause right in their own backyard.

“There are too many resources out here for us to be – well, we’re not struggling, but it shouldn’t be this hard,” said Cannon.

She said maybe the Hot 8’s concert will wake people up, especially those who drive down the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike in the summer, passing through the idyllic village of Bridgehampton and ending up in the idyllic village of Sag Harbor.

“The people that drive by everyday and don’t even know we live here,” she said. “They don’t know that there is a place here that they need to know about.”

Also at the Childcare Center will be the KatrinaRitaville Express. Robertson described it as “in your face” exhibit. It’s a FEMA trailer, identical to the over 100,000 that were placed in the city after the storm. The trailers themselves are a tragedy that nearly equals the storm. Since they were inhabited, levels of formaldehyde have been found to be in some cases 40 times the average. The high level of toxins has poisoned numerous inhabitants and the effects of living in the trailers are still being studied.

There are still roughly 40,000 trailers in the greater New Orleans area, but recently the city and FEMA ordered all inhabitants to vacate the trailers. Robertson said the result can be seen beneath the Interstate-10 bridge in the heart of the city, where those forced to leave the trailers are now being forced to live in tents, essentially homeless.

The KatrinaRitaville Express has been traveling around the country and Robertson said in some places people walk into the trailer and say, “Oh this isn’t so bad. What are they complaining about?”

What’s “bad” said Robertson is when a 65 year-old grandmother and family of five have been living in the cramped trailers for nearly three years. This August 31 will mark the three-year anniversary of the storm.