Tag Archive | "Bridgehampton"

Vaccine Debate Rages On in Sag Harbor

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Dr. Gail Schonfeld gives an injection to a little girl in January 2011. Photo by Michael Heller.

Dr. Gail Schonfeld gives an injection to a young girl. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The recent measles outbreak, which started in California, has evoked fear among parents, painful memories among doctors, and intense debate, finger pointing and even name-calling from all sides nationwide. The outbreak has fueled discussion on playgrounds, in waiting rooms, and on Facebook groups here on the East End, where an estimated 3 percent of school children are not fully vaccinated.

Largely centered on the M.M.R. vaccine, which targets measles, mumps and rubella, the debate has made unlikely bedfellows of those on the far left and those on the far right. A growing number of parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children for a growing number of reasons, ranging from their belief in holistic medicine, the power of Mother Nature and the natural strength of the human body’s immune system, to a general mistrust of government, injections and in some cases, science itself.

An airborne disease that is highly contagious, measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000, but experts believe recent outbreaks originated with international travel to areas that have low or non-existent immunization rates, like parts of Africa.

“There’s measles in the world, there’s international travel and when you get below a certain percentage of people who are adequately immunized, the disease will start to spread and it will come back, and that is exactly what has happened,” said Dr. Gail Schonfeld, an East Hampton pediatrician who has been in practice for 33 years.

Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are often clustered in geographic hubs, making the disease’s spread more likely. The recent outbreak of measles in California, where a growing number of children are not vaccinated, has been linked to Disneyland, but originated outside the U.S.

Health experts believe outbreaks are limited when the population is above a certain immunization rate, due to a phenomenon called “herd immunity.” If a high enough percentage of the population is vaccinated, believed to be 95 percent for measles, the disease cannot spread to enough people during its incubation period to sustain itself, which is why recent outbreaks have been contained.

So, although recent outbreaks stem from international travel rather than non-vaccinated American children, if the numbers of unvaccinated children continue to rise, the disease will spread more easily the next time it comes to the U.S.

A measles outbreak in Ohio last June, connected to Amish missionaries returning from the Philippines, more than doubled in size in 10 days and eventually spread to 339 mostly unvaccinated Amish people, according to state health officials. Ohio granted more than three times as many religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccines to kindergarten students in 2013 than it did in 2000.

Unlike in Ohio and some other states, philosophical exemptions from vaccines are not permitted in New York, but the rate of religious exemptions has risen over the last decade, from 0.23 percent in 2000 to 0.45 percent in 2011, according to a 2013 study in the medical journal Pediatrics.

The current rate of immunization in the Bridgehampton School District is 98 percent, with all but three students fully vaccinated. Those children, the district said, are partially vaccinated, but have religious exemption from some vaccines.

In the Sag Harbor School District, 97 percent of students are vaccinated, with 3 percent exempt for religious and medical reasons, according to the district.

On Monday, February 9, the New York State Department of Health sent a letter to all school superintendents in the state reminding schools to follow the requirements for vaccinations.

“Given the recent media attention and the fact that DOH has confirmed three cases of measles in New York State, including New York City, we write to remind you to continue to take all appropriate measures to protect New York’s students through your responsibility to oversee children’s admissions to school,” said the letter.

Under state law, children must receive vaccinations before attending public or private school, unless a doctor confirms that vaccines will harm the child or a parent provides a written explanation of a “genuine and sincere” religious objection, which school officials can accept or reject.

Parties on all sides of the debate are guilty of fear mongering; Some M.M.R. opponents link the vaccine to autism, despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence to support their claim, while some vaccine proponents incorrectly assert that the instances of measles are testament to a rapidly approaching epidemic that immediately puts all American babies at risk. The extent of loud, often misinformed opinions on both sides can make researching vaccines difficult for the average parent.

Elizabeth Schmitt, an East Hampton mother who decided against vaccinating her eldest daughter Ruby, first became aware of the arguments against vaccines through an Internet message board, branched off of Parents.com. As she continued to “read around” online, the new mother quickly became “really scared.”

As Ruby neared kindergarten age, her younger brother, Cole, at the time about 15 months old and also not vaccinated, started to show strange symptoms: he stopped talking, started twitching and had a high fever.

“It was just all these really scary symptoms out of the blue,” said Ms. Schmitt, “and the funny thing was that all these symptoms were what people kept saying would happen to kids after the M.M.R., but he never had it, so that had me rethinking things really fast.”

“I was looking at a lot of different websites that, I guess in hindsight, aren’t as credible as I thought they were at the time, so then I started looking at the sources. If the site had an article about a certain study, instead of just reading the article, I started reading the study—and realized that the study didn’t say anything that the guy said in the article, and that was really aggravating,” she added.

Ms. Schmitt changed her opinion after further research, and now her children, Ruby, Cole, and 23-month-old Andy, are all fully vaccinated.

“Even the parents who choose not to vaccinate now, we’re all just on the same team, really, everybody’s just really scared about the whole thing,” she said, adding that the “real information” and scientific studies are far more difficult to find, read and understand than the anti-vaccine “sites that we have, like Natural News and the crazy stuff that’s not even true, but so user-friendly and so easy to read, that we didn’t find reason not to believe it.”

While Dr. Schonfeld said she understands “completely and absolutely where the misinformation is coming from and why people are saying and doing what they’re doing,” the pediatrician recently announced that families who choose not to vaccinate are no longer welcome in her practice, as she has “no question [that decision is] wrong on every level.”

“I think what people have to understand is the balance between personal choice and safety and social responsibility. This is the United States and we’re all about personal choice, but when your personal choice endangers the safety of your child and others around you, that’s the line you cannot cross,” she said.

Although she finds many parents’ fear of vaccines unfounded, Dr. Schonfeld’s experience practicing medicine before some of them were invented gives her a larger, more tangible fear: the return of measles and other preventable diseases.

“I’ve personally known and diagnosed children with several of the diseases that we now prevent with the vaccines, and I’ve seen some horrible, horrible things in my time—and I’ve seen the changes, so I understand it from a very different point of view,” she said. “I have very clear memories of the pain and suffering and death of these children and what their families went through…but I also have seen how it’s changed my life to not have these sudden life-threatening infections occurring in children. It’s very challenging to diagnose and treat them and have them survive.”

Although recent measles outbreaks in the U.S. are “horrible,” Dr. Schonfeld believes the incidence of measles is not high enough to justify a routine immunization at six months of age, rather than the standard 12 months.

“I am a firm believer of science and not emotion when it comes to the practice of medicine…When there is as much measles in the United States as there is in, say, parts of Africa where there is no vaccination, yes, we would go back to doing [immunizations before 12 months]—I just don’t think I could stand it if we got to that point,” she said. “I’m really thinking maximum one or two children dying, people are going to get it and stop doing this.”

Bridgehampton School District Unveils First Draft of Proposed $12.6 Million Budget

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Bridgehampton School Business Administrator Robert Hauser presents the first draft of the 2015-16 budget to the Bridgehampton Board of Education, including (l. to r.) District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh and Ronnie White, president of the school board, on Thursday, January 29. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Bridgehampton School Business Administrator Robert Hauser presents the first draft of the 2015-16 budget to the Bridgehampton Board of Education, including (l. to r.) District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh and Ronnie White, president of the school board, on Thursday, January 29. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Bridgehampton School District appears to be in “much better financial shape this year than last year, according to business administrator Robert Hauser, as the school board on Thursday, January 29, took its first look at a preliminary $12.6 million budget for the 2015-16 school year.

The first draft represents an increase of nearly $330,000, or 2.67 percent, over last year’s budget.

“Fortunately, this year, things look a lot better than they did last year,” Mr. Hauser told the board.

Last spring, the school board had difficulty getting the current year’s $12.3 million budget passed. That spending plan pierced the state-mandated tax cap with an 8.8-percent increase over the previous year. It failed to receive the required 60-percent supermajority in the first vote in May, then barely passed when 62 percent of voters supported it in a second and final ballot in June.

The state-mandated limit, which determines how much a district can increase its property tax levy from one year to the next, is known as the 2-percent tax cap, but the percentage actually varies based on the Consumer Price Index. This year, at 1.62 percent, the cap will again be lower than its name.

“So, we’re only allowed to collect, in a sense, 1.62 percent more from the residents here,” explained Mr. Hauser. “However, the spending is going up 2.67 percent. So…the spending’s going up more than the actual amount we’re allowed to collect.”

The first draft of Bridgehampton’s current budget, presented last winter, breached the cap by over $1 million; the 2014-15 draft is over the cap by about $106,000, Mr. Hauser said.

Many of the included expenses are mandated by the state, such as Common Core-related professional development for teachers, fingerprinting for all new staff, and nearly $7,000 for “records management,” as school district payroll reports must be maintained for 50 years.

New items in the 2015-16 budget include adding iPads, Google Chromebooks and other technology updates as part of the district’s 5-year plan, a base increase in social security tax for employees, which the school district must match, and increased building maintenance.

During last year’s cutting of the current budget, the school board chose to reduce the number of days the Homework Club was offered after school to cut costs. Mr. Hauser said the school intends to restore those hours for the next school year.

An increase of $24,734, slated for adding a high school girls volleyball team and purchasing new volleyball equipment, is included in the proposed athletics budget, which is about $150,000 in total.

Health benefits for retirees and full-time employees are expected to increase by almost $100,000 to over $1.5 million, Mr. Hauser said. Most of that expense is for vision, dental and health benefits for full-time employees, as Medicare primarily covers retirees. Under the new Affordable Care Act, the district must provide health benefits to any employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

Some components of the budget, such as salaries determined by unsettled teachers and administrative contracts, insurance costs, and revenue from state aid, are not yet finalized. In a move that is unprecedented in the last 40 years, Governor Andrew Cuomo will not be releasing the amount of aid he is proposing for New York’s schools to the school districts ahead of time.

On January 21, in his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo said he would grant an additional $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent, to New York’s schools only if the Legislature passes several of his proposed educational reforms. If the Legislature, divided between a Democratic Assembly and a Republican Senate, does not comply, the governor threatened to limit that increase to 1.7 percent.

“In the meantime, we’re all in limbo here, because we don’t know how much aid he’s proposing to give us as a base,” Mr. Hauser said Thursday.

One of Governor Cuomo’s conditions is another overhaul of the recently revamped teacher evaluation systems, so that student test scores account for more of a teacher’s rating. Others include making it harder for teachers to get tenure and easier for them to be fired, establishing more charter schools, which would be required to take less advantaged students, and sending specialists in to transform failing schools.

The final numbers for the state’s $23.1 billion education budget will be revealed in the legislative budget on April 1. School districts, however, are required to tell the state comptroller’s office whether or not they will try to pierce the tax cap a month beforehand, by March 1.

Mr. Hauser said Bridgehampton, which generally gets about 5 percent of its revenue from state aid, relies less on the governor’s budget than other districts, and the budget wouldn’t be drastically affected should the legislature fail to comply with the governor’s demands.

STORM UPDATE: Sag Harbor & Bridgehampton Schools Closed Wednesday

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Snowdrifts piled up near the Suffolk County National Bank on Main Street following the Blizzard of 2015 on Tuesday. Heller photo.

Snowdrifts piled up near the Suffolk County National Bank on Main Street following the Blizzard of 2015 on Tuesday. Heller photo.

Both the Bridgehampton School District and Sag Harbor School District announced Tuesday afternoon that school will be closed on Wednesday, January 28.

“Due the continuing snow storm and the safety concerns of transporting our students, all Sag Harbor Schools will be closed and all school activities and sports are cancelled fortomorrow, Wednesday, January 28, 2015,” said the Sag Harbor School District in an email sent to parents, faculty and staff Tuesday afternoon.

The Bridgehampton School also announced Tuesday afternoon it would remain closed Wednesday with the district noting it will reschedule Regents exams for Thursday, January 29. Tuesday’s Bridgehampton Killer Bees basketball game has also been rescheduled for Thursday, January 29 at 6 p.m.

 

Elaine Peterson

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Elaine Peterson is a gardener, an astrologer and the president of the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons. She spoke about some upcoming events and discussed her experiences gardening on the East End.

It clearly isn’t prime gardening season, but is there anything green thumbs can do this time of year to get their gardens ready for spring?

I’d let things be at this time of year. Plan. It’s a good time for planning. Occasionally I do some pruning this time of year, I always prune on a new moon. I’m an astrologer so I garden by the moon and the planets. So always prune around the new moon, because that’s when the energy in the plants is most down in the roots, rather than up in the tips. The other thing that’s terribly important that no one really talks about, is that old farmers in Europe would never water or fertilize during the waxing of the moon, only in the waning of the moon between full moon and new moon. And that way the water sinks, and the fertilizer and whatever that is going into the ground does go into the ground instead of washing away. So the timing of those applications is very important. We’re constantly reinventing the wheel, but if you go back and look at how people used to farm before we had all these modern techniques, they were very much more in touch with the earth and the climate.

Water quality is one of the main concerns on any island. We hear a lot about nitrogen run-off from fertilizers causing all sorts of problems in local waterways. How can gardeners keep their plants healthy without causing harm to water?

Vincent Simeone, director of the Planting Fields Arboretum here on Long Island, spoke to us on Sunday about his new book “Grow More With Less: Sustainable Garden Methods”. But one of the most concerning things about sustainable garden methods is that we reduce or eliminate the amount of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, everything unnatural, that we put on the ground because it will come back into the water at some point. I don’t use pesticides or herbicides at all in my gardening, I’ve never had to. I don’t believe in it, I don’t think it’s good, but I also don’t see the need for it. Compost is pretty much all I use. I use some organic supplement sometimes but I’m very careful—I live on the lake! I have some weeds on my lawn, but I’m perfectly happy with them, I don’t want to live on a golf course.

We all know that the East End is home to an enormous deer population. What are some ways for gardeners to deal with the hungry herbivores?

We’ve been serious gardeners for some time, and we’ve dealt with the deer issue forever. In the 19th century and the 20th century we killed off all the animals, and then we decided that wasn’t such a good idea, so we brought them back and now they’re here. So we all got wise and said, this isn’t right, and of course the whole economical and social scene changed. Gradually, wild animals have come back, and they are here and they’re coming back more and more. And it’s just something we have to adjust to. As a gardener, I’ve learned to live with all of the animals, and if you want to grow things animals are going to be interested in, you’re just going to have to take precautions to protect them. Which means a lot more fencing, walled gardens; in some ways, we have to go back to the way it was in the Middle Ages, where if you wanted to grow something for food or for pleasure you had to protect it. So that’s what I have come around to realizing I have to do for everything—there are many plants that won’t be touched by deer but they adapt, the things that they didn’t used to eat, they now eat.

The Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons is holding a roundtable discussion on planting a fragrant garden from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, January 17, at the Bridgehampton Community House, 2357 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton. For more information about the organization, call (631) 537-2223. 

Bridgehampton School to Look Into Competitive Cheerleading

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By Tessa Raebeck

Bridgehampton High School could become a local powerhouse in competitive cheerleading, if Athletic Director Eric Bramoff gets his wish. With its history of strong basketball and traditional cheerleading programs, the school may pursue hosting a competitive team on which girls would perform flips, mounts and other coordinated gymnastics-style moves on mats against other teams.

Contending in a division based on school size, the team would compete in four meets across Long Island throughout the school year. The current cheerleading team, which Mr. Bramoff said is in favor of switching from traditional to competitive cheer, would also continue to support the boys’ basketball program, cheering the Killer Bees on at home and away games, Mr. Bramoff told the Board of Education when pitching the idea at its meeting on December 17.

“I feel like if we really put our eggs into being the best cheerleading program out here, I think our girls—our high school and our modified-level girls—will have something they can hang their hats on,” said Mr. Bramoff. Modified-level refers to the middle school team of seventh and eighth grade athletes. Although it’s anticipated the team would primarily consist of girls, boys would be welcome to join as well.

The distinction between traditional and competitive cheerleading is measured by its intensity. In competitive cheerleading, the girls leave the mat, vaulting into the air with athletic flips and tricks, while in traditional cheering, other than the occasional lift, their feet remain on the ground. Competitive cheerleading is a modernized version of the sport in which girls’ athleticism and teamwork come first.

Bridgehampton, a prekindergarten through grade 12 school with an enrollment of less than 200, depends heavily on shared sports services with neighboring districts in Sag Harbor and East Hampton. A competitive cheerleading team, Mr. Bramoff said, would draw in girls from those schools, which do not have their own programs, and give Bridgehampton a new point of pride.

Sag Harbor has already expressed interest in a combined team, said Mr. Bramoff, who told the school board that although the girls from Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor would compete together at their cheerleading meets, they would still do traditional cheerleading on the sidelines at their respective schools separately.

Mr. Bramoff asked the board to support his idea by including “some resources for turning our cheerleading team into a competitive cheerleading team” in the budget for the next school year, 2015-16. The exact cost is yet to be determined.

Section XI, the governing body for school sports in Suffolk County, is looking into how to define a cheerleading team and make it a certified competitive sport on Eastern Long Island. Several questions asked by the board last week have yet to be answered by Section XI, such as the specific costs and whether the team’s season would extend through the whole school year or be separated by different seasons, like fall or winter cheer.

“There are a lot of questions out there and the reason that I want to do this…our girls need something,” said Mr. Bramoff, adding, “We’ve had great cheerleading teams here forever and we’ve put resources into it and I think, as everybody else adapts, I think it would be advantageous for us to say, you know what, we still have the best cheerleading team and we’re going to hang the banners on the wall.”

Mr. Bramoff does not think it’s possible to maintain both a competitive cheerleading program and a girls basketball program, but said, “obviously, if we have [girls] that would like to play basketball, we still have that relationship with Sag Harbor.”

The board gave Mr. Bramoff the go-ahead to further explore the creation of a team.

The next meeting of the school board will be on January 28, 2015, in the Bridgehampton School cafeteria.

New Vote Set for January 20 in Bridgehampton

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John O’Brien, Phil Cammann and the district’s attorney Brad Pinsky discussed the vote at a meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

Update, 10:15 a.m., December 11

By Stephen J. Kotz

The two candidates in the disputed Bridgehampton fire commissioner election have agreed to a rematch on January 20.

Results of Tuesday’s election were first delayed because of questions surrounding a confusing ballot. After John O’Brien was declared the winner by one vote over Phil Cammann, election workers, while reviewing voting records, raiseed the question of whether two voters who cast ballots lived in Bridgehampton.

Brad Pinsky, the district’s attorney, said it was determined that the two voters did not live in the district, throwing the outcome in doubt.

The two voters apparently voted for Mr. O’Brien becasue Mr. Pinsky said if only those two were thrown out, the election would have swung to Mr. Cammann. He added, though, that the results could have been challenged successfully in court, so both candidates agreed to the second runoff.

A second vote on a proposition to extend the vesting period for the district’s volunteer pension plan from one to five years of service has not yet been scheduled.

Voting will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the firehouse.

Original story:

It’s a tie. We have a winner. No, wait a minute. Those were the messages coming from the Bridgehampton Fire District on Wednesday after election officials, citing a confusing ballot, were unable to declare a winner in the commissioner race that pitted former chief and longtime firefighter John O’Brien against paramedic Phil Cammann.

After a meeting with the two candidates, district secretary Barbara Roesel and the district’s attorney, Brad Pinsky, on Wednesday afternoon, poll workers Harry Halsey, Jean Smith and Barbara Damiecki, who reviewed three ballots that had given them pause Tuesday night, said they were ready to certify Mr. O’Brien the winner by a single vote over Mr. Cammann.

But less than a half hour later, Mr. Pinsky informed reporters covering the meeting by telephone that officials were questioning the residency of two voters. Given the razor sharp margin that had Mr. O’Brien receiving 91 votes and Mr. Cammann 90, that could force the whole election to be thrown out.

O'Brien

John O’Brien

Mr. Pinsky said he would research the district’s options but could not provide a timetable for when he would have an answer.

Earlier on Wednesday, after reviewing a number of ballots, Mr. Pinsky said the district would have to hold another vote on a proposition seeking to require that volunteers turn in five years of service before being vested in the district’s length of service pension plan. They are currently vested after only one year.

But the ballot, which directed voters to place a X or check mark “in front” of their choice, only had a line following the Yes line and nothing following the No line, making it difficult, if not impossible, for election officials to clearly decipher the intention of voters.

Earl Gandal, who ran unopposed for district clerk, received 108 votes, to win election, but there were 46 write-in votes, including 42 for outgoing Clerk Charles Butler, who was not seeking another term.

Late last year, the Board of Fire Commissioners, citing unspecified irregularities in bookkeeping procedures stripped Mr. Butler of most of his duties and his salary. He has since filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the district.

After the polls closed Tuesday night, officials spent nearly two hours counting and recounting the ballots before throwing up their hands in frustration, saying they had a tie vote, pending a ruling on three questionable ballots.

At one point, workers, who counted the ballots behind a closed door in the meeting room where the vote took place and barred the public from entering, said it appeared Mr. O’Brien had won by a single vote. After another count, they concluded it was a tie.

Before giving up, they called Mr. Pinsky, who lives in Syracuse, seeking his advice twice. The second time, he asked that someone call Mr. O’Brien’s home to summon him to the firehouse so he and Mr. Cammann, who was already present,  could take part in a conference call to try to declare a winner.

The candidates, Mr. Pinsky, who planned to be in Bridgehampton anyway, and election workers agreed to return to the firehouse at 1 p.m. on Wednesday to try to resolve the matter.

Phil Cammann

Phil Cammann

Mr. O’Brien said the problem surrounded a number of ballots that the workers thought might have to be thrown out because they were improperly filled out. Mr. O’Brien said there were cases in which voters tried to write in candidates but did not add an X or check mark after the name.

“If you wrote someone’s name, obviously you wanted to vote for them,” he said, suggesting that the whole election be declared null and void and a second vote be scheduled.

Mr. Cammann, who watched the vote counting with his father, Fred Cammann, and a reporter, said it came down to “maybe three ballots” that were questionable.

Mr. Cammann on Tuesday had pointed out problems with the ballot, including those with the proposition that Mr. Pinsky cited on Wednesday. Other problems. Mr. Cammann’s name was misspelled, and while voters were asked to mark with an X or check mark in front of the names of the candidates they supported, the blank line actually followed the candidates’ names. Mr. Gandal’s name had been handwritten on the original ballot, which was then copied for distribution to voters.

 

Gifts of Local Creativity at Hayground’s Homegrown for the Holidays

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A pillow by Rachel Foster of "Bizzy Bee Designs," one of the local vendors who will have a booth at Homegrown for the Holidays this Saturday, December 6, at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton.

A pillow by Rachel Foster of Bizzy Bee Designs, one of the local vendors who will have a booth at Homegrown for the Holidays this Saturday, December 6, at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Artisans and creative vendors from across the South Fork will share their crafts, food and ideas at the annual holiday bazaar Homegrown for the Holidays, this Saturday, December 6, at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton. Handmade and custom goods like beach glass jewelry, custom knit hats and ocean inspired pillows will fill dozens of booths.

A fitting follow-up to Small Business Saturday last weekend, Hayground found this year’s vendors through farmers markets held in the summer, its ranks of creative alumni, students and parents, and another local network—artisans who quickly spread the word whenever there’s an opportunity to share their creations.

“The local artisan community is very broad, yet tight-knit,” said Kerri Deuel of Sag Harbor, a Hayground parent and event organizer who reached out to many of this year’s participants.

Over 30 vendors will be in attendance, ranging from 9-year-old Sam and her big sister, Madeline, both Hayground students, to Yu Lu-Bouvier, who is now retired, but began her business, Luluknits, on the train during her daily commute between Westhampton Beach and New York City.

A selection from Ketsy Knits.

A selection from Ketsy Knits.

Ms. Lu-Bouvier, who began knitting with her grandmother as a young child, now sells handmade sweaters and custom hats for babies and children.

“I like those art events because people are so crazy, you always get new ideas and people are so proud of their products,” Ms. Lu-Bouvier said, adding the bazaar and other markets at Hayground are “not like Macy’s [where] the sales person knows nothing about the product—the way to use it, how it comes [as a] specialty—no one knows everything, but in a farmers market, people can give [customers] stories about what they made.”

Mary Jaffe, who has been making pottery on the East End for 35 years, enjoys shows because of the opportunity to teach others about the creative process behind her bowls, vases, platters and other “functional ware.”

“Once the community is involved, they spread the word and it grows very organically,” said Ms. Deuel, adding there will be a “great mix” of new items and favorites from years past.

Madeline, 12, and Sam, 9, started their Etsy store, Ketsy Knits, in August. Sam makes hand-beaded jewelry and Madeline knits colorful hats, scarves and other warm clothes. The girls sell what they make online and give half their proceeds to charitable organizations supporting children in Haiti, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

“Everything is made by the two of us, and we knit/make every piece with love,” said Madeline, who has been knitting since she was 8 and was making hats for premature babies in  neonatal intensive care units by 9. Sam learned to make jewelry at Hayground, in an after school program led by alumnus Ella Engel-Snow.

Designs by the Sea.

Designs by the Sea.

“There are a lot of amazing local artists, and one of the reasons we wanted to participate in the bazaar was because of all the incredible work we saw last year,” Madeline said of she and her sister.

Children who won’t be making sales at the holiday bazaar can enjoy face painting, crafts tables and seeing firsthand how vendors’ childhood hobbies have expanded into impassioned business ventures.

Carol O’Connor started collecting beach glass as a teenager, and now combines beads and beach glass for leather bracelets, beach glass chokers and other “one-of-a-kind pieces that just pop into my head,” she said. The “Designs by the Sea” owner teaches classes on her craft at Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton and sells pieces at local yoga studios Ananda and Good Ground and the Sunrise to Sunset and Flying Point surf shops.

MimiPageJewelry1

Mimi Page Jewelry.

Also inspired by childhood walks exploring the woods searching for “treasures to turn into art pieces or jewelry,” Shelter Island resident Mimi Page will show her self-named jewelry line.

“For as long as I can remember, I have been a ‘gatherer’ type of artist,” said Ms. Page, who has explored various forms, including weaving, ceramics and printmaking, and now makes unique jewelry using sterling silver bezel pendants, stones, pieces of tile, sea glass and “whatever I find interesting,” she said.

“The people who live on the East End of Long Island are unique in that they are drawn to a lifestyle that is more community-centered to begin with, so it’s just in their nature to support the local, homegrown businesses,” said Ms. Page, who added she would rather go cage-diving with sharks in Montauk than anywhere near an outlet center this time of year.

When they support small businesses, added Ms. Page, shoppers are “directly helping someone in your community live their dream and follow their passion.”

There will be plenty of local food on hand, including Lorna’s Nuts, owned by Lorna and Walter Cook of East Hampton, who have doubled their business in the past year and expanded from three flavors to 14 since starting in 2012. Former Hayground parent Anastasia Karloutsos will serve her Old School Favorites, “simple and delicious” chocolate sauce and nuts covered in maple.

A selection of Lorna's Nuts.

A selection of Lorna’s Nuts.

“Really, it is these small shows, speaking with customers, getting to know other vendors that really gets your product out there,” she said. “If you have one enthusiastic person at your booth that person can bring over so many others. The people who want to support and buy local are so very important to our small business.”

“We are very fortunate to live and work on the East End,” added Deborah Lukasik, who founded Southampton Soap Co. with partner Chris O’Shaughnessy. “Local artisans all network and cross promote one another’s brands and products. Everyone thinks about who might be a good contact for someone—I love that.”

Homegrown for the Holidays is Saturday, December 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hayground School, 151 Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton. For more information or to become a vendor, contact Kerri Deuel at greenmama@optonline.net.

SOFO Holding Toy Drive

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The South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center has announced that it will hold its first annual Holiday Toy Drive this year. The drive began on Monday, December 1, and will run through Friday, December 19, and will benefit local families in need.

SoFo is asking visitors to drop off at its center at 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton new or gently used, unwrapped toys for children from infant age through early teens. The First Church of God in Christ, The Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, and the First Baptist Church of Bridgehampton, all located nearby, will distribute the toys to children for the holiday season.

“SoFo is committed to giving back to the East End community,” said Frank Quevedo, the museum’s executive director, in a press release, “and we can’t think of a better way to honor our families than by helping ensure that all children enjoy this special holiday season.”

“We are delighted to work with our neighbors, the First Church of God in Christ, the Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, and the First Baptist Church of Bridgehampton on this important project,” added Mr. Quevedo.

“We invite everyone who can to join us in our Holiday Toy Drive,” said Diana Aceti, the museum’s new director of development. “We thank all of our donors for helping SoFo brighten the holidays of children in our community.”

The mission of the South Fork Natural History Museum & Nature Center is to stimulate interest in, advance knowledge of, and foster appreciation for the natural environment, with special emphasis on the unique natural history of Long Island’s South Fork. SoFo is a not -for-profit  membership, nature organization chartered by the New York State Department of Education in 1989. SoFo is dedicated to promoting nature education, in the museum and in the field, through hands on study of the South Fork’s native flora, fauna, and ecosystems.

SoFo is located at 377 Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton. It can be found at sofo.org on the web. The museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  For more information, call (631) 537-9735.

Carrot Tasting Goes to the Root of the Vegetable

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Ric Kallaher photograhy

Ric Kallaher photograhy

By Kathryn G. Menu

Colin Ambrose

Colin Ambrose

It all started with a bland carrot.

Standing in his restaurant kitchen garden on the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike in September of 2013, restaurateur and chef Colin Ambrose crunched down a newly harvested carrot fresh from the soil. It looked great—bright orange, long and tapered—but the flavor wasn’t there. Mr. Ambrose, who has been at the forefront of the local, fresh food movement on the East End since his days at the helm of the original Estia in Amagansett in the 1990s, hatched a plan then and there to gather together local farmers, gardeners and chefs in a growing experiment aimed at identifying keys to successfully cultivating different carrot varieties.

And the results were delicious.

Earlier this month, on a cool Wednesday before the first frost, a group of chefs, farmers and journalists gathered at Mr. Ambrose’s Estia’s Little Kitchen for a tasting of raw and blanched carrots produced as a part of this experiment, as well as a variety of composed dishes inspired by the multi-hued root vegetable. Mr. Ambrose had the event filmed, and hopes to make this an annual tradition—exploring various root vegetables with the experts that grow them, but also the East End chefs that serve them, specifically those that support local farms or have their own kitchen gardens.

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The concept was simple. Mr. Ambrose ordered a control seed, the Scarlet Nantes Carrot, and distributed it to a select group of farmers. These included growers from poet/farmer Scott Chaskey, the director of the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, Marilee Foster, a farmer and author who runs Foster Farm on Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack to Jeff Negron, a restaurant kitchen gardener who worked with Mr. Ambrose on his own garden, and who currently works the kitchen gardens at Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton and The Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton. Sag Harbor’s own Dale Haubrich, who owns Under the Willow Organics with Bette Lacina just yards away from the Little Kitchen, was also invited to participate. Each farmer also planted their own choice crop of carrots for the tasting and paired up with a local chef who presented a complete dish with carrots as inspiration.

Bay Burger manager and sous chef Andrew Mahoney presented a bright, light carrot panna cotta. Todd Jacobs, of Fresh Hamptons, also located on the Turnpike, offered zesty carrot fritters with a yogurt dipping sauce. Joe Realmuto and Bryan Futterman of Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton offered Harissa carrots, spicy and blanched perfectly, leaving just a slight crunch. Chris Polidoro, a private chef, offered steamed and lightly fried gyoza, and Topping Rose House pastry chef Cassandra Schupp presented mini carrot cake squares, moist and a nice sweet treat at the end of a row of savory dishes.

Mr. Ambrose, having the most fun with the subject, crafted McGregor’s Fall Garden Pie, filled with braised rabbit, leeks, kale, and of course, carrots, topped with luscious mashed potatoes.

And while the room, filled with friends, quieted as the food was served to satisfying groans of approval, it was when discussing the carrots, and the growing process, that it was most alive.

While Mr. Ambrose is a chef, and a restaurateur with a second Estia—Estia’s American—in Darien, Connecticut, it was on his grandmother’s garden in Whitewater, Wisconsin, that he truly developed a passion for food. Serving fresh, seasonal produce is something Mr. Ambrose has made a priority in his kitchens for over two decades. Five years ago he set out to create a kitchen garden like nothing the Little Kitchen had ever had before, working with Mr. Negron for three years before setting out on his own to tend to vegetables and fruits that make their way onto the restaurant’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

Mr. Negron, who noted that Mr. Ambrose was the chef that gave him his first real chance at developing a formal kitchen garden for a commercial business, said for this exercise he grew Purple Haze carrots for Nick & Toni’s and a White Satin variety as well as a mixed bag of carrot varieties for The Topping Rose House.

Both Mr. Negron and Mr. Chaskey (“my guidance counselor in all things,” said Mr. Ambrose) noted that the Purple Haze variety of carrot has a hue that mimics the original carrot in vibrant bright purple with red and orange undertones. Carrots were then bred to the traditional orange hue, said Mr. Chaskey. Interestingly enough, he added, now at markets and on farms, requests for multi-colored, and purple carrots are on the rise, returning to the roots of that vegetable, so to speak. “Orange is not how they started, but we are going back to that,” he said.

Soil nutrients and composition, as well as seed variety and soil temperature, all play a role in the development of each carrot and the characteristics it will have in terms of its flavor profile.

“Today is November 12,” noted Mr. Ambrose at his event. “And it is kind of interesting to note that we have not had a hard frost yet. That was not part of the plan, but that is what happens with growing.”

Carrots, said Mr. Chaskey, become sweeter after the first hard frost—a seasonal moment that sets a natural timeline for when farmers want to harvest their carrot crop. An unseasonably warm fall, and the absence of a hard frost before Mr. Ambrose’s carrot tasting, led to more mild carrot varieties.

“I know one thing in planting,” said Mr. Ambrose, “If I plan on one thing, another is going to happen.”

“It’s kind of the year before that matters,” said Ms. Foster, talking about prepping soil for planting. “Is your pH where you want it?”

Ms. Foster plants her carrots in a raised bed, tilling the soil with a rototiller to allow for depth, but also greater germination. Keeping the soil damp throughout the growing process, she added, is key.

Once the seeds are set, said Mr. Chaskey, keeping an eye on weed growth is critical.

“Well, we don’t have weeds,” said Mr. Chaskey. “They are not allowed.”

“That is what you have to worry about because carrots take a long time to germinate—sometimes in the spring up to three weeks, so there are going to be some weed seeds that germinate before them, so the most important thing you can do is get ahead of the weeds.”

Thinning out the carrot crop, for size and shape, said Mr. Chaskey, is another choice each farmer must make.

“Then you just stand back, watch them grow, and then harvest.”

Mr. Chaskey said after this experiment he intends to plant the Bolero variety of carrot at Quail Hill next year–a hybrid carrot, although the farm traditionally does try and plant open pollinators as much as possible.

“It grew twice the size and it tastes better and has great storability,” said Mr. Chaskey of the Bolero.

As a chef, Mr. Jacobs, who works with Mr. Haubrich and Ms. Lacina for much of Fresh’s produce, said each season brings different challenges.

“One season, carrots might be great,” he said. “Another they might not be great. No two years are ever alike. We plant and we hope.”

“We all had different approaches, but the same goal, which was to put sustainably raised food on the table,” said Mr. Ambrose in an interview after the carrot tasting.

Next up? Beets, said Mr. Ambrose, who wants to spend the next 18 months working on a series of tastings revolving around root vegetables, ending likely with garlic.

“I would like to put together a series of informational videos for potential farmers and home cooks with enough collective knowledge to be able to set a bed, make choices in terms of seeds, learn about the growing cycle.”

“We need to start thinking more about the food we are producing and putting on the table,” said Mr. Ambrose. “Vegetables need to be given greater priority, and grains as well.”

While examining the big picture of sustainable food production, Mr. Ambrose said it just made sense to start at the root.

 

 

Nancy Stewart Bagshaw Encourages Grieving Families to Remember in “Finding Five”

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The cover of "Finding Five," by Nancy Stewart Bagshaw, published by Seagull Books, an imprint of Leo Publishing, and available now on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble.

The cover of “Finding Five,” by Nancy Stewart Bagshaw, published by Seagull Books, an imprint of Leo Publishing, and available now on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble.

By Tessa Raebeck 

For those growing up on the East End, beachcombing is as much a hobby as swinging at playgrounds or riding bikes. Children traverse the shorelines for hours, finding beach glass, washed up blue crabs and rare shells, skipping rocks and chasing seagulls.

Exploring the beaches to find nature’s treasures was one of Nancy Stewart Bagshaw’s favorite ways to spend time with her niece, Katy Stewart, a beloved young member of the Sag Harbor community who died in 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer. In her new book inspired by those days spent at the beach, “Finding Five,” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw encourages others to embrace the memories of those who have died, rather than shying away from mentioning them out of heartache and grief.

“I feel as though sometimes it’s an unspoken rule not to discuss those who’ve passed, because I think people are cautious about being hurtful or mentioning something that’s painful, and I think there are the right times and the right places to have those conversations,” the author said Monday.

On the day her niece Katy first went to the hospital complaining of a stomachache, Ms. Stewart Bagshaw found a remarkable piece of beach glass in bright turquoise, nearly as big as her palm with unique ridged markings. She was thinking about Katy when she saw the smoothed glass, the most beautiful piece she had ever seen.

The vibrant sea glass became a charm for Ms. Stewart Bagshaw after Katy was diagnosed with cancer—a connection to her vibrant young niece, who still loved combing the beach with her.

“It kind of morphed,” she said of the sea glass, “and I thought, ‘this is life, you get things that are tough, like broken glass—it can cut, it can hurt—but time seems to smooth that away, and that’s maybe a connection to the book too—it takes the edges off of grief.”

Katy died nine months before her 13th birthday. Anxious and unsure of how best to commemorate that day when it came, her aunt decided to walk the beach, thinking of all the time they had spent combing the shores of Sag Harbor and Riverhead, Ms. Stewart Bagshaw’s home.

While honoring her niece’s birthday with their favorite activity, she found a piece of blue sea glass that matched Katy’s eyes. A minute later, there was a sand dollar, an unusual, exciting find. During that walk, feeling as though her niece was somehow guiding her, Ms. Stewart Bagshaw found a remarkable total of five sand dollars.

She was able to address her grief through the happy memories of combing the beach with Katy, and the sand dollars seemed to be a symbol that Katy was still there with her in some way. She found comfort through the continued appreciation of what Katy loved.

"Finding Five" author Nancy Stewart Bagshaw.

“Finding Five” author Nancy Stewart Bagshaw.

In “Finding Five,” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw hopes to encourage other grieving families to remember those who have died by sharing memories, laughing over happy stories and continuing to enjoy their favorite things, rather than avoiding them out of heartache.

“Connections are what we need in relationships, so if you take time to encourage those and think about those, I think you’ll do yourself such a huge favor, so I’m hoping that’s what people will get from the book,” she said.

The story, which she calls “a little book with a big message,” started as a short assignment in Dr. Erica Pecorale’s class at Long Island University, where Ms. Stewart Bagshaw, who teaches Spanish at the Bridgehampton School, is earning her second master’s degree in literacy. Soon, it evolved into a full story dedicated to Katy and her younger brother, Robert. Published just last month by Seagull Books, an imprint of Leo Publishing, “Finding Five” is already one of the 100 best selling books for social issues on Amazon, and is also available at Barnes & Noble.

But it began on the beach.

“To me, the beach is the best place—the view is never the same any two days, the weather changes, the tide changes, the shoreline changes,” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw said.

Katy Stewart, 12, passed away in 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer.

Katy Stewart, 12, passed away in 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer.

“A lot of the writing process, as far as thinking things through, did take place on beach walks. I thought of how I would begin it on a beach walk, I thought of how I would end it on a beach walk, I decided to connect the five petals on a sand dollar with five things that Katy loved on a beach walk,” she added.

Those beach walks not only helped pin down the vision for her book, they also allowed Ms. Stewart Bagshaw to work through her grief by embracing her many memories of beachcombing with Katy.

The turquoise sea glass Ms. Stewart Bagshaw found when Katy was first sick, which stayed in her pocket through the ups, downs and surgeries, now sits in her window with the light shining through it, a daily reminder of her niece’s own vibrancy.

“She was just amazing, because she was always interested in what people were doing and what they enjoyed and it’s almost like her natural curiosity kind of sparked this [focus in ‘Finding Five’ on] what do people enjoy, just that question, what do they care about?” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw said. “Because it tells so much about a person—when you know what they love, you really have a better understanding of a person. That’s why I want to encourage people to know what the people around them love.”

“Everyone has to individually see what that grieving process is like and go through it as best they can,” she added, “and if they see [‘Finding Five’] as a bridge across a challenge, a helpful tool to make things a little bit easier, then I couldn’t ask for more.”