Tag Archive | "Bridget Fleming"

Merchants Air Concerns

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Candidate Steve Bellone pays village a visit.

Several familiar refrains were heard last Friday when Democratic candidate for Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, took a tour of Sag Harbor’s Main Street. Bellone was accompanied by Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce President Robert Evjen and Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, and was later joined by County Legislator Jay Schneiderman making it a visit to several local businesses to learn about merchant’s concerns.

Chief among them seemed to be getting consumers to the village, and then providing parking for them when they arrive.

“Even in winter parking is an issue,” said Jessica Kenny, owner of Satori. “Customers can’t always find a place close to the business. People aren’t going to walk in the cold to shop.”

Acknowledging the parking problem, Schneiderman suggested the village consider developing a two-tier parking garage on the property that once housed the big blue gas ball.

Bellone added the county has resources that can be made available to small business districts, including grants for downtown development. He conceded that those resources are largely targeted at less robust business districts, but said the village would nevertheless be able to benefit from the program.

During a visit to the Variety Store, where Bellone was greeted by owner Lisa Bucking, Schneiderman announced he had hoped to start a Friends of the Long Wharf committee, which would be responsible for raising funds to maintain the wharf, which most acknowledged was key to local parking. The county, which owns the wharf, is currently debating whether to keep it or sell it to the village.

Schneiderman said a committee is already being established with representatives from the village and county administrations to negotiate a potential sale.

At the Wharf Shop, owner Nada Barry agreed with others that business is impacted by the Internet.

Thirty years ago, said Barry, the local merchants held promotions like treasure chests and drawings to attract business; but she acknowledged these kinds of events might not be successful in today’s market.

Barry also bemoaned the impending hurricane, and complained “this storm is going to cost us a fortune.”

Her grandson, she said, has a maritime-based business and speculated Hurricane Irene would cost him four days of business.

“We all will be affected by this,” she said.

Bellone said he would like to find ways to increase foot traffic in the village, and Schneiderman raised the proposed passenger ferry which would link Sag Harbor to Greenport and other East End villages.

“I’m all for it,” said Barry. “We’re a motorboating community.”


- Boyhan


Luxury Events Nixed

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By Claire Walla


When luxury event planning company Gilt City was banished from its Hamptons headquarters at a house on Fithian Lane in East Hampton just last week, the New York City-based company packed up and moved west.

After securing a rental at 1432 Scuttlehole Road in Bridgehampton — another home zoned in a residential district — Gilt City continued to advertise high-priced Hamptons sojourns, which were to be based out of the Bridgehampton home. Southampton Town officials were not pleased.

“What we’re doing today is taking action,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said at a special board meeting held last Friday, August 12. With regard to two walk-on resolutions introduced by Councilwoman Nancy Graboski — one in reference to the house in Bridgehampton and the other in reference to a similar case at 2136 Deerfield Road in Noyac — the board voted unanimously to grant Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato the authority to “take any action necessary” to eliminate these illegal rental scenarios.

With regard to Deerfield Road, Mark Humphrey, a neighbor of the alleged party house, said before the town board: “This house is a nightmare.”

He continued to explain that the house has been “a nightmare” for four consecutive summers. “I have called the police on this particular renter no less than five times this summer,” he added. “One time, I couldn’t’ even find my driveway, there were so many cars… and I live across the street!” He estimated there have been up to 30 cars spilling out from the property’s main drive on any given night.

“The Town of Southampton has taken a hard stance on these kinds of situations, where a residential property is being used [illegally], whether as a prom house or a party house,” Graboski continued. She noted that the town adopted a more stringent rental code a few years ago, which grants town officials more control over rental properties in Southampton.

“And we’ve tightened up our special events law,” she continued. While “not-for-profits or entities that will benefit non-for-profits [are permitted] to hold special events, that’s usually on a one-night basis,” she clarified. More importantly, she added, “the law does not permit the operation of a business” out of a rental property.

Punctuating the importance of this decision, Councilman Jim Malone requested to be a co-sponsor of the resolution because of what he twice referred to as the “gravity of the situation.” Councilwoman Bridget Fleming followed his lead, co-sponsoring the resolution, as well.

Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato said because both homes have been issued a number of violations, including having no rental or special event permits, she is seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) against them, which would bar the current renters from occupying the homes. As of this week, Scarlato said “the TRO was denied,” though she wouldn’t elaborate on the reasons why. However, representatives for both homes are due in court this Friday, August 19.

“The town will continue to keep a very sharp eye on exactly what’s going on in both of these houses,” Scarlato confirmed. “We will continue to act in a way that is beneficial for the neighborhood and the town.”

At least, Scarlato continued, since last Friday’s special board meeting “things were relatively quiet” at both homes over the weekend. While the town continues to take action to enforce the multiple violations issued both properties, Scarlato seemed pleased to know that, at the very least, Friday’s meeting helped quell the chaos.

Mecox Yacht Club Waits for OK

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By Claire Walla


The Southampton Town Board is close to making a decision on whether or not to grant an operating license to the Mecox Sailing Association at the end of Bay Lane in Water Mill. But—with an important permit still pending—the board is not yet ready to weigh-in fully on the case.

After receiving approval from the DEC on June 16, the board is now waiting from the town Conservation Board to see whether or not plans provided by the Mecox Sailing Club to develop the land would be approved. (The Southampton Town Conservation Board met last night at 7 p.m., shortly after this paper went to press.)

At a town board meeting last Tuesday, July 9, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that the town would have to hear back from the conservation board before meeting again with homeowners (many of whom are opposed to the plan) and those representing the proposed sailing club to “iron out” some of the remaining issues both parties have. The town is set to address the issue again at a board meeting September 13.

Assistant Town Attorney Katie Garvin explained that the DEC permit would now allow the sailing club to restore the existing boathouse, “selectively” cut some vegetation in the area and to construct three boat racks on the property. The conservation board will weigh-in on whether the club should be allowed to selectively cut, as Garvin phrased it, “nuisance vegetation.”

“If we don’t get the permit, then I’d like to explore with the conservation board what their alternatives are, or what their issues would be with the plans [as they are now],” Garvin said.

Many community members living on Bay Avenue (which ends at Mecox Bay, where the sailing club is proposed to be built) and nearby Wheaton Way spoke-out at the town board meeting against the plan. Residents primarily cited issues of increased traffic, environmental concerns, fears of property devaluation and even privatization.

“For the life of me, I do not understand why our town and our bay would benefit from privatizing this public space,” said Water Mill resident Stormy Byorum Good.  “I don’t understand what we would benefit from that we don’t have today.”

Similarly, Bay Avenue resident Ted Vittoria said “we have people walking down that street on a regular basis. We have workers who go with their trucks on their lunch hour just to look at the beauty of the bay. If the proposal is allowed, I think it’s going to affect these people to have clear viewing of this beautiful property for free.”

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said the site plan, as proposed will not restrict beach access in any way. Supervisor Throne-Holst added: “the only thing it would do is allow for an entity to provide organized instruction there and the ability to store some boats and equipment there.”

In a statement issued by representatives for the homeowners, the Mecox Bay Civic Association further added that the details of the plan to develop the land and install a sailing school are still undefined.

However, Throne-Holst reiterated that the finer details of the site proposal will be addressed once the town board hears from the Conservation Board.

Split Vote on Beach Parking Compromise

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By Claire Walla


The fight to completely lift parking restrictions on Noyac Bay Avenue has finally been called. On Tuesday, August 9, the Southampton Town Board voted two-to-three to keep a partial restriction in place.

As it stands, 100 feet of space, or room for up to four cars, is open to all residents without restrictions. The rest of the block has posted seasonal “no parking” signs, prohibiting parking between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The issue was initially brought to the attention of Southampton Town officials by several Noyac residents last year after they were surprised to find they were issued parking tickets in the area. Councilman Jim Malone largely spearheaded the effort to develop a compromise between Northampton Colony residents and those in the greater Noyac community, ultimately passing a resolution last month, for the 100 feet of available parking.

However, the end of Noyac Bay Avenue has sparked a greater philosophical debate stretching beyond the Southampton Town board and into the greater East End community. During public hearings on the issue, Southampton Town Trustee Jon Semlear urged the board to lift the parking ban, while representatives from the Surfrider Foundation and CfAR argued that parking restrictions on any town road compromise public access to the town’s waterways.

On these grounds, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming sponsored the resolution to lift all parking restrictions. They were the only town board members to vote in support of it.

“We lost,” said Noyac resident Dr. Stanley Shore, who was vocal in his opposition to restricted parking. He said the significance of the board’s decision this week is not in the fact that parking is now limited. “I can still go there,” he admitted. “There are never more than three cars there at a given time. It’s the principal of the thing that counts,” he continued. “Because there are no other [parking restrictions] in any of the other 40 streets [in Southampton Town] that end in the bay.”

He was disappointed by the town’s vote, particularly councilman Jim Malone’s. “He just caved in, even though he was the one who started the whole thing,” Shore lamented.

“I’m disappointed,” Fleming said in an interview Wednesday. “I’m very disappointed the majority chose to vote against the fundamental right [for all residents] to have access to our waterways. One of the essential ways to protect our waters is to ensure access. It’s part of the essential value of where we live. And certainly, as a Noyac resident, it’s one of the essential aspects of this community.”

Northampton Colony residents have a different perspective on the matter. Noyac Bay Avenue sits between the Northampton Colony clubhouse, which is paid for and maintained by local homeowners, and the Northampton Colony Marina, a private docking area.

The parking restrictions were put in place a couple years ago when neighbors said there was an increase of thefts in the marina, as well as instances of beach goers using Northampton Colony beach club facilities without authorization.

Larry Tullio, who is the harbor master at the marina, said he didn’t understand why the town had put forth a motion to lift the parking ban entirely after the community had already come up with a compromise. He wanted the town “to just leave it the way it is,” with room for up to four cars.

“We made a compromise and [the town] respected the compromise,” Tullio added. “That’s what I expected them to do.”

Update: Parking Ban in Noyac

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By Claire Walla

On Tuesday, July 26 Southampton Town Board will vote on a resolution to lift the partial parking ban now in effect on Noyac Bay Avenue in Noyac.
Earlier this month, town board member Jim Malone sponsored a resolution to compromise on 100 feet of unrestricted parking on the south side of Noyac Bay Avenue, which dead-ends at a channel leading into a private marina. However, after numerous residents in the greater Sag Harbor area and several more East Enders supporting beach access rights continued to fight to lift the ban completely, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst pushed to put another resolution on the agenda that would do just that.
At previous town board meetings, Throne-Holst, Malone and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming have openly expressed their support of lifting the parking restrictions entirely, claiming beach access to be a fundamental right for those in the town of Southampton.
While Councilman Chris Nuzzi has said he, too, supports beach access, he has previously expressed an unwillingness to take action beyond the 100-foot compromise that’s already been adopted by the town.

Trustees Irked by Waterfront Plan

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By Claire Walla

For several years, Southampton Town officials have made attempts to create a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP), but nothing ever came to fruition. This year, the town is confident plans to finally institute the plan will succeed. However, the Southampton Town Trustees — which have jurisdiction over all town waterways up to the high-water mark — want nothing to do with it.

“The LWRP delves into everything the trustees do,” said trustee Ed Warner. “It’s just going to complicate the whole process.”

At a trustee meeting last Monday, January 3, members voted to pass a resolution exempting the trustees’ jurisdiction from any proposed LWRP. According to the resolution, “the Trustees do not wish any town agency to include any lands or structures under trustee jurisdiction in any application to New York State, specifically any Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.”

LWRPs are administered and approved by the state. So, even though the planning document is prepared at the local level, a state representative will work with the town to analyze local land and water systems and ultimately form a comprehensive plan for future growth and development.

Town trustees worry that adding another layer of bureaucracy will merely elongate the time it takes them to make decisions.

“It could take years for a simple rule change,” Warner added. “Now, we can make a decision right away. For example, if we had a major coastal storm and 50 people needed sandbagging, [with the state involved] we wouldn’t be able to expedite that process.”

A Southampton Town steering committee has been created to discuss the prospect of implementing an LWRP. It is composed of Southampton Town Land Management officials, as well as Warner and town councilwoman Bridget Fleming.

“The town has no interest in changing the authority of the trustees,” Fleming said. But, she added, there are certain issues — like stormwater runoff — that bridge the divide between water and land regulations.

“Stormwater affects what the trustees do, but they can’t regulate that,” she said adding that this is one area where a comprehensive plan would come in handy.

Fleming said she welcomed hearing the trustees’ concerns, because the steering committee hopes to tease out any issues in order to implement a plan that has more perks than not.

“One objection [to the LWRP] is that it might introduce additional regulations,” she said. “This is important to consider, but we also need to look at how land-use regulation affects the quality of our waterways. [The LWRP] gives us an opportunity to consider that in a holistic way.”

At a meeting of the trustees on December 20, members heard from several trustees in neighboring districts with LWRPs of their own, like East Hampton and Southold. They also heard from Robert Herrmann, a consultant who studied the affects of these LWRPs.

Hermann explained that the LWRP has made many processes more cumbersome, such as issuing site-specific permits. He added that the town has to fill out pages and pages of compliance reviews and assessments, then wait for the Department of State approve them, or not.

“I don’t think that the Southold Town Board fully contemplated what they were adopting until it was adopted and they saw the results of it,” Herrmann said.

However, Fleming reiterated the benefits of such a plan.

“This is a big town, and we have an extensive waterway system. [Forming a comprehensive plan] is not going to happen naturally,” she said, and explained that the town welcomes state aid for such a complex project.

“An LWRP would provide a comprehensive plan for the waters,” she added. “And if it’s also a revenue source for grant money in the future, then that’s a good thing we shouldn’t reject out of hand.”

At this point, even though the trustees have opted out of being governed by a proposed LWRP, Fleming said the town will still work with the trustees as LWRP discussions continue.

“We still value the trustees’ opinions,” she said. “Even if they’re not regulated [by an LWRP], they’re going to help inform it.”

Two Candidates Have a Conversation With Noyac

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By Bryan Boyhan

The two candidates for the vacant seat on the Southampton Town board visited the Noyac Civic Council on Tuesday night. While the event was billed as a conversation with the community, the two only spoke to each other briefly, to exchange hellos, and were only in the Old Noyac School House at the same time for a moment as one was just leaving as the other arrived.

Individually the two spoke to about forty members of the civic council in an informal introduction to themselves intended to demonstrate how they will handle themselves if elected.

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“At the end of every month my wife and I balance our checkbook, that is how I will balance your money,” Republican candidate Bill Hughes told the audience.

Hughes will be retiring from the Southampton Town Police Department in March as a lieutenant after 29 years on the force. A recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, he joined the US Air Force at the age of 19.

Much of the dialogue Hughes had with the councul members focused on his background wit the police force.

Civic council treasurer Nicholas Metz asked if Hughes agreed with former town supervisor Linda Kabot’s attempt to retire several officers as a cost saving measure because they had been in the department of more than 20 years.

“I don’t want to say yes or no,” said Hughes. “In concept it’s a good idea; but you have to look at the particular situation.”

Hughes mentioned that the officers selected by Kabot were officers who had a high rate of absence from service.

“You have to see if the reason was they were injured in the line of service. Is that fair,” he asked.

“But, as a matter of policy, to save money, you can replace them with younger officers,” countered Metz.

“You need experienced officers,” observed Hughes. “To axe someone just because they’ve hit 20? No.”

Resident Paul Bailey asked Hughes how he would control speed and conjestion on Noyac Road.

Hughes said the town should take ownership of the road, which is presently owned by Suffolk County.

“Then we can do what we want.”

He suggested straightening out the road in front of the Whalebone/ Cromers parking lot, and suggested rumble strips as a way slowing traffic.

“Enforcement, though, is the biggest deterrent,” he said.

Asked how else he would help the town, Hughes, who lives in Hampton Bays, said: “I have a common sense attitude. I’m not looking for a bigger agenda, I’m looking for a smaller agenda.”


Bridget Fleming, who is endorsed by the Democratic and Independence parties, told the council members she was happy to be home. In fact she lives down the street from where the meeting was being held in Pine Neck.

A former attorney in New York City District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office, Fleming currently has a practice on Main Street in Sag Harbor.

Asked if her practice would interfere with her council duties, Fleming said she would scale back her job, and focus more on the part of her practice that does not require court time.

Metz observed that current supervisor Anna Throne-Holst recently reversed a decision by her predecessor, giving many employees back their town cars.

“How do you feel about that,” asked Metz.

“I don’t think it makes sense to use town resources on personal time,” said Fleming; but she added that, for many town employees, it makes financial sense for them to have a car.

One man asked if the crowds of day laborers who currently gather in Southampton Village were to move into the town’s jurisdiction would Fleming champion the building of a hiring hall.

“I’m not sure the concern they will migrate is a real one,” said Fleming. “They’re right where the bus drops them. The current leaders put their heads in the sand and blame the federal government.”

Asked how she felt about the proposal for town cops to go on 12-hour shifts, Fleming observed “some have said it’s better for the police; it’s certainly better for their families. It’s a lot more likely cops will call in sick less.”









Sag Harbor’s Fleming Likely Dem Pick for Vacant Southampton Town Board Seat

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Southampton Town Democratic Committee Chairman Gordon Herr confirmed this week that Sag Harbor-based lawyer Bridget Fleming will likely be picked as the democratic candidate in an upcoming special election to fill a vacant seat on the town board. The committee will host an unofficial nominating convention this Thursday, January 7, at an event at the Southampton Inn at 7 p.m. Democratic Committee Chairman Gordon Herr said the screening committee interviewed four nominees for the candidacy in December, though he declined to reveal the names of the nominees. Herr added the screening committee unanimously voted on the final candidate.
Because former councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst was elected town supervisor in November 2009 before her council term expired, her council seat on the town board will remain vacant until the special election. According to acting town attorney Kathleen Murray, the election must be held 60 to 90 days after the position becomes vacant. The council position was empty as of January 1, 2010.
On Wednesday, January 6, Murray said the special election is tentatively scheduled for March 9. She added that a resolution setting this date for election will appear on the town board’s agenda this Friday, January 8, during the organizational meeting. The vote was coordinated with the Suffolk County Board of Elections to coincide with a special election in Brookhaven Town.

The Southampton Town Republican Committee was slated to announce who would run on behalf of the party in the election at a committee meeting on Wednesday, January 6. According to a source with the republican committee, the nominating meeting was adjourned and the vote postponed. Party leaders in both the republican and democratic camps learned from the Suffolk County Board of Elections this week that they cannot official select a candidate before a date for the election has been confirmed. Herr, however, pointed out that a committee is still allowed to name their pick.

“We are still having a meeting [on Thursday]. We are going to present our selection but we won’t be able to officially nominate or vote on a candidate. It is purely technical,” noted Herr.

The nominees interviewed by the Republican Committee included Dr. Tod Granger of Sag Harbor. Dr. Granger established a dentistry practice in Noyac after retiring from 24 years of military service as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was born in Southampton Hospital, raised in Sag Harbor and was a member of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees for five years — from 1988 through 1992. The other nominees were Scott Horowitz of East Qougue, William Hughes of Hampton Bays and Rebecca Molinaro of Remsenburg.

The committee screened the candidates in December at the Villa Tuscano Restuarant in Hampton Bays. At the screening event, former Southampton Town supervisor Linda Kabot thanked the committee for its support, especially in her 2009 bid for re-election. She informed the crowd that she wouldn’t consider running in the special election. Former councilman Dan Russo, who lost his bid for reelection in 2008, was also at the screening event. He told the crowd that he had toyed with the idea of running for the council again but decided against it, said a press release penned by Republican Committee Chairman Ernie Wruck.

East End Digest: May 29 through June 4

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Gospel Benefit

On Saturday, June 6 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. the Maidstone Club in East Hampton will host a gospel benefit for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. Making its first appearance on the East End, “Songs of Solomon,” the award-winning inspirational choral youth ensemble based in Harlem, will perform at the benefit. The world-renowned group, created and led by Chantel Renee Wright, herself an award-winning choral conductor from Chicago, has performed all over the United States and in South Africa. It was at the Gospel Music Workshop of America three years ago that Bonnie Cannon, Executive Director of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center, first heard them.

“They blew me away,” she says. “I knew right then that someday I’d get them out here.”

The high energy group, whose repertoire ranges from gospel and spirituals to jazz and classical music (they sang the Bach Magnificat in D at Carnegie Hall) has performed with such artists as Elton John, Gladys Knight, Earth Wind and Fire and Aretha Franklin.

Chairing the benefit is U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop, who served on the board of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center for five years and remains a member of the advisory board.

“The programs at the Center play a vital role in the lives of so many of our lower income and immigrant families,” he says. “The Center serves what is often an invisible population and I’m grateful to the Maidstone Club for supporting our mission.”

The Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center was born out of tragedy in 1949 when a house fire killed the untended children of migrant farm workers. The shocked community rallied to found the first, community-based migrant child care center in the country. The Center continues to serve the less fortunate on the East End and offers after-school programs, a low cost summer camp, youth programs and adult development services such as ESL and GED. It also hosts Head Start for preschoolers from as far away as Montauk and Westhampton.

For reservations to hear “Songs of Solomon,” call 537-0616. There will also be cocktails, hors-d’oeuvres and a silent auction. Tickets are $150 per person. Seating is limited.

Southampton
Dems Pick Candidates

On Friday evening, May 29, the Southampton Town Democratic Committee nominated its candidates for 2009 during their nomination convention at the Southampton Inn. Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, a Sag Harbor resident, was unanimously nominated for the position of Southampton Town Supervisor. The unity theme was echoed as incumbent councilwoman Sally Pope was nominated to run for a full term. Pope won a special election for her post last November. Bridget Fleming, a Noyac resident and attorney, was also selected to run for the open council seat. The Dems candidate for town highway superintendent is Alex Gregor of Hampton Bays who is the Southampton Town Independence leader.

Sitting Southampton Town Justices Deborah Kooperstein and Barbara Wilson were nominated to continue in their judicial roles. Selected as town trustee candidates by the Democrats were Southampton Town bayman and oyster farmer Bill Pell and Chris Garvey, a Hampton Bays resident and member of the Hampton Bays School Board.

Southampton Town

Board Honors EMS Staff

During last week’s Southampton Town Board meeting, held on Tuesday, May 26, supervisor Linda Kabot honored the town’s emergency medical service workers.

“These individuals truly embody the citizen service has been a cornerstone of our nation’s prosperity since the days of its founding,” said Kabot of the assembled group. “They are among the countless Americans who have stepped forward throughout history to assist others, and they have strengthened their communities in the process. EMS volunteers are a critical asset in every community. They provide care at the scene and on the way to the hospital, which dramatically improves survival and recovery rates.”

Kabot added that the town’s eight different EMS agencies responded to over 5,000 medical calls in 2008. The Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance responded to 620 calls last year, and Bridgehampton Volunteer Ambulance responded to 116.

From May 17 through May 23, the town celebrated EMS week, with the theme being “EMS: A Proud Partner of Your Community.” Initiated by President Richard Nixon in 1973, National Emergency Medical Services Week has been celebrated each year to recognize the accomplishments of those who dedicate themselves to saving others.

Hampton Bays

Video Game Tournament

Two Hampton Bays High School students have organized a Video Game Tournament to be held on Sunday, June 7. The event is open to anyone over the age of 13. In order to compete, participants under 18 must bring a signed permission slip from a parent or guardian. The evening is a fundraiser for the Hampton Bays High School Class of 2010, though a portion of the proceeds from the evening will be donated to a local hospital or charity, yet to be determined. The evening consists of three games: Halo 3 as a team and doubles, Super Smash Brothers Melee and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Each game costs $4. The event will be held at the Hampton Bays Middle School and begins at 10 a.m. For more information call (631) 525-1825.

Peconic Bay

MTA Tax Exemption

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr., has introduced legislation that would exempt all employers within the towns of East Hampton, Southampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold from the provisions of the 0.34 percent payroll tax recently enacted in the 12 county MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) region, as part of the financial bailout of the MTA. Despite the increased taxes and fees in the MTA region, fares on the Long Island Railroad were still increased an average of 10 percent.

The payroll tax will raise an additional $1.5 billion in annual revenue for the MTA. The MTA region has a population of more than 13.1 million people. The Peconic Bay Region has a population of approximately 140,000 or about 1.1 percent of the region.

“The MTA is a bloated bureaucracy that has a demonstrated record of fiscal shortcomings,” Thiele stated. “To throw more money at the MTA without true reform is irresponsible. To increase taxes and fees during a period of deep recession is even more foolhardy. As for the Peconic Bay Region, our year-round residents get minimal service, at best, with just a few trains a day. Further, we already pay an additional [a portion of our] sales tax and a mortgage tax to subsidize the MTA. We will also pay the new fare hikes for their declining service.”

“It has been estimated that as part of the Volpe Study on improved rail/bus service for the East End that we already pay $40 million to $60 million more than we receive in service from the MTA on an annual basis,” continued Thiele. “In short, we pay way too much for way too little. The East End simply does not have the same level of NYC commuters, yet we pay the same as everyone else. The only fair solution is to exempt the East End from the new tax.”

Thiele stated that in addition, he will continue to pursue the option of the establishment of a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority separate from the MTA to provide for the East End’s transportation needs.

NY State Assembly

Clean Act

A broad coalition spanning business, economic development, labor, and environmental groups called on the state last week to place a $5 billion Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act on the November 2009 ballot. New York State Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney convened a hearing in Albany to discuss the merits of the draft legislation that would place the measure on the ballot.

State officials say the measure will invest in long-term improvements to waste water infrastructure, energy efficiency, transit, public health protection and economic development projects; and is expected to provide opportunities for “green-collar” jobs.

Bond act supporters noted the long term benefits of investing in bonding funds. A recent study shows that a $1 billion investment in water and waste water infrastructure creates $3 billion in economic activity and supports up to 26,000 new jobs with an average salary of $50,000. Each $1 billion invested generates $82.4 million in state and local tax revenue.

“Even a conservative view of this bond act suggests that it would create over 100,000 new jobs for New Yorkers. These would be good-paying jobs in management, construction, and innovative industries,” said Jim Melius, administrator NYS Laborers Tri-Funds.

“The last Clean Water and Clean Air Bond Act, which passed in 1996, has been spent down yet the challenges of climate change continue to grow,” added Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “The Clean Water, Clean Air & Green Jobs Bond Act of 2009 will help meet those challenges, while putting New Yorkers back to work and creating permanent taxpayer savings.” ?

Starting a Dialogue on Immigration Reform

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In recent years, immigration on the East End has become a contentious, and often polarizing, issue. Each side — whether it be those who wish to see every undocumented immigrant deported or those who wish to see amnesty for all undocumented immigrants — continues to fight a fierce rhetorical argument against one another. Hoping to bridge the gap between these two groups, US Congressman Tim Bishop, Southampton Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst and New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele teamed up to host a forum titled “Immigration in the Hamptons: Beginning a Community Dialogue” on Friday, March 13, at the Southampton Senior Center in Hampton Bays.

While people waved American flags and held up signs saying “Deport Illegals” outside, Bishop told the audience the current status quo of community relations towards immigrants residing in the East End was “unacceptable.”

“I hope we can come to an understanding … and cut through the ugliness [surrounding this issue] to talk in a civil and respectful fashion,” continued Bishop.

He went on to say that while the federal government has focused much of its efforts on border patrol, internal enforcement of immigration laws have been neglected and the visa program is in disrepair. Bishop hopes the federal government will adopt an “earned citizenship” program for the 12 to 15 million undocumented workers currently living in the country.

Creating a path to “earned citizenship” is a bipartisan solution to the problem, said Bishop, and is an idea which has received backing from Senator John McCain and former President George Bush, Jr. After the forum, Thiele added that this policy of “earned citizenship” would make undocumented workers pay back taxes and other various fines.

There were many people in the audience, however, who criticized this plan saying deportation of all undocumented immigrants was still a viable option. Others said that while the nation waits for a full revision and update of immigration laws, the presence of illegal immigrants creates an economic strain on local residents.

One Hampton Bays resident, who is also a contractor, said he is continually outbid on projects because he uses legal labor, while, he added, other contractors employ undocumented laborers for less pay.

“A lot of people are very angry,” said Ronald Lawandowski, the director of the Patriots Border Alliance for Suffolk County.

However, other attendees, like Sag Harbor lawyer Bridget Fleming, wished this anger was tempered with words of compassion.

“There is no doubt that there is a group of people who are very angry, but I think there is a lot of misunderstanding. [Almost] every single one of those people [in that room] comes from an immigrant family, who were faced with identical challenges when they first arrived [to this country] … The solution to deport everyone is impossible,” said Fleming.

Fleming said she attended the meeting to learn how to inspire cultural acceptance in the Sag Harbor community, in order to avoid tragic situations like the murder of Marcello Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant, in Patchogue this past November.

“I want to make sure that doesn’t happen in our school … Cultivating compassion is the only way we can create a safe, happy and prosperous community,” added Fleming.

Thiele reported that the forum on Friday will be one of many to come. He said the principal goal of the forums was to not only facilitate a dialogue, but to also educate the public on the key facts surrounding immigration and immigration policies.

“Obviously holding one forum in two hours, we are only able to scratch the surface of the issue … It will not be just one meeting [though], but a long process of getting information out there,” he said. “Through conversation and discussion, I do think the larger community can start to reach some kind of consensus.”

He added that in the future, the panels might devote a whole forum on one key issue, such as health care or the economics of immigration. According to Thiele, it is also imperative to discuss issues surrounding immigration today, before tensions between the various groups flare up tomorrow.

“The underlying issues that come with immigration are very much ingrained into the East End community,” said Thiele. “[Immigration] is an issue we will be confronted with for a long time.”

Above: A Southampton Town resident voiced his concerns over immigration at the immigration forum hosted by Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Congressman Tim Bishop.