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Celebrate Earth Day Across the East End

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By Claire Walla

This coming Saturday, Christine Fetton will spend most of her waking hours at the Southampton Town transfer station in North Sea, doing what most people probably consider a most undesirable activity: monitoring trash.

As the director of waste management for Southampton Town, monitoring trash at the town’s transfer station, where she keeps an office, is a relatively routine role for Fetton. However, this Saturday is Earth Day, which means Southampton Town will be holding its annual Great East End Clean-Up (which runs through Sunday).

This time last year, Fetton said the town collected a grand total of 56 tons of garbage.

“I think we’re going to be a little busier this weekend than we are during normal weeks,” she said with a grin.

As in years past, the Clean Up will bring hundreds of East End residents to beaches and parks throughout Southampton Town for a conscientious environmental cleanse in the name of Earth Day, the one day out of the year when communities around the world make an effort to beautify their immediate surroundings.

In addition to the Great East End Clean Up, residents here will also be able to take part in a smattering of other nature-oriented events. The South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center (on the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike) will host a cleanup of its own at Sagg Main Beach from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 21, followed by an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The open house will not only include a Live Raptor and Animal Show at 1 p.m., but also a walking tour that requires nothing but your eyes and a working cell phone.

“You dial a number on your cell phone and it goes to a recording with information about that stop [on the nature walk],” said Nature Educator Lindsay Rohrbach.

Out in Montauk, Earth Day will be widely celebrated on Earth Day’s official date: Sunday, April 22. From 9 a.m. to noon, people will be invited to clean up areas around Edgemere Street (garbage bags will be available at the movie theater), and from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. kids will be able to decorate reusable grocery bags at the Montauk Playhouse.

The emphasis on reusable bags is also a big part of this year’s town-sponsored events in Southampton. During the Great East End Clean Up, trash collectors will be asked to separate single-use plastic bags from the mix. According to Fetton, this accumulation of plastic will be used as data.

“This way we can work to establish a baseline of usage, which we can compare to next year’s numbers,” Fetton explained.

While the town voted against instituting an all-out plastic bag ban (like the one now in place in Southampton Village) earlier this year, it has embarked on an educational campaign, urging residents to limit their dependence on plastic.

This entire effort, called Greener Southampton: The Solution is in the Bag, will be kicked-off this Saturday, as well. Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera and Councilman Chris Nuzzi, in addition to the town’s Sustainability Coordinator Liz Plouff will be at the King Kullen Supermarket on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton from noon to 2 p.m. to discuss the environmental hazards of plastic bags. (Those shopping within that time frame who spend $10 or more at the store will receive a free reusable bag.)

Taking a momentary break from the plastics discussion, Plouff will also talk about the town’s Green Homes initiative, through which homeowners in the town of Southampton can request free audits on their home’s energy efficiency. She will also mention the town’s anti-idling campaign.

In the end, Fetton said there may only be one organized town-wide cleanup in Southampton, but she hopes this year’s educational efforts will have long-lasting effects.

“The key is continuing education,” she said.

While plastic bags may take center stage this year, Fetton said these educational efforts, which have branched out to civic associations and other community groups, try to incorporate all aspects of sustainability, from limiting the use of plastics to diminishing the number of idling vehicles.

“All of these issues mesh very well because they have a ripple effect for one another, and when you live more sustainably you reduce the amount of pollutants in the environment,” Fetton continued. “We have to get away from the mindset that Earth Day is just one weekend out of the year.”

One More Meeting Before Town “Bites the Bullet” on Noyac Road Expansion

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Noyac Road Expansion adjusted

By Claire Walla


For Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, the town has been waffling long enough. Something needs to be done about Noyac Road.

“I think there’s just a point at which we have to take action that is effective before we see more tragedy,” she stated at a town board work session last Friday, February 10. “What are we going to do, wait for someone to get killed before we do something?”

The stretch of pavement in question curls at a small shopping complex between Bay Avenue and Cedar Lane, which includes Cromer’s Market to the east and the Whalebone General Store to the west. Addressing several accidents that have occurred in the area over the years — precisely 47 from 2008 to 2010, according to Southampton Town’s highway superintendent Alex Gregor — the town has sought to make traffic-calming improvements since at least 2003, when a hamlet study identified that intersection as a major traffic risk.

However, town government played hot potato with the project for years, passing it from Land Management to the Planning Board and then the Town Board, before the board finally passed a resolution at the tail end of 2009 to allocate funds to the Highway Department designated specifically for the road construction project.

“There are rumors in the community that the funding was taken away [from this project],” Fleming said at the meeting.

She spoke in reference to an “alert” that had been circulated the previous week by an organization called Spokespeople. The document conveyed the notion that Councilman Chris Nuzzi intended to defund the Noyac Road project.

However, Fleming continued, those rumors are “not true.”

She explained that there was a budget modification at the end of 2010, which reallocated funds that had been reserved for the Noyac Road expansion project to other road repair projects within the Highway Department. But, this was only because — by the end of 2011 — construction had still not begun in Noyac. Fleming reiterated that the money is in this year’s budget.

“It has been in place since 2009,” she added. “We’ve authorized it, and we’re behind that.”

According to Gregor, the reason construction has been halted has to do with indecision in the community as to the best way to execute traffic-calming measures.

The proposed plan — which includes laying in concrete curbing to physically separate the row of shops from Noyac Road — has been through at least 13 drafts, Gregor explained. The current model includes expanding the road slightly to the south and adding three concrete medians in the middle of Noyac Road, plus a left-hand turn lane into the shopping center from the eastbound traffic lane. It also proposes cutting off access from Bay Avenue to Noyac Road.

Currently, Bay Avenue (which runs alongside Whalebone) meets up with Elm Street to the west at a single point, essentially funneling traffic from two roads onto Noyac Road in one spot. This is a major area of concern for Ray DiBiase, an engineer with McLean and Associates, who conducted a traffic study of this section of Noyac Road for the town.

While a normal “T” intersection will have roughly nine total “conflict points,” or areas where traffic accidents are likely to occur; this intersection has 20.

To mitigate this situation, the current plan cuts off access to Bay Lane from Noyac Road. Instead, the parking area extends into the road with a crescent-shaped area DiBiase explained could be used for trucks to park while loading and unloading goods.

However, Whalebone owner Linda Heine opposes the current configuration laid out by the town. And she has a more significant stake than many: her family now owns the triangle of land between Bay and Elm that the town has proposed paving over.

“I agree that something needs to be done, but this is way too much,” Heine said.

She particularly cited issues with the proposed “loading zone,” saying trucks in the area would block visibility to her store; but she also said putting concrete barriers between the parking area and the road is “overkill.”

“I don’t know why the parking has become such a major concern,” she continued. “I understand the safety issue, but anyone who couldn’t back out safely shouldn’t be on the road.”

In the end, Heine said she recognizes the conundrum the town is in, but feels there’s a better way for town officials to address the traffic problems.

In line with Heine’s concerns, the imposition of concrete barriers had some town council members questioning the need for such permanent adjustments — Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera wondered whether striping or rumble strips might be installed instead, and Councilman Jim Malone asked about traffic cameras as a way to prevent speeding in the area.

Both Gregor and DiBiase agree that more permanent fixtures were necessary to not only calm traffic, but prevent cars from swerving on the road.

“They call it a friction theory,” Gregor explained. “If your feeling is that the road is getting smaller, it forces you to drive slower.”

He cited the concrete median outside North Haven Village Hall as a successful example of this concept.

“Our responsibility is to everyone,” Gregor continued. “But, mostly the people walking and cycling the roads.”

Fleming added, “One of the things I’ve heard more and more is that if you make the roads safer for bicyclists, you make them safer for cars, as well.”

Noyac Civic Council President Elena Loreto agreed that something needed to be done. “Let’s face it, it’s dangerous,” she said. “As a bicyclist, I no longer ride on that road because it’s dangerous.”

However, she doesn’t believe the town’s current plan will satisfy all needs.

“I think maybe they need to look at the plan wish fresh eyes and come up with something different, because obviously some of [the plan] is not amenable to some of the store owners,” she said. “It doesn’t mean the town should stop, but maybe we should go back to square one.”

Last week’s meeting concluded when Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst reiterated her commitment to getting something done.

“Let’s have one more meeting,” she continued. “Let’s get as critical a mass [as we can] together at once, then after that I think we need to just bite this bullet and do it.”

Though an exact date and time have not yet been set, the town board is expected to hold a special meeting during the first week in March to address the proposed Noyac Road expansion plan.

Task Force to Crack Down on Building Violations, Like Rose Hill Estate

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By Claire Walla

The Rose Hill Estate is a sprawling mansion with 10 luxurious rooms, a swimming pool and spa, separate pool house, basketball and tennis courts, billiard room, theatre… the list goes on. At monthly rates ranging from $140,000 to $375,000, it bills itself as “the ultimate luxury rental in the Hamptons.”

But it is now also facing numerous zoning code violations brought on by Southampton Town Code Enforcement.

The estate is just one example of such residential problems here on the East End, according to Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi and Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera.

Last Tuesday, February 14 the two town council members — who both serve as liaisons for code enforcement issues — co-sponsored a resolution to reinstate the town’s Housing and Quality of Life Task Force. The task force had been created in 2006 to address problems of overcrowding, but its activities have since decreased — until now.

“It’s been a consistent issue in the town,” Preston Scalera stated.

She added the town receives many complaints from residents regarding unmaintained or illegal residences, and the newly created task force is a way to address those issues in a more timely and effective manner.

“These are very real issues, and people make repeated attempts to try to fix things,” she continued.

Sometimes, though, however diligently the town may be working, it takes months, even years to begin prosecuting some of these cases.

“It gets frustrating for people, and I can understand that,” she added.

The task force will bring a collection of department heads to the same table to streamline the process of investigating these zoning and building code violations, like the case with Rose Hill Estate.

After executing a search warrant earlier this month, Southampton Town Investigations and Enforcement Unit found that portions of the residence — which has a certificate of occupancy for 10 bedrooms, a pool house, a swimming pool and spa — were being converted into an additional two-bedroom apartment “for concierge staff.”

Southampton Town Code Enforcement Officer David Betts said the town itself had been aware of the estate, which was built in 2010. But, the town had also received complaints about the property from neighbors.

The complex, run by Michael D’Alessio, was ultimately slapped with a plethora of violations. They include: no rental permit, transient rental (multiple counts), no building permits (multiple counts), no plumbing or electrical permit for pool house conversion, change of use converting two rooms in the basement to bedrooms and violation of the certificate of occupancy. Concierge staff, Megan Kemper and Matthew Ardley, were also charged for not having a rental permit and issued transient rental violations. All parties are due in Southampton Town Justice Court on March 2.

Employees from Rose Hill Estate didn’t return calls for comment.

“As far as whether they’re still operating, I’m not aware that they are,” Betts continued. “But they’re certainly aware that they’re in violation of the law.”

Betts added that in order for the house to have run the way it had been operating for the past two years, it would require a change of zoning.

“The owner [of Rose Hill Estate] blatantly disregarded the law for his own personal gain at the expense of his neighbors and legitimate area hotels and businesses,” Councilman Nuzzi said in a statement. “Also of great concern are the potential safety issues related to the rooms that were constructed illegally without the proper inspections.”

According to the text of the newly adopted resolution, it is a “priority” for the town to recreate the task force in order to efficiently respond to and prosecute “quality of life violations” in the town.

The organization will meet once a month — or more if needed at the discretion of the town attorney — and will be composed of representatives from several key departments in the town. They include: the attorney’s office, police department, code enforcement, land management (building, zoning and environment), fire marshal, town board and representatives from the town justice court.

“A priority of the task force,” Nuzzi continued, “will be to look at how to prosecute violators, particularly repeat violators, in a more efficient and expeditious manner.”

New Southampton Town Board Member Focuses on Environment

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By Claire Walla


Last Friday marked the four-week point for new Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera. The Republican from Water Mill defeated Independent Party member Brad Bender in a tight race last November for an open seat on the town board.

So, what’s it been like to be at town hall for one month? The Express sat down with the councilwoman to find out.

“I know it’s only been four weeks, but it feels like it’s been four months!” exclaimed Preston Scalera who said she felt almost fully integrated into the fabric of town hall pretty early on.

As the former deputy attorney for Southampton Town and a former councilwoman in Oyster Bay, Preston Scalera said she came into town hall with certain strengths, which she said she’s already put into action.

“My background is planning and zoning,” she noted. “I would very often help people through the myriad of legislation [surrounding such things as building permits], and help them deal with different people in different departments.”

Thus, she is already assisting Councilman Chris Nuzzi in his effort to create a project development council for the town.

According to Preston Scalera, this would be a resource for residents, particularly small business owners, who are in the midst of planning or building projects. The council would advise applicants how to best complete all necessary documentation with the town in the most efficient way possible, to avoid redundancies and superfluous material.

But beyond town hall operations, the councilwoman has already demonstrated a keen interest in environmental issues, and is spearheading the effort to build an educational campaign around the town’s use of plastic bags.

“I’ve been working on that diligently,” she said. “The challenging part of that is trying to get the food industry and the other business entities, and the town’s sustainability committee all on the same page.”

While Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst had pushed efforts to adopt legislation that would effectively ban all single-use plastic bags in the town of Southampton — as has already been done in Southampton Village — Preston Scalera said there are too many interests at stake, which is why she’s helping to promote an education campaign instead.

“I think that an all-out ban, legislation, is the easy way out,” she continued. Getting people to change their habits and stop throwing away plastic bags “takes more thinking outside-the-box. You have to balance the very real goal of protecting our natural resources and minimizing the impact on the business community.”

At this point, Preston Scalera called legislation a “quick fix.” But, she said if education efforts don’t seem to work, then the town might revisit legislation.

In the same vein, Preston Scalera is also beginning to draft legislation that would create a water mitigation fund, which she said would be general enough to apply to both freshwater and coastal mitigation projects.

“It could be used for a whole host of things, like upgrades to septic systems or even projects the [Southampton Town] Trustees are working on,” Preston Scalera said of the proposed fund.

“I also want to change the code so that it would be a town-wide benefit under PDD [Planned Development District] law,” she added. In this way, any construction project that falls under PDD jurisdiction would be able to put money toward water mitigation as a “community benefit,” just like low-income housing and pine barrens restoration.

Most recently, Preston Scalera also said that she completed the rather customary cycle for new board members of official “getting to know you” conversations with town hall department heads. She expects to review their written feedback — details on plans or studies in the works, and upcoming capital projects — in the coming days.

“I want to see where there may be room for us [town board members] to step in and help, or what may need to be put on the backburner,” she explained. “Just as we’ve streamlined staffs, we have to help them run [their departments] efficiently.

“The most challenging thing is constantly looking for that balance,” she continued. “Given our economic constraints, this means [streamlining the town’s workflow] and still getting residents the services they need.”