Tag Archive | "East End"

Barking and Basking, The Seals Return to Montauk for the Winter

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A harbor seal sunning on the jetty at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. (Photo by Tessa Raebeck).

A harbor seal sunning on the jetty at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. (Photo by Tessa Raebeck).

By Tessa Raebeck

While most visitors to Montauk’s beaches come only in the summer months, at least one group prefers to spend the off-season basking in the sun. Harbor seals, once hunted as bounty and nearly depleted in the Northeast, are now abundant on the East End each winter.

Most of the seals in local waters are harbor seals, but grey, hooded, ringed and harp seals have also been spotted. The East Hampton Trails Preservation Society hopes to see at least one type of seal this Saturday, at a guided two and a half mile hike that weaves through a wooded trail along the bluffs in Montauk and ends, ideally, with a display of seals sunning themselves by the shore.

Several Northeast states enacted seal bounty programs in the late 1800s, and substantial catching and hunting contributed to a severe depletion of the seal population in local waters. A bounty program in Massachusetts existed until 1962.

Ten years later in 1972, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act largely prohibited the “take” of marine mammals in U.S. waters or by U.S. citizens anywhere.

The seal population began to recover following its passage, according to Gordon Waring, who leads the seal program at NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

The number of seals on the Long Island shore has continued to rise.

Dr. Arthur Kopelman, field biologist and president of the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI), has tracked changes in seal species, abundance and distribution in the Long Island Sound since 1995.

“What I’ve seen is a dramatic increase in population of harbor seals,” Kopelman said last week.

Harbor seals, Dr. Kopelman said, come down to New York from areas further North and usually stay from September to May, with the population generally peaking in late March in Westhampton Beach, his current area of research.

They have a cute, dog-like appearance and when flared, their nostrils resemble a cartoon heart. About six feet long, harbor seals are various shades of blue-gray, white or brown and covered in speckled spots.

If you’ve seen a seal on the East End, chances are it was a harbor seal.

They represent 95 percent of local seals. Dr. Kopelman counted 55 seals in Westhampton just last week, the vast majority of which were harbor seals.

Montauk has more grey seals than Westhampton, the population ecologist said, although the majority are still harbor seals. He has seen the rocks in Montauk filled with hundreds of barking seals in the past.

If harbor seals look like dogs, grey seals look like horses. Grey seals, larger and more aggressive with long faces and large snouts, account for four percent of the local seal population.

Adult males can weigh as much as 700 pounds; double the size of adult male harbor seals.

Dr. Kopelman said according to anecdotal evidence, the grey seal population in local waters is increasing. Typically classified as seasonal visitors like harbor seals, it appears grey seals – like many before them – have become attached to the area and are staying on the East End year round.

“In fact,” Dr. Kopelman said, “there are some folks who seem to indicate that there’s a year round presence of grey seals out here. Although, again, that’s somewhat anecdotal – but probably correct.”

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation has rescued and rehabilitated many newborn seals recently, but it is not officially confirmed the pups were born in the area.

According to Dr. Kopelman, female harbor seals are often pregnant while here but typically head back North before giving birth to their pups, which can swim minutes after being born. It is “likely,” however, that grey seals are giving birth locally.

The remaining one percent of local seals – harp, hooded and ringed seals – come from as far north as the Arctic.

“They are less frequently encountered,” said Dr. Kopelman, “but they are encountered.”

The Seal Haul Out Hike will take place on Saturday, December 28 at 10 a.m. at Camp Hero Road in Montauk. For more information, contact Eva Moore at the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society at (631) 238-5134 or sharstat@yahoo.com.

Suit Filed Over Deer Cull in East Hampton

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Two not-for-profit wildlife organizations and a group of individuals have banded together and filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent a regional plan to cull deer with federal sharpshooters beginning this winter.

The Montauk-based East Hampton Group for the Wildlife and the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons in Hampton Bays, along with 15 residents, filed suit in Supreme Court Thursday against East Hampton Town, East Hampton Village and the East Hampton Town Trustees. In the suit, they ask for a temporary restraining order against the town’s comprehensive deer management plan, and specifically any proposal within that plan that calls for the organized culling of the whitetail deer.

While the lawsuit was served on the town last Thursday and the village on Friday, that same day, the East Hampton Village Board moved forward by passing a resolution to join the Long Island Farm Bureau’s (LIFB) proposal to bring in federal sharpshooters to cull deer herds in municipalities across the East End.

The LIFB’s plan, which it is coordinating with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), entails bringing United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sharpshooters to the East End to cull the herd. The program will be funded by the LIFB through $200,000 in funding through the 2013 state budget.

The Farm Bureau has asked East End villages and towns to sign onto the program by committing $15,000 to $25,000, respectively, to have federal riflemen come to their municipalities. The cull will take place in a four or five week window beginning in February, timing Farm Bureau Executive Director Joe Gergela noted was designed to give local hunters a chance to cull the herd themselves during deer season, which runs through late January.

The goal, said Gergela in an interview earlier this month, is to cull 1,000 to 2,000 deer from across the East End. The meat from the culled deer will go to Island Harvest to feed the hungry on Long Island.

The USDA sharpshooters use suppressed rifles and depending on terrain, either trap deer with a drop net, work as a mobile team with a driver, spotter and shooter, or shoot from tree stands. The Farm Bureau will coordinate efforts with municipalities that sign onto the program to identify areas deer herds tend to populate the most.

East Hampton Village has agreed to pay $15,000 into the program and joins East Hampton and Southold town, who have both agreed to provide $25,000 in funding.  Southampton Town has yet to decide on whether or not it will join the regional cull, and Sagaponack officials have said that village would wait until both towns sign on before making its own commitment. The Village of North Haven is pursuing its own organized cull.

While supporters of the plan point to the incidences of tick borne illnesses on the East End, public safety concerns connected to deer and motor vehicle accidents, as well as the financial impact on farms and on private landscaping, critics contend there has been little information provided to show the cull is truly necessary. Local hunters have also opposed the cull, arguing if New York State, and the towns and villages, opened up hunting restrictions, they could thin the deer population themselves.

“There is not enough proof that there is the kind of population that would warrant this,” said Virginia Frati, the Executive Director and Founder of the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center. “How can we do this without proof of that?”

“We are not convinced there is an overpopulation of deer,” she continued. “Where is the proof that an overwhelming majority of residents are even for this? Even the hunters are not in favor of this.”

Long Island Chefs Band Together for ALS Research and Awareness

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By Tessa Raebeck

The small East End community gets even smaller when you enter the restaurant world, where world-class chefs started together as line cooks and waiters from one hit restaurant become owners of the next.

A strong testament to the intimacy of the local restaurant community is A Love Shared, a collaborative effort to raise awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The efforts are led by the nonprofit Hayden’s Heroes, a group of renowned Long Island chefs, local farmers and community businesses that banded together after their friend and colleague Gerry Hayden was diagnosed with ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in 2011.

On October 13, Hayden’s Heroes held its first A Love Shared benefit, a family style dinner at 8 Hands Farm in Cutchogue. Food was provided by a collaboration of 12  featured chefs. Hoping to raise $75,000 for ALS research and quality of life care for Hayden, the event surpassed all expectations, ultimately raising over $150,000.

“They just had such an outpouring of people that wanted to participate and wanted to get involved with the organization,” said Lindsey Meyers of WordHampton Public Relations in East Hampton, a firm that handled public relations for the event. “They thought it would be great after the first benefit to extend it and do something for the holidays.”

Following the benefit’s success, the 12 chefs featured at the dinner together formed the Long Island Culinary Collaborative. Along with The North Fork Table and Inn, where Hayden is the head chef, and A Love Shared, the group is selling A Love Shared gift boxes in Hayden’s honor during the holiday season.

Each wooden box is made by hand in Maine and contains twelve signature sauces, one from each chef. They cost $175, with all proceeds going toward efforts to raise awareness about ALS, to promote research for ALS and to raise money for quality of life care for Hayden and other ALS patients in need.

The included sauces vary from spicy to sweet, classic to innovative, with the signature local ingredients and personal touches of Long Island’s best chefs.

Head chef and owner of Amarelle in Wading River, Lia Fallon, created Mediterranean fig chutney for the gift boxes. There is a mignonette sauce by Terry Harwood, the chef and owner of the Vine Street Café on Shelter Island and a salsa verde by Sam McClendon of Sag Harbor’s The Beacon and Bell & Anchor. Michael Meehan, executive chef at H2O Seafood Grill in Smithtown, made a pickled corn relish for the boxes and Christian Mir of the Stone Creek Inn provided ginger vinaigrette. Often called the father of North Fork cuisine, restaurateur and chef John Ross created a wild beach plum sauce, collecting ingredients from local dunes.

Another staple of the North Fork restaurant scene, Keith Luce, made a duck wine sauce. Luce is the mind behind the MAIN project in Greenport’s Historic Stirling Square, which includes MAIN restaurant, Nosh, a bakery and espresso bar, and a takeout window, Prep. The White House honored Luce as an American Culinary Ambassador last summer.

Tom Schaudel, called one of Long Island’s best-known chefs by The New York Times, contributed a Thai red curry broth. Schaudel is the head chef and co-owner of A Lure in Southold and A Mano in Mattituck. Guy Reuge, who runs the Mirabelle Restaurant and neighboring Mirabelle Tavern in Stony Brook Village, created piccalilli, which is a relish of chopped pickled vegetables and spices. A hot BBQ sauce is included in the gift boxes, made by Joe Realmuto, the head chef of Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton who also oversees the food at its sister restaurants, Amagansett’s La Fondita, Nick & Toni’s Café in the city and Townline BBQ in Sagaponack.

Rounding out the collection are sauces by Hayden and his wife, Claudia Fleming. Fleming, the pastry chef at the North Fork Table & Inn, created a passion fruit caramel and her husband, the restaurant’s executive chef, made a red pepper jimmy jam.

The collection is limited at 100 gift boxes, with each box containing all 12 signature sauces. To purchase a gift box visit aloveshared.com or call Jeri Woodhouse at (631) 834-1816.

East End Winemakers Call 2013 Best Vintage Yet

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Grapes being picked at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead. Photo by John Neely.

Grapes being picked at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead. Photo by John Neely.

By Tessa Raebeck

As if anyone needed another reason to drink wine, the 2013 vintage is the best local winemakers on both forks have ever seen.

“It’s really spectacular,” said Roman Roth, winemaker for the Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack. “You hear about these fabled vintages like ’76 and ’45 – this is one that we have.”

“The entire East End is producing great wines,” agreed winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez of Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead.

Winemakers were nervous last spring, when May was a particularly rainy month and June was the second wettest on record. They soon found their worry was preemptive.

“Then came the most fantastic summer,” said Roth. A heat wave in July followed by a generally dry, long summer helped the winemakers to overcome the wet spring.

The summer was good, but the fall was better.

“What almost always makes a fine harvest – an excellent harvest – is a sunny, dry fall,” explained Larry Perrine, winemaker at Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton. “It doesn’t have to be hot, but it’s sunny and dry. And basically from Labor Day on, it didn’t rain. It rained the day after Labor Day and then it didn’t rain for the next seven weeks.”

The dry weather moves the ripening schedule of the fruit forward, preventing any rot. Because the fall was dry without being too hot, the tender varieties were not adversely affected. The yields were substantial and the quality superior across the board, ensuring that the 2013 vintage is excellent for whites, rosés and reds.

“All conditions were great,” said Lisa Freedman, a PR representative for Martha Clara Vineyards, “as far as weather and Mother Nature – and there were no hurricanes.”

Regions renowned for wine, such as Friuli, Italy or Bordeaux, France, have heavy rainfall during the growing season and a dry end of season. This year, the East End of Long Island got a taste of that perfect wine weather.

2010 previously held the crown as the best year in local winemakers’ memory and 2012 was also a landmark year, but it just keeps getting better, they say.

“There’s a lot of great wines up in the pipeline,” said Roth. “But it will all be topped by this 2013 – that’s for sure.”

The sun rises over the harvest at Wölffer Estate Winery in Sagaponack.

The sun rises over the harvest at Wölffer Estate Winery in Sagaponack.

Since he started making wine in 1982, Roth has seen maybe three lots (batches separated by varietal, date picked or vineyard section) “that are really special” each year.

“But this year,” he said. “We have thirty lots. The lots came in with the highest color, the deepest color, so it’s an amazing opportunity where you have lots of options for great wines.”

The first 2013 wines released will be the rosés in the early spring, followed fairly quickly by the aromatic, fresh white wines, such as sauvignon blancs. Fermented in stainless steel and bottled early, those white wines will be released by the spring or summer of 2014. Other whites fermented in oak, like Chardonnays, could take as long as 2015.

The reds take the longest, spending at least a year in the cellar. Channing Daughters is just now bottling its 2012 reds, so 2013 reds won’t be available for over a year, most likely two. At Wölffer, the top 2013 reds won’t be released until 2016. As Roth said, “good wine takes time.”

The goal of the North Fork’s Lenz Winery in Peconic is to release wine that “will be among the very best of its type, made anywhere in the world.”

Several years ago, that would have been a bold claim for a Long Island winery to make, but these days, it appears to be quite realistic.

Micieli-Martinez calls it the “Napa-fication” of Long Island’s wine industry, referring to the initial disregard of Napa Valley wines. It was believed California couldn’t compete with French and Italian wines, but today Napa Valley is considered to be one of the world’s premier wine regions.

“I think it contributes to the growing really positive perception…of the quality of Long Island wines and of New York wines in general,” Perrine said of the 2013 harvest. “It does improve steadily the reputation of the wines as being first-rate, world class wines.”

“It’s truly a special year,” the 30-year winemaker continued. “We’ll always remember.”

“It’s just perfect,” said Roth. “It’s a dream come true, basically.”

Studio 89 Fitness in Sag Harbor Unveils New Group Classes, Free During Opening Promotion

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Ashley Farrell works out at Studio 89 in Sag Harbor.

Trainer Ashley Farrell works out at Studio 89 in Sag Harbor.

By Tessa Raebeck

At Studio 89 Fitness in Sag Harbor, you can duke it out boxing, suspend mid-air in gravity training or crawl through the sand in a military-style outdoor obstacle course. This weekend, Studio 89 will further its already extensive exercise line-up with the unveiling of Studio 89 GX, a group fitness program offering a wide variety of exercise classes.

“For an individual facility, we’re offering the largest amount of classes on the East End and we have the largest space,” said Studio 89 founder and trainer Rich Decker. “So really, we’re going after it pretty aggressively.”

For the past three years, Studio 89 has catered to a high-end clientele as a private training facility, with its focus on one-on-one training and measurable results within an exclusive atmosphere. Noticing the growth in popularity of group classes at other local fitness centers, Decker saw an opportunity to expand Studio 89 with “a more community-oriented part of the facility.”

A 2,000 square foot addition will provide the space for Studio 89 GX to offer unlimited Ball, Bootcamp, Sculpt, Spin, Step, TRX, Yoga, Zumba classes, as well as five fitness classes designed by the Les Mills Group, an international organization that supplies workout facilities with varied workout programs, such as BodyCombat, a workout that incorporates kickboxing and Tai Chi, and BodyVive, which is more reflective of Yoga and Pilates programs. As with Studio 89, the emphasis at GX is on hard-earned, verifiable results.

“It’s not like a regular gym where you go work out, socialize and hang out,” said Decker. “It’s very much a results-oriented facility. They actually come to get work done.”

Classes will be taught by Studio 89’s instructors and supported by its state-of-the-art facility. Outside, “The Pit” is a 20,000 square foot sand pit with over 20 exercise stations, including a rope wall, rope climb and agility tires. According to Studio 89, it is “the only outdoor obstacle course in the Hamptons designed with military style bootcamp precision.” Inside, the space is open and airy, with lots of natural light coming in through windows and doors. Half of the building is devoted to private, training, while the other half will be reserved for the new group classes.

Starting at $365 for a limited time, purchasing a one-year membership allows you unlimited group fitness in any class, excluding spin and TRX. Any existing gym membership terms will be honored when members sign up for fitness classes. All classes are free during the opening promotion, from November 16 through December 1. Studio 89 GX plans to offer 40 to 50 classes each week.

With the motto, “U R The Machine,” Studio 89 uses personal attention, minimal equipment and innovative exercises to engage every muscle of the body and show clients just how much they’re capable of. The extensive and varied class options are designed to keep clients from getting bored and diverse exercises prevent the body from plateauing at a fitness level. Workouts are designed to be both challenging and fun, and Studio 89 GX promises fast results, said Decker.

“Health shouldn’t be a luxury – it should be a way of life,” says Decker, who is eager to expand his clientele by offering more affordable class programs. In January, Decker plans to unveil another Studio 89 location in Southampton. He expects to be in East Hampton by summer 2014. The new studios’ exact locations are not yet determined.

Studio 89 Fitness is located at 89 Clay Pit Road in Sag Harbor. Studio 89 GX is opening November 16, with free classes through December 1. For more information, call (631) 899-4310, email Studio89fitness@gmail.com or visit Studio89Fitness.com.

Southampton Town Supervisor Candidates Argument Focuses on Finances

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By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

Southampton Town Supervisor candidates Anna Throne-Holst and Linda Kabot have faced off in numerous debate and forums throughout town in recent weeks. They sparred again on Thursday, with both parties making allegations that ranged from fiscal irresponsibility to political smear tactics and even deep-rooted corruption.

At the debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons and moderated by Carol Mellor, the candidates were allowed 15 minutes of response time to use at their own discretion, either to answer questions or for rebuttals. Questions were posed by Joe Shaw, executive editor of the Press News Group, Sag Harbor Express editor and publisher Bryan Boyhan and Judy Samuelson of the league, as well as members of the audience, who filled the room at Rogers Memorial Library  in Southampton beyond capacity.

Incumbent Throne-Holst, an Independence Party member cross endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families parties, was elected to the town board as a council member in 2007 and beat Kabot, a Republican also running on the Conservative Party line, in the supervisor’s race in 2009. In her opening statement, Kabot, who served as councilwoman from 2002 to 2007 and as Southampton supervisor from 2008 through 2009, alleged that Throne-Holst falsely claimed that Kabot caused the prior budgetary problems and mismanaged the town. Both candidates agreed that this election is about “the truth” and alleged that their opponent was taking credit for their own successful financial management.

Referring to a debate hosted by the Speonk-Remsenburg Civic Association October 9, Shaw asked Kabot, “you were asked what your qualifications were for supervisor and your answer was that you were married with children and were a homeowner, what did you mean by those remarks?”

Kabot said the phrasing was incorrect and untruthful and noted that no reporters were present at that debate. She referred to similar statements on her website, which states: “As a property owner, I can better represent the majority of taxpayers and voters in Southampton Town. As a married mother of three children, I can provide values-based leadership with deep roots in the community.”

“What I meant by that,” she explained, “was as a homeowner and a taxpayer, my husband and I receive a tax bill and we know what the impact is of increased taxes to our budget and a renter doesn’t receive a tax bill.”

Kabot maintained the person who posed the initial question was a member of the town Democratic Committee.

“They’re the ones writing the letters to the paper to indicate that this is about single mothers or something about somebody’s marital status,” she said. “It has nothing to do with that. That is political spin and it is wrong.”

Throne-Holst responded that the original question was submitted by an unknown member of the audience and asked by a moderator.

“I find it curious that you feel better able to protect people’s taxes as a homeowner,” she said to Kabot. “I will remind everyone that Linda Kabot raised everyone’s taxes by a full 15 percent as supervisor and I have raised them zero.”

“I know that I am a single mother,” continued Throne-Holst, who has four grown children. “I know that as a result of a very painful divorce, I am no longer a homeowner. Maybe someday I will be but now I am not. Sixty percent of our residents live in single households and 40 percent of our residents do not own property and you all have my assurance single mother or married, property owner or not, I represent you equally.”

“Again, someone’s marital status has nothing to do with it,” countered Kabot. “It’s political nonsense being stirred just like the statements are out there that I single-handedly raised taxes 15 percent — this is an untruth.”

Kabot said that corrective tax levies were put forward in 2008, 2009 and 2010 that Throne-Holst voted for as a councilwoman.

“These were the correct things to do,” Kabot said. “And it’s easy to spin it and twist it and distort it but I’m proud of my record as your supervisor of doing the brave and necessary things to do.”

The candidates used a significant portion of their allotted 15 minutes to continue back and forth on Shaw’s question.

“I don’t think you talk about value-based representation because you are married,” said Throne-Holst. “The clear implication is if you are not you do not espouse those values. All I can say is I’ve been your supervisor for four years; you don’t achieve these numbers based on someone else’s work.”

“It’s not about taking credit. It’s not about passing blame. It’s about moving forward,” concluded Kabot.

Boyhan asked the candidates to what degree their administration should prepare for the “continued dramatic and inevitable erosion of our ocean shoreline,” as well as their position on shore-hardening structures.

Throne-Holst said the issue has been at the forefront of her administration and voiced her opposition to shore-hardening structures, which she said help one property while adversely affecting those around it.

“We have taken a hard stance on them in the Town of Southampton, we will not permit them going forward,” she said.

Throne-Holst pointed to her creation of erosion control districts in Sagaponack and Bridgehampton, which allow for oceanfront homeowners to be taxed separately in order to fund a $26 million beach re-nourishment project that is expected to add 60 to 70 feet of beach, adding that she is working with other areas of the town interested in pursuing similar projects.

Kabot also opposes shore-hardening structures. She advocates improved relocation efforts in the event of major storms and said that although the nourishment project is beneficial, “there’s no guarantees that that sand is going to stay in place.”

Her criticisms of the project, she said, have to do with the use of park reserve funds, $1.7 million of which were used to fund the pavilion and public beach access areas of the erosion control districts.

“Those [erosion control district] homeowners are very grateful for the work that has been done in local government to see to it that the beach nourishment has been brought forward and they are contributing very heavily to the supervisor’s reelection campaign,” Kabot alleged.

Samuelson asked an audience member’s question about what obstacles the candidates would remove in order to allow more business and private sector jobs.

Throne-Holst pointed to her creation of an economic development task force in the Riverside/Flanders area, which she said secured a total of almost half a million dollars worth of grants.

“That will probably bring the most amount of jobs to this area when it comes to fruition,” she said.

The supervisor also spoke of the “major job creation possibilities” posed by the Clean Water Coalition, a regional task force she developed, and its “bringing the manufacturing and marketing of those technologies to this area.”

Kabot said she would enact the targeted redevelopment of blighted sites by “incentivizing certain sites so that there would be investment by private developers to allow for the creation of a tax base to create more jobs.”

She is committed to reestablishing a small business office in Town Hall in order to help local business officers get through the regulation process and aims to increase senior and affordable housing, rethink rental laws and review permit standards.

“We have to work at the government level to get out of the way so that businesses can create those jobs,” Kabot said. “We have to simulate business by allowing the government red tape to be lessened and in some cases we need to facilitate their ability to get through the board of health because that is one of the biggest things that holds up a number of businesses.”

“The business advisory group does exactly what Linda’s talking about,” replied Throne-Holst. “They help expedite, they help business owners through the process. So been there, done that already. As far as the Health Department goes, we cannot expedite that. It’s a nice thing to say but we can’t. It’s a county permitting authority, we have actually no control over that.”

“I’m proud of what I’ve done,” the supervisor said in her closing argument. “I love my job, I love serving all of you and I will bring the same level of commitment, enthusiasm and service to this job should I have your vote.”

Kabot concluded the debate, “Together we can take back our town from special interests, restore honesty and integrity and capability to that supervisor’s office and we can bring back the only true independent candidate who cannot be bought.”

The supervisor election will be held on November 5.

Back to School with Sag Harbor Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso

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Sag Harbor School District bus driver Lamont Miller, Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso with children riding the bus to Sag Harbor Elementary School Monday morning, the first day of the 2013-14 school year. 

By Tessa Raebeck

“This is an amazing place,” said Dr. Carl Bonuso Monday as he greeted students entering Pierson Middle/High School, embarking on the first day of the 2013-14 school year.

“I come from a system that was mom and pop and they cared about all the kids, but it still wasn’t as personal as it is here,” he said.

After greeting the older kids at Pierson, the superintendent found Bus A and joined its driver, Lamont Miller, on his second ride of the day through Noyac and North Haven Village. This time, the bus picked up Sag Harbor’s elementary students, some riding the bus for their first day of school in the district as kindergarteners.

Miller, whose enthusiasm for the first day of school even rivaled Dr. Bonuso’s, has been driving this route since 2009. He has two daughters going into kindergarten and pre-kindergarten in Riverhead this year, so he said he understands the mixture of excitement and anxiety that accompanies the first day of school.

At Bus A’s first stop, Miller was greeted by name by a veteran fifth grader, Savannah, and her mom.

“We were hoping it was you,” Savannah’s mom told Miller.

He smiled back, “Savannah, you’re a fifth grader now, huh? You get to ride in the backseat.”

The seating on Bus A is divided by grades, with the youngest students in the front and the oldest in the back. Moving back a few rows on the first day of school is a tradition and the children know which rows belong to each grade.

Equipped with cameras, dogs and grandparents, the group of parents at the next stop waved hello to Miller and Dr. Bonuso.

“They’re happy it’s Lamont!” said a mom, as the neighborhood kids greeted their familiar bus driver, who reminded everybody to buckle up.

“I think this is one of the jobs that people could very easily underestimate, in terms of how important it is and how difficult it is,” said Dr. Bonuso. “The parents feel so comfortable because you know them so personally,” he told Lamont.

Since Sag Harbor owns and operates its own transportation system, the district is responsible for the training and oversight of all its drivers. Maude Stevens, the lead bus driver who supervises all district transportation, has established intricate routes through Sag Harbor.

“Maude does a remarkable job overseeing this and orienting our bus drivers to the community and the children they’ll be working with,” said Dr. Bonuso. “Maude literally knows each bus driver, has trained them, worked with them, met with them who knows how many times. She knows each bus driver, she knows each bus, she knows each stop…it’s hard to put that value into dollars.”

According to Dr. Bonuso, Stevens and her drivers know which roads are being serviced, which neighborhoods have late landscaping and which streets are prone to flooding.

“They even have a sense of what each month is like on each road,” said the superintendent.

The transportation office tweaks the routes in an ongoing review and especially during the first week of school, trying to ensure that no student is riding the bus for longer than 40 minutes.

As we travelled through Noyac, the school bus got louder and louder. At one stop, three brothers got on. The youngest, a kindergartener in a brand new blue backpack with brightly colored dragonflies, appeared absolutely terrified. His oldest brother — despite being allowed to sit in the back of the bus — buckled him into the front seat, across from Dr. Bonuso and sat next to him for the whole ride, letting him know what to expect on his first day.

“When you’re young, people always say, ‘Ah, you’re so young, life’s not a problem,’” said Dr. Bonuso. “But actually, when you’re young everything’s so strange, you’re doing everything for the first time.”

In Bay Point, several families were waiting for Bus A. “What’s up Brian? Hey Hannah!” Lamont greeted each child by name. “How you doing Riley? She’s a kindergartener?” he asked Riley’s grandma, Gail Ratcliffe. “She’s in good hands.”

As he buckled her in, Dr. Bonuso told Riley, “You’re going to love kindergarten.”

When the bus arrived at Sag Harbor Elementary School, some of the parents from the route were waiting for the bus with their cameras ready. “The people in this community,” said Dr. Bonuso, kissing his fingers and holding them out, “unbelievable. So kind and gracious to each other.”

“Are you going to be here tomorrow?” Riley asked the superintendent.

“No, I’m going to be in school but I’m riding the bus today to make sure everything’s okay,” replied Dr. Bonuso.

With her first bus ride behind her, Riley hugged Dr. Bonuso goodbye, thanked Lamont and headed off to embark on her next adventure, the first day of school.

First East End GLBT Center Meeting This Friday in Bridgehampton

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The first meeting of the East End GLBT Center Advisory Committee will be held this Friday, November 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Bridgehampton National Bank on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton.

The committee was formed in response to the bullying-related suicide of 16-year-old East Hampton resident David Hernandez.

Following Hernandez’s death, LIGALY (Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth) — an advocacy organization based in Bay Shore with youth centers in that community and in Garden City in Nassau County — held a forum at East Hampton High School. Chief Executive Officer David Kilmnick called for the creation of a GLBT Youth Center on the East End, noting the kind of support these centers offer are currently over 60 miles from East Hampton, leaving many youth without a support network.

Sag Harbor residents Beatrice Alda, and her partner Jennifer Brooke, have already promised a $20,000 matching grant towards the creation of this center.

According to Kilmnick, the meeting is open to the public.

East End Baymen Call for Fishermens’ Bill of Rights; Consider Lawsuit

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Paul Lester and Daniel Rodgers

Standing in a Riverhead law office on Tuesday afternoon, about a dozen of East End fishermen signed a Fisherman’s Bill of Rights. It was the latest move in a months long effort by a group of East Hampton baymen to protect their industry against what they say are unreasonable practices by the state that take away their basic rights under the Constitution.

Daniel Rodgers, a Riverhead attorney who has taken up the East End fisherman’s battle against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), said he plans to forward the Fisherman’s Bill of Rights to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Secretary of State.

This comes after Rodgers formally filed an ethics complaint against the DEC related to the sale of fishermen’s catch after DEC officers seized the fish.

Nassau County attorney Harry H. Kutner, Jr. also announced this week that the group is considering a federal civil rights class action lawsuit against the DEC for allegedly violating fishermen’s rights on the East End.

Rodgers has been working with baymen like the Lester family, current East Hampton Town Trustee Nat Miller and former trustee and veteran baymen Stuart Vorpahl since he took on a DEC case against the Lesters last summer. Paul and Kelly Lester were accused of violating the state’s Conservation Law after a raid of their Amagansett home and were ultimately acquitted. However, for Rodgers it opened his eyes to what he views as state law that allows DEC officers to deprive fishermen of their basic rights under the Constitution. Specifically, it allows that fishermen’s homes and boats can be searched without a warrant and fish seized and sold by DEC officers before they have been deemed guilty or innocent of any crime.

“Because it is the law of the land in the State of New York that fishermen and women as a class be treated differently than ordinary citizens of this State, we have created a Fishermen’s Bill of Rights as an Amendment to the Constitution of the State of New York,” said Rodgers in a statement on Tuesday.

Under the Fishermen’s Bill of Rights, all fishermen would be protected against warrantless searches and seizures unless an officer has probable cause. Fishermen cannot be deprived of property without due process, under the bill of rights and if they are they must be compensated. The bill of rights also aims to give fishermen equal protection under the law and protects them from excessive penalties.

Lastly, the bill of rights states that “No fisherman shall be subject to any moratorium” that deprives them of the right to work unless it is backed up by actual legislation by the state. Currently, the DEC has moratoriums against issuing fluke and striped bass permits to fisherman.

“The DEC moratoriums effectively close down fisheries,” said Rodgers on Tuesday. “It deprives fisherman the ability to make a living. Moratoriums are designed to be temporary but these have been in place for years.”

These issues, said Rodgers, will also be addressed if and when a lawsuit is filed on behalf of the fishermen against the DEC, which could happen as early as August, he said.

Bishop Nabs Behan Endorsement

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On Monday morning, decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former East Hampton Town Republican Chairman John Behan announced his endorsement of incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop. Bishop, a Democrat, is facing Republican, Conservative and Independence Party candidate Randy Altschuler in the race for U.S. Congress this fall.

Altschuler is seeking to unseat Bishop for the second time. Two years ago he lost his first run for political office by fewer than 600-votes — one of the narrowest margins of victory in a Congressional race in 2010.

Behan was the East End’s representative in the New York State Assembly from 1978 to 1995 and has earned iconic status for his work, politically and in veterans’ affairs. Behan was a driving force behind the establishment of the New York State Assembly’s Veterans Affairs Committee and also served as Director of the state’s Division of Veterans’ Affairs from 1995 to 1998.

Behan was the chairman of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee in 2009, stepping down in 2010 and leaving the committee for good in 2011. Last year, Behan’s wife, Marilyn, ran unsuccessfully as an Independence Party candidate for a seat on the East Hampton Town Board.

During his announcement, at the new Montauk eatery La Bodega on Monday morning, Behan attempted to dispel rumors that the endorsement was a result of his ire with the East Hampton Republican Committee for not supporting his wife as a candidate for East Hampton Town Board. While Behan said he remained critical of that decision, and cited the failure of the committee to elect two new town board members, the endorsement of Bishop was about people, not politics.

“I like a guy who is homegrown and knows the district like the back of his hand,” said Behan. “That is Tim Bishop. He works hard for veterans too.”

“Tim Bishop is a native East Ender who understands our local issues and works across the aisle to deliver results for our community — especially our fishermen and farmers,” added Behan in a press release issued after Monday’s announcement. “In addition, hundreds of local veterans are better off today as a direct result of his dedicated efforts, and I am also proud to endorse him based on respect for veterans and hard work on their behalf.”

“John Behan’s service to our nation and our East End Community is unparalleled, and I am honored and humbled to accept his endorsement of my re-election,” said Congressman Bishop. “John always put public service above politics, and this is also an endorsement of my bipartisan approach to working with local officials and my success in bringing federal resources to the table to solve local problems.”

“Today’s endorsement was really about local politics, and has no impact on the tremendous momentum Randy has right now,” said Altschuler campaign manager Diana Weir, another East Hampton political heavyweight. “We released a specific 10-point jobs plan focused on fixing Long Island’s economy; we have won endorsements from the New York State Independence Party, the Suffolk County Conservative Party and the Suffolk County Republican Party; and our primary opponent just dropped out of the race allowing us to focus 100 percent on the general election where voters will be faced with a clear choice between a self-made businessman and job creator like Randy Altschuler and a career bureaucrat turned politician who has destroyed jobs on Long Island like Tim Bishop.”

“Of course Randy Altschuler doesn’t understand the importance of local endorsements,” said Bishop campaign spokesman Robert Pierce. “He isn’t local. He moved to Long Island to run for office a few years ago. John Behan is a man of honor and integrity. He has dedicated his entire life to serving his country and the people of Eastern Long Island. Congressman Bishop is proud of this endorsement by an East End icon. Both John Behan and Congressman Bishop agree that bipartisanship is good for middle class Suffolk County families.”