Tag Archive | "East Hampton"

HarborFrost All Star Comedy Show at Bay Street

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Corinne Fisher is one of several comedians that will appear at Bay Street Theater’s HarborFrost All Star Comedy Show.

Corinne Fisher is one of several comedians that will appear at Bay Street Theater’s HarborFrost All Star Comedy Show.

Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center for the Arts will host the HarborFrost All Star Comedy Show, hosted by Joseph Vecsey, on Saturday, February 28 at 8 p.m. The comedy show features rising stars of comedy, including Mr. Vecsey. Other comics for the evening include Corinne Fisher (Guys We F*****), Regina DeCicco (Gotham AXS TV), and Chris Clarke (BET Comic View).

Mr. Vecsey has performed in bars, clubs, theaters, colleges, restaurants, rough urban rooms in Brooklyn and Staten Island, even a hostel on 103rd and Amsterdam. He opened for Jim Breuer and Susie Essman at Bay Street Theater in 2013. Since the beginning of his show at Bay Street Theater he has hosted various shows in New York City and popular clubs like the Laff House in Philadelphia and Jokers Wild in New Haven.

Ms. Fisher is a stand-up comedian, writer and actor originally from Union, New Jersey. She first made a splash with her debut one-woman show Corinne Fisher: I STALK YOU, which had a run at The Peoples Improv Theater (The PIT) in the Summer of 2010 and was featured in Time Out New York. Since then, she has been a regular on the stand-up scene playing anything from dive bars to world-famous comedy clubs like Stand Up NY, New York Comedy Club, Caroline’s, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Broadway Comedy Club, Comix, Laugh Boston, The Stress Factory & Gotham. Perhaps most notable is her duo show with Krystyna Hutchinson. In December 2013, the duo launched Guys We F*%!@*!: The Anti Slut-Shaming Podcast that now boasts over half a million subscribers.

Ms. DeCicco became the winner of the Ladies of Laughter competition (2012), which was held at various clubs all over Manhattan-with participants from all over the country. She was accepted into the 2013 Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. She has performed at various comedy clubs and bars.

Mr. Clarke has appeared on BET’s 106th Park, the Las Vegas Comedy Festival, and was The Runner up in New England’s Funniest Comic Competition. Mr. Clarke has also appeared on BET Comic View.

Tickets to the HarborFrost All Star Comedy Show at Bay Street Theater, 2 Bay Street, Sag Harbor are $20 and are available online at baystreet.org or by calling the Bay Street Theater Box Office at (631) 725-9500.

 

Loretta K. Davis

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Loretta

By Mara Certic

Loretta Davis became the new executive director of The Retreat, East Hampton Town’s shelter for the victims of domestic abuse, last month. She spoke about her background and some of the programming the nonprofit organization offers.

When did you move out to the East End?

I started work on the 28th of January, right around when we had our first storm. I moved out that weekend. I spent a lot of time in Vermont, so I’m used to the snow, but the ice is unbelievable. But I’ve been coming out here for about 20 years, friends from college and high school have houses out here, and so I’ve been coming out for a long time.

I was a judge for 19 years in Tuxedo, New York, and that really is what I’ve been doing. I had criminal and civil cases, and of course we had domestic violence cases.  I was an elected official, I ran every four years. And I really enjoyed that because I got to be involved with local government and with the community. I did that until 2013 when I was on the Roundtable [for the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island] moved here to Long Island.

What made you decide to change careers?

Well, I’ve always been involved in women’s issues, I’ve worked with the Business Council for Peace, which helps women in war-torn countries. So, I’ve always been interested in women’s issues, and I’ve helped women survivors in Rwanda, done some pro bono domestic violence work [in New York] as well. This seemed like a good opportunity and I thought I could use my experience both as a judge, and in administration.

What do you think are the most important programs offered by The Retreat?

Well, there’s the core programs we offer; we have the shelter and with that we have the 24-hour crisis hotline, and advocacy services for when survivors go to court, as well as violence protection programs. But there are a lot of other programs for people who aren’t in our shelter, and people in the community. We have counseling programs at our office here; we do work with the youth in schools including an educational program about healthy relationships. There’s also a program in high schools to prevent physical violence in relationships. There are also programs that work with fathers in order to educate fathers who might be at risk. That’s a program we’ve had now for a couple of years. I know people are surprised we work with men, but the idea is to work to prevent violence, it’s kind of a re-education for them. And it’s all free.

But we’ve also been working on a campus security program in Nassau County which is going to extend to Suffolk County Community College. So it’s not just family violence that we deal with. We can make a difference. What I’d like to do is strengthen our programs and expand our outreach.

How are you planning on doing both those things?

What I’d like to do is strengthen our programs, and expand our outreach. We have our big fundraiser coming up in June and that really helps us a lot. We do get a lot of grants, but if we didn’t have our contributions we wouldn’t be able to survive. But I think we should have some more community awareness events.

Last week there was an event in Sag Harbor with the Neo-Political Cowgirls: One Billion Rising. It was a great event; there were testimonials, lots of artists and musicians. It was a great community event, it brought awareness; donations were accepted. It was free! Everyone just provided everything: their services, their music, their dancing, the space. It was a really positive and personal evening; I was really impressed with how the community came together.

The Retreat has offices at 13 Goodfriend Drive in East Hampton, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It also has legal advocates and counselors available. For more information, or to volunteer, call (631) 329-4398. The confidential 24-hour hotline number is (631) 329-2200.

 

 

Parrish Announces Chuck Close Photographs Exhibit

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Chuck Close (American, born 1940). Self-Portrait/Composite/Nine Parts, 1979. 9 Polaroids, 83 x 69 inches. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Gift of Barbara and Eugene Schwartz.

Chuck Close (American, born 1940). Self-Portrait/Composite/Nine Parts, 1979. 9 Polaroids, 83 x 69 inches. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Gift of Barbara and Eugene Schwartz.

The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill announced last week that it has organized Chuck Close Photographs, the first comprehensive survey of the photographic work of the renowned American artist. The exhibit will be on view May 10 through July 26 and will feature some 90 images from 1964 to the present, from early black and white manquettes to composite Polaroids to intimately scaled daguerreotypes and the most recent Polaroid nudes. The exhibition explores how Mr. Close, one of the most important figures in contemporary art, has stretched the boundaries of photographic means, methods, and approaches.

“The photographic origin of each Close painting is well known; however, Close’s exploration of the medium itself extends far beyond the use of photographs as a programmatic tool,” said Parrish Art Museum Director and exhibition co-organizer Terrie Sultan. “Whether he uses a photographic image as source material or as an end in and of itself, everything he creates begins with a photograph. Chuck Close Photographs provides an in-depth look at photography as the foundation of Close’s creative process.”

The exhibition builds on the Parrish Art Museum’s long history of working with Close, as Sultan also organized Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration, which has travelled to nearly 20 venues worldwide since 2003. Chuck Close Photographs, co-organized by Sultan and Colin Westerbeck, independent curator and photography scholar, traces Close’s use of the camera throughout his more than 45-year career and features a variety of photographic media.

Madoo Talks Lecture Series Opens with Lindsey Taylor

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Lindsey Taylor.

Lindsey Taylor.

The Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack will host its Madoo Talks Winter Lecture series in February and March, opening with Lindsey Taylor, one of the authors of “The Gardener’s Garden,” a book that explores gardens from around the world and throughout the ages meant to serve as an inspiration to the modern-day gardener. Ms. Taylor, who will speak on Sunday, February 22, will use examples such as

Hollister House, Dawn Ridge, Les Quatre Vents, Prospect Cottage and other personal idiosyncratic gardens featured in “The Gardener’s Garden,” to discuss the need for a garden to have a soul, passion and individual vision to be truly successful. A book signing will follow the discussion.

Madoo Talks will continue on Sunday, March 8 with Sagaponack farmer, artist and writer, Marilee Foster. Ms. Foster, whose family settled in Sagaponack during the mid-1700s, will take a realistic yet humorous look at development on the East End along with the difficulties of farming in the 21st century and the success at her wildly popular Sagg Main farmstand.

Stephen Orr, author of “The New American Herbal,” will join Madoo Talks on March 29, examining the long tradition of herbals while adding new layers of information based on a multicultural look at the herbs we use in our homes and gardens.

Maddo Talks: Lindsey Taylor will be held on Sunday, February 22 at noon at the Madoo Conservancy summer house studio, 618 Sagg Main Road in Sagaponack. Tickets are $25 for members; $30 for non-members and a reception, sponsored by The Topping Rose House, will follow. To reserve your seat, email info@madoo.org or call (631) 537-8200. 

Sag Harbor School District Is Prime for Real Estate

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Linda Adlah rented a home in Sag Harbor so her children, Anabella and Gabrielle, could attend the Sag Harbor Elementary School. Michael Heller photo.

Linda Adlah rented a home in Sag Harbor so her children, Anabella and Gabrielle, could attend the Sag Harbor Elementary School. Michael Heller photo.

By Tessa Raebeck

First known for whale oil, then watches, Sag Harbor is again being recognized, this time for its schools. The East End real estate market has seen an influx of buyers and renters with one primary request: living in the Sag Harbor School District.

“In real estate sales, there are always the five top questions potential buyers will ask and always in the top five is: ‘How is the school district?’” said Robert Evjen, a broker at Douglas Elliman in Sag Harbor. “It is always on the buyer’s mind.”

“For those buyers with families or starting to have families,” he continued, “this is critical to the future of that family and critical about where to buy. For families who already have children, a location with a ‘neighborhood feel’ and a place ‘where the kids can play safely’ is very, very important. Moms and dads are willing to pay more to ensure a quality education.”

Sag Harbor, currently viewed as a smart investment by financiers and young families alike, is drawing buyers and renters who want to send their kids to school in the village—and the resurgence of popularity is in turn driving market prices up.

“We have seen an uptick of families moving here ‘year round’ and we are blessed that the Sag Harbor School District has always been popular with these new families. As these families move here and learn about the East End and what choices or schools to send their children, we always seem to be the choice,” Mr. Evjen said.

With a current total enrollment of 1,011 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, Sag Harbor is smaller than nearby East Hampton, but not as small as Bridgehampton, with just 159 students in the district, or Shelter Island, which has 242 students. The student-faculty ratio at Pierson Middle/High School is nine to one, better than Westhampton Beach’s 14 to one and comparable to East Hampton and Southampton, which have 10 students per teacher, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Liam Rothwell-Pessino, lives in Springs, but decided to attend high school in Sag Harbor because of Pierson’s smaller size.

“The school being smaller means I get to know more people better, teachers included,” he said of his experience at Pierson, where he is currently a senior.

Sag Harbor Superintendent Katy Graves said the school district projects its enrollment to increase until 2018, when there will be an estimated 1,080 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

Mr. Evjen said there has been a “tremendous” increase of families wanting to live in the school district, indicated by the growth of the pre-kindergarten program and the increase in non-resident students, which he called “a great testament to the curriculum the school has set up.”

The school district currently receives tuition for 29 nonresident students; the Sagaponack School District pays for nine, the Springs School District pays for three, and 17 pay privately. The tuition rate for nonresident students for the current school year is $17,038 for students to attend the elementary school and $22,148 to attend Pierson. Special education students are charged $46,464 and $53,380, respectively.

A school district must pay tuition for its residents to attend school elsewhere if that student has a special need the district cannot meet, such as observational therapy or speech therapy. Sag Harbor’s comprehensive approach to students with disabilities adds to the draw for many families.

Having moved from Hampton Bays to Sag Harbor when her two daughters were babies, Linda Torres Adlah has been renting in the district ever since; her girls are now in third and fourth grade at the elementary school.

“Both of my daughters had to go through the evaluation process when they were younger, one needed speech therapy and one needed some physical therapy and observational therapy, and it was a very easy environment. They were very forthcoming with giving the kids what they needed to have when they were little,” she said of the elementary school faculty. “I never had to worry that they wouldn’t get the services they needed, there was always lots of support. I’ve heard such good things about the school that I knew that’s where I wanted them to be.”

Propping Up Sag Harbor’s Historic Buildings

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20 Union Street, which served as Chester A. Arthur's summer White House, is one of several historic houses currently under renovation in Sag Harbor.

20 Union Street, which served as Chester A. Arthur’s summer White House, is one of several historic houses currently under renovation in Sag Harbor.

By Stephen J. Kotz; Photography by Michael Heller

Only the facade remains of the original "Bottle House" on Madison and Henry streets.

Only the facade remains of the original “Bottle House” on Madison and Henry streets.

Even a blind man can see that the Sag Harbor Village Historic District is undergoing major changes.

Above and beyond the well-publicized conversion of turning the old Bulova building into luxury condominiums or the transformation of the former First Methodist Church on Madison Street into a private home, Sag Harbor is undergoing a full-scale renovation boom.

On Main Street alone, at least three major renovations are underway. A walk down Howard Street is more a tour of one extended job site than it is a stroll down a village side street. New construction is cropping up on Glover Street, Palmer Terrace, Bay Street, and just about everywhere one looks.

In some cases, historic houses are being completely rebuilt. The Sleight House on Division Street, in the shadow of the Bulova building, underwent a major renovation this past year that eventually turned into a complete rebuilding job, leading to a stop-work order and a rebuke from the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board before work was allowed to proceed.

At 245 Main Street, original windows, trim and other historic materials are being preserved in that renovation, according to the project's architect.

At 245 Main Street, original windows, trim and other historic materials are being preserved in that renovation, according to the project’s architect.

The former Abelman family home on Madison Street at the foot of Henry Street, which is more commonly known as the “Bottle House” for the collection of colored glass bottles that once adorned the porch windows, was also the subject of a major renovation. Last summer, builders moved the simple, wood-framed Greek Revival house from one side of the lot to the other. As they built a major addition behind it, they eventually removed most of the original house except for part of the façade.

The wholesale changes have set off a quiet sense of alarm among some onlookers. One of them is Chris Leonard, a former longtime chairman of the Sag Harbor’s ARB, who argues the village is failing to do enough to protect historic homes.

“An authentic representation of the past is valuable to society,” he said of the need to preserve Sag Harbor’s historic buildings. “You don’t just tear down the pyramids or the Sphinx because they are old and you want something new…. This is where we came from. We need to try to preserve the best of it and not destroy it and build some sort of replica.”

That same sentiment is shared by Randolph Croxton, an architect with a home in the village, who ironically first visited Sag Harbor over the winter of 1979-80 and helped lead the initial effort to convert the Bulova building into apartments.

“I guess I call it ‘skinning the cat,’” he said of the latest trend in restoration. “You strip off all the details and the hardware and you come back with a re-creation that is all new. But so much of the authenticity is lost when you do that.”

He worries too about changes to Sag Harbor’s broader sense of place, which he describes as having an “open, authentic, multi-generational quality that is not hiding behind hedges.” When a building like the “Bottle House,” which once stood at the foot of Henry Street, is shifted to one side of the property, it throws off the balance and destroys “the axial relationships, and composition” of a streetscape that was laid out to create “an open commons,” he said. It’s the kind of change that might not mean much to a casual observer, he added, but one that, if multiplied, can have an incrementally deleterious effect.

The village’s historic district is expansive, including most of the waterfront from Glover Street east. It extends southward around much of the rest of the village in a broad arc, roughly following Hempstead Street and portions of Grand and Harrison Streets. It includes all of Oakland Cemetery and Mashashimuet Park, while excluding two more recently developed residential streets, Joel’s Lane and Archibald Way. The district runs north along Main Street, jutting to the west to include portions of John Street, while excluding Bluff Point. It extends back down Glover Street, but does not include the Redwood neighborhood.

When the village established the ARB, it included language in the zoning code charging it with not only maintaining the character of the village historic district but of following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Houses.

Among those guidelines are provisions calling for making minimal changes to “historic materials and features” of buildings in the historic district that are being renovated or expanded.

Too often that is not the case, according to Mr. Leonard, and much of the fault lies at the foot of the ARB, which is not, he says, following the letter of the law when it reviews applications for renovations in the historic district. Too often, he said, sanitized replicas are being built in the place of flawed, but historically valuable, gems.

“I don’t think this is rocket science,” said Mr. Leonard of the regulations for historic preservation.  “It’s not a mystery. If the board has questions about how they should proceed, they should first all look to the law, read, understand, and if they still have questions, they should ask the village attorney.”

Cee Scott Brown, the current chairman of the ARB, was out of town and did not reply to emailed requests for an interview. Other members of the board also declined to speak on the record about the process they follow.

But at recent meetings, board members have often expressed the desire to see historic homes preserved in as authentic a fashion as possible. For example, when an architect appeared before the board last fall to gauge the board’s feelings about possibly adding a small addition to the Captain David Hand House on Church Street, his proposal was shot down in summary fashion. A revamped plan presented by another architect that called for a top-to-bottom preservation effort was approved with flying colors in December.

But the question remains how to make sure finished projects accurately reflect the intention of the ARB.

According to Mr. Leonard, all too often they have not. Referring to a photograph of the work at the Sleight House, he said, “all the historic material is the Dumpster and they have done a reproduction. How do you get from what it says in the code to this?”

Building inspector Tom Preiato, who joined the village in November, said he could not comment on past practices but said he intended to make sure property owners comply strictly with the plans they have submitted.

“There appears to be a fair amount of decision making by builders and homeowners to remove pre-existing, nonconforming structures that they deem unsound, without the required approvals,” he said. “I am attempting to keep this trend in check.”

To that end, Mr. Preiato recently slapped a stop-work order on a major renovation project at 295 Main Street, where most of an existing house was taken apart, moved from its foundation and set back away from the street, with a significant amount of new material added. In Mr. Preiato’s eyes, that constituted a demolition. And once a house has been demolished, the reduced setbacks and other zoning allowances that went with the property are lost too, meaning a rebuilding project would likely require variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

About a block north, the shingles and much of the trim that adorned a house dating to the late 1800s at 245 Main Street has been stripped away. Today, the house, sporting a large addition to the rear, is sheathed in green wrap to keep air and moisture out.

Is another replica of a historic house on the way? Absolutely not, said Jason Poremba, the Southampton architect overseeing the project.

Mr. Poremba, who oversaw a top-to-bottom renovation of the Hannibal French house several years ago, said his client, whom he would only identify by the corporate name, Coming Up Roses, LLC,  “was making a conscientious effort to preserve as much of the original house as possible.”

Although the shingles will be replaced, windows, trim and other hardware that have been removed have been shipped upstate for restoration and repair and will be placed back on the house, wherever possible, he said.

“The killer is the New York State code,” said Mr. Poremba of the problems facing people who are trying to do renovate a historic house. “When you reach a certain level of construction you have to start to bring the house up to meet local codes.”

One requirement is that a house must meet energy efficiency standards by passing a test in which the building is sealed and pressurized to determine points of leakage. “We won’t know until the end of the job if the house fails,” he said. Because of that, the contractor is required to painstakingly reassemble the house, which adds to the cost of the project.

“You can do it,” he said of preserving a historic house. “But a lot comes into play. If there are spec builders involved, to systematically take it apart and rebuild it really wouldn’t make sense.”

Architect Monika Zasada, who has been overseeing a major renovation at 20 Union Street—a house that is well known among village residents as the former summer White House of President Chester A. Arthur and later the Pino Funeral Home—takes a similar approach to Mr. Poremba.

In an emailed statement, she said, “dealing with an edifice that is centuries old poses a tremendous challenge. One is faced with incessant questions. Is repairing, restoring or replacing the most sensible policy? Which approach ensures that the renovation is a lasting one?

“When does investing in frequently exorbitantly priced historic elements stop making economic sense? How to mitigate the disparity between arbitrary pieces of trim installed in previously attempted repairs? What to do when the entire framing is completely compromised and most of the foundation consists of two rows of rocks? How can the house’s visual quality be preserved when it needs to be brought up to current building codes?”

Ms. Zasada credited the home’s owner, Anke Beck-Friedrich, and the contractor, Greg D’Angelo, for making it possible to restore as much of the house as possible.

“As a result of all the repairs, restoration, authentic replication and new construction, the history will live on,” she wrote. “The building will be preserved for future generations.”

 

Such efforts should be encouraged, according to Mr. Croxton. “Every place in America is trying to do a town center, with a make-believe town clock, like Disneyland,” he said. “And here, we have the real thing.”

 

Although Mr. Croxton says he believes the village has reached a tipping point and it is “now time for concerted effort and community response,” he insists that all is not lost for Sag Harbor. “The things that are wrong are highly visible and disturbing,” he said, “but a lot is intact and still of good quality.”

 

“There are always people who want to do what they want to do,” added Mr. Leonard. “You just have to be willing to say ‘no.’”

Writing about Nature with Poet Farmer Scott Chaskey

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Scott Chaskey

Scott Chaskey

By Emily J. Weitz

Scott Chaskey speaks for the land, and he does it with his hands as well as his words. Out in the fields at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett almost every day, Mr. Chaskey knows the soil, he knows the migratory patterns of birds, he knows the seasons. Through the two books he’s published in recent years, “This Common Ground” and “Seedtime,” Mr. Chaskey has spread his understanding across the country and has impacted the larger farm to table movement. But his roots are not in farming, and they’re not in nonfiction writing. Scott Chaskey was educated a poet.

Mr. Chaskey met his wife Megan, a Kundalini yoga teacher and poet herself, while earning his MFA degree in England. Ever since, they’ve both woven poetry into whatever they do. Now, as the Director of Quail Hill, his voice has become a significant contributor to the national conversation about farms and sustainability. And it only makes sense that in his poetry as well as his prose, nature is a great source of inspiration.

“We can connect with nature through the written word,” said Mr. Chaskey.

He hesitates to term himself a nature writer, though he has great respect for many others who are. John Fowles, who wrote “The Tree,” had a particular impact on him, and he quoted him in “Seedtime.” Other major influences include John Haye.

“He’s a spectacular writer about the natural world, and wrote in the mid to late 20th century,” said Mr. Chaskey.

His own teachers, first at SUNY Binghamton and then in graduate school, taught him a great deal about capturing the natural world with words.

At this point in our conversation, Mr. Chaskey gasped, then laughed.

“A bird just flew into my window!” he said. “I have to go!”

When he called back, he informed me that a sparrow had flown into the window of the shop at Quail Hill, where he was at work.

“Here we are talking about a connection with nature and a sparrow flies into the window,” he laughed. “I suppose nature is something you can’t get away from.”

It reminded him of an early connection he made between writing and nature. He was living in a fishing village in Cornwall, England while he pursued his MFA. His mentor was a poet named Edgar Wallace, and he also felt the connection between the beautiful cliff meadows and the urge to write.

“Edgar was part of the landscape,” recalls Mr. Chaskey. “I remember one day coming down the steep hill, and Edgar was coming the other way. And he walked over to a bush, and hugged the bush. It was his way of greeting me. He was so connected to the natural world that he hugged the bush.”

Mr. Chaskey feels that same kind of deep connection now, though he didn’t always. Growing up in the suburbs didn’t nurture that kind of connection. But he found it in Cornwall, and it’s only grown since.

“It took a while for that connection to surface,” he said, “but since I’ve lived on the cliffs of Cornwall and on this beautiful peninsula, it has become crisp.”

As well as being a farmer and poet, Mr. Chaskey is a teacher. He’s taught poetry to children, college students, and adults. Over the next two weeks, he will lead a workshop on writing about nature at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor.

“I want it to be open. I’ll present things that I think are wonderful examples of people writing about nature, and people will bring their own thoughts and favorite passages… It always bubbles up out of the experience of who’s in the room.”

There’s a line by the poet George Oppen: “There are things we live among, and to see them is to know ourselves.” Mr. Chaskey uses this as a guide to his practice of writing about nature.

“We have to be in it,” he said. “I advise walking as much as you can, looking and seeing, and combine that with reading other passages from writers you admire.”

Writing about Nature with Scott Chaskey will take place at Canio’s Books, 290 Main Street in Sag Harbor, on Thursday, February 19 and Thursday, February 26 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The cost is $75 for both sessions and registration is required. Call Canio’s Books at (631) 725-4926 or visit caniosbooks.com for more information.

 

 

 

Residents Concerned About What East Hampton Airport Regulations Could Mean for Montauk

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A grassroots organization in Montauk asked the town board to consider what regulations at East Hampton airport could mean for the island’s eastern most airport. Photo by Cara Rooney. 

By Mara Certic

As the East Hampton Town Board scheduled public hearings this week for controversial new airport regulations, which would effectively ban helicopters from East Hampton Airport on summer weekends as well as impose a strict nighttime curfew, another group aired concerns about the negative effects the laws could have on neighboring airports.

The town board on February 4 unveiled draft legislation, which it said would reduce airport traffic by a third, and is designed to tackle a large portion of the noise problem on the East End.

East Hampton officials maintain that they effectively gained proprietary control over the airport at the beginning of the year when the town’s commitments under Federal Aviation Administration grants expired, and the town opted out of future funding from the federal agency.

But Jeremy Samuelson, executive director of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, said the new restrictions on East Hampton Airport could have unintended consequences for the small Montauk Airport. He read a letter to the board on Tuesday, February 10, asking it to weigh those consequences.

“CCOM believes strongly that the town board has a responsibility to understand and describe possible impacts to Montauk stemming from the proposed legislation,” he said.  “Demonstrate whether alternatives to the proposed legislation could achieve similar results for East Hampton while minimizing or eliminating impacts for Montauk and identify specific measures that could minimize impacts to Montauk.”

There is concern that the new restrictions at the East Hampton Airport, could result in a spike in helicopter traffic over Montauk’s privately owned 40-acre airport.

“The aviation consultants working for East Hampton Town should be tasked with determining where traffic currently landing at East Hampton Airport is most likely to land in the event restrictions are adopted, including projections for Montauk Airport, Gabreski Airport and the Southampton Dune Road heliport,” Mr. Samuelson’s letter stated.

He added that the town should begin working with the FAA, Senator Charles Schumer and U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin to put in place a mandatory over-water approach for helicopters landing at Montauk Airport.

One change has already been made to the legislation, which was first proposed last week. That alteration is in the definition of the types of “noisy” aircraft that would be subjected to an extended curfew from 8 p.m. through to 9 a.m. These noisy aircraft would now just be those with published approach levels above 91 decibels for the purposes of the law.

The town will soon publish and make available lists of which aircraft fall into the noisy category. The amendment to the law means that the restrictions would now only affect 24 percent of all operations and would still address 67 percent of the complaints (without the change, it was estimated 31 percent of flights would be affected, dealing with 74 percent of the noise problem.)

Public hearings will take place for each of the four proposed airport regulations at a special early meeting at LTV Studios on Thursday, March 5, at 4:30 p.m. in order to provide substantial time for the ample public comment expected.

Targeting Share Houses

Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski presented the town board with the latest suggestions on how to tackle the problem of share houses and illegal rentals, which each year seems to become more prevalent on the East End.

When residents recoiled last year at the suggestion of a rental registration law, Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the town would look to strengthen its existing code in an effort to target the issue of illegally occupied housing.

“The over-arching and the number-one issue that should be addressed from an enforcement point of view is over-occupancy on a year-round basis,” Mr. Sendlenski said on Tuesday.

He recommended the whole section of the code be revised to create a better system. One idea is that certain things could be considered presumptive evidence of overcrowding, so code enforcement officers would not have to physically witness a large number of people staying in one room. For instance, three beds in one bedroom could be used to prove an unsafe situation, he said, rather than having to catch up with the individuals supposedly using them, which can be difficult in the transient environment of a share house.

“We would still be showing overcrowding by square footage, but this would provide us with not having to witness the individuals within that space,” he said.

Mr. Sendlenski also suggested increasing the maximum fine from $1,000 to $2,500 for the first offense. He recommended the fine be doubled for second offenders, and doubled again for third offenders.

Vaccine Debate Rages On in Sag Harbor

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

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

By Tessa Raebeck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Billion Rising

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onebillionrising

On Friday, February 13 at 5 p.m., local dance and theatre company, the Neo-Political Cowgirls, in partnership with The Retreat and the Sag Harbor-based Dodds & Eder, will hold a “One Billion Rising” event for its third year. This global event began as a call to action over the staggering statistic that one-in-three-women in the world experiences physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.  “One Billion Rising,” orchestrated by playwright Eve Ensler, was created to compel women and men across every country to rise up, dance and raise awareness to the injustices women suffer.

“Neo-Political Cowgirls is committed to producing provocative and inspiring theatrical works for and about women,” said Kate Mueth, founder and artistic director of NPC.  “Being able to show our support for such a critical cause and bring attention to it through performance is incredibly rewarding.”

The event will take place at Dodds & Eder, 11 Bridge Street in Sag Harbor from 5 to 7 p.m. and is for all ages. The event will include a flash mob dance, poetic readings, and musical performances by Skylar Day, Lynn Blue and the East Hampton High School Key Club.