Tag Archive | "Fred Thiele"

Sag Harbor Native Jeremy Brandt To Challenge Thiele

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By Claire Walla

The bid to represent the second district in the New York State Assembly will be fought right here in Sag Harbor.

Native Sag Harborite Jeremy Brandt, 36, who now lives in Hampton Bays, this week announced he will run with the Republican endorsement against incumbent Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. — also a Sag Harbor native.

This is Brandt’s first foray into public office.

“Fred [Thiele] has done some good things, but he’s been in Albany for 18 years,” Brandt said on Wednesday. “He’s lost touch.”

The owner of a small plumbing company based in Hampton Bays, Brandt Plumbing Corp., Brandt said the primary focus of his campaign would be small businesses, which he said are struggling to survive. His goal would be to cut taxes for small businesses and streamline the amount of time it takes for a business to get up and running, which he hopes will bring more businesses to the area.

“I want to be the voice for my generation,” Brandt continued. “Albany needs a true conservative Republican who’s on his hands and knees, working.”

Though he’s new to the political system, Brandt said his uncle — who just so happens to be Brian Gilbride, mayor of Sag Harbor — is getting him accustomed to the run of things.

“He’s a good man and he fights like hell for Sag Harbor,” Brandt said. “He’s keeping me focused, telling me about the pitfalls and how words can get minced. I’m just an ordinary guy who’s going to fight for the small companies. We all got it rough.”

Thiele, a former Republican and now a member of the Independence Party, said he is not commenting on the challenge. Coincidentally, Thiele also serves as Sag Harbor Village attorney, sitting alongside his competitor’s uncle during board meetings.

Thiele Proposes New Zone for Higher Ed. in Southampton

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By Claire Walla

According to New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, the fate of the college campus in Southampton has been put into question more than once in the last decade, which, in his opinion, is disconcerting.

To alleviate any uncertainty that may be swelling around that campus, especially in recent years, Thiele went to the Southampton Town Board last Friday, April 13 to propose legislation that would create a University-25 Zoning District in Southampton Town, specifically where Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus now sits.

There’s been a college campus in Southampton since 1963, when Long Island University built facilities there. And there the campus remained, relatively untouched, until 2005 when Long Island University announced it was for sale.

According to Thiele, a moratorium was then placed on the campus while a planning study was conducted. A year later, Stony Brook University stepped in and took over.

“When Stony Brook bought the campus [in 2006], all was well with the world,” he joked. “Then, of course, the sustainability program was transported to [the main campus], the dorms were closed and it was undetermined what the fate of the campus would be.”

In a surprising, last-minute decision, Stony Brook University decided to close all undergraduate operations at the oceanside campus at the tail end of the 2009-2010 academic year. The only operations that remained were graduate programs in creative writing and marine sciences.

After much debate and backlash from both students and lawmakers (Assemblyman Thiele and Senator Ken LaValle leading the fight), Stony Brook rescinded its decision in 2011, made a formal apology, and is now making plans to bring programs back to the campus.

The push to create an educational zoning district would be to ensure that the land always be used for higher education, no matter what.

It’s called University-25 because a minimum of 25 acres would be needed before the law could be enacted.  Although, at 82 acres, the Southampton property well exceeds that limitation; all 82 acres would fall under the town’s new educational zoning law, if enacted.

While Thiele said the property could theoretically be sub-divided at some point, he added that he couldn’t imagine a scenario in which that would take place.  Stony Brook University, which currently owns the land, is actually in support of the new zoning district.

Any voices of dissent could certainly challenge the new code (if enacted), Thiele continued, which would prompt the town the show that there’s “rational basis” for the zoning district to be enacted.

“I think the fact that it’s been a college for 50 years is certainly rational basis!” he said.

At the work session, Thiele said the thought of taking action to preserve this land for educational (and related) uses only came to him in a relatively random fashion.

“Quite frankly, I was doing research for something else when I came across Ithaca’s zoning ordinance,” Thiele explained. Ithaca, home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, has a zoning district reserved for higher education. He continued, “I had one of those ‘eureka!’ moments and said, ‘This would be great for the Southampton campus.’”

Because this would be town-wide legislation, Thiele pointed out that it would apply to the Long Island University campus in Riverhead, as well. When asked whether or not this zoning legislation would affect Stony Brook’s ability to build a hospital in Southampton, Thiele said it would not. The hospital would be regarded as a “related activity.”

The Southampton Town Board would now have to adopt a resolution to create the proposed University-25 Zoning District.

“In my view, this is a good goal, to [also work toward] maintaining that open space,” said Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming. “I want to do whatever we can to preserve that.”

According to the town’s Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray, a public hearing on the matter will be set for May 22.

Thiele Opposes Casino Legalization in New York

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Last week, the New York State Assembly passed a state constitutional amendment that opens the door to the establishment of seven new casinos in New York.

Currently, New York State only allows gambling at Native American-run facilities, although companies are allowed to have video gaming at racetracks in Yonkers and Queens. This change in the state constitution would allow companies to operate seven public casinos in New York, although the state can only legalize casinos if two elected state legislatures adopt this amendment. This is the first time the legislature has voted on the amendment meaning a second vote will be held next year before casinos are legal in New York.

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., opposed the change in law. He noted the assembly passed this amendment with almost no information in terms of where the seven casinos would be situated, what rules they will follow or whether or not a municipality will be able to enact its own legislation to prevent a casino from being built in its community.

“That was one of the principal reasons I voted against this,” said Thiele on Monday. “There are no standards on where it is permitted, no geographic standards and no provisions for home rule. It is completely open ended.”

According to Thiele, Governor Andrew Cuomo — who has championed this change in the state Constitution as being one that could boost the economy and keep gaming money currently the state in New York — has promised details will be revealed before the next vote, but that is not good enough for the veteran assemblyman.

“We don’t know how this will shake out based on what is out there now,” he said. “Right now, I feel the East End is exposed to potentially being the home of a gaming facility.”

As there are so little details, Thiele said it was unclear if local zoning could even be enacted to prevent a casino on the East End.

Lastly, Thiele said he believes the change in law will undercut the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s efforts to open their own casino somewhere in western Suffolk or Nassau County, allowing private operators with more financial support the opportunity to jump ahead of the Shinnecock Nation in running a casino.

Private Carters Make Efforts to Recycle

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By Claire Walla

When the East End said goodbye to on-site landfills more than a decade ago, dumping habits inevitably changed. Instead of carting materials to a central location locally where they were either recycled or put into the ground, transfer stations were set up to collect residents’ unwanted debris and truck it elsewhere.

According to a draft of Southampton Town’s newest waste management plan, 50 percent of those using the town transfer stations do recycle — this is reportedly better than the national average of 30 percent. However, only 15 percent of Southampton Town residents are estimated to use town transfer stations.

So, what happens to the other 85 percent?

“Most of the waste is going directly through private carters,” explained New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr., which makes it difficult for the town to regulate.

Mickey Valcich, of Mickey’s Carting, Corp. in Montauk, which services Sag Harbor and other parts of the East End, claimed Mickey’s does in fact recycle. However, his company’s recycling efforts do not require homeowners to separate materials.

“We don’t separate collections,” he explained. “Because [Eastern Resource Recycling] has a system where they sort the garbage there. They run the garbage across a conveyor belt and pull out all the recycling.”

Valcich said all waste materials and recyclables are taken to the Eastern Resource Recycling facility in Yaphank.

For Sag Harbor owned Suburban Sanitation, the situation is a little different. While the company also takes much of its debris to Eastern Resource Recycling, owner Ralph Ficorelli said cardboard and newspaper are taken to Gershow Recycling in Medford. Because the materials need to be separated-out to be taken to two separate facilities, he said his company runs on a bi-weekly recycling schedule.

Every Thursday, Ficorelli said the company rotates between picking up bundled newspapers and cardboard one week, and then co-mingled products (glass, plastic and tin) the next.

“Most people are great,” Ficorelli said. “They either have bins marked recyclables, or it’s separated from their other stuff.” He estimated that between 50 to 75 percent of his clientele make an active effort to distinguish recyclables from regular rubbish, though that’s just a ballpark estimate.

For the rest of the households on his company’s pick-up route, those that don’t actively recycle, Ficorelli said that doesn’t necessarily mean recyclable materials are simply discarded.

Just as Mickey Valcich explained, Ficorelli said that much of the debris taken to Eastern Resource Recycling is placed on a giant conveyor belt, where employees pick through materials, separating out all the recyclables.

Whether or not everything gets separated out from the rest of the trash heap, Ficorelli said he wasn’t sure. “It depends,” he said. “A lot of the material they put on the picking belt is loose material. They run [the garbage] through a trommel, which actually does break open a lot of the bags,” he explained.

“I don’t know what the average is, but [the pickers] make a valiant attempt to recycle whatever they can,” he added.

Both Ficorelli and Valcich said they do not get paid for any of their scrap material (though Ficorelli said Gershow does pay for newspaper and cardboard material). However, they don’t have to pay tipping fees for recyclables, because Eastern Resource Recycling can turn those products around and sell them for a profit.

“We’re basically just happy to get rid of them at no cost,” Ficorelli said.

While materials like glass and plastic may not be very valuable here in the U.S., these materials can be separated out and sold internationally. According to www.recycleinme.com— which lists current market prices for various scrap materials — the price of plastics in China, for example, is roughly three times the market price in the U.S.

As part of its new waste management plan, which is regulated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Southampton Town is being required to gather information from private carters regarding their recycling habits. This will give the town a better idea of where all its waste is going.

However, Assemblyman Thiele said even with this information, the town would not necessarily have the authority to regulate it.

“It makes it difficult to enforce these recycling goals, because [the town] doesn’t really have control over the waste stream,” he explained.

Thiele said the town will have to re-shift its priorities in order to truly be able to regulate and control its solid waste. When the landfill was shut-down, Thiele said the town took a good hard look at alternatives to waste disposal, including building a waste-management plant or a recycling facility. But instead, he said, the town took “the path of least resistance.”

Thiele continued, “My guess is that less waste is being recycled today.”

MTA Hopes to Implement Some of SEEDS Study Before 2015

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By Claire Wall


Do you remember when you could see a flicker of light at the end of the Long Island Rail Road tunnel?

Well, according to those integrally linked to the future of transportation here on the East End, it may be faint, but it’s still there.

It’s been 10 years since local transportation experts banned together under the leadership of the New York Mass Transit Council (NYMTC) to create SEEDS: Sustainable East End Development Strategies. And while not much has been said of the plan since it came to a conclusion in 2005, those at the helm of the effort believe change is afoot.

“I’m optimistic,” said New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. of the possibility of increasing rail service between Patchogue and Montauk. He noted that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has already allotted $80 million in its capital plan for 2010 – 2015 for small diesel trains, called “scoot trains,” that would be added to rail lines to increase the frequency of train service in the east.

What’s more, as Southampton Town Director of Transportation Tom Neely pointed out, the MTA has also reserved $50 million in its five-year capital plan to create an electronic signal system on the South Fork. One of the biggest issues responsible for the infrequency of train travel between Patchogue and Montauk, Neely explained, is that train operators on this leg of the LIRR track are in “dark territory”: they’re not in communication with one another, so two trains headed for each other on the same track would have no way of knowing they’re aiming for collision.

“It’s the same way they did it 150 years ago,” he exclaimed.

While funding is only really targeted for this service at this point and is not a total guarantee, Thiele continued by saying, for him, seeing this support from the MTA “is a step in the right direction.”

It also helps, Thiele continued, that the newly elected Suffolk County Legislator Steve Bellone “has endorsed all of this,” having made transportation his number one East End issue on the campaign trail.

“We’ve had the most support we’ve ever had on this,” he added.

Comprising nearly five years of research, the SEEDS study lays out comprehensive plans for both sustainable growth in terms of population and infrastructure, and increasing the frequency and efficiency of public transportation on the East End. In the end, the two go hand-in-hand. In building up village and hamlet centers to be high-density and therefore low-impact, this would create opportunities on the East End for implementing transit centers.

Neely pointed to the new development plan at the Bulova building in Sag Harbor as a good example of sustainable growth. Because it aims to create high density residences in a downtown area, “it’s a very good example of a development that can make good use of public transportation,” he said.

Recognizing the problems with scant train service on the East End and the subsequent absence of a coordinated bus system, the SEEDS study ultimately resulted in two plans aimed at increasing train travel to and from the East End, Neely said.

The system would ideally function with inter-modal transportation hubs. After restoring train service to Calverton and Grabeski Airport, Neely said there would be at least five major inter-modal hubs (linking train and bus services) throughout the East End: East Hampton and Southampton Villages, Hampton Bays and downtown Riverhead. The SEEDS study also discussed the need for a water taxi between the North and South Forks, which would necessitate an inter-modal transportation hub in Greenport, as well.

“To move forward we would need strong political report,” said Neely, who played a significant role in overseeing the SEEDS process. The transportation projects alone are estimated to cost more than $1 million to fully implement.

While he did say Congressman Tim Bishop had once requested $1 million in earmarked funds to continue this project, the poor economic climate has impacted the state’s ability to move forward in support of this.

“Earmarks are pretty much dead in the water at this point in Congress, “Neely said.

And while Assemblyman Thiele has also drafted two bills, one to create a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Council and the other to create a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority, he said legislators have thus far failed to act on either measure.

Ideally, Neely said the five towns of the East End — Southampton, East Hampton, Shelter Island, Riverhead and Southold — should work together to create a Transportation Development District, as NYMTC recommended. However, at this moment, nothing seems to be moving forward on that front.

While he continues to hope the MTA will pull through and put its money where its mouth is, in the meantime Neely said efforts to rebuild and construct the towns of the East End in environmentally sustainable ways will have to be done on a local level. Southampton Town, for example, has adopted a Complete Streets policy that will encourage new developments to consider adding bike lanes and sidewalks, for example, when repaving town roads.

In the end, Neely hopes legislators will continue to work to get state funding to act on the SEEDS plan.

“Anything would be better than what we have right now,” he continued. “Which is nothing.”

Montauketts Vie For State Recognition

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By Claire Walla


The fight to preserve Native American cultures on the East End of Long Island gained momentum this past year when the Shinnecock Indian Nation finally received federal recognition in 2010. Now, thanks to support from Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele, the Montaukett Indian Nation is fighting a similar battle, this time with the state.

The tribe actually lost its recognition from New York State over 100 years ago after a court case that officially dissolved the tribe’s status as a recognized nation based on the argument that the tribe had dispersed.

“Currently, they are not recognized by the state as an Indian Nation,” Thiele declared. “The important part about that is that if you’re recognized under state laws, you can receive both education and health benefits.”

Bob Pharaoh, the tribe’s current chief and a resident of Sag Harbor, said that receiving benefits through the state is one of the perks to being a recognized tribe. But for him, the real advantage to state recognition is the ability to spread knowledge of Montaukett culture, and the tribe’s storied history.

The 1910 court case, which Pharaoh said essentially labeled the tribe “extinct,” was spurred by the relocation of many Montaukett Indian Nation members who, for financial reasons, moved further west.

“At that point, the tribe had no money,” he said. “[Tribe members] were exhausted, so they broke up and scattered to try to make a living however they could.”

While the tribe currently has close to 1,000 members total, he said there are only a handful of Montauketts still living on the East End.

Pharaoh said the Montauketts attempted to apply for federal recognition back in 1996, but the process proved to be too grueling.

“I just decided to back away from that, thinking state recognition would be faster,” he explained. “Anyway, it’s more advantageous to us now.”

With the legislation recently drafted by Senator LaValle and Assemblyman Thiele, Pharaoh said he hopes to negotiate with the state for a piece of property in Montauk to be “just for tribal use.”

“I want to try to [establish] a cultural center,” he continued. “Somewhere where people can go and see where we lived and what happened to us. My goal is to try to perpetuate the culture so that we’re not forgotten.”

There is a plethora of Montaukett artifacts now on display at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. Pharaoh said he has a good relationship with the museum and will be able to secure much of the collection for the cultural center he envisions for the East End, for which there is already a concept in place.

“I want to keep it natural,” he explained. “The design I have for the building is very unique.”

Pharaoh has already met with the architect who designed the Pequot Museum in Connecticut (a close friend) to hash-out plans for the proposed Montaukett cultural center. While he didn’t want to get into details, he insisted the East End has never seen anything like it.

“Let’s just say, unless you know where it is, you won’t be able to see it,” Pharaoh hinted. “It’s self-operating, self-powering and it’s underground.”

Assemblyman Thiele said the legislation to he drafted with Senator LaValle will probably be addressed in the spring.

“It’s important to right this wrong,” said Thiele. “This doesn’t have anything to do with casinos and gambling. It’s just fundamental fairness. To me, as an attorney, the decision that basically determined that the Montauketts were no longer a tribe was one of the great legal injustices in the state of New York.”

College Suit Settled

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By Claire Walla


More than a year after students of Stony Brook Southampton College pressed charges against Stony Brook University after university president Samuel Stanley closed the satellite campus without fair warning, all litigation has come to an end.

The settlement — agreed upon by the students involved, members of grassroots organization Save the College and officials of Stony Brook University — entails four main components: the university will pay for the students’ outstanding attorneys fees, the Sustainability Program at Stony Brook’s main campus will be guaranteed through 2014, the state university system will fund a sustainability conference at the Southampton Campus in 2014 and University President Samuel Stanley will formally apologize to the students who were impacted by the closing of the campus.

“It certainly wasn’t everything everyone wanted, but it was important to ensuring the future of the college and, certainly, from a point of view of justice, it was important for the students, who were very much wronged, to bring this to court—and to win,” said Assemblyman Fred Thiele this week.

Along with Senator Ken LaValle, Thiele has been instrumental in reestablishing activity on the satellite campus, which this year has been completely shuttered, save for graduate programs in writing and marine sciences. The campus is an important issue for both legislators, both of whom played pivotal roles in getting the State University of New York (SUNY) to purchase the campus from Long Island University back in 2006.

President Stanley announced the campus’ closure last April, just three months before the start of the coming school year, citing the impact of state budget cuts. He came under fire for the move in large part because he had failed to consult the school’s University Council before coming to his decision. By university law, the president is obligated to consult with the council before making any “major plans,” such as closing a campus.

“In a perfect world we would have brought the sustainability program back to Southampton. [It is now being bolstered on Stony Brook’s main campus.] That is the one disappointment here,” Thiele continued. “But, we did get justice for the students.”

Thiele said his goals while guiding students through their lawsuit were, first and foremost, to achieve justice; but also to assure that the program will continue.

Now, with much of the controversy behind them, both Thiele and LaValle are looking to the future of the campus.

In a press release last week, he announced $6.9 million had been re-appropriated to the Southampton campus for a new marine sciences building, and Stony Brook recently issued $7.5 million for a new student center. Construction on both projects is expected to start within a year. These contributions exemplify what Thiele referred to in the press release as an “ambitious vision” on the part of he and Senator LaValle “that would make the campus a busy academic hub benefiting all of Eastern Long Island.”

“I see now the potential for a very bright future,” Thiele continued. He said the arts program will be “the keystone” of the future of the college, but expanded programs in marine sciences, the creation of a sustainability institute and construction on a new medical facility that will bridge a partnership between the college and Southampton Hospital will see the school into the future.

Tax Cap Cometh, Staff Cuts Likely

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By Claire Walla

By now, local governments across New York are in preparation mode.
In light of news that the state will impose a two-percent tax cap for the upcoming fiscal year (2012-2013), Southampton Town is getting ready to cut back. And it seems cuts to staff will be imminent.
“It is always my goal to avoid layoffs,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst this week. And while she said she will try to reorganize positions and even cut back on hours to prevent eliminating any positions outright, at this point some form of staff reductions will be unavoidable.
According to a presentation made by New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele last Friday, July 15, the tax cap would prevent local government districts from increasing their tax levies by more than two percent, or the cost of inflation, whichever is less. As it stands now, the inflation rate is around 1.85 percent.
During a meeting in her Southampton office this past Tuesday, Supervisor Throne-Holst communicated to members of the media some key elements of the steps she is taking leading up to the budget season. Most importantly, she said she is continuing efforts taken last year to make the budget process as inclusive as possible.
“This year, I’m going to improve on that interactive forum and bring the public into that discussion,” she said, referring to budget workshops held last October after the tentative budget was passed. The process will be a little different this year, as Throne-Holst plans to hold three public workshops the week of September 12, well before the tentative budget is due on September 30. She added that her intent is “to get some input and guidance and feedback on what matters [to the community] and why.”
Last year, Throne-Holst proposed streamlining town operations and combining services in a few departments while also resisting the urge to re-hire some recently vacated positions, most notably in the highway department. The supervisor said that she will look at reorganizing, reintroducing shared services and consolidating work duties again this year.
In the next few weeks, department heads will be meeting with the comptroller, Tamara Wright, to determine exactly what effect such a two-percent cap will have on their funding streams. Throne-Holst has challenged each department to come up with ways it will be able to cut costs in the coming year.
“For example, the highway department uses, overwhelmingly, outside engineering services,” she said. “We have an in-house engineer. This is a time to look very closely at things like that.”
But she anticipated that cutting costs will necessitate a multi-pronged approach. For instance, she added, “Maybe we can cut down on desk hours in the assessor’s office, or the clerk’s department.”
“Again, it will take a lot of careful thought,” she said.
Assemblyman Thiele suggested on Friday that the town might consider raising fees for some of its services. However, Throne-Holst addressed the issue by suggesting such measures would need to be taken into careful consideration.
“In this economy, you don’t want to whack your constituents with a fee increase that’s unsustainable,” she said. For example, if fees rise so drastically it stops the public from paying for certain services, that would dig the town into an even greater hole.
She pointed to senior services as an area that could potentially see a fee increase. “There are hundreds of seniors [at the senior center] every day for lunch. The place is packed. But, we charge very little for that,” she said, adding that even in this instance fee increases might not be the ticket.
“That’s a delicate balancing act, too,” she continued, noting that higher fees could potentially deter seniors from taking advantage of the lunch service, causing long-term health effects.
As the town makes efforts to address its financial future, Throne-Holst ultimately said she hopes the process is as collaborative as possible.
“I’m hoping that both my colleagues and our constituents will work with me through this,” she added. “We have to make sure that both our finances and our tax-payers are protected.”

Marriage Equality Bill Passes, East End Celebrates

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By Claire Walla

Ken Dorph remembers being here 32 years ago. It was 1969, just after the Stonewall riots which sparked the beginning of the gay pride movement in the United States. Back then, Dorph said the Gay Pride Parade drew just a few dozen participants.

This year, it was much different.

Last Sunday, June 26 at the annual Gay Pride Parade in New York City, Dorph stood among hundreds of people at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 37th Street next to his partner of three decades, Stuart Lowrie, and their two children, Darius and Leyla, both 10. Wearing a white cowboy hat and a perpetual smile, Dorph held up a sign: “2 Dads, 30 years, 2 Kids, 1 Mortgage, A Marriage. I [heart] NY.”

Several excitable parade participants stopped mid-procession to take a picture with the Sag Harbor resident and his hand-crafted sign, and many more paused a moment to photograph Leyla, who — eyes fixated on the parade — propped her arms and head atop a handmade sign of her own: “I [heart] My Two Dads.”

This is the first time in nearly 20 years Dorph has decided to attend the parade. And he’s done so for good reason.
Just two days earlier, on June 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Marriage Equality Bill, making New York the sixth state in the nation to legalize same sex marriage, giving same-sex partners the same legal benefits as heterosexual couples.

Dozens of people held signs Sunday afternoon thanking Governor Cuomo for his effort to pass the bill: “A promise kept,” they read.

The New York City Police Department estimates at least two million people eventually congregated in West Greenwich Village on Christopher Street, just outside the Stonewall Inn.

The hours-long procession saw everything from the avant garde (people wearing pasties, Speedos, silver shoulder spikes, handmade stuffed-animal-pants and skin-tight baby-blue teddy bear suits); to the professional (teachers, firefighters, police officers and flight attendants); the recreational (volleyball players, mountain climbers, skiers and sprinters); and even the conventional (church groups and politicians, including Governor Cuomo).

“It’s like a slice of every corner of society!” Dorph exclaimed. “To come to something like this and see a million gay people in one place …” Dorph’s jaw dropped as he demonstrated his joy. “It’s like, anyone can be gay. And they’re all free.”

HOW IT HAPPENED

The Marriage Equality Bill passed in New York with a vote that came down to the wire, ultimately passing 33 to 29.

This week’s legislation comes just three years after Proposition 8 in California, which overturned a state supreme court ruling giving same-sex couples a right to marry. The comparison wasn’t lost on parade-goers, who held signs condemning the west-coast proposition: “I’ll see your Prop 8, and I raise you New York,” one read.
But it also comes just two years after former New York Governor David Paterson introduced legislation to legalize gay marriage in the state. It was shot down then, even though Democrats had a majority in the Senate.

“My sense is that two years ago, if you took politics out of it, there was a majority of senators who would have voted for it then,” said State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr.

But by Thiele’s account, the bill failed then because too many senators were not comfortable voting their convictions. For one thing, Thiele noted that the Senate votes alphabetically in a role-call procedure; he said too many swing voters were called to cast their votes in the beginning, and few were willing to be the first to come out in support of the legislation.

“Governor Cuomo was the difference maker on this,” Thiele continued. “His leadership created a climate by which more senators voted their convictions. He instilled them with the political courage to stand up for this.”
For Thiele, the fight for marriage equality is the continuation of a decades-long movement for civil rights.

“This the latest civil rights victory in a string of civil rights legislation that goes back to the ‘60s,” he explained. He evoked a phrase used by Martin Luther King, Jr., who said “the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.”

“This is a trend toward individual rights,” he stated. “I think Governor Cuomo said it right. People were focused on the first word of the bill, marriage, when the most important word was equality. To me what’s important is we as a state government treat people equally, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

MARRIAGE EQALITY ON THE EAST END

Back at the parade and surrounded by more rainbow-colored garb than you’d find at a Grateful Dead concert — there were at least 33 unique multi-colored articles of clothing and rainbow-print accessories, from flags, leis, boas and wigs, to paper roses, nail polish and neck ties — Dorph admitted the passage of the marriage equality act “is huge.”

Though he and Lowrie were legally married in Vancouver, he said they plan to marry in Dorph’s home state of New York some time next year.

Another Sag Harbor parent who came to the parade with her young daughter — she said she’s hesitant to have her name published because she works for the public school system — added that she will eventually marry her partner of over 16 years sometime next year, as well.

Though the law legalizing gay marriage will go into effect within a month, neither couple is eager to rush to the altar.

“I don’t want to just throw something together,” the woman said. “I want to really plan it.”

Here on the East End, Pastor Katrina Foster of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett and Incarnation Lutheran Church in Bridgehampton said she’s already received one request to perform a wedding ceremony for a lesbian couple since last week — a reality she’s incredibly excited about.

Foster herself made waves in the Christian community when — in 2002 — she officially came out to the congregation she was a part of in the Bronx. Later, in 2007, she came out on the floor of the church-wide assembly.

“It’s the highest legislative body in my denomination,” she said. “I really could have been defrocked at that moment.”

But, because of the strong support from the community immediately around her, she wasn’t. Foster has since moved to the East End where she’s brought her spirit of openness and unity to Amagansett, most recently leading the effort to establish St. Michaels as a Reconciling in Christ congregation: last month, the church officially adopted a public statement of welcome for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Like Dorph, she said the fight for equality is not over. But she hopes the Marriage Equality Act will begin to make it more comfortable for gay people, particularly those here on the East End, to come out — and not to be fearful of the consequences.

“It still is an act of courage to be out,” she said. “People are scared of losing their jobs. But the reality is, we have a lot of gay people on the East End and a lot of gay families living here full-time. Hopefully, as gay and lesbian weddings happen, people will look around and say, I’m not the only one.”

“I think courage is contagious,” she continued, “and I think this bill will help be part of that contagion.”

Incumbents Will Seek Re-Election This June

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Incumbent Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride will seek a second term at the helm, along with incumbent trustees Ed Gregory and Tim Culver and appointed Sag Harbor Village Justice Andrea Schiavoni. All four will vie to keep their seats under the Sag Harbor Party, which has dominated village government throughout several administrations.

With the deadline to submit petitions to run for village office just a month away, no contenders have yet to pick up a packet from the Municipal Building, according to village administrator Beth Kamper. Interested parties have until May 5 to collect 50 resident signatures to run in the election, which will be held June 21.

For Gilbride, the decision to run for a second term — something the mayor said he would not likely do when elected two years ago — comes from a desire to see several projects, and a lawsuit, to the end before he takes his leave of public service.

The lawsuit is a $30 million one filed by East End Ventures that claimed the village intentionally re-zoned the firm’s Ferry Road parcels in order to prevent a condominium project to move forward.

While the case was dismissed earlier this winter, a judge has allowed East End Ventures attorney to re-plead one aspect of the case — that the condominium project proposed was similar to the village-approved condominium project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory. The case is still pending.

“I would also like to see as much of the Havens Beach remediation completed,” said Gilbride.

The village recently received a proposal by its environmental planning consultant Rich Warren to remediate the drainage ditch at the popular bathing beach, which has shown unsafe levels of bacterial contamination.

Gilbride said if re-elected, he would also like to see drainage improvements on Latham, Rogers and Henry streets completed in his next term. That neighborhood bore the brunt of flooding as a result of massive rain storms last March.

Gilbride said he was thrilled the incumbent slate was running together as a team, and praised appointed village justice Andrea Schiavoni for running the village’s newly installed justice court throughout the winter.

“I have heard nothing but good responses about Andrea’s leadership and the convenience of having a court in Sag Harbor,” said Gilbride.

Incumbent trustee Ed Gregory, who brings over 20 years of experience to the board, having served as a member for close to 15 years in the 1980s and returning to the board in 2003, said like Gilbride there are projects he would like to see finished during his tenure on the board.

“We have been talking about Havens Beach for so many years now, and a plan is finally coming to fruition,” said Gregory, who added he would like to see the village through its purchase of Long Wharf from Suffolk County as well.

“I would also like to see what is going to become of Bulova,” he said. “It has been sitting there for so long and I would like the building inspector to investigate the condition of the building after this very harsh winter and see if it can still be renovated. It’s a safety concern. I am worried about bricks falling off that building.”

Culver, who for weeks now has said he would not seek a second term citing his bustling law practice and family commitments, changed his mind this week.

He said his goal is to ensure the village continues to keep its spending under control, and that the current board is on the right track, tackling issues like Havens Beach and the creation of the justice court.

“I want to continue what we have done, which is keep costs down, but address important issues like Havens Beach and preserving access to our waterfront,” said Culver.

Former mayor Pierce Hance, who was rumored to be seeking office this year, said on Monday that while anything is possible his candidacy “is not probable.”

Music Festival & Radio Station Announce Partnership

The MTK: Music to Know Festival announced a partnership this week with WEHM-FM 92.9 and 96.9, which will have exclusive broadcast rights to the summer music festival, scheduled for August 12 through August 14.

The location of the festival has yet to be finalized, as Sag Harbor residents Chris Jones and Bill Collage attempt to secure a commercial mass gathering permit to use land at the East Hampton Airport for the festival, which is expected to draw 9,500 concert goers and feature 20 bands over the two-day period.

The promoters already have approval to host the concert at Ocean View Farm in Amagansett, although a group of residents recently filed suit against the town to prevent the concert from moving forward at that location.

According to a release issued this week by public relations coordinator Michelle Fox, WEHM-FM will broadcast live during the two-day event, interviewing bands and spotlighting local charities. As a part of their permit application, Jones and Collage have agreed to make a $100,000 donation to local charities and food pantries.

In addition, WEHM-FM will promote the festival, offering a series of contests for VIP and General Admission tickets.

“We are very excited about our collaboration with MTK for the music festival this August,” said station manager Harry Wareing. “Our focus has always been ‘about the music’ and this is fantastic opportunity to share ‘EHM’s great sound with a partner who is equally enthusiastic.”

While the promoters have remained mum on who will headline the festival and what additional acts will perform, Fox said the line-up will be announced in coming weeks. Tickets are also expected to go one sale in mid-April.

Thiele Fights to Keep Saltwater Fishing License Enjoined

In a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo last week, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. requested the state drop its appeal of a December 2010 decision to enjoin the implementation of the State Saltwater Fishing License in the waters of seven Long Island Towns including all town waters on the East End.

Last week the State Legislature included Thiele’s proposal to repeal the license and fee and replaced it with a free registry to meet the requirements of federal law as part of the 2011 State Budget.

“I strongly opposed this law from the outset as an unwarranted infringement of the right to fish and the local home rule powers of our towns under the colonial patents,” said Thiele in a release issued last week. “A State Supreme Court Judge issued an injunction and now the State Legislature has repealed the law and enacted a free registry which is consistent with federal law, the Judge’s decision and the right to fish bestowed by the colonial patents. It would be silly for the state to now appeal this decision. First, it is moot. Second it would be a waste of state and local tax dollars to continue to litigate the legality of a repealed law. The Governor should direct the DEC and the Attorney-General to drop the appeal.”