Tag Archive | "Greenport"

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.

League of Women Voters Hosts Southampton Town Board Candidates Debate

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By Tessa Raebeck

In front of a packed room Thursday night, candidates for Southampton Town Board debated experience, integrity and economics. Democrats Brad Bender and Frank Zappone faced Republicans Stan Glinka and Jeff Mansfield in a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons at Rogers Memorial Library.

Moderated by Carol Mellor, voter service co-chair for the league, the debate included questions asked by members of the audience, as well as by Bryan Boyhan, editor and publisher of The Sag Harbor Express, Joe Shaw, executive editor for the Press News Group, and Judy Samuelson of the league.

Noting that all the candidates would be first time town board members, Shaw asked what issue their first piece of legislation would address.

“Water quality is going to be my number one issue,” replied Bender, mentioning his endorsement from the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum. “The first thing I want to do is really take a look at how we’re going to start saving our town — how do we work regionally with state, local, federal governments to make a difference for our waterways.”

“We have dragged our feet for way too long,” he continued. “We are so far behind in the technology in this community that we should be ashamed.”

Mansfield answered that his top three issues are fiscal responsibility, code enforcement and water quality. He said he fully supports Councilwoman Christine Scalera’s septic rebate program, but that “we need to do more.”

He advocates working with the schools to plant more eelgrass and seed the bays with shellfish.

“That’s nature’s way to filter the bays,” he said. “There’s a lot of nitrogen-reducing technology available in states like Rhode Island and Maryland that have a lot of tributaries and waterways. We don’t have it approved by the county yet — we need to lobby hard.”

Glinka pointed to three things that he would “have to tackle all at once evenly,” economic redevelopment, public safety and the environment. He said it is “vitally important” to have a good relationship with town trustees.

“Many of the small businesses in this town are struggling, making it economically feasible to stay here but also to attract new businesses,” he said, adding that he would also look at further staffing the police force and code enforcement office to increase public safety.

“Although these problems are very important problems for the town, they’re not going to be impacted by a single piece of legislation,” responded Zappone, who serves as deputy supervisor for the town. He said that he and the current administration moved code enforcement into the town attorney’s office, effectively quadrupling the number of enforcement actions due to improved communication.

“My first piece of legislation,” he said, “would be to bring fire marshal and code enforcement into one public safety unit so they could work closely with the town attorney and our court system so that we can effectively prosecute and proceed to getting some compliance issues addressed throughout the town.”

Shaw posed a question from the audience asking the candidates to state their position on the proposed Tuckahoe Center supermarket and retail complex on County Road 39.

“I believe firmly in representative government,” answered Mansfield. “So my job is not to tell you what I think is best, my job is to do what you think is best and my job is to find out what that is by vetting the issue, going out to the community, finding out the pulse of the community then taking action in a cost-effective and timely manner and that’s exactly what I will do.”

Glinka referred to his experience as president of the Hampton Bays Chamber of Commerce.

“I think communication and education are the two foremost important factors in here and making sure that we make the best decision as a group,” he said. “It’s very important to hear what you as a community wants and what the people in the town want, not what I want as town council.”

“We need updated traffic studies,” replied Zappone. “We need updated analysis of the changing demographics of the community and we also need to look at the potential merger of these two school districts [Tuckahoe and Southampton] and how that might impact the community. So there’s a lot of information to gather before we go out communicating and educating the community, which is important to do but we need the information and we need the facts collected as best we possibly can.”

Bender pointed to the numerous vacant lots that are on County Road 39 adjacent to the proposal property.

“We don’t need to build new things when we have things sitting empty,” he said. “We’ve got empty stores up and down County Road 39, we’ve got blight up and down County Road 39 and until we address these issues we have no business then building anything else in that spot.”

Acknowledging Bender’s comment, Boyhan asked the candidates what pressures the town can bring to bear on property owners who have had unsuccessful businesses or let their buildings deteriorate and what can be done to force the repurpose of those buildings.

Glinka advocated streamlining the process by which new businesses can come into Southampton.

“Sometimes we’re anti-business,” he said. “It makes it very difficult for people to come in here and set up businesses. If we could make it attractive for developers to come out here and revitalize those [old motels that have been turned into section eight housing] and make it certain that that’s what they’re going to do and bring the tourism back out here and make it affordable for people to come out here with families, I think that would start a domino effect in attracting businesses,” he maintained.

Zappone said it’s important to take advantage of the business advisory council that resides at the Stony Brook Southampton campus, as well as initiating tax relief elements.

“If businesses are going to be viable on that road,” he said of County Road 39, “something has to be done about the way traffic flows on that road.”

He advocates bringing in low volume businesses such as law offices and consulting firms and called for a regional approach to addressing blighted properties.

Bender referenced his involvement in the Riverside Economic Development Committee and spoke of working together with the International Development Association (IDA) and the Regional Economic Development Council to help small businesses and also ensure they can help themselves.

“The last thing that small business owners need is senseless regulation from the government,” replied Mansfield. “I’m a capitalist. I believe in free markets, I believe in competition. I think if government isn’t helping small business it needs to step aside.”

Mansfield called for the small business office to return to town hall and emphasized listening to small business owners.

Referencing the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Boyhan asked the candidates whether the town is prepared for another major storm and what can be done to improve the town’s response to such an event. All of the candidates applauded the work of the town employees and officials in response to Sandy.

Referring to the fatal traffic accident that stopped traffic on County Road 39 for nine hours July 25, Mansfield said, “There’s still work to be done and we’re vulnerable to a big evacuation. I think we can do a better job of warning our citizens and making sure they can get out if they need to get out.”

Glinka said he would definitely work on “ensuring if we did have to evacuate the area, how would we do this in a timely, safe manner.”

“Our demographic area — it’s very unique and I think we have to approach it in such a way,” he continued. “I think just enhancing and working with what the current administration has in place already, I think we can only improve upon it. And also working with community members and civic organizations and public safety areas and getting their input as well.”

Zappone thanked the other candidates for the recognition of a job well done.

“Yes, we are better prepared,” he said, adding that, with the help of consultants, the chief of police, fire marshals and the fire chief, the administration has completely revised and rewritten its emergency operational procedures and is in the final stages of preparing a hazard mitigation plan that “will give us a better opportunity to be resilient in the case of a storm.”

Bender called for the completion of the Flanders Nutrition Site, which he said is supposed to be a command center.

“If we do have one of these major storms that’s going to make us move off our shore, where are we going to go?” he asked. “What are we going to do? We have a command center that’s not complete, we could finish that.”

Residents of Southampton Town will be able to vote for two of the four town board candidates in the general election November 5.

Pierson Teachers Host Community Forum on Proposed Auditorium Renovations

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By Tessa Raebeck

Exposed wires, breaking seats and a sound system that routinely fails during performances are just some of the things the performing arts faculty at Pierson Middle/High School hope will be fixed by the Sag Harbor School District’s proposed capital projects bond — if it passes November 13.

At a community forum Tuesday on the proposed renovation of the Pierson auditorium, teachers told stories of the dangers and inefficiencies of the current space, which was part of the original Pierson construction in 1907 and was converted from a gym to an auditorium in the 1980s.

“The foundational criteria for everything that we were doing was health and safety,” explained Peter Solow, an art teacher who serves on the Educational Facilities Planning Committee, the group of community members which formulated the bond propositions.

The auditorium renovations are included in Proposition 1, which holds the bulk of the proposed improvements. The proposal aims to create safer egress from the theater, increase seating capacity, improve the theatrical lighting and sound systems, and add support facilities and supplemental air conditioning.

“It will make it more efficient on a daily basis, but it will also make it safer,” said Solow. “If we had to evacuate this place very quickly, it could be problematic.”

The teachers estimate that about 60 high school students and 90 middle school students are involved in performing arts at Pierson in some capacity each year, while all students use the auditorium during assemblies.

The auditorium currently has no designated handicapped seating area and no room for the pit orchestra, which ends up using about 50 audience seats during performances. During a play last spring, an audience member sat in a chair that promptly broke, resulting in a fall. In addition to new seats, the bond would increase the seating capacity so the entire student body of the high school could fit in the auditorium at once. The school currently puts on multiple presentations of the same assembly, often at additional cost.

The bond also provides for storage space for instruments and equipment.

“No matter what condition things are in, obviously we are going to do our best and put on the performances,” said Paula Brannon, director of Pierson musicals. “I see things backstage that are safety hazards that are beyond the control of custodial staff or administrators to fix anymore.”

Brannon said sets and costumes which could be recycled for use in future performances are often thrown out because there is nowhere to store them.

“At the end of every show we have a decision,” she said. “Do we throw this away or do we try and save that? And if we save that, we’re now to the point where we have to throw something else away in its place. It will just continue the costs.”

“If you do go backstage right now — and a child does go backstage — there’s tools, there’s glass, there’s wood, there’s screws, there’s nails, there’s all kinds of things — and no lights,” added music teacher Eric Reynolds. “.It’s very dangerous to have a shared space without any kind of room to store some of that material.”

Reynolds said there is not an empty spot to be found in the existing space and instruments and other materials are often lost due to lack of organization.

“One of us is always scrambling to find an instructional space,” he said of the music teachers. “Right now our students really don’t have any rooms to practice in.”

Currently, makeshift dressing rooms are housed in classrooms and bathrooms, making it awkward to navigate the school during production week. Brannon said that during performances, students must “run the entire width of the school” to get to the stage.

“They deserve their own space,” said Reynolds, who added that when audience members use the bathroom during intermission, “you walk in there and the entire cast of boys from the musical is in the bathroom.”

Members of the faculty also spoke of “many incidents” of sound and lighting systems failing during performances. Because the sound system is “antiquated,” Brannon said the school must rent sound equipment every year, using $8,000 of the funds allotted for musicals.

“We love to be self-sufficient, we try really, really hard, but there’s just a lot that we can’t overcome,” said Brannon.

Reynolds said the school started renting outside equipment because on opening night of “Chicago” three years ago, the entire sound system — including all the mics — “totally failed.”

“So, three years later, we hire professional sound guys at a large cost. It would be great not to have to do that,” he said.

Pierson’s audiovisual coordinator Austin Remson recalls, “assemblies where five minutes before the show was going to start, there was a short that blew all the circuits. Unfortunately, that happens very often where this stuff is old, it’s very old.”

When searching for a new light board five years ago, Remson had trouble locating one that worked with the outdated system.

“The only board we could get is a used board from 1995 because our system is what we call DMX and the world is now AMX,” he said. “So that took a great deal of effort to try to find something when the old board completely broke and that [newer] board now has about five channels on it that don’t work.”

“How many Band-Aids are we going to put on?” he asked. “How much money are we going to keep throwing at the problem that is recurring?”

Remson said on a regular basis, an entire row of lights will go out, with replacements costing some $45 a bulb.

“It’s amazing how many crises happen on almost a daily basis that have to be remedied very quickly,” continued Remson, adding that sometimes when he climbs up to change the bulbs, he finds wiring harnesses that have “completely melted.”

“This is really dangerous,” he said. “It’s a little scary.”

The bond would create a controlled climate in the auditorium, which was quite cold on Tuesday. Remson said he asked the custodians to turn the air conditioning off during a particularly cold assembly last week and they replied they were afraid to because they didn’t think it would come back on.

The primary concern expressed by the faculty Tuesday was not for a warmer room or nicer seats, but for the students.

“Students that had their moment to shine and they’re half lit or students who are not able to be lit because we don’t have the capability,” said Remson. “Our students are fantastic and they really deserve a space that’s inspiring and safe.”

The Pierson performing arts department will host another community forum on the proposed improvements on Tuesday, November 5 at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium.

Sag School Board Talks Parking, Process for Bond Proposals

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By Tessa Raebeck

“We’re just trying to get facilities that are as good as the children we serve,” Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, said of the district’s proposed capital improvements bond at Monday’s board of education meeting.

In anticipation of the November 13 vote on the bond, district representatives addressed concerns and opinions voiced by community members in recent weeks — particularly in regards to the proposed parking lot renovations — and clarified the design process that would take place should the bond pass, as well as details of the current diagrams. With the help of district architect Larry Salvesen, Dr. Bonuso emphasized all plans are conceptual schematics that could undergo continual revisions that would not change the face of the projects, but could alter their scope.

The bond is separated into two distinct propositions. Proposition 1, with a projected cost of $7,357,132, covers the majority of the proposed capital work. Through five categories (architectural, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and site), it addresses facilities preservation and renovations, building code compliance and ADA compliance, health and safety issues, energy conservation improvements and efficiencies and supports the district’s curriculum.

In addition to capital improvement work like installing CO2 sensors and re-piping the domestic hot water heater, Proposition 1 includes: the renovation of the Pierson Middle/High School auditorium, as well as construction of support facilities; renovations to the Pierson shop/technology classroom space; expansion of the Pierson kitchen; the addition of a storage room in the Sag Harbor Elementary School (SHES) gymnasium; and the restoration and reconfiguration of the Jermain Avenue parking lot at Pierson and the Hampton Street lot at SHES.

At the estimated cost of $1,620,000, Proposition 2 will be voted on separately and provides for the installation of a synthetic turf athletic field, a two-lane walking track and other site improvements, such as a scoreboard.

At Monday’s meeting, Dr. Bonuso and other administrators emphasized the timing is as good as any to execute the bond, as bond rates have lowered and the district will receive approximately 10 percent in state aid.

“Most of these things we would go ahead and we’d do it anyway [through annual budgets], the problem is we would pay more money and we would have to wait a whole lot longer to reap the benefits,” explained Dr. Bonuso.

Due to the state-imposed property tax cap, completing such projects through the annual budget would negatively impact the funds allotted for school programs, the district said in a newsletter on the bond.

“We know what the worst choice is,” said Dr. Bonuso. “The worst choice — forget all the options, everyone has their opinion on what to do — but I think everyone pretty much agreed on what is the worst thing to do — the worst thing to do is to do nothing.”

In addition to failing pavement and crumbling curbs, the district said the parking lots’ designs are unsafe for both children and the community at large and maintained that the parking lots absolutely need to be reconfigured and restored, but the district remains open to suggestions as to the best ways to do that for Pierson’s neighbors, passing pedestrians, school children, cars and emergency vehicles.

“We look at it in a schematic fashion,” explained Salvesen. “We get a general understanding of the approach to the project and create a diagram that represents what is proposed and then we use that to create a cost estimate.”

That process was completed before the bond was presented to the community. If the bond is passed, the next step toward enacting the proposed projects is the design/development stage, during which the scope is reviewed and the design is refined. After additional community input, the final recommendations are brought to the board before the plans are sent to the State Education Department for approval.

If the bond is passed, the Educational Planning Facilities Committee, a group of 21 teachers, parents, administrators, board members and members of the community who met at least six times over the past year in preparation of the bond, would be reformed to invite continued conversation and review possible changes. After additional community input, the final recommendations are brought to the board before the plans are sent to the State Education Department for approval.

Following the recent dialogue between members of the EPFC and the community, Salvesen has drawn in several amendments to the parking lot plans. The original diagram for the lot at Jermain Avenue, for example, did not have an explicit sidewalk drawn in until this week.

“That’s something that would come with the evolution of the design,” Salvesen explained. “There is money to put a sidewalk along there; it is a desired element.”

According to the district, some residents were concerned the Jermain Avenue lot changes would infringe on Pierson Hill or the property’s trees.

“We are not going to negatively impact Pierson Hill,” clarified Dr. Bonuso. “We love Pierson Hill, we love the tradition. We’re going to be very respectful of it.”

“We’re going to be very respectful of the trees,” he continued. “In one or two instances, we’ve already picked out which trees we will purposely transplant just to make sure that we save them.”

Salvesen said after reviewing the plans with the district’s traffic engineer consultant, they found moving the parking lot’s entry point further away from the bend at the northwest side of Jermain Avenue would also increase safety. The district also chose not to pursue the expansion of the elementary school’s secondary Atlantic Avenue lot that was part of a proposed bond that failed to garner community support in 2009.

“That has been completely removed from the project in an attempt to address overall cost concerns,” said the architect.

Since its construction in 1946, the Hampton Street parking lot at SHES has stayed in the same configuration, according to Salvesen. After reviewing the plans for that lot with the traffic engineer, the district is considering altering the project to include one entry point, rather than two. Instead of the 25 additional parking spots in the original diagram, the revised plan would add 17 stalls.

“It’s not about the numbers here, safety is the point,” said Salvesen.

Members of the board were grateful community members had come forward with their concerns and hopeful the bond would ultimately pass.

“These are schematics,” reiterated Daniel Hartnett, a school board member. “We had to put something up to present to be able to move this forward…There is the opportunity — should the bond pass — as we move forward for people to come in and express their views and for us to tweak what we end up doing.”

Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, said such collaboration is “great because they’re voicing a variety of different perspectives and the more perspectives the committee and the board and the administration hear, the better solution we’ll have.”

If Sag Harbor voters pass the propositions, the estimated costs are the cap. Salvesen has built in contingencies so that the projected costs represent a high estimate, he said. By law, the district cannot spend more than is approved by voters. If the projects cost less than estimated, the district will return the money to the taxpayers.

Salvesen held that his firm, BSS Architecture in Patchogue, has a proven record in bonds staying well within their budget.

“Since the early 90’s,” he said, “we’ve done $1.7 billion in school improvement bonds and we have not gone over.”

“Well,” said Mary Anne Miller, a member of the board, “That’s why we hired you.”

Sag Harbor School Board Clarifies Public Input Policy

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By Tessa Raebeck

In honor of School Board Recognition Week, Monday’s meeting of the Sag Harbor board of education commenced with a short commemorative concert by members of the Pierson Middle/High School orchestra.

“We talk about music to the ears, that was music to the heart,” commented Dr. Bonuso, interim superintendent for the district.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone presented the board with letters of thanks from the younger students.

“My teacher says that you work long hours, exactly how many hours do you work?” a fourth grader asked in one letter.

Another read, “Thank you for volunteering the time but please don’t work too hard.”

Following the moment of praise, the board returned to work, approving a first reading of board operating procedures. The packet includes a handout prepared by Mary Adamczyk, district clerk, outlining Policy 3320, which addresses public participation at board meetings.

The handout is supplementary to existing policy; it does not change it. Rather, it explains the policy which was revised last spring. The revisions allow community members to sign up for Public Input I, a period of public comment that happens at the start of board meetings, on a sign-up sheet outside the library up until the time of the meeting, rather than through the district clerk’s office the Friday prior as was previously required.

“This just clarifies that a little more,” explained Theresa Samot, president of the school board.

Chris Tice, school board vice president, suggested printing Adamczyk’s handout on the back of every meeting agenda, so the community is clear on how they can participate. Tice said the idea was a suggestion of John Battle, a member of the community who regularly attends school board meetings.

The board will review the wording of the handout and the operating procedures, implement revisions and discuss them further at a second reading during their next meeting.

In other school news, the board accepted a donation from the Reutershan Educational Trust, which has the sole purpose of fostering art programs within the school district, for $30,700 in supplies, materials and equipment to support the programs and $5,863.67 in salaries and benefits for district personnel to supervise. Following comments by board member Daniel Hartnett, the board agreed to look into establishing a board liaison to the trust.

The next school board meeting will be held November 18 in the Pierson library.

East End Celebrates the Dead for Día de los Muertos

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By Tessa Raebeck

For most of us, skulls are scary, but for some Sag Harbor residents, they’re candy. Decorating candy skulls is a favored tradition of those who celebrate Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a Mexican festival honoring those who have passed.

Despite its name, Day of the Dead is far from spooky. Unlike Halloween, it is a holiday of commemoration, not commotion. The dead are not feared; they are celebrated.

“It takes the spooky out of it and shows that it’s a little bit more about honoring those who have passed rather than trying to scare people away,” said Josh Perry, the newly appointed director of the family department at Hampton Library in Bridgehampton.

Under Perry’s direction, Hampton Library will host its first Día de los Muertos program this Friday.

“The idea was to do a program for what we consider bridge kids, eight to 12 year olds,” explained Perry. “I wanted to offer something that was culturally diverse, instead of just the traditional Halloween.”

Children are invited to come learn about the holiday, listen to a short story about it and decorate their own candy skulls with paint, glitter and other provided materials. Although it’s aimed at the “bridge kids,” younger children who are capable of decorating their own skulls are also welcome.

“Really just socializing, hanging out and creating” is what kids can expect, according to Perry, who hopes to generate interest from the older kids with more diverse programming.

“We just wanted to create something that was cool and talk about it and expose the kids to maybe something that they’ve never heard before or never knew anything about,” he said.

Sag Harbor’s Ken Dorph was first exposed to the skulls in the 1990s when he spent time working in Mexico City

“This concept of celebrating death in the fall is pretty universal in the northern hemisphere,” explains Dorph.

Halloween began as an ancient Celtic harvest festival, a celestial holiday at the halfway point between the equinox and the solstice. Native Americans — in particular, the Aztecs — independently started their own annual celebration to honor the dead, Día de los Muertos, due to these same celestial roots. When the Spanish conquistadors invaded the Americas in the 16th century, they brought with them the Catholic customs and traditions of All Souls’ Day, a commemoration of the dead celebrated on November 2. Also observed on November 2, Día de los Muertos today has influences from Catholic practices as well as Aztec and Native American traditions.

“It’s not like Halloween,” explained Dorph. “Like, ‘Ahh!’ It’s like, ‘Hey, we’re going to see Grandma.’ People have a great time, there’s nothing spooky.”

Although many Day of the Dead celebrations take place in graveyards, they resemble a picnic more than they do a haunted house. After dark, families and friends gather food and drink, candles, marigolds and their homemade candy skulls and visit the graves of deceased family members. They tell stories about those who have passed and celebrate their lives.

“We go usually with the gringos,” Dorph says of his family’s Día de los Muertos celebrations at Sag Harbor’s Oakland Cemetery. In addition to food and marigolds, they bring hot chocolate and make sure all skulls are bio-degradable.

Although Dorph, his friends and the local Mexican-American population celebrate Día de los Muertos in full force, many local residents are ignorant of the festivities. Perry is excited for the opportunity to teach others about the colorful candy skulls and the philosophy that death is not something to be feared, but is instead a natural transition in life.

“I’m looking forward to exposing kids to something a little different,” he said. “It’s just a day to celebrate the dead and, I guess, a day of remembrance.”

Hampton Library will host its Día de los Muertos celebration on Friday, November 1 from 4 to 5 p.m. at 2478 Main Street in Bridgehampton. Call 631-537-0015 or visit hamptonlibrary.org for more information.

WPPB Celebrates Fall with Harvest Ball & Auction

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The first WPPB Harvest Costume Ball and Art Auction will take place on November 2 from 8 to 11 p.m. at The South Street Gallery in Greenport to benefit the local public radio station, 88.3FM Peconic Public Broadcasting.

Organized by Joyce de Cordova, Alex Ferrone and Amy Worth, guests will join the WPPB family with program hosts Bonnie Grice, Brian Cosgrove and Ed German and enjoy a festive costume ball with music, dancing, light bites from Noah’s in Greenport, wines from Lieb Cellars, and a silent art auction featuring works from over 40 artists juried for auction by art curator Arlene Bujese. Costumes and masks related to historic period dress are strongly encouraged. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online at 883wppb.org.

 

Landscaping Changes Approved for West Water Street Condos

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By Kathryn G. Menu

It has been over a month since Amalgamated Bank, the mortgage lender that first funded the proposed West Water Street condominiums, took over official ownership of the development, recladding the building in cedar and moving it closer to completion after years of stasis.

On Tuesday night, the project was back in front of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board for alterations to landscaping and proposed patio areas on the property, all of which were tentatively approved by the board at the close of the meeting.

John Reddington, senior landscape architect with Araiys Design Landscape Architecture in Southampton, presented the changes Tuesday night, noting that while many had to do with landscaping on the property, ultimately the changes were being proposed to deal with health and safety issues.

Reddington said plans still include a crosswalk between the West Water Street condominium property and the former Baron’s Cove property, which is being redeveloped into a luxury resort and restaurant by Cape Advisors — the firm behind the luxury condominiums at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory.

While revised plans had also included outdoor patio areas for each ground floor unit, that ultimately increased lot coverage beyond what is allowed on the property under the Sag Harbor Village code. Reddington said the property would now feature a total of three patios.

Also proposed is shared landscaping on the property line separating the West Water Street condominiums and the former Baron’s Cove property, which will include a number of native plants, said Reddington, among them western cedar.

Three London Plane trees planned for the north side of the property will be moved south, said Reddington, because there is no room to plant the trees due to the drainage required for the property. A fourth London Plane tree has been added to that grouping, he said.

The new plan also proposes to add cobblestone aprons at the entry and exit of the property, for aesthetic purposes, and removal of a blue stone walkway in the parking lot.

The revised plan also proposes a new line of evergreen shrubs on Long Island Avenue to help hide the massing of the rear of the building, said Reddington.

Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren said one thing the board should consider is there will no longer be large trees on the north side of the property. He added Warrens Nursery had submitted a letter to the board stating with the drainage on the property it was impossible to fit the large London Plane trees.

“Those trees are coming out and the material going in is all relatively low so it will probably look a lot like what is there from a visual perspective, although it will be cleaner, neater,” said Warren. “I guess the question is whether you feel it is significant or not.”

Board member Gregory Ferraris noted there were never trees traditionally on the West Water Street side of that property.

“I think the most significant change is not the movement of the trees away from there but the redesign of the outside of the building which is dramatically better than what was there,” said board member Larry Perrine.

Warren said his only other concern was he believed the patios, currently 30 feet from the property line, need to be a total of 35 feet from the property line to meet code. Village attorney Denise Schoen agreed, and said before any approval becomes official she would need to confirm that with the building department.

Schoen also said she will need a letter from Cape Advisors confirming they are allowing plantings on their property and that the Baron’s Cove property site plan would also need to be amended to show the additional landscaping.

Suffolk County Expands Sunday Bus Service

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On Tuesday, the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved legislation providing a minimum of $1.1 million and as much as $2.1 million to expand the county’s Sunday bus service — a move Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said would provide environmental and economic benefits moving into the summer season.

“We are building upon the successful pilot program for Sunday bus service we launched two years ago on the East End,” said Schneiderman. “Sunday is a busy day for retail and service-oriented businesses. Employees need to get to work and employers need a workforce they can depend on.”

“This resolution is a step forward to expand bus service while cutting our deficit,” County Executive Steve Bellone said. “Expanding bus service helps take cars off the road and provides opportunity and access for thousands of Suffolk County residents. I commend Legislator Schneiderman for his continued leadership to make Sunday bus service a reality in Suffolk County and working alongside me to expand service and provide deficit relief. I also want to thank our state delegation for their hard work to get Suffolk County’s transit aid increased by approximately $2 million.”

“Many businesses on the East End, including in my North Fork legislative district, rely on public transportation to get workers to their jobs, especially during the summer season, and I strongly support Legislator Schneiderman’s initiative to expand Sunday service,” said Legislator Al Krupski. “It’s an important economic boost for my district and will also help workers get to the jobs they need to be self-sufficient. And it’s a win for all Suffolk County taxpayers by helping cut our general fund deficit.”

“Today’s vote is an important first step towards creating the seven-day-a-week bus service that Suffolk County deserves,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “This investment in Sunday and evening bus service is a down payment that will help riders and local businesses immediately, while also laying the groundwork for additional service expansions in the future.”

A successful pilot program for Sunday and holiday bus service was in effect for two summer seasons, Memorial Day to Columbus Day, on two eastern Suffolk routes — the S92 and 10C lines — subsidized in part by a 25 cent higher main fare on those riders. New York State recently increased its State Transit Operating Assistance (“STOA”) for Suffolk Transit by approximately $2,100,000 above the level anticipated in the Suffolk County 2013 budget, giving the county the opportunity to establish Sunday bus service year-round on limited routes.

“Recognizing the depth of the county’s fiscal problems, I agreed to allow half of this additional state funding to be used to close our county general fund deficit,” said Schneiderman. “I am hopeful that a federal grant for $1,000,000 will make up the difference and we should learn about our grant success in June.”

Schneiderman’s legislation would use $1.1 million of the increased funding provided by New York State to expand bus services in Suffolk County in the evenings and on Sundays. It would also direct the county Department of Public Works to apply for federal matching grant funding through the Job Access Reverse Commute (“JARC”) program, with the goal of achieving a total of $2 million in new funding for expanded Sunday and evening bus service.

Under the legislation, the Department of Public Works would develop a plan, within 30 days of the resolution, to expand the county’s bus service in the evening hours and on Sundays to the fullest extent possible within the limits of the additional state funding. The plan for expanded bus service would be continued as a pilot program for one year. DPW would report on the success of the pilot program to the County Legislature’s Public Works Committee no later than 270 days after the pilot program begins and make recommendations as to the feasibility of continuing the program beyond the one-year pilot period.

Siegler Quartet Brings All That Jazz to the Parrish Art Museum

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By Emily J. Weitz

This Friday night, people strolling through the Parrish Art Museum will get more than a feast for their eyes. As the Richie Siegler Quartet plays jazz in the lobby of the museum, the music will float down the spine of the space and into all the galleries. While hearing the gentle croon of a saxophone, patrons will also take in the winding ribbons of a deKooning painting, and the bold sheen of a John Chamberlain sculpture.

“I believe music in general and jazz in particular is an art form and it belongs there [at the Parrish],” says Richie Siegler, who plays the drums in the quartet and is the founder of Escola de Samba Boom. “DeKooning and Pollock? Who do you think they were listening to? They were listening to Coltrane. It’s like a big circle.”

When Siegler came to the executive director of the Parrish, Terrie Sultan, he says she lit up at the idea.

“The new building offers endless possibilities for programming, including heightened potential for live performance,” says Andrea Grover, curator of special projects at the Parrish. “Richie is a talented and popular East End musician who knows how to inspire and mobilize a crowd.”

While there is a special performance space, the Lichtenstein Theater, the staff decided to set up the Richie Siegler Quartet right in the lobby.

“We wanted the music to travel through the spine and into the galleries,” says Grover, “reaching the ears of those experiencing the works on view. The building’s central corridor is a great delivery system for sound and more – it connects all activities in the building.”

Siegler has been playing the drums since he was four, and he grew up in Greenwich Village listening to jazz masters. Both at home and on vacations with his family in the Catskills, Siegler was introduced to Latin jazz, including legends like Tito Puente.

While Siegler can play the drums for any genre, it’s jazz, and in particular Latin Jazz, where he has found a following.

He founded the Escola de Samba Boom, a free, year round music school with Monday night workshops. During the summer, when the workshop is held at Sagg Main Beach, it turns into an all out party with hundreds of people crowding around a tight circle of 60 or so drummers. Siegler is often found in the middle, directing with a whistle and riding the sound.

“It’s like cooking a stew,” says Siegler. “We have all the ingredients – 12 people in one section, six in another. My job is to make it all gel. Maybe we need a fresh herb, or some pepper and salt. I make a little adjustment, and when it kicks in, it’s a high. Often we’ll go out afterwards, and we’re all buzzed from the performance.”

At the Parrish this weekend, Siegler brings together a quartet of local talents that includes Siegler on the drums, John Ludlow on alto saxophone, Jeff Koch on bass, and Max Feldschuh on the vibraphones.

“We do some straight jazz,” he says, “and Latin-influenced. We do our own arrangements. I like the group because it has a light sound. There’s no keyboard or guitar. There’s a lot of air in what we do, and I try to stay off the ground.”

Of these four instruments playing together, Siegler doubts it’s the first time a quartet has been comprised of drums, alto sax, vibes, and bass, although he can’t recall another group that had this combination.

“But jazz has been around a long time,” he says. “Everything’s been done.”

Because of the stark design of the Parrish, marble and glass, Siegler feels particularly strongly that there needs to be a good crowd.

“People are acoustical tiles,” he says. “They absorb a lot of sound.”

Siegler has ideas for the Parrish, and he hopes to ride on the success of this weekend’s performance to create a more lasting relationship. Siegler remembers growing up in Manhattan, spending Thursday evenings at MoMA, enjoying live jazz.

“I’d like to see it become a monthly thing at the Parrish,” he says. “People will be encouraged to walk through the galleries and the music will follow them.”

The Richie Siegler Quartet will kick off the evening at 6 p.m. at the Parrish. Tickets are $10 for non-members and free for members.

“Membership is an exceptional deal,” says Grover, “paying for itself manifold if you plan to attend just four or more of our events in a year. I feel lucky, and hope others do, too, to have a major museum in a small community – it makes the bonds of art and life even tighter and more meaningful.”