Tag Archive | "Hampton Bays"

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 Looks to Create Standards to Alter School District Boundaries

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The New York State Assembly is considering legislation that would change the standards required for petitions to alter school district boundaries.

According to Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., who introduced the legislation, under the current law there are no standards in place for such a petition, which means school districts can summarily reject them regardless of merit.

There have been several cases on the South Fork where residents have proposed school district boundary alterations in recent months, noted Thiele, with proposals rejected with little or no consideration of education impacts.

In an interview on Monday, Thiele said two of the most recent examples have been in Southampton. A portion of the Tuckahoe School District lies in Southampton Village, and neighbors there have sought to alter that school district boundary line to send their children to school in the Southampton School District. Similarly, a neighborhood in Red Creek in Hampton Bays is technically in the Riverhead School District, despite the fact that it is actually situated in Hampton Bays.

In Tuckahoe, parents argued they paid taxes far higher than their neighbors because they were located in the Tuckahoe School District and not in Southampton. Parents in the Red Creek, Hampton Bays neighborhood located in the Riverhead School District made a similar argument. Both were rejected.

“Most of the current school district boundaries on the East End were established in the 1950′s and 1960′s pursuant to a 1947 State law. At the time, large areas of the East End were undeveloped,” said Thiele. “Over the last 60 years, the region has undergone substantial growth with changing demographics and some school boundaries no longer make sense for students and families. School districts have routinely rejected any changes not wishing to lose any tax base without any regard to the impact on school children.”

“This proposed law would change that,” he added.

Under the proposed legislation, a majority of qualified voters in a territory could petition the regional BOCES superintendent in the region where the school districts they hope to alter are located. The school districts in that region would be given 90-days to negotiate any alteration to school district boundaries. If no action is taken or the petition is rejected, the citizen petitioners could request a public hearing and within 30 days the district superintendent would be required to issue a findings statement explaining the decision to reject the application.

In the findings, the district superintendent must consider student educational opportunities as measured by the percentage of students performing at each level of the statewide mandated assessments, said Thiele. They would also have to consider student attendance, graduation and dropout rates, as well as the safety and welfare of pupils within each school district.

Geographic accessibility to neighboring schools, and all funding sources of the affected school districts, including the impact to their tax bases, must also be considered in the superintendent’s decision, said Thiele.

Where the transfer involves 10-percent or more of the student population, of any district, the petition would be subject to a referendum approval in each of the districts affected, added Thiele.

“Alteration of school district boundaries should not be easy, but it should not be impossible either,” said Thiele. “Such decisions should be based on what is in the best interest of the students affected, not just tax base. School boards should be required to articulate the basis of their decisions consistent with legitimate education policies.”


East End Digest: May 29 through June 4

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Gospel Benefit

On Saturday, June 6 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. the Maidstone Club in East Hampton will host a gospel benefit for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. Making its first appearance on the East End, “Songs of Solomon,” the award-winning inspirational choral youth ensemble based in Harlem, will perform at the benefit. The world-renowned group, created and led by Chantel Renee Wright, herself an award-winning choral conductor from Chicago, has performed all over the United States and in South Africa. It was at the Gospel Music Workshop of America three years ago that Bonnie Cannon, Executive Director of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center, first heard them.

“They blew me away,” she says. “I knew right then that someday I’d get them out here.”

The high energy group, whose repertoire ranges from gospel and spirituals to jazz and classical music (they sang the Bach Magnificat in D at Carnegie Hall) has performed with such artists as Elton John, Gladys Knight, Earth Wind and Fire and Aretha Franklin.

Chairing the benefit is U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop, who served on the board of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center for five years and remains a member of the advisory board.

“The programs at the Center play a vital role in the lives of so many of our lower income and immigrant families,” he says. “The Center serves what is often an invisible population and I’m grateful to the Maidstone Club for supporting our mission.”

The Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center was born out of tragedy in 1949 when a house fire killed the untended children of migrant farm workers. The shocked community rallied to found the first, community-based migrant child care center in the country. The Center continues to serve the less fortunate on the East End and offers after-school programs, a low cost summer camp, youth programs and adult development services such as ESL and GED. It also hosts Head Start for preschoolers from as far away as Montauk and Westhampton.

For reservations to hear “Songs of Solomon,” call 537-0616. There will also be cocktails, hors-d’oeuvres and a silent auction. Tickets are $150 per person. Seating is limited.

Southampton
Dems Pick Candidates

On Friday evening, May 29, the Southampton Town Democratic Committee nominated its candidates for 2009 during their nomination convention at the Southampton Inn. Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, a Sag Harbor resident, was unanimously nominated for the position of Southampton Town Supervisor. The unity theme was echoed as incumbent councilwoman Sally Pope was nominated to run for a full term. Pope won a special election for her post last November. Bridget Fleming, a Noyac resident and attorney, was also selected to run for the open council seat. The Dems candidate for town highway superintendent is Alex Gregor of Hampton Bays who is the Southampton Town Independence leader.

Sitting Southampton Town Justices Deborah Kooperstein and Barbara Wilson were nominated to continue in their judicial roles. Selected as town trustee candidates by the Democrats were Southampton Town bayman and oyster farmer Bill Pell and Chris Garvey, a Hampton Bays resident and member of the Hampton Bays School Board.

Southampton Town

Board Honors EMS Staff

During last week’s Southampton Town Board meeting, held on Tuesday, May 26, supervisor Linda Kabot honored the town’s emergency medical service workers.

“These individuals truly embody the citizen service has been a cornerstone of our nation’s prosperity since the days of its founding,” said Kabot of the assembled group. “They are among the countless Americans who have stepped forward throughout history to assist others, and they have strengthened their communities in the process. EMS volunteers are a critical asset in every community. They provide care at the scene and on the way to the hospital, which dramatically improves survival and recovery rates.”

Kabot added that the town’s eight different EMS agencies responded to over 5,000 medical calls in 2008. The Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance responded to 620 calls last year, and Bridgehampton Volunteer Ambulance responded to 116.

From May 17 through May 23, the town celebrated EMS week, with the theme being “EMS: A Proud Partner of Your Community.” Initiated by President Richard Nixon in 1973, National Emergency Medical Services Week has been celebrated each year to recognize the accomplishments of those who dedicate themselves to saving others.

Hampton Bays

Video Game Tournament

Two Hampton Bays High School students have organized a Video Game Tournament to be held on Sunday, June 7. The event is open to anyone over the age of 13. In order to compete, participants under 18 must bring a signed permission slip from a parent or guardian. The evening is a fundraiser for the Hampton Bays High School Class of 2010, though a portion of the proceeds from the evening will be donated to a local hospital or charity, yet to be determined. The evening consists of three games: Halo 3 as a team and doubles, Super Smash Brothers Melee and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Each game costs $4. The event will be held at the Hampton Bays Middle School and begins at 10 a.m. For more information call (631) 525-1825.

Peconic Bay

MTA Tax Exemption

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr., has introduced legislation that would exempt all employers within the towns of East Hampton, Southampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold from the provisions of the 0.34 percent payroll tax recently enacted in the 12 county MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) region, as part of the financial bailout of the MTA. Despite the increased taxes and fees in the MTA region, fares on the Long Island Railroad were still increased an average of 10 percent.

The payroll tax will raise an additional $1.5 billion in annual revenue for the MTA. The MTA region has a population of more than 13.1 million people. The Peconic Bay Region has a population of approximately 140,000 or about 1.1 percent of the region.

“The MTA is a bloated bureaucracy that has a demonstrated record of fiscal shortcomings,” Thiele stated. “To throw more money at the MTA without true reform is irresponsible. To increase taxes and fees during a period of deep recession is even more foolhardy. As for the Peconic Bay Region, our year-round residents get minimal service, at best, with just a few trains a day. Further, we already pay an additional [a portion of our] sales tax and a mortgage tax to subsidize the MTA. We will also pay the new fare hikes for their declining service.”

“It has been estimated that as part of the Volpe Study on improved rail/bus service for the East End that we already pay $40 million to $60 million more than we receive in service from the MTA on an annual basis,” continued Thiele. “In short, we pay way too much for way too little. The East End simply does not have the same level of NYC commuters, yet we pay the same as everyone else. The only fair solution is to exempt the East End from the new tax.”

Thiele stated that in addition, he will continue to pursue the option of the establishment of a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority separate from the MTA to provide for the East End’s transportation needs.

NY State Assembly

Clean Act

A broad coalition spanning business, economic development, labor, and environmental groups called on the state last week to place a $5 billion Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act on the November 2009 ballot. New York State Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney convened a hearing in Albany to discuss the merits of the draft legislation that would place the measure on the ballot.

State officials say the measure will invest in long-term improvements to waste water infrastructure, energy efficiency, transit, public health protection and economic development projects; and is expected to provide opportunities for “green-collar” jobs.

Bond act supporters noted the long term benefits of investing in bonding funds. A recent study shows that a $1 billion investment in water and waste water infrastructure creates $3 billion in economic activity and supports up to 26,000 new jobs with an average salary of $50,000. Each $1 billion invested generates $82.4 million in state and local tax revenue.

“Even a conservative view of this bond act suggests that it would create over 100,000 new jobs for New Yorkers. These would be good-paying jobs in management, construction, and innovative industries,” said Jim Melius, administrator NYS Laborers Tri-Funds.

“The last Clean Water and Clean Air Bond Act, which passed in 1996, has been spent down yet the challenges of climate change continue to grow,” added Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “The Clean Water, Clean Air & Green Jobs Bond Act of 2009 will help meet those challenges, while putting New Yorkers back to work and creating permanent taxpayer savings.” ?

Starting a Dialogue on Immigration Reform

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In recent years, immigration on the East End has become a contentious, and often polarizing, issue. Each side — whether it be those who wish to see every undocumented immigrant deported or those who wish to see amnesty for all undocumented immigrants — continues to fight a fierce rhetorical argument against one another. Hoping to bridge the gap between these two groups, US Congressman Tim Bishop, Southampton Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst and New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele teamed up to host a forum titled “Immigration in the Hamptons: Beginning a Community Dialogue” on Friday, March 13, at the Southampton Senior Center in Hampton Bays.

While people waved American flags and held up signs saying “Deport Illegals” outside, Bishop told the audience the current status quo of community relations towards immigrants residing in the East End was “unacceptable.”

“I hope we can come to an understanding … and cut through the ugliness [surrounding this issue] to talk in a civil and respectful fashion,” continued Bishop.

He went on to say that while the federal government has focused much of its efforts on border patrol, internal enforcement of immigration laws have been neglected and the visa program is in disrepair. Bishop hopes the federal government will adopt an “earned citizenship” program for the 12 to 15 million undocumented workers currently living in the country.

Creating a path to “earned citizenship” is a bipartisan solution to the problem, said Bishop, and is an idea which has received backing from Senator John McCain and former President George Bush, Jr. After the forum, Thiele added that this policy of “earned citizenship” would make undocumented workers pay back taxes and other various fines.

There were many people in the audience, however, who criticized this plan saying deportation of all undocumented immigrants was still a viable option. Others said that while the nation waits for a full revision and update of immigration laws, the presence of illegal immigrants creates an economic strain on local residents.

One Hampton Bays resident, who is also a contractor, said he is continually outbid on projects because he uses legal labor, while, he added, other contractors employ undocumented laborers for less pay.

“A lot of people are very angry,” said Ronald Lawandowski, the director of the Patriots Border Alliance for Suffolk County.

However, other attendees, like Sag Harbor lawyer Bridget Fleming, wished this anger was tempered with words of compassion.

“There is no doubt that there is a group of people who are very angry, but I think there is a lot of misunderstanding. [Almost] every single one of those people [in that room] comes from an immigrant family, who were faced with identical challenges when they first arrived [to this country] … The solution to deport everyone is impossible,” said Fleming.

Fleming said she attended the meeting to learn how to inspire cultural acceptance in the Sag Harbor community, in order to avoid tragic situations like the murder of Marcello Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant, in Patchogue this past November.

“I want to make sure that doesn’t happen in our school … Cultivating compassion is the only way we can create a safe, happy and prosperous community,” added Fleming.

Thiele reported that the forum on Friday will be one of many to come. He said the principal goal of the forums was to not only facilitate a dialogue, but to also educate the public on the key facts surrounding immigration and immigration policies.

“Obviously holding one forum in two hours, we are only able to scratch the surface of the issue … It will not be just one meeting [though], but a long process of getting information out there,” he said. “Through conversation and discussion, I do think the larger community can start to reach some kind of consensus.”

He added that in the future, the panels might devote a whole forum on one key issue, such as health care or the economics of immigration. According to Thiele, it is also imperative to discuss issues surrounding immigration today, before tensions between the various groups flare up tomorrow.

“The underlying issues that come with immigration are very much ingrained into the East End community,” said Thiele. “[Immigration] is an issue we will be confronted with for a long time.”

Above: A Southampton Town resident voiced his concerns over immigration at the immigration forum hosted by Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Congressman Tim Bishop.