Tag Archive | "Hamptons"

Lewis Black Brings His Pissed Off Optimism to Westhampton Beach

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Lewis Black

Lewis Black

By Dawn Watson

Acerbic, opinionated and frequently profane, Lewis Black might not be for fence sitters or the faint of heart. But for the people who love to laugh at the absurdities of life, he’s the comedic king of blistering social and political commentary.

Addressing hot topics such as mental health care, the NRA, activism, social media and fiscal entitlement, the two-time Grammy Award-winner and creator of the “Back in Black” commentary segment on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” will not shy away from what he sees as the problems facing the world today during his “The Rant is Due Part Deux” stand-up routine at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 27. There, he’ll share his opinions, and hear those of East Enders, via a new, live interactive portion of the performance at the end of the night.

“It’ll be upbeat, happy, optimistic, joyous, almost Christian-like,” he joked during a telephone interview last week.

Since his tour schedule includes approximately 200 gigs a year, the comedian’s set list is fairly fluid, he said. It also promises to be peppered with tales of his experiences on the road, he reported during a brief stay between shows at his Manhattan home. And of course, since the performance will be here in the Hamptons, he’ll be sure to share his opinions about the 1 percent.

“They know what the score is,” the prolific and successful comic, actor, playwright and best-selling author said of high earners. “I know what the score is. I know that we have an advantage. It’s as simple as that.”

When it comes to philanthropy, the Yale Drama School graduate puts his money where his mouth is. A staunch believer in giving back, he supports a slate of charitable organizations, including the 52nd Street Project, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Autism Speaks, Wounded Warriors, the USO and The Brady Center. He is also heavily involved in the Ron Black Memorial Scholarship Fund, created for his late brother, the Rusty Magee Clinic for Families and Health and a slew of other education and arts programs. Additionally, he’s lending his name and the weight of his support to Flushing-based Vassilaros & Sons coffee company, which he says is “a miracle in a cup.”

The comedian is helping his friend John Vassilaros to put out a signature coffee line, the proceeds of which will benefit veterans, Black reported. After the point was made that it might seem ironic that he of the exaggeratedly tightly wound persona is the voice for a coffee company, he laughed.

“Works for me,” he said.

Paradoxically, the passionately outraged performer, who calls himself more “pissed-off optimist than mean-spirited curmudgeon” is also quite popular in animated television shows and films. He’s voiced characters on the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated” and “The Penguins of Madagascar,” among others. His latest role is that of the emotion Anger in the upcoming Pixar film “Inside Out,” which also stars the voice talents of Diane Lane, Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling. Working with Pixar, he said, “was one of the greatest experiences of my life.” Black’s next voice role is in Pixar’s animated “Rock Dog” with Luke Wilson, J.K. Simmons and Eddie Izzard.

Splitting his downtime between homes in Manhattan and North Carolina—where he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina—the comic relishes his days off the road, he said. Traveling half the year via tour bus for work is one thing, he added, but making the nearly 100-mile schlep out to the Hamptons regularly is an entirely different undertaking.

“It’s just too far. How do people do it?,” he griped.

Trekking out to the Hamptons every weekend is definitely not for Black. Instead of participating in the hours-long traffic nightmare, he’s come up with his own solution that makes a lot more sense for New Yorkers who miss the ocean.

“They should just take sand and spread it around on Park Avenue and the Upper East Side and the let people sit out on their beach chairs so they don’t have to drive around for 2 hours,” he said, adding that he sympathizes with year-round East Enders, who should put up blockades to keep the seasonal crowds out. “I really don’t know how you guys allow it,” he said of the massive summer influx.

And though he did admit to enjoying a visit to Sag Harbor every once in a while, the comedian said he plans to stay put in New York City. If not for his peace of mind, then for his career.

“Sag Harbor is beautiful and serene,” he said. “I couldn’t live there though. I wouldn’t get anything done.”

Lewis Black will bring “The Rant is Due Part Deux” to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 27 at 8 p.m.  Tickets are $95, $125 and $150 and are available online at www.whbpac.org. 

Battle Lines Are Drawn as Public Hearing Looms on East Hampton Airport

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Meeting with local officials from the North and South Forks, newly elected U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin held a press conference on Sunday at Southold Town Hall stressing the need for finding a solution to the helicopter noise issue on the East End.

“The persistent issue of helicopter noise on the East End, summer after summer, has become an increasing impediment on the quality of life of many of my constituents,” said Mr. Zeldin, the vice chairman of the House Subcommittee on Aviation, in a release. “That’s why I am calling on the FAA to find an immediate solution for this problem, especially since it continues to get worse.”

The East Hampton Town Board is set to hold a hearing on Thursday, March 12, on proposed restrictions aimed at reducing East Hampton Airport noise complaints. The hearing was originally scheduled for last week, but was canceled due to a severe snow storm.

The hearing will take place at 4:30 p.m. at LTV Studios on Industrial Road in Wainscott, just south of the airport, as originally planned last week.

The town will listen to comment on four separate proposals. One would ban helicopters from landing or taking off at the airport during summer weekends. Another would impose a curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for all aircraft  and a third would impose an even stricter curfew for “noisy” aircraft. A fourth law is aimed at limiting the number of touch-and-go operations, in which pilots practice landings and takeoffs, allowed by louder aircraft at the airport during the summer season.

Noise complaints, which once came from residents living on either side of the airport in East Hampton and Southampton towns, have expanded to include North Haven, Shelter Island, and Southold Town.

“Helicopter noise continues to be a substantial problem on the East End. It has, and will continue to negatively affect the quality of life for year-round residents and adversely impact our regional economy dependent on tourism and the second home industry,” said Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. “East End elected officials, representing all levels of government, must renew efforts to work together to facilitate an end point which is favorable to all of our constituents and the Town of East Hampton.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell thanked Mr. Zeldin, who was elected in November, for his support for “local control of the East Hampton Airport, the epicenter of the aircraft noise issue, in the ongoing effort to mitigate this noise, which affects so many residents across the East End.”

“Those who enjoy the benefits of the helicopter flights should endure the noise and pollution,” added Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty. “It’s as simple as that.”

“We are delighted and extremely grateful to the congressman for making aircraft noise abatement his first official act as our federally elected representative,” said Kathleen Cunningham, chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition. “The East Hampton Town Board has worked in a transparent and comprehensive way to propose policy that will protect the public from the adverse health, environmental and economic impacts of aircraft noise, while supporting a safely maintained, recreational airport.  In league with our Congressman’s efforts on the federal level, the noise affected can finally feel confident that their concerns are being effectively addressed.”

As the town board prepares to take action on the airport, the battle lines have been clearly drawn.

Last week, on the eve of the originally scheduled hearing, the town’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee informed the town board that it would not be able to deliver a promised report on the potential impact the four laws would have on the airport’s bottom line.

Shortly after that announcement, Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for Friends of the East Hampton Airport, sent out a release calling the committee’s failure to produce the report a “major blow” to the town’s proposed legislation.

“The finance committee’s refusal to sign off on this deeply misguided proposal confirms the true economic hazards of the plan and the town board’s blatant disregard for these risks,” he stated.

Later in the week, fliers from the Friends of the East Hampton Airport were distributed around town, urging residents to oppose restrictions to the airport, stating the town board was poised to “vote to virtually shut down our airport this summer, which will be a punch in the gut to the local economy.”

The flier says the restrictions will result in lost jobs, local businesses closing, millions of dollars in lost economic activity, higher property taxes and lower property values. It urges residents to call at least 10 friends or family members and ask them to come out in support of the airport.

The budget committee is made up of both aviation interests as well as a group drawn from airport opponents. Representatives from the latter group cried foul, saying the pro-airport members of the group had intentionally refused to sign off on its findings. Since the committee operated on a consensus basis in which all members had to agree to its findings, the actions of the aviation interests effectively sabotaged the report, they said.

“The report of the committee is not merely delayed or untimely. It will never be issued, because members of the committee with aviation interests will not permit a report that shows any circumstances under which the airport will be self-sustaining,” said David Gruber, a committee member and longtime airport critic.

Petition Calls on Sag Harbor Village to Stem the Tide of Development

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A house on Howard Street, one of many currently under re-development in Sag Harbor. Stephen J. Kotz photo.

A house on Howard Street, one of many currently under re-development in Sag Harbor. Stephen J. Kotz photo.

By Stephen J. Kotz

A petition drive launched by the civic organization, Save Sag Harbor, which decries over-development in the village and demands local government take steps to control it and protect the village’s historic character, has already been signed by more than 750 people, according to organizers.

And they say they are heartened by the fact that approximately one-third of those signing on have taken the extra step to add their own comments to the petition, which appears on the group’s website, savesagharbor.com.

“It is going exceedingly well. We are amazed and encouraged by the outpouring,” said Jayne Young, a member of Save Sag Harbor’s board. “And the attention to this is not flagging at all. People are staying with it.”

The response, added Randy Croxton, another board member, indicates that the changes that have been occurring in the village, especially its historic district, have “really struck a nerve.”

The petition drive, which was launched in February, describes the village as at risk and cites “an unprecedented and damaging flood of development” that has resulted in the demolition of historic houses and the construction of oversized ones in their place.

It calls for village regulatory boards to take three steps to help stem the tide. The first is for the village Zoning Board of Appeals to stop granting variances “for houses which are excessively large and are incongruous in character to existing house in our historic neighborhoods.”

The petition also calls for the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review to stop approving “over-sized construction and additions that are out of context in scale and placement with the neighboring environment.”

Finally, it urges the ZBA to consult with the ARB before ruling on applications to ensure that they are appropriate for the historic district.

Although the petition drive clearly seeks changes to the way business is conducted in the village, Ms. Young said she was not prepared to talk about additional steps the organization believes will need to be taken to protect the village.

Mr. Croxton said the Save Sag Harbor board would meet regularly in the coming months to work on more formal recommendations to the village, which would likely begin with asking it to hire a historic preservation consultant, as once was the case, to help the boards navigate the process.

He said the effort was not meant as an attack on the volunteer members who now serve on the village’s various review boards, who, he said are doing the best they can. But he added the changes occurring across the village are “showing where there are weaknesses in the interpretation of the code.”

He added that he hoped people who have signed the petition would take a leadership role in helping the village come up with solutions. “What we are assuming and hoping for going forward is a kind of passionate outpouring from the people who really have an interest,” he said.

Anton Hagen, the chairman of the village Zoning Board of Appeals, agreed with at least one aspect of the petition. “It really is incumbent upon us to have better communication,” he said of the ZBA and the ARB.

But he added that it is difficult for the ZBA to turn down applications for bigger houses, especially after it has previously issued variances for similar sized houses and noted that real estate investors have learned how to effectively game the system by seeking approval for the largest possible house. “You can say it kind of snuck up on Sag Harbor, this maxing out of lots,” he said. “We have to get ahead of the curve.”

He added he would like to see the village changing its code to adopt a maximum gross floor area ratio provision, as other neighboring communities, including North Haven, have already done. Such a code would limit the size of a house to the size of the given lot, as opposed to allowing a set size.

Mayor Brian Gilbride said village officials have begun looking into the possibility of adopting a floor area ratio amendment to the code, but said it was part of an ongoing process on the part of the village to correct problems in its code.

“Tonight we’ll extend the wetlands permit moratorium” he said on Tuesday, referring to that evening’s village board meeting. “Hopefully we’ll get that revised law done and we can move on. These are not quick fixes.”

The mayor suggested that Save Sag Harbor members may want to take a more active role, by appearing before the ZBA, ARB or planning board to voice their concerns.

Sag Harbor, he said, is facing the same kinds of pressures other East End communities have experienced. “It’s not a factory town anymore, it’s not a blue collar town anymore,” he said. “People are buying houses for a million dollars, knocking them down and building bigger houses.”

Mr. Croxton said there were still “a lot of people who have held on in a multi-generational way, who insist on passing down the houses they have and the community that they have.”

And Ms. Young said the village still had a vibrant future in front of it. “More people are raising their families here, more people are coming out for longer weekends, and there is a corps of people from the surrounding area who rely on it.”

PechaKucha Returns to the Parrish

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PechaKucha Hamptons circle lg

The Parrish Art Museum will present volume 11 of its popular PechaKucha Night Hamptons on Friday, March 6 at 6 p.m. with a group of speakers delivering rapid fire presentations on what it is to live creatively on the East End. Each speaker shows 20 slides for 20 seconds each, resulting in a compelling six-minute, 40-second long presentation.

PechaKucha Night Hamptons spotlights the staggering number of creative individuals who live on the East End,” said series organizer Andrea Grover, Century Arts Foundation Curator of Special Projects at the Parrish. “Their collective energy and inventiveness has made this program one of our main attractions.”

PechaKucha Night Hamptons, Vol. 11 presenters include writer and restaurateur Bruce Buschel; artist hi and lifestyle health coach and self-proclaimed “Kraut Kween” Nadia Ernestus; photographer Francine Fleischer; close-up magician and author Allan Kronzek; digital entrepreneurs Julie and Dan Resnick; artist Christine Sciulli; poet Julie Sheehan; and master beader and Shinnecock ceremonial dancer Tohanash Tarrant.

The Parrish Art Museum joins over 700 cities globally in hosting these events. Named for the sound of “chit-chat” in Japanese, PechaKucha Nights is the international, fast-paced presentation series founded in Tokyo by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture in 2003. Tickets for PechaKucha Night Hamptons Vol. 11 are currently sold out, however tickets may become available through the Parrish website (parrishart.org) this week. In addition, an in-person wait list will begin at 5pm on March 6th in the Museum lobby. Ticket prices are $10, free for members, children, and students, and include Museum admission.

 

“Clyborne Park” Opens March 12 At Hampton Theatre Company

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postCard-clybourne-park-patronMail

“Clybourne Park”—the wickedly funny and provocative play by Bruce Norris about how the different faces and shades of racism can make a straightforward real estate transaction anything but—will be the third production of the Hampton Theatre Company’s 30th anniversary season. The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play opens on March 12 at the Quogue Community Hall and will run through March 29.

The two acts of “Clybourne Park” are in fact two separate plays set 50 years apart and spinning off Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark drama, “A Raisin in the Sun.” With a cast of seven taking on different roles in the play’s two halves, act one is set in 1959, as nervous community leaders anxiously try to stop the sale of a home to a black family. Act two is set in the same house in the present day, as the now predominantly African-American neighborhood battles to stand fast against the onslaught of gentrification.

Calling the play, which won the Olivier and Evening Standard awards for its London production, a “sharp-witted, sharp-toothed comedy of American uneasiness,” Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times that “the very structure of ‘Clybourne Park’ posits the idea of a nation (and even a world) trapped in a societal purgatory of ineptitude and anxiety.”

The cast of “Clybourne Park” features four Hampton Theatre Company veterans and three newcomers. Matt Conlon was most recently on the Quogue stage in the fall in the role of Ellwood P. Dowd in “Harvey,” following his turn in the title role in “The Foreigner” last March. Joe Pallister, who also appeared in “The Foreigner,” was last on the Quogue stage in last spring’s production of “God of Carnage.”  Ben Schnickel is familiar to Hampton Theatre Company audiences from “The Foreigner,” as well as “The Drawer Boy,” “Becky’s New Car,” and “Rabbit Hole.” Returning to the Quogue stage for the first time since her appearance in “Desperate Affection,” Rebecca Edana first appeared with the HTC in the company’s revival of “Bedroom Farce.” Rounding out the cast and trailing extensive lists of New York and regional credits are Juanita Frederick, Shonn McCloud, and Anette Michelle Sanders. HTC Executive Director Sarah Hunnewell will direct.

“Clybourne Park” runs at the Quogue Community Hall from March 12 through 29, with shows on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Information is available at hamptontheatre.org. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 1 (866) 811-4111.

 

Parrish Announces Chuck Close Photographs Exhibit

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

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

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

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

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

Madoo Talks Lecture Series Opens with Lindsey Taylor

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Lindsey Taylor.

Lindsey Taylor.

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

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

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

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

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

Propping Up Sag Harbor’s Historic Buildings

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

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

By Stephen J. Kotz; Photography by Michael Heller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Writing about Nature with Poet Farmer Scott Chaskey

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Scott Chaskey

Scott Chaskey

By Emily J. Weitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Scars on 45 Returns to WHBPAC

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So45 - Press Photo 2

As a part of the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) Breakout Artist Series, and in partnership with WEHM 96.9, British indie rock quartet, Scars on 45, will return to the center this Friday at 8 p.m.

Scars on 45 brings an alt-rock, melodic pop sound, combining the big guitar rock of Oasis with the melodic, country-influenced sound of Fleetwood Mac. Formed in Bradford, Yorkshire around 2007, Scars on 45 began as a duo after former football-mates, singer/songwriter Danny Bemrose and bassist Stuart Nichols, started writing songs together. Eventually the band expanded to include keyboardist David Nowakowski, vocalist Aimee Driver, and drummer Chris Durling. While the group developed a local following, it wasn’t until their song “Beauty’s Running Wild” was used in a 2009 episode of the CBS television drama “CSI: New York” that Scars on 45 caught the attention of the wider music industry. In 2011, buoyed by that success and a record deal with the Chop Shop label, Scars on 45 released two EPs, including “Give Me Something” and “Heart on Fire,” the latter’s title cut appeared on the “Grey’s Anatomy, Vol. 4 soundtrack”. A year later, the band released their self-titled debut album featuring the single “Heart on Fire.” In 2014, Scars on 45 returned with their sophomore full-length album, “Safety in Numbers,” featuring the single, “Crazy for You.”

Scars on 45 will perform at the WHBPAC, 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach, on Friday, February 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available at whbpac.org.