Tag Archive | "Jay Schneiderman"

Former Police Chief Settles with Sag Harbor Village

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Former Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Joseph Ialacci has dropped a $7 million lawsuit against the Village of Sag Harbor and its health insurance administrators and has agreed to pay $40,000 that should have been billed to Medicare rather than the village’s health insurance plan.

That money is being reimbursed to the village through Medicare, according to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.

According to village sources, Ialacci used his village health insurance to cover $70,000 in health care bills that the village maintains should have been covered through Ialacci’s Medicare insurance, which was his primary insurance at the time.

Ialacci’s attorneys maintained the situation was simply an oversight on the former police chief’s part, and that he was unaware Medicare was his primary insurance carrier, not the village.

During a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting in late December of last year, the village board voted to drop Ialacci and his wife, Nancy, from village insurance after they said Ialacci failed to reimburse the village through Medicare for the alleged false charges.

In mid-January, the board of trustees re-instated Ialacci’s coverage retroactively to December, but in May, in an effort to protect his rights while the village investigated the situation, the former police chief filed a $7 million suit against the village and Island Group Administrators of East Hampton.

On Tuesday, October 11 at the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, Mayor Gilbride announced the village and Ialacci had reached a settlement.

According to the settlement agreement, Ialacci has agreed to pay $40,224 back to the Village of Sag Harbor. On Tuesday, Mayor Gilbride said a certified check is already in the hands of Ialacci’s attorney. In turn, the village will reimburse the family for any Medicare premiums paid by the Ialaccis for coverage for the remainder of his life, as per his contract with the village when he retired from his post as police chief.

Support for Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority

At a press conference on Monday, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Babylon Town Supervisor and Democratic candidate for the Suffolk County Executive position Steve Bellone announced their unified support for the Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming also attended the press conference, which took place at the Southampton Long Island Railroad (LIRR) station. Congressman Tim Bishop has also voiced his support for the creation of the authority, which would the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on the East End of Long Island.

Suffolk County legislators Jay Schneiderman and Ed Romaine also support the implementation of the Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority.

Bellone has said enacting the authority will be one of his first goals if elected as the next Suffolk County Executive on November 8.

The Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority, according to a 2009 report from the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, would use a coordinated shuttle train and passenger bus service to provide for the transportation needs of those on the East End of Long Island, which Thiele says spends millions of dollars to the MTA without reaping the benefits of comprehensive service.

Repairs Slated for Route 27

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) will repair several sections of State Route 27, also known as Montauk Highway, east of County Road 39 sometime in the next year, according to New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

According to a press release issued by Thiele on Tuesday afternoon, the NYSDOT responded to his request back in October that the agency address sections of Route 27 that are in dire need of repair.

They will repair eastbound sections of the roadway near Deerfield Road in Water Mill, at Sayre’s Path, Georgica Drive and Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott and at Hampton Place in East Hampton. The NYSDOT will also repair the westbound portion of Route 27 at Sayre’s Path.

“The DOT has again committed to undertake repair of NY 27 and will address the most egregious pavement sections on NY 27,” said Thiele. “While the orad must still by fully resurfaced as soon as possible, these repairs will at least make the journey safer and less bone rattling for the traveling public.”

Swimming Pool and Pool House Approved by Sag ARB

In one of their shorter sessions as of late, the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) approved one application during its Thursday, October 13 meeting, granting Mike Arena approval for the installation of a swimming pool and pool house at his 97 Glover Street residence.

A second application, for a solid cedar fence along the existing driveway of Robert Fishers’ Fishers Home Furnishings on Main Street was tabled as no one was present to make the case.

The Sag Harbor ARB’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 24 at 5 p.m.

Marine Park Way is Now Veterans Way

Sag Harbor’s Marine Park will keep its name for now, but the roadway that circles the hallowed park on Bay Street will be renamed Veterans Way at the request of the Sag Harbor VFW Post 9082, according to a resolution adopted by the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees on Tuesday, October 11.

The roadway circles the expansive waterfront Marine Park, which holds a World War II memorial plaque dedicated to the men and women from Sag Harbor who served during that conflict, as well as memorials to service men and women who served during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Groundbreaking for Sidewalks Turnpike Sidewalks

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman will host a ground breaking for the construction and installation of sidewalks on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike on Thursday, October 20 at 2 p.m. at the corner of Sunrise Avenue just south of the South Fork Natural History Museum.

The project was included in the Suffolk County 2011-2013 Capital Program. The Town of Southampton has contributed $100,000 to the cost.

The traffic and safety improvement, an issue Schneiderman championed as a legislator, will cover a two-mile stretch of sidewalk on the west side of the turnpike.

“The turnpike is used by many pedestrians including those who live in neighborhoods behind or along the route and is a major connector between the Village of Sag Harbor and the hamlet of Bridgehampton,” noted Schneiderman in a press release issued this week.

Bridgehampton CAC to Host 2012 Budget Talk

Just weeks before the 2011 election for Supervisor, incumbent Democratic Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst will pitch her proposed $80.3 million spending plan for 2012 in front of Bridgehampton residents at the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Bridgehampton National Bank.

Throne-Holst’s proposed $80.3 million spending plan cuts the town budget by $1.3 million, resulting in a zero-percent tax levy increase while the town is facing over $5 million in mandated increases in costs to cover programs like health insurance and pensions.

In order to accomplish this goal, in part, Throne-Holst has proposed to eliminate 28 positions throughout the town, with eight of those positions coming directly out of the senior staff of the Southampton Town Police Department.

Throne-Holst has proposed to use the town’s ability to “separate from service” officers who have worked for the town for more than 20 years. Those officers will retain full benefits upon retirement, and Throne-Holst has said she will look at those who have served at least 25 years or more to achieve the $1.7 million in cuts she hopes to make within the police department’s budget.

Following Throne-Holst’s presentation, former Southampton Town Republican Supervisor Linda Kabot is slated to speak at 8 p.m. With Throne-Holst running unopposed this fall, Kabot has launched a write-in campaign to regain her seat at the helm of Southampton Town.

Agricultural Forum to be Held in Riverhead

The New York State Senate Agricultural Committee Chairwoman Patty Ritchie will host the third of three agricultural business forums on Thursday, October 20 at 1 p.m. in Riverhead Town Hall.

According to a press release issued by the Long Island Farmers Bureau, the forum will focus on how to make New York State a better place for farmers to do business.

Farmers who cannot attend during the tail end of the harvest season are encouraged to submit their comments to the New York Senate Agricultural Committee by calling 518-455-3438.




Merchants Air Concerns

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Candidate Steve Bellone pays village a visit.

Several familiar refrains were heard last Friday when Democratic candidate for Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, took a tour of Sag Harbor’s Main Street. Bellone was accompanied by Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce President Robert Evjen and Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, and was later joined by County Legislator Jay Schneiderman making it a visit to several local businesses to learn about merchant’s concerns.

Chief among them seemed to be getting consumers to the village, and then providing parking for them when they arrive.

“Even in winter parking is an issue,” said Jessica Kenny, owner of Satori. “Customers can’t always find a place close to the business. People aren’t going to walk in the cold to shop.”

Acknowledging the parking problem, Schneiderman suggested the village consider developing a two-tier parking garage on the property that once housed the big blue gas ball.

Bellone added the county has resources that can be made available to small business districts, including grants for downtown development. He conceded that those resources are largely targeted at less robust business districts, but said the village would nevertheless be able to benefit from the program.

During a visit to the Variety Store, where Bellone was greeted by owner Lisa Bucking, Schneiderman announced he had hoped to start a Friends of the Long Wharf committee, which would be responsible for raising funds to maintain the wharf, which most acknowledged was key to local parking. The county, which owns the wharf, is currently debating whether to keep it or sell it to the village.

Schneiderman said a committee is already being established with representatives from the village and county administrations to negotiate a potential sale.

At the Wharf Shop, owner Nada Barry agreed with others that business is impacted by the Internet.

Thirty years ago, said Barry, the local merchants held promotions like treasure chests and drawings to attract business; but she acknowledged these kinds of events might not be successful in today’s market.

Barry also bemoaned the impending hurricane, and complained “this storm is going to cost us a fortune.”

Her grandson, she said, has a maritime-based business and speculated Hurricane Irene would cost him four days of business.

“We all will be affected by this,” she said.

Bellone said he would like to find ways to increase foot traffic in the village, and Schneiderman raised the proposed passenger ferry which would link Sag Harbor to Greenport and other East End villages.

“I’m all for it,” said Barry. “We’re a motorboating community.”


- Boyhan


Transit Dilemma

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by Karl Grossman

The East End of Long Island and public transportation—unlike love and marriage—don’t go together. It need not be that way. Indeed, a lesson through the years here: when public transportation is provided, riders will come.

Travel on the East End is auto-based. And there’s been mounting congestion as a result, particularly during the vacation season. This July 4th weekend featured bumper-to-bumper traffic on several area roadways, notably Route 27 between Southampton and Amagansett.

Meanwhile, on the same weekend there was a breakthrough in public transportation here: long-desired Sunday and holiday bus service. Rolling in a “pilot” program was the main East End county bus, the S-92. It winds from Orient Point along the North Fork to Greenport and then Riverhead, south through Flanders to Hampton Bays, then east to Southampton Village, Water Mill, Bridgehampton and north to Sag Harbor. Then it travels south again to East Hampton, hooking up with the 10C that goes between East Hampton and Montauk which also began Sunday and holiday service.

This took seven years of hard politicking by Suffolk County Legislators Jay Schneiderman and Ed Romaine. Mr. Schneiderman represents the Towns of Southampton and East Hampton and Mr. Romaine’s district includes Shelter Island, Riverhead and Southold Towns..

“It’s off to a good start,” says Mr. Schneiderman of the service expansion to seven days a week. The S-92 has the highest Saturday ridership in the county. A $1.50 regular fare, in place for almost 20 years on all Suffolk buses, has been increased to $2 on the two lines to help pay for the new service. Other fares—including 50 cents for senior citizens—remain the same.

“It’s another step forward,” commented State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor, a champion of a broad public transportation initiative—a coordinated shuttle train and bus network—that has been sought for the East End.

Mr. Thiele said funding for the “small diesel engines” that would pull the trains has now been included in the state’s capital budget for 2013. “I’m optimistic,” he says. These shuttle trains would use the tracks of the Long Island Rail Road and the goal, explains Mr. Thiele, is to have them operated by an East End Transportation Authority,  similar to the Cape Cod Regional Transportation Authority.  

There was a change of emphasis by the Long Island Rail Road when it was taken over in 1966 by what was then called the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (now Metropolitan Transportation Authority). The LIRR’s main focus became commuter service in and out of Manhattan for what in the post World War II years became a vast bedroom community for the city on western Long Island.  LIRR service on the East End has been very limited. East Enders pay over $100 million annually to the MTA—through the sales tax, parts of mortgage recording and telephone taxes and now a major payroll tax—getting very little in return.

Jim Davidson demonstrated in the following decade that when public transportation is offered here, it will attract riders. Mr. Davidson in 1974 created the Hampton Jitney—which has become an amazing East End public transportation success story.

A former advertising art director, Jim started with two vans pulling trailers, ferrying people and their bicycles to and from beaches and other points between Amagansett and Southampton. Hampton Jitney’s service now involves 49 buses transporting folks dependably and in comfort from both the North and South Forks to and from the city. The Hampton Jitney is doing what the LIRR or MTA could have easily organized—and made money doing.  In fact, the LIRR fought the Hampton Jitney as it sought a state license for its Manhattan service.

Another example of people using public transportation on the East End when it is offered came in 2007 and 2008 with the widening of County Road 39 in Southampton. The LIRR operated a shuttle train service between Speonk and East Hampton. It was too bad that when the construction ended, the service was stopped.

Nationally, a battle is underway to get Congress to provide adequately for public transportation—which “protects our environment” by cutting carbon emissions, “reduces our dependence on foreign oil….creates jobs” and “enhances our quality of life,” says the American Public Transportation Association on its website www.publictransportation. “While Americans struggle with rising gas prices and a sluggish economy, America needs public transportation more than ever.”  That’s especially true of Long Island’s East End.

Altschuler Will Vie for Bishop’s Seat in 2012

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By Kathryn G. Menu

St. James businessman Randy Altschuler has decided to seek a rematch against Democratic incumbent congressman Tim Bishop in 2012. Altschuler lost his congressional bid against Bishop last year in one of the closest election races in the country.

Altschuler, who was the Republican and Conservative Party candidate in the 2010 congressional race, announced his candidacy in a press release and via his Facebook page on May 25. The announcement came shortly after he withdrew his name from the list of Republican hopefuls vying for Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s seat this fall.

“After serious consideration, I have decided to run once again for Congress in the 1st District,” stated Altschuler. “With the help of all of my loyal supporters and the taxpayers of Eastern Suffolk County, I am certain we will be successful in unseating Tim Bishop in 2012 and starting down a path towards job creation, lower taxes and a robust economy.”

Last time, after battling his way through a three-way Republican primary, Altschuler narrowly lost his bid for Congress, with Bishop earning just 593 votes more than Altschuler. The race stretched weeks past election day and was ultimately decided by a significant number of absentee ballots that swung in Bishop’s favor.

Bishop, a five-term Democrat, will be seeking his sixth term.

While Altschuler appears to have Republican and Conservative parties support, both issued statements this week praising the candidate’s business experience, he will face at least one contender on his way to representing the Republican Party on the ballot. Ronkonkoma attorney George Demos has also thrown his hat in the ring to run for Congress in 2012. He came in second in the three-way Republican primary in 2010.

Schneiderman Will Face Kelly

This fall, four term Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman will face off against title agency owner Cornelius Kelly, a resident of Southampton Town, after the Republican Party announced Kelly as its candidate for the second district seat last week.

A native and resident of Montauk, Schneiderman served on the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals from 1991 to 1999, the last three years as board chair. He left a career in education to seek office as East Hampton Town Supervisor in 1999 and served two terms there.

Schneiderman was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature in 2003 and in his last election, in 2009, won 100 percent of the vote after being cross endorsed by all parties. A former Republican, Schneiderman is now a member of the Independence Party, but will run on the Democratic Party line as well this fall.

Kelly, who is 39, is also a native of the East End having been born and raised in Westhampton Beach. He now resides in Southampton Town.

A former bond analyst, in 2005 Kelly founded Liberty Property Services, Inc., a title insurance company which he currently runs.

“I believe in a strong, efficient, limited government,” said Kelly in a press release issued after his nomination. “As a small business owner I know first hand the fastest way to promote job growth is low taxes.”

In other county election news, last week the Republican Party nominated Suffolk County Treasurer Angie Carpenter to run for county executive. She will face Democratic hopeful, Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone.

Charges of Price Gouging

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. fired off a press release this week charging that major gasoline suppliers and wholesalers price gouged South Fork residents over the Memorial Day holiday weekend in a direct violation of the state’s prohibition on zone pricing for gasoline.

According to Thiele’s office, a month ago the American Automobile Associate stated the average price of regular gasoline at $4.135. Today, it is about $4.028. Thiele noted that in every major market in New York, gas prices have declined from $0.07 to $0.15 in the past month, a trend reflective of the fact that oil prices have dropped, now stabilizing around $100 a barrel.

This week, Thiele said that while prices have dropped across Nassau and Suffolk counties, on the South Fork “gasoline prices have seemed frozen in time for the last month,” averaging around $4.25.

“It is obvious that when it came to gasoline prices in one of the most popular vacation communities in America, ‘Big Oil’ has chosen to not only ignore the zone pricing law but also repeal the law of supply and demand,” he said.

“In response to the decline in oil prices, retail gasoline prices have declined across the state and nation, except on the South Fork. Prices haven’t moved in a month,” continued Thiele who added, “It is clear that prices were kept artificially high to exploit the big holiday weekend.”

Thiele intends to contact the New York State Attorney General to investigate the matter and will pursue stronger zone pricing legislation through the State Legislature.

Passenger Ferry Discussion

On Friday, June 3 at 4:30 p.m. the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee to the Town of Southampton will host local transportation expert Hank de Cillia, who will discuss a proposed passenger ferry route that aims to use Sag Harbor as one of its hub ports.

In a letter to the editor earlier this month, de Cillia argued that traffic and parking are already issues within the Village of Sag Harbor and that the ferry could alleviate some of those issues while supporting the village’s rich maritime history and culture.

Jim Ryan’s firm Response Marina has proposed the Peconic Bay Passenger Shuttle Service, a year round service between the North and South Forks. According to a proposal submitted to the village in February, a dedicated passenger ferry route and schedule would connect Greenport to Sag Harbor, branching out later to connect to Southampton and Riverhead.

The shuttle would be a year-round, seven day a week service. The company plans to use a 40-person passenger shuttle, but said it would increase to three shuttles if demand was there.

According to the proposal, the ferry would be scheduled to arrive at transportation hubs like Riverhead in time for passengers to connect to the Suffolk County bus line, which could bring them further west or connect them to the Long Island Rail Road.

Under village code, a passenger ferry service on private property is against code and would require a variance. Ryan has said he would instead seek a public, village-owned dock space to run the operation.

Sag Harbor Village Trustees have not ruled out the possibility of the ferry shuttle service, but have continually noted it is against village code as of now.

Local Cops Gypped Out of Their Share of County Tax Dollars

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By Kathryn G. Menu


Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman was able to move a bill aimed at providing equal distribution of sales tax revenues earmarked for public safety funding out of committee and onto the floor of the Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday. However, the East End legislator cautioned he had no intentions of forcing a vote on the measure, but instead hopes to build support for the law both within the membership of the legislature and on the East End, citing Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s opposition to the bill.

The bill, sponsored by Schneiderman and the other East End Suffolk County Legislature representative, Ed Romaine, demands that East End police forces, independent of the Suffolk County Police Department, be given their fair share of sales tax revenues earmarked for public safety based on population.

East End police departments, based on population statistics from United States Census data would be entitled to 10.4 percent of the funding. That figure, noted Schneiderman, does not take into account the throngs of people who call the East End home in the summer months, which does impact public safety.

A similar bill was passed by Schneiderman in 2005, and vetoed by the County Executive.

By and large, police services on the East End are independent, with towns and some villages boasting their own police departments while a majority of western Suffolk is under the jurisdiction of the Suffolk County Police District.

Starting in 1992, the county began using sales tax revenues to fund police services in western Suffolk, according to Schneiderman, and while eastern Suffolk police departments did receive some of those monies for public safety, Schneiderman said it was at a disproportionately low rate.

According to Schneiderman’s budget figures, with the exception of 2010, between 2005 and 2011, East End police departments have been shorted anywhere from $1.5 million in 2006 to almost $3.6 million in 2005. For 2011, Schneiderman calculates the East End is being shortchanged to the tune of $2.2 million.

Schneiderman said the County Executive had slowly increased funding between 2005 and 2010, when the East End towns and villages were actually earmarked for $900,000 more in funding than what the county was required to give them. However, this year’s budget made Schneiderman realize in these economic times he would need actual law to ensure the East End would not be shortchanged by the county in the future.

In total, Schneiderman estimates the East End towns and villages have lost out on $13 million in funding since 2005.

On Monday, Schneiderman said he would not push the legislature to vote on the bill, saying he wants to be assured of its passage.

“I want to get the Police Benevolent Association behind it, the Supervisors and Mayors Association and the police chiefs,” he said. “I will probably table the bill with the hope that two weeks from now it will pass.”

Schneiderman said even with the bill’s passage, he expects it would once again be vetoed by the County Executive, and hopes to build enough support to override any veto.

“The County Executive might have doubled funding on the East End in his tenure, but he has quadrupled funding to the Suffolk County Police District,” said Schneiderman, “All I can do is present the facts to my colleagues and everyone on the East End and hope we are treated fairly.”

Short Term Costs for Long Wharf Could be Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

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By Kathryn G. Menu


According to a report compiled by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works and sent to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, while Long Wharf has “no structural deficiencies,” short term repairs to the wharf will cost the village about $340,000 should Sag Harbor Village officials decide to take the county up on an offer to buy the pier for $1.

Included in the purchase of Long Wharf is also ownership of Windmill Beach, and the deed to a Hempstead Street property the county has previously offered the village for the development of affordable housing.

However, according to a larger engineer’s report, furnished to the village on Wednesday afternoon, sometime in the next decade the village will need to spend $621,000 to cover repairs to the wharf to ensure no serious structural damage occurs as a result of not keeping up with the maintenance of the facility.

In the initial letter, Suffolk County Department of Public Works Chief Deputy Commissioner James Peterman writes that while Long Wharf was once owned by the Village of Sag Harbor, it was transferred to the county and placed in the county road system, he says, “to take advantage of certain funding opportunities then available under the New York State Highway Law.”

“Today, Long Wharf is a central part of the village’s downtown area and provides parking and recreational opportunities to residents and visitors,” writes Peterman.

While the county has paid the bill for the long-term maintenance of Long Wharf as its owners, the village has taken in revenues from dockage at the site, last year earning $93,000.

At this point in time, continues Peterman, the county would like to transfer the ownership of Long Wharf and Windmill Beach to the village, making the first formal offer by the county to Mayor Gilbride and the board of trustees.

Attached to Peterman’s letter, are the estimated costs to clean, paint and refurbish the wharf area, at a total price tag of $340,000.

According to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, that $340,000 in work would need to be performed in the next few years to ensure the long-term structural health of Long Wharf. The $621,000 costs laid out in the engineer’s report detail long-term maintenance required at the site. Schneiderman said if the county retained ownership of Long Wharf, it would likely seek to bond for the whole of the project rather than parse it out.

Schneiderman said he has been debating with county officials over the Long Wharf issue, trying to get an agreement for $340,000 in funding for the Village of Sag Harbor. While the county cannot bond a project and then sell the subject property without charging the buyer for all costs, Schneiderman suggested that if the county retained a partial ownership for the life of the bond, perhaps a deal could be struck.

However, while he supports that kind of measure, Schneiderman said he has not found similar support within the county.

“The county’s position is to give the wharf to the village, as is, and not to do anything” said Schneiderman. “I am just not sure I will be able to get that approved. The county is strapped for cash and can’t see why it would maintain and own this.”

Schneiderman said he believes it is in Sag Harbor Village’s best interest to retain Long Wharf and Windmill Beach as its own, and that he would hate to see a worse case scenario emerge, where the county sold the properties to a private owner who would then set up a paid parking system, and charge for docking and use of the facility for private events like the Bay Street Theatre Gala.

“It’s in the village’s interest to own Long Wharf so they can have total control over its future,” he said.

Village trustees have discussed taking ownership of Long Wharf in earnest, with a majority of the board appearing in support of the concept. Last month, trustees laid out tentative plans to create a budget line to fund the long-term maintenance of Long Wharf by socking away $100,000 each budget year, ideally funded through dockage at the site. Harbor Master Bob Bori has also discussed expanding the village’s transient docks as a way to increase revenues.

Schneiderman suggested additionally that a “Friends of Long Wharf” organization could be created and suspected many members of the community would be keen to support the long-term costs of maintaining Long Wharf and perhaps making it more pedestrian friendly.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Gilbride said he had received both reports and would discuss them in detail with the village board of trustees before the village makes a formal decision.

The next Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting is on December 14 at 6 p.m.



Schneiderman Survives

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By Karl Grossman

On Independence Day last year, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman dropped a voter registration form into the mailbox in front of the post office in his hometown of Montauk, changing his party enrollment from Republican to the Independence Party. And that, conventional political wisdom had it, would be the end of Mr. Schneiderman.

Indeed, one GOP politician declared: “Put a fork in him because he’s done.”

Well, something unusual happened along the political way. On Election Day, Mr. Schneiderman will be running for re-election not just on the ticket of the Independence Party but as the candidate of the Republican, Democratic, Conservative and Working Families Parties. Indeed, he’ll be on the ballot the week after next—unopposed.

“All the pundits said my political career was over, that I committed political suicide,” reflected Mr. Schneiderman at his legislative office in Sag Harbor last week.  

He said he changed his enrollment “to feel more authentic,” that he had “a real issue with the direction that the national Republican Party was moving in” with George W. Bush as president.

“I hoped I would survive. I thought most people would respect my independence, that most people consider themselves independent. I hoped I would secure a major party line. But I was prepared to run without one. It would have been the fight of my life,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to end.”

How did Mr. Schneiderman manage to not only survive but prosper politically?

His legislative district is principally composed of Southampton and East Hampton towns.  Southampton’s then GOP leader, Marcus Stinchi, and some other Republican committee members, “gave me a very difficult time.” They “put me through hell.” But “the Democratic Party in Southampton said we would like to work with you.” Mr. Stinchi and his supporters were left conceding he would end up running on the Democratic line, too, and “he’s going to win.” Mr. Stinchi “realized he couldn’t get rid of me.” If they could “keep me on a third party line” the thinking was the GOP could put up a candidate who could “beat me and punish me for leaving the party. Once it was clear that they were not going to defeat me with one of their candidates,” the town GOP endorsed him.

In East Hampton the situation was the reverse of Southampton. “The East Hampton Democratic Party was not on board.” Some Democrats were still upset over Mr. Schneiderman’s 1999 win, running on the GOP ticket, against the late Cathy Lester for East Hampton town supervisor. And, in East Hampton, “the Republicans liked me. They were happy with me as supervisor.” And, because “I was a blank when I was supervisor, they had seen me then as an independent on the Republican line.” So his switching to the Independence Party “wasn’t a big jump.” 

Mr. Schneiderman did face a Democratic primary challenge by George O. Guldi, who he defeated for the legislative seat in 2003, but he overwhelmed (by 1,054 to 134 votes) Mr. Guldi, who ran while under indictment on multiple fraud charges.

Mr. Schneiderman mused that “switching parties can be a disaster” for an elected official. He pointed to what happened to Congressman Mike Forbes of Quogue when he switched from Republican to the Democratic Party. “The Conventional wisdom is that you anger your old base and the new base may not accept you.” That’s what happened to Mr. Forbes who, after bolting from the GOP, lost the Democratic candidacy in a primary in 2000.

But changing to the Independence Party is not “going to the other side; it’s going to the middle.” And the “the beauty of the Independence Party” is that both major parties now often “need it to make the margin” for victory. Major party leaders don’t want to annoy the Independence Party. “So this was a different pathway and it succeeded.” He likes the Independence Party in that it has “no platform other than it wants its candidates to be independent and do the best for the people they would represent.”

As for his future, Mr. Schneiderman noted that after his next two-year term, he could run two more times for the Suffolk Legislature before the panel’s six-term limit kicks in. With a background in education, he said he might then be interested in getting into “school administration…And, if I stayed in government, I think there will be choices ahead…I’m taking it day by day.”

Meanwhile, with the switch earlier this month of State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor, also from Republican to the Independence Party, Mr. Schneiderman appears to have set a precedent.

Hotel/Motel Tax Hike Passed By County

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On Thursday, the Suffolk County Legislature voted through legislation that will increase the county hotel/motel tax from .75 percent to three percent. The law is expected to go into effect as early as December, much to the outrage of local lawmakers and hotel owners.

“There was zero input from people in our industry … There was no outreach,” argued Nathiel Egosi, owner of the Sag Harbor Inn. “This is going to have an adverse impact on our business. People are on a tight budget and they will now see that it is less affordable [to stay on the East End]. Some people think charging three percent more isn’t a lot, but how about cutting a salary by three percent?”

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer William Lindsay maintains that the money will help the county recoup some of the $100 million increase from the MTA payroll tax.

“Nearly all of these outrageous taxes we pay to the MTA go to support services for New York City residents,” said Lindsay. “This increase in the hotel/motel tax is going to have almost no impact on Suffolk County residents but it will recoup from visitors from New York City some small percentage of the hundreds of millions of dollars we pay every year to support New York City’s buses, subways, bridges and tunnels.”

Egosi argues that many of his guests hail from Long Island and Europe, not New York City. Further taxing businesses that already pay the increased MTA tax, added Egosi, will stymie economic growth.

County Legislator Jay Schneiderman also disagrees with Lindsay and fought to table the resolution on Thursday. But without the backing of fellow lawmakers, the bill was passed 13 to five.

“Many representatives of the hotel industry are representing that their revenues were down between 20 to 30 percent over last year,” contended Schneiderman during the legislative session on Thursday. “You may have convinced yourself that this tax won’t deter business, you are wrong. Anything that makes it more expensive to stay in an area will — over time — drive visitors to other tourist destinations that are more affordable.”

“My district contains more than half of the total number of hotels in Suffolk County,” added Schneiderman. “This hotel tax was put together without consulting the industry. The tax is estimated to collect an additional $5 million in tax revenues. Around $2 million goes to help the county budget. Of the remaining $3 million, around $700,000 will go to operate the Vanderbilt Museum. Another $100,000 to the Walt Whitman Museum birth place. It is interesting that this bill which purports to help tourism contains two earmarks in the Huntington area where only four percent of the county’s hotels are located and none for anywhere else — including the South Fork.”

According to Lindsay, the hotel/motel tax generated $1,905,406 in 2008, at a rate of .75 percent, but is expected to garner $1,653,892 in 2009. But with hotel/motel tax rate increasing to 3 percent next year, adds Lindsay, it is estimated that it would yield nearly $7 million dollars. The resolution further explains that the tax will be tacked onto daily rental rates per room.

Schneiderman contends that the increased tax will depress both tourism on the East End and sales tax revenue. A comprehensive study of the ramifications of increasing the hotel/motel tax, argued Egosi, wasn’t conducted. Egosi didn’t find out about the tax until a week before it was voted through the legislature.

“There was no input [from hotel owners] about how to better allocate that money,” contended Egosi. “[The tax] could have been good for business, if businesses were consulted about where more money should be spent to promote and encourage tourism [in the county].”

“I pleaded on the floor to wait one month to get the input of people in the industry,” added Schneiderman.

In the resolution, it is written that the tax money will be re-circulated to venues of tourism, with 24 percent of revenues to be given to the agency that promotes Suffolk County tourism. However, a large percentage of the collected funds are earmarked for the county parks and recreation department. Remaining revenue will be deposited to the general fund. According to the legislation, the hotel/motel tax will be in effect through 2015. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy still has to sign the bill into law.

“We are getting taxed to death,” remarked Schneiderman. “Or at least taxed out of business.”

Schneiderman Takes All: Beats Guldi in Primary

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From the town to the county, the road to the general elections has had some surprising twists and turns this year. On Tuesday, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman faced off against former legislator, and alleged felon, George Guldi for the Democratic nomination. Considering Guldi’s implication in a pending fraud case, it wasn’t surprising that Schneiderman won the primary handily. This November, however, Schneiderman, a registered Independent, will run unopposed as he has secured the Republican, Conservative, Independent and Working Families parties’ nomination.

“It was a bizarre primary. I don’t know what motivated Mr. Guldi to jump into the race,” remarked Schneiderman on Wednesday. “I am certainly pleased that a number of Democrats came out to support me … Now I don’t have an opponent for the November election, but I will try to use the time to reach out to residents and hear what is on their minds.”

The Suffolk County Board of Elections released unofficial tallies from Tuesday’s primary, though it is clear that Schneiderman won by a landslide. Official vote counts will be posted three weeks after the elections. Schneiderman nabbed nearly 88 percent of the vote with around 1,054 votes in total. Guldi, however, fell far behind and garnered about 145 votes or 12 percent of the overall vote.

Guldi, 56, along with four others was arraigned in early August on a nearly 130-count indictment for a major mortgage fraud involving properties in Water Mill and Noyac. According to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, Guldi and the others allegedly masterminded an $82 million fraud by using false information on loan applications to elicit money from banks and mortgage companies. Guldi, who served two terms in the county legislature and was first elected to the legislature in 1993, was personally indicted on 110 crimes, but maintained his innocence.

Schneiderman’s primary win comes after many years of moving up the local political ladder. He began his political career as a member of the East Hampton Town zoning board of appeals in 1991. He was made chairman of the board in 1996 and went on to be elected East Hampton Town Supervisor in 1999.

During his tenure as supervisor, Schneiderman paid special attention to preserving open space in East Hampton and helped the town purchase almost 1,000 acres from 2000 to 2004.

From the town, Schneiderman moved on to the Suffolk County Legislature. He secured a seat as a county legislator in 2003 and ran for re-election again in 2005 and 2007.

As a politician, Schneiderman has focused much of his efforts on issues like land preservation, affordable housing, transportation and safety.

Southampton Town to Lease Electric Mini-Coopers

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Southampton Town residents might soon see town employees whizzing down the streets of Southampton in electric Mini Cooper cars. Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who drives a Mini Cooper herself, was first approached by the company, owned by the BMW group, to participate in their “Mini E” pilot program, allowing the town to test the endurance of the electric versions of these characteristically compact vehicles.
During a special board meeting on Friday, June 5, Throne-Holst informed the board that the Mini Cooper company offered the town the use of up to five electric cars for one year. The town in turn would pay a $120 annual lease for each car, but Throne-Holst added that the company would oversee the maintenance for the vehicles. According to the company, the cars travel between 100 to 150 miles on a single charge.
“If we participate as a municipality, we could add some cars to our fleet and [perhaps] take other cars off the road,” said Throne-Holst. “This will help us see how we can move this kind of technology forward.”
“Would [the company] give any consideration to loaning these five cars to cash strapped residents to do the same type of program?” countered Councilman Chris Nuzzi.
Throne-Holst explained that Mini Cooper is targeting municipalities to participate in this program because of the extensive liability insurance held by government bodies. If the town signs onto the project they will follow the lead of several other municipalities, including New York City, which added 10 “Mini E”s to their fleet in January.
“We shouldn’t do this as an advertisement for mini … This will help reduce our costs for this year,” said Throne-Holst, noting the cost savings associated with the project.
“We do have a few cars in our fleet used by various department heads that ought to be replaced. Some have 150,000 plus miles on them,” said Throne-Holst during a later interview. “This way we could put the ‘Mini E’s to use instead and delay the purchasing of new vehicles.”
She added that town comptroller Tamara Wright is going to conduct a cost savings analysis on the project. The town has a signed memorandum of understanding, said Throne-Holst, and she expects the cars will be delivered sometime this month.

Discussion of the Mini Cooper pilot program offered a much needed lighter note to a meeting dominated by discussion against a proposed piece of legislation coming out of Suffolk County. The county is looking to divert funds from the County Drinking Water Protection Program, which is one of the county’s main revenue sources for land preservation said legislator Jay Schneiderman, to use for property tax relief in the coming three years.
“This legislature determines that in assessing the difficult choices that must be made to maintain the county’s fiscal stability, this legislature cannot treat any program as a ‘sacred cow,’” reported the county in a draft of the law.
According to town supervisor Linda Kabot, in 2007 county residents voted to continue using funds from this program for land purchases until 2030.
“This is ill advised and breaking faith with the voters. We stand in opposition,” declared Kabot.
“This program is the main way we purchase land,” reported Schneiderman. “We are one of the most vital areas for preservation in terms of critical habitat.”
The legislation would have a direct impact on the town’s purchasing power. Recently, the board has discussed focusing their CPF monies on debt repayment and the creation of a rainy day fund. Additional land purchases in the town will most likely have to be made in partnership with the county.
“If the county doesn’t have any money to buy land then it can’t partner with the town,” noted Schneiderman, during an interview.