Tag Archive | "John Linder"

At Sag Harbor CAC Meeting, Four in Attendance Focus on Recruitment

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By Tessa Raebeck

With just four people in attendance, the discussion at Friday’s meeting of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) centered on recruitment.

CAC Chairman John Linder was joined by members Susan Baran, Eric Cohen and Bob Malafronte in expressing the need for better visibility and outreach in efforts to enlist new members for the all-volunteer group.

During the 1980s, the Town of Southampton organized ten CACs, volunteer branches of government designed for the town’s hamlet areas, in order to more effectively address localized issues and concerns.

In Bridgehampton, the CAC is a driving force on local policy that has dozens of members. With no elected government in Bridgehampton, the CAC largely operates as the hamlet’s vocal leadership.

Sag Harbor’s CAC, however, has enacted few legislative actions over the past several years and has seen its numbers dwindle. The town’s website lists eight active members of the CAC, but meetings this year have seen only four or five in attendance.

In cards designed by Malafronte to solicit new members, the CAC asks for those who are concerned, caring and committed to the Sag Harbor community to join. The cards outline the CAC’s primary areas of focus as the East Hampton Airport, water quality, pollution of the bays, over development and traffic.

“I would say our history – at least in terms of intention – is legislative,” Linder said at the meeting Friday evening. “We do want to see legislative changes.”

The group discussed bringing town board members Brad Bender and Bridget Fleming to future meetings as guests, in order to both let them know of the group’s goals and to draw in interested attendees.

A goal for the New Year is developing a community email list that would include the members of similar local groups, such as Save Sag Harbor, to expedite communication with like-minded individuals.

The CAC also contemplated visiting Pierson Middle/High School to educate students on the different avenues of government and how such grassroots organizations work.

“I’m always amazed at what people don’t know about that affects their property values,” said Linder. “If people know what outlets they have to participate in their community, they don’t have to participate, but maybe one day they will. Or they’ll tell their friends and neighbors – or somebody.”

“If we could just get two or three [members],” he added, “that would be fine, we don’t need a landslide here.”

The next meeting of the Sag Harbor CAC will be held January 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the Pierson Middle/High School library. For information, call 725-6067.

Eye the Environment

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By David McCabe

The Sag Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Committee turned its attention to the environment at the group’s meeting on Sunday afternoon, discussing septic systems, recycling centers and illegal off-road vehicles.

John Linder, the outgoing chair of the CAC, asked the committee to consider ways in which members could help the village preserve the sustainability of its bodies of water, especially in light of a report saying parts of Shinecock Bay have become toxic. Quickly, the conversation turned to the placement of septic systems in houses close to the water.

The problem, committee members seemed to agree, was that these systems are too often old and in disrepair. They differed, however, on their preferred solutions.

CAC member Stephen Schumann suggested Southampton Town could consider raising money to completely retrofit its sewage system. Other members of the committee said the cost of such a measure would be prohibitive, and that it would do nothing to solve the problem in the short term.

Linder raised the idea that the Town of Southampton could offer tax breaks to residents who have their septic system checked, allowing them to get the faulty systems repaired. Incoming CAC chair Judah Mahay said the group is concerned that the town, which is looking into ways to clean up local bodies of water, is not thinking in terms of specific programs that could be funded.

“You can’t just throw money at things,” Mahay said.

The committee also addressed the issue of illegal use of all-terrain vehicles in unauthorized areas in the town.

“It’s not that we necessarily want to curb the use of ATVs in general, it’s just when they are used in a place that isn’t really sanctioned,” Mahay said. “The laws are on the books with concern to ATVs, it’s just about making sure those laws are enforced and people are knowledgeable about them and the reasons they were implemented in the first place,” Mahay said.

The CAC also used the meeting to discuss how it could make it easier for Sag Harbor residents to recycle their batteries and electronic devices. Both require special recycling facilities. The CAC decided to wait until its next meeting, because a Sag Harbor resident had raised the concerns about the recycling center and the fact it was unclear where certain objects, like electronic devices, could be disposed of.

“A definite concern that we want to make sure is addressed is that the different recycling centers are working in tandem with one another,” Mahay said, adding he hopes the facilities could find a way to make it clear where residents of Sag Harbor must go to dispose of specific items.

CAC members also spent part of the meeting brainstorming ways to expand their membership, after an Express editorial commented on the group’s diminishing numbers and what the paper viewed as its waning power within the community. Some group members argued that community members think all the issues the CAC could deal with were already resolved, and so they have no interest in the committee.

In the coming months, the CAC will be reaching out to members of the local activist community. Instead of casting a wide net, CAC members will reach out personally to Sag Harbor residents they think may be interested. However, they stressed anyone with an interest in area issues is encouraged to join the committee.

“Anybody who’s a resident of the greater Sag Harbor area that’s interested in how the community develops would be a welcome addition to the committee,” said Mahay.

Sag Harbor CAC Attendance Wanes

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Claire Walla

If you haven’t been to a Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting recently, you’re not alone. Attendance at the community meetings has waned in recent months, last Sunday playing host to just two attendees — one of whom was the co-chair leading the meeting.

The duo briefly discussed issues affecting Southampton Town, as is a CAC’s purview, like the amount of nitrogen seeping into local waterways and a new proposal from Councilman Chris Nuzzi to create a committee to expedite the permitting process for builders and small business owners.

But with such a small audience, the meeting was mostly just informative.

“I’d like to grow,” Judah Mahay said of CAC attendance.

According to Mahay, co-chair of the CAC, the group technically has five active members. However, since February the meetings have only garnered two or three members (including the two co-chairs). The most populous meeting — in April — attracted a crowd of seven, and featured a speaker from the Quiet Skies Coalition who discussed the issue of helicopter noise.

At this point, he added, his main issue is building a core group of members. “We’re being proactive for community involvement,” he said.

Part of the CAC slow-down has to do with the fact that the organization is in a redevelopment process, explained co-chair John Linder.

“Clearly, we’re in a period of transition,” said Linder, who is prepping Mahay to take on the role in its entirety in 2013. Linder and Mahay officially became co-chairs this past February. “At this point, we’re just taking it month-to-month.”

The mission of all local CACs is to keep abreast and weigh in on issues affecting those areas that lie outside village jurisdiction, but within Southampton Town’s. At last Sunday’s meeting, Mahay explained to his one guest that the Sag Harbor CAC’s main priority at the moment is “being proactive to gain community involvement.”

Mahay himself is taking steps to give the CAC much more of a presence in the community, which includes giving the organization an online presence.

“We’ve thought about ways to bring people to the CAC, to not only show up, but to participate in the community,” Mahay continued. He mentioned setting up an information booth outside the library to explain what the organization is all about, in addition to creating an interactive website for the CAC.

Mahay said the website will include all the minutes from CAC meetings, as well as all letters drafted on behalf of CAC members that are sent to the town board or local publications. He expects the website to be up and running before the organization’s next meeting, July 8.

While Linder explained that a couple active CAC members are actually summer residents who have not yet arrived, some wonder whether the low attendance has to do with the current time slot: Sunday afternoons at 1:30 p.m.

CAC member Eric Cohen regularly attended meetings until they were switched from Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. to their current Sunday time slot.

“That’s the entire reason for me,” Cohen said, explaining why he no longer attends meetings. Plus, he said the issues in the greater Sag Harbor community are not as crucial as they were a few years ago.

CACs were established about 15 years ago so that areas in Southampton Town without a localized government could have a much stronger connection to the town board. The Bridgehampton CAC, for example, has a relatively high attendance rate because the hamlet has a significant population with issues that cannot be addressed locally.

Because Sag Harbor is an incorporated village, the Sag Harbor CAC is technically responsible for the areas of the greater Sag Harbor community on the Southampton side of town that do not fall within village jurisdiction. This includes Ligonee Creek to the south, and part of the Long Pond Greenbelt.

The most significant issue the CAC has dealt with in recent years was the push for a Sag Harbor Gateway Study along the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike, which essentially limits development in that area.

“The area we’re representing is small and there isn’t a lot of controversy right now,” said Cohen. “We used to have a much larger membership, with people who really knew how to speak up [for Sag Harbor issues in town board meetings]. But, with membership shrinking, there are fewer of us to get out there.”

For Linder, the greater Sag Harbor area will continue to see issues, whether it’s water quality or traffic on Noyac Road (Noyac, by the way, has its own CAC). But, the longevity of the Sag Harbor CAC will be left to the will of the people.

“If people see the value in it, some will come forward and participate,” he said. “If not, it will go by the wayside.” But, he continued, “the issues will remain.”

From Rafts to Pirates to the Sag CAC, Local Org. Gets A New Co-Chair

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Judah adjusted

By Claire Walla

He’s led white-water-rafting expeditions in Alaska, taught sailing while dressed as a pirate in Chicago and lived abroad in Japan. And now, 31-year-old Judah Mahay is on his way to becoming the new chairman of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Town of Southampton.

“I love different cultures and I love different places,” said Mahay, who was born and raised in Alaska and lived near Stony Brook before moving to the Sag Harbor area about a year-and-a-half ago when his wife was hired to work at the Water Mill Center.

When asked how his experience on the East End has been thus far, Mahay submitted to a wide grin.

“It’s been interesting,” he said. “There’s a large population of Latino cultures, then there’s the juxtaposition between the people who are farmers and the individuals who use this as a second home, and those who have retired out here. It makes for a very interesting dynamic.”

Of his new role with the CAC, he said, “I’ve always kind of had that approach of bringing people together to inspire some type of community interaction.”

Back in high school, Mahay noted this knack was manifested in his single-handedly forming a competitive hockey team. Although, he added, “As I’ve gotten older, it’s been less along the lines of entertainment and more along the lines of political issues.”

Recently, Mahay said he’s focused his attention on grass-roots organizing efforts like No Label and Americans Elected.

Mahay has thus far participated in local politics from the sidelines, attending a smattering of both CAC and Southampton Town board meetings in the past year. This is his first full-blown foray into the local political scene.

Mahay’s new role was officially announced at the CAC’s first meeting of the New Year last Sunday, January 12, when current chair John Linder explained his reasons for passing on the torch.

“I’ve done it for a long time,” said Linder, who has been at the helm of the organization for five years, even though he lives full-time in Manhattan. “It was always kind of ridiculous, because I’m not here during the week.”

The two men will officially serve as co-chairs for the remainder of 2012 while Linder shows his successor the ropes. Already, Mahay is looking forward to his new role.

“I would love to see the Sag Harbor CAC [evolve] in the fashion of what it is now: representative of the community’s voice,” he explained. “But, certain actions need to be taken in order to gauge the community’s voice. And that involves outreach.”

Sitting at a small round table inside the John Jermain Library’s temporary space on West Water Street, Mahay and Linder discussed the need to grow the CAC with the only other CAC member in attendance that day, Valerie Justin.

“I think people know we exist, but they just don’t know what we do,” Linder said.

To try to increase participation, he suggested setting up tables where CAC members would be stationed, ready to initiate one-on-one conversations with people interested in joining, or even learning more about the CAC.

Justin suggested the group reach out to Moveon.org, a politically motivated grassroots organization that — despite having national influence — has a strong presence in local communities.

“I think it’s a goldmine!” she stated. “These people [Moveon.org members] are used to being politically active.”

Mahay said he would look into forging a connection with the organization. And, in the vein of digital endeavors, he expressed an interest in creating a website for the Sag Harbor CAC, which currently has no online presence, and putting together an up-to-date (electronic) mailing list. He even spoke of activating a Twitter account for the local organization.

At the request of both Linder and Justin, Mahay will present a model of this proposed website at the CAC’s next meeting: Sunday, March 11 at 1:30 p.m.

“My long-term goals are to be as engaged in the community as I can,” Mahay continued. “Maybe 10 years down the road I’ll run for public office and make that my full time job [Mahay currently works at Chase Bank in East Hampton] — I can’t imagine a better thing to do with my time.”

“I always knew that I wanted to make my primary function in life to help people,” he added. “And whether it’s trying to help someone reduce their mortgage payments, or it’s public office, it’s the same root aspiration. It’s just that in one scenario you’re doing more to affect change.”

Sag Harbor CAC Sets Sights on Regional Issues

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The Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Town of Southampton has no intention of resting on their laurels following the town’s adoption of the Sag Harbor Gateway Study – a project they championed for years. Fueled by the momentum of a newly formed cooperative of citizen committees in the eastern half of the town, last week the CAC committed itself to supporting a similar land use study for County Road 39, and called for greater dialogue between citizen groups and both the town board and planning board.

The Sag Harbor CAC was instrumental in the creation and recent passage of the Sag Harbor Gateway Study, a years-long endeavor to ensure the gateway to the village would not be developed in the same fashion as County Road 39 in Southampton. On Friday, April 3 the committee welcomed Frank Zappone, chairman of the Southampton, Tuckahoe, Shinnecock Hills CAC whose own committee is concerned by a recent decision by the Southampton Town Board to lift a building moratorium on County Road 39 while a land use study is completed for the corridor. According to Zappone, the action is symptomatic of a larger issue in town government, where citizen advisory groups can find their voices fall on deaf ears, whether in front of the town board or when they step in too late on a project in front of the planning board. 

In addition to serving as chair of his CAC, Zappone is also acting chairman of the Coalition East – a union of citizen groups east of the Shinnecock Canal formed to provide a support system between organizations and allow the groups to tackle regional issues in the town. He has also sought the vacant town planning board seat over the course of the last year and a half – a position that has yet to be filled.

According to Sag Harbor CAC chairman John Linder, the meeting is one of two sessions meant to focus on the town’s planning board and planning department. On Friday, May 15 the committee will welcome the Group for the East End, who will unveil a proposal to incorporate citizen committees in the planning process.

On Friday, ensuring CACs are heard cooperatively and individually, town planning was at the forefront of the discussion.

 “John and I have talked periodically and lately more and more about the frustration of being in a CAC and getting people involved to make a truly meaningful impact,” said Zappone on Friday.

Zappone expressed frustration at the lack of notice citizen groups are given on development projects coming before the planning board. He said even when the CAC is given plans for projects in its jurisdiction, often the projects are so far down the pipeline it is nearly impossible to play a meaningful role in shaping a development to suit both the project sponsors and the community.

“After the horse is out of the barn why are you asking us for input,” he mused. “It serves no useful purpose at that point.”

Zappone admitted he has sought the vacant seat on the board for some of these very reasons, but has yet to even have his application acknowledged.

“Should we not look for some balance,” he wondered, adding it could be beneficial to have the planning board comprised of residents throughout the town or require a couple of members represent the minority political party.

“We are also concerned about the length of terms,” said Zappone, noting planning board members are appointed to seven-year terms with no term limits. “Two terms is 14 years. A particular mindset can dominate for an extended period of time without limits.”

Zappone expressed real frustration at the town board’s decision to lift a moratorium on development on County Road 39 while the town finishes its second land use study on the corridor – a study similar to the Gateway Study, albeit for a much larger gateway to the eastern side of Southampton.

 “Take the pressure away and there is no reason to finish it quickly in terms of the commercial needs of a community,” explained Zappone, who added the moratorium also protected any projects from slipping in before any zoning changes could be made as a result of the study. While the board cited the economic crisis and a need to stimulate the economy through building projects, Zappone asked for a longer view, noting a number of establishments on County Road 39 are empty, seeking tenants.

“We can’t just look at one slice of the pie,” he said. “We have to look at the whole picture.”

“This just makes me mad as heck,” said committee member Priscilla Ciccariello. “I think as a neighbor CAC we should make this one of our issues. We should write a letter asking why the board lifted the moratorium, when the study will be completed and what will be done with it.”

Linder assured the moratorium had support from a number of CACs and community groups.

“We all use that highway,” agreed Ciccariello. “That is the entrance to this whole area and it has been years we have been saying we need to do something about this.”