Tag Archive | "New York"

Governor Cuomo Deafeats Teachout in Democratic Primary

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By Mara Certic

Although New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo decisively won the democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, September 9, his opponent, Zephyr Teachout, led many of the polls on the East End.

Governor Cuomo won the primary with 62.1 percent of the vote, Ms. Teachout, a law professor in New York, received 34.2 percent.

According to unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections, in East Hampton Town,  Ms. Teachout received 307 votes, while only 207 East Hamptonites voted for Governor Cuomo. Last week, Betty Mazur, the vice chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee, sent out an e-mail blast endorsing Ms. Teachout and criticizing Governor Cuomo for his unfulfilled promises and particularly for his lack of response to local problems with PSEG Long Island.

According to the board of elections, Governor Cuomo took Suffolk County with just under 55 percent of the vote, while Ms. Teachout received almost 43 percent. According to the BOE, 16,030 out of 296,315 eligible voters, or 5.4 percent, turned out to vote.

In the Town of Southampton, Governor Cuomo beat out his opponent by just five votes, receiving 450 to Ms. Teachout’s 445. Ms. Teachout also proved popular on Shelter Island, where she received nine more votes than the incumbent governor.

Ms. Teachout, a constitutional and property law professor at Fordham University, announced she was running “to lay out a bold vision and provide a real choice for voters,” according to her website. Her running mate, Tim Wu, is a law professor at Columbia University.

“We are not Albany insiders, but we believe Governor Cuomo and Kathy Hochul can be beat, and must be challenged. We will force Governor Cuomo to defend his record of deep education cuts, his tax cuts for banks and billionaires, his refusal to ban fracking and his failure to lead on the Dream Act,” their website reads.

The 2014 New York gubernatorial election, pitting Governor Cuomo against Republican Rob Astorino, will take place on Tuesday, November 4. For questions about voter registration or polling places in Suffolk County visit suffolkvotes.com or call (631) 852-4500.

TFF: The Treasure Found in “Garnet’s Gold”

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By Danny Peary

Ed Perkins and Garnet Frost

Ed Perkins and Garnet Frost

Our heroes in movies, particularly documentaries, are of often ordinary people who do extraordinary things, people who rise to the occasion under dire circumstances. Garnet Frost could be seen by himself and others as an extraordinary man who has never done anything that exceeded the ordinary. Unmarried, childless, living in London with his ninety-year-old mother, he believes that his best chance to make his mark in history is to find a fortune in gold that was hidden three hundred years ago in Scotland’s Loch Arkaig, where he almost died twenty years before while hiking alone.  This dynamic personality has no idea that his brush with fame will be not as an explorer, but as the subject of director/writer/editor Ed Perkins’ fascinating, beautifully-shot documentary, Garnet’s Gold, which just played to large, enthusiastic crowds at the Tribeca Film Festival.  For his first feature, Perkins (who made a series of TV documentaries for the National Geographic Channel) tells us what he learned, which is that Garnet underestimates himself as much as George Bailey does in It’s a Wonderful Life, and that it is neither wealth nor celebrity that makes someone exceptional, but what he graciously offers to others.  As the film’s press notes state, “[A]s Garnet embarks on his journey, the pursuit for riches is soon eclipsed by a more melancholy search for meaning and inspiration by a wonderfully exuberant man with grand aspirations.”  Garnet (whose newest dream project is a play with huge magic tricks about Houdini) was one of the most welcome guests at the festival.  I was fortunate to speak to him and the London-based Perkins last week.

Danny Peary: So, Garnet, on your first visit to New York, are you saying, “It’s nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live here.”?

Garnet Frost: I don’t know, I haven’t had time to come to that conclusion.  I do think it is a very nice place to visit.  I’ve been doing a lot of press so I’ve just been out and about briefly, but so far I love what I’ve seen.

DP: You have the name, Garnet Frost, of a renaissance man.  Has having that name influenced you, do you think?

GF: Possibly, it’s a bit like “A Boy Named Sue.” It’s a curious name, so I had to live up to it by being curious. It’s unusual, but not unique, although I’ve never met another one.

Ed Perkins: There’s a few Garnets over here, aren’t there?

DP: There was a singer from the 1960s named Garnet Mimms who had a hit “Cry Baby.” That’s the only one I know.  Of course, he shares a fairly common last name with the poet Robert Frost.

GF: Well, that’s beyond my control. As for the name Garnet, I blame my mother for that –it’s an expression of her romantic nature.  In fact my first Christian name is Edward, which was my father’s choice. My mum rather preferred Garnet, because when she first realized she was pregnant with me, she stood on a beach somewhere on the east coast of England, where garnets were everywhere. My dad preferred Edward, so it was Edward Garnet, but then my parents split up when I was a baby in the cradle, so she took to calling me Garnet, and that’s what I’ve been called ever since.

DP: So oddly, you two have the same first name!

EP (laughing): I didn’t know about this!

DP: Let me ask you, Ed, if Garnet is a quick study. Did you pretty much know him after one meeting?

EP: No, the reason I kept coming back is that he’s so enigmatic and evocative that I became addicted and obsessed with trying to dig deeper get to know Garnet more and more.  At the same time, I was trying to work out for myself what was going on in our film story. I started doing a lot of research into kind of archetypal narrative structures.  If I was going to dramatize a story like this, how would I tell it?. It took four years to make Garnet’s Gold, and for a long period of that, I had no idea as a filmmaker what the film was really about. I found a structure in something called The Hero’s Journey, kind of based on Holy Grail mythology. In my house, I put up a big sheet, and marked it Act I, Act II, and put notes on Post-Its all over it. It was a little scary but very exciting–I kept going because I wanted to know what was at the end of this rainbow.  There may not be a literal pot of gold, but I sensed we could find something  more interesting.

DP: What kind of odds did you think there were that you’d find the gold?

GF: Well, that’s impossible to assess. Obviously on paper the odds were low that we’d find it, but at the same time there were so many tantalizing clues suggesting that it could be there.

EP: I didn’t try to guess the odds, and I didn’t really care. I was swept into Garnet’s world, into Garnet’s plans to build flying machines, and into his coffee-stained maps and all the rest of it.  I went along with his idea to search for the gold, and certainly when we got in the stream where he thought it was hidden, my heart was beating very fast, because I thought it might be there and I wanted it to be there for Garnet’s sake.  But in actuality, I didn’t think it was essential for my film that Garnet find the missing gold. I thought if we found it, it would have be a hell of a story, but it wasn’t the kind of story I wanted to tell. I wanted to tell the true story of Garnet.

DP: Was finding the gold your Plan A for your film?  And if that didn’t work, did you have Plan B in place?

EP: There wasn’t a back-up plan. From the moment I met Garnet I wanted to tell a more introspective, emotional, and human story than a story of Garnet searching for gold.  Garnet’s Gold is about how people need a purpose in life. The reason I wanted to do that story was because Garnet’s journey itself threw up big themes that we can all relate to in our own lives. Who hasn’t looked back on their lives and asked themselves if they’d reached their potential?  Garnet’s willingness to ask himself such a tricky question was very powerful.

DP: At the end of the day, when you were getting to know each other, would you leave Garnet behind and come home and tell your girlfriend, “You won’t believe what happened today!”?

EP: Yeah, I was constantly surprised. Every time I’d come home from a day of filming with Garnet, I thought, “This is kind of amazing!” It wasn’t perfect but it was close enough for me to think, “This is going somewhere. I don’t know where it’s going, but it’s worth taking a risk.” I knew it was worth my spending time with Garnet, a man I came to really care about. I fell in love with the guy and I became completely obsessed with trying to tell his story.

DP: Garnet, you’re a humble guy and suddenly somebody’s making a movie about you. At the end of the each day did you ask yourself if you were a good enough subject?  Or were you confident to just let Ed do what he does?

GF: Well, we had sort of a division of labor from the outset. This was going to be my expedition and it was his film. From the start, he was reluctant to show me any footage, saying it was best if I didn’t see it because it would make me feel a bit self-conscious. I’m sure he was right. So I just kind of let him get on with it. We had this build-up as we prepared for the expedition, the boat was nearly ready, we were making sure we had enough money, so each day had its own  momentum and its own fulfillment, without us really having to review what anything we filmed meant.

DP: So you didn’t worry that you weren’t giving Ed enough.

GF: I did in a sense, not having seen the rushes. I wasn’t sure what he was getting, but I was sensing what it was.  I didn’t care about a camera being pointed at me, he could do that when he wanted to, but when he’d have it almost touching my chest, it made feel kind of awkward and self-conscious; and when he’d then ask me questions, I’d feel I was a bit flat and not up to par–but I thought we’d make up for it later.

DP: Did you ever tell him to turn off the camera, because what he wanted was too private, including conversations with your sick mother?

GF: He might ask, “Oh, can I tape this?” and I’d say, “No, you can’t.” But he usually was sympathetic and sensed when I didn’t really want to talk.

DP: Ed, you didn’t show him the rushes, so were there moments when you wondered how he was going to feel about something?

EP: When he finally watched the film, it was very nerve-wracking. This was my first feature film, and I was sure I made lots of mistakes along the way. The approach I took was that Garnet is quite an introspective guy who thinks a lot of about the world and himself, and I didn’t want him to become too self-conscious about the process of being filmed. I didn’t want him to think he had to give me something because I knew that would have been the way to not make this film. I wanted as much as possible to build a trusting relationship between us and then get him to feel comfortable in front of cameras. It took a long time.  We’d go out without a camera and have a beer at the pub, and I spent a lot of time sitting with his mom without the camera, just talking about her life and Garnet’s life.  I also met his friends.  I was drawn into this amazing world, full of very rich characters, so it was always a treat. I wanted Garnet to focus on just being there in the moment.

DP: Was Garnet a different person when you were in Scotland?

EP: Yeah, Garnet became much quieter and much more introspective.  The place was having a really profound impact on him.  He was returning to the place where he nearly lost his life years before and it was difficult for him to confront what had happened there. I certainly realized that.  I didn’t pry but I could see it in his face, and I wanted to give him the respect that he deserved.  In one of our most poignant interviews, I just lit the side of his face, and I kept most of the front of his face almost in darkness. It was a very conscious decision. It come across as very intimate because we were very close, but the real reason I did it that was because I wanted to let him hide a little bit.  Even though he was very emotive, I was respecting him and his journey.

DP: When you were doing all that gorgeous cinematography of spectacular wildnerness in Scotland, did you have a spiritual experience?

EP: I’m not a religious person, so no, but I wanted to make Scotland feel slightly dream-like. The color correction and sound design made it slightly hyper-real.  The scenes in England were very claustrophobic, and consciously so; in Scotland, Garnet becomes a very small man in a very big landscape. The colors are saturated and he’s surrounded by light.  In London there are millions of people but there’s sort of a loneliness there. Soon, in Scotland, he’s alone, yet he’s surrounded by midges, and running water and little creepy crawlies, and spiders, and wildlife. I wanted to bring that to life. I wanted all of Scotland to feel a bit ethereal so we got this sense that it wasn’t just a literal, physical journey we were going on with Garnet, but there was something a bit more introspective about this journey.

SPOILER ALERT

DP: As a filmmaker, where could you have gone wrong in telling the story?

EP: Well, it’s up to you to judge, but the biggest mistake I could have made as a filmmaker was to fall into the natural documentary track. When Garnet waded into the stream at the end of his journey, and he didn’t find gold where he thought it would be, he stands there and looks up and down the stream.  The natural reaction for me would have been to ask, “Garnet, how are you feeling?” What I was trying to do as much as possible was resist that temptation to ask that and just hold the shot and let viewers make up their minds as to what was going on in Garnet’s mind; and have them embrace the ambiguity. I think the ambiguity is important, I think it’s interesting in filmmaking. All the films that I love are those that ask questions and leave us trying to figure out where it’s going.

DP: Garnet, Ed wants us to decide for ourselves what you were feeling when you realized there was no gold.  But I think at that moment you were thinking many things and maybe your whole life was flashing before your eyes.

GF: I think the pair of us were really caught up in the adventure of the whole thing, really right up to that point. What I was actually feeling when I got into the stream was nothing. I wasn’t feeling anything.  I was somehow just physically absorbed in the business of being there.

DP: But you gave up your search at some point. You’re no longer at that stream in Scotland searching for the gold.

GF: That’s it, we were as thorough as we could be and I felt that we took it as far as we could.  It was at this point we needed to ask, “What has this adventure been about–it has something to do with the search for gold, right?  Okay, so where are we now? It’s now the story of a man who goes in search of gold and doesn’t find it.” At that point I’m getting a little bit worried because I’ve been leading the way on the search for gold and Ed has been following along, but after not finding the gold, is there still a film in it? And Ed’s coming back to me, going, “Tell the camera how you feel about it?  Has this changed your life or your perspective on things?”  And I’m going, “Uh, well, maybe it has or maybe it will, I’m not really aware of that.” In fact at the moment here, more than anything else, I was just feeling really depressed. And he’s going, “Okay, so you feel depressed, let’s talk about depression a little bit.”  Oh, for Christ’s sake, he could have been phased by it, but he was saying, “Let’s talk, something will come out of it. Trust me, we’ve got enough here, we’ll make it work somehow.” I think had we found the gold, it would have been exciting, but it probably would have been a lesser film than the way it turned out.

END SPOILER ALERT

EP: It has been the biggest privilege of my life to work with Garnet, and one of the challenges of working with someone who’s so self-aware and so introspective is that he’s quite knowing of his own journey.  I felt like I was trying to get him not to think about whether he was providing me with a film. That would have been the wrong way for him to approach it, because he didn’t owe me anything, he never did. I was there documenting a story. So when we returned from our expedition in Scotland, I came back to London and tried to figure out in my mind what the bigger themes were. I don’t think Garnet knew exactly what the deeper message was. So we sat down in his bedroom for what must have been three, four, or five hours and we just talked. I didn’t know where our conversation was going. We talked and talked and talked, and eventually we started talking about the idea of whether he and I had made something of our own lives.  The idea of an apology by Garnet [for not accomplishing enough in his life and meeting other people's expectations] started to come to life. And I think that was the moment Garnet reached–that we both reached–and found what we feel is the heart of the story.

DP: Well, it’s at the heart of his life.

EP: Yes. At a Q&A, we were asked if  Garnet was thinking about the apology when he was standing there in the stream where he thought the gold was hidden. I didn’t know, it was not for me to say. But I don’t think that’s important in terms of the storytelling. What’s important is focusing on the overall truth, finding themes that are true to his own life that relate to other people’s lives. And it felt like his apology was at the center of his story.

DP: But of course we in the audience are thinking, “Why is he apologizing for anything?” Garnet, you feel responsible for letting people down, and we’re thinking why?  I won’t say if you found the gold or not, but I doubt if it would have made a difference in regard to your feeling the need to apologize. I guess the answer is that is just who you are, right?

GF: I’m not like that the whole time, but I have a depressive streak to me. I find myself thinking, why? I don’t know why myself.

DP: Maybe you’re a “people-pleaser,” in that you don’t like to let anybody down.

GF: Yeah, and I suppose I’m quite a driven person in a way.  I set myself quite a high standard, so I never quite feel that I’ve done enough.

DP: You got a standing ovation at the sold-out screening I attended, so there!

GF: Perhaps I don’t take enough credit for what I do.

DP: Talk about your age difference. Was that important in your personal journeys?

EP: I think I recognized Garnet, and the story he’d undertaken, as kind of a mirror in which we can see our own hopes and dreams, and maybe our own fears. I think if you’re slightly older, closer to Garnet’s age, you can relate closely to things that are actually happening in your own lives. I think people like me who are a bit younger relate but not so closely–we see ourselves later in life. That happened with me, and without a doubt that had an impact on the themes I chose to portray more strongly in the film.  In the last few years, I have certainly asked myself questions about meaning in my life. Did this have an impact on the stories Garnet and I talked about and the conversations we had?  Possibly. I think often these really personal films say a lot about the filmmaker as well as the subject,

GF: The disparity in age between us is similar to that of a father and son, in a way. I identify with Ed and feel protective of him enough to feel that he could be a son of mine. At moments, he has looked to me as almost a father figure. There’s respect and protectiveness, if you like, between us.

SPOILER ALERT

DP (joking): So when are you going back to search for gold in Scotland?

GF: I would love to go back! I think it would be worthwhile going back and having another look around there. The historical story of the gold is to my mind another story that could be worth pursuing.  I think the back story of how the gold came to be there in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden is fascinating in its own right.  We only alluded to it briefly so maybe there’s another movie in there.  I would love to go back because when we went I had this sense almost of going home. I identify with that place in ways I don’t quite understand.

EP: Would I like to go back? I would love to go back with Garnet. I’d never been up to that part of the world before.  It is an amazing.  It’s a dream for a filmmaker. I personally like the idea that the gold is still there, but I have to admit that I don’t know if I want it to be found.  There’s something romantic about the idea of there being a billion dollars worth of gold just sitting there. If it is found, I want it to be found by Garnet, not anyone else.

DP: If it were in America, then everybody would be out there.

GF: Yes, it is bizarre that there has never been a systematic search for the gold. There was a man before us but he looked entirely the wrong place. As time goes by, the more I am convinced we did go to the right location, but by the same token I’m also pretty much convinced that after the gold was hidden there, it was lifted and redistributed, probably within a year. That was the intention when hiding the gold in the first place, so the chances of finding the gold is extremely remote. Nevertheless I think there probably is some archeology there worth investigating.  For a proper search you need a team and all sorts of equipment because it’s a very difficult, tricky landscape.  It’s quite dangerous to get across, let alone to investigate with a metal detector. It’s full of mystery.

END SPOILER ALERT

DP: Tell me about being at the Tribeca Film Festival.

GF: I was thrilled and scared for months before coming here to New York first time. You can see what I’m like in the film, so being a worrier I worried about having a heart attack or something like that.

DP: You’re a performer, once you get up in front of everyone you feel comfortable.

GF: I was having the heebie-jeebies!

EP: I know we’ve finished filming but I don’t think Garnet’s journey has come to an end. Actually being at the Tribeca Film Festival is part of his whole journey. We got a standing ovation from two hundred people in New York City, it was amazing.  I feel so pleased that Garnet’s getting the respect and the attention that I believe he deserves and hasn’t had for too long.  It’s a real privilege for me to be able to see Garnet in the limelight.

Hampton Jitney: On The Road for 40 Years

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Biz Jitney 40th

By Stephen J. Kotz

It was during the deep recession of 1973-74, a downturn made all that much worse by the emergence of a little understood force called the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, that Jim Davidson had an idea.

“He bought two vans with bike racks and envisioned an intra-town service for people who didn’t want to drive from East Hampton to Montauk or Southampton to Sag Harbor during the oil crisis,” said vice president Andrew Lynch.

And so, the Hampton Jitney was born 40 years ago.

To celebrate the milestone, the company, whose dark green coaches are now a regular sight from the Montauk Highway to the Long Island Expressway and beyond, is planning a number of promotions this year kicking off with a “Design a Jitney” contest.

Artists have been invited to submit plans using the company’s logo and celebrating its anniversary. The winning design will be used to wrap one bus in the company’s fleet. And the winner will get complimentary tickets for use on the company’s Hamptons to New York City line.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Davidson to realize that a localized bus service wouldn’t cut it. “That fall, he quickly realized he wasn’t going to be able to make the payments on his vans because there was no business,” Mr. Lynch said. “One of his customers asked him to take him and his family back to the city, so he started doing that.”

For years, Mr. Davidson, a former Madison Avenue advertising executive, ran his company from a potato barn on his Bridgehampton property. In 1982, he was successful enough that he was able to purchase the Omni Building, a former catering hall and roller rink, on County Road 39 in Southampton.

Mr. Lynch’s parents purchased the business from Mr. Davidson in 1988, shortly before his death. Today, their son, Geoffrey Lynch, is the company’s president.

Andrew Lynch said that over the years, several competitors have challenged the company on its turf, but none have been able to make a serious dent in its business. “Our biggest competition has always been cars,” he said. “A key to our success is frequency, running a frequent schedule even when it doesn’t pay to do so.”

Besides its bread-and-butter business moving weekenders back and forth between the city and providing a convenient link during the week for business travelers, the Hampton Jitney has branched out in several directions.

In 2006, the company purchased the Sunrise Coaches and began providing service from the North Fork to the city. It also offers a popular airport connection service to MacArthur (Islip), Kennedy and LaGuardia.
“Charters are a really big part of our business,” said Mr. Lynch. “We do school trips, corporate events, weddings, ski trips and Broadway show day trips.”

The Jitney even provides excursions to Mets and Yankees games. “We do a lot of Yankees games,” Mr. Lynch said. “We had tickets for the last home game this year, which will be Derek Jeter’s last game, and they sold out in two days.”

The company even offers a Florida service that spares snowbirds from the need to drive to their winter homes. They simply drop off their cars, which are loaded on a car carrier, before boarding a bus that will take them to their destination.

The company continues to expand. It recently acquired a maintenance facility in Calverton that will also allow it to provide better service to the North Fork and Riverhead, Mr. Lynch said.

“We been positioning ourselves for the long haul, not the quick dollar,” Mr. Lynch said of the reason for the company’s success. “We really have become part of the history and social fabric of the community.”

For more information, visit hamptonjitney.com.

 

Jonathan Glynn Withdraws From Sag Harbor School Board Race

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Jonathan Glynn has withdrawn his name from contention for one of four Sag Harbor School Board seats up for election on May 21.

Glynn announced his decision on Thursday morning, after being asked by Sag Harbor School District Clerk Mary Adamczyk for documentation showing his full time residence has been within the district for one year prior to the budget vote and trustee election — a district requirement.

This leaves six formal candidates for school board — incumbents Ed Drohan, Susan Kinsella and Chris Tice will seek re-election and former board member Daniel Hartnett, audit committee member David Diskin and attorney Thomas Re will also seek seats on the board.

According to Adamczyk, the deadline for petitions nominating candidates for office has been extended to Friday, May 10 at 5 p.m. Those petitions can be obtained at the district clerk’s office.

According to a press release issued by the district on Monday, the district reopened the timeframe to submit nominating petitions because Glynn had chosen to withdraw his nomination.

“Earlier this month the District Clerk received nominating petitions from candidates interested in running for the School Board,” reads the school district release. “She examined those petitions and attempted to verify that each of the candidates met the qualifications to be a member the Board of Education. One qualification for being a member of the School Board is that the candidate must be a resident of the Sag Harbor School District for at least one year prior to the election day of May 21, 2013. When attempting to confirm that candidate Jonathan Glynn met this qualification, it was discovered that he only recently became a registered voter in Sag Harbor School District on March 26, 2013.  Based upon that, the District Clerk contacted Mr. Glynn and requested verification of his residency status. With the assistance of the School District’s attorney, a letter was sent to Mr. Glynn requesting documentation of his residency. Ultimately, Mr. Glynn decided to withdraw his candidacy.”

According to a letter sent to Glynn by Adamczyk, Glynn was registered with the New York City Board of Elections from a Bleeker Street address through March of 2013. Glynn’s license, according to the correspondence, was also only recently updated as of April 2013 to reflect his Sag Harbor address.

According to the letter, all of Adamczyk’s research was based on public information gathered from various bodies in an effort to establish Glynn’s residency, a requirement of the district clerk.

In the letter, Adamczyk indicates she had asked Glynn to furnish tax returns showing a Sag Harbor address, but was told those too would be registered to the Manhattan address.

She asked Glynn provide written proof of his residency, based on the advice of the school district attorney, in order to provide Glynn every effort to verify his status as a resident of the Sag Harbor School District.  Adamczyk asked he provide that documentation by Friday afternoon.

In a response to Adamczyk, Glynn states his 2012 taxes are legally extended and in process to be filed from his Sag Harbor home, and that he has shown he was active year round resident for the last three years, a homeowner for 17 years. He noted his name was under consideration to fill the board position left with the resignation of Walter Wilcoxen nine months ago, but given the situation, had chosen to withdraw his candidacy.

“As a concerned citizen of the community I think I have been and will be effective as a full time resident from outside the board looking in and would not want to take up any more of your time, your lawyer’s time, or mine responding back and forth to questions and accusations concerning my residency that are unfounded and without merit,” said Glynn. “My central position is to not waste resources whether they be mine at home here in Sag Harbor or yours at the school.  I remain consistent with that position.”

According to state education law, if a candidate withdraws a nominating petition, the time for filing petitions should be extended to the 15th day after the day in which a candidate withdraws their name.

“This was required even though there were more candidates who initially filed petitions than vacancies on the Board,” reads the district’s press release. “Anyone interested in filing a nominating candidate petition should contact the District Clerk Mary Adamczyk, at (631) 725-5300, x1411, or madamczyk@sagharborschools.org.”

 

 

Bridgehampton Voters Approve $1.5 Million Capital Reserve Fund

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By Amanda Wyatt

Bridgehampton residents took to the polls last Wednesday, March 20, voting 49 to 21 to approve the creation of a $1.5 million capital reserve fund to finance repairs and maintenance to school facilities over the next five years.

The fund, which comes from unexpected savings and revenues received by Bridgehampton School, will be put towards the repairs outlined in the district’s five-year plan. Some items in the plan include repairing fire escapes and making other safety updates, as well as modernizing outdated heating systems and making the school more energy efficient.

While $1.5 million was approved by voters on March 20, school administrators currently estimate that only $1.35 million is needed to make these repairs.

This year, Bridgehampton has a fund balance of $604,000. Much of this fund comes from transportation savings realized after last year’s budget vote; savings from repairing instead of replacing its gym floor; collecting past-due payments from other districts; overestimating health insurance based on state numbers and planning for out-of-district student placements that did not come to pass.

In related news, Bridgehampton was recently awarded a Virtual Advanced Placement (AP) grant from the New York State Department of Education.

At a board of education meeting following last Wednesday’s vote, Dr. Favre said the school was “fortunate” to be a part of the grant, which is meant to provide students from low-income families greater access to online AP courses.

The school is one of 13 districts on Long Island that will benefit from the roughly two million dollar grant spearheaded by Nassau BOCES, in conjunction with Eastern and Western Suffolk BOCES. Southampton was the only other local district that received the grant.

Bridgehampton is expected to receive 20 licenses for their students to access online courses, 20 mobile learning devices and 16 laptops. The school will also receive a wireless access point and printer, online training for teachers and registration fees for ninth grade students to take the PSATs.

Thiele Named to Farm Bureau’s “Circle of Friends”

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Last week, the New York Farm Bureau (NYFB) announced it has named New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. as one of its “Circle of Friends.”

This legislative award is based on Thiele’s “demonstrated understanding of the importance of agriculture on Eastern Long Island, as well as how the industry impacts the economy and the future of New York State.”

“I am honored to receive this recognition from the New York Farm Bureau, the State’s largest general farm advocacy organization,” said Thiele in a press release issued September 27. “Throughout my political career, I have remained deeply committed to supporting and protecting New York’s family farms. Agriculture and its related industries are an integral component of the East End economy, so we must help farmers in managing their daily operations in an environmentally conscious and economically viable way.”

The “Circle of Friends” award is determined by a legislator’s voting record on issues of importance to New York agriculture, as well as evidence of other legislative support during the 2012 Legislative Session.

Among recent key pieces of legislation that strengthen New York agriculture , Thiele was the prime sponsor of the proposal to exempt farm wineries and craft breweries from a tax-filing requirement.

“I commend Governor Cuomo for signing this bill so that small farm wineries and craft breweries no longer need to struggle to comply with a needless filing requirement,” said Thiele. “Now, our wineries and breweries can better use their time to grow their businesses and promote their product.”

As a multi-sponsor of the “Let New York Farm Act, Thiele pledged to reduce farm-based taxes, fees, and regulatory burdens to help grow the agricultural economy.

“While this bill remained in committee at the adjournment of the 2012 Session, rest assured that I will continue to work with my legislative colleagues to pass this important measure which will benefit our local family farms and communities,” Thiele said.

Marriage Equality Act Yields 25 Registrants

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By Claire Walla

As of Monday, July 25, New York is all systems go. Just 30 days after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the marriage equality act into legislation, same-sex couples can now officially apply for a marriage license and be legally wed in the state of New York.

While some gay couples living in New York have already tied the knot in one of the five U.S. states where same-sex unions are already legal, and though some couples will opt to wait a bit before they listen to the wedding bells ring, the clerks’ offices in East Hampton and Southampton Towns are already seeing requests for the paper contracts.

Glenda Hayes of the East Hampton Town Clerk’s office said their offices had received three requests for marriage licenses from same-sex couples on Monday, July 25 and one request the following day. The numbers in Southampton Town are a bit higher. According to Southampton Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer, the town issued 19 marriage licenses just this past Monday, in addition to one on Tuesday and another on Wednesday.

Though the office seems to have been inundated at the start of the week, Schermeyer explained, “that was really because we were gathering applications from the week before. We allowed people to begin filling out their paperwork early on,” she said, adding that all of the applications that were started last week could only officially be filed on Monday. So, in that sense, the number of licenses she issued was pretty on-target. “We kind of had an idea [of how many we would be issuing] based on the number of phone calls we had coming in,” she said.

Though any couple that obtains a marriage license through a New York clerk’s office is free to marry in any part of the state, Schermeyer explained that she herself officiated ceremonies for three of the gay couples who had requested marriage licenses this week.
For the Reverend Katrina Foster, pastor of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett and Incarnation Lutheran Church in Bridgehampton, the first wedding with two men she will preside over will take place this Saturday, July 30. She added that her first wedding with two women will be held in October.

“Both of my churches are excited to host the weddings for both couples,” she said. In fact, the passage of the Marriage Equality Act came nearly two months after Incarnation Lutheran Church officially adopted a statement of public welcome to all “regardless of age, race, gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation,” etc.

In light of the fact that the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center has barred its priests from presiding over gay ceremonies, Reverend Foster is working to get the word out to the community that she can do the job.

“I’ve done some outreach to gay-specific communities” to get the word out that there is a pastor in the local community who can officiate a Christian service for a gay couple, she said. “I was just at a professional meet-and-greet [put on by the East End Gay Organization] the other night and I said, ‘If you need someone to officiate, I’d be happy to speak to you.’”

While Pastor Foster said her office hasn’t exactly been inundated with requests from gay couples, she said she’s not exactly surprised. While it may be the case that some couples feel strapped for options, she said it’s also very likely that there are a number of gay couples who will choose not to marry.

“More and more, a lot of people [gay or straight] are choosing not to engage in a hetero-normative construct,” i.e. marriage, she said. While that may sound overly complicated, when it comes down to it, it’s really very simple. “They just want to be themselves,” she said. “However they choose to be.”

New York’s Bad Voting Machines

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By Julie Penny

Tens of millions have been spent — a hundred million — to go on a pig in a poke.

This summer, with a gun held to its head by the Feds, New York State was forced into buying new voting machines. Counties selected their choice from a short-list provided by the state. They are not ready for prime time. In fact, they are the usual junk that vendors have been passing off on the rest of the country for all these years.

Upon delivery, Nassau found a high failure rate amongst them, as did many other counties throughout New York State. Suffolk machines fared better, so I was told by Anita Katz, one of the two Commissioners at Suffolk’s Board of Elections. You would think that since the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed in 2002 that by now these companies would have improved their wares, or, at least, seek to impress its latest customer—New York—with a decent, even superior product. But, no!

Luckily, we’ll be voting on the levers for ’08, but, along with them, each polling place will be sporting one of the new voting systems for use by disabled voters, or, by anyone who so wishes to do so. Ralph DiSpigna, a poll worker for Noyac, warns: “Don’t even bother with them, they take 20 minutes to use—Go with the levers.”  As our counterparts across the nation have been experiencing for years: be prepared, in the future, to wait in long lines for hours on end to vote on error-prone machines that lack security, and take too much time to vote on. That’s if poll workers can even get them to turn on. (Another frequent cause of delay.)

An article in “Scientific American,” that came out in February stated: “Whereas certain technology—such as pacemakers and other medical devices—are heavily regulated and must adhere to strict design and construction standards, voting machines are still mostly unregulated. ‘There’s no validation of how the software for these systems is designed and built…surprising given the importance of voting machines to our national infrastructure.’” 

Additionally, Long Island’s new Sequoia-Dominion Voting systems that comes with a ballot marking device (BMD) where you mark your choices and feed your ballot into an optical scanner also comes additionally equipped with a “convenient slotted hole that allows anyone to stuff ballots directly into the locked ballot box.” I watched a video by an activist attorney on how easily it was done. She was able to stuff several ballots at a time directly into the locked ballot box without having to pass the ballots through the scanner first. This ballot stuffing feature would foil any manual audits because a discrepancy would then exist between the paper ballot count and the tally on the optical scanner’s memory card. If the machine says 300 people voted and poll workers find—when thy open the locked box at the end of the night, 315 ballots—How will they know which are the “real” ballots?  While vendors have lessened the slotted gap, or sealed it, it is unclear at this time just how many of the new machines, in actuality, have had this problem rectified. NYS election workers still have qualms.

These new machines also come equipped with USB ports that illegally facilitate network, internet and wireless access. New York law calls for “no connectivity.”

Although hundreds of discrepancies with these machines have already been documented which would prevent their full certification for counting the 2009 votes, and, although the lab approved to certify these voting systems is being investigated for shoddy methodology and collusion with vendors, the Feds want New York to lower its own certification standards to accommodate these substandard, security-compromised voting systems. New York better fight the Feds tooth and nail.

It’s only recently that the media has reported on the flaws of our electronic voting machines, noting that dozens of states have dumped their touchscreen systems and are embroiled in lawsuits against vendors. Yes, CBS News, CNN, the Associated Press, the NY Times have finally come out against electronic voting. But, it’s too little, too late. For years election integrity activists have been documenting, collecting, cataloging, analyzing, data and trying to get elected officials and the mainstream media to do their job of investigating the mind-numbing voting disasters and anomalies that have riddled every election and primary since 2000. This August The Washington Post reported that the Premier (formerly “Diebold”) system contained “a critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point.” This problem has been part of the software for the last 10 years! The system is used in 34 states. The flaw exists in both Premier’s touch screens and optical scanners. But problems like these are endemic to all other brands of these systems as well.

The whole structure of elections in the U.S. has changed. Once reliant on local representatives accountable to the public, we have now become completely dependent on large corporations which are not accountable to the public. “Most local officials charged with running elections are now unable to administer elections without the equipment, services, and trade-secret software of a small number of corporations” like ES&S, Premier (Diebod), Hart Intervic, Sequoia. They run the show and we’re hostage. Since HAVA was instituted in 2002, they’ve gouged the taxpayer for billions. That’s one part of the equation. The other part is voter disenfranchisement that has been ramped up to unprecedented proportions for the 2008 election. The same vendors who control voting machines have also been given lucrative contracts to generate electronic poll books. It’s created an opportunity for sizeable voter disenfranchisement. I reported on this problem in this column two years ago referring to an in-depth study by NYU’s School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. Eligible voters, by and large, Democrats, some of whom had have lived in the same place and voted continuously at the same precinct for years are being thrown off the voting rolls because of typographical errors made by clerks. And now, because they lack new ID requirements. This spring, 12 elderly nuns in Indiana were turned away from their polling place across the street from their convent because they didn’t have federal or state ID with a photograph, like a driver’s license. (None of the nuns drove.) I have elderly relatives who fall into this category. The poor, people of color, and Latinos, who tend to be Democrats are particularly targeted.  The latest targets of disenfranchisement are those whose home have been “foreclosed” upon. 

A few years ago, whistleblowers, at great personal risk, started coming forward. Brave folks that were either ignored, maligned, or both. The mainstream media ignored them, but concerned citizens and the netroots followed up on their claims in great detail. By 2006 so many cracks had appeared in our ship of liberty that even the reluctant media started noticing it was splintering apart—A turning point moment, I think, was when the team from Princeton University proved how easy it was to hack these systems and change results without any detection.

The continuing voting train wrecks that appear with every primary and election as reported upon by voters, election officials and local newspapers around the U.S., and, with a new Secretary of State in California who ordered a top to bottom review of electronic voting machines and found them unworthy of certification, all goes to verify what we’ve been saying for years — along with the lawsuits and criminal prosecutions.

Over the last two-and-a-half years the body of evidence has grown to such proportions that the media could no longer ignore the problem. The voting hazards we face are best epitomized in the documentaries—“Hacking Democracy,” (nominated for an Emmy in 2007); “Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections,” and Dan Rather’s “The Trouble with Touchscreens.” They are damning.

The latest whistleblower to step forward is Stephen Spoonamore—one of our nation’s top cyber experts. He is dead set against electronic voting, asserting it’s a “national security” issue. (Interviews with Spoonamore can be seen on “YouTube.”) Among his clients are credit card companies like MasterCard and American Express. He’s consulted for the FBI, Pentagon and other government agencies on electronic data security and commerce.

In July, a motion was filed by two Ohio attorneys to have a “stay” lifted on a lawsuit having to do with election fraud in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election. Mr. Spoonamore has volunteered to be one of their expert witnesses. The judge granted the lawsuit proceed and ordered depositions be taken. However, a subpoena to the information technology person most knowledgeable in the Ohio matter, Michael Connell, is now stonewalling and fighting the subpoena. Sound familiar?