Tag Archive | "Riverhead"

East Hampton: Overton, Burke-Gonzalez Earn Town Board Seats

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Supervisor elect Larry Cantwell with running mates Job Potter and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez on Tuesday night at Democratic Party headquarters at Rowdy Hall in East Hampton.

By Kathryn G. Menu

The East Hampton Town Board will welcome two new members this January with the election of Democrat Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Republican candidate Fred Overton during Tuesday’s town elections.

According to unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Overton — the town clerk — had the most support with 3,216 votes or 28.2 percent of ballots cast in Tuesday’s town board race. Burke-Gonzalez followed with 3,125 votes, carrying 27.4 percent of the vote. Her running mate, Democrat Job Potter, placed third with 2,764 votes, followed by the lone incumbent in Tuesday’s town board race, Republican Dominick Stanzione, who earned 2,293 votes.

For Overton, who is not affiliated with any party, but ran with the support of the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties, Tuesday’s election to the town board extends his career in public service, which began 50 years ago.

“I ran on my record,” said Overton Wednesday morning. “I have served this community for 50 years, working in the town as assessor and then town clerk for 25 years. People know me. They know I am fair and reasonable and I act with common sense and I think that resonated with people.”

Overton will join a town board made up entirely of Democrats, including Supervisor-elect Larry Cantwell, Burke-Gonzalez and incumbents Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc.

“If I am going to be of any value to the community I have to develop a working relationship with the board,” said Overton. “I have worked with Sylvia and Peter for two years, I am lifelong friends with Larry, so I think I have a head start.”

“It’s been an incredible, incredible journey,” said Burke-Gonzalez Wednesday. “It was a growth experience for me and the support I got from this community was so incredibly rewarding.”

Burke-Gonzalez, a Springs resident and former member of the Springs School Board of Education, credited her family’s involvement in the community for giving her an edge in the race.

“I think people related to the fact that we are working people and this was an opportunity to give a voice to working people,” said Burke-Gonzalez. “On the school board I am also a firm believer in participatory leadership. I don’t have all the answers and I never will. I want to hear what other people think.”

Cantwell, the former East Hampton Village administrator who ran unopposed in his bid for supervisor, said Wednesday the town will face serious challenges in the next two years.

“I am looking forward to working with each one of the new members of the town board,” said Cantwell. “We will invite Fred Overton to be a full participant in all of our decisions. I want him to feel included in what we do. If any of us disagree, I expect we will do it with respect and appreciation of each other’s point of view, but the overall goal will be to do what is right for this community.”

“We have a requirement to address regional issues,” continued Cantwell. “I extend my hand to [Southampton Town Supervisor] Anna Throne-Holst, I extend my hand to [Sag Harbor Mayor] Brian Gilbride and [East Hampton Village Mayor] Paul Rickenbach, and all of the East End mayors and supervisors to do all we can do to preserve the Peconic Estuary, address airport issues and look at transportation.”

In other East Hampton election news, Democrat Steven Tekulsky was successful in his bid for town justice, besting Republican Carl Irace, and Eugene De Pasquale III was re-elected as the town assessor over Republican challenger Joseph Bloecker. In the town trustee race Deborah Klughers, Stephen Lester, Timothy Bock, Stephanie Talmage-Forsberg, Sean McCaffrey, Diane McNally, Nathaniel Miller, Brian Byrnes and Dennis Curles earned election to that board. In uncontested races, Carol Brennan was elected town clerk and Stephen Lynch earned a second term as the town’s superintendent of highways.

Southampton Town Supervisor Candidates Argument Focuses on Finances

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By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

Southampton Town Supervisor candidates Anna Throne-Holst and Linda Kabot have faced off in numerous debate and forums throughout town in recent weeks. They sparred again on Thursday, with both parties making allegations that ranged from fiscal irresponsibility to political smear tactics and even deep-rooted corruption.

At the debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons and moderated by Carol Mellor, the candidates were allowed 15 minutes of response time to use at their own discretion, either to answer questions or for rebuttals. Questions were posed by Joe Shaw, executive editor of the Press News Group, Sag Harbor Express editor and publisher Bryan Boyhan and Judy Samuelson of the league, as well as members of the audience, who filled the room at Rogers Memorial Library  in Southampton beyond capacity.

Incumbent Throne-Holst, an Independence Party member cross endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families parties, was elected to the town board as a council member in 2007 and beat Kabot, a Republican also running on the Conservative Party line, in the supervisor’s race in 2009. In her opening statement, Kabot, who served as councilwoman from 2002 to 2007 and as Southampton supervisor from 2008 through 2009, alleged that Throne-Holst falsely claimed that Kabot caused the prior budgetary problems and mismanaged the town. Both candidates agreed that this election is about “the truth” and alleged that their opponent was taking credit for their own successful financial management.

Referring to a debate hosted by the Speonk-Remsenburg Civic Association October 9, Shaw asked Kabot, “you were asked what your qualifications were for supervisor and your answer was that you were married with children and were a homeowner, what did you mean by those remarks?”

Kabot said the phrasing was incorrect and untruthful and noted that no reporters were present at that debate. She referred to similar statements on her website, which states: “As a property owner, I can better represent the majority of taxpayers and voters in Southampton Town. As a married mother of three children, I can provide values-based leadership with deep roots in the community.”

“What I meant by that,” she explained, “was as a homeowner and a taxpayer, my husband and I receive a tax bill and we know what the impact is of increased taxes to our budget and a renter doesn’t receive a tax bill.”

Kabot maintained the person who posed the initial question was a member of the town Democratic Committee.

“They’re the ones writing the letters to the paper to indicate that this is about single mothers or something about somebody’s marital status,” she said. “It has nothing to do with that. That is political spin and it is wrong.”

Throne-Holst responded that the original question was submitted by an unknown member of the audience and asked by a moderator.

“I find it curious that you feel better able to protect people’s taxes as a homeowner,” she said to Kabot. “I will remind everyone that Linda Kabot raised everyone’s taxes by a full 15 percent as supervisor and I have raised them zero.”

“I know that I am a single mother,” continued Throne-Holst, who has four grown children. “I know that as a result of a very painful divorce, I am no longer a homeowner. Maybe someday I will be but now I am not. Sixty percent of our residents live in single households and 40 percent of our residents do not own property and you all have my assurance single mother or married, property owner or not, I represent you equally.”

“Again, someone’s marital status has nothing to do with it,” countered Kabot. “It’s political nonsense being stirred just like the statements are out there that I single-handedly raised taxes 15 percent — this is an untruth.”

Kabot said that corrective tax levies were put forward in 2008, 2009 and 2010 that Throne-Holst voted for as a councilwoman.

“These were the correct things to do,” Kabot said. “And it’s easy to spin it and twist it and distort it but I’m proud of my record as your supervisor of doing the brave and necessary things to do.”

The candidates used a significant portion of their allotted 15 minutes to continue back and forth on Shaw’s question.

“I don’t think you talk about value-based representation because you are married,” said Throne-Holst. “The clear implication is if you are not you do not espouse those values. All I can say is I’ve been your supervisor for four years; you don’t achieve these numbers based on someone else’s work.”

“It’s not about taking credit. It’s not about passing blame. It’s about moving forward,” concluded Kabot.

Boyhan asked the candidates to what degree their administration should prepare for the “continued dramatic and inevitable erosion of our ocean shoreline,” as well as their position on shore-hardening structures.

Throne-Holst said the issue has been at the forefront of her administration and voiced her opposition to shore-hardening structures, which she said help one property while adversely affecting those around it.

“We have taken a hard stance on them in the Town of Southampton, we will not permit them going forward,” she said.

Throne-Holst pointed to her creation of erosion control districts in Sagaponack and Bridgehampton, which allow for oceanfront homeowners to be taxed separately in order to fund a $26 million beach re-nourishment project that is expected to add 60 to 70 feet of beach, adding that she is working with other areas of the town interested in pursuing similar projects.

Kabot also opposes shore-hardening structures. She advocates improved relocation efforts in the event of major storms and said that although the nourishment project is beneficial, “there’s no guarantees that that sand is going to stay in place.”

Her criticisms of the project, she said, have to do with the use of park reserve funds, $1.7 million of which were used to fund the pavilion and public beach access areas of the erosion control districts.

“Those [erosion control district] homeowners are very grateful for the work that has been done in local government to see to it that the beach nourishment has been brought forward and they are contributing very heavily to the supervisor’s reelection campaign,” Kabot alleged.

Samuelson asked an audience member’s question about what obstacles the candidates would remove in order to allow more business and private sector jobs.

Throne-Holst pointed to her creation of an economic development task force in the Riverside/Flanders area, which she said secured a total of almost half a million dollars worth of grants.

“That will probably bring the most amount of jobs to this area when it comes to fruition,” she said.

The supervisor also spoke of the “major job creation possibilities” posed by the Clean Water Coalition, a regional task force she developed, and its “bringing the manufacturing and marketing of those technologies to this area.”

Kabot said she would enact the targeted redevelopment of blighted sites by “incentivizing certain sites so that there would be investment by private developers to allow for the creation of a tax base to create more jobs.”

She is committed to reestablishing a small business office in Town Hall in order to help local business officers get through the regulation process and aims to increase senior and affordable housing, rethink rental laws and review permit standards.

“We have to work at the government level to get out of the way so that businesses can create those jobs,” Kabot said. “We have to simulate business by allowing the government red tape to be lessened and in some cases we need to facilitate their ability to get through the board of health because that is one of the biggest things that holds up a number of businesses.”

“The business advisory group does exactly what Linda’s talking about,” replied Throne-Holst. “They help expedite, they help business owners through the process. So been there, done that already. As far as the Health Department goes, we cannot expedite that. It’s a nice thing to say but we can’t. It’s a county permitting authority, we have actually no control over that.”

“I’m proud of what I’ve done,” the supervisor said in her closing argument. “I love my job, I love serving all of you and I will bring the same level of commitment, enthusiasm and service to this job should I have your vote.”

Kabot concluded the debate, “Together we can take back our town from special interests, restore honesty and integrity and capability to that supervisor’s office and we can bring back the only true independent candidate who cannot be bought.”

The supervisor election will be held on November 5.

WPPB Celebrates Fall with Harvest Ball & Auction

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The first WPPB Harvest Costume Ball and Art Auction will take place on November 2 from 8 to 11 p.m. at The South Street Gallery in Greenport to benefit the local public radio station, 88.3FM Peconic Public Broadcasting.

Organized by Joyce de Cordova, Alex Ferrone and Amy Worth, guests will join the WPPB family with program hosts Bonnie Grice, Brian Cosgrove and Ed German and enjoy a festive costume ball with music, dancing, light bites from Noah’s in Greenport, wines from Lieb Cellars, and a silent art auction featuring works from over 40 artists juried for auction by art curator Arlene Bujese. Costumes and masks related to historic period dress are strongly encouraged. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online at 883wppb.org.

 

Landscaping Changes Approved for West Water Street Condos

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By Kathryn G. Menu

It has been over a month since Amalgamated Bank, the mortgage lender that first funded the proposed West Water Street condominiums, took over official ownership of the development, recladding the building in cedar and moving it closer to completion after years of stasis.

On Tuesday night, the project was back in front of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board for alterations to landscaping and proposed patio areas on the property, all of which were tentatively approved by the board at the close of the meeting.

John Reddington, senior landscape architect with Araiys Design Landscape Architecture in Southampton, presented the changes Tuesday night, noting that while many had to do with landscaping on the property, ultimately the changes were being proposed to deal with health and safety issues.

Reddington said plans still include a crosswalk between the West Water Street condominium property and the former Baron’s Cove property, which is being redeveloped into a luxury resort and restaurant by Cape Advisors — the firm behind the luxury condominiums at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory.

While revised plans had also included outdoor patio areas for each ground floor unit, that ultimately increased lot coverage beyond what is allowed on the property under the Sag Harbor Village code. Reddington said the property would now feature a total of three patios.

Also proposed is shared landscaping on the property line separating the West Water Street condominiums and the former Baron’s Cove property, which will include a number of native plants, said Reddington, among them western cedar.

Three London Plane trees planned for the north side of the property will be moved south, said Reddington, because there is no room to plant the trees due to the drainage required for the property. A fourth London Plane tree has been added to that grouping, he said.

The new plan also proposes to add cobblestone aprons at the entry and exit of the property, for aesthetic purposes, and removal of a blue stone walkway in the parking lot.

The revised plan also proposes a new line of evergreen shrubs on Long Island Avenue to help hide the massing of the rear of the building, said Reddington.

Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren said one thing the board should consider is there will no longer be large trees on the north side of the property. He added Warrens Nursery had submitted a letter to the board stating with the drainage on the property it was impossible to fit the large London Plane trees.

“Those trees are coming out and the material going in is all relatively low so it will probably look a lot like what is there from a visual perspective, although it will be cleaner, neater,” said Warren. “I guess the question is whether you feel it is significant or not.”

Board member Gregory Ferraris noted there were never trees traditionally on the West Water Street side of that property.

“I think the most significant change is not the movement of the trees away from there but the redesign of the outside of the building which is dramatically better than what was there,” said board member Larry Perrine.

Warren said his only other concern was he believed the patios, currently 30 feet from the property line, need to be a total of 35 feet from the property line to meet code. Village attorney Denise Schoen agreed, and said before any approval becomes official she would need to confirm that with the building department.

Schoen also said she will need a letter from Cape Advisors confirming they are allowing plantings on their property and that the Baron’s Cove property site plan would also need to be amended to show the additional landscaping.

All for the East End Adds Avicii to August 19 Dance Party Lineup

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Nile Rodgers announces Avicii will join the All for the East End dance party this August during a press conference last Thursday at the Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead. 

By Tessa Raebeck

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Swedish sensation Avicii will join legendary producer and musician Nile Rodgers in an event that Rodgers is calling the “greatest dance party the East End of Long Island has ever seen.”

Presented by Bridgehampton National Bank, the Nile Rodgers Dance Party is the inaugural event of All for the East End (AFTEE), an organization formed to raise funds for local not-for-profit organizations. The concert will be held on Monday, August 19 at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead and will benefit a range of East End not-for-profits.

Rodgers has produced such chart-toppers as “Like a Virgin,” “We are Family” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” which is currently the number one song in 79 countries (and counting). Along with curating the event, Rodgers will also be performing with his band, CHIC (perhaps best known for their 1978 disco hit “Le Freak”).

“Dance music unites,” said Rodgers at a press conference announcing the lineup last Thursday, June 6, at Martha Clara Vineyard. “Dance music is happy and the Nile Rodgers Dance Party will bring all ages to the dance floor.”

One of the world’s premiere acts, Avicii is the name behind such hits as “Fade into Darkness” and “Silhouettes.” Rodgers asked Avicii — with whom he is currently working — to headline because he is “a really hot young superstar that represents the next generation. That represents the continuation of music on the next level,” he said.

Rodgers plans to announce “other stars” who will be joining the festivities over the next few weeks.

The dance party will benefit a number of local not-for-profit organizations. As testament to the event’s commitment to the East End, 25 percent of all tickets sold are reserved for locals at the heavily discounted price of $50. General admission tickets are $149.

“Everybody thinks of the East End as a wealthy community and an affluent place,” said Rodgers. “But not for everybody. So, I thought this is the perfect opportunity to put together an event that’s accessible by all.”

“To have folks grace the Town of Riverhead with the presence of doing something like this is just phenomenal,” added Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter.

AFTEE’s “primary purpose is to raise awareness of the role not-for-profit organizations play in making the East End of Long Island one of the most desirable places to live in the world and to establish a fund of new money that they will have access to through a grant process,” the organization said in a press release.

With over 1,075 registered not-for-profit organizations in the five East End towns — East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold — AFTEE plans to benefit a wide variety of local groups with proceeds from the show.

“What struck me is how difficult it is right now for not-for-profits to make it,” said Walter. “Many of them have failed. So, to have a group that has come together to create AFTEE is truly — you are truly doing God’s work here.”

“We are very excited about this inaugural concert,” said Myron Levine, AFTEE president and founder, in a press release issued at the event. “And we are very lucky to head out of the gate with such an amazing program produced by Nile Rodgers. We anticipate this will be the first annual AFTEE, Nile Rodgers Dance Party and the funds raised will help the not-for-profits here fulfill their missions.”

Organizers of AFTEE also note that Bridgehampton National Bank (BNB) was quick to commit as the presenting sponsor of the event.

“It’s important to us,” said Kevin O’Connor, the BNB’s president, director and CEO. “We can give back so much for everything that we’ve gotten from this community. I’m excited to be part of it.”

Rodgers has been a visitor to the East End since 1978, when he received his first large paycheck (after producing nine hit singles) and “bought a speedboat.” He now spends time in the area “every single year when I get a little break in my schedule.”

AFTEE plans to sell 5,000 tickets to the Nile Rodgers Dance Party, including the 1,000 that have been set aside for locals.

“All my friends are out here,” said Rodgers. “You know it’s going to turn into a party. We’re going to have a bunch of people up on that stage. We’ll have some of the hottest DJs, some of the hottest acts. It’s going to be crazy.”

Rodgers and Avicii have been working on several new songs that the DJ may unveil at the event.

“Back in the day, we used to write songs and we would perform them live. And based on the response of the public, we would decide what songs we wanted to put on the record,” Rodgers explained. “The fact that Avicii and I are doing things like that now in today’s world — for me, it’s so cool. It’s like, ‘We get to try this out?’ That’s like the coolest thing in the world.”

VIP, general admission, and East Ender tickets are available online at www.AFTEE.org.

Suffolk County Expands Sunday Bus Service

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On Tuesday, the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved legislation providing a minimum of $1.1 million and as much as $2.1 million to expand the county’s Sunday bus service — a move Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said would provide environmental and economic benefits moving into the summer season.

“We are building upon the successful pilot program for Sunday bus service we launched two years ago on the East End,” said Schneiderman. “Sunday is a busy day for retail and service-oriented businesses. Employees need to get to work and employers need a workforce they can depend on.”

“This resolution is a step forward to expand bus service while cutting our deficit,” County Executive Steve Bellone said. “Expanding bus service helps take cars off the road and provides opportunity and access for thousands of Suffolk County residents. I commend Legislator Schneiderman for his continued leadership to make Sunday bus service a reality in Suffolk County and working alongside me to expand service and provide deficit relief. I also want to thank our state delegation for their hard work to get Suffolk County’s transit aid increased by approximately $2 million.”

“Many businesses on the East End, including in my North Fork legislative district, rely on public transportation to get workers to their jobs, especially during the summer season, and I strongly support Legislator Schneiderman’s initiative to expand Sunday service,” said Legislator Al Krupski. “It’s an important economic boost for my district and will also help workers get to the jobs they need to be self-sufficient. And it’s a win for all Suffolk County taxpayers by helping cut our general fund deficit.”

“Today’s vote is an important first step towards creating the seven-day-a-week bus service that Suffolk County deserves,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “This investment in Sunday and evening bus service is a down payment that will help riders and local businesses immediately, while also laying the groundwork for additional service expansions in the future.”

A successful pilot program for Sunday and holiday bus service was in effect for two summer seasons, Memorial Day to Columbus Day, on two eastern Suffolk routes — the S92 and 10C lines — subsidized in part by a 25 cent higher main fare on those riders. New York State recently increased its State Transit Operating Assistance (“STOA”) for Suffolk Transit by approximately $2,100,000 above the level anticipated in the Suffolk County 2013 budget, giving the county the opportunity to establish Sunday bus service year-round on limited routes.

“Recognizing the depth of the county’s fiscal problems, I agreed to allow half of this additional state funding to be used to close our county general fund deficit,” said Schneiderman. “I am hopeful that a federal grant for $1,000,000 will make up the difference and we should learn about our grant success in June.”

Schneiderman’s legislation would use $1.1 million of the increased funding provided by New York State to expand bus services in Suffolk County in the evenings and on Sundays. It would also direct the county Department of Public Works to apply for federal matching grant funding through the Job Access Reverse Commute (“JARC”) program, with the goal of achieving a total of $2 million in new funding for expanded Sunday and evening bus service.

Under the legislation, the Department of Public Works would develop a plan, within 30 days of the resolution, to expand the county’s bus service in the evening hours and on Sundays to the fullest extent possible within the limits of the additional state funding. The plan for expanded bus service would be continued as a pilot program for one year. DPW would report on the success of the pilot program to the County Legislature’s Public Works Committee no later than 270 days after the pilot program begins and make recommendations as to the feasibility of continuing the program beyond the one-year pilot period.

Sag Harbor School District Likely to End McGann-Mercy Busing on BOCES Route

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On May 21, voters in Bridgehampton will decide whether or not to extend the district’s transportation policy to provide busing to students attending schools within 25 miles of the school district. In essence, this would allow transportation of students to Bishop McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead, the only Catholic high school on the East End.

Under state law, school districts are only required to provide transportation to non-public schools within 15 miles of the district. In order to change that policy, residents — not administration or school boards — must weigh in via a referendum vote on the issue.

And in 2010, the voters of the Sag Harbor School District did just that.

In 1976, Sag Harbor residents authorized an expansion of the school’s transportation policy, allowing students to be transported within a 30-mile radius of the Pierson campus. In 2010, with no students then attending non-public schools between 15 and 30 miles of the district, then superintendent Dr. John Gratto suggested the board roll back its transportation policy to the state mandated 15-mile limit. This was done in an effort to save taxpayers as much as $25,000 annually should students once again begin attending private schools within the 15 to 30 mile radius.

Voters agreed.

However, according to current school district administrator John O’Keefe, during the 2011-2012 school year Dr. Gratto agreed to provide students wanting to attend McGann-Mercy with transportation to the school on a bus the district was already sending west to Eastern Suffolk BOCES.

O’Keefe noted the decision did not cost district taxpayers any money as the BOCES bus is provided through the district’s own busing system and is not contracted through a private busing service, which can often charge per student.

Three students from the Sag Harbor School District have been using this bus to get to McGann-Mercy.

O’Keefe said this week that after referring the matter to school district attorney, Tom Volz, it appears as of next year the district will no longer provide this transportation option in order to conform with its existing policy.

If the school district decides to pursue providing busing to non-public schools beyond the 15-mile limitation, O’Keefe said it would have to be approved by district residents in a referendum vote.

“This is not set in stone yet,” said O’Keefe, noting Volz was still researching the case law on allowing students — at no cost to the district — to use the BOCES bus to attend a non-public school. “But we do not think we will be able to allow it for next year.”

Stony Brook University’s Center for Communicating Science Named for South Fork Resident Alan Alda

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Alan Alda with Stony Brook University School of Medicine and Nursing students in the “Communicating Science” course at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

Stony Brook University’s Center for Communicating Science — the first of its kind in the United States — was renamed in honor of Alan Alda, the actor, director, and writer, a resident of Water Mill.

The naming of the “Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science” was announced by University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. at the Stony Brook Foundation’s annual fundraising Gala, “The Stars of Stony Brook.” Alda was the guest of honor at the event at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan.

He is a founding board member of the center that now bears his name and a visiting professor in the Stony Brook University School of Journalism, which houses the center. Its goal is to enhance public understanding of science by helping scientists and health professionals learn to communicate more effectively with the public, including public officials, students, the media, and colleagues in other disciplines.

“Without Alan Alda, there would be no Center for Communicating Science,” said President Stanley. “He has been a tireless and full partner in the center since its inception. During the past four years, he has traveled thousands of miles championing its activities at other universities and labs, at national conferences, and in one-on-one sessions with academic, government and foundation leaders. He has helped train our faculty and develop our curriculum, and he personally teaches some workshops.” 

“For years, I’ve been working to bring communication and science together in a more fundamental way, and now it’s happening,” said Alda. “The blossoming of the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook has been a dream come true for me.”

Among his many contributions to science communication, Alda initiated the Flame Challenge, an international contest run by the center. It began last year when he wrote a guest editorial in the journal Science, recalling how, as an 11-year-old, he had been fascinated by the flame on the end of a candle. When he asked his teacher what a flame was, she replied only: “Oxidation.” That answer meant nothing to him. In his editorial, Alda challenged scientists to do a better job of explaining a flame to an 11-year-old. More than 800 scientists responded, and thousands of 11-year-olds chose the winner: Ben Ames from Kansas City.

Sag Harbor Village Trustees Unanimously Adopt $8.78 Million Budget That Lays Off an Officer

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Early last Thursday morning, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees adopted an $8.78 million budget for 2013-2014 which includes a $519,000 budget for the village’s sewer fund. But among the items reduced for 2013-2014 is the village police department’s budget —  which will now be forced to cut one officer, leaving the department with 10 officers and its chief.

The decision, after months of debate, will result in officer David Driscoll losing his job with the department as its newest hire. Driscoll, an officer who transferred to the department from the Southampton Town Police Department, was honored as the village’s officer of the year this past January for his work in 2012, including for his service as a member of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office East End DWI Task Force.

The general fund budget of $8,263,381 is a 2.57 percent increase over the 2012-2013 adopted budget and falls below the allowable 4.1 percent spending increase under New York State’s mandated two percent property tax levy cap.

The tax rate under the budget, per $1,000 of assessed value, is set at 2.830, a 3.89 percent increase over last year. Village treasurer Eileen Touhy estimates a house valued at $795,000 in Sag Harbor Village would pay $2,249.85 in village taxes, a 0.0389 increase or $84.27.

Throughout the budget process, the village board discussed scaling back the number of officers in the Sag Harbor Village Police Department to 10 officers. The department currently operates with 11 officers and the chief after the departure of officer Michael Gigante last year amid an ongoing contract negotiation between the village and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA).

Officers in the department have been working without a contract for close to two years now. That contract negotiation is currently in arbitration.

While the vote Thursday morning was quickly held — and was unanimous among the board’s four members, Mayor Brian Gilbride, Deputy Mayor Ed Gregory, trustee Kevin Duchemin and trustee Robby Stein — what followed was a prolonged debate between members of the department, its chief and the village board about the impact this decision would have on public safety in Sag Harbor.

Police Chief Thomas Fabiano questioned the decision and asked if the board intended to increase his overtime budget, estimating it could cost as much as $300,000 in overtime to replace losing an officer.

“To me this is, again, an incomplete budget,” said Fabiano, adding he feels officer Driscoll has been used as a carrot in ongoing negotiations with the PBA.

Gilbride dismissed that claim and questioned how the schedule would necessitate an additional $300,000 in overtime.

“This is not about an officer or anything else, but it is about the fact we don’t have an unlimited budget,” said Stein. He added he has received calls from people asking the future of the department be put to a public vote, something he is reluctant to do because he is unsure whether the outcome would result in Sag Harbor maintaining its own police department.

Fabiano noted the village board had not even reached the tax levy cap limits yet and questioned why Stein — or other board members — had not talked to him about the impact this will have on his department.

Stein responded he had spoken about this cut at previous meetings, but did not want to have private meetings about a public issue.

Gilbride said ultimately the decision came down to whether or not the village could afford these kinds of costs. The police department budget for 2013-2014, before any figures are calculated when arbitration ends and officers are compensated retroactively for any increases in salaries or benefits for the last two years, is for $1,659,765.

Fabiano said this is a safety issue and called on the board to develop a long range plan for the police department.

“Summer’s coming up and now I have another guy leaving,” he said, adding part time officers are reluctant to come to Sag Harbor given the level of discourse regarding the police department.

“I am confident with 10 people this village can run a police department,” said Gilbride, who added he went to arbitration last week with a specific goal of trying to keep the 11th position with the support of the full village board. He alleged the PBA asked for a three percent increase in salary and eight-hour fixed shifts, but did not make an effort to save officer Driscoll’s position.

“Why would we put ourselves in a position to not negotiate on behalf of the total membership,” asked PBA president Patrick Milazzo.

He added that the village has offered zero percent salary increases in negotiations and denied claims the PBA did not try to save the 11th position.

“I don’t believe you,” said Gilbride. “And this is not the first time you have not done something to save that 11th position.

“What I am trying to do is negotiate for my entire membership,” countered Milazzo. “What I am not going to do is put myself in a position where I am going to negotiate for a portion of my personnel. That is absurd.”

He added he believes the village is trying to paint this picture to put the blame of this loss on the PBA instead of the village board.

“The village is getting to the point where we can’t afford it,” said Gilbride.

“Then don’t,” said Milazzo. “Do it or don’t, but don’t half ass it.”

“Are you saying we should put something up to abolish the police department,” asked Gilbride.

“If you are not going to do it the right way, don’t do it,” said Milazzo, noting that has been his position consistently when discussing the future of the Sag Harbor Village Police Department.

“By diminishing our department by officer Driscoll’s position you are putting us all in jeopardy,” said Sergeant Paul Fabiano.

He added he believes the police budget and the ongoing contract negotiations should not be linked.

“We are supposed to train, we are supposed to prepare but when you have a one person shift, you don’t have adequate personnel, equipment to do the job, you are set up to fail and that is what is happening in my opinion,” said Sergeant Fabiano.

He added the chief was able to find some $70,000 or more in the budget to try and save the position and the village board should have worked to find the rest of the estimated $180,000 needed to keep the 11th position for the upcoming fiscal year.

The fear is not just for the community, said Sergeant Fabiano, but also for officers on duty, some of whom he feared may have to be on duty on their own to accommodate this loss of an officer.

Gilbride said he believed most shifts would remain two-man shifts.

“Can this department run with 10 people, yes. Does it run efficiently, no. Is there a safety issue, absolutely,” said Sergeant Fabiano, adding Detective Jeff Proctor — the department’s only detective — must work patrol duty, taking away from his investigative work.

 

Senator LaValle to Host Environmental Roundtable Thursday in Riverhead

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New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle will host a two-hour-long environmental roundtable to discuss issues impacting the First Senate District this Thursday, February 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Suffolk Community College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center in Riverhead.

This year’s participants will help Senator LaValle chart a legislative agenda regarding the environment that LaValle said is aimed at preserving the character and quality of life on the East End.

More than 65 participants are expected at Thursday’s forum, including representatives from town and village governments, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, environmental groups and concerned citizens.

New York State Assemblymen Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Dan Losquadro will join LaValle at this event.