Tag Archive | "Robbie Stein"

Pierson/Bay Street Meeting Sparks More Conversation, Draws No Conclusions

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By Claire Walla

Finally, the two boards came to the same table.

On Tuesday, January 31, school officials and Bay Street Theatre board members held a meeting on the Pierson Middle/High School campus to discuss the potential for a collaboration between the two. The idea of the Bay Street Theatre collaborating with the Sag Harbor School District to create a new theater venue has been floated for a few years. And with Bay Street’s impending move from its current location on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, discussions have been spurred with greater urgency in the last few weeks.

The dialogue oscillated in scope for much of the two-hour meeting, wavering back and forth between small details (like whether it’s possible to obtain a liquor license on a school campus since Bay Street serves alcohol), and larger ideas, such as the school and theater working together to build an entirely new performing arts center in Sag Harbor.

But, while no board member on either side of the aisle completely put the kibosh on the potential for collaboration, there were aspects of this hypothetical partnership that raised red flags for both.

“I don’t want to throw any cold water on the issue, but I can’t possibly see how [an independent theater] can be in this school district, in this area,” school board member Walter Wilcoxen said.

Based on a memo the school district received from its attorney, Tom Volz, Wilcoxen pointed out some of the smaller issues, like limited parking and storage capacity.

But Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street Theatre’s executive director, expressed some concerns with the overall picture.

“One of the biggest issues for us, from a creative perspective, is we need to be able to have complete control over what we produce,” she said.

Though Mitchell and the theater’s creative director, Murphy Davis, assured the school that no expletives would be used on any signage related to the theater, some of the theater’s productions can be a bit, well, “racy.”

While Davis said there are elements to what Bay Street does now that could shift to conform to a different production model — for example, the theater could stop selling alcohol if it managed to secure other revenue sources — creative freedom is non-negotiable.

“We can do some pretty racy content,” he continued. “It’s imperative that we don’t feel hemmed in by that.”

Then there’s the time frame.

At best, school superintendent Dr. John Gratto said the process would take three years to complete. (Later, he explained that the time frame would more realistically take up to five years.) It would take six months for the school’s architect to draw-up a new design and then for the state education department to review the plans, another three months for the school to bid the project, then at least a year to construct the building.

“We’re talking two years after voter approval,” he continued. “And voters would have to approve such a project.”

The district’s current design for a 415-seat theater comes in at an estimated $12 million. Even if private funds were used for the project, Dr. Gratto said state aid would still kick-in for 10 percent of the cost, but that would trigger the need to put the project up to a vote.

Mitchell said the theater has a certain degree of flexibility for discussing future plans because it’s not scheduled to leave its current space until spring of 2013.

“The board would be able to back us renewing our current lease if we were working toward a pre-approved plan,” she said. “But, what we can’t do is say it’s going to take us another year to figure out whether we can get through these hurdles, and in the process lose all our other options.”

According to Mitchell, the theater is actively pursuing all possible options, including in Sag Harbor the Schiavoni property on Jermain Avenue, the National Grid lot on Long Island Avenue, the Sag Harbor Cinema, and in Southampton Village the soon-to-be vacant Parrish Art Museum space on Jobs Lane. At this point, Mitchell said the theater has put together several committees to further explore these options.

“It doesn’t sound like [the school] is going to be at the forefront,” Davis stated at the end of the meeting. Besides issues of parking, storage space and creative control, he said the time frame doesn’t seem viable.

“Just what I’m hearing tonight, it makes me uncomfortable that we’re going to have to wait,” he said.

And while nestling into the Pierson campus may seem like a dream sequence too riddled with legal complications to become a reality, school board members were energized by the idea of a potential collaboration off-campus.

Dr. Gratto directed interests to the piece of empty land directly across the street from Pierson, at the intersection of Division and Marsden streets, where the Trunzo family owns four parcels. According to community member John Landes, who’s already investigated the site, the cost would roughly total $4 million — just to purchase the land.

As for the overall idea of collaboration, Bay Street Board Member Robbie Stein said, “When you look at it, there are a lot of problems. But, on some level, starting this dialogue is bringing to the community the idea of: is there a place for arts in the community?”

The Bay Street Board will meet again next week to further discuss all its options.

Concerns of Animal Cruelty Are Aired

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By Claire Walla

First it was the seagull found in Sag Harbor in April pierced in the head by a blowdart. Then it was the box turtle discovered July 5 in a Sag Harbor backyard impaled by a rusty nail. A couple weeks ago, it was a swan spotted by a kayaker in Riverhead with an arrow shot right through the center of its torso. And most recently, it was a seagull in Montauk stoned to death, allegedly by a man and his two children.
These incidents of animal cruelty have caught the community off guard, causing many to wonder: Who would do such a thing? And why?
“I don’t know what’s happening,” said Roy Gross, executive director of the Suffolk County SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). “I find this very disturbing.”
Gross said his office has seen about a 20 percent increase in calls reporting cases of animal abuse in Suffolk County in the last year, but he attributes some of this to cases of animal abandonment related to the down turn in the economy.
“Sometimes people can’t afford to take care of their animals anymore,” he said. However, he doesn’t believe the economy is to blame for this recent surge in incidents of animal cruelty. “I don’t believe the economy would make someone go out of their way to torture an animal,” he continued. “It’s [the result of] a demented individual, in my opinion.”
While the incidents themselves are enough cause for alarm, Gross emphasized the broader implications of such crimes.
“It’s a fact that people who hurt animals hurt people,” said Gross, who used to work as a child abuse investigator. Citing serial killers Albert DeSalvo, “The Boston Strangler,” and Jeffrey Dahmer, he said “all of these people began by torturing and mutilating animals before they started torturing people.”
While it’s too early to say whether or not these patterns of abuse will extend beyond the animal kingdom, Gross said recent events here on the East End are certainly cause for alarm.
“When someone goes out of his [or her] way to put a nail through a turtle, that’s premeditated,” he continued. “And in the case with the swan, to take a bow-and-arrow and shoot an innocent animal like that: somebody wanted to hurt that animal.”
In the course of his professional career, Robbie Stein, a child psychologist based in Sag Harbor, said he has worked with children who have tortured animals.
“Generally, what we’re really talking about is the development of a sense of compassion, or empathy,” he said. Or, he added, it’s the manifestation of a feeling that’s been displaced, like an abusive relationship or an imbalance at home. “[These patients] project that onto the animal,” Stein continued.
But, this isn’t necessarily indicative of psychopathic behavior—however cruel it might be.
“I remember a patient saying once that they shot a BB gun [pellet] through a squirrel, and when the squirrel died they were very, very sad.”
In this sense, he said cruelty toward animals can be a way some children “find out about others’ pain.” Although, “there’s also a much more pathological kind of cruelty.”
With so few details, Stein said it’s impossible at this point to tell what we’re dealing with here on the East End. For one thing, no one knows whether any of these incidents are connected or are isolated acts of cruelty. But, “if you see a kid torturing animals, it’s certainly a warning sign,” he said.
As the result of public outcry in the wake of these reported cases of animal abuse, the SPCA has announced an $11,000 reward for anyone with information on the person (or persons) responsible for hammering the nail into the turtle, and an additional $12,500 for anyone with information on the person (or persons) responsible for shooting the arrow into the swan.
The two animals are currently recovering at the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons. (The two gulls have since perished.) According to Virginia “Ginnie” Frati, executive director of the Wildlife Rescue Center, “the turtle’s doing really good.” The Center will soon take the terrestrial reptile back to Dr. Jonathan Turetsky of the Veterinary Clinic of East Hampton, who removed the nail two weeks ago, to make sure there’s no infection, Frati said, adding “we think we’ll be able to release him soon.”
The swan, however, “isn’t looking too good,” she said. Doctors don’t believe the arrow punctured any vital organs and said its digestive system is working; but the animal is having a hard time eating (it is currently receiving nutrients via IV) and cannot walk.
“We’re not sure what the outcome will be [with the swan],” said executive director Mark Lembo on Wednesday. “But we’re hopeful.”
While the SPCA has yet to receive any information on the box turtle, Gross said he has received some calls related to the swan and he has several leads on the Montauk gull. (According to those at the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons, a woman in Montauk actually took photographs of a man and his two children throwing the stones.) Gross added that he’s “hoping for an arrest in the very near future.”
“Since 1984, we’ve not only been investigating cases of animal abuse, but we’ve been giving presentations to people [at schools and other organizations] about animals’ feelings,” he continued. “And what we say all the time is: if you suspect something, call us. An animal can’t pick up a phone, obviously. We need the public to step-up to the plate.”
In the grand scheme of things, Stein added there are a number of possible hypotheses as to why these incidents have seen a surge in recent weeks. The violence could stem from economic deprivation, or the rise of violent video games; or, it could be that these incidents are just being more frequently reported here on the East End.
“What’s key here is whether [the increase in animal cruelty reports] is because the animals are more visible, or because awareness of animal cruelty is more prevalent in this area because we care about nature,” Stein continued. And in the case of the latter, he added, at least “that would be a good thing.”
Anyone with information regarding any acts of animal cruelty, or details about those responsible for the incidents involving the turtle, swan or seagull mentioned above are encouraged to call the Suffolk County SPCA at 382-7722. All calls will be kept confidential.