Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor"

Ferry-Bus Link To Debut in Port Jefferson

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Residents of Sag Harbor, which has been touted as a potential passenger ferry service terminal for years, will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief.  The Hampton Jitney, the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry and the Seastreak, a high-speed ferry service based in New York, have announced a new partnership that will link New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut with Long Island.

Beginning Friday,  May 22, the seasonal weekend service called Sea Jitney will carry passengers to and from these locations with the Port Jefferson dock as the hub.  From Port Jefferson, travelers will have the ability to transfer to a Hampton Jitney bus that will take them to the East End or hop on the high-speed Seastreak ferry to travel west or take the Port Jefferson–Bridgeport Ferry across Long Island Sound to Connecticut.

“This is an innovative idea that came from three established and respected area transportation companies working together to give people choices,” said Hampton Jitney President Geoffrey Lynch in a release. “Sea Jitney service will give people a relaxing way to enjoy the East End and Port Jefferson.”

With departures from Manhattan at East 35th Street and from Highlands, New Jersey,  travelers will enjoy a relaxing ferry ride to Port Jefferson where they can explore the scenic harbor-front village or continue on toward Eastern Long Island to Calverton, Southampton, Sag Harbor or East Hampton.

One-way fares range from $33 to $50 depending on one’s origin and destination. Reservations and advance payment are required.  The service is geared towards weekend travel with three departures from NYC and multiple departures from Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Fridays, and three returning departures from the East End on Sundays.  One departure from New York City and Bridgeport is scheduled for Saturdays.

The ferry trip takes approximately two hours from the city to Port Jefferson Village and an hour from Port Jefferson to the East End. For a complete schedule visit www.seajitney.com .

Dan Mulvihill III

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Dan Mulvihill

Dan Mulvihill III, an Army veteran and native of Sag Harbor, will be the guest speaker at this year’s Memorial Day services. He spoke about his experience in the military, and how it shaped his life.

When did you serve in the military?

I was in the Army and I served during the Vietnam War, but I was fortunate enough to go to Korea instead of going to Vietnam. I was a lieutenant, and I went to the infantry school in Fort Benning, Georgia. And then I went to Korea in 1966 and served with the 7th Infantry Division, and I was a troop leader there for most of my time in Korea, which was a little over a year. I got the Army Commendation Medal, and then I came back to the States and I ran a training company in Fort Dix, so I was in for two years. I come from a family with a long tradition of military service. My great-grandfather served in the Civil War, and my grandfather was a career naval officer and I have three uncles—two from Sag Harbor—who were all combat veterans of World War II. So I think I was just continuing the military tradition, which I guess is one of the reasons I’m speaking on Memorial Day. And I’ve marched in this Memorial Day parade for more years than I’d like to admit.

Are you ready for your speech on Monday?

I am, and I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with it. Traditionally, everybody on Memorial Day says “We’re here today because of those who gave their lives and now we enjoy the freedoms,” and that’s a good point and I support that point. But I wanted to do something a little bit different, and I decided I’m going to talk about Sag Harbor exceptionalism. I think that it’s interesting to look at the history of Sag Harbor, which for a long time has been a leader. I think that you can make the case the people of Sag Harbor have never been overtaken by events, they’ve been proactive and have created things. And they have always had a view larger than just Eastern Long Island and thus they met the challenge of world wars, of the Civil War, et cetera. And I don’t know how valid that point is, trying to connect everything, but I thought it would be kind of fun to give it a shot.

And now you split your time between Bridgehampton and Manhattan?

After the Army I went to graduate school, I got an MBA and I had a career on Wall Street for almost 40 years and I retired in 2006. I have a home here in Bridgehampton and I spend a good part of the year out here—I’m a hands-on homeowner. I do my yard work, I run, play golf, and I love to spend time in the woods out here. I grew up on my grandparents’ home in Sag Harbor, which is now the Mulvihill Preserve. I grew up on that, I guess it’s kind of in my blood, I’ve been wandering around the woods out here since I was 3 years old. And when I’m not in Bridgehampton or in the city, I spend a lot of my time hiking and mountain climbing. That’s my real passion, what I really plan my year around.

How do you think your time in the military shaped you?

Most of my time in the Army was as a troop leader. And I think the thing I really learned was that you have to listen to people and learn from people. I went to college, I did ROTC, then I went to infantry school for 9 weeks, they send me to Korea, and now I’m a platoon leader and I have 40 people who are looking to me for leadership and guidance. Later on, I became a company commander and I had four platoons that reported to me—that’s 160 men—but fortunately, I had a first Sergeant, Sgt. Smith, and he had been in the army for 20 years. His experience was invaluable. I really learned that most people have some sort of expertise they want to pass along. That’s one of the big things I learned. I also had a battalion commander who was really good; he had a bunch of us who were new, and he knew he had to train us to be leaders. He used to say, and I’ll never forget the expression, “Respect the dignity of the individual.” I think that’s a good lesson to learn in life, whether you’re dealing with a peer or a subordinate, you have to show respect. I can still see him now, chomping on his cigar, saying “Respect the dignity of the individual.”


Races Set in Sag Harbor, North Haven

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By Stephen J. Kotz and Mara Certic

There were no surprises when the deadline passed on Tuesday, May 12, for candidates for Sag Harbor Village candidates to turn in their nomination petitions.

Trustee Sandra Schroeder will face off against Trustee Robby Stein in the mayoral race. Incumbent Mayor Brian Gilbride declined to seek another two-year term. Trustees Ed Deyermond and Ken O’Donnell will run unopposed for two-year terms.

With village Justice Andrea Schiavoni announcing she will step down to devote more time to her private law practice, three candidates have thrown their hats into the ring to replace her. Michael Bromberg, a Sag Harbor resident, attorney, and former paramedic, attorney Stephen Grossman of East Hampton, who has his office in Sag Harbor, and East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana, who serves as Justice Schiavoni’s backup, have all filed petitions to run for four-year terms.

In North Haven Village, incumbent Trustees James Laspesa and Jamie Davis are both running unopposed for two-year terms.

The election will take place on June 16 in both villages, with voting taking place at the firehouse on Brick Kiln Road in Sag Harbor, and at North Haven Village Hall in that community.

Ms. Schroeder is a former village clerk. Two years ago, she narrowly lost a four-way mayor race to Mr. Gilbride. She was elected trustee a year ago.

“I’m into harmony, working with people instead of getting lawyers to fight them,” she said, “and that includes our employees. We have so many grievances.”

Citing the importance of the waterfront to the village, she said she would like to see the village develop a long-term plan for renovating Long Wharf and replacing docks and pilings.

The village’s Municipal Building, a four-story building where only the first two floors are used, also needs some major work, she said, noting the village received an engineering report years ago on its deficiencies but has failed to act because of concerns over costs.

After seven years on the board, Mr. Stein said he had gained valuable experience by serving as liaison to most village departments. He said the village has many major issues that need attention, from the waterfront, to road runoff and drainage, and parking.

“There are not a lot of areas where we have major differences. We are both dedicated environmentalists and we both believe in saving money where possible,” he said of himself and Ms. Schroeder. “But I believe I am more innovative.”

Mr. O’Donnell, who is seeking his second term, described his first year on the board as “on-the-job training.” He said in a second term he would be more forceful in offering his opinions and said he was concerned that Mayor Gilbride’s dedication to paying for things out of the operating budget may have left many parts of the village’s infrastructure and equipment wanting for attention.

Mr. Deyermond, a retired East Hampton and Southampton Town assessor as well as North Haven village clerk, has been a long-time board member and a former mayor. He has expressed concern in recent months with making sure the long-term capital needs of the Sag Harbor Fire Department are met.

East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana, who serves as Sag Harbor’s acting justice when Justice Schiavoni is unavailable, said on Wednesday she would run for the village justice position, as have Michael Bromberg, a village resident and retired attorney and paramedic, and defense attorney Stephen Grossman, who lives in East Hampton but has based his practice in Sag Harbor for more than 30 years.

In North Haven, Arthur “Jim” Laspesa and Jamie Davis, whose terms both expire this year, are running both unopposed.

Mr. Davis was elected to a one-year-term last year, after he had been appointed the previous year to complete Jeff Sander’s term when Mr.  Sanders became mayor. He could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Laspesa, who was elected as trustee in 2013, said that the biggest issue in the village continues to be the monitoring and controlling of the deer herd.

An architect and former chairman of the village planning board, Mr. Laspesa has been staying in close touch with the building inspector and keeping an eye on what’s been going on with the ARB and Zoning board.

The VFW at 50: Sag Harbor Veterans Celebrate a Milestone

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vets for web

By Stephen J. Kotz

Fifty years ago, with the Vietnam War moving into full swing, 74 veterans gathered in Sag Harbor to found the Veterans of Foreign War Post 9082.

This Tuesday, May 12, many of those founders’ sons and daughters will gather at the Sag Harbor American Legion hall to celebrate a half century of service to the community and the kind of camaraderie only service members can understand.

“We just want to carry on the tradition of my father and the other guys who started the post,” said the post’s commander, Harry “Hap” Wills, an Army veteran who served in Germany from 1970 to 1973.

The event, which begins at 6 p.m., will include a cocktail party for members and their guests, presentations of proclamations from local elected officials, a speech by post historian Dan Sabloski, who is a Vietnam veteran, and the presence of at least one charter member, Joe Ricker.

This week six members of the post gathered to talk about the organization and its role in the community.

Sag Harbor already had a thriving American Legion, the Chelberg & Battle Post 388, when the local VFW was founded. In some cases, the veterans who founded the VFW were not eligible for membership in the Legion because of its strict bylaws. And many of those who founded the VFW were from a younger generation, Korean War veterans, for instance, as compared to the Legion, whose members were largely drawn from among World War I and II veterans.

Nonetheless, the Legion has allowed the VFW to meet in its building and many local veterans are members of both organizations, according to Ronn Pirrelli, a former commander and Army veteran, who is one of those dual members.

“With all the people I’ve met throughout my life, there is always a special connection with anyone who served in the military,” Mr. Pirrelli said.

“We call each other comrades, which has nothing to do with the Soviets,” quipped another member, Navy veteran John Capello.

A hallmark of the VFW is the help it provides to other veterans, whether they are members of the post or not. “Our motto is ‘Honor the dead by caring for the living,’” said Sharon Lewis, a retired Navy corpsman and the post’s quartermaster.

VFW members say the post plays an active member in the community, from lending a hand to a fellow vet who is experiencing hard times, to sponsoring and coaching Little League teams and sponsoring essay and speech contests for local students. Members place flags on the graves of veterans in local cemeteries every Memorial Day and are available to serve as honor guards at fellow veterans’ funerals.

“We have a lot of active duty military members coming out of Sag Harbor now, said Ms. Lewis, noting that the VFW tries to send them regular care packages.

John Burns, who was stationed on a Navy tug at an American sub base in Scotland during the late 1960s, said among the care packages he used to receive was a weekly copy of The Sag Harbor Express, which the paper’s then publisher, Vicky Gardiner, sent to all village servicemen and women. “Guys would look at that tiny paper and ask, ‘What size town do you come from?’” he laughed, adding that his weekly paper was a welcome “tie to home.”

Joe Page, another past commander, served on Army combat duty during the height of the Vietnam War, being shuttled by helicopter to weeks-long patrols in the bush. “I was afraid to go on a Ferris wheel,” he said of his fear of heights as a young man. “A year later, I was sitting with my legs hanging out of the open door of a helicopter.”

Years after the war, he was among the local veterans who noticed there was no monument commemorating those who served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Together, they secured the donation of a large stone that was placed at Marine Park in 1981 to honor those veterans.

Although it is commonly believed that VFW membership is only open to those who served in declared wars, that is not the case. Generally, its membership is open to those who served during periods of hostility, like the Cold War, for instance.

That was the case with Mr. Capello, who served on a Navy minesweeper in Beirut, in 1958. Tensions were mounting between the Soviets, who through their Syrian proxies, were angling to gain control of a warm water port, and the U.S. Although it was not a hot war, Mr. Capello’s minesweeper, the Navy’s smallest ship and a wooden one at that, came under nightly fire.

Vincent Starace served on a troop ship in the Pacific during the late stages of World War II. Although his unit did not see combat, he said he remember vividly sailors being stacked in tight bunks six high. His bunk was just below the deck. “The heat from that deck was just unbelievable,” he said.

Call for Sag Harbor Moratorium as Neighbors Cry Foul over Reconstruction of Main Street House

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The reconstruction of this house at 295 Main Street in Sag Harbor Village has neighbors up in arms. Photography by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

The top-to-bottom reconstruction and expansion of a modest house at 295 Main Street in Sag Harbor has become ground zero in a growing debate over the pace of development in the village, eliciting calls for a moratorium on most major construction until the village can get a better handle on things.

“It’s an application that should never have gotten off the ground to this extent,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride on Thursday, April 30, when a crowd descended to complain about it and other village development at a special village board meeting that was ostensibly called to discuss outdoor dining licenses for village restaurants.

“It’s not working,” said village resident Mia Grosjean of the village’s response to the current building boom. “It’s time for a moratorium.”

“Any lawyer in this town who knows the zoning code can just go around it,” she added. “The boards are being pitted against one another.”

Fred W. Thiele Jr., the village attorney, said he, fellow village attorney Denise Schoen, and planning consultant Rich Warren were “realistically three weeks to a month away” from having a draft of an amendment to the code that would limit the sizes of houses to a percentage of their lot size instead of an absolute figure based on what zone they are in.

A size ratio law would be expected to put an end to the shoehorning of large houses onto small lots, a practice which has become the subject of an oft-repeated complaint. Once that draft is complete, Mr. Thiele said the village might want to consider a three- or four-month moratorium as it fine-tunes the proposal.

Trustee Robby Stein, who recently announced he will run for mayor in June, said he would support a moratorium as long as it was well thought out and would not ensnare homeowners trying to undertake small projects like backyard decks.

“The code needs a revision. We have a volume problem and we have a density problem,” he said. “But you’ve got to be sure what you are doing before you impose a moratorium. You can’t just slap it on.”

“I would like to talk to the chairpersons of the boards this would affect,” said Trustee Sandra Schroeder, who is also a mayoral candidate. She agreed with Mr. Stein that she did not want to see a blanket moratorium that would prevent residents from making any improvements to their homes, but she added, “it’s clear we have to do something.”

Carol Olejnik, who is better known around town as “the Tomato Lady” for her gardening prowess, set off the latest debate when she and several neighbors appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals in March in a vain effort to argue that a stop-work order issued last winter should not have been lifted against the owner of the house at 295 Main Street. Frank Greenwald, an East Hampton architect, owns the property under a limited liability corporation.

At that hearing, Ms. Olejnik complained that workers digging the foundation for the house had undermined her property and that the addition was larger and taller than the original house and towered over her backyard. But Ms. Schoen, the village attorney who advises the ZBA, questioned why the ZBA was even holding the hearing, saying that the village code allows for a house that preexists zoning to be taken apart and rebuilt in kind. The ZBA agreed with her assessment and allowed work to continue. Tom Preiato, who had just joined the village as its senior code inspector, had issued the stop-work order because he believed the work represented an illegal demolition.

Ms. Olejnik, who lives to the north of the house, and Lee Buchanan, the neighbor to the south, took their fight to the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review in April, arguing that Mr. Greenwald was not building the same house it had approved last year.

“Right now they have the peak sitting where it was, but they have the roofline jacked up maybe three feet,” Ms. Olejnik told the village board last week, adding that the house had been substantially reconstructed. “Apparently the code says you can do that,” she said. “There’s no definition of ‘demolition’ in your code. Damn it, there should be.”


Carol Olejnik says the reconstructed house at 295 Main Street now towers over her backyard garden.

This week, Mr. Greenwald insisted he had done nothing wrong.

To build a new foundation, the main portion of the original house was moved forward on the property before being slid back to its original position, Mr. Greenwald said. An addition built to the rear of the property conforms to all setbacks, he added.

“The finished elevation is exactly the same. The roofline is exactly the same,” he said. “The building that is there is exactly the same as what was there two years ago.”

Mr. Greenwald said he recognized people were in Sag Harbor were upset about the pace of development, but stressed as an architect he understood the rules and why they were put in place.

“I’ve become the poster child for all the problems in the village,” he said. “I think what’s happened is the village is under such incredible pressure and they’re trying to do the right thing.  But if the zoning code says you can do X, you can do X, even if someone doesn’t like it.”

On Friday, Mr. Preiato said he had inspected Mr. Greenwald’s property once again, and although he did not issue a second stop-work order, he said he had requested that work be stopped temporarily.

“When I measured it, it appeared to be taller,” he said, “but I don’t know the exact grade so I asked that no further work be done until he could get a survey.”

On Monday, Ms. Olejnik insisted that a portion of the gable end of the original house that is remaining clearly shows that the roofline has been elevated.

“It’s too late for me,” she said, “but maybe I can get the laws changed for someone else.”

At Thursday’s meeting, Jane Young of Save Sag Harbor joined those who said it was time for the village to rethink its approach to development. “We’ve had some bad decisions,” she said of the village’s review boards, saying too often they bent over backward for applicants and were afraid to say no instead of fulfilling “their role to protect the village.”

As an example, she cited Howard Street, which, she said, “was once just a lovely, charming village street. Now it is on steroids. It’s just gotten blown up and they are not done yet.”

Another Save Sag Harbor member, Bob Weinstein, agreed that the village was under assault and questioned whether more could be done to impose meaningful limits on development. “It’s not a question of ‘not in my backyard,’’ he said. “Sag Harbor is everybody’s backyard.”

“We used to be a working class town, or village,” said Mr. Gilbride. “Apparently those days are long gone because nothing is small.”

Brown To Step Down as Sag Harbor ARB Chairman

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Sag Municipal Building

By Stephen J. Kotz

Cee Scott Brown, the long-time chairman of the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, confirmed this week that he would step down when his term expires on July 20.

His decision comes as the village faces a growing chorus of complaints that its various regulatory boards are not doing enough to control the pace of development that has accelerated and spread throughout the village over the past year or two.

Mr. Brown, who said he had been thinking about giving up the post for some time, said his decision was not spurred by any pressure from within or without village government.

Instead, he said he was recultivating a long standing interest in the arts and had recently joined the board of directors of the Parrish Art Museum.

“I thought it would be a good time to step off the ARB and spend time focusing on the Parrish,” he said. “I have enjoyed it, but now it’s someone else’s turn.”

“Cee has done a good job,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride. “I know full well the time and dedication it takes. It’s very easy to stand on the outside and criticize.”

The terms of two other ARB members, Tom Horn Sr. and Bethany Deyermond, also expire this year, as do the terms of two ZBA members, Scott Baker and Jennifer Ponzini. Jeff Peters, a member of the Harbor Committee, has been serving on a holdover status since his term expired in 2013 and the village board did not have the votes to remove him from the post or appoint him to another term.

Just a week ago, on Thursday, April 30, a large crowd turned out at a village board meeting to sound the call for the village to take steps to tighten its zoning code to choke off the proliferation of oversized houses.

Several speakers directed pointed criticism at the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the ARB, with much of it aimed directly at Mr. Brown, who is a real estate broker with Corcoran and with his partner, Jack Pearson, is the exclusive representative of the Watchcase condominiums.

Tony Brandt, who served on the village’s original ARB,  said the board originally operated under a strict code of ethics, a code he said that would never have allowed a real estate broker to serve as the board’s chairman.

“We’ve become the laughing stock of the rest of the Hamptons because we have such a conflict of interest,” he said, offering to serve another term if the village board so desired.

“I think it is a terrible conflict of interest to have real estate agents and developers on the ARB,” added Judith Long, a Main Street resident, who also volunteered to serve. Bob Weinstein, a Jefferson Street resident, who has been critical of development in his neighborhood, also said he would be willing to serve.

Neil Slevin, a former planning board and ZBA member, offered to recruit members to serve on boards, an offer Mr. Gilbride happily accepted. “I’ve said this to every person I’ve interviewed, you have to be able to say ‘no,’” the mayor said, adding that Mr. Slevin had that characteristic.

Mr. Brown dismissed claims that he was incapable of being an impartial chairman. “If there is any sort of a conflict, I recuse myself,” he said. “I make it well known if I sold the house. I recuse myself even if it is just a paint color.”

He said had consulted with then-village attorney Anthony Tohill, who assured him it would not be a conflict for him to serve. “The company I work for now didn’t even exist out here” when Bulova was reviewed, he added.

Mr. Brown said he hoped members of Save Sag Harbor would follow through on their commitment to serve. “Every time I try to recruit board members, it’s difficult,” he said. “I hope Save Sag Harbor members would put their names forward and get on these boards rather than point fingers and complain. It would be much more constructive.”

He said as chairman he tried to make the ARB “user friendly” by having board members sit at a table instead of at the elevated dais, and by giving applicants the time they need to present their projects.

The job also requires a substantial effort, he added. “It’s not just something you can show up to twice a month,” he said,  adding that he stops by the Municipal Building to review plans and visits  the sites of projects to better acquaint himself with applications.

Zeroing In On Zeldin

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Just five months into Representative Lee Zeldin’s freshman year in Congress, a Democratic challenger, Dave Calone, has launched a campaign to unseat the Shirley Republican in 2016.

Mr. Calone is a businessman, former federal prosecutor and a native of Suffolk County, who lives in Setauket with his wife, a Presbyterian minister, and their three children. The CEO of Jove Equity Partners, Mr. Calone has founded and managed many different internet, real estate, energy and digital media companies.

“We need strong federal leadership to make sure that Long Island can compete for the good jobs of the future, both with the rest of the nation and the rest of the world,” Mr. Calone said in a press release.

“Congress could use more leaders who have real-world experience creating jobs and growing the economy and the people of Suffolk County deserve a Congressman who’s focused on the right priorities.”

As a federal prosecutor, Mr. Calone was awarded the Attorney General’s Award for his work prosecuting cases that involved terrorism and economic crime. Mr. Calone is involved in many different organizations, including Patriot Bootcamp, a program he chairs, that helps veterans and active servicemen start up their own technology companies. Mr. Calone has also served as volunteer chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission for seven years.

Sag Harbor School Board Approves Field Trip to Cuba

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Map of Cuba courtesy of Google Maps.

By Tessa Raebeck

Following rave reviews from a group of students who recently returned from a field trip to Spain, the Sag Harbor Board of Education on Monday, April 27, approved a Pierson High School extracurricular field trip to Cuba.

Peter Solow, an art teacher at Pierson who was one of the chaperones in Spain during the spring break trip, told the board the same British company that had run the trip to Spain has been offering trips to Cuba for the past 15 years. The company, WorldStrides, specializes in educational student travel and experiential learning across the globe.

The trip would certainly be the first of its kind in Pierson’s history.

Due to mounting tensions between the two neighboring nations, in January 1961, the United States closed its embassy in Havana and withdrew all diplomatic recognition of Cuba. By 1963, President John F. Kennedy had prohibited Americans from trading with or traveling to Cuba.

In the decades since, some Americans have managed to travel to the Caribbean island by way of Canada or other countries and with special State Department permission, but most travel from the United States to Cuba was forbidden until December 2014, when President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced they would work to normalize relations between the neighboring countries.

As long as enough students are interested, the field trip will take place during the school vacation in February 2016.

“We thought this was an extraordinary opportunity… to visit a place that has just opened up to the U.S. that people around the world have been traveling to,” said Mr. Solow.

When the board asked whether there are heightened concerns about security due to the diplomatic history, Mr. Solow replied, “Sure—and there are concerns about security whenever we travel to any of the places we go.”

Acknowledging that the situation makes the circumstances somewhat different, Mr. Solow said both the federal State Department and the Cuban Government have sanctioned the trip, “so to a certain extent the itinerary is an itinerary that’s shaped by both entities.”

Citizens of South American, European and other countries around the world have been continuously traveling to Cuba on a regular basis—without the heightened fear Americans have due to the strained relationship of the two countries for the past 50 years.

“It’s only because of the circumstances between our countries that this is something that has been off limits or not available to us,” said Mr. Solow.

Since the teachers know nothing firsthand about Cuba, as they do when taking students to Spain or Italy, they had some initial concerns about the quality of the country’s accommodations. WorldStride provided information on various hotels, however, and it turns out one is a sister hotel of where the students and teachers stayed while in Barcelona earlier this month—and appears to be the better of the pair.

“I think it’s a great thing…being able to go to a country like Cuba [at this time],” said David Diskin, a member of the school board. “Just when I graduated high school, I did a trip to China when China was [first] opened up [to Americans]. It’s like when you see a work of art in person,” he said, referring to what one student said was special about the Spain trip.

“When you see political persecution and the limitations a society like that has—you can’t believe it ’til you see it.”

“We’re hoping this is going to be both an extraordinary and unique experience because of what you’re talking about,” replied Mr. Solow. “I’m probably one of the only people in the room that’s old enough to remember vividly the Cuban Missile Crisis, so for me, this history of the two countries has some personal note, having lived through it when I was a kid—but yes, I think it would be interesting to get the different take on that event and also the Cuban revolution.”

The board agreed, and the field trip was approved.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the school board accepted a donation of $1,000 from the Sag Harbor American Music Festival. The money will go to the music department at Pierson Middle/High School.

“Not only do they put on wonderful events that are free for the community to attend and inspire our students, but they’ve also donated the money to go back to our music department,” Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, said of the festival, adding she knows the funds will be of good use with all the talented musicians at Pierson.

The Sag Harbor Board of Education will hold a budget hearing and educational meeting on Tuesday, May 5, in the library at Pierson Middle/High School, located at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor. Also in the library, the Sag Harbor Elementary School PTA and the Pierson Middle and High School PTSA will host a Meet the Candidates Night to better introduce the community to the 2015 candidates for school board, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 7.

Test Refusal Rates Soar Across the East End

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By Tessa Raebeck

For the first time, the New York State Education Department has asked the Board of Cooperative Educational Services to compile data from school districts to learn what percentage of students in the state refused to take its tests in grades three through eight. Parents who opposed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to linked overarching and controversial educational reforms to the state’s budget and the amount set aside for school aid, have voiced their dissent by having their children “refuse the tests,” or not sit for the exams, which cover English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics.

Nearly 40 percent of Sag Harbor students in grades three through eight did not sit for New York State’s standardized tests on Common Core mathematics last week, according to Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves. The numbers represented a 9- percent increase in test refusal from the English Language Arts (ELA) in the same grades earlier this month. The decrease in participation is likely attributed to the increased publicity of the refuse the test movement statewide.

Although much higher than in previous years, test refusal rates on the East End were not as high as those in western Long Island, where refusal rates reached nearly 80 percent in some districts.

Some administrators fear the substantial non-participation rates seen across the state this month—the largest in recent memory, if not ever—will affect not only teachers’ jobs, who could be rated as ineffective and fired if enough students opt out, but also the data some schools use to drive curriculum.

But teachers’ unions, involved parents and education experts from around the country say the reforms are threatening the human, interactive aspects of education so many students need. By raising the high stakes on standardized tests even higher, they say the governor is encouraging “teaching to the test,” which they fear replaces creative projects and interactive lessons with redundant workbooks and monotonous drills, substituting “tricks” for ideas.

Both the overhaul and the reaction could leave many teachers and administrators out of jobs should their students not perform up to par—regardless of the socioeconomic environment they teach in. Many of the students refusing the tests are the same students who perform best on them, and schools like Sag Harbor, where students traditionally excel, could see their scores plummet as refusal rates rise.

Yet, since the governor’s budget passed at the end of March, advocates for public education—including many teachers who could lose their jobs as a result—have declared refusing the test as the only means of resistance left.

Academically but not legally, test data is considered invalid if participation is limited. The federal government calls for 95 percent participation on a state’s standardized tests, but it is unclear whether any action will be taken. New York State has made no announcement as to what will happen to districts that have high refusal rates—now nearly every district in New York—and some fear school districts that did not play ball with the governor will see their state aid slashed.

“I hear that there will be no action taken,” Ms. Graves told the Sag Harbor Board of Education on Monday, April 27. “We have not gotten any guidance documents from New York State yet, I will just keep everybody posted.”

“So at this point we don’t know if we lost the school aid or not,” explained Chris Tice, vice president of the school board.

In the Bridgehampton School District, 37 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 refused to take their respective mathematics exams and 34 percent refused to take the ELA tests, Superintendent/Principal Dr. Lois Favre reported.

“Parents are genuinely concerned about the tests,” she told the board of education at its April 22 meeting.

Southampton Middle School Principal Tim Frazier said 54 percent of his students had not sat for their mathematics exam and estimated the district wide refusal rate was 55 percent.

East Hampton had far lower refusal rates, with 9 percent of student opting out of ELA and 15 percent not taking the math exams. Last year, all but 2 percent participated.

“As a building principal, the testing gives us good data to support and help children, and to improve the teaching and learning in the building,” East Hampton Middle School Principal Charles Soriano said Wednesday, adding, “The Common Core linked testing provides another opportunity for our students to develop comfort and familiarity with the genre of times, standardized testing.”

At the Montauk School, 46 out of 208 students, or 22 percent, refused to take the mathematics exam, versus about five refusals last year. Principal Jack Perna said on Tuesday, April 28, that he has “no idea” how the test refusals will affect teacher evaluations and state aid for next year and that “the state seems to be ‘confused’ as well.”

“While the Common Core standards are good, the assessments are not,” he said, “and using them so strongly for teacher evaluation is wrong.”

The governor had voiced his desire for half of a teacher’s evaluation to rely on students’ scores—even if they do not teach the subjects that are tested—but the final percentages will be determined by the State Education Department.

Residents Will Get Chance to Comment on Noyac Road Redesign Next Month

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Heller_Cromers Controversial Traffic Pattern 4-28-15_1500_LR

By Mara Certic

Residents who are unhappy with changes to the traffic pattern in front of Cromer’s Market on Noyac Road in Noyac will have the opportunity to air their grievances to the Southampton Town Board and Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor next month, Councilwoman Bridget Fleming announced on Tuesday.

Discussions leading up to public hearings on a few minor traffic measures installed last year as part of the road project led Southampton Town officials to agree to hold a meeting for residents to provide input on the project as a whole, now that they have lived with it all winter.

When Southampton’s director of transportation and public safety, Tom Neeley, attended a meeting of the Noyac Civic Council last month, most of the comments were not about the specific traffic measures the town was retroactively codifying, but had to do with broader aspects of the redesign.

“I know that what we’re probably going to adopt today is just sort of memorializing what’s already in place,” Councilwoman Fleming said on Tuesday, of the resolutions to approving new stop signs and no-left turn signs as well as prohibiting parking along certain stretches of the road.

“But because of some of the feedback that we got in the community,” the town has decided to organize a meeting between representatives of the Noyac Civic Council, the Noyac Citizens Advisory Committee and the highway department, she said.

Chuck Neuman, former president of the Noyac Civic Council, was the only person to speak about the traffic measures on Tuesday evening. He said that overall, he would give the redesign somewhere between a seven and an eight out of 10. “One of the goals was specifically to stop the cars from backing into Noyac Road and the traffic,” he said, “and that was achieved.”

The second overriding goal, he said, which was to slow the traffic that has been speeding up as more and more cars use the road as an alternative to Montauk Highway, has not been achieved.

Mr. Neuman recommended the board hold quarterly meetings with residents and business owners in the area in order to monitor the viability and the success of the redesign.

He also asked the board to look at the viability of installing speed cameras along Noyac Road to keep speeds down. The road currently has speed reminder signs, and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst told Mr. Neuman the town still does not have the legal authority to install speed cameras, but that those discussions could continue at next month’s meeting.