Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor"

The Art of Seaweed

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Samples of seaweed from Lake Montauk pressed and preserved by Dr. Larry Liddle. 

By Mara Certic

Dr. Larry Liddle initially didn’t intend for it to be art; it was science, another method for him to learn more about and document his findings. But some 50 years later, Dr. Liddle has found the beauty in seaweed by pressing the plants onto paper and turning them into works of art.

Dr. Liddle, who has studied algae for the better part of the last few decades, will give a demonstration of seaweed mounting at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton.

In 1963, when Dr. Liddle was not quite a doctor yet, but a young man working on his master’s degree at the University of Chicago, he took a summer course in marine botany at Woods Hole in Massachusetts. The course involved field trips where students waded and snorkeled to collect various specimens. There, he learned how to press algae to document his trips.

The organisms had not been highly studied at that point, Dr. Liddle said in a phone interview on Friday. ascophyllumnodosum

“It was that summer; that was the reason that I got very interested in algae, and specifically seaweed, and also learned to press algae in the best way, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said. “So I enquired about going to graduate school for a Ph.D. to look into marine botany,” he explained.

And the rest is history. Dr. Liddle moved to Santa Barbara to continue his studies and eventually became a professor of phycology, the study of algae, at Southampton College, where he is now professor emeritus.

Dr. Liddle has collected seaweed from the Mediterranean, Japan and Thailand, to name a few of the places he has visited, and has pressed hundreds of different seaweeds from all over the world. Pressing seaweed, rather than preserving it chemically, allows scientists to test its DNA and perform species-level taxonomy. But it also creates a unique work of art.

“I like art and design quite a bit, informally,” Dr. Liddle said, “I had taken a lot of art courses in college, and so the idea of aesthetics was important to me.” He explained that in the field of biology, “how you present things is often aesthetically pleasing, in concert with being scientifically useful.”

Dr. Liddle has gone wading, snorkeling and even scuba diving to find seaweed to press, he said, but now he usually sticks to wading through water for his algal extractions. The process of pressing seaweed is lengthy but if done well, the finished product can last for decades, Dr. Liddle said.

It is important, he explained, to keep the seaweed hydrated and to give it oxygen. Dr. Liddle often brings seaweed back from the beach damp, rather than immersed but he brings fresh seawater along with him too. If the water is changed every few hours the specimens will last two or three days, but “the best thing is to start pressing them right away,” he said.

“It’s good to clean them off in the field, get rid of all the silt, and so on,” he explained. “Float them out in clean water, work them as much as you have to.” The real beauty in seaweed pressing is looking at the branching and the shapes of the plants—what in water looks like a slimy green blob can look just like a tree when pressed.

Dr. Liddle spreads seaweed out onto paper with his fingers, as much as possible, before he uses tools, which are more likely to damage delicate pieces of algae. Sometimes, he said, he doesn’t know what he has until he floats it in water, when he gets home. At a seaweed demonstration in Montauk last month, Dr. Liddle had a “green glob” that he was floating in water. “As I floated it out, it turned out it was attached to another seaweed,” he said.Dasyapedicellata

In 2010, Dr. Liddle helped create a seaweed collection for East Hampton Town’s Natural Resources Department. He retrieved all of the types of seaweed he could find in Lake Montauk and pressed them for the department; scanned versions are available on the town’s website.

More recently, Dr. Liddle took samples from Georgica Cove. “There’s an enormous floating mass of seaweed there,” he said, “it’s 25 to 40 meters wide.” Dr. Liddle said that it is green algae and “it is undoubtedly due to the run off of lawns, of nitrates and phosphates.” Dr. Liddle pressed those samples and gave one to the town for its archives. Another has been sent off for DNA testing.

Dr. Liddle has traveled the world, collected some unbelievably rare samples and preserved them for science. But, he said, “some of the most ordinary ones are just as beautiful.”

 Dr. Liddle will demonstrate seaweed mounting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 6, at the South Fork Natural History located at 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton. For more information visit sofo.org.

Sag Harbor Teen Excels at Local Art Program

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Sag Harbor’s Luca Vermeer learned to weave and weld at Snow Farm Summer in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program. 

Sag Harbor teenager Luca Vermeer went to Williamsburg, Massachusetts, for two weeks this summer and returned with a new skill. Ms. Vermeer studied innovative mediums of arts and crafts at Snow Farm Summer, a program of The New England Craft Program.

Over the two-week program, Ms. Vermeer worked for six hours each day under the guidance of an artist. She put in additional time working in the studio. She lived with artists and other creative teenagers on a 50-acre 18th century farm and took weekend trips to Mass MOCA and the studio of renowned glass artist Josh Simpson.

During her stay, Ms. Vermeer created an extensive body of work and learned weaving and flameworking, the craft of melting glass on a tabletop torch to make small sculptures and glass beads.

East End Weekend: Labor Day Highlights

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Danielle Leef, "Flying Point Sunrise." Courtesy Southampton Artists Association.

Danielle Leef, “Flying Point Sunrise.” Courtesy Southampton Artists Association.

By Tessa Raebeck

With the East End at full capacity this Labor Day, what better way to unwind from a crazy summer than with a little party hopping? Here’s our highlights of what to check out this weekend:

 

With an opening reception on Sunday, the Southampton Artists Association Labor Day Show will show paintings, photography and sculptures by local artists.

The free reception is from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Levitas Center for the Arts in the Southampton Cultural Center, located at 25 Pond Lane in Southampton. The show runs through September 7.

 

The king of nerd humor and that stand-up comedian who doodles on television, Demetri Martin is coming to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Sunday, August 31.

He earned an Emmy nomination as a writer on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” has been a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” and starred in the Ang Lee film “Taking Woodstock.” He also created and starred in the series “Important Things with Demetri Martin” on Comedy Central and wrote “This is a Book by Demetri Martin,” a New York Times bestseller.

Jeanelle Myers, "Untitled," for "Curious" at Ashawagh Hall.

Jeanelle Myers, “Untitled,” for “Curious” at Ashawagh Hall.

Mr. Martin’s performance at the will begin at 8 p.m. The PAC is located at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach. Tickets are $60, $75, and $90. For tickets and more information, call (631) 288-1500 or visit WHBPAC.org.

 

On Saturday at Ashawagh Hall in Springs, “Curious” exhibits a selection of contemporary artists exploring the concept of “Curious and Curiosity.”

Works include painting, sculpture, photography and mixed media. Out of 50 participating artists, five are from Sag Harbor: Ted Asnis, Barbara Freedman, Jonathan Morse, Jeanelle Myers and Pamela Topham.

The group show is curated by Ellen Dooley, a painter and mixed media artist focused on social and political commentary.

An opening reception for “Curious” will be held on Saturday, August 30, from 5 to 8 p.m. The gallery is open all weekend from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Ashawagh Hall, located at 780 Springs Fireplace Road at Old Stone Highway in East Hampton. For more information, call (631) 987-7005.

 

At the Romany Kramoris Gallery in Sag Harbor, Sheryl Budnik will show her work in “Turbulence II,” open from August 28 to September 18. An opening reception for the artist will be held on Saturday, August 30, from 5 to 7 p.m.

“The term ‘Lumen Naturae–the Light Within the Darkness of Nature’ refers to the Middle Age idea (Paracelsus c. 1493-1541) that knowledge springs from the Light of Nature,” Ms. Budnik said in a press release issued by the gallery.

“This light in Nature illuminates the consciousness and allows inspiration and intuition to rise from human subconscious,” the artist continued. “This is the core of my study; this is what I want to capture with my paint. Not paintings defined as ‘seascape’ or ‘landscape,’ but paintings so powerfully about nature that an open spirit responds with human emotion and an intuitive understanding of the immensity and power of Nature itself.”

The Romany Kramoris Gallery is located at 41 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call (631) 725-2499.

Sheryl Budnik, "Light at the End of the Day" will be on view at the Romany Kramoris Gallery in Sag Harbor.

Sheryl Budnik, “Light at the End of the Day” will be on view at the Romany Kramoris Gallery in Sag Harbor.

 

Local Leaders Accept Sag Harbor Express’s Ice Bucket Challenge

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County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves accepted an ice bucket challenge issued by the Sag Harbor Express, which was dutifully administered by School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi and Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols on Friday, August 22. Photos courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves accepted an ice bucket challenge issued by the Sag Harbor Express, which was dutifully administered by School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi and Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols on Friday, August 22. Photos courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

By Tessa Raebeck

After being issued an ALS ice bucket challenge by the Times Review, Sag Harbor Express co-publishers Kathryn and Gavin Menu and consultant and publisher emeritus Bryan Boyhan boldly accepted the challenge on Thursday, August 21. View the video here.

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Mr. Thiele, who was allegedly out of town Friday, accepted the challenge in Marine Park on a beautiful morning Wednesday, August 27. Photo by Mara Certic.

While trying to hide their fear awaiting the buckets–aptly distributed by our intern, Sam Mason-Jones–the publishers challenged some local heavy-hitters: Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves and New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

At the top of Pierson Hill on Friday, August 22, Mr. Schneiderman and Ms. Graves were doused with buckets of ice water–much to the delight of their respective staffs. In the district less than a month, new School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi selflessly accepted the opportunity to dump ice on Mr. Schneiderman, while Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols soaked Ms. Graves with a smile on his face. A full video recording of that endeavor is available here.

 

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Toshi Shiga

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Toshi Shiga, at the Sag Harbor Fire Department Carnival at Havens Beach in August, is excited for Kindergarten.

Toshi Shiga, at the Sag Harbor Fire Department Carnival at Havens Beach in August, is excited for Kindergarten. Photo by EJ Shiga.

By Tessa Raebeck

A graduate of Sag Harbor’s prekindergarten program, Toshi Shiga is on the verge of entering kindergarten at Sag Harbor Elementary School on Wednesday, September 3. A lover of the Ninja Turtles, video games and girls, Toshi grew up in Sag Harbor—and some would argue that he’s still growing. He discusses his plans for the first day of school, kindergarten and looming adulthood.

 

Now that you’re going into kindergarten, you’re going to learn to read and write, meet new classmates and be in a new building. What makes you most excited about entering elementary school?

I think I’m going to get a Power Rangers backpack. Or a Ninja Turtles one and a bunch of pencils, pens and crayons to go in it. On the first day, I want to wear my skeleton shirt. I have two, but I’m going to wear the one that glows in the dark.

 

Entering grade school also means a lot of monumental life changes. Anything you’re nervous about?

Making friends. It’s kind of hard, but if I want to be friends with somebody in my class, I would have to ask them if they want to be my friend. Or say please. Maybe I would ask them to play a game with me. If it were a girl, maybe I would kiss her.

 

At the Sag Harbor Elementary School, where you’ll be starting next week, there is a green playground. Are you familiar with it? 

I love the school park because I like the slides. That’s the school I’m going to? Oh my gosh, I’m so jealous. That’s the one we always go to with my friend Antonio; I’m jealous that I’m going to that school with the big, cool playground. I’m jealous of myself.

 

What did you learn in pre-k that’s prepared you for kindergarten?

I learned about insects, tweeters [birds], swings, choo-choo horns [steam engine whistles] and how to make friends. I learned that a bully is someone who’s naughty and not nice. If you meet one, you should tell your teacher they’re being mean to you and try not to play with them.

 

Between the sciences, technology, counting, shapes and all the other things you’ve learned about, what’s your favorite thing to do at school?

Free play.

 

What do you want to learn about in kindergarten?

I want to learn how games are made and about the iPads and computers. If I could read, that would help me make and play video games, so I’m excited to learn reading. Stampy [a video game creator I admire] learned Minecraft and other games in school, so I could do that too. When I visited a class last year [during kindergarten orientation], they had a mailroom. It was a toy mailroom. You could play with the mail and that was really cool.

 

Show-and-Tell is a pivotal part of kindergarten. Have you brainstormed ideas of what you want to bring in to show your teacher and class?

I love show-and-tell. I would bring in my awesome Ninja Turtles thing I have. It’s a comic book. It’s the first comic book I ever had; I loved it.

 

Kindergarten is a big step from pre-k. It’s the first time you’ll be in a school with older kids and more classes like gym, math and science. Do you feel this is a big life transition for you?

Yeah, pre-k is for big boys, but kindergarten is for bigger boys. I’m on level five [years old] and might level up to six in kindergarten. I don’t really feel like I’m five yet—I still feel like I’m four—but when I get to kindergarten I think I’ll feel older. I used to just eat grilled cheese, noodles and white macaroni and cheesy shells for lunch, but now that I’m in kindergarten, I’m going to have a chicken sandwich for lunch. I was too young before, but now that I’m going to be a big boy in kindergarten, I’m going to have a chicken sandwich—and a freeze-pop.

Sag Harbor Teacher’s Trip to Malawi a Life-Changing Experience

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Sag Harbor Elementary School teacher Kryn Olson with students at the Jacaranda School for Orphans in Malawi. Photo courtesy Kryn Olson.

Sag Harbor Elementary School teacher Kryn Olson with students at the Jacaranda School for Orphans in Malawi. Photo courtesy Kryn Olson.

By Tessa Raebeck

Kryn Olson left Malawi in tears. Ms. Olson, a science teacher at the Sag Harbor Elementary School, wasn’t crying because she had a bad trip. It was, in fact, quite the opposite.

“It was really amazing,” Ms. Olson, who left Sag Harbor July 17 to spend over three weeks at the Jacaranda School for Orphans, said of her experience on Tuesday, August 26.

Jacaranda, located in the village of Che Mboma, near the city of Limbe in the south of Malawi, a small, landlocked country in southeast Africa, feeds, clothes, houses and educates 412 local orphans.unnamed-2

Ms. Olson, who was a driving force in the outdoor gardening program at the Sag Harbor Elementary School, was invited by the school’s founder, Marie Da Silva, to whom she was introduced by Elena and Barbara Gibbs, to spend several weeks in Africa helping Jacaranda students and faculty expand the school’s gardening programs.

During her stay, she worked primarily on agriculture with 16 boys aged 12 to 18. By the end of her trip, she and the boys were nicknamed “The Green Team” and had become close friends. The students accompanied her to the airport when she left; they gave her cards and hand-drawn pictures and sang songs the whole bus ride there—hence the tears.

“We really got to know each other very well, because we were together five to eight hours a day,” Ms. Olson said. “And they were just such good, respectable, hardworking, inquisitive and very intelligent boys. We bonded very, very much.”

The Green Team planted five gardens during the three-week period. Before she left, some in Sag Harbor had expressed concern to Ms. Olson that American seeds would not necessarily grow successfully in African soil. In true science teacher fashion, she did a plenty of research, augmented by hope and, sure enough, the gardens flourished. Within weeks, the seeds grew to be two inches tall and were “so unbelievably successful, ridiculously successful,” said Ms. Olson, who seemed to be in a permanent state of ecstasy over her trip.

After Ms. Olson was initially taken to a Shop-Rite 25 minutes away from the school, she expressed the need to go shopping somewhere slightly more authentic to the local community, and the boys took her instead to the farmers’ market in Limbe. She saw the city market, met the vendors, and got insight into what the locals grow.

“It was a very exciting place for me to go shopping, because it’s where everybody goes that lives there… it was a beautiful, beautiful experience,” she said.

Two days before she left, Ms. Olson and her team of boys had a huge feast, in which they served meals using mature versions, purchased from the market, of the vegetables they were in the process growing.

“I cooked five chickens, we had a huge salad and I cooked potatoes and carrots, tomatoes, peas, celery, everything that I could find in the market,” she recalled.

Kryn Olson and The Green Team. Photo courtesy Kryn Olson.

Kryn Olson and The Green Team. Photo courtesy Kryn Olson.

“And afterward I said, ‘Do you understand why you have planted these vegetables now?’ ‘Cause they eat porridge every day—this was beyond crazy for them,” she continued.

They had a long conversation on the value of well-balanced meals and the boys, she said, could not devour the veggies fast enough, “it was just such a successful end-all… It was really just such a bonding time, I couldn’t have asked for a better result. There was just one good experience after another.”

The Green Team also built a greenhouse, an idea of the boys’, to enable the students to continue growing vegetables during Malawi’s long rainy season.

Ms. Da Silva wants Ms. Olson to return to Jacaranda to design vegetable plots for a pre-school she hopes to build.

Ms. Da Silva and Ms. Olson are hopeful gardening will help to change not only the students’ diet, but also their economic position, as they begin to harvest and sell the crops.

In addition to her Green Team of newly trained farmers, Ms. Olson also built relationships with some of the hundreds of other students at Jacaranda.

“Every time I would walk through the gates,” she said of the children, “they would come running to me with their arms open. Every day, you just felt like your life couldn’t have gotten any better, ’cause there was so much love and so much compassion with these children and the people that worked there… It was awesome, it was just truly, truly awesome.”

Ms. Olson said when she held the smallest of the orphans, they would immediately fall asleep in her arms “because they were so excited about getting nurtured…it was a beautiful experience.”

While volunteer opportunities in Africa are vast, Ms. Olson said what’s special about the Jacaranda Foundation, which supports the school, is that the change it’s instilling in the community is tangible.

Ms. Da Silva and the school’s executive director, Luc Deschamps, “have actually started a big chain reaction that’s going to change Malawi and that could change other communities,” she said.

In addition to the school, they have started a public library in Malawi, outreach courses to empower women through learning to read, write and take care of themselves and other initiatives.

A public school less than five miles from Jacaranda has 3,000 students.

“They have 200 per classroom, one teacher, no books, no paper, no pencils,” said Ms. Olson. “But Luc has actually started to build a library there… it’s like the change is coming, it’s growing and every single time that they do something they look, ‘What’s the next step?’”

“They think bigger than themselves,” she added, “they’re completely compassionate and have no personal agendas. This is their entire life to service this community—not only is that incredibly rare, but it’s quite venturous—it’s an incredibly poor community.”

Ms. Olson’s friends from Sag Harbor, Suzanne Shaw and her daughter Winter, met her in Malawi and she expects many more friends will join her when she returns, which she said will be “as soon as I can.”

Several students and parents have already reached out to Ms. Olson in hopes of joining her next summer.

“I would definitely consider something like this,” she said, “because it’s a wonderful thing to be able to see life at the purest of places. Relationships were just really honest and pure, there’s just a lot less stuff, so there wasn’t any other conversation. It was just magical, I don’t know how else to describe it.”

To donate supplies or money to the Jacaranda School, contact Kryn Olson at kolson@sagharborschools.org.

Sag Harbor Pre-K Program Now Under Full Control of District

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By Tessa Raebeck 

The Sag Harbor School District announced late Wednesday that its prekindergarten program, which has operated under SCOPE since its inception in 2010, would move under the full control and supervision of the district starting this year.

“Our board of education and administration believe this is a positive change for the district, and one that will enable us to provide a wonderful pre-k opportunity in Sag Harbor for years to come,” Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone and Assistant Principal Donna Denon said in a letter to families on Wednesday, August 27.

For the past school year of 2013-14, the program had 30 students and the contractual expenses were $80,730. The projected expenses for 2014-15, which will see 25 students in the pre-k, are $70,250.

According to School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi, the school attorneys reviewed the current contract with SCOPE in July and recommended the district become a New York State-approved universal prekindergarten Program in order to continue operating under a service contract arrangement with SCOPE.

“This designation would be the only way we could contract out a taxpayer funded prekindergarten program through SCOPE,” Ms. Buscemi said in an email. “This recommendation was based on a shift by the state over time in its policy of contracting out core instruction to outside vendors.”

The district applied for a portion of $340 million in competitive grant funding that became available for a statewide universal full-day prekindergarten program. In August, the New York State Department of Education confirmed that Sag Harbor had not been awarded any of the grant money.

“Since Sag Harbor UFSD did not receive approval for New York State funding, our prekindergarten program could not be considered a universal prekindergarten program,” Ms. Buscemi added.

The elementary school administrators said the district is “committed to maintaining this successful, tuition-free, early childhood learning experience in our district.”

No longer in partnership with SCOPE services, the Sag Harbor pre-k program will begin the 2014-15 school year on Wednesday, September 3, with a “Meet and Greet” for students and parents in the pre-k classroom and the Pierson Middle School. The first full day for students is Thursday, September 4.

“It is with great enthusiasm that we begin the 2014-15 school year knowing the Sag Harbor School District is stronger with our own prekindergarten program adding to a high quality educational experience for all children,” said Mr. Malone and Ms. Denon.

 

Petitions Due for Library Elections; Five Openings in Bridgehampton, Three in Sag Harbor

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Hampton Library Director Kelly Harris uses the library's new 3D printer on February 24. Photo by Michael Heller.

Hampton Library Director Kelly Harris uses the library’s new 3D printer on February 24. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The deadlines to submit petitions for positions on the board of trustees of both the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor’s John Jermain Memorial Library are this week.

 

Bridgehampton

The deadline at the Hampton Library, where five seats are open, is Tuesday, September 2, by 5 p.m. Four seats will be voted on and filled by Bridgehampton residents; the remaining seat is in Sagaponack and will be voted on by residents of that school district.

Incumbents Jackie Poole, Tom House and Dr. Louise Collins are all seeking re-election.

Elizabeth Whelan Kotz, the board’s president, who has served four three-year terms, will be stepping down after reaching her term limit.

Sarah Jaffe Turnbull chose not to run for re-election due to other commitments.

In order to make sure term limits line up with the library’s annual reorganizational meeting, the terms for the trustees who will join the board this year will run from October 1 to December 31, 2017. Terms previously ran from October 1 to September 30, but will now run for a year and three months for as long as it takes to get all trustees serving three-year, January to December terms.

“The other thing we did this year,” said Library Director Kelly Harris “is in order to make sure that Sagaponack is represented.”

The library’s nine-person board formerly had seven seats reserved for Bridgehampton residents and two for Sagaponack residents, but starting this year, one of the Bridgehampton seats has been switched over to Sagaponack, “so that there’s just a little bit more representation of Sagaponack on the library board,” she said.

Starting in October, three of the trustees will be from Sagaponack, with the remaining six from Bridgehampton.

“Board members are really advocates for the library, but they also represent the community,” Ms. Harris said. “One of the things I’m very proud of at the Hampton Library is we really are a community center and a community library.”

“And we want the library board to not only reflect the community and be a representative of the community,” she added.

The budget vote and trustee election will be held Saturday, September 27, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Hampton Library located at 2478 Main Street in Bridgehampton.

 

Sag Harbor

In Sag Harbor, three seats are opening on the board of the John Jermain Memorial Library. The deadline to submit petitions is Friday, August 29, at 4 p.m.

The terms of three board members have expired. Ann Lieber and Jackie Brody are both seeking re-election for their second term, while Toby Spitz has decided not to run for a second term.

Those who win the three-year terms will be in office from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2017. Candidates can run for two consecutive three-year terms.

The library board meets every third Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. and members usually also serve on committees that may meet monthly depending on the need, but oftentimes do not.

“Formally,” said library director Catherine Creedon, “being a board member entails attendance at the meetings, supervision and hiring of the director, long-range planning and the setting of policy. So, there’s a formal, very narrow charge, but in fact—particularly in a community like Sag Harbor—board members are really the ambassadors for the library.”

“I always think they are the best people to go out and understand our mission, to talk about it, to look at the community and see ways we might be able to better serve the community and bring that information back to the library,” she added.

“Right now, I think is the most exciting time to be a board member at John Jermain,” the director continued, “because we have this gorgeous new building about to open and at the same time, there are all these amazing changes in technology.”

The budget vote and trustee election for the John Jermain Memorial Library will be held Monday, September 29, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Pierson auditorium, located at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor.

Bret Parker Raises Money By Conquering His Fears

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Bret Parker, right, and his trainer Lyon Marcus, left, after an intense training session at Long Beach on Monday. Photo by Mara Certic. 

By Mara Certic

Bret Parker is a husband, father, skydiver and lawyer, and if all goes according to plan, by next month he will also be a triathlete. While this may not seem particularly newsworthy, it is important to mention that not only does Mr. Parker have Parkinson’s disease, he is deathly afraid of water. But he has resolved to conquer his  fear in order to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

He still remembers it vividly: he was 3 years old, running around a pool when he tripped over a hose and fell in. Someone pulled him to safety quickly, but the damage was already done. Mr. Parker was traumatized and has been terrified of water for decades.

Mr. Parker grew up, became a lawyer, got married and lived with his wife and two children in the New York City. The family bought a house in Noyac in 2001, and Mr. Parker considers Long Beach his “backyard,” but still he didn’t want to swim. Then, in 2007 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

He had noticed a slight tremor in his right hand. He went to the doctor, who, after a series of basic motor tests, concluded that Mr. Parker, now 46, had Parkinson’s. “There’s no blood test,” he explained, so the diagnosis really took him aback. So much so that Mr. Parker and his wife Katharine kept it secret, didn’t really tell anyone and carried on business as usual.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement, causing tremors, stiffness and the gradual slowing down of every-day motions. There is no known cure—as of yet—but medications can mitigate many of the side effects.

In 2012, when Mr. Parker began to take medication for his disease, he decided that it was time to “come out.” He wrote a blog on Forbes.com, telling his friends, family, colleagues and the rest of the internet world about his diagnosis. “For a long time, silence seemed logical.  As long as my Parkinson’s was not impacting my day-to-day functioning, no one had to know,” he wrote in his 2012 “outing.”

“When I was first diagnosed, my symptoms were almost impossible to detect and there wasn’t anything for my family or friends “to do” so I figured it wasn’t worth telling people,” he continued.

But then a close friend of his told him that he had plans to run 50 miles for 10 charities, and invited Mr. Parker to run a five-mile stint with him to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “I was so touched by his grand gesture — how could I refuse?” he wrote.

“The answer is finally clear.  This is the year to leave my secret behind — to literally run past my fears, my doubts and my hesitation,” he continued. Mr. Parker ran the five miles and raised $115,000 for the Fox Foundation. The next year, he decided to take a leap of faith, literally, and raised $50,000 for the organization by jumping out of a plane at Skydive Long Island.

“When you have an illness you realize you were living under the fiction of being in control,” said Mrs. Parker, a breast cancer survivor herself. When Mrs. Parker signed up for the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon on September 7, her husband resolved to conquer his fear of water once and for all and to do the same.

He hired Iron Man veteran Lyon Marcus as his trainer and began the slow process of really learning how to swim in May. In the first four weeks of his training, Mr. Parker didn’t go into the water once. In fact, when he told this to a triathlete friend of his, she told him to fire his trainer and get a new one. But Mr. Parker kept with it, learning exercises on land to strengthen his core and upper body.

“It was terrible,” Mrs. Parker said of her husband’s swimming, “I can’t even tell you what a transformation this is,” she said as she watched him swim laps in Noyac Bay on Tuesday morning.

One of the lesser-known facts about Parkinson’s disease is that stress and anxiety worsen the tremors and stiffness. Mr. Parker’s fear of the water exacerbated his symptoms. But soon his 10-minute swimming stints became 20 minutes and last week, Mr. Parker swam the full 1,500 meters he will have to swim during the triathlon. “He’s got a will you can’t even imagine,” Mr. Marcus said.

After over 40 years, Mr. Parker has conquered his fear. He is not planning on winning the triathlon, but he’s certainly planning on finishing it—even though he will have to take a day’s worth of medication in a period of about four hours.

Mr. Parker is the executive director of the New York City Bar Association and a member of the Fox Foundation’s Patient Council. “I have two big beefs with Parkinson’s,” he said on Tuesday. The first is something that he was guilty of for five years—keeping it a secret. The second is the extreme optimism shown by many sufferers of the disease. “Optimism masks the fact that they’ve been using the same drug for 40 years,” he said, adding that more research must be done.

Days after Robin Williams’s suicide shocked the world, his wife released a statement disclosing that her husband had been suffering from depression, anxiety and the early stages of Parkinson’s, “which he was not yet ready to share publicly.”

The diagnosis was hard, but Parkinson’s has taught Mr. Parker about the uncertainty of life and has provided him with a new mantra: “live life as large as you can, as long as you can.”

For more information about the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research visit michaeljfox.org. To donate to Mr. Parker’s fundraising efforts visit www2.michaeljfox.org/goto/parker. The Mighty Hamptons Triathlon will take place on Sunday, September 7. The event will begin at 6:40 a.m. with the 1.5-kilometer swim at Long Beach. For more information about the triathlon visit eventpowerli.com.

Habitat for Humanity Dedicates Most Recent Project in Bridgehampton

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Kelly Davis wipes away tears of joy after she, her husband Randy and children Alex and Alexis were presented with a photo album of their house being built during a dedication ceremony for their new Habitat for Humanity property on Sunday, August 24. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

After months of anticipation, sweat and hard work, a Bridgehampton family finally has a real place to call home, thanks in no small part to Habitat for Humanity of Peconic.

Randy and Kelly Davis met in 2001; she was from Sag Harbor, and he grew up in Bridgehampton.

“We just kind of ran into each other. In small towns you just know everyone,” Ms. Davis said.

They fell in love, got married and started a family. They rented a two-bedroom-house on Old Sag Harbor Road, where their children Alexis, now 8, and Alex, 6, shared a room. But the rental prices were steep and Mr. and Mrs. Davis struggled to afford their two-bedroom home—not for lack of trying, Mr. Davis works as a custodian in the Sag Harbor School District, and his wife is a nursing assistant at Southampton Hospital.

They were also paying out-of-district fees so that their daughter could attend prekindergarten in Bridgehampton, as there wasn’t one available to her in Sag Harbor at that time.

About four years ago, Mrs. Davis’s aunt learned from Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Bridgehampton that Habitat for Humanity of Peconic had put out the word to various local parishes that it was seeking a family for whom to build a new house.

“I just had a feeling that it was right at the perfect moment,” Mrs. Davis said at the dedication of her new house on Scuttlehole Road in Bridgehampton on Sunday. Her husband was not so confident, however, and really couldn’t believe the news when they found out that they had been chosen to receive this “blessing,” he said.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization, founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in 1976. Its mission is plain: to build simple, decent, affordable housing for those who need it most. Although a self-described “Christian housing ministry,” Habitat for Humanity helps people of all races and religions and has a strict non-proselytizing policy.

According to Deirdre Herzog, treasurer for Habitat for Humanity of Peconic, Suffolk County gave the land for the house to the Town of Southampton which, in turn, passed it along to Habitat for Humanity.

Ms. Herzog, who has been involved with Habitat for the past 16 years, said that there were delays in getting the process rolling. “When it was time to start building on the property there were issues with the neighbor having encroached on the property, so it took a long time to get those types of things cleared up,” she said.

Work finally started in April 2013 when lot clearing began. Farrell Builders of Bridgehampton gave their time and expertise to the project, and one of their employees, Chris Perrier, worked as the crew leader. Mr. Perrier described himself more as “an educator” on the process. “I pretty much got the shell together for them, pointed them in directions they had to go in,” he said.

Habitat for Humanity requires its future homeowners to contribute at least 500 hours of “sweat equity.” According to Ms. Davis, she and her family and friends contributed more than 800 hours of labor to the building of their new home. “It was awesome,” she said. “We put a lot of work into it.”

Certain local construction companies donated materials; others sold them at discounted prices. Bridgehampton National Bank provided some funding for the project and became a sponsor. A group of bank employees even volunteered some of their time to help with painting and other odd jobs.

The typical Habitat house can take up to a year, Ms. Herzog said. But the conflicting schedules of the skilled construction workers and volunteers further delayed the project’s completion. “It was a rough winter,” Mr. Perrier explained. “And what happens is, out here, this season’s just been extremely busy for all trades,” he said, adding that it proved hard to get volunteers.

But on Sunday, August 24, a formal dedication at the house at 2245 Scuttlehole Road marked the end of a long chapter for the Davis family, and the beginning of a new one. “She’s totally psyched that they have their own rooms now,” Ms. Davis said of her daughter who was showing off her new, very pink bedroom. Her brother aimed a ball at the miniature basketball hoop hanging from the door of his first very own bedroom.

Friends, volunteers, family and clergy gathered at the new house for Sunday’s dedication, a celebration Habitat for Humanity chapters throughout the nation observe. The Davises were given a Bible, an album filled with pictures of the construction process and a hammer that was used in the construction of their house. “Do good,” said Mark Mott, president of Habitat for Humanity of Peconic. Reverend Dr. H.G. McGhee, of the First Baptist Church of Bridgehampton offered a few words while those gathered held hands in prayer.

“We pray in the name of Jesus that this house becomes a blessing for those who reside here,” he said. And then everyone repeated after the minister, “Dedicated in the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit. God bless you.”

For more information about Habitat on the East End, visit hfhpeconic.org.