Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor"

Sag Harbor’s Interfaith Museum Brings Students Together

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Students worked on signs for the upcoming Interfaith Museum Exhibition at Temple Adas Israel, which opens this Sunday. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic 

For over a decade Leah Oppenheimer has been trying to find a way to further incorporate Hispanic families into the larger East End community, and now this Sunday her efforts will be unveiled at the opening of Sag Harbor’s new Interfaith Museum.

For the past three weeks, Sunday school students from the Vida Abundante Church in Wainscott have been joining the Monday evening Hebrew School classes at Temple Adas Israel to learn about the similarities between local Jewish and Hispanic lives, families and religions. This Sunday, March 22, from noon to 2 p.m., the synagogue will hold the grand opening of the museum, which will feature work and projects done by the children over the past month.

“I’ve been working on the issue of Hispanic families being so isolated here for over a decade as I saw the population increasing,” Ms. Oppenheimer said in a phone interview on Monday.

The Hebrew School worked with Head Start,  which runs pre-kindergarten programming in Bridgehampton. “But it didn’t get the kids involved,” Ms. Oppenheimer said.

“It didn’t help the kids to get to know each other,” and that, she believes, is the key to bringing people together.

According to Ms. Oppenheimer, Long Island has some of the most segregated school districts outside of Louisiana. “The East End is more integrated than most,” she said, but there is still much improvement to be made.

Ms. Oppenheimer was at a conference at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust, in Manhattan, when she heard of a museum program with Jewish and Muslim youths, designed to teach similarities, explain the differences and dispel rumors.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for!” Ms. Oppenheimer said to herself when she heard about the program.

Someone in the temple’s congregation provided funding, and plans for the Interfaith Museum were developed and quickly fell into place. Ms. Oppenheimer has been working with Pastor Oswaldo Palomo of the Vida Abundante Church on the program, and for the past three weeks the temple has hosted “workshops” during which students get to know each other and learn about each other’s lives.

Adriana Leon, who teaches Sunday School at the Vida Abundante Church, said that in her 11 years here, this is the first time her students have been involved in any interfaith programs. “They’re really enjoying it,” she said of the children.

Ms. Oppenheimer said that during the first workshop the kids instantly hit it off. “They were all on the floor making posters together—it took about five and a half seconds.”

“The first week we just got to know one another and the kids made posters about themselves and in groups,” she explained. The posters revealed to the children that they had more in common than they thought, including what seems to be a global love for pizza.

Last Monday, each student brought in a treasured item from his or house—one child, for example, brought in a framed picture of his dog—and during the workshop they made professional museum display cards for each item.

The last workshop on Monday, March 16, began with the screening of a short video about early Latin American immigration to the United States. Ms. Oppenheimer’s husband, Dr. John Oppenheimer, then came in to tell the story of his father’s emigration from Germany before World War II.

All of the hard work will be on display this Sunday during the grand opening.

“I’d like to think of a way to do more of it next year. But this Sunday is our fiesta,” Ms. Oppenheimer said.

“It’s the essence of being Jewish, learning how to help the stranger in your midst. And it’s a major Christian ideal too,” Ms. Oppenheimer added.

“I think we’ll find a way to do more of this.”

The Interfaith Museum will have its grand opening on Sunday, March 22, from noon to 2 p.m. at Temple Adas Israel, located on the corners of Elizabeth Street and Atlantic Avenue in Sag Harbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trustees Talk Role in the Modern World

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By Gianna Volpe

About 50 residents and community members gathered at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons on Monday at which representatives of the East Hampton and Southampton Town Trustees discussed their role in modern government.

The Trustees of both towns trace their authority to colonial-era patents and were once the local governing bodies when King James II was on the throne in England. They remain to this day, with a primary focus on protecting the East End’s undeveloped common lands, including beaches and the bottomlands of ponds.

The forum took place at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton.

“The Trustees were the governing board long before there was a town board, long before there was a supervisor, long before there was a United States of America, so our patents are recognized right up ’til now,” explained Southampton Town Trustee Ed Warner Jr. “We had a lot of natural product that was here and was very important to England and that’s why they made sure we had good management practices in the colonies.”

Mr. Warner, a commercial fisherman, said this focus on protecting natural resources has led to his interest in educating the town board and others on the ways of the bays and oceans, particularly in terms of the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.

“When I first became involved in this program they didn’t even recognize sea level rise,” Mr. Warner said of Southampton’s LWRP. “One of the things that I brought to the Urban Harbor Institute is the understanding that we live on a barrier beach…that protects the mainland, and the town or the village is allowing people to build very big residences right close to the dunes…. Something that should be incorporated into this is a fallback plan. Basically, these houses should be moved back as the dunes and the beaches wash away slowly, which is inevitable.”

He said such plans should focus on things like making sure hard structures like rock abatements and bulkheads are avoided or only temporary solutions, and said care should be given to dredging projects.

“You can only dig so much sand out of the ocean, and you’re losing fish habitat,” he said of the importance of doing environmental impact studies of dredging projects. “I’m a commercial fisherman and my son is a dragger and we work in these areas every year. It’s one of the most productive squid fisheries on the East Coast. It’s a multi-million dollar fishery, and if we take away the habitat for these squid, which is a bait for larger fish like striped bass, we’re going to lose all the bigger fisheries out here.”

East Hampton Town Trustee Diane McNally stressed the importance of establishing such plans when there is not an emergency.

“The LWRP was drafted at a time when everyone was…thinking about the resources on multiple levels as they need to be protected,” she said. “When people see that water coming at them, they panic and that’s when mistakes get made.”

Southampton Town Trustee Scott Horowitz said he is interested in working respectfully alongside the town board when it comes to resolving such issues.

“I think it’s important that there is a mutual understanding and a respect that each board has an authority and a jurisdiction and if there’s a respect for that, I think we can get along and work together just fine,” he said. “The press always likes to paint that there’s a big rift or a problem. Sometimes we do disagree, but there’s a lot of things we do have common ground on, that we do have respect for each other and we work hard on, but people don’t want to write about the train running on time, they write about the train wrecks…I’m very, very happy to work with whatever department it is – federal, state, the town, the county whoever it is…. The only thing I require is a mutual respect back and forth to the fact that we’re trying to solve a problem in the best interest of the people we represent.”

That resonated with Southampton Town Board member Bridget Fleming, who said she came to the meeting because she also believes board and Trustee members should work closely with one another.

“Our coastal resources are our greatest assets, so we have to work closely with the Trustees who have so much experience,” said Ms. Fleming. “They’re out there on the bays every day, so I really admire the effort and the experience. I think it’s always best for the community when two important decision making boards are working…with mutual understanding because we do sometimes have different points of view, different interests and different constituencies protecting different parts of our coastal assets and our resources, but if we have mutual respect we can learn from experience.”

 

 

Battle Lines Are Drawn as Public Hearing Looms on East Hampton Airport

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Meeting with local officials from the North and South Forks, newly elected U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin held a press conference on Sunday at Southold Town Hall stressing the need for finding a solution to the helicopter noise issue on the East End.

“The persistent issue of helicopter noise on the East End, summer after summer, has become an increasing impediment on the quality of life of many of my constituents,” said Mr. Zeldin, the vice chairman of the House Subcommittee on Aviation, in a release. “That’s why I am calling on the FAA to find an immediate solution for this problem, especially since it continues to get worse.”

The East Hampton Town Board is set to hold a hearing on Thursday, March 12, on proposed restrictions aimed at reducing East Hampton Airport noise complaints. The hearing was originally scheduled for last week, but was canceled due to a severe snow storm.

The hearing will take place at 4:30 p.m. at LTV Studios on Industrial Road in Wainscott, just south of the airport, as originally planned last week.

The town will listen to comment on four separate proposals. One would ban helicopters from landing or taking off at the airport during summer weekends. Another would impose a curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for all aircraft  and a third would impose an even stricter curfew for “noisy” aircraft. A fourth law is aimed at limiting the number of touch-and-go operations, in which pilots practice landings and takeoffs, allowed by louder aircraft at the airport during the summer season.

Noise complaints, which once came from residents living on either side of the airport in East Hampton and Southampton towns, have expanded to include North Haven, Shelter Island, and Southold Town.

“Helicopter noise continues to be a substantial problem on the East End. It has, and will continue to negatively affect the quality of life for year-round residents and adversely impact our regional economy dependent on tourism and the second home industry,” said Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. “East End elected officials, representing all levels of government, must renew efforts to work together to facilitate an end point which is favorable to all of our constituents and the Town of East Hampton.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell thanked Mr. Zeldin, who was elected in November, for his support for “local control of the East Hampton Airport, the epicenter of the aircraft noise issue, in the ongoing effort to mitigate this noise, which affects so many residents across the East End.”

“Those who enjoy the benefits of the helicopter flights should endure the noise and pollution,” added Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty. “It’s as simple as that.”

“We are delighted and extremely grateful to the congressman for making aircraft noise abatement his first official act as our federally elected representative,” said Kathleen Cunningham, chairwoman of the Quiet Skies Coalition. “The East Hampton Town Board has worked in a transparent and comprehensive way to propose policy that will protect the public from the adverse health, environmental and economic impacts of aircraft noise, while supporting a safely maintained, recreational airport.  In league with our Congressman’s efforts on the federal level, the noise affected can finally feel confident that their concerns are being effectively addressed.”

As the town board prepares to take action on the airport, the battle lines have been clearly drawn.

Last week, on the eve of the originally scheduled hearing, the town’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee informed the town board that it would not be able to deliver a promised report on the potential impact the four laws would have on the airport’s bottom line.

Shortly after that announcement, Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for Friends of the East Hampton Airport, sent out a release calling the committee’s failure to produce the report a “major blow” to the town’s proposed legislation.

“The finance committee’s refusal to sign off on this deeply misguided proposal confirms the true economic hazards of the plan and the town board’s blatant disregard for these risks,” he stated.

Later in the week, fliers from the Friends of the East Hampton Airport were distributed around town, urging residents to oppose restrictions to the airport, stating the town board was poised to “vote to virtually shut down our airport this summer, which will be a punch in the gut to the local economy.”

The flier says the restrictions will result in lost jobs, local businesses closing, millions of dollars in lost economic activity, higher property taxes and lower property values. It urges residents to call at least 10 friends or family members and ask them to come out in support of the airport.

The budget committee is made up of both aviation interests as well as a group drawn from airport opponents. Representatives from the latter group cried foul, saying the pro-airport members of the group had intentionally refused to sign off on its findings. Since the committee operated on a consensus basis in which all members had to agree to its findings, the actions of the aviation interests effectively sabotaged the report, they said.

“The report of the committee is not merely delayed or untimely. It will never be issued, because members of the committee with aviation interests will not permit a report that shows any circumstances under which the airport will be self-sustaining,” said David Gruber, a committee member and longtime airport critic.

Petition Calls on Sag Harbor Village to Stem the Tide of Development

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A house on Howard Street, one of many currently under re-development in Sag Harbor. Stephen J. Kotz photo.

A house on Howard Street, one of many currently under re-development in Sag Harbor. Stephen J. Kotz photo.

By Stephen J. Kotz

A petition drive launched by the civic organization, Save Sag Harbor, which decries over-development in the village and demands local government take steps to control it and protect the village’s historic character, has already been signed by more than 750 people, according to organizers.

And they say they are heartened by the fact that approximately one-third of those signing on have taken the extra step to add their own comments to the petition, which appears on the group’s website, savesagharbor.com.

“It is going exceedingly well. We are amazed and encouraged by the outpouring,” said Jayne Young, a member of Save Sag Harbor’s board. “And the attention to this is not flagging at all. People are staying with it.”

The response, added Randy Croxton, another board member, indicates that the changes that have been occurring in the village, especially its historic district, have “really struck a nerve.”

The petition drive, which was launched in February, describes the village as at risk and cites “an unprecedented and damaging flood of development” that has resulted in the demolition of historic houses and the construction of oversized ones in their place.

It calls for village regulatory boards to take three steps to help stem the tide. The first is for the village Zoning Board of Appeals to stop granting variances “for houses which are excessively large and are incongruous in character to existing house in our historic neighborhoods.”

The petition also calls for the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review to stop approving “over-sized construction and additions that are out of context in scale and placement with the neighboring environment.”

Finally, it urges the ZBA to consult with the ARB before ruling on applications to ensure that they are appropriate for the historic district.

Although the petition drive clearly seeks changes to the way business is conducted in the village, Ms. Young said she was not prepared to talk about additional steps the organization believes will need to be taken to protect the village.

Mr. Croxton said the Save Sag Harbor board would meet regularly in the coming months to work on more formal recommendations to the village, which would likely begin with asking it to hire a historic preservation consultant, as once was the case, to help the boards navigate the process.

He said the effort was not meant as an attack on the volunteer members who now serve on the village’s various review boards, who, he said are doing the best they can. But he added the changes occurring across the village are “showing where there are weaknesses in the interpretation of the code.”

He added that he hoped people who have signed the petition would take a leadership role in helping the village come up with solutions. “What we are assuming and hoping for going forward is a kind of passionate outpouring from the people who really have an interest,” he said.

Anton Hagen, the chairman of the village Zoning Board of Appeals, agreed with at least one aspect of the petition. “It really is incumbent upon us to have better communication,” he said of the ZBA and the ARB.

But he added that it is difficult for the ZBA to turn down applications for bigger houses, especially after it has previously issued variances for similar sized houses and noted that real estate investors have learned how to effectively game the system by seeking approval for the largest possible house. “You can say it kind of snuck up on Sag Harbor, this maxing out of lots,” he said. “We have to get ahead of the curve.”

He added he would like to see the village changing its code to adopt a maximum gross floor area ratio provision, as other neighboring communities, including North Haven, have already done. Such a code would limit the size of a house to the size of the given lot, as opposed to allowing a set size.

Mayor Brian Gilbride said village officials have begun looking into the possibility of adopting a floor area ratio amendment to the code, but said it was part of an ongoing process on the part of the village to correct problems in its code.

“Tonight we’ll extend the wetlands permit moratorium” he said on Tuesday, referring to that evening’s village board meeting. “Hopefully we’ll get that revised law done and we can move on. These are not quick fixes.”

The mayor suggested that Save Sag Harbor members may want to take a more active role, by appearing before the ZBA, ARB or planning board to voice their concerns.

Sag Harbor, he said, is facing the same kinds of pressures other East End communities have experienced. “It’s not a factory town anymore, it’s not a blue collar town anymore,” he said. “People are buying houses for a million dollars, knocking them down and building bigger houses.”

Mr. Croxton said there were still “a lot of people who have held on in a multi-generational way, who insist on passing down the houses they have and the community that they have.”

And Ms. Young said the village still had a vibrant future in front of it. “More people are raising their families here, more people are coming out for longer weekends, and there is a corps of people from the surrounding area who rely on it.”

New John Jermain Memorial Library Building Will Dedicate Spaces to Two of its First Advocates

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A rendering of the new front facade of the John Jermain Memorial Library, prepared in 2011 by ARB Review Neman Architecture.

A rendering of the new front facade of the John Jermain Memorial Library, prepared in 2011 by ARB Review Neman Architecture.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Sag Harbor community has come together to underwrite the dedication of two spaces at the renovated and expanded John Jermain Memorial Library for two women who were instrumental in the planning stages of the new facility, which is expected to be finished by October.

The memories of Gail Slevin and Christiane Neuville will be honored with two named spaces in the library, a plaza in the front of the building for Ms. Slevin and a media room for Ms. Neuville.

While the spaces are among many parts of the library that have been named in honor of people, the spaces Ms. Neuville and Ms. Slevin “are particularly lovely because they are spaces that have been underwritten by many, many people,” said Library Director Catherine Creedon.

When the library first embarked on the campaign to fundraise for its renovation and addition, a hired consultant made the point that a campaign must have a large lead gift or it will not be a success.

“We didn’t do that,” said Ms. Creedon, “our lead gift was a pebble, I guess, that was thrown in and we’ve been able to have a very successful capital campaign through word of mouth and community support and groups of people coming together, whether it’s for these named spaces or through our events like One for the Books.”

Both the women were pioneers in the push for a new space for the library, which they believed was at the cornerstone of a strong community.

Ms. Neuville, who died at age 85 on August 8, 2012, was one of the first elected members of the library’s board, where she served two terms and three years as president. A champion of libraries and education, Ms. Neuville grew up in France, was active in the French Resistance, and worked as a teacher until her retirement in 2000, which brought her to Sag Harbor.

“She was part of the board that hired me,” Ms. Creedon said, “and was a firm believer in the power of public libraries to build community.”

Ms. Neuville, she added, “was one of the early advocates for the expansion of the library and worked very hard to bring consensus to the community when there was still a lot of discussion about what the library of the future should look like, so she was an awesome person.”

The Christiane Neuville Biography and Memoir Collection will be a media room, fitting for a library of the future, where all members of the community can come to learn.

Ms. Slevin died on July 29, 2014, at age 70 and will be honored with the Gail Carpenter Slevin Plaza, outside of the library’s Main Street door.

Ms. Slevin “was actually never on the board,” Ms. Creedon said, “although she was such a wonderful supporter of the library that everybody thought she was on the board.”

When the One for the Books event began in 2006, Ms. Slevin was on its first committee, and she continued to run the highly successful fundraising event as chair of the committee from 2008 through 2013.

Before the spaces can be enjoyed and the women honored, however, the building must be completed. Ms. Creedon is hopeful as ever that that long-awaited day is finally approaching.

“The weather has certainly had an impact,” she said Tuesday of the winter storms stalling construction. “Although I was up there today and I just had that feeling that things have been happening.”

The ductwork in the new addition is in, the limestone is going up, pieces of glass should be going into the glass curtain wall next week, and the restoration of the original building is almost finished.

On Tuesday, Ms. Creedon was able to sit on the bench seat that will wrap around the window wall in the fiction wing, look over Ms. Slevin’s plaza and out onto Main Street.

“It was pretty exciting,” said the patient director.

A video walkthrough of the old building is available on the library’s Facebook page and website, and Ms. Creedon hopes to post a second video walking through the new addition once the weather gets “just a little bit warmer.”

Ms. Creedon said the major work of the building should be completed this summer, with an anticipated official move-in date of October 10, which fittingly falls on the library’s 105th birthday and Columbus Day Weekend, “a really fun time to have a grand community celebration.”

“Things are really moving along,” said the director. “We’ve been really lucky to have as much community support as we’ve had…the fundraising is continuing, people are continuing to look for ways to support the project, which is just wonderful.”

The library has raised $3.3 million since its first One for the Books event in 2006, and has an additional $750,000 to $800,000 in pledges and outstanding grants that will be coming in over the next couple of years.

There are two naming opportunities still available, for the elevator and new wing, and anyone interested in funding a commemorative space or book space in honor of someone can contact Ms. Creedon at the library, (631) 725-0049, ext. 223.

Sorry Kids, Sag Harbor Spring Break Affected by Snow Days Again this Year

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As his friends look on, Philip Miller catches air on Pierson Hill following the Blizzard of 2015 on Tuesday, 1/27/15

Making the best of the biggest blizzard in years, Philip Miller shreds a buried bench on Pierson Hill as his friends look on on Tuesday, January 27. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

After Sag Harbor students enjoyed their fourth snow day off this school year on Thursday, March 5, Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves announced they would have to make up for the loss of one day of instructional time. As a result, students will lose the last week day of their scheduled spring break and will be required to attend school on Friday, April 10.

“We encourage you to have your children come to school on April 10, but we are understanding if your family has made other plans. Our parents are our children’s finest teachers; time spent with your children is never wasted,” Ms. Graves said in an email to the school community.

Required by law to have 180 full days of instruction each year, school districts are faced with the tricky task of balancing breaks with preparation for inclement weather, which has become a more pressing concern with the extreme storms and conditions in recent years. Extra snow days cut into the scheduled spring break last year, as did Hurricane Sandy the year before.

“I am hopeful that the adage is true that when March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb,” Ms. Graves said in her email. “We certainly have seen March’s winter claws, but we have also enjoyed the beauty of Pierson Hill deep in snow.”

Dr. Lois Favre, the superintendent of the Bridgehampton School District, said it had 180 school days scheduled and would not have to make up any lost days unless school is canceled again.

Ms. Graves said on Tuesday that if the district were to need another snow day, which could occur along with the forecasts of inclement weather for this coming weekend, “we’ll continue to carve away at that vacation time, but we’re really hoping that that’s not going to be the case.”

The next vacation day to be turned into a school day would be Thursday, April 9, also during the spring recess.

In its contract with the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH), the district pledged to never start school before Labor Day, “which is good for our families and our district and it works also for our teachers… we have to respect that,” Ms. Graves said.

The provision is intended to protect members of the community and staff who work second jobs during the summer months and rent their homes out during Sag Harbor’s busy resort season.

Planning for the upcoming 2015-16 school year poses extra challenges because Labor Day is late this year, falling on Monday, September 7. That means the window for the school year is narrower than it normal is. Because Labor Day is always celebrated on the first Monday in September, the district faces such a situation once every seven years.

“We’re adopting a calendar that right now only has two snow days built in, so we’re probably going to have to continue to be thoughtful about this,” said Ms. Graves. “We’re going to have to continue sitting down with our teachers association, PTA [Parent Teachers Association] and the Board of Education and probably coming up with a contingency plan.”

One option she mentioned is adding flex dates during the summer, when children have a day off but faculty and staff come in for training.

“I don’t know what those other options look like right now, but the New York State Department of Education gives us just a tiny little bit of latitude and that’s what we might need to bring to the table—is just a little bit of latitude and to see what we can do for next year,” Ms. Graves said.

Sag Harbor School District Facilities Director Terminated

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By Tessa Raebeck

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After working in the Sag Harbor School District for five years, Plant Facilities Administrator Montgomery Granger was fired in February.

In a rare mid-school year firing, the Sag Harbor Board of Education terminated its director of facilities on February 23. Montgomery “Monty” Granger was let go after five years of working for the school district.

Mr. Granger started working in the district in a dual role as director of health, physical education and athletics and director of buildings and grounds in August 2009. Three years later, when Todd Gulluscio was hired as athletics director, Mr. Granger’s position changed to plant facilities administrator, where he focused primarily on buildings and grounds since August 2012. Donnelly McGovern is the district’s current athletic director.

Superintendent Katy Graves would not comment specifically on why Mr. Granger was let go. “We just continue to do what’s best for the district, so all of our decisions are what’s best for children, fair for adults, and what the community can sustain,” she said on Tuesday. “And that was absolutely a personnel matter.”

Mr. Granger presented his proposed buildings and grounds budget to the board on January 23, which included a suggested salary of $102,304 for himself. The board held a special meeting, closed to the public, to discuss the employment of  staff member without providing details on February 9, and Mr. Granger was escorted out of the Sag Harbor Elementary School that week.

Prior to working with the Sag Harbor School District, Mr. Granger was district administrator for operations for the Comsewogue School District from 2004 to 2009, and that district’s director of health, physical education and athletics from 2000 to 2004.

Mr. Granger was mobilized three times as a field medical assistant in the United States Army Reserves, a position he held from 1986 until he retired as a major in 2008. During his tours, Mr. Granger worked in such facilities as the Abu Ghraib Prison outside of Baghdad and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He was charged with making sure “medical, preventive medical, environmental and other aspects of detention operations were in compliance with U.S. Army, Department of Defense, and Geneva Convention regulations and laws,” he told the Sag Harbor Express in 2009.

Mr. Granger could not be reached for comment.

Thiele Proposes Legislation to Eliminate GEA, Give State Aid Back to Schools

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By Tessa Raebeck 

In order to fill a shortfall in its budget, five years ago New York State began deducting aid money from its school districts through the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), a formula loudly criticized by educators, school boards and districts across the state.

Now, state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor has introduced legislation to repeal the GEA. His bill is co-sponsored by State Senator Kenneth LaValle and supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Originally enacted to close a $10 billion state budget deficit in the worst years of the recession, the GEA has reduced education aid to New York’s schools by nearly $9 billion in the five school years since its inception in 2010. Schools in New York receive less state aid now than they did during the 2009-10 school year.

Although East End schools do not typically receive large amounts of state aid, the GEA has cost Sag Harbor more than $400,000 over the past two years.

The GEA was introduced by former Governor David Paterson when state legislators developing the budget realized New York’s anticipated revenue did not cover expenses, resulting in a “gap” between the money the state was taking in and the money it needed to operate. The GEA was created to fill that gap by essentially passing the financial burden onto the state’s school districts.

Assemblyman Thiele, who serves on the Assembly’s Education Committee and did not vote in favor of the reduced education aid when it was originally proposed five years ago, said on Tuesday that the financial issues used to promote the GEA are no longer facing the state, and thus its elimination this year is both incumbent and timely.

“I voted against it then because I didn’t think we should be taking money away from education, but now we’ve gone from a deficit to over a $5 billion surplus, so there really is no excuse for continuing the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which is a continuing cut in state aid for the local school districts,” he said.

“Continued state aid loss due to GEA reductions will continue to erode the quality of education school districts can provide. The state cannot continue to pass along its revenue shortfalls to local school districts,” the New York State School Boards Association said in a statement against the GEA, adding that the losses have resulted in “detrimental cuts to personnel, the educational program, services and extracurricular activities” as well as the depletion of reserve funding in districts across the state.

School district officials in both Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor regularly lament that the reduction in state aid has come at the same time as rising costs and the tax levy cap, a law enacted under Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011 that limits school districts and other municipalities from raising property taxes by district-specific formulas that take into account variables like the Consumer Price Index.

“At a time when New York State has the dual goals of freezing property taxes and improving the quality of education, it is imperative that we provide a level of state funding that is equal to the task,” Assemblyman Thiele said in a press release on the bill.

In a statement taking a strong stance against the aid reduction, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services said, “Several years into the educational funding crisis, many school districts are finding that they have few options left to preserve programs and services that students and families count on.”

The amount taken from each school district is determined annually by a calculation that leans harder on wealthy districts, so suburban schools on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley are, in general, adversely affected by the reduction more than those in New York City.

Last year, Long Island enrolled 17 percent of New York’s students, but received only 12 percent of state aid for education.

“It’s more important to us than it is to the city school districts,” said Assemblyman Thiele. For suburban legislators from Long Island and the Hudson Valley, he said “the number-one priority for education for us is getting rid of the Gap Elimination Adjustment.”

In the 2013-14 school year, the Sag Harbor School District had some $241,000 in state aid taken away through the GEA, according School Business Administrator Jen Buscemi. This year, the district lost $171,395 in aid it otherwise would have received.

“The bottom line,” Assemblyman Thiele said, “is that this issue is going to get resolved one way or another as part of the school aid package that we do with the budget, that hopefully will be done  before April 1.”

In January, Governor Cuomo announced he would not release his school aid figures unless the legislature adopts his package of educational reforms. He agreed to grant an additional $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent, in funding to New York’s schools if and only if the legislature passes his reforms, but threatened to limit that increase to 1.7 percent if they are not met.

PechaKucha Returns to the Parrish

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PechaKucha Hamptons circle lg

The Parrish Art Museum will present volume 11 of its popular PechaKucha Night Hamptons on Friday, March 6 at 6 p.m. with a group of speakers delivering rapid fire presentations on what it is to live creatively on the East End. Each speaker shows 20 slides for 20 seconds each, resulting in a compelling six-minute, 40-second long presentation.

PechaKucha Night Hamptons spotlights the staggering number of creative individuals who live on the East End,” said series organizer Andrea Grover, Century Arts Foundation Curator of Special Projects at the Parrish. “Their collective energy and inventiveness has made this program one of our main attractions.”

PechaKucha Night Hamptons, Vol. 11 presenters include writer and restaurateur Bruce Buschel; artist hi and lifestyle health coach and self-proclaimed “Kraut Kween” Nadia Ernestus; photographer Francine Fleischer; close-up magician and author Allan Kronzek; digital entrepreneurs Julie and Dan Resnick; artist Christine Sciulli; poet Julie Sheehan; and master beader and Shinnecock ceremonial dancer Tohanash Tarrant.

The Parrish Art Museum joins over 700 cities globally in hosting these events. Named for the sound of “chit-chat” in Japanese, PechaKucha Nights is the international, fast-paced presentation series founded in Tokyo by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture in 2003. Tickets for PechaKucha Night Hamptons Vol. 11 are currently sold out, however tickets may become available through the Parrish website (parrishart.org) this week. In addition, an in-person wait list will begin at 5pm on March 6th in the Museum lobby. Ticket prices are $10, free for members, children, and students, and include Museum admission.

 

Man Airlifted from Havens Beach

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A man was airlifted from Havens Beach in Sag Harbor after being injured in a fall at a construction site in North Haven. Photography by Gavin Menu. 

A man working construction in North Haven was medevaced to Stony Brook University Hospital on Friday morning after being injured in a fall.

At approximately 9 a.m. Friday morning a man working on a house at 19 South Harbor Drive “took a long fall and fell into a hole,” according to Sag Harbor Fire Chief Jim Frazier. He fell from over 10 feet, the chief said.

Rescue workers managed to carry the man out of the hole, the botton of which Chief Frazier said was frozen and hard.

“He was conscious but in a lot of pain,” Chief Frazier said, adding that he was not sure the extent of his injuries.

He was then transported to Havens Beach, where they were met with a helicopter which took off toward Stony Brook a little after 10 a.m.

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