Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor"

Senator LaValle and Assemblyman Thiele Address Concerns in Noyac

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President of the Noyac Civic Council Elena Loreta, left, and New York State Senator Ken LaValle in a meeting on Tuesday, July 8. Photo by Mara Certic

By Mara Certic

New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. were special guests at the monthly meeting of the Noyac Civic Council on Tuesday, July 8, where they spoke to their East End constituents about local concerns.

“I have a slogan,” began the senator, who arrived wearing his trademark baseball cap. “First district first,” he said. “If you look at the legislation that Fred and I have introduced, easily 50 percent of it deals with local issues and local problems.”

Both the senator and the assemblyman said they were pleased to see so many other elected officials at the Old Noyac Schoolhouse that night; Southampton Town Board members Bridget Fleming, Christine Scalera and Brad Bender were present, as well as newly elected North Haven Village Trustee Thomas J. Schiavoni.

“We spend a lot of time talking to people and listening to people,” the senator said as he mentioned one of his mother’s favorite sayings: God gave you two ears and one mouth and he did that for a reason: so listen!”

Senator LaValle and Assemblyman Thiele answered questions about topics ranging from gas prices to speed cameras, but most of the meeting was spent discussing taxes, education and water quality.

“One of the things I felt is that taxes are too high, property taxes in particular,” said Senator LaValle. “So we passed a multi-year plan,” he said in reference to the state-mandated two-percent tax levy cap that went into effect three years ago.

“You’re all familiar with the property tax cap and quite frankly it’s not perfect,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “But I think it’s worked very well.”

The tax cap was coupled with a tax freeze for the next two years, he explained, and residents of Sag Harbor will receive a tax rebate check this year. In future years, he explained, a tax credit will be given to those who live in a school district that does not pierce the tax cap.

Next year not only will the town, the school district and the county all have to meet the cap, but they will also have to submit a government efficiency plan to reduce the tax levy by 1 percent over the following two years. These plans will have to be approved by the state, the assemblyman said.

“Southampton and Tuckahoe are exploring the idea of consolidation,” he said of the neighboring school districts. “That might qualify for a government efficiency plan.”

“All of us agree that our schools should seek to have higher standards, we have to compete in a global economy now,” he said. That being said, Mr. Thiele quoted a colleague of his in the Assembly who said that “the Titanic had a better roll-out than Common Core.”

Mr. Thiele went on to say that he believed that the implementation of the Common Core this year was “a failure.”

“It was implemented from an ivory tower in a top-down fashion that didn’t take into account parents or teachers,” he said, adding that it should have been put in place “from the ground up.”

“The last thing that both Fred and I were very, very busy with,” Mr. LaValle said, “is the protection of our groundwater and surface water.”

The two men have spent the past year working on legislation called the “Long Island Water Quality Control Act.”

“In spite of all our best efforts we’re still seeing a decline in water quality,” said the assemblyman, who is in part responsible for the creation of the Peconic Estuary Program.

Previous legislation, he said, had focused on regulations for “future land use” when town land was split evenly in three: vacant, occupied and protected.

Today, he said, less than 10 percent of the land in Southampton and East Hampton is unspoken for. “If we’re going to change the issue, we need to change how we treat existing land uses. That’s how we’re going to make a difference and that’s what this legislation seeks to do.”

The two men lauded Southampton Town for the leadership role it has taken regarding research into new technology and alternative septic systems. The two state officials had a meeting organized for the following day at Stony Brook University about creating such new technology.

“We all want to see clean drinking water, but if you tell people they’re going to have to pay $25,000 to $30,000, people can’t afford that expenditure. The technology has to be evolved,” Mr. Thiele said. “Clean water is not just an issue on Long Island, it’s an issue globally.” He said he hopes that Suffolk County can become an incubator for water-quality technology, which would also create high-paying jobs, he said.

Mr. Thiele heard from the DEC, he said, that Governor Cuomo plans to release his own report on water quality in the next two to three weeks. “When he wants to do something, he’s going to take center stage. Nobody preempts the governor.”

Mr. Thiele encouraged Noyackers to write to the DEC about wells that monitor water quality near sand mines, such as Sand Land off Millstone Road in Noyac. In light of a recent ruling that instilled home-rule powers in upstate New York over hydrofracking, Mr. Thiele suggested that local officials might have an existing authority to mandate the monitoring by local law.

The Noyac Civic Council meets next on Tuesday, August 12, at the Bridgehampton Nutrition Center when Congressman Tim Bishop will attend to answer questions about the Federal Aviation Administration. Elena Loreto, president of the council, reminded residents to report disruptive aircraft noise and to send letters to the FAA in the next week to ensure that helicopters continue to follow the North Shore over-the-water route. Senator LaValle and Assemblyman Thiele said that they, too, would contact the FAA.

“We wrote to them before and we’ll be happy to do it again,” said Mr. Thiele. “We have supported this for quite a while.”

 

 

Harbor Committee Up in Air at Sag Harbor Reorganizational Meeting

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Trustees Robby Stein and Sandra Schroeder are sworn in by Sag Harbor Village Clerk Beth Kamper on Monday. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

It was a bit reminiscent of the “Who’s on First?” skit when the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees held is annual reorganizational meeting on Monday.

The normally routine matter of appointing members to various regulatory boards left village board members, members of the boards themselves and the public confused.

The trouble started when the board discussed appointments to the Harbor Committee. A resolution on the agenda listed current member Stephen Clarke Jr., Bay Burger restaurant owner Joseph Tremblay and John Shaka of Save Sag Harbor as potential appointees to the committee, which oversees the approval of wetlands permits and compliance with the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP).

When Mayor Brian Gilbride said that the term of the committee’s chairman, Bruce Tait, had expired, fellow board members asked whether he meant his term as chairman or his term on the board.

Mr. Gilbride did not have the answer to that and neither did Village Clerk Beth Kamper, who said she would have to check the village records to find out.

Mr. Gilbride also questioned whether Dr. Tom Halton and Mr. Clarke should be replaced, noting that they had missed a number of meetings, although Dr. Halton’s term has not expired.

In the end, the board took no action, promising to revisit the appointments at an upcoming work session, perhaps as early as this Thursday morning, July 10.

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Gilbride said he was trying to give Harbor Committee members a wakeup call that they should be more vigilant about attending meetings and be better prepared to exercise their duties of enforcing the village’s LWRP.

It lit a fuse under Mr. Tait. “They don’t like me because I was an opponent of the mayor,” he said on Tuesday, referring to the last mayoral race. “Fine, I get that. I have thick skin.”

“My term as chairman is one year, they can appoint whoever they want,” he continued, “but I’m appointed to a five-year term, and it began when I signed my name in the big book when I took my oath of office.”

Mr. Tait said it was his understanding that he still had two years remaining on his term. “You can’t remove me for those two years without due process,” he said.

At a Harbor Committee meeting last month, a visibly frustrated Mr. Tait said the committee was being bogged down by development applications and could not devote the time he would like to devote to policy issues. Plus, he added, when the committee gave approvals, the village did not enforce the code to make sure the restrictions it imposed were being adhered to.

“If they do appoint a new chairman, I may or may not resign from the board,” Mr. Tait said, adding that he would like to continue to serve the village because “I have things I want to accomplish that I have not been able to get done.”

At Mayor Gilbride’s request, the board appointed newly elected Trustee Sandra Schroeder to replace Trustee Robby Stein as deputy mayor.

“It is certainly not anything against Robby,” the mayor said afterward. “He did a great job although sometimes we saw things differently.”

The appointment of Ms. Schroeder, who also opposed the mayor in the previous election should not be taken for any more that “she’s a long-time village employee started out in clerk’s office, became clerk, became administrator and who knows how things are run,” said Mayor Gilbride.

The board also appointed Gregory Ferraris as chairman of the Planning Board after Neil Slevin, the current chairman, resigned, citing personal reasons, the mayor said. Mr. Slevin, though, was appointed as alternate member to the Zoning Board of Appeals, whose chairman, Anton Hagen, was also reappointed.

“Neil’s personal life has commanded him to allocate his time differently,” the mayor said. “He wants to stay involved without sacrificing other things.”

The board named James Larocca to the Planning Board and reappointed Larry Perrine.

The board also reappointed Cee Scott Brown as chairman of the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review. His appointment was called into question by Mr. Stein who said he had been approached by several people who were concerned that Mr. Brown is a Corcoran real estate agent and represents the Watchcase condominium project.

“I don’t have any question about Cee’s professionalism,” Mr. Stein said.

“I’ve been told he’s very professional, he’s very knowledgeable, and he is fair,” said Ms. Schroeder.

Christine Patrick and Penni Ludwig were reappointed to the ARB and John Connor was named its alternate member.

Update: Sag Harbor School Board Approves New Teachers Contract

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Art teacher Laurie DeVito in her classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Photo by Michael Heller.

Art teacher Laurie DeVito in her classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Sag Harbor Board of Education announced at its annual reorganizational meeting on Monday that it had reached a contract agreement with the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH).

With unanimous approval from the board, the contract was settled before the current one expires for the first time in recent memory and only the second time in the district’s history.

“It was a sign of all of us working together collaboratively and we’re proud to have all of you in the district teaching our children,” Theresa Samot, president of the school board, said Monday.

The last contract negotiations took over two years and became quite heated, with teachers protesting the lack of a settlement by wearing black t-shirts to school for months. After the contracts expired in August 2008, the union and the school district did not decide on a new agreement until December 2010.

The new three-year contract is in effect from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2017. The agreement between the district and the union will increase the 2013-14 salary schedule by 0.7 percent. For each of 2014-15 and 2015-16, salaries will be increased by 0.75 percent.

During the term of the three-year contract, TASH members will contribute 17.5 percent of the premium costs for employee health and dental insurance, the same amount they’ve been paying since July 1, 2010. Starting June 30, 2017, members of TASH will have to contribute 20 percent of those costs.

“I just want to say thank you and how happy we are that we have settled this contract and approved it tonight,” said Ms. Samot.

Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, added the contract is “respectable both to the needs of the district and of the employee.”

The increases are significantly lower than those in the previous contract, which retroactively gave teachers a 2.5-percent salary increase for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, a 2.65-percent increase for the 2010-11 school year, a 2.7-percent increase for 2011-12 and a 2.6-percent increase for 2012-13.

“Finalizing the contract agreement through 2017 is a very good way to begin the new school year,” the district’s new Superintendent Katy Graves, who was sworn in at the meeting Monday, said in a press release. “It clearly shows the strong relationship and common goals shared between the board, administration and teachers union.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, Ms. Graves and new school board member Diana Kolhoff took the oath of office.

Having just finished her ninth year on the board, Ms. Samot was again elected president on a motion brought by Ms. Tice and seconded by Susan Kinsella.

“I just want to thank Theresa because most people don’t realize how much time it takes to be president,” said Ms. Tice, adding, “Your dedication is very appreciated and you’ve done a great job.”

Board member David Diskin said how important it is in this period of transition—with a new superintendent and several administrative positions to fill—to have Ms. Samot return to her leadership position.

Ms. Kinsella nominated Ms. Tice to again be vice president, a motion that was seconded by Mr. Diskin.

The board meeting Monday was the first one to be filmed, although not broadcast, in the trial period of the district’s new videotaping of board meetings policy, which aims to increase transparency and public access to the goings-on of the school board. Future meetings will also be broadcast live on LTV and SEA-TV.

Ms. Graves told the small crowd gathered in the Pierson Middle/High School library that, having worked in the district for only four days, she was unable to share her entry plan just yet, but would provide a detailed plan of action at the July 28 board meeting.

The board appointed J. Wayne Shiernat as interim athletic director, filling the position left vacant by Todd Gulluscio’s resignation last month. Mr. Shiernat worked part time in the district prior to the hiring of Mr. Gulluscio two years ago.

“He’s going to be part time and he’ll be starting immediately tomorrow, because we are working without an athletic director at this time and a lot of very important scheduling items happen at this time,” Ms. Graves said.

Mr. Shiernat will work for four hours a day, five days a week at a daily rate of $325, with a maximum pay of $35,750. He will act as interim for up to 110 days from Tuesday, July 8, through December 19.

The board debated whether it is financially pertinent and necessary to have a full-time athletic director. Ms. Kolhoff suggested looking at sharing services with the Bridgehampton School District, but Ms. Graves said they had already reached out to that district but had not heard back yet.

“We have to proof sharing, we have to,” added Ms. Graves, “and maybe this is the part where we start.”

Board member Daniel Hartnett worried that having a full-time athletic director would require funds that could be used to keep the district’s 62 teams strong and intact and benefit the children more directly.

Former board member Mary Anne Miller, on the audience side of the meeting for the first time in years, and community member John Battle stressed the importance of addressing the health and wellness portion of the position.

In the end, the district decided to move forward with the applications it has received using a similar job description to that under which Mr. Gulluscio was hired, as director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness and Personnel.

“My recommendation with my four days here is to do what’s best for kids and that is to provide as much leadership as possible,” said Ms. Graves.

A Different Kind of Home on Show in Sag Harbor

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“House of The Whale,” by Scott Bluedorn.

By Mara Certic

A house is a walled structure with a roof and a floor and a number of other features. A home, however, is typically defined in a more abstract manner: where the heart is, where one starts from or, according to Emily Dickinson, where thou art. This ambiguity and flexibility is mirrored in “A Different Kind of Home/ Show” on view at Dodds & Eder in Sag Harbor.

Curator Kathy Zeiger, who is also the founder and director of ArtWalk Hamptons, was inspired to put on the exhibition after seeing “House of the Whale,” an ink drawing by local artist Scott Bluedorn.

“I just thought that’s so interesting,” she said of the drawing. “There are a lot of home shows that go on in the Hamptons. I’m going to do a different kind of home show.” And so the project was born.

“I have always been inspired by nautical things,” Mr. Bluedorn said in an interview on Monday. “The initial inspiration for the entire series was photographs that I took on a trip to Nova Scotia last year, and a lot of the old fishing houses, which are similar to the ones we have,” said the artist, who grew up in East Hampton.

His intricate drawings show a hybridization of nature and architecture. “I’ve always been very involved with detail in my drawings; I’ve always used texture,” he said. “That’s why shingles are such a big part of the series.”

Ms. Zeiger was determined to make this “not just your typical kind of home show,” but still wanted a homey and cozy element, which is why she chose to include textiles artist Casey Dalene. Ms. Dalene, a native of North Carolina who has lived full-time in East Hampton for the past decade, has decorated “the front nook” of the Dodds & Eder showroom for the exhibition. “I thought she would be great as ‘home sweet home,’” Ms. Zeiger said.

“I want this space to feel really warm and inviting and that’s why I chose to use drapery frames,” said Ms. Dalene who also has decorated the area with hand-painted pillows and six acrylic paintings on paper. Ms. Dalene “loves showing the artist’s hand in the work,” she said, explaining her use of obvious paintbrush strokes.

Through working with John Cino, a sculptor and the president of the Patchogue Arts Council , Ms. Zeiger met Paul Farinacci, an artist and sculptor based on the North Shore of Nassau County.

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Exterior and interior views of Paul Farinacci’s multi-media sculpture, “Assisted Living”

“He’s fantastic,” she said. “I was floored.”

For the past few years, Mr. Farinacci has been creating multi-media architectural pieces that are “kind of a response to how our private and public lives are getting blended together,” he said.

At first glance, Mr. Farinacci’s structures look like miniature papier-mâché buildings. “If they’re not in a room that’s totally dark [viewrs] don’t know to look inside,” the artist said of his sculptures.  But when spectators peek inside the handcrafted buildings, they catch a glimpse of the “dirty little secrets hidden within.” Mr. Farinacci at first used nightlights to illuminate interiors, but has since started wiring his own lights to brighten up the interiors.

Much of his artwork touches on controversial issues ranging from body image to big business. One structure, a small house within a cage, reveals on closer examination a slightly bewildered elderly woman inside, sitting alone with a cat.  Described by the artist as a commentary on the elderly, that piece is called “Assisted Living.”

Mr. Farinacci builds his sculptures entirely from recyclable paper and other materials related to the subject at hand. “I save everything you can think of,” he said.

“I get excited about artwork, I get excited about artists and I get excited about the process,” Ms. Zeiger said.

“Alexis Duque is a wonderful artist,” she said of the Colombian-born painter who now calls New York City home.

Mr. Duque creates highly detailed, whimsical acrylic paintings of cityscapes on canvas for his series “Metropolis,” which will be on view as part of the show. “I like the possibility of imagining and recreating my experience in the big city,” he wrote.

Ms. Zeiger noted similarities between the intricacies of the works of Mr. Duque and Mr. Bluedorn.

“How am I going to do something that breaks up the eye?” Ms. Zeiger asked herself. The curator always tries to include paintings, sculptures and photography, she said. Esperanza Leon recommended the mixed media artworks of Long Island artist Darlene Charneco, which “explore ways of seeing our human settlements, communication networks and communities as part of a larger organism’s growth stage,” the artist wrote.

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“Pondview Estates” by Darlene Charneco

“Pondview Estates” is made from resin and mixed media on wood; it is a commentary on “suburban developments encroaching,” Ms. Charneco said. “Humanity only partially aware of the land it is a part of.”

Ms. Charneco’s “dreamscapes and storage memories” got Ms. Zeiger thinking about “how we contain our own memories, and how we, as individuals, are our own personal homes,” she said.

The idea of each of us as our own home, she said, inspired her to exhibit portraits by Brooklyn-based Israeli photographer Rafael Fuchs. Mr. Fuchs moved to New York from Tel Aviv in the 1980s. He is a well-known commercial and entertainment photographer, and has done portraits of a diverse group including Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Regis Philban and David Blaine.

“Art doesn’t necessarily have to be new to be found,” Ms. Zeiger said: A portrait of Michael McKean of “Spinal Tap” fame taken in the late ’90s is included in the show at Dodds & Eder.

Rafael Fuchs is “like the mayor of Bushwick,” Ms. Zeiger said. Several years ago he did a series of portraits of artists from his neighborhood that included Mr. Bluedorn, who was living there at the time.

“There’s a connection all the time between artists,” said Ms. Zeiger. “It’s just like what happened with Pollack and deKooning, and it’s happening again. There’s a whole new generation of artists who are coming through. It’s simmering, it’s getting ready to go pop!”

 An opening reception for “A Different Kind of Home/ Show will be held at Dodds & Eder, 11 Bridge Street, Sag Harbor from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 12.

Galleries from Sag Harbor to South Korea Converge in Water Mill for 7th Annual ArtHamptons

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"Unnamed IV," 2012-13 by Bob Dylan. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

“Unnamed IV,” 2012-13 by Bob Dylan. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Touching art is generally frowned upon, but Bob Dylan encourages it. In his sculpture, “Untitled IV, 2012-2013,” welded iron objects, many of them vintage, are configured into a giant sculpture on the wall, complete with wrenches, wheels and a lever viewers are welcome to crank.

The singer-songwriter’s artwork was on display Thursday at the launch celebration of ArtHamptons, which opened with “Bob Dylan: The Drawn Blank Series” at Mark Borghi Fine Art in Bridgehampton.

The show was reflective of the weekend it previewed. It questioned what art is, with the musician’s paintings of naked women and city apartments next to crumpled up sculptures by John Chamberlain. It celebrated lesser known artists and multi-faceted, non-conforming talent, featuring a man well known for his music but relatively unknown for his artwork. And it brought in a crowd of local gallery owners, noted personalities and regulars on the East End’s art scene.

“Dylan’s work is a visual extension of his lyrical genius,” said Mike Pintauro, curatorial assistant at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. “Esoteric and personal, energetic and slightly deranged.”

ArtHamptons, which takes place at NOVA’s Ark on Millstone Road in Bridgehampton, has been one of the East End’s largest fine art fairs for the past six summers and the seventh edition promises to be the most diverse yet, with art of varied mediums, styles and prices from across the world.

“It’s the largest selection ever,” founder and president Rick Friedman said on Monday, July 7.

Organized by Hamptons Expo Group, ArtHamptons will present more than 80 global art galleries, featuring 2,000 works from some 500 artists.

Although there is considerable international involvement, the fair remains dedicated first and foremost to the local creative talent abundant on the East End. The theme this year is “Escape,” reflective of the idyllic calm that can still be found in some corners of the East End—even in the summertime.

“There’s a lot of local galleries from the Hamptons showing a lot of local artists,” Mr. Friedman said. “We always have a touch of our relationship with the Hamptons art movement of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s.”

“ArtHamptons is a celebration of the arts in the Hamptons,” said Mr. Friedman. “We’re celebrating that we have such an extraordinarily creative community.”

Local galleries such as RJD Gallery, Bridgehampton Fine Art, Tulla Booth Gallery, Monika Olko Gallery and Chase Edwards Gallery will have booths at the fair.

American representational painter Jane Freilicher, who has a home in Water Mill, and avant-garde theater artist Robert Wilson, founder of the Watermill Center, will be honored.

"IGNAATZ," 1961 painted cut metal by John Chamberlain. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

“IGNAATZ,” 1961 painted cut metal by John Chamberlain. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Galleries are coming to Water Mill this weekend from as close as Sag Harbor and as far away as Hiroshima; with 12 countries represented, the show is more international this year than ever in the past.

The Villa del Arte Gallery of Catalonia, which has spaces in Barcelona and Amsterdam, is bringing the work of Fernando Adam, Karenina Fabrizzi and Claudia Meyer, among others. In “Hybrid ML2” by Christiaan Lieverse, mixed media, cowhide and resin are combined on canvas to create a streaked gray woman’s face with sharp eyes that are hard to turn away from.

The French Art Gallery is bringing the work of esteemed French artists such as Nanan and Pierre-Francois Grimaldo from its gallery in Kensington, London, to the East End.  Dedicated to exposing the vibrant street art scene in France, the gallery is also bringing innovative artists like Speedy Graphito, a pioneer of the French Street Art movement since the early 1980s.

Envie d’Art Galleries, located in Paris and London, will be on hand with a broad and diverse collection that aims to promote artists on an international scale, with exhibitions in cities like Brussels, Chicago, Milan and, Singapore and now Water Mill.

The 418 Art Gallery from Bucharest, Romania, 308 Arte Contemporaneo of La Habana, Cuba and Art Company MISOOLSIDAE from Seoul, South Korea, will also have booths at the fair.

Several galleries from Korea will be present, which “encourages viewers to experience a not so familiar world in a contemporary setting—opening up the culture to new interpretations while further contextualizing the artists’ ideas,” Mr. Friedman said in a press release.

ArtHamptons is Thursday, July 10, through Sunday, July 13, at the Sculpture Fields of NOVA’s Ark in Bridgehampton, located at 30 Millstone Road in Water Mill. For more information and a complete schedule of events, call (631) 283-5505 or visit arthamptons.com.

Sag Harbor School Board Approves Teachers Contract

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Sag Harbor Elementary School art teacher Lauri DeVito in her classroom. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

At its annual organizational meeting Monday night, the Sag Harbor Board of Education approved a new teachers contract with the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH).

The contract was settled before the current one expires for the first time in recent memory.

“It was a sign of all of us working together collaboratively and we’re proud to have all of you in the district teaching our children,” Theresa Samot, president of the school board, said Monday.

The last contract negotiations took over two years and became quite heated, with teachers protesting the lack of a settlement by wearing black t-shirts to school for months. After the contracts expired in August 2008, a new agreement was not approved by both the union and the school district until December 2010.

The details of the new contract are forthcoming.

Sylvester Manor Educational Farm Receives Historic Gift from Sylvester Family Descendants

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Sylvester family descendants Eben Fiske Ostby and Bennett Konesni toast with personnel of the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm to the official transfer of land at the Farm to Table Dinner Saturday, June 28. Photo by David Vaughan.

Sylvester family descendants Eben Fiske Ostby and Bennett Konesni toast with County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and personnel of the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm to the official transfer of land at the Farm to Table Dinner Saturday, June 28. Photo by David Vaughan.

By Tessa Raebeck

Growing up, Eben Fiske Ostby visited his aunt Alice and uncle Andy on Shelter Island several times a year. Playing on the grounds of their family’s estate, Sylvester Manor, he had no idea that the hundreds of acres of woods, wetlands and farms would one day be his.

“When I learned of the inheritance,” Mr. Ostby said in an email Monday, June 30, “I started learning about ways we could preserve it and its lands. The Peconic Land Trust was very helpful in advising me about ways to do that. Eventually we set about forming a nonprofit to preserve it.”

On June 23, Mr. Ostby capitalized on all he had learned, donating the 1737 manor house, its grounds and barns, the 1810 windmill, farm fields and woodlands—a total of about 142 acres—to the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, a nonprofit he and his nephew Bennett Konesni founded four years ago in hopes of putting their land to the best possible use.

The land gift, the largest in the history of Shelter Island and one of the most significant land transfers on Long Island, brings the family’s donation to Sylvester Manor Educational Farm to a total of 225 acres.

“Last week was a big one for Sylvester Manor,” said Cara Loriz, executive director of the nonprofit.

“By whatever measures you might come up with, it is among one of the very most significant outright gifts ever made anywhere,” said Sara Gordon, the nonprofit’s strategic director. “Now that it has been passed on by the family, we have just a blessed opportunity.”

Mr. Ostby, who upon his aunt and uncle’s passing became the 14th lord of the manor, is a direct descendant of Nathaniel Sylvester, who co-purchased Shelter Island in 1651 and was its first white settler.

Spirits were high at the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm's Farm-to-Table Dinner Saturday, June 28. Photo by David Vaughan.

Spirits were high at the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm’s Farm-to-Table Dinner Saturday, June 28. Photo by David Vaughan.

Over its 363-year history, Sylvester Manor has given shelter to persecuted Quakers, operated as a slaveholding plantation with African and Native American laborers, and housed 11 generations of Sylvester descendants.

Throughout that history, the Sylvester family’s ownership of Shelter Island has shrunk from the entire island to several hundred acres, but the land continued to be passed from generation to generation, ultimately ending in Mr. Ostby’s hands.

Rather than let the manor fall into disuse or allow the Sylvester land to continue to be parceled up in order to maintain the manor grounds, Mr. Ostby, with some convincing from his nephew Mr. Konesni, decided on forming a nonprofit as the best means of preservation.

“The idea was to find a use for the manor that would fit in with the culture of Shelter Island,” said Mr. Ostby. “My nephew Bennett was and is passionate about food, so we chose that as a focal point.”

“Bennett at that point,” said Ms. Gordon, “had decided on this vision for this educational farm that would also revive the agrarian culture and agriculture and seek to create a working environment that was joyous and fair and really explore and celebrate the culture of food in all aspects.”

“And to open up the gates at this place to the community—to make it a place that welcomes everyone,” she added.

Mr. Ostby first donated a 22-acre conservation easement to the Peconic Land Trust in 2009 and then gifted an additional 83 acres of historic fields and pastures, preserved indefinitely as farmland through town, country and federal conservation programs, in 2012. The total value of property gifts from Mr. Ostby is valued at approximately $22 million, with the most recent 142-acre gift appraised at $12.3 million. Of the nonprofit’s total 225 acres of land, 103 acres are now preserved.

In accordance with the wishes of his aunt Alice Fiske, Mr. Ostby also gave the manor’s longtime caretaker Gunnar Wissemann a small cottage he and his family have resided in for over 20 years.

In similar stories across the East End, family land is sold to developers and divvied up into subdivisions of Mcmansions, but the Sylvester descendants weren’t going to let that happen on Shelter Island.

Now, Mr. Konesni said, “The nonprofit organization owns its own land. It owns the land that it’s preserving, owns the land that it’s stewarding and sharing—and that’s a big deal.”

“It’s not just my family anymore,” he added. “It’s really a community organization now.”

Having ownership of the manor house, buildings and grounds enables the nonprofit to raise money for restoration of the buildings, which it couldn’t do before. They can now move forward on restoring the manor house, the windmill and the barns.

“It’s really a new beginning,” said Ms. Gordon. “That’s how it feels in a way, we feel now the work really starts.”

Mr. Konesni’s motivation to transfer the land came from three impulses: the precedent of other estates that were successfully turned into educational farms, such as the Rockefeller estate in the Hudson Valley and the Vanderbilt estate in Vermont; the notion that a nonprofit would share the burden and make sure professionals are at the helm; and stopping “the pattern of chopping up and selling off land in order to fund the place,” he said.

“We used to own the entire island,” he said, “and then we split it up and sold it off and that has helped fund the next generation of dwellers and to me, actually, that pattern can only go on so long before everything’s gone.”

“This place deserved to be around and to have the stories told for another 363 years and the only way that was going to happen was to really share the burden,” added Mr. Konesni.

Mr. Konesni and Mr. Ostby will continue to be involved in the management of the nonprofit. Mr. Ostby, who lives in California and works at Pixar, is acting as president of the board of directors. Mr. Konesni, a Maine native, is staying on as founder and special projects advisor.

“I focus on the long-term vision in making sure that our operations really fit with the original intention of the gift and the non-profit,” Mr. Konesni said of his role.

The family is retaining 11.7 acres of wetlands and woodland along the creek, which cannot be built upon without town approval of a formal subdivision.

“I also wanted to retain a family connection to the island, thus the retained lot,” said Mr. Ostby, who will give the parcel to his daughter Fiona.

“They’ve been here since the purchase of the whole island in 1651 and it’s important to all of us that the Sylvester descendants continue to have a role here—it’s a big part of the story,” Ms. Gordon said.

One of the nonprofit’s visions, she added, is that the day will come when kids who are biking home from school naturally turn their bikes into the Sylvester Manor driveway.

“It’s a rare thing to be in a place or to work in a place where you can feel that—when you know that what’s happening today is historic, in the sense that it’s going to be part of this long unbroken story here,” said Ms. Gordon.

John Jermain Memorial Library’s Annual House Tour Shows Sag Harbor’s Living History

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The bathroom at Delores and Phil D'Angelo's homre on Glover Street. Photo by Delores D'Angelo.

The bathroom at Delores and Phil D’Angelo’s homre on Glover Street. Photo by Delores D’Angelo.

By Tessa Raebeck

Delores D’Angelo’s home in Sag Harbor isn’t particularly big or professionally decorated. She calls it her “little dream house” because it’s unique, peaceful and filled with mementos—and grandchildren.

“I think it’s a little surprising when you walk in,” Ms. D’Angelo said Thursday, July 3. “I just have a lot of stuff that I like.”

The timber-peg home on Glover Street is one of five that will be featured on the annual Sag Harbor House Tour, put on by the Friends of the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) Friday, July 11. The houses, four in Sag Harbor and one in North Haven, were selected for their variety, individuality, and for being lived in homes rather than cookie-cutter models. The tour has been ongoing for some 40 or 50 years, but the organizers never fall short of finding unique houses to showcase.

The home Ms. D’Angelo shares with her husband Phil, their Labrador and whatever kids and grandchildren are home was built in 1987 and overlooks Sag Harbor’s tranquil Upper Cove.

“It’s all pre-cut,” Ms. D’Angelo explained. The frame is put up first, she said, followed by the interior walls, electricity, insulation and last, the shingles, resulting in a colonial-style exterior.

The D'Angelos home on Glover Street. Photo by Delores D'Angelo.

The D’Angelos home on Glover Street. Photo by Delores D’Angelo.

“It’s like a barn. They raise all the timbers up,” she said. And that was exciting—to turn the corner on Long Island Avenue and see this structure where there had been nothing for so long. It was just a wonderful thing and we love Sag Harbor, so it was really the best of both worlds to be here.”

The D’Angelo’s have transformed the timber-peg model into their family home by sticking to what they like. They love to watch the wildlife, so, rather than a neatly manicured backyard, they keep it friendly for visiting animals. While many people erect fences and douse their plants with sprays to ward off deer, the D’Angelo’s prefer having those neighbors stop by for a snack.

“It’s just a very peaceful—I think it’s a sweet little house,” Ms. D’Angelo said. “It’s very lived in…It’s not a pristine—maybe that’s the difference, it’s just a real family home.”

In addition to children, the house is filled with various items collected over the years—there’s something to look at in every corner.

Ann Lieber, who is on the library’s board of trustees and helps choose the homes on the tour, said she is excited about the D’Angelo’s house because it “has so many things that they’ve collected that are important to them and it’s been part of [their lives], things from their childhood, etc.”

The Friends of the Library choose homes like the D’Angelo’s for that exact reason—their authenticity.

“I think the big thing is that they’ve all taken things that were part of their families and their lives and have made them part of their very lovely homes,” said Ms. Lieber. “That’s one of the really nice things.”

“We have homes that the families have decorated with things that are important to them, rather than somebody just coming in and decorating,” she added. “I really feel like each home is individually styled with things that matter to them.”

The North Haven house is home to Susan Edwards and Ian Ziskin, the fifth generation of a Sag Harbor family, with furnishings collected from the couple’s former homes and the lives of those five generations. Ms. Edwards and Mr. Ziskin decorated the house by re-creating their favorite pieces from the 10 houses they formerly owned across the country. In addition to a large collection of art and sculpture, the Western, Prairie and Craftsman style house, which overlooks Genet Creek with views of Shelter Island, offers a living history of Sag Harbor.

Architect Scott Baker renewed a 1926 Sears Roebuck pre-fab house on Franklin Avenue with a 1,250-square foot addition in 2007 when Norah McCormack and Gordon Boals purchased the house. In the grand “great room,” light shines through the soaring ceiling from all directions. The house has a twin across the street and legend has it that two sisters who feuded without speaking for 20 years lived in the homes.

A Hampton Street home owned by Ki Hackney Hribar and Carl Hribar was built in 1790 as a simple one-story dwelling. Captain Jonas Winters expanded it in 1853 and it was again modified in the Victorian style in the 1920s. When the Hribars moved in, they reclaimed the pine-plank floors and beams from the original 1790 roof and added a few modern touches, such as a window seat and a “ship’s staircase,” which has brass railings, bead-board and rope trim.

“They’ve taken a really old house and opened it up and it’s just beautiful,” said Ms. Lieber. “And they too have many things that are part of their family life.”

Another historic home is that of Anton Hagen and Linley Pennebaker on Main Street. The Greek Revival-turned-Federal was built in 1840 and rotated by 90 degrees and converted into the Colonial style in the 1940s. Continuous renovations since Mr. Hagen purchased the home in 1980 include furniture designed by Mr. Hagen and family antiques, folk rugs and other collectibles.

In addition to showcasing the varied tastes and extensive histories of Sag Harbor residents and their village, the JJML House Tour is a major fundraiser for the library’s programs.

The proceeds, co-chair Chris Tice said Monday, are “what pays for all the programs that the library provides for the community.”

“That’s why the house tour is so important for the community and for the library,” she added.

The John Jermain Memorial Library House Tour is Friday, July 11, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $45 if purchased in advance and are available at the library’s temporary location at 34 West Water Street and at the Wharf Shop, located at 69 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Tickets purchased on the day of the event are $50 and will only be available at the library. For more information, call (631) 725-0049 or visit johnjermain.org.

Sylvester Manor Educational Farm Receives Historic Gift from Descendants of the Sylvester Family

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Sylvester family descendants Eben Fiske Ostby and Bennett Konesni toast with personnel of the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm to the official transfer of land at the Farm to Table Dinner Saturday, June 28. Photo by David Vaughan.

Sylvester family descendants Eben Fiske Ostby and Bennett Konesni toast with personnel of the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm to the official transfer of land at the Farm-to-Table Dinner Saturday, June 28. Photo by David Vaughan.

By Tessa Raebeck

Growing up, Eben Fiske Ostby visited his aunt Alice and uncle Andy on Shelter Island several times a year. Playing on the grounds of their family’s estate, Sylvester Manor, he had no idea that the hundreds of acres of woods, wetlands and farms would one day be his.

“When I learned of the inheritance,” Mr. Ostby said in an email Monday, June 30, “I started learning about ways we could preserve it and its lands. The Peconic Land Trust was very helpful in advising me about ways to do that. Eventually we set about forming a nonprofit to preserve it.”

On June 23, Mr. Ostby capitalized on all he had learned, donating the 1737 manor house, its grounds and barns, the 1810 windmill, farm fields and woodlands—a total of about 142 acres—to the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, a nonprofit he and his nephew Bennett Konesni founded four years ago in hopes of putting their land to the best possible use.

The land gift, the largest in the history of Shelter Island and one of the most significant land transfers on Long Island, brings the family’s donation to Sylvester Manor Educational Farm to a total of 225 acres.

Spirits were high at the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm's Farm-to-Table Dinner Saturday, June 28. Photo by David Vaughan.

Spirits were high at the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm’s Farm-to-Table Dinner Saturday, June 28. Photo by David Vaughan.

“Last week was a big one for Sylvester Manor,” said Cara Loriz, executive director of the nonprofit.

“By whatever measures you might come up with, it is among one of the very most significant outright gifts ever made anywhere,” said Sara Gordon, the nonprofit’s strategic director. “Now that it has been passed on by the family, we have just a blessed opportunity.”

Mr. Ostby, who upon his aunt and uncle’s passing became the 14th lord of the manor, is a direct descendant of Nathaniel Sylvester, who co-purchased Shelter Island in 1651 and was its first white settler.

Over its 363-year history, Sylvester Manor has given shelter to persecuted Quakers, operated as a slaveholding plantation with African and Native American laborers, and housed 11 generations of Sylvester descendants.

Throughout that history, the Sylvester family’s ownership of Shelter Island has shrunk from the entire island to several hundred acres, but the land continued to be passed from generation to generation, ultimately ending in Mr. Ostby’s hands.

Rather than let the manor fall into disuse or allow the Sylvester land to continue to be parceled up in order to maintain the manor grounds, Mr. Ostby, with some convincing from his nephew Mr. Konesni, decided on forming a nonprofit as the best means of preservation.

“The idea was to find a use for the manor that would fit in with the culture of Shelter Island,” said Mr. Ostby. “My nephew Bennett was and is passionate about food, so we chose that as a focal point.”

“Bennett at that point,” said Ms. Gordon, “had decided on this vision for this educational farm that would also revive the agrarian culture and agriculture and seek to create a working environment that was joyous and fair and really explore and celebrate the culture of food in all aspects.”

“And to upon up the gates at this place to the community—to make it a place that welcomes everyone,” she added.

Mr. Ostby first donated a 22-acre conservation easement to the Peconic Land Trust in 2009 and then gifted an additional 83 acres of historic fields and pastures, preserved indefinitely as farmland through town, country and federal conservation programs, in 2012. The total value of property gifts from Mr. Ostby is valued at approximately $22 million, with the most recent 142-acre gift appraised at $12.3 million. Of the nonprofit’s total 225 acres of land, 103 acres are now preserved.

In accordance with the wishes of his aunt Alice Fiske, Mr. Ostby also gave the manor’s longtime caretaker Gunnar Wissemann a small cottage he and his family have resided in for over 20 years.

The crowd gathered behind the manor house at the Farm-To-Table Dinner at Sylvester Manor Educational Farm Saturday, June 28. Photo by David Vaughan.

The crowd gathered behind the manor house at the Farm-To-Table Dinner at Sylvester Manor Educational Farm Saturday, June 28. Photo by David Vaughan.

In similar stories across the East End, family land is sold to developers and divvied up into subdivisions of Mcmansions, but the Sylvester descendants weren’t going to let that happen on Shelter Island.

Now, Mr. Konesni said, “The nonprofit organization owns its own land. It owns the land that it’s preserving, owns the land that it’s stewarding and sharing—and that’s a big deal.”

“It’s not just my family anymore,” he added. “It’s really a community organization now.”

Having ownership of the manor house, buildings and grounds enables the nonprofit to raise money for restoration of the buildings, which it couldn’t do before. They can now move forward on restoring the manor house, the windmill and the barns.

“It’s really a new beginning,” said Ms. Gordon. “That’s how it feels in a way, we feel now the work really starts.”

Mr. Konesni’s motivation to transfer the land came from three impulses: the precedent of other estates that were successfully turned into educational farms, such as the Rockefeller estate in the Hudson Valley and the Vanderbilt estate in Vermont; the notion that a nonprofit would share the burden and make sure professionals are at the helm; and stopping “the pattern of chopping up and selling off land in order to fund the place,” he said.

“We used to own the entire island,” he said, “and then we split it up and sold it off and that has helped fund the next generation of dwellers and to me, actually, that pattern can only go on so long before everything’s gone.”

“This place deserved to be around and to have the stories told for another 363 years and the only way that was going to happen was to really share the burden,” added Mr. Konesni.

Mr. Konesni and Mr. Ostby will continue to be involved in the management of the nonprofit. Mr. Ostby, who lives in California and works at Pixar, is acting as president of the board of directors. Mr. Konesni, a Maine native, is staying on as founder and special projects advisor.

“I focus on the long-term vision in making sure that our operations really fit with the original intention of the gift and the non-profit,” Mr. Konesni said of his role.

The family is retaining 11.7 acres of wetlands and woodland along the creek, which cannot be built upon without town approval of a formal subdivision.

“I also wanted to retain a family connection to the island, thus the retained lot,” said Mr. Ostby, who will give the parcel to his daughter Fiona.

“They’ve been here since the purchase of the whole island in 1651 and it’s important to all of us that the Sylvester descendants continue to have a role here—it’s a big part of the story,” Ms. Gordon said.

One of the nonprofit’s visions, she added, is that the day will come when kids who are biking home from school naturally turn their bikes into the Sylvester Manor driveway.

“It’s a rare thing to be in a place or to work in a place where you can feel that—when you know that what’s happening today is historic, in the sense that it’s going to be part of this long unbroken story here,” said Ms. Gordon.

East End Weekend: Highlights of July Fourth Weekend

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Casey Evans in a San Lorenzo bikini.

Casey Evans in a San Lorenzo bikini on the beach in East Hampton.

By Tessa Raebeck

Norma Jean Pilates and San Lorenzo Bikinis are hosting a party in Sag Harbor tonight, Thursday, July 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. The event is celebrating the East Coast launch of San Lorenzo Bikinis. Guests can shop for bikinis, enjoy “bikini-friendly bites” and enter contests for “amazing” giveaways from local businesses like Happy Bowls, Flying Point and Wampum. Norma Jean Pilates is located at 52 Main Street in Sag Harbor.

To RSVP to the private party, email Abigail Gawronski at argawronski@gmail.com.

 

Mark Borghi Fine Art in Bridgehampton will showcase Bob Dylan’s work July 4 to July 18. “The Drawn Blank Series” showcases the musician’s colorful paintings and will be celebrated with an opening reception Thursday, July 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Mark Borghi Fine Art, 2426 Main Street in Bridgehampton. For more information or to RSVP, call (631) 537-7245 or visit borghi.org.

 

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“Art on the Edge” opens at Vered Contemporary in East Hampton SaturdayJuly 5, with an opening reception from 9 to 11 p.m. The expanded exhibition, an annual survey of the contemporary art of new and provocative painters, sculptors and photographers, will be on view July 5 to August 4. Nineteen modern artists will be featured.

The gallery is located at 68 Park Place in East Hampton.For more information, call (631) 324-3303 or visit veredcontemporary.com.

 

“Positivilly Marvillainous” opens at the Eric Firestone Gallery with an opening reception Saturday, July 5, from 6 to 9 p.m.

“Expanding on tradition doesn’t necessarily demand the push towards perfection or a high polish,” the gallery said in a press release. “Rather, it can entail building on established conventions in a particular artist’s unique voice. Today, contemporary artists, knowingly or unknowingly, reference George Herriman’s historically overlooked, unpretentious and universally accessible fantasy, Krazy Kat, a comic strip that ran in American newspapers from 1913 until 1944. The artists in Positivilly Marvillainous embrace tensions, arising from Herriman’s formal qualities in character portrayal, including those between line and shade, humor and drama, human and animal, collage and décollage, marvelous and villainous.”

The Eric Firestone Gallery is located at 4 Newtown Lane in East Hampton. For more information, call (631) 604-2386 or visit ericfirestonegallery.com.