Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor"

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.

After Teaching Multiple Generations of Sag Harbor’s 4-Year-Olds, Sue Daniels Retires

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Sue Daniels with her 1991 class at the Tuller School, many of whom graduated with the Pierson class of 2014. Photo courtesy Sue Daniels.

Sue Daniels with her 2001 class at the Tuller School, many of whom graduated with the Pierson class of 2014. Photo courtesy Sue Daniels.

By Tessa Raebeck

When Sue Daniels’s 4-year-old students grow into adults and have 4-year-olds of their own, they instinctively know where to send their children for preschool: wherever Sue Daniels is.

Ms. Daniels, who has educated Sag Harbor’s prekindergarten students through three different schools, two generations and three decades, saw her last graduation June 13, as she retired from the Rainbow School this month.

Sue Daniels, who has educated generations of Sag Harbor 4-year-olds, in her garden Monday, June 30. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Sue Daniels, who has educated generations of Sag Harbor 4-year-olds, in her garden Monday, June 30. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

“It hasn’t really sunk in,” she said Monday, June 30, sitting in her Sag Harbor home surrounded by artwork from grandchildren and pictures of past students. One picture changes each year to show Pierson High School’s current graduating class when they were preschoolers with Ms. Daniels.

A Bridgehampton native, Ms. Daniels met her husband Al when she ran his truck off the road when she was just 16. The couple, who celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary last week, have two children, Mark and Kaitlin, and three grandchildren. Teaching runs in their family; Ms. Daniels’s daughter is a high school English teacher and her mother taught at the Bridgehampton School for over 30 years.

Ms. Daniels started teaching at the Hampton Day School, a private school that was in Bridgehampton where the Ross School’s Lower Campus now stands. After taking several years off to be home with her children when they were young, she returned to teaching as director of the Tuller School on the Maycroft estate in North Haven, which she ran for two decades.

When the property was sold in 2004, Ms. Daniels founded the Rainbow Preschool, currently located at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. The school offers two sessions, morning and afternoon, for 3- and 4-year-olds. Through all her years and classrooms, Ms. Daniels has stuck with pre-K.

“I just love 4-year-olds,” she said Monday. “I think that’s the most amazing age. They are truly like little sponges—they just absorb everything. It’s just an exciting age…and they can go to the bathroom by themselves, always a bonus.”

Ms. Daniels will stay on as director of the school for at least a year and will remain on the board afterward. Her colleague of 12 years, Donna Cosgrove, who has been teaching the 3-year-olds, will take over the 4-year-old class with assistant Kaitlin Duran. Jessica Spehler, hired by the board, will teach the 3-year-olds.

Now that she is retired, Ms. Daniels plans, first and foremost, to spend more time with her grandchildren, but also to continue teaching piano lessons and get to work on a longstanding idea for a children’s book about a horse with special needs. She will also keep working on the business she shares with Al, Sag Harbor Seashells, combing the beaches looking for beach glass, shells and even fish teeth, which they then fashion into jewelry, beach glass Christmas trees and other custom ware.

Although she is excited to spend more time on the beach and with her grandkids, Ms. Daniels will miss her time in the classroom.

“I’ve taught now second generation,” she said.

Nina Landi, herself a kindergarten teacher at Sag Harbor Elementary School, was in Ms. Daniels’s very first class. When it came time to send her two children, Peter and Daisy, to nursery school, she knew who to call.

“I have very faint memories of doing amazing things back there,” Ms. Landi said Tuesday. “I was little—I was like 3, I think—but I remember when it was time for Peter and Daisy to go to Tuller, [having] an incredible sense of calm knowing that Ms. Daniels was there. She’s the best. She’s a Sag Harbor jewel.”

In the 30-plus years Ms. Daniels has been preparing Sag Harbor’s youngest students for elementary school, teaching has changed considerably.

“It’s just changed so much over the years,” she said, “For example, years ago if I was doing say a unit on dinosaurs, I would go to the library and do the research and get books and all that. And now you just go online and it’s there, so I think that makes it a lot easier for teachers in some ways.”

“In some other ways, I think we’ve lost some things,” she continued. “An example, years ago at Hampton Day School we heard about a whale that had washed ashore, so we put the kids in our car… no written permission slips or anything like that—and we just went to the beach. You can’t do that now.”

Ms. Daniels doesn’t allow computers in her classroom and forbids her grandchildren from bringing their iPads over.

“To me, the pre-school years are about socialization—how to get along with each other, how to talk to each other—and I really believe that there’s really only three things that kids need at this age: they need books, they need blocks, they need balls. That’s it, the three b’s,” she said, adding, “but it’s a different world now.”

Ms. Landi hangs a gold star ornament she made in Ms. Daniels’s class on her Christmas tree each year. Over two decades later, Ms. Daniels took both her children on their first train ride.

“We could not have been more thrilled or happy,” Ms. Landi said of her former teacher teaching her children. “It’s like having a second mom, she really is a great lady.”

“I think preschool is just so important,” Ms. Daniels said, “because it’s the gateway to education for the children. At this level, I think the most important thing is to build their confidence and help them with their communication skills, just so they can get along in this world. I keep telling my classes the most important thing is to be kind to each other, I think that’s just something we don’t always stress enough.”

“They’re going to get the basics,” she continued, “they’re going to understand about the alphabet and how to read and mathematics, but I think the socialization is just so important and I think this is where you start.”

“It’s really a shame that she has to retire, but God she deserves the rest,” Ms. Landi said, adding, “The whole town should throw that woman a retirement party…if you could ever count the kids and families—I always call it the ripples in the pond that she caused—you’d be there all day. It would be like trying to count stars, she’s been with so many families and she’s seen so many kids go all the way up to being married and having their own kids. It’s amazing.”

East Hampton Town Warns of Heavy Surf Conditions, Strong Rip Currents

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Virginia Briggs of East Hampton shakes her fist in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Virginia Briggs of East Hampton shakes her fist in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Strong rip currents currently exist in the Atlantic Ocean along the East End’s beaches and heavy surf conditions are forecast for the 4th of July weekend, East Hampton Town Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Bruce A. Bates announced Wednesday, July 2.

In a message authorized by town supervisor Larry Cantwell, the town warned ocean bathers to swim only at lifeguard protected beaches.

Community Sailing Thrives at Breakwater

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Sean Elliott, far right, is the new sailing director at the Breakwater Yacht Club in Sag Harbor

Sean Elliott, far right, is the new sailing director at the Breakwater Yacht Club in Sag Harbor.

By Gavin Menu

Jack Reiser was in his second year as club steward of the Breakwater Yacht Club when a young African-American girl from Selden showed up on the club’s footsteps, scholarship in hand, hoping to become a sailor.

“She wanted to learn how to sail, her parents had no clue, but through Head Start they learned about the scholarships, and the kid loved it,” said Reiser, who was one of the club’s first members 25 years ago. “The parents figured out they could turn their kid into a straight A student because they said they would ‘buy’ her the scholarship. The kid went from a C student to a straight A student.”

There are a great many traditions that revolve around the water on the East End, and in Sag Harbor, in particular, with sailing at or near the top of the list. Long considered a sport for the wealthy and elite, community clubs like Breakwater are breaking that mold as they commit to bringing sailing to the masses, children and adults alike.

And Breakwater’s commitment to that pursuit has moved to a higher level as the 2014 season begins. Sean Elliott, who grew up sailing the waters of Patchogue Bay in Bayport and worked as the sailing director at the Devon Yacht Club in Amagansett for seven years, will head the sailing program at Breakwater this year and assist Reiser in running the program. In an interview at the club on Tuesday, Elliott said the club has added new sailboats to its fleet, implemented what he believes is a critical Counselor in Training  program and soon will be welcoming campers in record numbers.

Reiser and Elliott estimate that as many as 400 sailing students will pass through the program between now and Labor Day. Also new this year is the acceptance of children as young as 7 years old. In the past, a student had to be at least 9 to participate in the programs.

“We want the kids at the end of their week here to be able to handle a boat,” said Elliott, who talks a great deal about safety and curriculum, emphasizing that the camp is not simply about cruising the harbor but truly learning to sail. “We’re promoting sailing at a very reasonable rate. You don’t have to join a yacht club, you don’t have to join a waiting list. Here, for next to nothing, you can be sailing for the summer.”

A week of sailing camp at Breakwater costs $325, with discounts available for multiple weeks. A camper who attends Breakwater for six to 12 weeks pays only $165 per week. Adults can also join the club for $250 per season, with opportunities to use the club’s boats, take lessons and spend the summer sailing even without owning a boat.

Breakwater also promotes competitive sailing for both children and adults. The club’s Wednesday Night Sailing series attracts dozens of longtime sailors and a fleet of some of Sag Harbor’s most impressive boats. For kids, the club this year has joined the Peconic Gardiners Junior Sailing Association, which hosts regattas across the East End. A handful of high schools also field teams for competitions in the fall.

“Promoting sailing on the shoulder seasons, in the spring and fall, is going to be great for us here,” Elliott said. “We’re hiring more instructors. It’s growing. We have a lot of the bigger boats now that are looking for crew. There’s one boat, a J-100, where almost the whole crew is made up of instructors or kids from the high school sailing program. We’re trying to tie it all together.”

A crucial component to that progression from young student to experienced sailor is the  Counselors in Training program, or CIT, which is designed for students between the ages of 13 and 15. The program was created to ensure that Breakwater has high quality instructors for years to come.

“If we train 13, 14 and 15-year-olds, I have them from their freshman year in high school until they’re done with college,” Elliott said. “And we have the teachers we want to have. It’s a great way to spend your summer, teaching sailing lessons. We want people to come to Breakwater and spend their lives here.”

For more information on the club, which is located at 51 Bay Street, visit breakwateryc.org.

In Paying Tribute to the Masters, Joël Moens de Hase Pushes the Boundary Between Art and Pornography

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A tribute by JoThe Girl with the Pearl Earring  was created in 1665 by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) This is a 21st century tribute to the masterpiece."The Girl with the Pearl Earring  was created in 1665 by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) This is a 21st century tribute to the masterpiece.

A tribute by Joël Moens de Hase to “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” created in 1665 by Johannes Vermeer. Image courtesy Monika Olko Gallery.

By Tessa Raebeck

Joël Moens de Hase has collected over 75,000 images of the lower half of women’s bodies, but his wife doesn’t seem to mind.

Mr. Moens de Hase, whose work will be on view at the Monika Olko Gallery in Sag Harbor from Friday, July 4, through August 1, collects the images online and then fashions them into mosaics, creating portraits and larger images of the lower half of women’s bodies, as well as reinventing masterpieces like “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt and Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”

After starting out as a painter, the Belgian artist began using computers in 2011.

“I think it’s the media of the future,” Mr. Moens de Hase said in a phone interview this week. “I switched my canvas for my computer and I switched the pencil for the mouse.”

Each digital print is comprised of some 7,000 vignettes taken from the internet. They are shrunken down in size and arranged into digital mosaics, which are then colored to replicate the classic pieces. From afar, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” looks like the 1665 original, but upon closer investigation, it is construed of thousands of bikini bottoms—a likely shock to the average art historian.

Initially focused on small bikinis that then give way to large bikinis, Mr. Moens de Hase has expanded his collection to include digital print replications of Japanese-style paintings of geishas, portraits of Marilyn Monroe and reinterpretations of the work of masters including Leonardo da Vinci and Edvard Munch.

Joel Moens de Hase, Portrait of Marilyn, 2014, 39.5 x 39.5, Archival Digital.

Joël Moens de Hase, Portrait of Marilyn, 2014, 39.5 x 39.5, Archival Digital.

“It is a tribute to old masters, but it’s also contemporary, so it has a little bit of duality in it,” said the artist.

Mr. Moens de Hase’s work is, perhaps obviously, intended to be controversial. The thousands of bikini images that make up “Adoration Bleu” expand outward to depict a nun gazing toward the sky. Another shows the eyes of a woman wearing a hijab.

“The devil is absolutely in the details,” said Wafa Faith Hallam, an author and the art curator and gallery manager at the Monika Olko Gallery.

Ms. Faith Hallam said she was taken aback at first by her attraction to the pieces. As a feminist, she questioned her enjoyment of art that seemingly objectifies women.

But art, she said, is “all about how it makes you feel.” After a year of showcasing Mr. Moens de Hase’s work, she said nine of 10 clients who purchase the images are women.

“Women have had an amazingly positive response to these pictures—they love them. They’re beautifully done, they’re not offensive and they are…some of them are even a little risqué,” she said.

“But they’re a good conversation piece, they’re not in your face and they’re pleasing,” she added. “So they don’t become as, maybe, threatening to women as pornography would.”

Men, she said, are understandably hesitant to bring a mosaic of women’s lower halves home to their wives. Their wives, on the other hand, say, “Oh, I see this in my game room, I see this in my bedroom, this could go up in our powder room…it’s no issue,” according to Ms. Faith Hallam.

Mr. Moens de Hase, who Ms. Faith Hallam said, is “not at all the kind of person you would think that would be doing this,” said his reason for choosing to make art out of thousands of images of small bikinis is both technical and subconscious.

Joël Moens de Hase "Adele Bloch, Tribute to Klimt," 2014, 39.5 x 39.5, Archival DIgital.

Joël Moens de Hase “Adele Bloch, Tribute to Klimt,” 2014, 39.5 x 39.5, Archival Digital.

“On the technical side,” he said, “I needed to have very simple structures to have a good result on the large scale, because I did try to use other small pictures like faces or places, but when they get very small you don’t see it anymore. The end result was not so good.”

“And then there’s the subconscious part, of course,” he continued. “Why did I do it? You should ask my subconscious. It’s also personal history, of course, and it’s also the charm about love and women.”

He has been asked by several of the gallery’s clients to create mosaics using the other sex, but he’s not thrilled at the notion of searching the internet for 75,000 images.

“You cannot do something with your heart if you don’t like it, especially in art,” said Mr. Moens de Hase, adding of his work, “Maybe there’s also suffering in it.”

Joël Moens de Hase, “A Digital Art Tribute to the Masters,” will be on view July 4 to August 1 at the Monika Olko Gallery, located at 95 Main Street in Sag Harbor. An opening reception will be held Saturday, July 5, from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, call (631) 899-4740 or visit the gallery’s website.

Speaking for Mute Swans

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Both houses of the New York State Legislature passed a bill last week that would require the New York State Department of Conservation to try non-lethal management techniques in any management plan aimed at controlling the population of mute swans.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. would require the DEC to hold public hearings in areas with mute swan populations with a minimum 45-day comment period before adopting any management plan for the estimated 2,200 mute swans in the state.

The DEC stirred controversy last year, when it declared plans to rid the state of non-native mute swans, which were introduced into New York State in the 1800s.

“Many wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” said Mr. Thiele in a press release. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or to our environment.”

“On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways,” he continued. “My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem. This legislation will require all concerned to take a step back and take a hard look before any irrevocable action is taken by the DEC.”

The bill is awaiting Governor Cuomo’s review.

Historic Landmark Given Another Chance

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The Cedar Island Lighthouse will be restored and turned into a bed & breakfast. Photo by Genevieve Kotz

 

By Genevieve Kotz

Three miles off the coast of Sag Harbor stands the boarded up Cedar Island Lighthouse, which, after 40 years of being inaccessible to the public, is now on the way to being fully restored and turned into a bed and breakfast.

The development comes after the Suffolk County Legislature on June 17 agreed to extend a licensing agreement between the Suffolk County Parks Department and the Long Island chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society through 2029.

The legislation, sponsored by County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, will allow the non-profit organization and its president, Michael Leahy, to raise the money needed to properly restore the landmark.

On June 25, Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. Leahy offered details about the plans to a small group of reporters who accompanied them on a boat ride out to Cedar Point to view the building from the water.

Mr. Leahy said the plan to turn the lighthouse into a small bed and breakfast, with only two rooms, will bring in revenue for its upkeep. He believes keeping the building occupied will also deter vandalism. He has raised about $50,000 for the restoration, but now that Lighthouse, Inc. has permission from the county to raise more money, he hopes to be able to raise the $2 million needed to complete the job.

“This is the first sign of something happening,” said Mr. Schneiderman, who chairs the legislature’s Parks & Recreation Committee. “It wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for Michael.”

Pretty much the entire building has to be rebuilt after a 1974 fire gutted the interior. The lighthouse also needs a new roof and a dock that will allow easier access.

Mr. Leahy said the first floor will have a kitchen, a living room, and living quarters for the light keeper. The second floor will have two guest bedrooms. He said he also hopes to set up tours to allow the public to visit the historic landmark.

The Cedar Island Lighthouse was built in 1868 on what was once a 3-acre island off of Cedar Point. However, due to years of erosion, the island dwindled down to only an acre of land. In 1934, the lighthouse was decommissioned and the 1938 hurricane deposited sand, attaching the island to the mainland by way of a thin peninsula.

After the fire in 1974, East Hampton Town restored the roof, but to this day, the lighthouse remains boarded up and empty.

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Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. Leahy pose next to the Lighthouses’s lantern.

There are two main phases to the restoration project. Work is currently underway on the restoration of the lighthouse lantern, which was removed from the lighthouse in November 2013 with help from Chesterfield Associates and Bob Coco Construction and is currently being stored at the Breakwater Yacht Club in Sag Harbor.

With help by Jim Poitras, the lantern is being prepared for sandblasting to clean and remove rust before it will be repainted. After reinstalling the lantern, workers will put in new windows and doors.

The restoration of the lantern has been estimated to cost about $35,000 but may be cheaper, due to volunteer efforts, according to Mr. Leahy.

Mr. Leahy first got involved with Lighthouse Inc. five years ago. Having come out to the East End since 1951, he wanted to help preserve an important part of Sag Harbor’s maritime history.

“In the end, what’s left of us?” he said. “This is something that will remain.”

Mr. Leahy looked to other lighthouses for inspiration, particularly the Saugerties Lighthouse about 40 miles south of Albany on the Hudson River. It is open four days a week for $225 a night and is only accessibly by personal boat or a half-mile walk. It is completely booked for the rest of 2014.

The Cedar Island Lighthouse, which is easier to get to by water than land, is about a 15-minute boat ride from Sag Harbor, or a one-and-a-quarter mile walk from Cedar Point Park. Because of the nesting piping clovers, no one is allowed to drive to the lighthouse from mid-March to mid-August.

“It feels like 300 miles because it is so remote,” Mr. Leahy said.

For those who would want to traverse back and forth, the organization is hoping to work out a deal with a ferry or taxi boat to provide transportation.

The bed and breakfast, though, might be the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy summer season.

“If you come out for two days, you’d have a feeling of what it was like 100 years ago,” Mr. Leahy said. “You’d have a sense of history.”

Mr. Schneiderman, who grew up in Montauk and who has always been interested in historic preservation, recently met Mr. Leahy and was inspired by his passion for the project.

“I’m really thrilled that there’s someone like Michael out there that has the enthusiasm to take on a task of this magnitude,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I think this will be a popular tourist attraction out of Sag Harbor.”

Together, they worked out a contractual arrangement that gave Mr. Leahy the comfort level to raise the money needed.

There were certain roadblocks that they had to overcome, including the fact that the county normally puts language in the contract that allows it to cancel any agreement. To prevent this, there is a clause that says Lighthouse Inc. will be reimbursed if the county decides to drop the project.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Mr. Leahy said. “Jay and the county doing what they are doing has been very helpful and we appreciate it.”

For more information – or to make a donation or offer volunteer services – for the Cedar Island Lighthouse, visit www.cedarislandlighthouse.org.