Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor"

Samot Named Sag Harbor’s Top Cop

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Nick Samot

Sag Harbor Police Officer Nick Samot was honored as the department’s Officer of the Year by the Southampton Kiwanis Club on Friday. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Officer Nick Samot, a five-year Sag Harbor Village police veteran, was honored as the department’s Officer of the Year by the Southampton Kiwanis Club at an event at the Long Island Aquarium and Recreation Center in Riverhead on Friday.

“I talked to the chief about it and he told me, ‘You come to work every day with a great attitude and it reflects well on the department,’” Officer Samot said of his nomination when he paused for a brief interview on Friday afternoon.

An East Hampton native, who graduated from the Suffolk County police academy in 2007, Officer Samot was a part-time officer in East Hampton Village before being added to Sag Harbor’s force as a full-time officer in January 2010.

“It’s a great town,” Officer Samot said of Sag Harbor. Even though the village has seen its share of changes, “the roots of are the same. It’s nice to walk around and have people know me.”

The same holds true for the department, he said. “There’s a good camaraderie,” he said. “It feels as tight as a family.”

Typically, the life of a village cop is a pretty low-key, Officer Samot acknowledged. “We do lots of traffic stops, but we get our occasional domestics, larcenies, and burglaries,” he said. “And it’s a big summer town, that’s for sure. The population triples in the summer.”

In his five years on the force, Officer Samot said Superstorm Sandy, which hit in October 2012, was probably “the most interesting, the wildest thing I’ve ever seen.” Because the brunt of the storm hit to the west, where some of the village’s police officers live, those living locally were pressed into overtime shifts, helping people evacuate from flooded homes on Bay Street and Long Island Avenue.

Officer Samot also represents the village on the Emergency Services Unit—“our version of the SWAT team,” he said—which responds to serious situations from the village east to Montauk.

The team was called into service last year when the authorities were trying to track down a  Springs man, who had fired a shotgun in his home,  before leaving in his car, forcing lockdowns at local schools.

“We had everyone come out for that,” Officer Samot said. “Suffolk County came out, Riverhead came out. It was interesting and it showed me how well the departments work together.” He laid the success of the operation to monthly training done by the team to keep its members sharp and learn about new tactics.

“The whole purpose of the training, the whole purpose of the ESU team, is that it’s better to be prepared than to not be prepared,” he said.

Officer Samot said he had wanted to be a police officer since he was a child, and said his dad, Ray Samot, a butcher at Cromer’s Market in Noyac, encouraged him to pursue the career as one that offered both job security and a chance to help people.

After graduating from high school in 2005 and taking a semester of classes at Suffolk Community College, Officer Samot entered the academy, which he described as a quasi-military boot camp.

“It was structured to be military-style,” he said. “You had to have a pressed uniform, and you were cleaning your shoes every night for inspection. It was double time everywhere you went, which means running. As it progressed, you got the privilege of walking.”

Officer Samot said he would love to stay with the Sag Harbor for his entire career. “This is a great spot,” he said. “I don’t have any complaints.”

Then he mentioned working with Officer Randy Steyert, a Sag Harbor local, who recently joined the force after working five years with the New York Police Department. “I told him, ‘It’s going to be a lot different. It’s not the city.’ And he said, ‘Nope. That’s why I’m here. You know someone walked past me this morning and said good morning.’”

Niche Ranking Names Pierson 49th Best Public High School in New York State

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Pierson seniors celebrate their graduation following the Pierson High School commencement ceremony on June 28, 2014. Photo by Michael Heller.

Pierson seniors celebrate their graduation following the Pierson High School commencement ceremony on June 28, 2014. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sag Harbor’s Pierson Middle/High School was ranked the 49th best public high school in New York State in the Niche list, a national rating determined not just by statistics, but also alumni, parent and student survey responses. Pierson’s grade, of which academics account for 50 percent, was an “A+” overall.

“A high ranking indicates that the school is an exceptional academic institution with a diverse set of high-achieving students who rate their experience very highly,” Niche said of its annual list, which looked at statistics and survey results at 14,431 high schools nationwide. Magnet, charter and online schools are not eligible for ranking.

In 35th place in New York, Westhampton Beach Senior High School was the top high school on the East End, followed by Pierson at 49, East Hampton at 58, Southampton at 65, Shelter Island at 213 and Greenport at 236.

On Monday, Sag Harbor Superintendent Katy Graves attributed Pierson’s strong showing to its “strength of schedule,” strong course offerings like Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. The school started offering IB in September 2012 and Pierson’s first diploma candidates in the program graduated last year.

“This reinforces again that our overall rankings keep coming out clearly—our students are doing such an outstanding job,” said Ms. Graves, comparing the Niche grade to Pierson’s strong test scores.

Government and other public data, Niche’s data and over 4 million surveys, which asked parents, alumni and students to rate their schools, determined the rankings.

“They feel like the academics, the administration, the policies and our educational outcomes are really outstanding,” Ms. Graves said of the survey respondents, adding that Pierson was given a top score of A+ for the quality of Sag Harbor teachers. “That resonates. I think that really sends a great message out to keep doing what we’re doing and to continue doing our personal best to give that Sag Harbor experience to all of our students,” she said.

Half of a school’s score is based on academics, 10 percent each on health and safety, student culture and diversity, survey responses and the teachers’ grades, 5 percent on resources and facilities, and 2.5 percent each for sports and extracurricular activities.

Pierson was given a top score of A+ for teachers and resources and facilities and A’s in academics and health and safety. Extracurriculars and activities received a B+, sports and fitness a B-.

Pierson’s lowest score was in student culture and diversity, which received a C+. Eighty-two percent of Pierson students are white, 14 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent are black, according to Niche.

Much of the data came from statistics reported by the schools to the U.S. Department of Education from 2011 to 2012. Some schools that scored well did not qualify for an official ranking due to insufficient data.

Many of the schools on the list are science and technical institutes. High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey, came in first in the country, followed by Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and two New York schools, Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and Staten Island Technical High School.

STORM UPDATE: Travel Restrictions Lifted in Southampton, Still in Place in East Hampton

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Ten plow trucks and two pay loaders have been clearing Sag Harbor roads since Monday night. Photo by Michael Heller.

UPDATE: 7:30 a.m. Wednesday

A travel ban was lifted in Southampton Town at 6 a.m. this morning, while officials in East Hampton are still asking residents to stay put, as highway workers continue to clear the 20 or so inches of snow that fell on the East End this week.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst declared a travel ban on Monday evening, which made all nonessential or emergency driving illegal.  Southampton Town Hall will open at noon today.

In East Hampton Town, however, the town offices will remain closed all day to nonessential personnel. According to Alex Walter, executive assistant to the Supervisor, town officials will meet today to discuss when they will lift restrictions in East Hampton.

 

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m. Tuesday

Government officials and local police continue to ask East End residents to stay home as highway workers attempt to clear snow after what many are saying was a historic blizzard.

According to East Hampton Highway Superintendent Steve Lynch, roads in the town remain “full of snow.” East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo said it has been difficult to gauge exactly how much snow has fallen in East Hampton Town, but the current reports vary between 18 and 22 inches.

The National Weather Service reports snowfall of 28 inches in Southampton and 20.3 inches in Noyac.

“It’s still snowing and the snow is really deep so [clearing the roads] takes a lot longer to do,” Mr. Lynch said on Tuesday afternoon. “It would be really good if people could stay off the roads,” he added. Mr. Lynch said his department have had to deal with several cars that got stuck while driving around, including a pick-up truck which was abandoned Hands Creek Road.

Several plow trucks have gotten stuck already trying to assist vehicles that had hit snow banks, Mr. Lynch said.

The East Hampton Town Police are pulling over cars on the road, Chief Sarlo said “asking them what their business is on the road and turning them around.” They have not issued any summonses or fines, he said, because of some confusion this morning after Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted the travel ban.

“That was a mistake, it was supposed to still be in effect in Suffolk County,” Chief Sarlo said.

Chief Sarlo also said that people should stay put because the excess weight on the icy roads will only worsen conditions.

According to Mr. Lynch, there are currently has 80 to 90 pieces of equipment out on East Hampton roads this evening.

“We’ve got pretty much all the main roads open,” Mr. Lynch said, but added that workers are still trying to widen the roadways. With any hope the town’s secondary roads will be cleared by tomorrow afternoon, he said.

“We ask people to be patient,” Chief Sarlo said. He also asked that those in walking distance of elderly or shut-in neighbors keep an eye on them.

“If we get emergency calls, we’re going in with a snow plow,” he said. For now, the town has only had to respond to a couple of routine ambulance calls and call for help from vehicles stranded in snow banks.

With snow still falling along much of the East End and two to four inches expected to accumulate before nightfall, it looks as though tomorrow will be another day off work for many in eastern Suffolk County.

“Our company line is that the schools are closed tomorrow and it’ll take most of the day to get roads back together,” Chief Sarlo said.

“As a community, we should be patient and take tomorrow as a day to dig ourselves out,” Chief Sarlo said.

Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton schools will be closed tomorrow.

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m. Tuesday

Emergency orders remain in effect in Sag Harbor Village, where the highway department has been trying to clear roads for the past 30 hours, according to Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride.

“It really is a pretty tough storm,” Mr. Gilbride said over the phone on Tuesday afternoon. While driving through the village, he has seen areas of two to three feet as snow, and some snowdrifts as high as five feet, he said.

“I see people out, there’s no real reason to be going out because there’s no stores open, there’s nothing open. It’s best if everybody just stays home and gives these guys a chance,” Mr. Gilbride said.

In the village, nine trucks and two pay loaders have been out since 5 p.m. last night, Mr. Gilbride said. The vehicles have plowed the streets of the village nine times so far, but the wind continues to blow snow back into the streets. They are now going to take a short break before getting back to work through the night.

“We’ve got another day ahead of us,” Mr. Gilbride said, before the roads in the village are clear.

As of now, Sag Harbor has not seen any coastal flooding, the mayor said, apart from some slight flooding on Glover Street due to slush clogging a street drain.

“The city lucked out this time,” Mr. Gilbride said, “And we didn’t.”

 

UPDATE: 11 a.m. Tuesday

The twin forks bore the brunt of the blizzard of the year, which continues on in the Eastern most parts of Suffolk County.

High winds and periods of heavy snow have dropped two to three feet of powder across the East End, with many roads still cut off and unplowed.

Although a travel ban has been lifted in New Jersey and in other parts of Long Island, it remains in effect in East Hampton and Southampton Towns.

According to the Southampton Town Police, most people obeyed the 11 p.m. travel ban ordered by Governor Andrew Cuomo last night and stayed off the roads.

Police and town officials continue to urge residents to stay home and hunker down.

A blizzard warning remains in effect until 6 p.m. this evening, although the heaviest snow and strongest winds have likely passed, according to the weather service.

 

UPDATE: 4 p.m. Monday

The Town of East Hampton has issued a state of emergency, effective 4 p.m. this afternoon, urging residents to refrain from travelling through Tuesday. All

As in Southampton Town, parking on public roadways is prohibited and vehicles will be towed.

Southampton Hospital cancelled all nonessential services at 3 p.m. today. Dialysis will be available through tonight’s shift, but will be closed tomorrow; emergency dialysis will be available. All Meeting House Lane medical practices will be closed tomorrow. The hospital departments are all prepared for the blizzard, they said, and have taken all the necessary precautions.

Southampton will be in a state of emergency at 7 p.m., at which point any nonessential driving will be illegal, according to a press release issued by the town.

“High winds, high accumulation and drifting snow, frigid temperatures, power outages and local flooding are expected. The storm is forecast to last through Wednesday morning. Residents in low lying areas or without an adequate alternative heating or power source should consider evacuating prior to the full onset of the storm and before the effective time of the state of emergency (7PM),” they said.

There will be a full travel ban in effect in Long Island as of 11 p.m. tonight, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this afternoon.

Southampton Town residents with special medical needs should call (631) 728-1235 before 5 p.m. if they anticipate needing assistance. Residents who may need to shelter pets should call (631) 728-7387. Local emergencies can be reported to (631) 728-3400. For life-threatening emergencies, call 911.

 

UPDATE: Noon Monday

The Town of Southampton will be calling a state of emergency at 7 p.m. this evening, according to Southampton Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, which means non-essential vehicles must be off the road by that time.

“Don’t be out driving tonight and please don’t park on public roads or parking lots,” Mr. Gregor said. Those parked on the road after that time will be ticketed and towed at the driver’s expense.

“But please just don’t go out in the snow, please don’t walk on the side of the road. We can’t see you if you’re walking in whiteout conditions,” he added.

The town is organizing 50 trucks with plows and their 10 pay loaders; as weather conditions worsen, more trucks and vehicles from large East End subcontractors will hit the roads.

The town will be responsible for plowing the 950 miles of town-maintained roads, as well as 100 miles of smaller, secondary roads in areas of Noyac and North Sea, Mr. Gregor said. Once they begin to see snows of 2 to 3 inches, they will hold off on plowing the roads until the heaviest snow stops.

There will also be a flood watch in effect; those in Sag Harbor Cove, Pine Neck and Bay Point should be particularly vigilant, Mr. Gregor said.

County Executive Steve Bellone is scheduled to give a press conference on the upcoming storm at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, which will be broadcast on local news channels.

 

UPDATE: 9:30 a.m. Monday

Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton Schools will have early dismissal on Monday and will be closed all day Tuesday in preparation for the potentially historic storm expected to hit Long Island Monday afternoon.

Students at Pierson-Middle High School will be dismissed at noon today, and elementary students will be dismissed at 12:45 p.m. There will be no afternoon Pre-K classes. All sports, SHAEP, after school and evening activities on Monday and Tuesday have been cancelled.

All students at Bridgehampton School will be dismissed at 12:45 p.m. on Monday, and the school will be closed on Tuesday. All sports and after school activities, including ASPIRE, have been cancelled.

The Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting scheduled for this evening will now be moved to Monday, February 2.

Original Story:

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for the East End, with one to three feet of snow expected to accumulate from Monday afternoon through Tuesday night.

The storm, which will likely begin around 1 p.m. on Monday, could be “crippling and potentially historic,” according to the weather service.

Light snow in the morning will pick up intensity in the evening, with the heaviest winds and snowfall starting Monday at midnight and lasting through Tuesday afternoon.

The weather service discourages all unnecessary travel starting on Monday afternoon, as whiteout conditions are expected. If travel is absolutely necessary, the weather service advises having a winter survival kit. The weather service has says that it may become impossible to drive on secondary roads and advises those who get stranded in their vehicles to remain there.

The Town of East Hampton has advised residents to refrain from driving on Monday evening and all day Tuesday in a message posted on its website (www.town.east-hampton.ny.us) on Sunday.

“All residents are urged to monitor the National Weather Service advisories, network news channels, LTV channels 20 & 22, and this website for further information,” the message reads.

“Regardless of the track of this storm it appears that a significant snowfall is likely, and residents should take all necessary precautions prior to Monday afternoon,” it continues.

A moderate flood warning will be in effect in low-lying coastal areas from late Monday night through Tuesday morning; shore road closures may be necessary.

High winds Monday night and Tuesday could cause trees to fall. To report an outage to PSEG-Long Island, call 1-800-490-0075, text OUT to 773454 or through their website psegliny.com.

STORM UPDATE: Sag Harbor & Bridgehampton Schools Closed Wednesday

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Snowdrifts piled up near the Suffolk County National Bank on Main Street following the Blizzard of 2015 on Tuesday. Heller photo.

Snowdrifts piled up near the Suffolk County National Bank on Main Street following the Blizzard of 2015 on Tuesday. Heller photo.

Both the Bridgehampton School District and Sag Harbor School District announced Tuesday afternoon that school will be closed on Wednesday, January 28.

“Due the continuing snow storm and the safety concerns of transporting our students, all Sag Harbor Schools will be closed and all school activities and sports are cancelled fortomorrow, Wednesday, January 28, 2015,” said the Sag Harbor School District in an email sent to parents, faculty and staff Tuesday afternoon.

The Bridgehampton School also announced Tuesday afternoon it would remain closed Wednesday with the district noting it will reschedule Regents exams for Thursday, January 29. Tuesday’s Bridgehampton Killer Bees basketball game has also been rescheduled for Thursday, January 29 at 6 p.m.

 

i-Tri Girls Find Self-Empowerment Through Triathlons

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Guadalupe Rojas mentally prepares for the race in i-tri. Photo courtesy Theresa Roden.

Guadalupe Rojas mentally prepares for the race in i-tri. Photo courtesy Theresa Roden.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Theresa Roden’s motivation to run a triathlon came from a somewhat surprising source of inspiration: sitting on the beach. While visiting Block Island, Ms. Roden, who lives in Springs, saw a group of jubilant runners dart by, turned to her family and said, quite simply, “I’m going to do this next year.”

“They all looked at me like I had 25 heads,” said Ms. Roden, who not only ran, swam and biked across Block Island the following year, but also encouraged a group of some 20 East Enders to do the same. In 2010, she founded i-tri, a six-month program that uses training for a triathlon to teach local girls about health and nutrition, self-empowerment, and camaraderie.

“For me, it was the first time in my entire life that I cut myself some slack,” Ms. Roden said of her training. “I changed that inner dialogue. We all have that negative self-talk that we do to ourselves and I, for the first time, discovered I didn’t have to be so critical and if I was just a little kinder to myself, things were a lot easier. I just totally changed the way that I felt about myself and I talked about myself and to myself—and everything started to change.”

(L to R) Marissa Harry, Kaya Mulligan, Alicia Benis  finish the i-tri race. Photo courtesy Theresa Roden.

(L to R) Marissa Harry, Kaya Mulligan, Alicia Benis finish the i-tri race. Photo courtesy Theresa Roden.

Lamenting that she hadn’t changed her self-talk 20 years earlier, when her daughter Abby entered the sixth grade, Ms. Roden created i-tri for Abby and seven other girls in her class at Springs School. I-tri expanded to the Montauk School in 2012 and to Southampton last year, and on Monday, January 26, the Sag Harbor Board of Education will vote on whether to adopt the program at Pierson Middle School.

Offered free of charge to every participant, i-tri consists of triathlon-specific training of swimming, biking or running on Saturdays, weekly group lessons focused on self-esteem building and leadership skills, after-school fitness classes such as yoga and spinning, and hands-on nutrition classes, which families are welcome to attend.

The school district is asked to provide a space for i-tri to hold the in-school sessions and possibly the nighttime nutrition sessions, for support from relevant personnel such as guidance counselors, and possibly also for transportation to certain meetings. Training and classes start in March, culminating with the race in mid-July.

While training is limited to sixth, seventh and eighth grade girls, i-tri graduates often remain involved through mentorship. The eight girls who took part the first year are now juniors at East Hampton High School, and several of them started an i-tri-inspired empowerment club that meets periodically and invites successful, local women to come speak to students.

Although crossing the finish line is the most tangible reward, i-tri is at its core about empowering the girls in all aspects of their lives.

“It’s not all about training for the race,” said Maria Chavez, a freshman at East Hampton High School who started the program as a sixth grader in Springs and plans to race again this year, adding that i-tri encouraged the girls and “made us feel confident about ourselves…and we weren’t afraid to tell each other anything; we had so much support.”

“It’s all about feeling good,” said Ms. Roden. “There’s nothing more important than that I feel good, because when I feel good I have more to give the world and when I give to the world, I get back.”

Sag Harbor School Board Has No Plans to Revisit Videotaping Policy

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By Tessa Raebeck

The Sag Harbor Board of Education’s narrow 4-3 decision last month to no longer include the public comment portions from the videos of its meetings broadcast on its website, LTV and SEA-TV, has raised criticism from a small but vocal segment of the school community.

The school board will continue to offer the two public input sessions at its meetings, and the rest of the public meetings will be recorded, with the tape starting after public input one, during which the public can address the board on issues related to the agenda, and stopping just prior to public input two, which is held at the end of the meeting and allows members of the public to bring up topics that are not on the agenda.

School board President Theresa Samot, who did not vote in support of the measure, said Wednesday, “The board has had no further discussion on the videotaping policy.  At this point, videotaping is not an agenda item on our upcoming agenda.”

During a six-month trial period from July to December 2014, and much discussion prior to that, board members cited the legal advice of school attorney Thomas Volz, who members of the board said, initially recommended against taping altogether due to liability issues that could arise.

When reached by phone on Tuesday, January 20, Mr. Volz said he is not authorized by the district to speak on the topic.

While discussing the policy in December, school board member Sandi Kruel cited instances that occurred during the trial period in which she felt libelous or slanderous statements were made.

“They were derogatory comments about employees of the district or disparaging comments about the work that they did,” Ms. Kruel said Tuesday, referring to six specific interactions that were also observed by The Sag Harbor Express over the course of the trial period.

Although one example given by Ms. Kruel was of a parent applauding a particular administrator’s work, the others referred to specific criticisms of various aspects of the district, such as a particular academic department or community outreach tool.

One instance occurred during public input two on September 29, 2014, when a community member referred to a particular administrative position and questioned a raise given to that administrator, who was in attendance, asking the board and Superintendent Katy Graves several questions, including, “Why is this person so valuable? That’s what I want to get at.”

When asked about the criteria used to determine why the raise was needed, as well as, “How many years’ experience does this person have?” Ms. Graves replied, “When we start talking about an exact person and their exact raises and why we did those, then we’re talking about personnel issues.”

Administrators’ salary increases are public information, and in this case, the raise was included in an agenda issued by the board. However, the discussion of the employment history of a particular person, as well as matters leading to their appointment, employment or promotion, are to be conducted during executive sessions, rather than public meetings, under the New York State Open Meetings Law.

According to the district, the recording of that September 29 meeting is not available online for viewing “due to a technical issue.”

If that interaction had been recorded and broadcast, Ms. Kruel said, the board “would have had to pay the attorney $3,000 to tell me that I can’t broadcast it and then I would have gotten slapped with a Freedom of Information or freedom of speech lawsuit.”

Ms. Kruel added she would be fine with having public input one recorded, as it addresses agenda items, but that public input two often becomes a “forum for someone’s opinion to slander either the board or an employee of the district.”

“I think we worry about all kinds of things for no particularly good reason,” Robert Freeman, the executive director at New York’s Department of State Committee on Open Government, said on Tuesday. While the board is not legally required to record or broadcast its meetings, he said, “I would question the wisdom of limiting what is broadcast for a simple reason—any member of the public under the open meeting law has the right to audio record, video record, or broadcast an open meeting so long as the use of the equipment is not disruptive or obtrusive.”

“So, even though the board of education might not broadcast or even record the public commentaries, anybody else can, and anybody else who does so can post it on his or her own website. [The Sag Harbor Board of Education] can do what they’re doing, but again, I question the wisdom of the limitation.”

As required by a 2011 amendment to the Open Meetings Law, the school board has on several occasions welcomed others to record and broadcast the public meetings on their own, with the expressed intention of absolving the district from its liability concerns.

Mr. Freeman said concerns of libel lawsuits if the board were to broadcast a slanderous statement made by a member of the public are “wrong, because it’s a public forum. There are cases out of Long Island which indicate that what is said and heard during open meetings is public. Why would they be concerned?”

“The reality, at least in my opinion, is that the board gives itself a degree of protection if it records and plays the whole thing,” Mr. Freeman continued. “If they don’t, somebody can record a portion that [the board does] not and say that this is completely accurate, even though that may not be so.”

The fears of libel lawsuits are largely unfounded according to Mr. Freeman, but a non-legal concern remains: if the board records all public comments, it will inevitably televise statements that are, more often than not, negative reactions to both the board itself and to its employees.

“We’re the only school district in all of Suffolk County who have come in under the tax cap every single year. We have never decreased program, we have never laid off employees, we’ve actually increased program—and [people are] sitting here worrying about if we’re going to let you rip apart a school employee or another board member on video camera,” said Ms. Kruel.

Village To Hold Hearing on Dilapidated Morpurgo House

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The Morpurgo House on Union Street in Sag Harbor. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Stephen J. Kotz

The Morpurgo house, which has been crumbling for decades on its Union Street lot behind the John Jermain Memorial Library, has caught the attention of Sag Harbor Village building inspector Tom Preiato.

On January 13, the Sag Harbor Village Board agreed to hold a hearing on February 10 before acting on the recommendation of Mr. Preiato that it order the house’s owner to secure the property and to demolish those portions of the house that are in danger of collapsing.

Mr. Preiato, who joined the village in November, said as a Sag Harbor native, he had been “well aware of the house’s condition.” He said residents have complained about the appearance and safety of the house since he joined village and that village trustees had also asked him to inspect the dilapidated building.

“It’s dangerous,” he said. In the backyard, he said there is open cesspool or dry well. “You could disappear down there,” he said.

The front porch has already collapsed, and inside, there are holes in the floor and portions of the roof and ceilings have caved in, according to Mr. Preiato’s report. In additon, some doors are missing and there are holes in the exterior walls.

If the owner does not comply with the village’s order within 30 days, the village is prepared to do the job itself. “If that means taking part of the building down, we’ll do it,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride on Monday. “But we’re hoping that by the time we have the hearing, we’ll have contacted the owner and they’ll agree to take care of the problem.”

If the village is forced to act, village taxpayers will be reimbursed because the cost of securing or razing the structure will simply be added to the tax bill, according to Mr. Gilbride. “It’s not going to be paid by the taxpayers by any stretch of the imagination, he added.

But finding the owner may prove to be a difficult task, as the house’s ownership has been tangled in legal knots arising out of a mortgage fraud scheme. The taxes on the property have most recently been paid by Captain Hulbert House, LLC, which was controlled by Samuel Glass, a Brooklyn attorney, who held a mortgage on the house and was trying to foreclose on it to obtain clear title. But last October, Mr. Glass said he had sold that mortgage to new investment group led by Manhattan attorney Joel  Zweig.

Mr. Zweig did not return calls seeking comment.

Village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. said on Tuesday he expected the property to be taken care of by mid-Spring.

“I don’t see this taking a long, long time,” he said. “I don’t think there are a lot of questions about the condition of the building. It really depends on any extenuating circumstances” raised by the building’s owner at the public hearing.

Mr. Thiele said the village was well within its rights to act on its own to protect the public, adding that the crumbling building could prove to be inviting for curious children. “There’s a reason they call them attractive nuisances,” he said.

Prior to the latest developments, the house was the subject of a decades-long fight between sisters Anselm and Helga Morgurgo. Eventually it was sold at auction in 2007, but it then became entangled in the mortgage faud scheme that landed former Suffolk County Legislator George O. Guldi in prison and left Mr. Glass and his investors grasping at straws.

This week, Mr. Preiato said he believed a portion of the house may still be solid enough to save, but he would not speculate as to what the owner will do or whether the village would  try to save any of it, if takes matters into its own hands.

Besides demolishing those portions of the building at risk, the village will request that the property be fenced, the house bordered up, the cesspool covered, and the yard cleaned up.

The village has had its eye on the property for years. In February 2007, then fire marshal Tim Platt toured the building  with building inspector Al Daniels and his report listed a number of health and safety concerns including a woodburning stove with a large hole in its flue, unsound staircases, crumbling plaster and missing window panes. In his own report, Mr. Daniels cited concerns about the wiring, the amount of garbage strewed about and signs of rodent investation.

 

Environmentalists and Hunters Say Lower Waterfowl Count Shouldn’t Cause Concern

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Hundreds of American mallards taking flight on Mecox Bay on Monday. Photo by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic 

Although the black duck and merganser populations were down, East End birders came out in record numbers last weekend to take part in the 60th annual winter waterfowl count.

On Saturday and Sunday, January 17 and 18, environmentalists and volunteers spent hours at ponds, beaches and coves, counting the number of ducks, swans and geese in local waters. Frank Quevedo, avian enthusiast and executive director of the South Fork Natural History Museum, organized the count from Montauk to the Shinnecock Canal.

“I was the regional compiler,” he said in an interview on Monday, “I had about 20 birders there, the most I’ve ever had. I think that’s a reflection of more and more people enjoying birding,” Mr. Quevedo said.

The information gathered in the waterfowl count is passed along to the New York State Ornithological Association, who publish the data and also share it with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which in turn uses it for long-term analysis of waterfowl populations wintering in the state.

Not all of the data were available by the time of this paper’s publication, but Mr. Quevedo said that 47 species in total were counted last weekend, and apart from a few variations, the figures seemed to be in keeping with annual trends.

He seemed particularly excited about a greater white-fronted goose spotted in Southampton. The large birds are usually only found west of the Mississippi River in this country.

“One other thing I noticed was that our merganser population was down this year,” Mr. Quevedo said.

Al Daniels, a lifelong hunter and conservationist, was responsible for counting all of the waterfowl in Sag Harbor. After tallying up the birds at Long Wharf, Long Beach, Otter Pond, Tides Beach and Sag Harbor Cove, Mr. Daniels also determined that the merganser numbers seemed low.

“But nobody hunts mergansers,” Mr. Daniels said of the birds, which are not considered “good eating,” as hunters say.

The waterfowl population on the East End is made up of migratory birds that travel down from parts north in the early winter to find food and water. According to local hunter Tanner Bertrand, these birds will only travel as far south as they need to get sufficient nutrition for the winter.

“They only go as far down as the water freezes,” he said, adding, “as long as they have water and food they stay put.”

The American black duck, which just last month was named one of the species of greatest conservation need in the state, was also not as populous east of the canal as it had been in previous years.

According to Mr. Bertrand, this is not immediately as concerning as it might seem. “The weather’s been so good this year, which has made the hunting season difficult. The birds are content where they are,” he said.

“We’re always affected here by the weather,” Mr. Daniels said on Tuesday.“[Waterfowl] season started in November, and for the first month puddle duck hunting was down,” he said.  He attributed that to the mild weather and noted that since last week’s cold snap, larger numbers of mallards and black ducks have been finding their way south to Long Island.

“A lot of local ponds were frozen, and that displaces a lot of birds in the area,” Mr. Quevedo said. “That was one reason why perhaps we didn’t get the numbers we usually do.” He added that his report to the New York State Ornithological Association includes weather conditions, which are taken into account when final statewide figures are tallied.

With all migratory animals, it is difficult to establish whether the dwindling populations are caused to some sort of dire conservation need, or simply part of a natural cycle. But those who have been hunting for years know that different species of birds change from year to year.

“When my father was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, there were always broadbills and canvasbacks,” Mr. Bertrand said. “They always had them down in the Chesapeake, but they weren’t here for a while.”

“Then three or four years ago we started seeing them in Mill Pond and down in Mecox Creek. Now each year they’re coming up in thicker numbers,” he said.

Mr. Daniels said he too remembers the days when local hunters spent most of their time shooting “white birds.” He also recalls when hunting was more prevalent, before all local waterfronts were peppered with second homes.

“[Hunting] is sort of like keeping the [local] traditions going,” Mr. Daniels said. “It’s sad for the children born today won’t see what we had.”

“I still got to see the good stuff,” he said. “When I was young, we ate wild ducks every Monday for the whole year,” he reminisced.

Duck-hunting season ends on Sunday, January 26. The season for hunting geese will end on Wednesday, February 4.

 

 

Local Teacher Lectures on the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

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Jack Hill at Canio's with students

 

Jack Hill gave a lecture on the legacy of Dr. King at Canio’s Books on Saturday. Photo credit Kathryn Szoka.

By Mara Certic

Dozens of people squeezed into Canio’s Books on Saturday to hear not just about the many accomplishments and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but to understand his legacy and why his message remains relevant and important today.

Professor Jack C. Hill is a writer, educator and diversity advocate, and is currently  dean of World Languages and World Literatures at the Ross School.  Mr. Hill has begun doing research on Dr. King for a book he is working on, he said on Saturday.

His fascination with Dr. King began in childhood, he said, when his mother would recount stories of the great leader and orator who sought out to change unjust laws during the Civil Rights movement.

However, during his discussion with Sag Harbor residents and Ross Students taking him up on his offers of extra credit, Mr. Hill chose not to speak about what Dr. King accomplished, but how he accomplished it and why that is pertinent today.

“Dr. King held no political office, and yet he is still one of the most important Americans in history,” Mr. Hill said, comparing him to both Presidents Lincoln and Washington. “He is an embodiment of American democracy.”

Mr. Hill, whose writing has appeared in publications such as The Baltimore Sun, Afro American and The Chicago Defender, spoke at length about the power and strength of Dr. King’s rhetoric.

By intertwining biblical themes with African American tradition, “He forged his own identity, and used it to connect with people across racial and economic boundaries,” Mr. Hill said

“When Martin Luther King spoke, it was almost like he was singing. It pierced the soul of people of all colors; people were sort of enthralled with it,” he added.

“But we don’t talk about the fact that he had a lot of practice,” Mr. Hill said, referencing the years many Dr. King spent at Morehouse College, where he regularly preached to seas of fellow students.

It is important that we remember the uncomfortable details of Dr. King’s life, Mr. Hill said. It is important to recall that Dr. King wrote the words “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” while in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Martin Luther King was a political prisoner. That’s one of those provocative things we don’t talk about. We don’t like to see this great American a prisoner. But he was jailed over 26 times,” Mr. Hill said.

“We would much rather see him on the podium talking about these American ideals. But in 1963, he was writing as a Birmingham prisoner. He saw himself as a political prisoner—and we have to talk about that,” he said.

The 50 to 60 threats a day against Dr. King’s wife and four children, also must not be forgotten, Mr. Hill said. Nor should the fact that Dr. King refused to seek revenge after his house was bombed. “That’s what I call focus, and a dedication to the movement,” he said.

Mr. Hill attributed much of Dr. King’s success to his singular ability to inspire a movement and raise the consciousness of a nation. According to Mr. Hill, movements such as Occupy Wall Street failed because there wasn’t one organized leader who carefully strategized, as Dr. King did.

“This is a question we’re dealing with in Ferguson,” said Mr. Hill, who has spent considerable time in St. Louis.

“I don’t think it’s an anti-police position, but it’s a group of people who have been suffering for a long time but have not been heard,” he added.

“We live in a country where African American people are stressed. They work harder for less, get paid less, pay more for less. So again when we think about the American Dream, we cannot adapt this idea of color blindness, because color blindness does not exist. We cannot teach our children to be color blind, but we can teach them not to be afraid of race,” Mr. Hill said.

Ani DiFranco Returns to the Suffolk Theater

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By Emily J. Weitz

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Ani DiFranco’s gift for articulating the present moment, whether it’s the moment after a painful breakup or a tenuous conversation in the thick of marriage, is unfaltering. Now, Ms. DiFranco has two children, juggling motherhood and super-stardom as she’s juggled everything else in her life – transparently.

Her newest album, “Allergic to Water,” was recorded in the final months of her second pregnancy and the early months of her son’s life. That truth comes through, not always directly in the lyrics of her songs, but in the quality of her voice, the sound of her guitar, and the overall feeling of the album.

“Having kids definitely dictates the process,” said Ms. DiFranco. “I have to work in fits and spurts. I have to steal time in the wee hours. This record, I did a lot of overdubbing and singing while my family slept. You can hear an intimate quality to the vocals. There’s a quietness that surrounds the songs.”

You can even hear the difference from track to track. When she told me which songs she recorded late in her pregnancy (“Happy All The Time” and “Harder Than It Needs to Be”), they happened to be my two favorite songs on the album. There’s a lightness and buoyancy to the sound of these songs, even though the content is complex.

One would think that when a brilliant singer/songwriter is at home with her family, the children should just gather round the guitar and sing along. One would think the living room would always be alight with song. One would think music and motherhood existed in a happy yin yang shape. One would think.

“I would make music around my children more if they allowed it,” said Ms. DiFranco, “but both of them recognized pretty early that when mommy picks up a guitar, she gets a far-away look, and that’s not okay. Both exhibited jealousy from the beginning, and they shut me down from making music with them. There’s an excruciating period when these new beings come into my life where I have to let my work and my passion go.”

But perhaps it’s better that the worlds remain somewhat separate. Because Ms. DiFranco has to step away to create music, the role music plays in her life remains what it’s always been: an escape.

“It used to be escape from dark trauma,” said Ms. DiFranco, “and now it’s escape from babies and momming… It’s humbling and useful and I come back from grateful for my job.”

When she had her first child, who’s now almost eight, Ms. DiFranco took her on the road. For the first 3 ½ years, her daughter was there to meet her backstage. But her son was not having the road lifestyle, and she realized it was less about the world she created for her kids than it was about the kids themselves.

“Turns out it was not my genius momming skills, but the personality of my kid,” she said. “So after four tours, I fired the baby.”

It’s not easy for either of them to have the separation. When she packs up to go on tour for several weeks, it’s excruciating to say goodbye to her son.

“But now,” said Ms. DiFranco, “when I go on the road, I revel in guitar and writing and reading and talking to friends. Your time becomes so precious.”

On her last tour, she was so inspired and amped up from the time and space to create that she found herself writing a new song every other day. These songs are even newer than her most recent album, but she’ll be playing them at her upcoming show.

“It was great to realize that I am not dead as a songwriter,” she said. “I was engaged in the creative act of making a human. But this last stint I’ve written a lot, and I’m excited about the new songs.”

Things that have been inspiring her in her recent life come through on her new album, “Allergic to Water,” as well as in her newest songs.

“There are a lot of meditations on humility and patience,” said Ms. DiFranco, “things that children bring to us. The title track, “Allergic to Water,” is talking about the things that are most meaningful and life sustaining can also be the most painful. The biggest struggles have the biggest rewards and that’s the way it works and you better accept it. I wrote it the year I birthed a baby.”

Ani DiFranco will return to the Suffolk Theatre on Saturday, January 24. The show starts at 8 p.m. Go to www.suffolktheater.com for tickets.