Tag Archive | "Sagaponack"

State Education Aid Increases by $1.1 Billion

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced Monday that the 2014-15 state budget will increase state aid to education by $1.1 billion to more than $22 billion.

“The State Legislature has improved the governor’s 2014 state budget proposal by increasing school aid from a proposed 3.9 percent to 5.3 percent across the state,” said Assemblyman Thiele. “Suffolk County’s share of aid also would increase by 5.3 percent. Suffolk had gotten its fair share of this year’s school aid increase.”

A major part of the school aid increase was the reduction of the Gap Elimination Adjustment by $602 million. The GEA was originally enacted to close a state budget deficit back in 2008-09.

Mr. Thiele said the final state budget also includes the governor’s $2 Billion Smart School Bond initiative to improve classroom technology and construct pre-kindergarten classroom space. He expressed support for the governor’s Smart School Bond Act, which must be approved by voters in November.

“The focus on improving quality education is a goal I fully support,” said Mr. Thiele. “This state aid proposal accomplishes that goal for Long Island and New York State.”

“Superintendents in my district conveyed that their priority for this year’s budget was the reduction of the GEA—a budget-balancing fiasco imposed by the Democrats in 2010 when they controlled all three branches of government.” said Senator Kenneth P. LaValle. “This year, we were successful in restoring $602 Million of the GEA money to local school districts. The state’s commitment to education is now well over $22 billion. This budget meets the needs of New York State’s children while at the same time providing property tax relief to residents who help underwrite the costs. I am pleased to have obtained increases for each school district in my area.”

Under the state budget, the Sag Harbor School District will receive $1,637,585, a 5.92-percent increase in state aid. The Bridgehampton School District will receive $656,377, a 10.9-percent increase. The East Hampton School District is set to receive $2.76 million in state aid, a 4.15-percent increase, and the Southampton School District will get $2.6 million, a 9.9-percent increase.

Poxabogue Celebrates 50th Anniversary

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Poxabogue Golf Center in Sagaponack.

Poxabogue Golf Center in Sagaponack. Photo courtesy of Poxabogue.

By Tessa Raebeck

On “Poxy days,” Alfred and Robyn Poto would wake up their young children, Jennifer and Eric, get out the family bikes and head down Town Line Road to the Poxabogue Golf Center on Montauk Highway. After breakfast at the Fairway Restaurant, the family would spend their morning hitting golf balls on the range.

“When I think of Poxabogue, I smile,” recalled Jennifer, now a grown woman. “It has a warming sense of tradition and milestones for so many people.”

Opened in 1964, Poxabogue is celebrating 50 years of tradition this year. Originally a small potato farm, the Sagaponack course and driving range was started to give local residents an affordable alternative to the region’s standard of elite, members-only clubs.

Over a half a century, Poxabogue has become the range of choice for locals, tourists and summer residents alike.

“When I was a kid, I loved going to the range, it was a nice little family activity,” said Jennifer Poto, whose family had a summer home in Sagaponack. “It became a family tradition for us. Poxy golf and breakfast both just instantly remind me of my childhood.”

“It was a place where we could interact with our young kids, while surrounded by the beautiful landscape,” her mother, Robyn Poto, said. “No better way to start off a weekend morning, only to end the visit with a great breakfast with Dan [Murray],” who has been operating the Fairway Restaurant, the independently owned diner next to the course, since 1988.

An ad celebrating the opening of Poxabogue Golf Course in 1964. Photo courtesy of the Bridgehampton Historical Society.

An ad celebrating the opening of Poxabogue Golf Course in 1964. Photo courtesy of the Bridgehampton Historical Society.

While the Poto family enjoyed their “Poxy days” on sunny summer mornings, others honed their golf skills at Poxabogue bundled up on winter weekends and after school.

“I’ve always loved hitting golf balls there since I was young,” said Brendon Spooner, who grew up in Wainscott around the corner from the range. “It’s good for learning the game, having the nine-hole course out here.”

When developers threatened to turn the property into a housing development or a miniature golf attraction in the early 2000s, residents—billionaires and longtime locals alike—quickly spoke out to save Southampton’s only public course. In March 2004, the towns of East Hampton and Southampton recognized the public pressure and stepped up to the plate, splitting the cost to purchase Poxabogue.

Southampton bought out East Hampton’s share of the course in 2012 and is now the sole owner. PGA Director of Golf Steven Lee took over the day-to-day operations last June.

Mr. Lee manages the course and runs it as if it’s his own, paying the town in an agreement similar to a lease. He has a relationship with the town, he said, “to provide the people of Southampton and East Hampton with a public golf course in an area that has mostly private clubs.”

“What makes it special is that there’s not a lot of public golf out in the Hamptons,” said Mr. Lee. “And it’s really ironic, because at a time when all of the golf courses started becoming bigger and bigger and more expensive and more challenging—and that’s really one of the things that’s driven people away from the game—now they have Poxabogue, where people are coming out to. They love coming out, they love hitting balls.”

Matt Nielsen started playing at Poxabogue when he was 16. Some of his friends from East Hampton High School worked on the range, driving the caged carts around picking up balls. Mr. Nielsen first came to Poxabogue to perfect his golf game by taking aim at the carts his friends were driving, but he quickly became a regular.

“It’s important because it gives us locals a place to play that we can actually afford,” he said. “Some of the private courses out here cost more money than I will make in my lifetime. It’s a course for real golfers, not the rich stockbroker that just plays to close a business deal.”

Like the regulars on the range, Mr. Lee is hopeful Poxabogue will enjoy another 50 years providing the community with a place to play golf. One of his goals, he said, is to get more of locals to come out and hit balls in the off-season.

“As long as I live here, that’s my course,” Mr. Nielsen said.

The Cost of the Bridge

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Everybody, it seems, is against Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor’s plan to use federal grant money to replace the aging bridge that crosses Sagg Pond between Sagaponack and Bridgehampton. It’s not that people object to accepting the federal largesse, but they don’t like the heavy duty design being proposed.

Recently, the Sagaponack Village Board offered a solution: It will foot the $500,000 cost of repairing the bridge and split future maintenance costs with the town if Mr. Gregor foregoes his plans.

What’s not to like? On the face of it, nothing. But the town should enter any agreement with Sagaponack with its eyes wide open.

Ever since the village was incorporated in 2005, Sagaponack officials, despite having such a wealthy tax base, have made something of a parlor game out of using their leverage to effectively reduce the share of taxes village residents pay into the town’s coffers. Witness the agreement made last year whereby Sagaponack abandoned its threat to form its own police department in exchange for more regular town police patrols, which, given an equal sized police budget, come at the expense of other communities with more crime.

Sagaponack already has an intermunicipal agreement for highway services with the town. The smart money says if Sagaponack pays out big money now for the bridge repairs, its officials will be looking to recoup that payment—at the expense of road repairs elsewhere in town—the next time they sit down at the bargaining table to extend that agreement.

Raising Spirits: Farm Distillery Proposed for Sagaponack

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Foster Farm in Sagaponack, which is already known for its potatoes, might someday also be known for its vodka, if Dean Foster’s vision comes to fruition.

Mr. Foster, 45, who has been running many of the day-to-day operations of the family’s farm for more than a decade, said he wants to create “an estate style, small farm distillery” that would produce “world class, small batch spirits,” that could grow to include whiskies and brandies, on a farm with a wholesale firewood operation in Sagaponack that his family bought in 2012 to protect it from development.

“I will be growing everything that is used in the making of the spirits,” Mr. Foster said this week. “Grow local. Drink local.”

He said he was drawn to the idea of starting a distillery as a way to diversify his business as well as provide a new market for his and other local farmers’ produce.

Last Thursday, Mr. Foster, accompanied by his attorney, Kieran Murphree of Bridgehampton, appeared before the Southampton Town Planning Board to outline his plans. The planning board declared the site-plan application complete and scheduled an April 10 public hearing on it.

As a start-up operation, Sagg Distillery will be equipped with a small still, capable of producing no more than 400 gallons a year, that will be housed in a garage on the site. Ms. Murphree said the small still would be used for “research and development” operations. “They need to develop recipes,” she said.

Mr. Foster told the planning board the idea of the distillery was made feasible when Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2012 signed legislation that allows farms to distill up to 36,000 gallons of spirits a year. By comparison, Absolut Vodka produces about 158,000 gallons a day.

This week, Mr. Foster said he is already in discussions with a master distiller and if all goes according to plan, he will put in a larger still in an addition to a barn on the property. The barn itself, he said, would be converted into a tasting room. Those steps would require another site-plan review.

Although the operation would be largely wholesale, Mr. Foster told the board the farm distillery law allows some on-site sales from a tasting room.

The property that will be used for the distillery is on the east side of Sagg Road, just north of the Long Island Rail Road tracks. The 13-acre site is now home to Dick Leland’s firewood operation, which, Mr. Foster said, will move from the property in 2015. Large piles of firewood that are being seasoned still cover much of the property.

Mr. Foster told the planning board that neighbors he has spoken to were happy to learn that the firewood business would be leaving. “We can’t wait for the chain saws to stop,” he said they told him. But he added that he wanted to give Mr. Leland enough time to wind down his operations.

“We have firewood and firewood,” quipped planning board member Phil Keith.

Mr. Foster said his family bought the property, which was slated for a seven-lot subdivision, as well as a neighboring 12-acre piece of agricultural land after selling the development rights to other property it owned.

As the firewood operation winds down, Mr. Foster said he would begin to reclaim the soil, which, he said, could be used to grow ingredients for the distillery. Plus, he said, grain used in the distilling process could be used as livestock feed or fertilizer. “I can’t wait to get that farmland back in action,” he told the planning board.

“Terrific. This is our first distillery,” said the planning board’s chairman, Dennis Finnerty. “Once again the Fosters are pioneering.”

Sagaponack Offers to Share Bridge Renovation Costs

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By Stephen J. Kotz

It might not look like much to most people, but the low-slung bridge across Sagg Pond that connects Sagaponack and Bridgehampton is apparently worth a lot to the Sagaponack Village Board.

On February 27, Sagaponack Mayor Donald Louchheim, accompanied by three village board members, told the Southampton Town Board the village would be willing to chip in up to $500,000 to renovate the span—provided the town abandoned plans, proposed by Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, to redesign it meeting federal standards so the town could qualify for a matching grant of a similar amount.

“We feel quite passionately that the bridge should, as much as possible, be repaired and maintained as it is,” the mayor said. He called the bridge “an important centerpiece” between the village and Bridgehampton, which got its name from an earlier span at the same site on Bridge Lane.

Mr. Louchheim said the design, first unveiled in December by Mr. Gregor at a community input meeting at which little input was sought, would result in a bridge with “industrial, galvanized steel railings” that would lead to slightly narrower lanes and a narrower pedestrian walkway and eliminates an existing curb separating foot traffic from vehicles.

“We have had no progress trying to have a dialogue with the highway superintendent on this,” Mr. Louchheim said. He added that Mr. Gregor had told village officials the design specifications were required for the town to qualify for the federal grant money.

Mr. Gregor did not return calls seeking comment, but in his official capacity as highway superintendent he has the authority to oversee design plans, with the town board limited to choosing to fund or not fund projects he wants to pursue.

Before coming to the town board, village officials had mulled annexing the 35-foot section of the bridge that lands on the Bridgehampton side, but Mr. Louchheim said such a procedure “would be messy.” Instead, he said, the village had decided the easiest route would be for it to “step in and take the place of the federal government and provide matching funds for this project.”

The village, he added, “would agree, effective immediately to fund 50-50 any repairs, maintenance, or capital improvements to the bridge that both boards agree to for now and in the future.”

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, who had obtained the federal funding for the town, had assured her that the town, which has already earmarked $500,000 of its own money for the project, would be able to apply the federal grant money to another transportation-related infrastructure project elsewhere.

She pressed Mr. Louchheim to agree that the village would pay for any additional design work that would be required as part of the new project. Such an agreement might make the project “more palatable” for taxpayers elsewhere in town, she said.

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming also endorsed the scaled back plan, saying that pedestrian use of the bridge, whether for fishing, crabbing, walking or biking should be preserved. She also said the town should consider seeking landmark status for the bridge and asked Sally Spanburgh, chairwoman of the town’s Landmarks and Historic District Board, to look into that possibility.

Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, who on February 24, voted to support Sagaponack in its efforts, also attended last week’s meeting.

Mr. Louchheim urged the town to act quickly before work is begun on the bridge. “I think what we are proposing would be a better outcome,” Mr. Louchheim said, “certainly on how people feel on both sides of the pond. We would make the taxpayers whole on the cost of this project. Plus you’d have the option of using that funding for another town project.”

Madoo Conservancy Hosts an Expert on Exterior Design

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almodington_bench

By Stephen J. Kotz

 

However difficult it is to believe, this winter of discontent will come to an end in just two weeks. Soon thoughts will turn to storing the snowblower and pulling out the garden furniture from the shed in anticipation of another season of barbecuing, relaxing among the summer blooms, or watching the fireflies as darkness falls.

For those looking for a head start to summer, the Madoo Conservancy in Sagponack will present John Danzer, a man who has probably forgotten more about garden furniture than most of us will ever know, who will give an illustrated talk, “Garden Furniture: The Whole Story” starting at noon on Sunday.

“I’ll talk about how landscapes are changing and how our view of landscapes are changing. I’ll talk about placement. I’ll talk about materials selection,” said Mr. Danzer, the ideas firing out in all directions during a telephone interview from his office in Garrison, New York.

“There will be plenty of history in it,” he said, noting that he’ll touch on perhaps the earliest garden furniture of all—medieval “turf benches,” which were basically raised garden beds in which one could sit surrounded by herbs and medicinal plants to help ward off the plague, small pox or whatever else ailed you. Mr. Danzer said he’ll talk about modern design as well, how “the plastic chair is such a marvel of engineering and shows how egalitarian design has become.”

“The third section is really about trends and the meaning of landscape, of the social history of sitting outside, shading, the new fabrics,” he added.

It should be apparent that Mr. Danzer wears many hats. Besides being a garden furniture historian and a collector—he scours auctions for early Windsor chairs, Jeffersonian benches, Adirondack chairs and other finds—he is an award winning designer whose Taconic chair won the 1994 Roscoe Award as the Best American Chair, the first time a garden chair had been honored. He is also a manufacturer who through his company, Munder-Stiles, which he founded in 1991, will make to order furniture from among nearly 160 different designs.

If that is not enough, Mr. Danzer obtained a copyright over the term “exterior decorator,” which describes another aspect of his varied business life: doing for a client’s patio what an interior decorator does for their living room.

Despite his expertise and enthusiasm, Mr. Danzer came to his vocation relatively late in life. He was the head of Standard and Poor’s London office in the late 1980s when he simply grew weary of his work in finance. A friend sent him an article about a talk by the author Leo Lionni at Cooper Union called “The Irresistible Urge to Make Things,” and Mr. Danzer up and quit his job just a few days later.

At loose ends, he took some time off, traveling the world and sending hundreds of photos back to an old childhood friend who printed them for him and a left a post-it note on the prints: “All you do is take pictures of gardens and garden furniture” it read.

The note led Mr. Danzer to his new career, which he began by immersing himself in the history of garden furniture and soon becoming a sought after lecturer on the subject before launching a career as a designer.

“I was an art history major. I kind of got swept up” in the world of finance, Mr. Danzer said. “I kind of went back to my roots. I love to design furniture.”

Today, “we  predominantly sell to high-end decorators and architects. We tend to not sell to the end user there is usually an intermediary,” he said of his business.

The furniture Munder-Skiles produces “is all built in Costa Rica, right next to one of the largest teak plantations,” he said. “I or my staff personally select the trees. We are unique in that we go from trees to chairs. We did that six and a half months ago for this season.”

“We make everything from Thomas Jefferson garden benches to very slick, ergonomic, slinky lounges,” he said.

His business continues to evolve. His mother, he joked, used to tell him, “this is the longest startup in the history of business.”

The Madoo Conservancy’s Winter Lecture Series will present garden furniture designer and historian John Danzer who will give the illustrated lecture, “Garden Furniture: The Whole Story,” at noon on Sunday, March 9, at the conservancy’s winter house. Tickets are $30 ($25 for members). Seating is limited. For more information, visit http://www.madoo.org/calendar.html#john

The Hampton Library Announces HVAC Solution

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The Board of Trustees of the Hampton Library has entered a contract with H2M Architects + Engineers to engineer a solution to fix the library’s geothermal water source heat pump systems—a heating and air conditioning system constructed as a part of the library’s $6 million expansion in 2009. The total cost of installing the geothermal system was $592,582.

That geothermal system, using an open loop system, broke down last summer. The library has been using an emergency heat system to keep its doors open throughout this winter.

According to library director Kelly Harris, the firm will soon begin work designing a new closed loop evaporative cooling tower system that will use the existing heat pump system already installed at the library. Using the water in the closed loop of an evaporative cooling tower instead of a geothermal well, said Ms. Harris, will remove the impact of iron on the system, which was what caused the system to fail in August.

Ms. Harris said she intends to send an informational brochure to residents in Bridgehampton and Sagaponack and plans to host a community meeting on the issue at a later date. For more information, visit the library website at hamptonlibrary.org.

 

 

Hopefully Forgiven at the Wölffer Estate Vineyard

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Hopefully Forgiven. Courtesy of the band.

Hopefully Forgiven. Photo courtesy of the band.

By Tessa Raebeck

Hopefully Forgiven, the local guitar duo comprised of Telly Karoussos and Brad Penuel, will play at the Wölffer Estate Vineyard this weekend as the winery continues its Candlelight Fridays series.

After gaining recognition as a solo artist, East Hampton’s Mr. Karoussos teamed up with Mr. Penuel (also known as Alabama Brad) to form Hopefully Forgiven. Their influences include Gram Parsons, the Rolling Stones in their early days and country duos like the Stanley Brothers. They play a mix of original songs and beloved covers.

The Candlelight Friday series presents live music in an intimate café setting, with no cover charge and wine, cheese and charcuterie plates available for purchase. Upcoming acts include Ludmilla on March 14, Charles Certain on March 21 and Alfredo Merat on March 28.

Hopefully Forgiven is playing on Friday, March 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the main winery, 139 Sagg Road in Sagaponack. For more information, call 537-5106 or visit wolffer.com.

Certain Moves Brings Smooth Jazz to the Wölffer Estate Vineyard

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Charles Certain of the band Certain Moves. Photo courtesy of Wolffer Estate Vineyard.

Charles Certain of the band Certain Moves. Photo courtesy of Wölffer Estate Vineyard.

By Tessa Raebeck

As part of its Candlelight Fridays series, the Wölffer Estate Vineyard presents local jazz band Certain Moves. With a wide range and soulful sound, Certain Moves will play in a cozy, café setting in the Winery Tasting Room on Sagg Road in Sagaponack.

Saxophone player and vocalist Charles Certain formed Certain Moves with bandmates Bill “Bang” Gaines (keys/vocals), Wayne Hart (bass/vocals), Randy London (drums/pans) and Abdul Zuhri (guitar/vocals).

The Southampton band plays all styles of music, specializing in smooth jazz, R&B, dance and funk. Certain Moves performs regularly at Wölffer and has played gigs in New York City and across Long Island. With both songs you love and original melodies, Certain Moves is a frequent at local festivals, known for their relaxing, soulful tunes.

Throughout the fall and winter, Wölffer hosts Candlelight Fridays, evenings of wine and jazz featuring New York musicians every Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Vineyard Tasting Room, 139 Sagg Road. There is no cover charge or reservations necessary.

For more information, call 631.537.5106 or visit wolffer.

Sagaponack and Bridgehampton Residents Criticize Proposed Changes to Bridge Lane Bridge

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By Tessa Raebeck

Some 30 residents of Sagaponack and Bridgehampton came to the Bridgehampton Community Center last Wednesday night to express their concerns over a project they say will change the face of their home — the rehabilitation of the bridge that gives Bridge Lane its name.

Alex Gregor, highway superintendent for Southampton Town, hosted a public forum on the bridge restoration project, a multi-faceted restoration to improve safety. The project, residents say, has unnecessary changes that, in addition to altering the character of the bridge, will pose greater risk to the pedestrians who use it for crabbing, fishing and swimming.

“That bridge is part of our rapidly vanishing hometown,” said Marilee Foster, a Sagaponack farmer who serves on the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

Lisa Duryea Thayer, a Sagaponack Village trustee, called the project “very offensive to the character of our area.”

Built in 1923, the bridge is not new to controversy. When Suffolk County owned the bridge and attempted to demolish it and replace it with a modern steel structure in the 1980s, residents fought a five-year battle to keep it, culminating successfully in 1988.

“This whole battle,” recalled Donald Louchheim, mayor of Sagaponack Village, “was fought out for exactly the same reasons that you are giving today…now in effect, the town is reneging on the commitment that it made 25 years ago.”

Costing between $890,000 and $1 million, the project would widen the two traffic lanes, repave the roadway approaching the bridge on either side, replace the guardrails, put in drainage, replace the seawalls on either side and install leaching pools — pits that absorb liquid into the soil.

“Please believe me,” Gregor told the disgruntled crowd, “I don’t like to spend a million dollars on something unless we have to.”’

The travel lanes, currently at about 8.5 feet, need to be widened to today’s standard of 10 feet, Gregor said, which would leave no room for a sidewalk on the bridge.

“I grew up next to that bridge,” said Sagaponack resident and former mayor Bill Tillotsen. “I’ve swum off of it, I’ve jumped off of it, I’ve fished off it … the sidewalk there is inadequate but without it you’re going to create a real funnel for traffic.”

Town officials began looking into funding for this project back 2005, before Gregor was in office. In 2006, an average of about 1,200 vehicles crossed over the bridge each day, according to the town.

By the time Gregor took office in 2010, he said, the town had already bonded close to half a million dollars for the rehabilitation project.

A federal grant for $500,000 was “one of the last Congressional earmarks that [Congressman] Tim Bishop got out in 2008,” Gregor said.

By accepting the federal aid, the town is required to keep the project consistent with federal and state regulations, which mandate many of the project’s elements which residents are highly critical, such as the widened lanes and new guardrails.

Cathy Gandel, co-chair of the Bridgehampton CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee), told Gregor, “you keep talking about safety — which we all want — but what makes you think that two 10-foot lanes with that guardrail [would improve safety]? People slow down now over that bridge because it’s narrow.”

“Tell the mayor and the trustees to get the cop there and write some tickets on the bridge,” Gregor responded.

Following the forum, Gandel’s husband, Earl Gandel, recalled a time in the late 1940s when international road races were held in Bridgehampton, with racers crossing over the bridge.

“We’re getting ready to change the nature of a bridge that I think a lot of people are really attached to,” Foster said. “I just feel really kicked in the face by this project because people love this place, people love the bridge.”

“I don’t think,” replied Gregor, “a 1923 bridge makes it historic, but I’m not going to insult historians in that.”

Several residents, along with Sagaponack Village’s consulting engineer Drew Brennan, asked Gregor to consider an alternative option that would make the basic repairs to the bridge without taking the federal grants that mandate the most aesthetically altering — and controversial —components of the project.

Brennan estimated that option would cost the town up to $700,000 and those in attendance asked Gregor to commit to looking into it.

“Our boards every month,” said Louchheim, “are struggling mightily to preserve as much as possible the rural and historic and scenic character of the Town of Southampton and quite frankly, the bridge is a vital part of that.”

Gregor said he and his team would consider the residents’ input and “regroup.”

“But,” he said, “I would be wrong in telling you I’m not still leaning forward.”

Linda Franke asked whether the public forum was just hosted as a gesture.

“It’s a condition and a gesture,” Gregor replied.