Tag Archive | "Sagaponack"

Arrest Made in Alleged Sexual Assault in Wainscott

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By Kathryn G. Menu

A Rockville Centre teen, Joseph Cardinali, was arrested by East Hampton Town Police on Sunday, November 17 and charged with aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, a felony, and assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor.

According to East Hampton Town Police, around 5:11 p.m. they responded to the Wainscott address of Phoenix House, a non-profit provider of substance abuse services, following a report of a victim of violence.

An 18-year-old male victim was transported to Southampton Hospital where he was admitted and underwent surgery, said police. Police said investigation indicates a wooden broom handle was used by Cardinali, 16, to penetrate the rectum of the victim.

Cardinali was subsequently arrested and charged.

An investigation is ongoing. Police ask anyone with information that may assist in this investigation contact the East Hampton Town Police Department at 537-7575. All calls will be kept confidential.

Anna Throne-Holst Wins Southampton Town Supervisor Race; Town Council Still Too Close to Call

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Incumbent Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst watches the election results with, from left to right, sons Sebastian and Max and daughter Karess on November 5.

By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

It appears Independence and Democratic Party candidate Anna Throne-Holst has secured a third term as Southampton Town Supervisor, beating Republican challenger Linda Kabot.

Alex Gregor also had a strong showing Tuesday night in the race to keep his position as Superintendent of Highways, coming out ahead of challenger David Betts.

Several races remain undecided, with 879 absentee ballots yet to be counted, town council candidate Brad Bender said Wednesday.

According to the Suffolk County Board of Elections unofficial results, with 42 of 42 districts reported, Throne-Holst secured 7,081 votes, or 58.63 percent of ballots cast. Kabot earned 4,985 votes, or 41.27 percent.

“This was a hard fought campaign and I think what I would like to say is we are now the poster child for running a clean, above board, above the issues [campaign], talking about what really matters to people and not going down in the mud,” Throne-Holst said in her acceptance speech late Tuesday night at the Democratic Party gathering at 230 Elm in Southampton. “I think people recognize that we genuinely have been there to help, we genuinely have been there to make a difference.”

Kabot conceded the race late Tuesday and said Wednesday that she was unsure whether she would seek public office again.

“I’m very proud of my grassroots campaign, we focused on the truth,” said Kabot. “We’re dealing with a well-funded incumbent who has manipulated the facts to her advantage and ultimately, the voters have made their choice, so we move forward.”

Newly reelected County Legislator Jay Schneiderman called the night “a historic moment in the Town of Southampton,” reminding the crowd that no non-Republican supervisor has had a majority on the town board since Thiele was supervisor in the early 1990s. If either Brad Bender or Frank Zappone is elected, Throne-Holst will have a Democratic majority on the board.

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In the highway superintendent contest, according to the unofficial results, as of Wednesday morning Gregor had secured 7,259 votes, or 61.87 percent of the vote, earning him another term while 4,470 votes were cast for David Betts, giving him 38.1 percent of the vote

In uncontested races, Sandy Schermeyer was elected town clerk and Deborah Kooperstein and Barbara Wilson were appointed to the two open town justice positions.

With the remaining districts and absentee ballots yet to be counted, the races for two seats on the town board and five trustee positions are too close to call.

As of Wednesday morning, the unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections places Republican Stan Glinka in the lead in the town council race with 5,857 votes, or 25.85 percent of votes cast. Bender, an Independence party member cross-endorsed by the Democratic party, is in second place with 5,746 votes, or 25.36 percent. Trailing Bender by just 143 votes, Republican Jeff Mansfield has so far earned 5,603 votes, or 24.73 percent of ballots cast. With 5,445 votes and 24.03 percent, Democrat Frank Zappone trails Mansfield by 158 votes.

“I think the indications are things are in a state of flux,” Zappone said Wednesday morning. “It appears as if there’s a significant number of uncounted votes — that could shift the standing significantly or not at all. It’s very difficult to tell at this point, so one has to be patient, sit back and see what evolves.”

Early Wednesday, Mansfield said he was busy driving around town picking up lawn signs and taking down billboards.

“It could be a lengthy process,” he said, “So we will respect the process and see what happens, but I think at this time it’s premature to say one way or another.”

Bender was likewise committed to removing campaign signs Wednesday morning.

“We’re going to let those people have their voice and let those ballots be looked at,” he said of the absentee ballots. “We’ll let the board of elections sort it out and we’ll celebrate when we have an actual result.”

Stan Glinka could not be reached for comment.

The race for Southampton Town Trustee, in which eight candidates vied for five available seats, also cannot be determined at this time. The candidates leading thus far are the three incumbents running; Bill Pell leads the pack with 8,933 votes, or 17.64 percent of votes cast. Eric Shultz has earned 8,746 votes, or 17.27 percent and Ed Warner, Jr. is in third place with 7,161 votes, or 14.14 percent.

Trailing the incumbents are: Scott Horowitz with 6,399 votes, or 12.63 percent; Raymond Overton with 5,436 votes or 10.73 percent; Howard Pickerell, Jr. with 5,163 votes or 10.19 percent; John Bouvier with 4,953 votes or 9.78 percent; and Bill Brauninger with 3,812 votes, or 7.52 percent.

All elected officials will take office on January 1, 2014.

Southampton Town Supervisor Candidates Argument Focuses on Finances

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By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

Southampton Town Supervisor candidates Anna Throne-Holst and Linda Kabot have faced off in numerous debate and forums throughout town in recent weeks. They sparred again on Thursday, with both parties making allegations that ranged from fiscal irresponsibility to political smear tactics and even deep-rooted corruption.

At the debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons and moderated by Carol Mellor, the candidates were allowed 15 minutes of response time to use at their own discretion, either to answer questions or for rebuttals. Questions were posed by Joe Shaw, executive editor of the Press News Group, Sag Harbor Express editor and publisher Bryan Boyhan and Judy Samuelson of the league, as well as members of the audience, who filled the room at Rogers Memorial Library  in Southampton beyond capacity.

Incumbent Throne-Holst, an Independence Party member cross endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families parties, was elected to the town board as a council member in 2007 and beat Kabot, a Republican also running on the Conservative Party line, in the supervisor’s race in 2009. In her opening statement, Kabot, who served as councilwoman from 2002 to 2007 and as Southampton supervisor from 2008 through 2009, alleged that Throne-Holst falsely claimed that Kabot caused the prior budgetary problems and mismanaged the town. Both candidates agreed that this election is about “the truth” and alleged that their opponent was taking credit for their own successful financial management.

Referring to a debate hosted by the Speonk-Remsenburg Civic Association October 9, Shaw asked Kabot, “you were asked what your qualifications were for supervisor and your answer was that you were married with children and were a homeowner, what did you mean by those remarks?”

Kabot said the phrasing was incorrect and untruthful and noted that no reporters were present at that debate. She referred to similar statements on her website, which states: “As a property owner, I can better represent the majority of taxpayers and voters in Southampton Town. As a married mother of three children, I can provide values-based leadership with deep roots in the community.”

“What I meant by that,” she explained, “was as a homeowner and a taxpayer, my husband and I receive a tax bill and we know what the impact is of increased taxes to our budget and a renter doesn’t receive a tax bill.”

Kabot maintained the person who posed the initial question was a member of the town Democratic Committee.

“They’re the ones writing the letters to the paper to indicate that this is about single mothers or something about somebody’s marital status,” she said. “It has nothing to do with that. That is political spin and it is wrong.”

Throne-Holst responded that the original question was submitted by an unknown member of the audience and asked by a moderator.

“I find it curious that you feel better able to protect people’s taxes as a homeowner,” she said to Kabot. “I will remind everyone that Linda Kabot raised everyone’s taxes by a full 15 percent as supervisor and I have raised them zero.”

“I know that I am a single mother,” continued Throne-Holst, who has four grown children. “I know that as a result of a very painful divorce, I am no longer a homeowner. Maybe someday I will be but now I am not. Sixty percent of our residents live in single households and 40 percent of our residents do not own property and you all have my assurance single mother or married, property owner or not, I represent you equally.”

“Again, someone’s marital status has nothing to do with it,” countered Kabot. “It’s political nonsense being stirred just like the statements are out there that I single-handedly raised taxes 15 percent — this is an untruth.”

Kabot said that corrective tax levies were put forward in 2008, 2009 and 2010 that Throne-Holst voted for as a councilwoman.

“These were the correct things to do,” Kabot said. “And it’s easy to spin it and twist it and distort it but I’m proud of my record as your supervisor of doing the brave and necessary things to do.”

The candidates used a significant portion of their allotted 15 minutes to continue back and forth on Shaw’s question.

“I don’t think you talk about value-based representation because you are married,” said Throne-Holst. “The clear implication is if you are not you do not espouse those values. All I can say is I’ve been your supervisor for four years; you don’t achieve these numbers based on someone else’s work.”

“It’s not about taking credit. It’s not about passing blame. It’s about moving forward,” concluded Kabot.

Boyhan asked the candidates to what degree their administration should prepare for the “continued dramatic and inevitable erosion of our ocean shoreline,” as well as their position on shore-hardening structures.

Throne-Holst said the issue has been at the forefront of her administration and voiced her opposition to shore-hardening structures, which she said help one property while adversely affecting those around it.

“We have taken a hard stance on them in the Town of Southampton, we will not permit them going forward,” she said.

Throne-Holst pointed to her creation of erosion control districts in Sagaponack and Bridgehampton, which allow for oceanfront homeowners to be taxed separately in order to fund a $26 million beach re-nourishment project that is expected to add 60 to 70 feet of beach, adding that she is working with other areas of the town interested in pursuing similar projects.

Kabot also opposes shore-hardening structures. She advocates improved relocation efforts in the event of major storms and said that although the nourishment project is beneficial, “there’s no guarantees that that sand is going to stay in place.”

Her criticisms of the project, she said, have to do with the use of park reserve funds, $1.7 million of which were used to fund the pavilion and public beach access areas of the erosion control districts.

“Those [erosion control district] homeowners are very grateful for the work that has been done in local government to see to it that the beach nourishment has been brought forward and they are contributing very heavily to the supervisor’s reelection campaign,” Kabot alleged.

Samuelson asked an audience member’s question about what obstacles the candidates would remove in order to allow more business and private sector jobs.

Throne-Holst pointed to her creation of an economic development task force in the Riverside/Flanders area, which she said secured a total of almost half a million dollars worth of grants.

“That will probably bring the most amount of jobs to this area when it comes to fruition,” she said.

The supervisor also spoke of the “major job creation possibilities” posed by the Clean Water Coalition, a regional task force she developed, and its “bringing the manufacturing and marketing of those technologies to this area.”

Kabot said she would enact the targeted redevelopment of blighted sites by “incentivizing certain sites so that there would be investment by private developers to allow for the creation of a tax base to create more jobs.”

She is committed to reestablishing a small business office in Town Hall in order to help local business officers get through the regulation process and aims to increase senior and affordable housing, rethink rental laws and review permit standards.

“We have to work at the government level to get out of the way so that businesses can create those jobs,” Kabot said. “We have to simulate business by allowing the government red tape to be lessened and in some cases we need to facilitate their ability to get through the board of health because that is one of the biggest things that holds up a number of businesses.”

“The business advisory group does exactly what Linda’s talking about,” replied Throne-Holst. “They help expedite, they help business owners through the process. So been there, done that already. As far as the Health Department goes, we cannot expedite that. It’s a nice thing to say but we can’t. It’s a county permitting authority, we have actually no control over that.”

“I’m proud of what I’ve done,” the supervisor said in her closing argument. “I love my job, I love serving all of you and I will bring the same level of commitment, enthusiasm and service to this job should I have your vote.”

Kabot concluded the debate, “Together we can take back our town from special interests, restore honesty and integrity and capability to that supervisor’s office and we can bring back the only true independent candidate who cannot be bought.”

The supervisor election will be held on November 5.

Pierson Teachers Host Community Forum on Proposed Auditorium Renovations

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By Tessa Raebeck

Exposed wires, breaking seats and a sound system that routinely fails during performances are just some of the things the performing arts faculty at Pierson Middle/High School hope will be fixed by the Sag Harbor School District’s proposed capital projects bond — if it passes November 13.

At a community forum Tuesday on the proposed renovation of the Pierson auditorium, teachers told stories of the dangers and inefficiencies of the current space, which was part of the original Pierson construction in 1907 and was converted from a gym to an auditorium in the 1980s.

“The foundational criteria for everything that we were doing was health and safety,” explained Peter Solow, an art teacher who serves on the Educational Facilities Planning Committee, the group of community members which formulated the bond propositions.

The auditorium renovations are included in Proposition 1, which holds the bulk of the proposed improvements. The proposal aims to create safer egress from the theater, increase seating capacity, improve the theatrical lighting and sound systems, and add support facilities and supplemental air conditioning.

“It will make it more efficient on a daily basis, but it will also make it safer,” said Solow. “If we had to evacuate this place very quickly, it could be problematic.”

The teachers estimate that about 60 high school students and 90 middle school students are involved in performing arts at Pierson in some capacity each year, while all students use the auditorium during assemblies.

The auditorium currently has no designated handicapped seating area and no room for the pit orchestra, which ends up using about 50 audience seats during performances. During a play last spring, an audience member sat in a chair that promptly broke, resulting in a fall. In addition to new seats, the bond would increase the seating capacity so the entire student body of the high school could fit in the auditorium at once. The school currently puts on multiple presentations of the same assembly, often at additional cost.

The bond also provides for storage space for instruments and equipment.

“No matter what condition things are in, obviously we are going to do our best and put on the performances,” said Paula Brannon, director of Pierson musicals. “I see things backstage that are safety hazards that are beyond the control of custodial staff or administrators to fix anymore.”

Brannon said sets and costumes which could be recycled for use in future performances are often thrown out because there is nowhere to store them.

“At the end of every show we have a decision,” she said. “Do we throw this away or do we try and save that? And if we save that, we’re now to the point where we have to throw something else away in its place. It will just continue the costs.”

“If you do go backstage right now — and a child does go backstage — there’s tools, there’s glass, there’s wood, there’s screws, there’s nails, there’s all kinds of things — and no lights,” added music teacher Eric Reynolds. “.It’s very dangerous to have a shared space without any kind of room to store some of that material.”

Reynolds said there is not an empty spot to be found in the existing space and instruments and other materials are often lost due to lack of organization.

“One of us is always scrambling to find an instructional space,” he said of the music teachers. “Right now our students really don’t have any rooms to practice in.”

Currently, makeshift dressing rooms are housed in classrooms and bathrooms, making it awkward to navigate the school during production week. Brannon said that during performances, students must “run the entire width of the school” to get to the stage.

“They deserve their own space,” said Reynolds, who added that when audience members use the bathroom during intermission, “you walk in there and the entire cast of boys from the musical is in the bathroom.”

Members of the faculty also spoke of “many incidents” of sound and lighting systems failing during performances. Because the sound system is “antiquated,” Brannon said the school must rent sound equipment every year, using $8,000 of the funds allotted for musicals.

“We love to be self-sufficient, we try really, really hard, but there’s just a lot that we can’t overcome,” said Brannon.

Reynolds said the school started renting outside equipment because on opening night of “Chicago” three years ago, the entire sound system — including all the mics — “totally failed.”

“So, three years later, we hire professional sound guys at a large cost. It would be great not to have to do that,” he said.

Pierson’s audiovisual coordinator Austin Remson recalls, “assemblies where five minutes before the show was going to start, there was a short that blew all the circuits. Unfortunately, that happens very often where this stuff is old, it’s very old.”

When searching for a new light board five years ago, Remson had trouble locating one that worked with the outdated system.

“The only board we could get is a used board from 1995 because our system is what we call DMX and the world is now AMX,” he said. “So that took a great deal of effort to try to find something when the old board completely broke and that [newer] board now has about five channels on it that don’t work.”

“How many Band-Aids are we going to put on?” he asked. “How much money are we going to keep throwing at the problem that is recurring?”

Remson said on a regular basis, an entire row of lights will go out, with replacements costing some $45 a bulb.

“It’s amazing how many crises happen on almost a daily basis that have to be remedied very quickly,” continued Remson, adding that sometimes when he climbs up to change the bulbs, he finds wiring harnesses that have “completely melted.”

“This is really dangerous,” he said. “It’s a little scary.”

The bond would create a controlled climate in the auditorium, which was quite cold on Tuesday. Remson said he asked the custodians to turn the air conditioning off during a particularly cold assembly last week and they replied they were afraid to because they didn’t think it would come back on.

The primary concern expressed by the faculty Tuesday was not for a warmer room or nicer seats, but for the students.

“Students that had their moment to shine and they’re half lit or students who are not able to be lit because we don’t have the capability,” said Remson. “Our students are fantastic and they really deserve a space that’s inspiring and safe.”

The Pierson performing arts department will host another community forum on the proposed improvements on Tuesday, November 5 at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium.

Urgency for Beach Re-Nourishment Projects in East Hampton and Southampton

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Tractors work on a beach reclamation project at Flying Point Beach in Water Mill on Tuesday. 

By Tessa Raebeck

Over 95,000 structures across Long Island were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy last October, according to federal statistics, however, one East End resource is of special concern to local lawmakers — our beaches.

Efforts in East Hampton and Southampton to prevent coastal erosion started well before Sandy, but both towns have accelerated current practices and adopted new methods in the past year.

“That certainly was the tipping point,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst of the hurricane. “There’s a lot of interest in this now. People who have paid attention to this or live right [on the shore] — they’ve seen firsthand the erosion that’s happening every year regardless of any storms.”

According to the supervisor, scientific data indicates that East End communities lose about three feet of beach and dunes each year. Beaches are not universally affected; some erode faster than others due to geographical position, the existence of constructed materials such as jetties and other unclassified factors. The sand stretches further than it did prior to Sandy in some locations, while half a mile down the beach there is hardly any sand separating the ocean from the dunes and homes on shore.

In East Hampton Town, Montauk was hit especially hard.

“As a matter of fact, some of the beaches seem to be holding up pretty well everywhere west of Montauk,” said Bill Wilkinson, supervisor for the Town of East Hampton referring to littoral drift, the natural process by which sand on the South Fork moves from Montauk to points west. “When Main Beach in East Hampton Village was named the number one beach in the United States, I said to [Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach, Jr.] the town should get some of that award because it’s Montauk sand.”

In 1960, the United States Army Corps of Engineers authorized a project, the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study, to provide for hurricane protection and beach erosion control along the south shore of Long Island, stretching about 83 miles from Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point.

Following the hurricane, Wilkinson sought to make Montauk a separate piece of that study and made an appeal to Congressman Tim Bishop, among others, “to save downtown Montauk.” Bishop has since worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to separate downtown Montauk on an emergency basis from the rest of the reformulation study.

“In doing so, he’s able to under the [Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study] federally fund a beach renourishment plan in downtown Montauk,” explained Wilkinson, who said that pursuing such a plan has had majority support from the town board.

The Army Corps is looking at three alternative renourishment programs: A beach renourishment program consisting completely of sand; a program using both sand and sand with buried rock; and a program that uses a rock replacement technology such as geotubes, sediment-filled sleeves of geotextile fabric that are entrenched parallel to the shore.

“The Army Corps is due on or about the first week in November to return to us for discussion at the town board the economic impact of those three alternatives,” said Wilkinson. “I believe the town would have an opportunity if it desired to take a higher priced choice that may be beyond the Army Corps’ recommended financial model. If they do such, then they have to take on the burden themselves — the town — for the difference between the Army Corps recommendation and the chosen product.”

The rest of East Hampton Town could eventually receive renourishment through the Fire Island to Montauk Point study, but “because downtown Montauk was perceived to be so vulnerable at this time they decided to just focus on that particular area,” said Wilkinson.

The area stretches from South Edison Street westward to the beach in front of the Montauk IGA. Once the town makes a selection, the plan to “save downtown Montauk” is expected to start in the first quarter of 2014.

At the end of June, the town deposited 5,000 cubic yards of sand onto Ditch Plains beach, a popular destination for tourists and surfers that lies outside of the downtown area.

“We did that because of the erosion caused by Sandy and the nor’easter subsequent to Sandy,” said Wilkinson, who is hopeful that the town will include such renourishment programs for Ditch Plains as part of its annual capital plan in the future.

Prior to Hurricane Sandy, beachfront homeowners in Southampton petitioned the town board to create special erosion control taxing districts, which were implemented under Throne-Holst’s supervision in 2011. They allow for oceanfront homeowners to fund renourishment projects as a collective through special taxes without putting the burden on other taxpayers.

“The erosion had gotten so bad that their homes and the value of their homes have been really threatened,” said Throne-Holst. “So they recognized the value of doing an entire comprehensive project rather than just home by home.”

The two districts encompass 141 homes in Sagaponack and Bridgehampton. After their creation, the town researched engineering firms and put out bids, ultimately deciding on Coastal Science and Engineering, a company based out of Columbia, South Carolina which has done a number of similar projects.

Currently underway, the $26 million project is scheduled to take 10 years, over which course the taxes will be levied evenly. It will dredge up some two million cubic yards of sand from about a mile offshore and pump it onto the existing beach, resulting in the expected addition of 60 to 70 feet of beach.

“The beaches are going to both look and feel dramatically different and function the way Westhampton Dunes has, which is a very similar project to protect the properties from storms and erosion going forward,” said the supervisor, referring to a $25 million renourishment project completed in Westhampton during the 1990’s that she considers immensely successful.

Although the taxing districts are separated by hamlet, the project is contiguous. The 141 homeowners are split almost evenly between Sagaponack and Bridgehampton, but the criteria for tax levy varies by district. Bridgehampton’s erosion control district taxes are levied based solely on linear footage; how much of your property spans the beach determines what portion you pay. In Sagaponack, the rate is determined by a combination of linear footage and assessed value, due to extremely large compounds like Ira Rennert’s 60,000 square-foot mansion that have high values but relatively little beachfront property.

A small portion of the project covers public beach access areas and pavilions. Renourishment of those sections will be funded by the town through park reserve and subdivision funds, allowing the town to cover its portion of the costs without raising taxes.

Both Wilkinson and Throne-Holst are hopeful that the presence of construction trucks on the beaches this winter will ensure the enjoyment of beachgoers this summer and for years to come.

Residents Make Noise About East Hampton Airport

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By Amanda Wyatt

As East Hampton Airport seeks to install a permanent, seasonal air traffic control tower, a number of East End residents are once again bringing the issue of airport noise to the forefront of that discussion.

Last Wednesday, roughly 60 residents turned out for a public hearing at the airport on an environmental assessment of the proposed control tower. And although the assessment does not cite noise as an area of concern, it was a high priority for many of the attendees.

According to Peter Byrne, senior airport planner at the Hauppauge-based firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., the hearing was part of a formal process under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Byrne gave the audience an overview of the 26-feet, four-inch tower, which would be functional for roughly 16 hours a day between May and September.

From an enclosed glass cab, air traffic controllers would use a high frequency radio to communicate with aircraft owners. The tower would also come equipped with “a steady burning, red obstruction light,” he added.

Nonetheless, the majority of commenters at the hearing aired their grievances not about the tower, but about noise pollution generated by the airport in general.

Airport noise has been an issue debated in East Hampton and beyond for years, but became increasingly controversial last summer, when one of two recommended helicopter flight paths was eliminated, rerouting all helicopter traffic over Jessup’s Neck in Noyac.

Residents of the hamlet, along with North Sea, Sag Harbor and other surrounding areas, have reported a major increase in noise as a result. For the last year, those residents have been joined by government officials like Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Congressman Tim Bishop, Senator Charles Schumer, New York State Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., among others including members of civic organizations, in calling for a comprehensive strategy to address helicopter noise stemming from the airport before another busy summer season begins.

At the same time, the environmental assessment discussed at last Wednesday’s meeting does not include Noyac or the surrounding area as being one impacted by the control tower. Bridget Fleming, a Southampton Town councilwoman who serves as the liaison to Noyac, asked that the area of study be expanded to include these locales.

The study “does not note anything about the concomitant increase in noise over Noyac, North Sea and the Sag Harbor area,” said Fleming. “The presence of the tower has a very real impact on those areas and the areas that are outside the study area.”

For Kathleen Cunningham, chair of the Quiet Skies Coalition, the control tower “offers safety, but it also increases capacity.”

Patricia Currie, a fellow Quiet Skies member, said, “Increased capacity is noise.”

Theresa Caskey, who traveled from Mattituck on the North Fork to give her testimony, said planes on their way to East Hampton were waking her up early in the morning.

Tom MacNiven of Wainscott added that holding a hearing mid-week was a problem for many second homeowners in the area and that it had not been properly publicized.

For some residents, the hearing was a chance for some show-and-tell.

William Reilly of Sag Harbor held up a stack of notebooks that recorded the “hundreds” of times he had called to complain about noise over the years.

And Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, played a tape of helicopter noise she had recorded at her house last weekend.

“Welcome to my backyard,” she shouted over the sound of choppers. “This is my Saturday and Sunday.”

Noyac resident Gene Polito, on the other hand, questioned the accuracy of the environmental report.

“Apparently, the report you put together is flawed from top to bottom,” he said, adding “noise pollution is environmental. Air pollution is environmental. Everything related to the airport is environmental.”

Jeff Bragman of East Hampton, who called the control tower “a sales pitch by the airport lobby,” lambasted the fact that the hearing was moderated by “a couple of suits from Hauppauge.”

“This hearing is everything about why we need local control instead of FAA control,” he said, eliciting applause from the audience.

But Gerard Boles of East Hampton, an aircraft owner and president of the East Hampton Aviation Association, offered a different perspective.

“With the amount of traffic that we have in the summertime, the control tower proves to be beneficial,” he said.

While he said it was “not a panacea, it is not the solution,” he believed that “all in all, a control tower is positive, even for noise abatement.”

A draft of the environmental assessment is available on the Town of East Hampton’s website, www.town.east-hampton.ny.us. The airport will continue to accept written comments on the subject until 5 p.m. on May 13.

Jack Pryor Resigns as Principal of Bridgehampton School; Principal and Superintendent Positions to be Combined

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Wednesday night, it was expected the Bridgehampton School Board of Education would accept the resignation of Jack Pryor who has served as principal in the district for the last eight years.

His resignation will be effective June 30. The board of education plans to fold the duties of principal at the Bridgehampton School into Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre’s position in an effort to reduce the administrative costs in the district.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for eight years of collaboration as we have worked to make the Bridgehampton School a wonderful place to receive a quality education,” wrote Pryor, 61, in a letter sent to parents on April 23. “During those eight years, we started Advanced Placement courses, built a greenhouse, structured an outstanding music and arts department, increased test scores and improved our reputation in the educational community.”

The Sag Harbor resident came to the South Fork in the 1980s to work in the restaurant industry while teaching in Cold Spring Harbor. Pryor was an assistant principal in the Sag Harbor School District for four years before becoming the principal of the Bridgehampton School in 2005.

In an interview on Tuesday, Pryor said he had already met with faculty and staff about the decision, which he said was made after the school board made him a generous incentive offer to resign in an effort to merge the administrative positions.

He planned to gather students together in small groups on Wednesday to inform them of the decision.

“I really do feel that it was time for me to move on,” said Pryor on Tuesday. “We were able to do a lot of good things at this school and I think what I was able to do here had really reached a maximum.

Pryor said he specifically did not retire because he feels he has more to offer education on the East End in the future. He recently completed an educational doctorate at St. John’s University with a thesis “Rethinking New York State School District Organizations,” a paper looking at the 10 school districts on the South Fork, how they operate and how that efficiency can be improved.

In an email, on Tuesday, Dr. Favre said the decision to merge the two administrative positions came after recommendations made during a community forum on the budget, where many felt the school was top heavy on administrators.

“With that in mind, and in light of the fact that there was once a time when the superintendent/principal position was one position, [the BOE] decided to move in that direction, when Dr. Pryor indicated his interest in accepting the incentive the board was offering,” said Dr. Favre.

“During times such as these, we feel that going back to the basis and keeping our curriculum strong is important,” added BOE president Nicki Hemby, who said while this was meant to be a fiscally responsible move, it was also meant to support Pryor’s decision to move forward in his career after receiving his doctorate.

“Under Dr. Pryor’s leadership, Bridgehampton has developed into a school that people are talking about — with a strong curriculum, a great sense of family, amazing students that we can all be proud of,” said Dr. Favre. “His attention to safety, and unsurpassed commitment to the students and staff will be a challenging act to follow. Building needs drive the district needs, so the challenge will be the balancing act to assure that attention is sufficiently given to both.”

“Jack Pryor is a very dynamic man who, in my eyes has forged many wonderful relationships for the school with members within and outside of the community,” said Hemby. “As a parent his open door and mind policy has always been a refreshing perk in the Bridgehampton School.”

“He will be dearly missed,” she added.

Thiele: Montauk Highway Rehab Clears Major Huddle

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced on Monday that the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) has granted his request and that of 10 other elected officials representing areas traversed by Montauk Highway, the key South Fork arterial. The agency has agreed to amend the State Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) to include reconstruction of a 10-mile stretch of Montauk Highway from CR 39 to Stephen Hands Path. The proposed construction would cost approximately $12.53 million. State DOT already had scheduled the reconstruction of a 2.3 mile stretch of the highway from SR 114 to Stephen Hands Path for the spring of this year.

“Congressman Bishop, State Senator Ken LaValle, County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, and every South Fork supervisor and mayor joined with me to request the reconstruction of Montauk Highway,” said Thiele, referencing a February letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state DOT. “Not only did the Governor and Commissioner Joan McDonald respond favorably, they were quick in responding so that this project can get underway in 2013. I thank them for their fast action.”

The project would be funded by federal and state funds. The comment period on the proposed amendment to the TIP will end on March 22. After that, the project will be included in the TIP and detailed design work will begin. The construction of the segment between SR 114 and Stephen Hands Path will begin this spring and the remaining work from Stephen Hands Path to CR 39 will commence after Labor Day this year.

“I urge all local elected officials and the public to weigh in with the State DOT before the Friday deadline,” said Thiele.

Comments should be submitted to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, Attn: David Drits 199 Water Street, 22nd Floor New York, New York 10038 or email davis.drits@dot.ny.gov

“The importance of this highway cannot be underestimated. It is the only major road bringing people to and from the South Fork of Long Island,” said Thiele. “There is no alternative route. It is the most highly trafficked road on eastern Long Island. It is essential for both local residents and the substantial second home industry. It is important for business and commerce in that the delivery of goods and services as well as the transportation of workers and tradesmen depend on this road.”

“Most important, local fire, ambulance, and emergency service workers depend on this road to do their jobs, particularly to transport patients to Southampton Hospital,” added Thiele. “Finally, in the case of an emergency or disaster, this road is the only evacuation route for the region. At a time when the economy has suffered from a deep recession, this project will mean not only construction jobs but will also foster the tourism/second home based economy of the region. Now, the entire stretch from Southampton to East Hampton will be repaved.”

Schiavoni Resignation Shines Spotlight on Sag Harbor School Board

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By Kathryn G. Menu
The resignation of Sag Harbor School Board member Gregg Schiavoni — the second board member to step down in less than a year — was attributed to a number of concerns, chief among them his belief that “75 percent of the executive session agenda dialogue” should be held in public and not behind closed doors.

In the aftermath of a sharply worded letter Schiavoni submitted to the board as his resignation, members appear divided on whether the public body has, in fact, violated Open Meetings Law or abused executive session privilege.

Public bodies can only discuss very specific issues in closed session, including matters that imperil public safety, that would identify a law enforcement agent or informer or an investigation, discussions about litigation, collective negotiations, acquisitions or the lease or sale of property, the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation.

“I have not witnessed a specific moment where that has happened, but what does happen sometimes is an agenda is partly in executive session and partly in open session and would be on both agendas,” said board president Theresa Samot on Tuesday, adding any discussion not specifically considered protected, and any votes, were held in public session.

“When in doubt, I check with the attorney and for any board member it is their responsibility to bring that forward, ask the attorney, and ask the board bring the discussion into an open meeting,” said Samot who believes the Sag Harbor School Board does air on the side of caution. “We try to keep the executive session agenda very limited to those specific issues that are protected. The role is for us to deliberate and vote in open sessions.”

A request under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to see copies of all executive session agendas since September 2012 was not fulfilled as of press time.

Board member Sandi Kruel said she believed the board adhered to executive session rules and said district attorney Tom Volz is available prior to and during some sessions if a question arises about whether something should be public.

Board member Chris Tice deferred comment to Samot.

Board member Sue Kinsella, who was appointed to take Walter Wilcoxen’s board seat, did not return a call for comment. Wilcoxen left the board in July, declining to take his oath of office after being re-elected to the board.

Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso also backed the board.

“Normally, we are very good about making sure we get legal and expert opinion in terms of what is appropriate or not,” he said.

Dr. Bonuso said in some of the topics Schiavoni cited in his letter as being inappropriate for executive session — school calendar, for example — “we are talking about contract or individual work or seeking a legal interpretation.”

In terms of the calendar, Dr. Bonuso said the board was furnished with legal parameters in which to have a discussion about snow days, and said the board discussed those parameters in public session.

He added those very topics, like discussions about LandTek, an athletic field construction company — also cited in the Schiavoni letter — were issues heavily debated in public session.

“Eventually, in both cases, my recommendation was modified, so there was some honest conversation happening in the public,” said Dr. Bonuso.

Samot agreed with Dr. Bonuso that in cases like the school calendar, it was on an executive session agenda so the board could understand its legal options, in terms of whether or not it could use staff days and how many calendar days it needed for the school year. Some other pieces of the executive session discussion on the calendar related to a union contract, she said.

Board member Ed Drohan declined comment, although he added, “I don’t want that to infer in any way that I don’t agree with him, or I do agree with him.”

The most outspoken member since Schiavoni’s resignation has been former board president Mary Anne Miller, who this week said she agreed with Schiavoni’s claims, and vowed to be more vocal on her positions as a school board member.

“This year, I have reached out to the president and the superintendent expressing my concern and discomfort about executive agendas that in my opinion listed items that did not belong there,” said Miller. “I have consistently and repeatedly asked for clarification.”

Miller, who is attending a state sponsored conference on Open Meetings Law next week, said there were a number of occasions where the board would be engaged in a legitimate conversation about a specific personnel matter, but then “grey areas” would emerge where she felt the discussion should be public.

Both Miller and Schiavoni said they raised these issues with the rest of the board.

Issues like the school calendar, LandTek, the position of the Athletic Director — not directly related to personnel — and YARD (Youth Advocacy and Resource Development) were examples of issues where Miller and Schiavoni felt some discussions behind closed doors should have been held in public.

This week, Schiavoni raised an instance where he said a straw poll on a coaching position was conducted in executive session.

“Maybe it was to make sure we were all on the same page, that we all agree,” he said. “I don’t think we need to all agree. That is where the discussions are good, and maybe we all end up somewhere in the middle.”

However, said Schiavoni, there were times where a difference of opinion was not tolerated.

“Different opinions are fine, they are good, but when you are unwilling to listen to both sides of an issue, I do think that is harmful,” he said. “Sometimes when I went to meetings it would almost seem like decisions were already made before we even talked about them. That is how I felt, at least.”

Miller said in one instance, she felt the board adjourned into executive session because she was going to vote against the majority on a contract issue. By the time the board came into open session, Miller said she sided with the majority “to keep the peace,” a decision she now regrets.

“My difficulty is it is against the law, first and foremost,” said Miller of any executive session breach. “Second of all, I just don’t see the need. The conversations are not as rich or valuable as they would be if we were having them in front of our community and administrators.”

Miller said this is not to say debate doesn’t occur, with good results, in the public sphere. She cited a very public debate about student accident insurance last year that was heated, “but good and I was on the wrong side of that debate.”

As to a board agreement to allow only Samot and Dr. Bonuso to serve as the public voice of the board outside of board meetings, particularly when it involves the press, Miller said she can no longer in good conscience follow that model.

“I think we do have a responsibility to our public to let them know, in all instances, what we think about the issues,” said Miller.

On Tuesday, Samot said the board agreed to allow her and Dr. Bonuso to serve as spokespeople, not unusual for a board. She added the public opinions of board members are available in public session and also through the board’s minutes, which are public documents.

Voters Approve $24 Million Beach Renourishment Plan for Sagaponack and Bridgehampton

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Oceanfront property owners in Sagaponack, Bridgehampton and Water Mill approved a referendum on Saturday night that will allow homeowners and the Town of Southampton to spend $24 million to replenish eroded beachfront. A beachfront only made worse by Hurricane Sandy’s impact this October.

According to Southampton Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer, Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato and Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray between two erosion control districts in Bridgehampton and Sagaponack 75 ballots were cast in favor of the project and 49 against.

Only residents within the two erosion control districts were allowed to vote in the referendum.

According to Jennifer Garvey, with Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s office, 202 homeowners were eligible to cast votes in the referendum which will allow voters to pay for the beach renourishment through special taxing districts. One hundred and twenty four residents turned out to cast ballots in the referendum vote Saturday.

The project will encompass six miles of contiguous shoreline, including 141 properties, five of which are beaches owned by Southampton Town. The town will foot $1.5 million of the project to cover the cost of renourishment on its beaches.

“Today’s referendum marks the culmination of two and a half years of collaboration with our ocean front property owners — a group of constituents who first approached the town with an interest in forming a special taxing district in order to jointly pursue more efficient and cost-effective measures for protecting their properties,” said Throne-Holst.

The Southampton Town Board will serve as commissioners of both erosion control districts and will have to issue a $24 million bond to finance the project, which will be repaid by homeowners and the town over a 10-year period.

According to the town, properties within the two districts have an assessed value of $1.8 billion.

The project will entail dredging 2.5 million tons of sand from two areas one-mile offshore and replenishing the beach with that sand. It is expected to start in late spring or early summer, and will take about two months to complete.

“As individual property owners, many of us have been investing tens of thousands of dollars on an annual basis to rebuild our dunes and protect our homes from the impacts of erosion,” said Alan Stillman, a long-time Sagaponack property owner and member of the Sagaponack Beach Erosion Control District Advisory Board. “A systematic solution offers much greater protection and value. That is what we proposed — and have now approved.”

“From the start, we approached this undertaking like a business,” said Jeff Lignelli, a Bridgehampton property owner. “We researched numerous erosion protection measures and costs, and ultimately chose an award-winning coastal expert to design a renourishment project — the option we felt was the best fit for the area because it matches the look and feel of the existing beach, which was critically important to us. When the project is finished, the beaches will basically look like they did 30 years ago — much wider.”

The South Carolina-based firm of Coastal Science and Engineering led by Dr. Tim Kana designed the project.

First Coastal Corporation of Westhampton is the local permitting partner.

“Votes like this are always nerve wracking, but we are just thrilled the residents felt it was important enough to spend their own money on this,” said Aram Terchunian, with First Coastal Corporation, on Tuesday. “This is historic, particularly in the wake of what happened during Hurricane Sandy.”

Terchunian and Garvey said that now the project will move into the permitting phase, which was already pursued while awaiting the results of Saturday’s referendum.

Terchunian said both the New York State Office of Coastal Management and the New York State Office of General Services have already signed off on the project. It still needs approved from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corp of Engineers.

While Terchunian praised homeowners for being willing to take on such a project, he added he believes the state and federal government will need to take a bigger role in beach renourishment in the future.

“These are levels of government getting huge benefits in the form of sales and incomes taxes in the regional and national economy tied to our beaches,” he said. “Beaches produce so much income on so many different levels we need to see they are protected.”

Whether or not this project will benefit from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy remains unclear. Beaches in both Bridgehampton and Sagaponack, having already contended with significant beach erosion, were hammered by the fall storm, whole stretches of beach literally washed away.

“We are pursuing that and the town is pursuing that very aggressively,” said Terchunian.

In fact, after Hurricane Sandy, the town board fast tracked this proposal after seeing the coastline and structural damage caused in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The board voted unanimously to approve the proposal and a referendum on the project on November 27.

“I think this plan would have won the support it needed even before Superstorm Sandy, but what was initially a more proactive project became urgently needed following the storm,” said Throne-Holst. “Fortunately, these property owners were already well into the process of securing the needed support and permissions for their proposal, so it’s likely they’ll have a wide, protective beach within the year.”

“The beaches are a crucial part of our local economy and way of life, and the properties within these BECDs [Beach Erosion Control District] also comprise a major portion of our tax base. I think this is a remarkable public/private partnership that will greatly benefit both the property owners and all of our town residents, and I’m proud to have been a part of making it happen,” she said.