Tag Archive | "Shelter Island"

The Wainwright Sisters Come to Plant & Sing at Sylvester Manor

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Lucy and Martha Wainwright.

Lucy and Martha Wainwright.

By Gianna Volpe

There’s never been a more meaningful time to celebrate local food and traditional American music than this Saturday’s Plant & Sing Festival as it will be the first held at Sylvester Manor since heirs of the historic plantation gifted nearly the entire property to the non-profit organization in its name.

For the first time this year, tickets are on sale for a VIP brunch where Sylvester Manor’s Development Director Kim Folks said attendees would be able to meet some of the event’s headlining artists.

“We thought it would be a really key opportunity to offer something special for our sponsors and might be a draw for increasing our fundraising. We also just built a new farm building so that morning we’ll do a little sample of the music there and serve some fresh, local food and produce from our farm,” Ms. Folks said. “We’re so excited. We’ve had so much unbelievable support.”

Artists to perform at Plant & Sing include Martha Wainwright & Lucy Wainwright Roche, Eastbound Freight and The Deadly Gentlemen.

As many as 1,000 people will attend the all-day event, which will feature the first musical collaboration between the Wainwright sisters, who spent their childhoods summering on Shelter Island.

“I’m really excited about this collaboration because it’s sort of a special thing they’re doing just for Plant and Sing,” said Bennett Konesni, co-founder of the Sylvestor Manor Education Farm and descendent of the Sylvestor family. “[Martha and Lucy] don’t generally perform together, but they’re putting together this set to share with our audience for the first time, so it’s a new collaboration that is really neat to be a part of because people can see something that’s never been seen before.”

Mr. Konesni, who also performs music with wife, Edith, said he will open the festival’s musical portion, adding all those who join in the morning planting of garlic and other fall vegetables can learn and sing along to a number of traditional American work songs.

“It helps remember and acknowledge the slavery that happened here because a lot of the songs that we sing are very old songs from African American tradition…so it’s reminder of just what people went through before us; it’s a way of keeping a memory alive in a sense,” he said. “There are a lot of issues in the world right now, especially issues of inequality and injustice and a food system where people, land and water are still being exploited. We got here because those patterns of exploitation were set long, long ago and if we’re going to change them we need to remember that it’s a deeply entrenched way of thinking and that it’s absolutely part of our history here and in the country. The first step to undoing that is to acknowledge and remember that and the second step is to say, ‘What are we going to do about it?’”

For Mr. Konesni, this idea of acknowledgement and remembrance is the first of the two-pronged center of the Plant & Sing Festival. The second part, he said, is all about providing an antidote to past oppression through celebration.

“Part of the way to change things going forward is to create farms and communities where coming together joyfully is a normal part of everyday life,” said Mr. Konesni. “That’s one of the reasons we play work songs as part of the festival. It kind of captures what rural arts and culture has been and could be. So after the concerts, which are going to be amazing, we’re going to get together and have a contra dance.”

Contra dancing is a traditional dance form that Mr. Konesni said is now quietly spreading throughout the country in places like Atlanta, St. Louis and along the West Coast, despite being hundreds of years old. “The entire community dances with each other during any one dance, which is great because most of the people in the group will dance with each other…We’ll do it that night on the grounds here at Sylvester Manor under Christmas lights hanging from the trees and Tiki torches; it’ll be a really interesting experience.”

Plant & Sing won’t be just work and music, however, so attendees should prepare themselves for a wide variety of fun activities for the whole family, including early morning yoga, adult pumpkin carving, face-painting, pony rides, local food and a host of literary readings.

“This event is all about taking things that are very traditional about farming and food and putting an interesting spin on them,” said Ms. Folks. “It’s shedding light on different ways that we can move forward through sharing food and celebrating those people who sell and produce locally – like Schmidt’s Market, Wolffer Wines, Southampton Publick House and Captain’s Neck & Co. – so everything that people will consume, buy or enjoy will be local.”

Ms. Folks said the entrance to Plant & Sing will be located at 46 Manhassett Road and should be clearly marked. She said attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket, chair and willingness to have a good time, but asked that coolers and furry friends be left at home for this event.

Tickets for Plant & Sing can be purchased from the Sylvester Manor website: www.sylvestermanor.org.

 

National Register Nomination

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. this week announced the New York State Board for Historic Preservation recommended adding Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island and 21 other properties, resources and districts to the state and National Registers of Historic Places.

Sylvester Manor is a 225-acre site which houses a 1737 Georgian manor house as well as nationally significant archaeology that has provided tremendous insights into the early interaction between European Americans, Native Americans and enslaved African Americans engaged in barrel-making and other activities to supply provisions to plantations in Barbados.

There are more than 90,000 historic buildings, structures and sites throughout the state listed on the National Register of Historic Places, individually or as components of historic districts. Property owners, municipalities and organizations from communities throughout the state sponsored the nominations.

Bagging Plastic

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PIC DAVID CRUMP.TESCO PLASTIC BAGS

The Southampton Town Board will schedule a public hearing on a proposed plastic bag ban during the first week of December, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst announced at a Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Monday.

Dieter von Lehsten, the co-chair of the Southampton Town Sustainability Committee, gave a presentation to the CAC about the proposed ban. Southampton Town uses 23 million plastic bags every year, he said, and he estimates the town only recycles about 3 million of them.

“That still leaves 20 million bags that are somewhere,” he said. Plastic bags never disintegrate entirely, he explained, but instead break down into smaller and smaller pieces. Research has shown that fish eat the tiny plastic particles, which are now a part of the food chain.

Mr. von Lehsten also said the latest research has shown there is now more plastic in the ocean than plankton.

“It is a movement which is better to do from the bottom up,” he said, adding “the politicians depend on us because we are the electorate.” In California, 78 municipalities banned the bags, he said, which has resulted in a state-wide ban.

“We want to force the issue,” he said. Mr. von Lehsten and the sustainability committee have started a letter campaign to the town board to tell it to ban the bags.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association are on board with a regional ban. “I think it has a lot of value if it’s done regionally,” she said of the ban.

The East Hampton Town Board has not yet set a date for an informational meeting on a potential plastic bag ban but it will be in the next few months, Supervisor Larry Cantwell said on Tuesday.

According to Ms. Throne-Holst, the plan is to have the implementation date be Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, 2015.

Governor Cuomo Deafeats Teachout in Democratic Primary

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By Mara Certic

Although New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo decisively won the democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, September 9, his opponent, Zephyr Teachout, led many of the polls on the East End.

Governor Cuomo won the primary with 62.1 percent of the vote, Ms. Teachout, a law professor in New York, received 34.2 percent.

According to unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections, in East Hampton Town,  Ms. Teachout received 307 votes, while only 207 East Hamptonites voted for Governor Cuomo. Last week, Betty Mazur, the vice chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee, sent out an e-mail blast endorsing Ms. Teachout and criticizing Governor Cuomo for his unfulfilled promises and particularly for his lack of response to local problems with PSEG Long Island.

According to the board of elections, Governor Cuomo took Suffolk County with just under 55 percent of the vote, while Ms. Teachout received almost 43 percent. According to the BOE, 16,030 out of 296,315 eligible voters, or 5.4 percent, turned out to vote.

In the Town of Southampton, Governor Cuomo beat out his opponent by just five votes, receiving 450 to Ms. Teachout’s 445. Ms. Teachout also proved popular on Shelter Island, where she received nine more votes than the incumbent governor.

Ms. Teachout, a constitutional and property law professor at Fordham University, announced she was running “to lay out a bold vision and provide a real choice for voters,” according to her website. Her running mate, Tim Wu, is a law professor at Columbia University.

“We are not Albany insiders, but we believe Governor Cuomo and Kathy Hochul can be beat, and must be challenged. We will force Governor Cuomo to defend his record of deep education cuts, his tax cuts for banks and billionaires, his refusal to ban fracking and his failure to lead on the Dream Act,” their website reads.

The 2014 New York gubernatorial election, pitting Governor Cuomo against Republican Rob Astorino, will take place on Tuesday, November 4. For questions about voter registration or polling places in Suffolk County visit suffolkvotes.com or call (631) 852-4500.

League of Women Voters Trip to the North Fork for a Fall Festival Fling

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Barbara Shinn of Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck. Photo by Arlene Hinkemeyer.

After visiting Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, the Main Street revival in Riverhead and sightseeing around Sag Harbor, the League of Women Voters is hitting the road again, this time traveling to the North Fork for a Fall Festival Fling on Tuesday, September 16.

Reservations are required by Monday, September 8, for the daylong event, which starts at 11 a.m. at the Hallockville Farm Museum with a tour of the colonial and Polish farmsteads on the site. The museum is on the National Register of Historic Places. At 12:30 p.m., those on the tour will be served a catered lunch in the Naugles barn on the farm, followed by a celebration of Apple Fest with a talk by Shannon Harbes at Harbes Farmstand in Mattituck at 1:45 p.m. The day winds down at 3 p.m. with a vineyard tour, wine tasting and talk by Barbara Shinn at Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck.

To register, call Gladys Remler at (631) 288-9021 or send a check for $45 made out to LWVH to 180 Melody Court, Eastport, NY, 11941 by Monday, September 8. Include your address and email to receive a two-page itinerary of the day, which includes directions.

Another Good Month for CPF

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Another month, another windfall for the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund.

According to figures released by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the CPF collected a total of $9.94 million during the month of July in the five East End towns. Last year for the same period, CPF revenues were $8.8 million.

Total revenue for the first seven months of the year has been $55.7 million an increase of 5.8 percent over the same period last year when $52.7 million was collected.

Southampton leads all towns, having collected $32.4 million this year, up from $30.8 million over the first seven months last year. East Hampton has collected $17.4 million, up from $16.9 million. Southold has collected $2.8 million, up from $2.2 million; Riverhead has received $1.9 million, up from $1.4 million, while Shelter Island has seen a dip to $1.2 million from $1.4 million.

Since its inception in 1999, the CPF has generated $940.4 million. The CPF has generated $98.47 million over the last 12 months.

East Hampton Town Board to Hold Special Meeting on Aircraft Noise

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Due to overwhelming interest, the East Hampton Town Board has announced that it will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, August 27, where residents from both forks are invited to air their concerns. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Mara Certic

The East Hampton Town Board will hold a special meeting next week to give residents from the North and South forks the opportunity to express their concerns about aircraft noise.

The board’s decision followed a meeting of the Noyac Civic Council at the Bridgehampton Senior Nutrition Center last week that attracted a crowd of well over 100 residents, a large number of whom had to stand in the back of the room for the entirety of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting. Residents from as far away as Mattituck attended the meeting to air their concerns in front of Congressman Tim Bishop, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., other East End elected officials and several Federal Aviation Administration representatives.

All of the East Hampton residents at the Noyac meeting urged those who live in Southampton Town and elsewhere to attend the East Hampton Town Board meeting, scheduled for the evening of Thursday, August 21.

Charles Ehren, vice chairman of The Quiet Skies Coalition, urged all of those gathered to “make your case to the East Hampton Town Board.”

But with the prospect of a large crowd descending on Town Hall, the East Hampton Town Board scheduled the special meeting to discuss the airport for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 27, at LTV Studios, 75 Industrial Road in Wainscott.

Bob Malafronte, who with Barry Holden, represents Southampton residents on East Hampton Town’s helicopter noise abatement committee, made the same plea and said next week’s meeting “is going to be an important one.”

“We understand a large number of East End residents wish to address this issue and many planned to attend the August 21 regular meeting of the Town Board. Based on the turnout of citizens attending recent meetings on this issue in Southold and Southampton Towns, we would anticipate an overflow crowd on the night of August 21 when the Town Board already has 13 public hearings scheduled,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said in a release issued on Monday.

“Such a turnout will leave many people without seating, standing in the entryway and outdoors. In order to adequately host the number of people who wish to address the Town Board, we are inviting residents of the North and South Fork to attend the special meeting on August 27 at LTV Studios,” he continued.

The Quiet Skies Coalition also issued a press release on Monday informing its members of the change. “Quiet Skies Coalition congratulates the supervisor for recognizing the importance of this issue and making a special effort for community input. QSC urges all noise-affected residents to attend this meeting to voice concerns regarding aircraft noise,” it read.

There has been little doubt, according to airport critics, that the current town board in East Hampton has been much more responsive than previous administrations.

“It’s a different board now,” said Barry Holden at last Tuesday’s meeting.

“The people on the board are looking in the right direction. But we’re up against a group of business people and owners of corporations.”

Residents, who say they are being tormented by the noise, and environmentalists hope that the town board will stop accepting money from the FAA when the current grant obligations expire on December 31, 2014.

At that point, the board would be able to impose stricter regulations on the airport and, some hope, ban helicopters.

 

Rubber Duckies Off to the Races on Shelter Island

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By Tessa Raebeckunnamed-11

Bath time’s favorite icon is coming to Shelter Island. Some 500 rubber ducks will float down Chase Creek this Sunday, August 24, at the third annual Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce Duck Race.

The stakes may not be as high as at the Belmont or on the tables of Foxwoods, but the competition is fierce, as contestants vie for the quickest rubber duck on the island. For $20, contestants can sponsor a rubber ducky, with all proceeds raised by the chamber going toward promoting local businesses by encouraging people to “shop the rock.”

The race starts at 11:30 a.m. and lasts about 15 minutes. The event takes place rain or shine, for ducks are versatile creatures.

The first place duck’s sponsor will receive 10 percent of the proceeds, while second and third place contestants receive 5 and 2.5 percent, respectively. Sponsorship can be bought via PayPal at shelterislandchamber.org. For more information, contact chamber director and the mind behind the rubber duck madness, Heather Reylek at (631) 495-9557.

East End Weekend: Highlights of What to Do August 1 to 3

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"Reclining Blue" by Christine Matthäi is on view at the Monika Olko Gallery In Sag Harbor.

“Reclining Blue” by Christine Matthäi is on view at the Monika Olko Gallery In Sag Harbor.

By Tessa Raebeck

The roads are clogged, the beaches are packed and somehow August has arrived. You know what that means? There’s even more to do this weekend! Have some highlights on us:

 

The Neo-Political Cowgirls latest performance “VOYEUR” opened Thursday, July 31, and will run performances August 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9. An inside/out theatre installation on-site at Parsons Blacksmith Shop in Springs, “VOYEUR” examines friendship, womanhood and the boundaries of theatre. Click here for the full story and here for more information and tickets.

"SPLASH" by Kia Andrea Pedersen.

“SPLASH” by Kia Andrea Pedersen.

 

Saturday at the Monika Olko Gallery in Sag Harbor, friends, Shelter Island residents and fellow artists Christine Matthäi and Kia Andrea Pederson will showcase their latest work. Originally from Germany, Ms. Matthäi specializes in abstract photography. Ms. Pederson uses more earthy mediums. In the exhibition, “The Call of the Sea,” their work is joined together by its shared celebration of the ocean.

An opening reception will be held at the gallery, located at 95 Main Street in Sag Harbor, on Saturday, August 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will be on view through August 22.

 

East Hampton welcomes David Sedaris, widely considered to be one of his generation’s best writers,
who will be hosting an evening at Guild Hall on Sunday, August 3. The humorist authored such bestsellers as “Naked,” “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” and “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.”

For more information, click here.

The evening starts at 8 p.m. and will be followed by a book signing. Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. Click here for tickets.

 

The Peconic Land Trust’s major event, Through Farms and Fields, is Sunday, August 3. The benefit features a country supper at hte property of Peconic Land Trust board member Richard Hogan and Carron Sherry, on historic Ward’s Point on Shelter Island. It will honor the conservation philanthropy of Barbara J. Slifka. There is an online auction, as well as a silent auction that will be held the night of the event.

Sylvester Manor Educational Farm Receives Historic Gift from Sylvester Family Descendants

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

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

By Tessa Raebeck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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