Tag Archive | "Southampton"

A Talk with Cops

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bumper sticker


Two designs for bumper stickers, available through town hall or the Citizen’s Response Center. Courtesy of Southampton Town Board. 

The Southampton Town Anti Bias Taskforce will host an open conversation between the police and other community members on the Stony Brook Southampton Campus on Thursday, May 14.

“It’s something the anti bias taskforce has been interested in doing for some time,” said Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, who with Councilman Brad Bender, acts as the town board’s liaison to the group.

“It’s not only about the police, it’s about the community as a whole and supporting a respectful dialogue,” she said.

The anti bias taskforce has also just launched a new bumper sticker campaign, supporting its cause.

“We came up with two designs,” Councilwoman Fleming explained; one has the word ‘hate’ crossed out and the other says, “We are a caring community.” Both designs have a drawing of multi-colored hands held in a circle.

Following requests from community members, the bumper stickers have been put on town-owned vehicles, including police cars. The stickers are available through the Town Council office of the Citizen’s Response Center.

“Synergy: An Open Conversation Between the Police and Community Members will take place on Thursday, May 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Duke Lecture Hall at the Stony Brook Southampton Campus.  For more information, call the anti-bias taskforce at (631) 702-1922.

Sharp Decline Expected in Bridgehampton School Taxes

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By Tessa Raebeck

Bridgehampton residents can expect to see lower taxes next year, as property assessments in the hamlet are expected to increase significantly, according to preliminary estimates from the Town of Southampton Assessor’s office. Although the number is not finalized, town Assessor Lisa Goree confirmed on Tuesday, April 28, that the Bridgehampton School District’s tax base will see an increase of about $252 million—or nearly $100 million more than in the three years prior.

“It’s not final, but the numbers are staggering,” said Robert Hauser, the district’s business administrator. The expected windfall is welcome news for the district, which had to ask voters to approve a budget that breached the tax cap last year. This year’s $12.8 million budget is below the tax cap, and the school’s impact on taxpayers will likely be minimal, as the tax levy will be more widely dispersed due to the influx of new commercial and residential properties in Bridgehampton.

“It’s almost as if [on] people’s school taxes they won’t see an increase, just because the increase in our budget is being spread among so much more property,” Mr. Hauser said at a school board meeting on April 22, adding, “We’ve got a lot of activity going on here.”

To the chagrin of some and the delight of others, Bridgehampton is abuzz with construction. A drive around town offers a glimpse into the extent of home renovations and new construction, as well as new commercial activity including the proposed CVS on the southeast corner of Ocean Road and Montauk Highway. Across the street, the completion of the Topping Rose House alone accounts for $25 million of the expected increase, Mr. Hauser said.

After hearing the news, school board member Jeff Mansfield joked, “Thank you Joe Farrell,” referring to the developer with signs on the lawns of shingled houses across Bridgehampton.

Even with the influx of new development across the hamlet, some tried and true Bridgehampton locals remain in town. Dr. Lois Favre, Bridgehampton’s superintendent and principal, has started a new tradition to honor those graduates. With help from the spouse of a graduate of the Class of 1965, she is inviting the class to celebrate its 50th reunion this spring by returning to their alma mater for the high school graduation.

Graduates of the class of ’65 who would like to attend graduation should contact Dr. Favre at (631) 537-0271, extension 1310. The graduation ceremony for the Class of 2015 is Sunday, June 28, at 4 p.m. at the Bridgehampton School, located at 2685 Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. The next meeting of the board of education is Wednesday, May 27, in the school’s café.

Test Refusal Rates Soar Across the East End

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By Tessa Raebeck

For the first time, the New York State Education Department has asked the Board of Cooperative Educational Services to compile data from school districts to learn what percentage of students in the state refused to take its tests in grades three through eight. Parents who opposed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to linked overarching and controversial educational reforms to the state’s budget and the amount set aside for school aid, have voiced their dissent by having their children “refuse the tests,” or not sit for the exams, which cover English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics.

Nearly 40 percent of Sag Harbor students in grades three through eight did not sit for New York State’s standardized tests on Common Core mathematics last week, according to Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves. The numbers represented a 9- percent increase in test refusal from the English Language Arts (ELA) in the same grades earlier this month. The decrease in participation is likely attributed to the increased publicity of the refuse the test movement statewide.

Although much higher than in previous years, test refusal rates on the East End were not as high as those in western Long Island, where refusal rates reached nearly 80 percent in some districts.

Some administrators fear the substantial non-participation rates seen across the state this month—the largest in recent memory, if not ever—will affect not only teachers’ jobs, who could be rated as ineffective and fired if enough students opt out, but also the data some schools use to drive curriculum.

But teachers’ unions, involved parents and education experts from around the country say the reforms are threatening the human, interactive aspects of education so many students need. By raising the high stakes on standardized tests even higher, they say the governor is encouraging “teaching to the test,” which they fear replaces creative projects and interactive lessons with redundant workbooks and monotonous drills, substituting “tricks” for ideas.

Both the overhaul and the reaction could leave many teachers and administrators out of jobs should their students not perform up to par—regardless of the socioeconomic environment they teach in. Many of the students refusing the tests are the same students who perform best on them, and schools like Sag Harbor, where students traditionally excel, could see their scores plummet as refusal rates rise.

Yet, since the governor’s budget passed at the end of March, advocates for public education—including many teachers who could lose their jobs as a result—have declared refusing the test as the only means of resistance left.

Academically but not legally, test data is considered invalid if participation is limited. The federal government calls for 95 percent participation on a state’s standardized tests, but it is unclear whether any action will be taken. New York State has made no announcement as to what will happen to districts that have high refusal rates—now nearly every district in New York—and some fear school districts that did not play ball with the governor will see their state aid slashed.

“I hear that there will be no action taken,” Ms. Graves told the Sag Harbor Board of Education on Monday, April 27. “We have not gotten any guidance documents from New York State yet, I will just keep everybody posted.”

“So at this point we don’t know if we lost the school aid or not,” explained Chris Tice, vice president of the school board.

In the Bridgehampton School District, 37 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 refused to take their respective mathematics exams and 34 percent refused to take the ELA tests, Superintendent/Principal Dr. Lois Favre reported.

“Parents are genuinely concerned about the tests,” she told the board of education at its April 22 meeting.

Southampton Middle School Principal Tim Frazier said 54 percent of his students had not sat for their mathematics exam and estimated the district wide refusal rate was 55 percent.

East Hampton had far lower refusal rates, with 9 percent of student opting out of ELA and 15 percent not taking the math exams. Last year, all but 2 percent participated.

“As a building principal, the testing gives us good data to support and help children, and to improve the teaching and learning in the building,” East Hampton Middle School Principal Charles Soriano said Wednesday, adding, “The Common Core linked testing provides another opportunity for our students to develop comfort and familiarity with the genre of times, standardized testing.”

At the Montauk School, 46 out of 208 students, or 22 percent, refused to take the mathematics exam, versus about five refusals last year. Principal Jack Perna said on Tuesday, April 28, that he has “no idea” how the test refusals will affect teacher evaluations and state aid for next year and that “the state seems to be ‘confused’ as well.”

“While the Common Core standards are good, the assessments are not,” he said, “and using them so strongly for teacher evaluation is wrong.”

The governor had voiced his desire for half of a teacher’s evaluation to rely on students’ scores—even if they do not teach the subjects that are tested—but the final percentages will be determined by the State Education Department.

Town Boards Eye Affordable Housing Opportunities

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By Mara Certic

Last year a Georgica estate sold for $147 million, giving East Hampton the distinction of having the most expensive single-family house in the country. This year, Southampton’s Coopers Neck Lane was named the 11th-priciest street in America. But as the local real estate market continues to boom, governments in both towns are having to address another issue: the dire need for affordable housing.

The Southampton Town Board is slated to hold a preliminary hearing on a housing development planned for Water Mill on May 7. The developers, Phil Young and Joel Kaye, are asking the board to consider a Planned Development District (PDD) to change the zoning of the property, located east of the Water Mill Shoppes shopping center on Montauk Highway in order to allow 48 townhouses to be built there.

The town’s comprehensive plan requires PDDs to provide a benefit for the greater community at large. And according to the plan for the Water Mill Village Townhouses,  the benefit of the project would be the applicant’s donation of $3 million, estimated to be 25 percent of the value of the development, to the Southampton Housing Authority to be used for affordable housing—none of it onsite.

A report accompanying the application points out that residents qualifying for affordable housing would not be able to pay “the expenses required for the upkeep of this complex.”

“The major issue with any type of project is acquisition costs,” Curtis Highsmith, the executive director of the Southampton Housing Authority, said this week, explaining that often the authority must apply for tax credits and grants in order to fund projects, which lengthens the process.

“Having the resources upfront gives us purchasing power, and more control in terms of development and keeping things local,” he said, adding that three local construction companies have donated materials and sweat equity for a recent housing project on Bailey Road in Southampton.

Mr. Highsmith has been scouting potential properties for affordable housing in Water Mill, so that the hamlet could be the beneficiary of the $3 million donation.

“The major issue is the resource, which is the land, and how to keep the units affordable. Also, a lot of people are concerned that it devalues your neighborhood, which is such a barbaric and unrealistic mindset. It doesn’t do anything other than embrace a division of individuals that, frankly, we need to start taking focus on,” he added.

“I’m glad we have a town board that has the courage to stand up and say it’s necessary,” he said.

This week in East Hampton, the town board was updated on the affordable housing options available through both the town and private nonprofits. Michael DeSario, chairman of St. Michael’s Windmill Housing Associates, has recently been involved in a project to develop a 48-unit affordable housing project in Wainscott.

There are several affordable housing developments in the town, all of which are full, and the waiting lists continue to grow. It is estimated that there are at least 600 people currently waiting for affordable housing in the town.

“East Hampton is aging and it’s not to its benefit,” Mr. DeSario said on Monday afternoon, adding that one of the ideas behind the Wainscott plan would be to provide housing for young people who are having a hard time affording to live on the East End. “Even Hampton Bays is getting expensive. We’re hoping this will be an alternative,” he said.

Mr. DeSario estimated that one-bedroom apartments in the proposed Wainscott project would rent for about $850 a month. In affordable housing, rent is often calculated based on 30 percent of the tenant’s income, he explained.

Officials of the Wainscott School District, however, have complained that affordable housing could bring in too many school-age children, placing a burden on the district. A study by the town Planning Department and the applicant, however, have projected that the development would only bring in about 24 to 28 children. About one third of those children would attend the one-room Wainscott School, which teaches only children in kindergarten through third grade, with other children sent to schools in East Hampton.

Plans for the development also stipulate that a certain number of units would be reserved for seniors, the disabled and veterans, which would limit the number of children in the development.

It will take at least five years to get the complex built, Mr. DeSario added, which he said would give the district enough time to plan for the extra students.

“You have to look at East Hampton as one town and one community,” Mr. DeSario said, adding that there are several affordable housing units spread throughout the town including in Montauk, Springs. “It’s sort of like Wainscott’s turn,” he added.

Katy Casey, the director of the East Hampton Housing Authority, told the board of a conceptual plan for an energy-efficient , transgenerational housing project she is working on, although she said she had not found a site for it yet. Her proposal would have many amenities, including an onsite wastewater treatment plant, a community building and WiFi throughout. Certain percentages of the apartments would be earmarked for those with different income levels, in an effort to create a fully integrated, affordable and attainable housing development in the town.


Evoking the East End with Scented Candles

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By Stephen J. Kotz

With gift shops lining the main streets of East End villages and hamlets, Brittany Torres, a 29-year-old Southampton entrepreneur and owner of the start-up business, Hamptons Handpoured, knows she has entered a crowded field. But she is confident the handcrafted candles she is making with essential oils and other, high-quality natural ingredients, will soon find a niche on store shelves—and better yet, a place in customers’ homes.

Ms. Torres, who says she has always enjoyed the ambience provided by a scented candle, came upon her business idea by something of happenstance after she first envisioned marketing a line of t-shirts.

“I was very sick a few years ago, and I found myself looking for holistic ways to feel better,” she said. That search led her to take classes on essential oils and aromachology, which studies the effects of scents on people, and to eventually start experimenting with her own scented candles. Happy with the results, she decided to leave the t-shirts to others and concentrate on candles.

“The main difference from the candles I see in shops out here is I don’t think there are any candles made in the Hamptons,” she said. “And every one of my candles is handcrafted, right down to the choosing the glassware and the label to the ingredients.”

Ms. Torres works at Therapy Life & Style, clothing and accessories shop owned by Kelly Kirkpatrick at 38 Main Street in Southampton Village. Ms. Torres said Ms. Kirkpatrick has encouraged her own business, going so far as to let her make her candles in a small studio behind the shop.

And she has inherited an entrepreneurial streak from her parents, Bob and Alanna Torres, who have run several businesses, including, she said, the first VHS video store in Queens.

“They have always supported my creativeness and ideas,” she said of her parents, adding that after a short stint “in a corporate setting, I realized it wasn’t working for me.”

Ms. Torres and her boyfriend, Jason Lucas, make the candles in small batches, with each of the six kettles they use holding four pounds of wax and yielding a dozen candles each.

“I use both essential oils and fragrance oils in my candles,” Ms. Torres said, “and they are made with clean burning soy wax and cotton wicks.”

So far, Ms. Torres has named each of her scents after an East End village or hamlet and has developed the scent based on her own impressions and memories of each.

Her Bridgehampton candle, for instance, evokes her memories of babysitting for a family in that hamlet. “My memory is of big grassy fields and I would take the kids to the beach,” she said. The candle has a “bright, brassy, citrus scent,” she added.

Her Sag Harbor candle has a “musky, deep scent” to evoke its many restaurants, while East Hampton is one of luxury. “One of the fragrances I used I called cashmere,” Ms. Torres said. “I was thinking of all the high end stores in the village. It is also a fruity, deep, exotic scent.”

Her Montauk candle has hints of sandalwood and spicy, orange. “Sandalwood is a very grounding scent. Whenever I go to Montauk I feel at peace there,” she said. “And yet there is a liveliness that comes in the summer, so I added some spice.”

Southampton has a clean, crispy scent evocative of fresh linens, and Westhampton Beach’s lavender based scent is calming.

Another three scents will be unveiled in the coming months, Amagansett, Water Mill, and Quogue.

The 12-ounce candles sell for $28 and for now are available at Therapy Life & Style. By next month, Ms. Torres hopes to have her online store, at HamptonsHandpoured.com.

She also said she is aware that small locally owned shops tend to suffer at the hands of online retailers, so she plans to work to promote local shops as well as offer her own wares.

“I’ve learned a lot about small business and helping people,” she said. “Candles will bring wellness to people’s lives, but the greater thing is to connect with the community.”

“Five Presidents” & “The Darrell Hammond Project” Added to Bay Street Mainstage Season

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Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theater announced Sunday it has added two new productions to its 2015 Mainstage Season—both East Coast premieres.

“Five Presidents,” a new play by Emmy Award winning writer Rick Cleveland (“Six Feet Under,” “The West Wing,” and “House of Cards”) will be directed by Mark Clements and will run June 23 through July 12. Originally produced at the Arizona Theatre Company and by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, the funny and incisive drama is about the meeting of America’s most exclusive club—the ex-presents. Obliged to gather together on the day of Richard Nixon’s funeral, the four “exes” and one current Commander in Chief vent frustrations, revisit old grievances, and reveal the toll it takes on any person foolish enough to seek the highest office in the land.


The second new production added to the Mainstage Season is “The Darrell Hammond Project,” which will have its East Coast premiere at Bay Street July 16 through July 26. Written and performed by Darrell Hammond with additional material by Elizabeth Stein and Christopher Ashley, the production will also be directed by Mr. Ashley. Originally produced at the La Jolla Playhouse, the production stars comedian Darrell Hammond, best known for spot on impressions of public figures and celebrities like Bill Clinton on “Saturday Night Live.” In “The Darrell Hammond Project” he recounts the harrowing events that gave birth to his talent, on a “detective story of his own life” as he delves into the trauma and tenacity that made him an entertainer. Full of raw emotion, humor and plenty of the impressions that made him famous, “The Darrell Hammond Project” is the story of how a brilliant star rose from the darkest corners of human experience.

The Mainstage Season will still begin with the World Premiere of “The New Sincerity,” a new comedy by Alena Smith and directed by Bob Balaban. That production will run May 26 through June 14. The season will end with “Grey Gardens: A Musical,” directed by Michael Wilson, which will run August 4 through August 30.

“Bay Street Theater is expanding and growing, and we are excited to now present four productions on the Mainstage this summer,” said Scott Schwartz, artistic director for Bay Street Theater. “Both of the plays that we are adding to our season are personal portraits of complicated men. “Five Presidents” explores not only politics, but also the humanity in our leaders. Rick Cleveland is a writer who knows Washington, and his imagining of a meeting of five of our presidents is riveting. Darrell Hammond’s intimate look at his life in his new solo show delves deep into the dark side of funny, and is a theatrical and searing portrait of how this brilliant comedian found his voice.  The artists we have added to our season in Rick, Darrell, and directors Christopher Ashley and Mark Clements are visionary voices in the American Theater and I can’t wait to share their work with our audience in the East End.”

To purchase a 2015 Mainstage Season subscription, visit baystreet.org or call (631) 725-9500. Individual ticket sales will launch May 15.

Refuse the Test Movement Growing on the East End

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Parents bring their children to the Sag Harbor Elementary School at the start of the school day. Photo by Michael Heller.

Parents bring their children to the Sag Harbor Elementary School at the start of the school day. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

A grassroots movement of parents who say the government is taking the creativity out of learning—and doing so in impractical ways that help neither students nor schools—is growing statewide and across the East End, with many parents refusing to let their children sit for the tests the state uses to judge public education.

Advocates for local control of education were outraged when Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed through sweeping education reforms as part of the New York State budget last week (see related story), which include further linking teacher and school performance with student performance on tests written by a private company, Pearson, rather than educators.

The Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) sent parents a letter last week clarifying its position on test refusal.

According to the letter, TASH “strongly supports a parent’s right to advocate for his/her child and refuse the New York State ELA and Mathematics assessments in grades 3-8. As a collective body, TASH believes that the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers and lifelong learners who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to live good and purpose-filled lives. We believe that the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice. TASH opposes the over-reliance on high-stakes testing that is currently being pushed by both the federal and New York State governments because this testing has not been used to further instruction, help children, or support their educational needs. These commercially prepared assessments are not transparent and teachers, parents, and students are not permitted to discuss the content or to know which questions students answered incorrectly.”

These tests are administered over the course of several weeks each spring in addition to other state-mandated tests throughout the year. Last year, the State Education Department administered the tests on the new federal Common Core curriculum before providing lesson plans or textbooks. This year, schools are more familiar with Common Core, but unions and school boards alike have expressed concern over the connection of a teacher’s or administrator’s employment with a test that doesn’t take into account outside factors such as poverty, non-English speaking students or parents, or what a teacher does in their classroom aside from drilling students for the test.

Parents can “refuse the test” by writing a letter to their child’s school requesting their child be excused from the tests. When other students are taking the test, those who have excused are provided with another space to be so as not to disturb the testing.

Shona Gawronski has had five children attend Sag Harbor’s schools, and this year she is  refusing the test for her youngest two, a son in fourth grade and a daughter in seventh grade, as a form of activism in support of strong public education.

“I’ve been a parent [in the Sag Harbor School District] for 18 years and I’ve seen such a…decline in not the quality of the teaching but the parameters in which the teachers can be creative in their teaching,” she said. “Everything is evolved around these state tests—math, science and reading—and not so much the arts and…the more creative aspects of education.”

Tim Frazier, principal at the Southampton Intermediate School, said that, as of the start of the April break last Friday, about 10 percent of his students had refused, and he expects that number to increase by test time next week.

Aside from the political message it sends Albany, the movement to refuse the tests could have big implications on the performance of teachers and schools. Often, the students refusing to take the test are those who will do the best.

“Those scores will be reflecting the performance of my school and the performance of my teachers, so it’s really not a good place to be as an administrator at a public school right now—especially if a high percentage of students refused to take the test,” he said.

“There are so many other factors that go into making a ‘highly effective’ or highly performing teacher than just how…students do on a test score,” he added. “The state minimizes it to look at just that number instead of looking at all the other factors.”

Many teachers don’t actually teach the subjects being tested and are evaluated based on students they have hardly any contact with. A special education, technology or health teacher will get a score linked to how their students do in English language arts and mathematics.

But with the bill already passed and the governor showing no signs of changing his mind, advocates for education say refusing the test as their best option.

“When Washington, D.C., linked 50 percent of teacher evaluations to standardized test scores, teacher turnover increased to 82 percent, schools in communities with high poverty rates showed large or moderate declines in student outcomes, and the combined poverty gap for D.C. expanded by 44 scale-score points, causing poor students to fall even further behind their affluent peers,” said Anthony Chase Mallia, a seventh grade mathematics teacher at Pierson Middle/High School in Sag Harbor. “It is time to begin to acknowledge that the accountability movement has failed.”


The Teachers Association of Sag Harbor is inviting those seeking more information on test refusal to attend a forum on Thursday, April 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Old Whalers’ Church, located at 44 Union Street in Sag Harbor. For more information on test refusal and other commonly asked questions, visit the New York State Allies for Public Education website, nysape.org.

Personal Stylist Sisters Open Boutique “For Every Girl” on Southampton’s Jobs Lane

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Lisa and Cara Rooney of Girltauk, photographed in Montauk on 4/4/15

Sisters Lisa, left, and Cara Rooney, right, started Girltauk as an at-home boutique for their friends in Montauk, an opportunity for girl talk. Next month they’ll open the doors to new store on Jobs Lane. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic 

It’s been a hard few years for mom-and-pops on the East End, with rents continuing to increase and more and more money coming in from out-of-town. But next month, when sisters Cara and Lisa Rooney hold the grand opening of their new boutique in Southampton, it’ll be a small win for family businesses.

After over a year of looking for a way to make their dreams of success come true on the East End, Cara and Lisa finally found themselves a storefront and on May 1, the Rooney sisters will open the doors to their boutique and personal styling service, Girltauk, located at 10a Jobs Lane.

“The idea behind Girltauk, originally, was to get the local girls together, drink some wine and have girl talk,” said Lisa, 26, at her sister’s cottage last week. “And then on the side, do some shopping and get some cool clothes out of it, too.”

People often mistake Cara and Lisa for twins, but the sisters are two-and-a-half years apart and swear they couldn’t be more different.  Cara, 23, played competitive soccer all through school, garnering herself a scholarship to Fordham, where she played division one soccer and graduated from in 2013.

“Soccer was my job,” she said last week, adding that her background in competitive soccer has found her usually sporting comfortable, laid-back fashions. “And it kept me out of trouble,” she said.

Lisa agreed, and said that Cara’s discipline and dedication to soccer stopped her from repeating some of her big sister’s mistakes.

In terms of clothing, Lisa described herself as loud, showy, gaudy and edgy (“and always in high heels!”), and although very different from her sister, has been her style advisor since they were donning diapers. While Lisa never played competitive sports herself, she said, “the way Cara played soccer was the way I would work. I don’t think I’ve ever called in sick. I started my first job in Montauk at age 12.”

The sisters, originally from Whitestone, Queens, have spent their summers on the East End since their parents bought a house in Montauk in 1995. Lisa spent her adolescence working in different restaurants, eventually working her way up to the infamous graveyard shift at Salivar’s when she was just 17.

“Honestly Montauk saved my life. If I didn’t have Montauk to escape to, I would have felt very lost,” Lisa said. During high school she battled with eating disorders, which is a huge driving force behind the girls’ desire to make women look and feel beautiful.

“We’re trying to slowly, one outfit at a time, help women feel their best. Because there was a very long time when I didn’t,” she said.

“You want to surround yourself by people who feel good, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Lisa said. “And I think it takes a lot for women to feel good these days,” she added.

Growing up watching her big sister and style-guru struggle with eating disorders was enough to make Cara want to convince other women to feel comfortable and love their bodies, too.

Lisa worked in a few local boutiques to learn the retail business, employing the help of her sister every time she was in town. “We always had this idea that we’d love to have our own store,” Cara said.

In November 2012, Cara and Lisa’s older brother Eric died suddenly. “It was very life-changing and made us see it was time, it was time to cut the cord,” Lisa said.

“We realized that life’s too short to just have a passion for something, you might as well make your own dreams come true,” Cara added.

So the sisters did everything they could to make their dream of owning a store a reality. And then last year they started Girltauk, an at-home boutique trunk show, where their friends would come over, hang out, and buy clothes.

After almost two years of living room trunk shows, and the occasional pop-up shop, the Rooney sisters are now making their dreams of owning a store a reality, and now thanks to the 80-hour bartending weeks Lisa worked last summer and the 23 years of birthday money Cara has frugally saved, their shop will open up on Jobs Lane on May 1.

Girltauk will be sharing storefront space with Keogh, clothing designed by their new partner, Erin McQuail. “She’s a designer and we’re buyers so together it’ll flow nicely,” Lisa said.

“Girltauk is for every girl,” Lisa said. “She’s the beachy girl, she’s the business owner, she’s the stay at home mom. Everyone can walk away with something. And it works,” she said, “because Cara and I have such different styles.”

 Girltauk + Keogh will have its grand opening at 10a Jobs Lane on Friday, May 1. For more information, follow @girltauk on Instagram.

Ashram: Art & Architecture’s Lasting Gesture

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Daniel Ashram's Hooded Figure.

Daniel Ashram’s The Formless Figure

By Dawn Watson

Architecture is more than the study of blueprints and building specs for Daniel Arsham. It’s a living, breathing thing to be experienced. It’s art.

Creating site-specific sculpture directly relating to the space in which it’s erected, the artist’s aim is to transform the entire area into a visceral, yet playful, interaction with the viewer.

“When we think about architecture, it’s the most lasting gesture we can make as human beings—art too, I suppose, although one could argue that architecture is the most visible and present,” says Arsham. “Therefore its disruption can be very uncanny and powerful, and this is where I’m trying to allow the work to reside, a place where people are a little bit shaken by the disruption of the familiar and the everyday.”

He is now working to install his newest piece, “The Formless Figure,” made of fiberglass, metal and plaster, at the Watermill Center. Located in the Water Mill-based artistic laboratory’s main rehearsal studio, the “draped figure, minus the figure,” according to exhibit curator Daneyal Mahmood, will be on view starting Saturday, April 4.

“The form, generated through negative space, looks like a plaster form coming through the wall,” he said during a telephone interview on Monday morning. “Imagine if, as when you were a child, you put a sheet over your head like you were pretending to be a ghost.”

The slightly larger than life-size sculpture, blends directly into the wall, creating an interaction between the work and the building, said Watermill Center special events manager Elise Herget during Monday’s interview with Mr. Mahmood. “It shows, as Daniel’s work often does, of how we walk into a space every single day without noticing our own interaction with that space. What he’s done is to mold or melt that space around you. It’s an amazing duo.”

Arsham, a growing name on the contemporary art circuit, is well known for his work in “Snarkitecture,” a collaborative and experimental artistic expression that he and co-creator Alex Mustonen dreamed up. The name pays homage to the Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Hunting of The Snark,” which describes an “impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature.”

“Snarkitecture investigates the unknown within architecture – the indefinable moments created by manipulating and reinterpreting existing materials, structures and programs to spectacular effect,” says Arsham. “Snarkitecture makes architecture perform the unexpected.”

The work is “simply hypnotic,” said Mr. Mahmood, who described himself as a big fan. One of the things he loves most, he said, is that it’s instantly accessible to everyone, from children to art critics. “Whether you have a vocabulary about contemporary art or not, Daniel resonates with everybody.”

The busy artist is in high demand as of late. He’s currently collaborating on a film project with Watermill Founder Robert Wilson, who says he appreciates the arresting quality to Arsham’s work.

“I see in Daniel’s work something very personal, a unique visual vocabulary,” he said. “Through sculpture, drawing and performance, Arsham challenges our perceptions of physical space in order to make architecture perform the improbable. The surfaces of walls appear to melt, erode and ripple. Animals contemplate the emergence of floating shapes in nature. Sculptures from antiquity are infused with rigid, geometric forms.”

The New York-based artist recently completed a project with musician and producer Pharrell Williams. For that collaboration, Arsham recreated Williams’s first keyboard, presented as a relic, in volcanic ash. He’s also recently worked with actor James Franco on a “The Future Relic” film series based on his casts everyday objects—such as eroding laptops, cell phones, and cameras—made to resemble archaeological finds made from volcanic ash and plaster.

Current and upcoming exhibitions include:” A Special Project for Leica” at the Leica Gallery in Los Angeles, “Remember the Future” at the CAC in Cincinatti, and solo exhibits at Galerie Perrotin in Manhattan in November and at SCAD in Savannah next spring. Additionally, Arsham’s work has been shown at MoMA PS1 in New York, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami, The Athens Bienniale in Greece, The New Museum In New York, Mills College Art Museum in California and Carré d’Art de Nîmes in France.

“The Formless Figure” will open with a public reception at the Watermill Center on Saturday, April 4, from 4 to 6 p.m. Arsham will give an artist’s talk at Watermill on June 6 at 4 p.m. For more information, visit watermillcenter.org

School Merger Forum

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With property taxes on the rise and tuition rates a bone of contention, the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons will hold a forum, “School Mergers: What You Need to Know,” at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 13, at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton.

The program will feature a panel of experts including New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who will speak on the state’s role in school mergers; Eastern Suffolk BOCES chief operating officer Dr. Julie Lutz, who will explain BOCES’ role; Tuckahoe Superintendent of Schools Chris Dyer, who will address the academic and extracurricular impact on students of merging or not merging; and Southampton School Board President Heather McCallion, who will cover the financial impact on budgets and taxes of merging or not.

The panel will be moderated by Judi Roth, the league’s Education Committee chairwoman, who will also field questions from the audience.

“I encourage stakeholders from all Hampton districts to attend; we plan to recognize audience members who wish to add to this on-going conversation,” said Ms. Roth.

Southampton Town’s SEA-TV, Channel 22, will tape and later air the program. For more information, contact Ms. Roth at 283-0759.