Tag Archive | "Wainscott"

Tensions Soar at East Hampton Airport Hearing as Critics and Supporters Air Their Views

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Heller_EH Town Board Airport Hearing @ LTV 3-12-15_7268_LR

Andy Sabin warned the board that adopting the four proposed regulations would hurt the local economy. Photography by Michael Heller. 

By Mara Certic

Since proposed flight restrictions at East Hampton Airport were unveiled last month, many members of the local aviation community have argued the laws will surely result in increased taxes and the eventual closure of the airport.

According to some, the four restrictions the town board is considering would not only have repercussions on local aviators, but will also have a devastating domino effect on the local economy and would result in large swathes of summer visitors and second homeowners picking up shop and relocating to towns and villages that are friendlier to air traffic.

“We are a resort community dependent on seasonal traffic, and that can’t be ignored. Facilitating access to the Hamptons is what feeds our economy,” said local pilot and hangar-owner Rod Davidson at a hearing on the proposals on Thursday, March12.

“The proposed restrictions on aircraft traffic are a death sentence not only to the airport but to hundreds of jobs and countless businesses. I find it baffling that the town board continues to place the agenda of a handful of people above preserving one of its most important economic assets,” he said.

Several of those who attended the hearing to speak out in opposition of the proposed regulations were employed by Sound Aircraft Services, the 25-year-old business that provides fueling and ground services at the airport. Maureen Quigley, a 22-year-employee of Sound Aircraft, was adamant that the airport would not be able to survive a trial run of what she described were “egregious” restrictions.

“To some extent, any change in the airport affects the working people more than any other group in the town,” said Mitchell Moss from the New York University  Center for Transportation, because the working people work for many airport-users, he said.

Ms. Quigley added that the restrictions are in effect condemning her clients “for being rich and privileged.”

While those who complain about noise have for years asked the town board to consider their needs over the wealthy 1 percent who frequently use the airport, airport supporters tried to turn the tables when they said that the number of people who are actually affected by noise is actually just a small, but vocal, minority, compared to the number of people who benefit from the airport.

Local pilot Bruno Schreck had several large visual aids made for the hearing, and when his presentation was cut short because of a 3-minute limit on comments, he returned before the town board at its work session on Tuesday, March 17, to finish his presentation.

Mr. Schreck believes that the public has been misled by the presentation of complaint data in previous noise analyses prepared for the town. Mr. Schreck maintained that the town’s use of a logarithmic scale distorted the facts, and made it look as though more households had complained, when in fact, 10 houses represent one half of all complaints.

Mr. Schreck prepared one graph, which was intended to visually show the reward and risks of the airport. Mr. Schreck concluded that the rewards outweighs the risks, with the airport enabling 8,666 people to enjoy summertime on the East End and only ruining the summers of 200 local residents who are “frequent complainers.” Mr. Schreck’s figures are based on the assumption that there were approximately four passengers served in each of the 26,000 operations at the East Hampton Airport last year; he then divided 104,000 by 12, assuming that each of the passengers came to the East End for all 12 of the summer weekends.

Mr. Schreck also warned that if the airport is in fact shut down, planes will continue to travel overhead and disrupt residents as city-dwellers will still jet over the East End to second homes in Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, but will no longer contribute money to the local economy.

Amagansett resident Andrew Sabin said he moved to the area 24 years ago, and the airport was one of the big draws. Airport users pay a huge chunk of local taxes, Mr. Sabin said, and he, like many aviators, warned the town that these restrictions would likely result in lengthy litigation. The town has already earmarked $3 million for airport-related litigation.

“Wouldn’t this money be better spent helping charities in this town?” he asked. Mr. Sabin’s son Jonathan also warned the town board that restrictions would only succeed in enraging helicopter users and said that if the airport users got together and agreed not to pay their property taxes “the town would be broke over night.”

“I know quite a few of the helicopter users at the airport. I can tell you right now that each and every one of them could afford a yacht, with a helipad, and would gladly park their yacht right out on the water here and land right on the yachts,” he said. “It’s dangerous to enrage that demographic.”

And on the other side of the aisle…

For East End residents craving quieter skies, four proposed flight restrictions at East Hampton Airport are like the light at the end of 20-year-old tunnel.

Heller_EH Town Board Airport Hearing @ LTV 3-12-15_7185_LR

North Haven Village Trustee Dianne Skilbred asked the town to put in place all four of the regulations.

Now that restrictions are finally in sight, supporters spent their allotted individual 3 minutes of public comment at a hearing on the proposals at LTV Studios in Wainscott on Thursday, March 12, thanking the town board for its hard work and transparency and asking it to “hold fast” with the proposed legislation.

In addition to environmentalists and residents, elected officials from four East End towns and Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski commended the members of the board for the courage they have shown in what has been described in acting for the greater good in what has become a regional issue.

Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming urged the town to continue with its airport diversion study, which seeks to find out where flights barred from East Hampton would ultimately end up. As the town’s liaison for both Noyac and Sag Harbor, she assured the town board “that there are many, many people in the community whose quality life is impacted” by aircraft noise.

“We thank you for your courage,” wrote Vincent Cavello in a letter to the town board read by Kathleen Cunningham of the Quiet Skies Coalition. “It is a sad truth that East Hampton is becoming a poster child for inequality in this country.”

While the Friends of the East Hampton Airport Coalition, a group made up of several New Jersey-based aviation businesses, and other entities have filed suit against the town, Mr. Cavello’s letter said the board “responded to these and other lawsuits without breaking stride, knowing that the law is on the side of those who own the airport—the citizens of East Hampton—not those who exploit the airport and the town for their own economic gain.”

David Gruber, who has been an airport opponent for decades, said that the rumors that the proposed laws would make the airport financially unviable were “theatrical nonsense.” He also referred to a group of pilots filing suits against the town who call themselves the friends of the East Hampton Airport as “the self-serving operators from far away.”

Mr. Gruber serves on the town’s airport budget and finance advisory committee), which has been so far unable to come to a consensus about the economic impacts on the airport if the proposed rules are implemented. Members of the aviation community have said this inability to reach a consensus shows that the proposed restrictions are discriminatory and extreme. Those who complain about the noise had a different take.

“The airport can easily support itself without any need of FAA grants or taxpayer subsidies. Its income of more than $1 million a year is more than enough for all of its capital budget and other needs,” Mr. Gruber said.

He conceded the town would have to find ways to replace landing and fuel revenue if the town adopted the restrictions.

“A 50-percent landing fee increase would almost surely suffice. It sounds like a lot only because landing fees have been kept artificially low for years by FAA subsidies. The landing fee for a small aircraft would increase to $16.50—less than parking at Main Beach,” he said.

“The additional $330 for a $36 million Gulf Stream 5 that costs $7,500 an hour to operate would also be the cost of three minutes of flight time. This relationship that the fee increase equals about three minutes of flight time holds true across the board. It is a trivial amount,” he added.

Tensions rose on Thursday night when Wainscott resident Irving Paler began naming those who have logged the most complaints against the East Hampton Airport, asking them “Where do you find the time?”

Not only did those supporting the regulations begin applauding the top-complainers, but East Hampton resident Paul Keeber took it upon himself to respond to Mr. Paler’s question.

“I’m sitting with my beautiful wife, at our beautiful home on the back deck. Suddenly the overwhelming noise from a helicopter’s blade forces me to stop speaking to my wife. At that moment we pick up the phone right next to us and call the complaint line. Eight minutes later, a helicopter blade overhead forces me to stop speaking to my wife and I pick up the phone and I call the complaint line. And then 14 minutes later a helicopter blade overhead forces me to stop speaking to my wife so we call the complaint line,” he explained.

Many supporters of the legislation likened the regulations to any other laws that aim to conserve and preserve. “These resolutions embody a time-honored tradition of policy for the greater good, to help industry bring its standards up to community values,” Ms. Cunningham said on Thursday. “We are not asking people not to come here, we’re asking them to come quietly,” she added.

In response to claims that many people come to East Hampton simply because they can fly here in helicopters in less than an hour, Sag Harbor’s Patricia Currie responded “such people are mythical beasts, they’re unicorns, they don’t exist.”

Ms. Currie reminded the room that visitors have been making the long trip to the East End since the horse and buggy.

“If there are people who won’t live here without helicopters, they will be replaced by others who will,” Ms. Currie added.

“We need helicopters like Shelter Island needs a bridge and Montauk needs high speed ferry service to Connecticut casinos. Please pass the restrictions,” she said. “We will survive.”

Sag Harbor’s Interfaith Museum Brings Students Together

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Heller_Adas Israel Interfaith Museum Exhibition Prep 3-16-15_7848_LR

Students worked on signs for the upcoming Interfaith Museum Exhibition at Temple Adas Israel, which opens this Sunday. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic 

For over a decade Leah Oppenheimer has been trying to find a way to further incorporate Hispanic families into the larger East End community, and now this Sunday her efforts will be unveiled at the opening of Sag Harbor’s new Interfaith Museum.

For the past three weeks, Sunday school students from the Vida Abundante Church in Wainscott have been joining the Monday evening Hebrew School classes at Temple Adas Israel to learn about the similarities between local Jewish and Hispanic lives, families and religions. This Sunday, March 22, from noon to 2 p.m., the synagogue will hold the grand opening of the museum, which will feature work and projects done by the children over the past month.

“I’ve been working on the issue of Hispanic families being so isolated here for over a decade as I saw the population increasing,” Ms. Oppenheimer said in a phone interview on Monday.

The Hebrew School worked with Head Start,  which runs pre-kindergarten programming in Bridgehampton. “But it didn’t get the kids involved,” Ms. Oppenheimer said.

“It didn’t help the kids to get to know each other,” and that, she believes, is the key to bringing people together.

According to Ms. Oppenheimer, Long Island has some of the most segregated school districts outside of Louisiana. “The East End is more integrated than most,” she said, but there is still much improvement to be made.

Ms. Oppenheimer was at a conference at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust, in Manhattan, when she heard of a museum program with Jewish and Muslim youths, designed to teach similarities, explain the differences and dispel rumors.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for!” Ms. Oppenheimer said to herself when she heard about the program.

Someone in the temple’s congregation provided funding, and plans for the Interfaith Museum were developed and quickly fell into place. Ms. Oppenheimer has been working with Pastor Oswaldo Palomo of the Vida Abundante Church on the program, and for the past three weeks the temple has hosted “workshops” during which students get to know each other and learn about each other’s lives.

Adriana Leon, who teaches Sunday School at the Vida Abundante Church, said that in her 11 years here, this is the first time her students have been involved in any interfaith programs. “They’re really enjoying it,” she said of the children.

Ms. Oppenheimer said that during the first workshop the kids instantly hit it off. “They were all on the floor making posters together—it took about five and a half seconds.”

“The first week we just got to know one another and the kids made posters about themselves and in groups,” she explained. The posters revealed to the children that they had more in common than they thought, including what seems to be a global love for pizza.

Last Monday, each student brought in a treasured item from his or house—one child, for example, brought in a framed picture of his dog—and during the workshop they made professional museum display cards for each item.

The last workshop on Monday, March 16, began with the screening of a short video about early Latin American immigration to the United States. Ms. Oppenheimer’s husband, Dr. John Oppenheimer, then came in to tell the story of his father’s emigration from Germany before World War II.

All of the hard work will be on display this Sunday during the grand opening.

“I’d like to think of a way to do more of it next year. But this Sunday is our fiesta,” Ms. Oppenheimer said.

“It’s the essence of being Jewish, learning how to help the stranger in your midst. And it’s a major Christian ideal too,” Ms. Oppenheimer added.

“I think we’ll find a way to do more of this.”

The Interfaith Museum will have its grand opening on Sunday, March 22, from noon to 2 p.m. at Temple Adas Israel, located on the corners of Elizabeth Street and Atlantic Avenue in Sag Harbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tensions Soar Over Proposed Airport Restrictions In East Hampton

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By Mara Certic

Tensions soared on Thursday evening, as two sides battled it out during a public hearing on four proposed laws designed to curb the noise problem at East Hampton Airport.

Members of the aviation industry, local pilots and some business owners sparred with environmentalists and residents from four different East End towns at a hearing on proposed restrictions which would theoretically limit operations at East Hampton Airport by approximately one third while addressing almost two thirds of the noise problem.

Over 70 people addressed the East Hampton Town Board during a three-and-a-half-hour-long meeting on Thursday, March 12 at LTV Studios, however unlike previous meetings where the speakers were predominately those spear-heading the noise abatement movement, those involved in aviation were also out in full force.

Members of the Quiet Skies Coalition, and other like-minded individuals, lined up to thank the board for their hard work and to lend support to their four proposed restrictions which in their minds have not gone far enough to tackle the problem of noise on the East End.

David Gruber, who has been an open opponent to the airport for some time, said that the rumors that the proposed laws would make the airport financially unviable were “theatrical nonsense.” He also said referred to a group of aviators filing suits against the town who call themselves the friends of the East Hampton Airport “the self-serving operators from far away.”

One self-proclaimed friend of the airport took it upon himself to name the names of the top complainers of noise at East Hampton Airport, in an effort to show that the problem is not as widespread as community members would have the board think. This then spurred applause from members of the noise-affected community, who believe that the number of complainants is way lower than those who claim to be plagued and tortured by the noise.

Other members of the aviation community were adamant that the proposed restrictions would be detrimental to the region at large, and would result in a huge hit to the East End economy, as they claim the airport draws in visitors who otherwise would not be spending their time or money on the East End.

Montauk and Southampton residents expressed some concern that the proposed laws would have an unforeseen negative impact on neighboring hamlets if flights and helicopter operations were to move to nearby airports.

The public comment period will remain open in East Hampton Town until the end of business of Friday, March 20.

 

 

East Hampton Town Police Investigate String of Burglaries

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Register

 

Security camera images courtesy of the East Hampton Town Police Department.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Using images captured from security cameras, East Hampton Town Police are asking the public for help in finding and arresting the suspect in a string of burglaries of East Hampton businesses early Saturday, November 29.

In each case, the burglar used a brick or stone to smash glass doors to gain entry into six businesses in both East Hampton and Wainscott.

Police said the burglar carted away a cash register and cash box from two of the stores, and got away with at least $1,245 in cash and coins.

Police said the suspect is a white male. In the images, he is wearing what appears to be an olive colored hooded sweatshirt or jacket, jeans and dark work boots.

He can be seen grabbing a cash box from behind the counter of one of the stores that was burglarized. Police have also released a grainy image of a light colored, possibly white, pickup truck they believe the burglar was driving.

The burglaries were reported at Domaine Franey Wines and Spirits on Pantigo Road in East Hampton, where a brick was used to break the glass front door, although nothing appeared to be stolen from the business.  Nearby, the glass front door of Chiquita Latina, also on Pantigo Road, was shattered by a brick and thieves made off with a cash register containing $130. They estimated it would cost $500 to replace the door.  The same fate awaited Calvo’s Deli nearby. There, a $300 glass door was broken and some $700 in cash was removed.

In Wainscott, bricks or paving stones were used to smash through the glass doors at three businesses on Montauk Highway. At Twice Upon a Bagel, the damaged door was the only apparent damage. La Capannina pizzeria suffered a similar fate, with nothing taken. But at Wainscott Wines and Spirits, a black metal cash drawer containing $415 was grabbed.

Police said the suspect was seen fleeing in a westerly direction out of Wainscott.

Although similar burglaries occurred at Nichol’s restaurant in East Hampton Village and LaFondita in Amagansett last summer, Captain Chris Anderson said, “Nothing has been linked, but we’ll certainly look to explore the possibility.”

Police have asked anyone with information to contact them at (631) 537-7575. All calls will be kept confidential.

The suspect fleeing the scene on November 30.

The suspect fleeing the scene on November 30.

 

suspect vehicle

The suspect’s vehicle was spotted in Wainscott traveling west on Montauk Highway

 

Springs Man Released on $25,000 Bail After Shooting Incident

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By Mara Certic and Stephen J. Kotz

Springs resident Valon Shoshi was arrested on four charges following a manhunt by East Hampton Town Police on Friday, October 3, and was released on $25,000 bail after appearing in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Saturday.

Mr. Shoshi, 28, was charged with felony reckless endangerment as well as illegal discharge of a weapon, assault and possession of a loaded gun in a motor vehicle, three misdemeanors.

On Friday morning, Mr. Shoshi reportedly fired a shotgun several times in his bedroom at 85 Gardiner Avenue in the Springs section of East Hampton. According to the police, his mother suffered minor injuries as a result and was sent to Southampton Hospital for treatment. Mr. Shoshi then allegedly fled the house with the gun in tow in a new Cadillac sedan.

According to Captain Chris Anderson of the East Hampton Town Police, a family member contacted the police following the incident.

The police initially had information that indicated Mr. Shoshi had fled the scene and gone to a secondary residence. After police determined he was not at that location, they managed to establish communication with Mr. Shoshi and he was stopped in his vehicle on Springs Fireplace Road near One Stop Market and put into custody without incident.

During the manhunt, nearby schools and some facilities in the immediate area were asked to go into lock-down as a precaution. Sag Harbor, Springs, East Hampton and Wainscott school districts all were in what the police call “locked-in status” on Friday morning.

Capt. Anderson said it was of “paramount importance” to the police department to protect the schools until they determined what the threat was.

“It’s a big sigh of relief,” said Sag Harbor Superintendent Katy Graves in describing how she felt when police called to say the lockdown could be lifted.

She said that school officials were still in the middle of implementing the lockdown when they were informed they could go back to normal business. Ms. Graces said the district immediately sent an automated telephone and text message to the school community informing it of what had occurred.

“I’m very proud of my staff,” she said. “They were all so child-centered and proactive.”

Capt. Anderson added “the school districts as a whole did a tremendous job.”

Mr. Shoshi, moved to East Hampton from Kosovo with his family in 1999. He attended East Hampton High School and is an accomplished boxer. He volunteered in the Springs Fire Department, was assistant chief of the East Hampton Village Ambulance Association, and also worked as an aide in the East Hampton School District.

According to Edward Burke Jr., Mr. Shoshi’s attorney, his client’s family and many other community members were at court on Saturday in his support.

“His entire family, including his mom, fully support Valon,” Mr. Burke said. “They are entirely behind him in this journey through the criminal justice system.”

Justice Lisa R. Rana, who heard Mr. Shoshi’s case on Saturday, released him on $25,000 bail under the condition that Mr. Shoshi undergoes an immediate psychological evaluation.

Mr. Burke said on Wednesday that his client is cooperating fully and has been in counseling. He and his client will report to the court today, October 9 to inform the court he has been seeking counseling, as ordered by Justice Rana.

Mr. Shoshi will appear before court on Thursday, October 30.

 

Wainscott Parcel Targeted for Affordable Housing

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By Stephen J. Kotz

A plan to build as many as 48 affordable rental apartments on a 31-acre site owned by East Hampton Town in Wainscott was proposed to the Town Board on July 15.

Michael DeSario, the chairman of the Windmill Village Housing Development Fund Corporation, which has been involved with other subsidized housing projects in the town, made his pitch at the board’s weekly work session and stressed that any project is far from a done deal, saying that even if everything went without a hitch, he was looking at a timeframe of up to four to six years before they would be completed.

Supervisor Larry Cantwell agreed with Mr. DeSario’s assessment that the project would take some years to bring to fruition.

“There’s a lot of lead time on a project like this,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell on Wednesday, “but you never get anything done if you don’t get started on something.”

The first hurdle, the supervisor said, would be making sure the project is workable with the tiny Wainscott School District, whose residents enjoy the lowest school tax rate in town.

“We know there is a demand for affordable housing. Young, working familes have few places to live,” Mr. Cantwell said. “Want to consider locations and proposals and get community input.”

“Several months ago, the town asked Windmill to look around and work with the Planning Department to see if there are any sites available for affordable housing,” Mr. DeSario said on Tuesday. “We came up with a couple and this was at the top of the list.”

The targeted site consists of several parcels off Stephen Hands Path, behind the town-owned soccer fields and the Child Development Center of the Hamptons school.

Mr. DeSario said he envisioned a development that would consist of eight buildngs with six apartment units in each one. Twenty would be one-bedroom apartments of about 600 squae feet, 20 would be two-bedroom units of about 800 square feet, and another eight would be three-bedroom units with about 1,200 square feet of living space.

The project would also have a community room and a superintendent’s apartment and could be served by standard individual wastewater systems or a small-scale onsite waste treatment plant.

A wastewater treatment plant could upward of $1 million to build and another $50,000 a year to run, “so we wanted to make sure it could be done either way,” he said.

Mr. DeSario estimated that the complex would cost up to $15 million and would be funded through federal grants and tax credits.

The units would be rented to “low and very-low income people,” Mr. DeSario said, adding that they would provide tenants “with clean, healthy housing that would be guaranteed. They wouldn’t have to wory about being evicted or someone selling and having their rent tripled.”

Although Mr. DeSario said that care had been taken to see that the complex was not populated with too many children—he estimated there would be 30 to 40 children living there—at last week’s board meeting, David Eagan, an attorney and president of the Wainscott School Board, told the board he was worried about the impact the development could have on the district.

Mr. Cantwell said he was aware of the district’s concerns and said the board would wait until Wainscott received a study assessing the impact the project would have on the district before taking the next step.

On Wednesday, Mr. Eagan said the district had hired the SES Study Team, an educaitonal consulting firm, to assess the impact such a housing complex would have on Wainscott.

“The impact is going to be dramatic,” he said. “We know it is going to be profound.”

Besides doubling the number of students in the district, it could “compromise our longheld mission of individualized programs for our students,” he said. “We’re concerned about the need for new facilities, the need for new staff and the impact on the bottom line.”

Supervisor Cantwell said the board was also cognizant of the recent announcement by the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust that it will buy the Cottages, a group of eight affordable housing units on Route 114, which are also in the Wainscott School District. Although those units are currently used for affordable housing, Mr. Cantwell said it is expected they will be expanded and could have an additional impact on the school district.

ARF of the Hamptons Announces New Series of Dog Training Classes

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ARF dog trainer Matthew Posnick. 

The Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons has announced the launch of three new series of dog training classes.

Puppy Kindergarten resumes on Friday, June 6, from 4 to 5 p.m. Classes will focus on socialization, interactive skills and simple obedience.

The course will run for four straight Fridays and the fee is $100. A reduced fee of $75 is available to those who adopted their puppy from ARF within the past month.

Dog Obedience 101 and Intermediate Classes will start on Saturday and Sunday, June 14 and 15.

Dogs and their handlers will learn basic obedience using positive reinforcement techniques. The curriculum includes Leash Handling, Let’s Go, Turning Techniques, Stay/Stand, Sit/Stay, Down/Stay, Leave It, Come, No Jumping and Leash Pulling Prevention exercises.

Participants can choose an introductory course on Saturday or Sunday mornings from 9 to 10 a.m. for five straight weeks. The intermediate class is held on Saturday and Sunday mornings, from 10 to 11 a.m., also for five straight weeks.

The fee is $150 for all five classes; or $125 for those who have adopted their dog from ARF within the last year.

Recreational Dog Agility classes return on Saturday, June 14. Participants will be the bond of trust between themselves and their pet as they get great exercise working their ways through a variety of obstacles. A class for beginners will be held on Saturdays from 4 to 5 p.m. for five straight weeks. An intermediate class will be announced at later date.

The fee is $175 for all five classes.

All the classes are taught by Matthew Posnick and held at ARF’s Adoption Center at 90 Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott.

Hidden Private Gardens of the East End to Open this Spring

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The view of the pool in George Biercuk and Robert Luckey's garden in Wainscott. Photo courtesy of Garden Conservancy.

The view of the pool in George Biercuk and Robert Luckey’s garden in Wainscott. Photo courtesy of Garden Conservancy.

By Tessa Raebeck

While many East End residents lamented that winter lasted far too long this year, George Biercuk of Wainscott enjoyed his garden.

“It has something in bloom all year long,” said Mr. Biercuk, who shares his garden with his partner, Robert Luckey.

“There is enough structure in the garden that it holds together as a garden even in the winter,” Mr. Biercuk said Friday. Be it freezing or beautiful out, “there is always something in bloom.”

The four-season garden is one of six being featured in the Garden Conservancy’s Suffolk County Open Day Saturday, the first of six daylong tours across the county this summer.

On Saturday, visitors can view any or all of six private gardens in Wainscott, East Hampton and Stony Brook.

On Sayre’s Path in Wainscott, the Biercuk and Luckey garden is easy to find, with bright, yellow daffodils in full bloom lining the property along the roadside.

In designing his space, Mr. Biercuk, who grew up experimenting with planting and attended a horticultural program at Southampton College, and has a self-described natural affinity for gardening, sought “a very natural garden.”

“So that it’s low in maintenance,” he said, “that I don’t have to worry about every leaf and it’s not a pristine garden, like a very formal one. Because the garden should be fun.”

The couple planned the garden slowly, improving the soil a bed at a time, planning out every curve and season.

“I started with the plants that were supposed to be dwarf so that I could get more in,” he said. “And it’s growing better than I imagined.”

Totally designed, dug and planted by Mr. Biercuk, the garden is complemented by a pond-like pool, a waterfall and stonework designed by Mr. Biercuk and implemented by Richard Cohen and Jim Kutz of Rockwater Design & Installations in Amagansett.

The entire property is an acre, but the lush foliage tricks the eye into thinking it’s a much larger estate.

Dianne Benson's home in East Hampton, part of the Suffolk County Open Days private garden tour. Photo courtesy of Garden Conservancy.

Dianne Benson’s home in East Hampton, part of the Suffolk County Open Days private garden tour. Photo courtesy of Garden Conservancy.

“I have real estate people come in here and walk around and go in the back, which is probably a half acre, maybe a touch more, and go, ‘How many acres are in the back here?’” said Mr. Biercuk. “Because of the way its planted, you cannot see the whole thing—and that’s what I wanted.”

“Whenever I go walk some place, I always take a different route and I come back a different way, because you always see things differently,” he added.

Looking out from the kitchen, Mr. Biercuk can see the waterfall flowing into his pool, flanked by evergreens and rhododendrons.

“It’s one cohesive space,” he said. And through the crisp chill of January or the sweating sun of July, it stays that way. The plants rotate, but the greenery never fades.

Day lilies and peonies pop up in June, with the day lilies running through the summer.

“I have them staggered with different bloom times, so they pop up all over the place,” he said. “I use varying foliage also, so there’s always color.”

The azaleas come in the early summer, followed by clerodendrums trichotomum in August, “which has incredible fragrance,” an essential part of any garden, he said.

“And then when the flowers are finished, it gets this wonderful berry-like substance—red and purple—like the old fashioned juices,” he said. “That lasts through the fall.”

Fuchsias Mr. Biercuk has had for 30 years get planted out again in August, brightening the backyard with vibrant oranges.

“You can go find them and put them in the ground in May and have them blooming, but I like waiting for things,” he said.

Angel wing begonias, some of them nearly 7 feet tall, are planted in the fall, as are some perennials.  Begonia Grandis, a “hardy begonia” comes into flower in late August and lasts into the fall.

In the winter, evergreens, rhododendrons, holly and pieris fill the property, as well as hamamelis, or witch hazel.

This time of year, “we’re entering into the height,” Mr. Biercuk said, adding that his favorite rhododendron, the Taurus, blooms a deep red in the springtime.

“Hopefully, they’re going to be in full glory next Saturday,” he said.

The Suffolk County Open Day of private garden tours is Saturday, May 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 or 4 p.m., depending on the garden. Following Suffolk County Open Days are May 17, June 21, July 12, July 19 and September 6. For prices, participating gardens and more information, call 1-888-842-2442, email opendays@gardenconservancy.org or visit gardenconservancy.org/opendays.

ARF Celebrates 40 Years of Protecting Man’s Best Friend

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ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick gets a kiss from Pretty Girl, a pit bull mix rescued from a dog fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick gets a kiss from Pretty Girl, a pit bull mix rescued from a dog-fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Forty years ago, Sag Harbor Village was overrun with strays, cat colonies had overtaken the East Hampton Town dump and feral dogs roamed the Northwest Woods in wild packs.

The commonplace conversion of house pets to wild animals seems unbelievable on the East End today—and that change is in large part thanks to the efforts of ARF, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary this Saturday.

People have been encouraged to bring their dogs on leashes and their cats in carriers to the celebration, which includes dog agility courses and contests, free pet microchipping and rabies vaccines, an “Ask the Vet” booth with Dr. Sarah Alward, music, fresh food for both humans and pets, and proclamations from elected officials and the Humane Society.

“We’re celebrating 280 years in dog years,” said Executive Director Sara Davison, noting that guests can also visit the shelter and view pets for adoption.

“A lot has changed since ARF was founded and we’re very, very proud of the role we’ve played in helping to make the East End a no-kill community—and by that I mean that no animal now in most of the East End towns is euthanized for lack of space,” she said.

“Through ARF’s work of advocating for spay and neuter, the numbers of unwanted litters of kittens and puppies are way, way down and we’re able to take all the animals that are healthy or can be rehabilitated and we get them homes,” Ms. Davison added.

ARF Executive Director Sara Davison poses with cats at the Wainscott adoption center. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Executive Director Sara Davison poses with cats at the Wainscott adoption center. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

When ARF was founded in 1974, “People were abandoning animals left and right…. There were huge tracts of woodlands where there were feral dogs, a lot of suffering, a lot of animals abandoned—and that’s all changed,” she said.

In 1973, the late Cleveland Amory, an American author who devoted his life to promoting animal rights, brought three local women together for a meeting at what was then the Paradise Restaurant in Sag Harbor.

Mr. Amory contacted the women—Barbara Posener, Sony Schotland and Dorothy Wahl—because of their respective contributions to animal welfare on the East End.

The late Ms. Posener had made flyers calling on summer residents to leave their house, not their dog, when they left the area in the fall. Ms. Wahl had reached out to Mr. Amory to notify him of someone who was illegally selling leopards and other wildlife. Mr. Amory approached Ms. Schotland, the owner of a shop on Main Street at the time, because she had raised money to buy a fence for the Hampton Animal Shelter, a shelter on Brick Kiln Road with a bad reputation.

“I constantly tried to help them, but it was to no avail,” she recounted.

After Ms. Schotland raised funds for a fence, the shelter owner took the money but applied it elsewhere, she said, rather than using it to enclose the cats and dogs in her care. Claiming to take in strays, the shelter actually perpetuated the problem, said Ms. Schotland, as its animals would wander from Brick Kiln Road into Sag Harbor.

“The warden in Southampton told me, ‘I have never been to any place where I pick up so many strays, I pick up an average of 30 strays a month out of just Sag Harbor,” Ms. Schotland said.

Mr. Amory, “the god of the animal world in those days,” according to Ms. Schotland, brought the women together, approaching the shelter to offer their help.

When the group’s offer was rejected, ARF was born.

“If she had not rejected us, ARF would never have been,” Ms. Schotland said.

The trio founded the new shelter “with little more than a passion for animal welfare, a backyard and indomitable determination,” according to ARF board president Lisa McCarthy.

“We had no clue what to do and it felt like having an elephant by the tail, but then, little by little, it worked,” Ms. Schotland said.

In the beginning, the founders boarded animals in their homes, in the back of Ms. Schotland’s shop, and at local animal hospitals, vets and friends’ places.

It is it’s required that found animals first be taken to a designated shelter, Southampton Animal Shelter in Southampton or the East Hampton Veterinary Group in East Hampton, to be held for a period of time, so there is a standard place for an owner to look for their pet.

In the early 1980s, ARF, still a fledgling organization, brought a four-month old black lab, “adorable” according to Ms. Schotland, to Southampton Town as mandated.

“That was terrible,” she recalled. “By the next weekend, when the people came back to look for it, it had been destroyed, it had been euthanized.”

Following the incident, Ms. Schotland, Helena Curtis and ARF successfully lobbied the town to increase the mandatory holding time for stray dogs from five to 10 days.

As ARF’s reputation grew through such efforts, bigger names signed on.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick plays with Pretty Girl. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick plays with Pretty Girl. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

“Little by little, we formed a board and we got more organized,” Ms. Schotland said.

With help from philanthropists Edward and Susan Yawney, ARF celebrated its 10th anniversary with the purchase of 22 acres on Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott.

Today, ARF has 27 professional employees, hundreds of volunteers and an annual budget of $2.5 million—and plenty of stories supporting its initial mission to protect homeless and abandoned cats and dogs.

“They all have a story,” said Jamie Berger, director of marketing and communications. “Some we know, some we don’t.”

A year ago, a pit bull mix was found lying close to death on the floor of a dog-fighting ring in North Hempstead.

“She’s pretty well chewed up from what they did to her,” said Matthew Posnick, ARF’s trainer who is in the process of rehabilitating the dog, now affectionately called Pretty Girl.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick shows the scars on Pretty Girl's face from her days in a North Hempstead dog-fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick shows the scars on Pretty Girl’s face from her days in a North Hempstead dog-fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Within about 10 weeks, Pretty Girl was out of a muzzle and socializing with other dogs. She was on the pier at HarborFest, playing with dogs and kids and although she isn’t up for adoption quite yet, the shelter is hopeful she will be ready for a home soon.

“Of all the things I’ve done here in four years, I’m most proud of that,” Mr. Posnick said, as Pretty Girl licked his face. “She’s a really happy dog.”

Nancy Butts, who has worked at ARF for 21 years—topped only by Debbie Downes’s 28 years—was never allowed to have an animal growing up.

“My father used to say to me, when you get married you can have all the dogs you want,” said Ms. Butts, who now has four. “I got married on a Saturday and got an animal on a Monday.”

Snuggled below her desk was Patrick, a Pomeranian who looks like a puppy but is actually 7. Rescued from a puppy mill in Ohio, Patrick is patiently awaiting a home.

With an extremely high release rate—the rate of how many animals come into the shelter versus how many leave alive—ARF has adopted out 20,000 animals to date.

Longtime ARF employee Nancy Butts with Patrick, a seven-year-old Pomeranian rescued from a puppy mill. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Longtime ARF employee Nancy Butts with Patrick, a seven-year-old Pomeranian rescued from a puppy mill. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Ms. McCarthy’s personal goal is to adopt out 2,000 animals yearly by 2017.

“We’re very proud of the community,” Ms. Davison said. “We’re thankful for the support that we’ve gotten through the years from the community, and it’s enabled us to create one of the leading shelters in our country.”

“Not every shelter can afford to do the kinds of surgeries and rehabilitative care that we provide, but once we admit an animal into our doors, we really make a pledge to them that we’re going to do everything we can to get them healthy and get them adopted,” she added.

ARF’s 40th Anniversary Celebration is Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the ARF Adoption Center, 90 Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott. For more information or to RSVP, email tdix@arfhamptons.org or call 537-0400.

State Education Aid Increases by $1.1 Billion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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