Creativity is a driving force for all progress. New ideas and new ways of seeing the world around us drive innovation and problem-solving. This is not a new concept. If you drive through the historic districts of any East End village, you will see changing styles of construction that reflect the needs and the whimsies of different eras, of different people with different priorities. You’ll also see the work of many architects. Some of the best ones have worked respectfully to update historical houses to meet 21st Century needs, while building new houses that complement their historic neighbors, but also exist as statements in their own right.

When communities here object to new construction proposals, they are usually reacting to the loss of woodlands, the loss of open space or familiar views.  But they are also objecting to bad design — design that exists solely to maximize living space or to produce units cheaply and quickly or to meet the needs of visitors looking for an experience that they could easily find at a Marriott or a Hilton anywhere in the world.

It’s easy for journalists to skim past phrases like “community character” when they cover local discussions about planning and zoning, because phrases like this, in and of themselves, don’t seem to have much meaning. But they’re important.

Meanwhile, monochromatic modern farmhouses with metal roofs and black trim wrapped in Texture 1-11 siding are still popping up in farm fields that once held rows of cabbages and cauliflower and woodland lots that still hold pockets of wildlife. (When will the last turtle crossing sign vanish? How many species of bats are there?) 

We recently heard someone say “housing developments are the last cash crop left for local farmers,” but local people are fed up with fads in cookie-cutter housing. We know that a variety of housing stock helped create the community character of the place we still inhabit.

One of the most exciting aspects of the Community Housing Funds that are being set up in four of the five East End towns is the prospect that the money can be used for adaptive reuse of our existing housing, for reverting formerly multi-family dwellings back to their original uses, and for accessory dwelling units. Zoning codes that encourage studios and housing for artists in formerly industrial buildings are an idea that has been working well in other parts of the country and it is long overdue that we begin to encourage these codes here. 

If you take a walk along any shoreline of the Peconic Bay, our Peconic Bathtub, it’s easy to see so many oversized houses, which are mostly empty, with high hedges and running sprinklers that are serviced by commuting workers while our children, firefighters, teachers, and local retail workers are leaving town in droves. 

The East End is filled with creative people who know these ideas can work. Everywhere we go, we talk to friends who are excited about the prospect of creating a small living space adjacent to their home, for a friend, a family member, or for a little extra income while also helping their neighbors who need the peace of mind secure housing can give them as they take the first step into adulthood. What’s been missing has been the funding and the political will to make that happen. Their enthusiasm could easily be dulled if they’re handed a mountain of red tape. We need to get this right.


A Call for Mother Earth

Way back in April of 2017, when we started this newspaper, we dedicated a couple columns of print to listings of Earth Day events. The environment is kind of our thing, but stalwart organizations like the North Fork Environmental Council, Group for the East End, Concerned Citizens of Montauk, The Quogue Wildlife Refuge and the South Fork Natural History Museum were celebrating Earth Day and growing the cause for decades before we came along. Over the past few years, we’ve been heartened to see that environmentalism has become mainstream, and it has also become multidisciplinary, engaging artists and art institutions, government policymakers and civic groups. So this April, much of our print edition (our seventh anniversary!) is a celebration of Earth Month, and a celebration of all of you who care so deeply about this place we call home. Thank you.


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Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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