East Hamptonites let their honesty shine in wake of election
There’s nothing like the aftermath of election to inject some truthiness into any conversation.
With all three members of Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson’s team leaving office at the end of the year — Mr. Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley declined to run again, while Councilman Dominick Stanzione came in last in Tuesday’s election for two seats on the town board — board members and East Hamptonites were busy giving out pieces of their mind at Thursday’s town board meeting.
Perhaps the most impassioned of those in attendance were a couple from Springs who’ve had enough of their neighbors taking pictures of cars in their driveway.
Springs resident David Buda has been pushing the town board to enact two new laws that would limit the size and number of trucks in his neighborhood, and he and his neighbors have been bringing in pictures of their neighbors’ trucks to show the board. He asked the board at their budget hearing Thursday to consider hiring more code enforcement officers.
But Roslen Tavera and her husband Walter, who live on Broadway Avenue in Springs, said she believes what’s needed in Springs is more community, not more law enforcement.
“I don’t think people should go and take pictures of our private homes and come and expose them,” she said. “Yes, we have trucks. Yes, we have been in business in landscaping for 17 years to help the community. We comply with the town for everything. We rent spaces where we keep some of the trucks. It’s not fair that someone can go and take pictures of our house. I have a 12-year-old daughter. I don’t know if this person took pictures inside our windows.”
“We have to have a limit of privacy,” she added. “We’ve been here 26 years in this country. We’re American citizens. We are very grateful for this country. A lot of people have been nice to us…. I don’t know if this person went to take pictures of my house when my daughter was there with her friends, but I’m pretty sure if I went to take pictures of his house, he would call the police immediately.”
Mr. Wilkinson urged Ms. Tavera to call the police if someone trespasses on her property.
“It is very important in town government in this country for you to come to speak to us,” he said. “It is very important to hear more than one point of view.”
Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said she found Mr. Buda’s behavior “reprehensible.”
“Our community should go back to being a community and stop being a police state,” she said to a round of applause from the audience. “Putting code enforcement onto our constituents is completely abhorrent to me.”
Ms. Quigley added that a recent survey found that 60 percent of East Hampton residents work out of their homes.
“Putting 60 percent of our financial community out of work is not acceptable to me,” she said. “I believe it’s reprehensible to have a community that goes after its constituents.”
“I applaud you for coming,” she told Ms. Tavera. “Thank you.”
“Our community lives in a working area. We don’t live in Georgica Association,” said Ms. Tavera. “We are working people. We don’t want to ask you ‘please give us money to pay our electricity,’ because we do our work.”
Board members haven’t taken any action on the proposed truck regulations since the public hearing was closed on Oct. 17. At an Oct. 29 work session, Mr. Wilkinson said he thought people were afraid of retaliation if they spoke publicly against the truck legislation.
“There’s a general feeling of potential for retaliation out there. People will not come to the podium. They’re afraid,” he said. “It’s something that in some way is not letting us get a good insight into the way the community feels on this issue.”
Also at Thursday’s meeting, Zachary Cohen shared some budget tidbits he’s been working on since not long after he ran for supervisor in 2011.
He described numerous discrepancies in the way capital projects were paid for during prior Town Supervisor Bill McGintee’s administration, which left the town with a $27 million deficit, as “a nagging concern of mine for many years.”
In particular, he said, $4 million bonded for the Montauk Playhouse during Mr. McGintee’s administration is being paid for out of the “B” fund, which is designed to be used for services that aren’t used by residents of East Hampton Village, when it should have been paid out of the “A” fund, which covers services provided to the entire town.
Mr. Cohen said the “B” fund has been paying about $300,000 each year in debt service on the project. He added that he hopes the discrepancy can be fixed before the town budget is adopted Nov. 19, which might cause a slightly greater increase than expected in taxes for residents in East Hampton Village.
Mr. Cohen said he’d been advised not to bring up the discrepancies sooner because it would have seemed like a political attack, but he declined to say who advised him so.
“I’ve been sitting on it,” he said.
Mr. Wilkinson thanked Mr. Cohen for his forensic accounting, adding that next year any discrepancies his administration inherited from Bill McGintee’s administration won’t be his problem anymore.
“The McGintee budget is like the Eveready Bunny. It keeps coming back,” he said. “It was a nightmare reviewing this stuff. Why it wasn’t picked up, I don’t know.”
Town comptroller Len Bernard added that he “wouldn’t be surprised if something pops up next year that needs to be corrected.”
Carole Campolo, the secretary of the town’s Republican committee, thanked Mr. Wilkinson, Ms. Quigley and Mr. Stanzione for “saving the town from bankruptcy,” and added that, if East Hampton decides to hire a town manager in the future, she wants to see town board salaries and the number of workers in the town plummet.
Mr. Wilkinson chided Mr. Stanzione for pledging to consider a town manager position during his campaign.
“I did, I did,” said Mr. Stanzione in the only four words he spoke throughout the course of the meeting.
At one point in the meeting, Brian Burns of the East Hampton Food Pantry thanked Mr. Stanzione for helping to start a satellite food pantry in Amagansett, but he barely elicited a response from the forlorn councilman, who came under attack during the election from anti-aircraft noise advocates, who called Mr. Stanzione, the town board liaison to the East Hampton Airport, a “puppet” of aviation interests throughout the campaign.
Democratic board members Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc were at loggerheads with Mr. Wilkinson, Mr. Stanzione and Ms. Quigley over several last-minute public hearings the majority proposes on zoning changes. Both Democrats on the board voted against holding those public hearings, accusing Mr. Wilkinson’s administration of trying to push through the last-minute changes before they leave office. The hearings will be held Dec. 19, the last meeting date before they leave office.
One would allow a 79-unit condominium on the former Principi farm on Montauk Highway, and the other would remove 20 acres of farmland owned by the Talmage family from an agricultural overlay district, after the town allegedly incorrectly identified the land as having prime agricultural soils. The change in zoning would allow more house lots on the property. The town’s planning department has not provided the town board with a memo on the request.
Ms. Overby called the proposed changes “reprehensible.”
“You’re running out of time, Bill,” Mr. Van Scoyoc chided the supervisor at one point.
“You are the rudest person. I’ve been called rude but I don’t think it’s me,” said Ms. Quigley, whose on-dais arguments with Mr. Van Scoyoc have devolved over the course of the past two years to the point where Mr. Van Scoyoc merely has to open his mouth to elicit a rebuttal from Ms. Quigley.
Mr. Stanzione began packing up his papers and Ms. Quigley gathered her purse and prepared to leave in the minutes before the meeting was officially closed, wasting no time leaving the hot seats on the dais for the anonymity of the outside world.
One thought on “East Hamptonites let their honesty shine in wake of election”
Have as many cars as you want in your driveway. Don’t let the town tell you how to live.