This past year was a doozy of unpredictability on a national level, but here on the East End, the big stories were more about waiting and seeing than about dramatic change.
With New Year’s Day upon us, the list of local stories we were watching in 2016 now seems very similar to the one we’d prepare for 2017: We’re still waiting to see what will happen with an offshore wind proposal off the coast of Montauk. We’re still waiting to see what the future of Riverside will look like. We’re still waiting to hear a good solution for pumpkin-picking traffic insanity on the North Fork. We’re still waiting for relief from helicopter noise.
I’ve heard it said that it isn’t until someone who’s in the way of progress dies that anything changes in small towns, but I don’t really think that’s the case right here and now.
Sometimes all it takes is an election. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to put their foot down and stop traffic and demand what is right. Sometimes change happens overnight.
We saw some great progress for the environment on the East End in 2016 — voters here turned out overwhelmingly for the extension of the Community Preservation Fund, and for the use of up to 20 percent of that money for water quality projects.
In the new year, we’ll be watching very closely to see how our local governments decide to spend the water quality money.
President-elect Donald Trump also secured a wide margin of victory here in November’s election, and Congressman Lee Zeldin, who enthusiastically supported Trump’s candidacy, has since the election continued to enthusiastically embrace many of the president-elect’s positions.
Mr. Zeldin has been very active during his freshman term in responding to constituent concerns, and while we applaud him for that, the environment is a priority for us here, and we hope that he takes the time to think seriously about the needs of his constituents in a time of rising seas, despite the changing climate in Washington.
And while Mr. Zeldin is still echoing Trump’s hard-line stances on the state of Israel, such stances ignore the wide range of thought among Jewish residents of this district, and they also ignore the potential virulence of Donald Trump’s exclusionary ideals. This multi-ethnic society cannot tolerate that kind of divisiveness. We’ll be pushing on that this year too.
Our local elected leaders have a large role to play in responding to the changing climate, and we’ll be watching their work closely this year as well.
2017 is a local election year, and we shall see what this year brings. It will be interesting to see who comes forward to look to lead the North Fork through some major changes it undergoes as it begins to echo its neighboring fork to the south in terms of increasing traffic, out-of-sight real estate values and everything about a second-home economy that comes with those changes. They aren’t pretty changes.
Our little end of Long Island is getting bigger all the time. Our biggest hope for the new year is that the growth that comes takes into account the people and history of this place. Nowhere will that be more greatly felt than out in Sag Harbor after the Dec. 16 fire on Main Street that has scarred the face of a village that has already seen first-hand the difficulties that come with its popularity. It’s not just whether Sag Harbor rebuilds, but how it decides to rebuild, that could serve as a model for how we protect all that seems irreplaceable here.
And we all have our fingers crossed that the year ahead will be a healthy and prosperous one for the Peconic Bays, which give this little part of the world so much and ask for so little in return. It is time for all of us to do our part to protect our bays.