This week in Shelter Island history

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | A flooded Bridge Street after Sandy pushed ashore this year probably looked much the same  in the wake of a 1992 super storm.

Another quits planning and zoning panel

David Heiman became the third member to quit a Planning and Zoning Task Force created by the Town Board to recommend zoning changes on Shelter Island. Committee member Jeffrey Simes and former task force chairman Hermann Carp Jr. both resigned previously.

Mr. Heiman said he was quitting because the task force was unfocused with no clear questions that members were supposed to be trying to find answers. He called on the Town Board to offer guidance and provide tools the task force would need to be effective. But Town Supervisor Art Williams, while refusing to comment on the resignation, said he was confident that the task force would have a preliminary report for the Town Board by the early part of 2003. The following month, the task force listed several issues it was exploring and asked the Town Board to prioritize them. Affordable housing emerged as a major issue.

POSTSCRIPT: Among the changes that emerged were a code change to allow rentals of non-owner-occupied houses. Today, there continues to be an active Community Housing Board and Shelter Island Hosuing Options is still alive, but there’s little call for affordables on the Island, Councilwoman Chris Lewis told the Reporter in August.

Island battered by nor’easter of the century
The storm of December 1992 was described throughout Long Island as the “storm of the century” and while Shelter Island escaped the extensive battering that hit many other areas, it was estimated that the town’s infrastructure took a $330,0000 hit, much of which was expected to be covered by federal insurance.

Bridge Street businesses were under water for about two days and it was expected that the cleanup of oil- and water-soaked merchandise would take weeks, while structural damage would take longer to repair. Already affected by an economic recession, many businesses had to sustain further losses as their stores were closed during the critical holiday shopping season. The Center Firehouse provided emergency shelter while James and Linda Eklund made Ram’s Head Inn available for stranded Ram Island residents.

POSTSCRIPT: The story of that 1992 storm might well have been written about Superstorm Sandy’s visit to Shelter Island a few weeks ago.

Dr. Stroll will retire; Medical Center studied

With word that Dr. George Stroll, one of two Island medical doctors, was planning on retiring in April 1983, the town began focusing on how to best meet Islanders’ medical needs. Then supervisor Mel Nevel wanted to take full advantage of the Medical Center space Dr. Stroll shared with Dr. Edgar Grunwaldt. The supervisor was pushing for more ancillary medical services at the center, but Dr. Grunwaldt said a podiatrist and psychologist were at the center once a week and nearby services for other specialties were easily available in Greenport and Southampton.

But Blue Cross/Blue Shield representative Anne Cuggliani noted that for many elderly Shelter Islanders, there was a need for more services here. And while Dr. Grunwaldt said he makes house calls and sees people without appointment, even Dr. Stroll said that once he departed, his colleague would find that the larger summer population required more than a single doctor.

POSTSCRIPT:  Concerns about staffing continue today with an agreement between the town and Island Urgent, which staffs the Medical Center, to provide more services and guarantee the availability of a doctor during crises such as Superstorm Sandy. The center was staffed during Sandy and did have to handle one critical emergency, arranging to get a seriously ill patient transported to Southampton Hospital.

Halt on causeway construction

It was December 1962 when the Town Board stopped construction on a one-story private dwelling directing the building inspector to revoke the permit he had issued to Original Homes  of Selden to construct the house on low-lying land between the Ram Island causeway and the head of Coecles Harbor. Although a contractor had promised to add five feet of fill around the foundation of the house, town code at the time said the fill had to have been in place before construction began. The town’s ban stopped further construction until the fill was put in place. A county Board of Health official said at the time he thought the county would have approved the structure, but that town restrictions were more stringent.

POSTSCRIPT: In more recent years, there was a lengthy moratorium affecting applications to build on the causeways, but near the end of 2011, the moratorium was lifted and a new law was enacted setting a minimum lot size of five acres, restricting house size to 1,800 square feet depending on lot size and limiting house height to 25 feet above grade. The new law tightly limited clearing and barred accessory structures such as garages, tennis courts or swimming pools.