This week in Shelter Island history

REPORTER FILE PHOTO The Rev. David Blair of St. Gabriel’s Monastery addressed Island high school students at the first ever ecumenical retreat in February 1983 at the St. Gabriel’s Retreat House.

Memo targets Building Department

Town Board members were on the war path 10 years ago penning a rebuke to Building Inspector William Banks. “Your department is one of the most visible aspects of town government and it’s very important that the public believe that the Building Department does its work thoroughly and evenhandedly,” the memo said. It called on Mr. Banks to update mechanisms for tracking permits, inspections, code enforcement and licensing; to enforce terms of dock permits; conduct fire inspections; and train staff so that in anyone’s absence, others could fill in and work could go forward. Mr. Banks characterized the memo at the time as the Town Board’s wish to see everything computerized and said he was implementing a new software program specifically designed for use by building departments.
POSTSCRIPT: Mr. Banks remains Shelter Island building inspector to this day.

Library looks to be tax-supported

A special vote was slated for early spring to give Shelter Island residents the option of seeing their library become tax supported instead of depending on contributions and a town grant. The library board asked for the vote in order to provide a “stable and regularized source of income, according to then board president Dorothy Hassel. At the time, the library had two paid employees,  a library director and an assistant. It was getting $35,000 from a town grant, with the need to raise the rest of the budget — about $45,000 — from contributions. The Shelter Island Public Library was the only library on Long Island not supported directly by taxes. A $55,000 tax appropriation was approved by voters in 1993 by a vote of 281 to 112.
POSTSCRIPT: The library still depends on Friends of the Library to augment its tax revenues that total $614,327.

Island teenagers enjoy first ecumenical retreat

About 32 Shelter Island teens participated in an ecumenical retreat at St. Gabriel’s Retreat House overlooking Coecles Harbor in February 1983. Members of the Passionist Fathers, who ran the Retreat House, worked with other Island clergy to arrange the weekend event. Ninth through 12th grade students participated in group discussions, periods of reflection and recreation. Themes included relationships with family members and friends; their own future goals; and their relationship to God.

In 1992, the town acquired the upper eight acres of land at St. Gabriel’s Spiritual Center for Youth to give the Passionist Fathers a financial boost. In 2009, the last full-time member of the Passionist Fathers on Shelter Island left as plans to sell the land were moving forward. The Town Board approved the acquisition of the upper eight acres of land at St. Gabriel’s Spiritual Center for Youth giving the Passionist Fathers a financial boost while ensuring the preservation of the land.
POSTSCRIPT: Agents for St. Gabe’s are in talks with the Town Planning Board to subdivide 25 acres of the Spiritual Center for Youth into eight separate lots as efforts to sell the entire 25-acre site have failed to attract any serious buyers. The original asking price was $19.9 million but that has fallen to $18.5 million. Offers have only been in the vicinity of about $12 million. Although the town had first dibs on the land, the money isn’t available for such a large purchase.

Shelter Island Dems censure governor
While gathering in February 1963 to choose Frank Wilcox as president of the Shelter Island Democratic Party, the members of the local group also endorsed a resolution objecting to a proposed increase in taxes on automobile and pleasure boat licenses. Their action was similar to resolutions passed by other Democratic groups throughout Suffolk County The governor at the time was Republican Nelson Rockefeller, who served in that post from 1959 through 1973. Mr. Rockefeller went on to serve as Vice President under President Gerald Ford form 1974 to 1977.
POSTSCRIPT: Today’s local Democrats are generally in line with policies of popular Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.