04/26/12 7:12am

Eroding respect

To the Editor:

The rule of law, including its uniform enforcement and explicit consequences, is a fundamental principle of civil society. But respect for the rule of law is eroding, as these local examples illustrate.

Shelter Island’s Justice Court is in the habit of erratic and inconsistent enforcement of statutory law, proven by the number of cases in which infractions and their penalties are reduced to lesser degrees, lesser charges and lesser penalties.

Shelter Island’s town government has become accustomed to granting exceptions to its own codes, effectively making those codes arbitrary and capricious.

Shelter Island’s school has been taken to task by parents, both publicly and privately, for inconsistent and erratic application of its policies for discipline.

It should be no surprise that many of those growing to adulthood in such an environment no longer take the courts, government or school seriously. Those responsible adults who instruct their children regarding the rule of law and its consequences are seen to be liars in light of the evidence. The same things, and other comparable ones, might be said of a thousand other communities. But ours is the only one where we can make a difference. A community where kids don’t have reason to take grown ups and their institutions seriously will not for long be worth living in.

DAVID L. DRAPER, Shelter Island

 

A reminder

As most Islanders are well aware by now, thanks to my late wife and others, May is mammogram awareness month. Having made it her mission to raise awareness and educate women on the dangers of breast cancer, Teresa handed out several dozen pink ribbons last August. I am asking the proud owners of those ribbons to please display them for the month of May to remind everyone how important screening is to find and fight this dreadful disease. Please ask your doctor for a copy of your mammogram report from the radiologist. Ask about whether you would benefit from additional screening if you have dense tissue as mammograms have trouble seeing cancer in dense tissue.

I look forward to seeing Teresa’s efforts continue on behalf of Island women.

I will be headed to Albany next week for a press conference on pending New York State legislation with regard to informing women about their dense tissue and screening for breast cancer.

Still fighting for Teresa’s cause! Thanks for caring,

TOWNY MONTANT, Shelter Island

 

Generous Island

To the Editor:

I just wanted to extend a big “thank you!” to the residents and visitors of Shelter Island for their contributions to our annual food drive this past Saturday. On April 21, Girl Scout troops from all over Suffolk County gathered outside of grocery stores to collect food and non-food items. Thanks to the generosity of our Island, our local community pantry received 198 items and $93.68.

JANINE MAHONEY

Girl Scout Coordinator, Shelter Island

 

Shepherd is right

To the Editor:

I grew up in an Irish neighborhood in Upper Manhattan where many of my grammar school classmates went on to become policemen and firemen. I have great respect and admiration for them and the many others in uniform around the United States who make sacrifices and endure hardships in order to protect the rest of us. That respect and admiration, however, does not translate into worship and it does not ignore certain realities.

In the past two weeks, the Reporter has simultaneously covered two current stories that, in my mind, are directly related. First, it reported on April 12 that the PBA and the town had agreed to a three-year contract that provides for annual increases of 2 percent plus an additional 1 percent for “longevity pay.” When combined with the previous contract (3-percent annual increases for three years) that was settled by binding arbitration, the four-year increase between 2009 and 2012 would be just under 15 percent, significantly more than inflation or the Consumer Price Index.

In addition, the contract negotiations failed to include a provision where the PBA members would pay even 1 percent of their health care costs because, as the supervisor put it, “this is the Alamo for them.” Perhaps it should have been the Alamo for the rest of us.

The other issue, covered in the same April 12 edition, involved a disagreement between councilmen about the “fairness” of equal health care contributions versus the “fairness” of grandfathered criteria. Peter Reich justifies the fact that some town employees pay nothing for their health care benefits because they showed up earlier and are grandfathered in to their original cost, zero.

Grandfathering might be an acceptable concept when it applies to personal property but it is an irrational concept when applied to economics. I’m 68 years old and I’d like to pay 20 cents a gallon for gas as I did in 1966; I’d like to pay a sales tax of 3 percent; I’d like to ride the subway in New York for 15 cents just as I did in high school. Why can’t I?  Because the laws of economics apply to everyone, even me.

The concept of grandfathering is a factor of power, nothing less. It has nothing to do with economics or fairness or good government. And Mr. Reich’s effort to justify his position by saying, “We live in a democracy and we are not all the same,” is also economically irrational. Let him go to a gas station, a grocery store, either ferry or a Mets game with Jim Dougherty and Paul Shepherd and see if he pays less than them. His ability to pay nothing for his health benefits is not a function of economics, just the power of the councilmen and women at the time who voted to force the “new guys” to pay a portion of their health benefits while they continued to pay nothing.

Taken together, however, the impact of no contributions or modest contributions to health care costs, and skyrocketing pension costs for government workers, is putting state and local governments on a path towards potential default or bankruptcy. In the same April 12 article, the Reporter quotes Supervisor Dougherty as saying that health care costs now represent 13 percent of the entire town budget. In this week’s (April 19) edition, he also states that the pension costs of the town “have increased by 770 percent in 10 years,” an absolutely unsustainable figure. Given the ability of some town employees to retire after only 20 years, and given the current life expectancy tables, the Shelter Island taxpayers could pay our employees for 20 years and then pay their pensions for another 40 years or longer.

I believe that Councilman Reich is wrong to view grandfathering as a legitimate part of employee contract negotiations. I believe that Supervisor Dougherty is correct and realistic when he says that “employees must be made to contribute more towards their health insurance costs” but he is wrong when he accepts a PBA contract with no contribution because “this is the Alamo for them.” Congress, our New York State Legislature and our Suffolk County government are creating obligations that will drown our children and grandchildren in debt. It is frustrating to watch our town government add to that future burden with foolish economic notions and weak negotiations. Councilman Shepherd might not be correct on every issue but he is absolutely on target on this one.

KEVIN BROOKS, Shelter Island

04/18/12 7:54pm

No April Fool

To the Editor:

I looked at the datelines and letter and meeting dates for your story about ending swimming at Fresh Pond, Shell Beach and Menhaden Lane but didn’t find April 1st anywhere.

So I conclude that the story is not an April Fools’ Day prank but the work of a Year-Round Fool, whose other title is “Director of Environmental Quality, Bureau of Marine Resources, Suffolk County Department of Health Services.”

Here in Connecticut, we used to have a county level of government in place, but in 1960 our state legislature ended it and sent the rascals packing. The funny part of that is no one noticed that they were gone (and we still don’t).

We could probably learn to live without the Suffolk County government very nicely and not even notice that they were gone, except for being left alone to swim in peace at the very best beaches in the world.

EDWARD REITH, Shelter Island

 

Civics lesson

To the Editor:

I hope the boys and girls of Shelter Island will be reading the Reporter these next several weeks because they will get a valuable civics lesson demonstrating the ineptitude of our local government.

The senior sanitarian  for the Suffolk County Department of Health has decreed that the beaches at Hay Beach and Shell Beach represent a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the tax-paying public and has ordered them closed. You might think she would be smart enough to realize that it will not happen. We should all remember the taco truck incident from last year when our public officials decided that the itinerant food truck that was visiting construction sites on the Island was a threat to public health and safety.

After several weeks of editorials, letters to the editor and several raucous Town Board meetings, our government enacted an ill-conceived, poorly written, totally unenforceable set of rules to correct the situation. The net result is that the truck still comes every day and nobody seems to be troubled by it.

Similarly, we remember the dump episode when our esteemed public officials decided that there were too many unqualified rag-pickers sifting through the trash at the dump. Again after weeks of debate, a totally unenforceable set of rules was concocted. Now everything is just as it was before, the scavengers are back, happy as clams, except all the professional scroungers have a cute green vest on the seat of their pickup truck. Our public servants are quite adept at identifying problems that don’t exist and promulgating unworkable solutions.

So, boys and girls, you can ignore all the histrionics these next several weeks because you can be sure that on any nice day in July and August, both Shell and Hay Beach will be crowded with taxpaying citizens enjoying the bay as they have for generations.

Nobody will be arrested or prosecuted. The only difference will be the presence of a big ugly sign with a long laundry list of prohibited activities and what was once a pleasant trip to the beach is now officially classified as a criminal act. The senior sanitarian may just as well sit on the beach in a folding chair with a bullhorn and order the tide not to come in.

Your government at work: it doesn’t get any better. That’s one man’s opinion.

DAVID OLSEN, Shelter Island

 

Vilified

To the Editor:

After his “State of the Town” speech, Supervisor Dougherty once again vilified me with his defaming comments. He desperately needs a scapegoat. He and the board allowed their collective vengeance to cloud their judgment and they know it. They knew that observing kids unknowingly playing in the shallow waters that others just defecated in was upsetting to my wife and myself.

We live next to the Fresh Pond landing and saw this happen time and again. I begged the board several times to just remove the picnic table at the landing. There would be less need for people to relieve themselves in the pond if you do not encourage eating there. But retribution is much more important than protecting public health.

Why such loathing? I rejected the supervisor’s dictated terms and threat of intimidation way back in 2008, when the landing was converted to a beach without notice. His statement that “elected officials here” would retaliate and that “it won’t be nice” was legally recorded by me. (As he always says, “Trust but verify.”) I then filed a complaint with the New York State Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit in 2009 when I felt he was carrying out this threat.

But that was only after I wrote him several times and explained why he should actually protect citizens from such abuses. My mistake was to not follow through, allowing him to be let off with a warning. It could be that I truly believe that I have the constitutional right to write letters such as this without fear of retaliation from the government.

He and the board had every opportunity to rectify this problem at Fresh Pond locally and chose not to. Contacting the Suffolk County Department of Health Services was a last resort. Any other community would thank a citizen for taking action to protect the health and welfare of their children. But not here.

Mr. Dougherty allowed loads of sand to be dumped into Fresh Pond, harming the environment. This was in violation of a DEC directive, for over a year. He risked our tax money for a large potential fine. He again risks potential fines when he allows the town to continue to violate county health and safety regulations.

But the worst was when he and the board knowingly allowed the public, the tots and kids, to be put in impending danger at the Fresh Pond town landing. Most people agree that swimming in raw sewage is a dangerous risk to your current and long-term health. There is a real problem in Town Hall when retaliation and revenge overrules common sense and the law. Where is the integrity? Where are the adults? Where is the supervision, Mr. Supervisor?

I hope that someday we can elect a supervisor that can maintain the Shelter Island way of life while respecting the rights of every citizen and resident, no matter what religion they are assumed to be. Until then, we will be “governed” by Boss Dougherty. He longs for the ruthless days of Tammany Hall, one of the low points of our democracy. We need leadership that will take responsibility and actually honor the oath of office and the flag that they pledge their allegiance to.

VINCENT NOVAK, Shelter Island

 

Absurd ruling

To the Editor:

Three cheers for Dick Tarlow. He got his wish granted by the Town Board. Now he can build his 10,000 square-foot dream house. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Island, in a much more modest neighborhood, an absurd ruling prevailed.

A few years ago, my husband and I had a garage built. We wanted to install a toilet and a sink in the upstairs area that would be his office. But Mary Wilson and Billy Banks said “no,” as did the town. Why? Because we already had an accessory building, a small cottage that did, indeed, have a shower, toilet and sink but was unusable from October through April, because it wasn’t heated and the pipes were drained.

Our house, which probably could fit into Mr. Tarlow’s living room, has one bedroom, an upstairs bathroom with a toilet, sink and tub and a downstairs bathroom with a shower, sink and tub. But the town was inflexible. They told us unless we attached either the garage or the cottage to the small main house, we could not put a toilet and sink in the room over the garage. (We already had an accessory building, remember? Even though we couldn’t use it for half of the year.)

I cannot imagine the architectural insult of attaching either of these structures to our 1850s house. So we gave up. Now, I’m wondering how many bathrooms Mr. Tarlow will have in his new home. Five? 10? 50? It seems the sky’s the limit if you put everything under one roof.

MELANIE CORONETZ, Shelter Island

 

No indictment meant 

To the Editor:

Recently things got a bit bumpy for me and my associates on the board. We disagree rather strongly on a particular issue and that is always difficult.

I would like to be sure people understand that my remarks about a failure to lead refer to this issue, and this issue alone, and was never intended to be construed as an indictment of their years of service to the Town of Shelter Island. That is neither what I meant nor how I feel.

There is also good news. We don’t have to lead to get there any more. New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie has done it, with bipartisan support, already. They’ve gotten virtually all public employees, including police and teachers, to contribute uniformly to their health care via legislation on the state level.

So, not only can it be done, it has been done. The bad news is that Governor Cuomo is not Chris Christie, and has, in my opinion, settled for a tepid response to a very large issue, leaving us without critical legislation strong enough to make the right thing a reality.

Trying to have a meaningful impact on this problem, even locally, by targeting only new hires is not going to get us to where we need to be in time. A fair-minded, even-handed, across-the-board approach is not only better from an ethical standpoint but will work better for the taxpayer. Imagine that.

That being said, I am not sure that health care costs are really going to continue to expand the way they have … because it will quite simply be the ruination of our nation. Hopefully our state and federal leaders will clear the way for reforms that will make life easier for us on the local level.

Anyway, to my co-workers again, my apologies if my remarks were taken differently than they were offered. On this issue we are worlds apart, it’s true, but only on this.

PAUL SHEPHERD

Councilman, Shelter Island

03/22/12 6:00am

SAMANTHA BRIX FILE PHOTO | Shelter Island resident Walt Fogarty mentions Congressman Tim Bishop (pictured) in his letter on oil prices.

Kudos to Novak

To the Editor:

My thanks and congratulations to Vincent Novak for a wonderfully informative and provocative article, “A Bridge too small,” in the Reporter on March 15. I am one of those Cablevision customers who has been wondering about the more frequent freezing and pixelating of the programs I watch on cable television.

Now I understand the problem. Mr. Novak points out the seriousness of these problems being caused by the limited bandwidth and obsolete technology being provided by Cablevision to us here on Shelter Island at a very high cost!

He also makes several timely and important suggestions for the town to take up prior to an agreement for a new 10-year lease to Cablevision, making them the sole provider for Internet, phone and cable services for many of us.

I strongly suggest the town use Mr. Novak’s expertise either as a consultant or to head an advisory committee to the Town Board regarding Cablevision negotiations. It would be tragic to let this opportunity pass and be stuck with a more and more inferior product at a more and more expensive cost to the residents of our Island.

Finally, I believe that Mr. Novak’s suggestion of trenching cable and electrical lines along Route 114 is a terrific idea. It seems we did something similar when we had severe flooding a while ago. This would be both a safety and a quality of life issue for many of us on the Island. So, thanks again, Mr. Novak.

BOB FREDERICKS
Hay Beach

More on Cablevision

To the Editor:

Thank you, Vincent Novak, for bringing some expertise to an intimidating technology. I am suffering cable anxiety, as have many other Islanders.

Line maintenance, programming and Internet access need continuous oversight. A future with buried optical cables would serve us better. How to pay for it?

I received a reply from the FCC when I innocently assumed they were the appropriate agency to complain to. I quote part of their reply, received in September from Sharon C. Bowers, Division Chief, consumer inquiries and complaints division: “The FCC no longer has the authority to act on consumer complaints regarding cable television rate increases. Local franchises are authorized to oversee the rates charged for basic service and the equipment used to receive basic service unless the cable system is found to be subject to “effective competition as defined in the Communications Act.”

Obviously, there is no effective competition! FiOS stops well to the west.

The FCC rules that basic service be offered and must contain Broadcast Basic plus government stations. PERIOD. The FCC has little jurisdiction over anything else, despite Cablevision’s misleading assurances to the opposite, made when their delegate recently appeared before our Town Council.

Here is a quote from the same FCC letter (a photocopy of which was given to Jim Dougherty and Peter Boody). “The local franchising authority, with the consent of the Cablevision system operator also may adopt and enforce customer service requirements that are more stringent than the standards adopted by the commission.” This legalese is all the more reason for town leaders to hire a tech expert as well as an attorney.

Rates and programming as well as technology are on the table. The FCC offers nothing. FCC authority has been greatly reduced,  deferring to local rule.

The Town Council should discuss with Cablevision:

1. The content and rates of all programming packages.

2. Eliminate two rates, regular and booster for Internet access.

3. Oppose  requirements that obligate us to rent  boxes for each set, both analog and digital. This is egregious.

The town, as the local franchisee, has to step up. Deregulation does not mean no regulation, it means local regulation … new responsibility for all of us, like it or not!

HILBERT CAMP
Shelter Island

Energy ideas

To the Editor:

Mr. Grossman infers in his March 8 Suffolk Closeup that U.S. gas and oil prices are up and that Big Oil companies, not too little oil and gas supplies and too much demand, are the reasons for these high prices.

I must agree with Mr. Grossman and his acolyte, Mr. Bishop, that oil and gas prices are up. In 2011, the average annual prices of oil and gas were higher than any time in the last 150 years. In 2012, these prices continue to skyrocket.

So what’s the problem?

Mr. Grossman says Big Oil and not oil and gas supplies is the problem. U.S. gas and oil supplies were up (modestly) in 2011, versus prior years. This I might add was thanks to Big Oil’s fracking on private and state lands in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Oklahoma. What Mr. Grossman fails to mention are the missed opportunities to increase U,S. gas and oil supplies substantially by remedying the following problems.

The average number of deep water drilling permits approved monthly by the federal government in 2011 was down 30 percent.

Lease sales for onshore drilling were at, and remain at, all time lows.

Clear bipartisan local and state support for new drilling along the Mid Atlantic coast, eastern gulf and Alaska has been ignored.

Support for hydro fracking that is now on the verge of making the U.S. the world leader in natural gas has been non-existent.

Now Mr. Grossman believes we should put our support behind green energy to lower energy prices. Once more we are in agreement but let’s not ignore the green energy problems that will take years, maybe generations to resolve:

Green energy now costs five to seven times more than gas, oil and coal.

Government subsidies of green energy are 100 times that of oil per unit of energy produced.

To replace the energy (nuclear) produced by Indian Point that supplies one-third of New York City’s energy needs, you would need to cover the entire state of Rhode Island with wind terminals.

We need green energy. We also need time, lots of it, to resolve green energy’s problems.

Now, what about Big Oil? There are thousands of oil companies in the world today and many of them are bigger than Exxon. My guess is that Exxon has less than 5 percent of the world market. How in the world are 1,000 different companies going to agree to control prices?

This week, go to Riverhead and buy gas. Over 20 brands are available to purchase. Over five countries are represented.

Enough said.

WALT FOGARTY
Shelter Island

03/07/12 6:04pm

Tribute to Alex

To the Editor:

Alex Garcia! What a wonderful neighbor, great friend and productive citizen of our Island. And no one could describe him better than Janet Roach.

Eighteen years ago, when my family was thinking of moving from Manhattan to live on Shelter Island year round, with our 3- and 4-year-old children, we sought out Alex for advice and insight. We asked: Did it work for him? Could it work for our family? Alex described what a wonderful place the Island was. He said he could not tell if “it would work for us,” but if I got involved in the fabric of Shelter Island, as he had done, it would be very rewarding. He suggested the library board and PTSA at the school. I took his advice. He was wise and gave so much to better our Island. He will be missed by all who knew him.

MELINA WEIN, Shelter Island

 

Thank you

To the Editor:

Back in December, the Shelter Island Reporter printed in Community Clips a request for donations for Women Veterans on behalf of the American Legion Auxiliary. The response was phenomenal!

Thank you, the ALA, DAR, PTSA and the community for all your donations of scarves, gloves, books, note cards, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, soaps, perfumes, wipes, etc.

The Auxiliary delivered 20 bags to the Beacon House in Bay Shore and over 25 bags to the Women’s Wellness Center at the VA in Northport in time for Valentine’s Day. Both facilities were overwhelmed and so thankful for our gifts. Valentine’s Day for our women vets was special and a highlight because of all your generosity and caring hearts.

In the future, look for our next effort in collecting for our women veterans. Thank you all.

PAM JACKSON, President, American Legion Post 281 Auxiliary, Shelter Island

02/15/12 6:42pm

Goodbye, Alex

To the Editor:

It has only been a few short years since the last of our visits upstairs in the large bedroom in the Garcia house on Big Ram. Since then, we have maintained our close friendship via weekly telephone calls. We’d talk politics, tennis, Shelter Island, health issues and we’d reminisce.

There must be a few left on the “Rock” of the generation for whom Dr. Garcia was a medical patron saint. He operated on many, he counseled, he referred patients to his fellow top specialists at Columbia-Presbyterian, where he was the chief of orthopedics.

For many years, he and Helen Ann hosted the annual social for the Ram Island Association. She truly was his partner in all endeavors; a fellow physician, she was the staff doctor for the vast facility in Washington Heights. Cruelly, she succumbed to early Alzheimer’s disease and for decades Alex tended to and looked after her in the cottage he had built for his mother adjacent to the house.

He was a man of many parts: he supported the library, he was an emeritus member of the Mashomack board. One winter season, he and a friend built a boat in his basement and, from his dock in Coecles Harbor, he floated sacks of a budding oyster colony.

He loved the Island and the Island reciprocated.

In old vaudeville style, my calls to him always started with, “Is the doctor in?” And he would respond, “This is the doctor.”

Now, the doctor is out, permanently, and I will miss him.

HENRY GOLDSMITH, Palm Beach, Florida

 

Cablevision clarity

To the Editor:

Cablevision is in the communication business and yet for years now they would have us believe that they are incapable of clarifying whether we need a “box” or not. I believe that the “box” confusion is a scam and at this point the burden of proof is on them to convince us otherwise.

PETER BERGER, Shelter Island

 

Cablevision speaks

To the Editor:

There have been several recent stories in the Shelter Island Reporter related to Cablevision’s move to all-digital programming and we appreciate this opportunity to update our customers on this transition.

Cablevision now only delivers cable channels to Shelter Island in digital format, which means that a digital set-top box or CableCARD is needed on television sets receiving our service. It is worth noting that virtually all of Cablevision’s Shelter Island customers — and the vast majority of our customers across our entire service area — already have at least one digital set-top box in the home.

To help ease the transition to all-digital, we are providing free set-top boxes for a limited time. Customers who did not have any digital set-top boxes in their homes are being offered a box (or CableCARD) for every television in their household for free for two years. Customers who already had at least one set-top box can receive additional boxes (or CableCARDs) for every television in their home for one year.

Customers who require new or additional set-top boxes can request a free professional installation or can have them sent to their homes, free of charge, or can pick them up at any Optimum store location.

Some customers may ask why this transition is happening. The simple answer is that digital is the way television is delivered today, and will be in the future.  All of Cablevision’s satellite and phone company competitors are all-digital and require boxes on every television receiving service.

In Cablevision’s case, digital service offers a number of significant benefits including better picture, clearer sound, many more channels and choices, video on demand — with thousands of free titles — free high-definition channels and advanced interactive services such as News 12 Interactive, MSG Varsity Interactive and more. In addition to television sets connected to set-top boxes, Cablevision’s full television service is also available in the home on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch through the company’s free Optimum app.  Cablevision is the only cable provider in the country to make this available and the service is free for iO TV customers.

Cablevision is proud of our history of serving Shelter Island residents and we are committed to offering customers the best possible experience and value in residential voice, high-speed Internet and digital television service.  We understand the challenges that changes such as these can create and we appreciate our customers’ understanding.

SARAH CHAIKIN, Director, Media Relations, Cablevision