Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Matters of character

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | A view of Coecles Harbor from the St. Gabriel's Retreat Center property.
AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | A view of Coecles Harbor from the St. Gabriel’s Retreat Center property.

Two events happened in the past week, one that showed the courage of three Islanders acting bravely in a crisis to help someone in peril, and the other that left hope the Island will retain the specific character that we prize.

When Michael Russo crashed in his light plane shortly after takeoff from Klenawicus airstrip Monday evening, neighbors Amanda Gutiw, Rich Surozenski and Patricia Anzalone who live near the airfield, ran to the site of the wreck and got Mr. Russo, unconscious with a broken ankle and chest contusions, to safety.

The pilot was then treated by Police Officer Anthony Rando and Shelter Island EMS technicians before being airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Their courageous response is an example to all of us and one we shouldn’t forget. Their actions demonstrated what it means to be part of the human family. Ms. Gutiw,  Mr. Surozenski and Ms. Anzalone didn’t know who was trapped in the wrecked plane, and didn’t care. A fellow human being was in trouble and there was no time to lose to offer aid.

The second bit of news also brought hope, but not as immediately as Ms. Gutiw’s, Mr. Surozenski’s and Ms. Anzalone’s efforts.

When word came that the St. Gabriel’s property, set along the shores of Coecles Harbor, had been sold for $15 million, people who love long views and a sense of sea and deep skies were immediately fearful St. Gabe’s, on the market for years, would be just another millionaires’ development.

The Passionist Fathers, who own the property and had run a youth retreat there for decades, had asked some time ago for the right to subdivide the property and the request had been granted.

A total of 21 lots could be sold, and a precious resource of peace and beauty would be destroyed. But the Passionists have said the new buyer is a single individual (preferring at least at present, to keep his name out of the news and protected by an LLC) who will not develop it.

This is very good news, if true. Supervisor Jim Dougherty said that from informal conversations he’s been privy to, he’s confident the buyer “is fully aware of Shelter Island’s conservation and environmental concerns, which are critical.”

We, along with all Islanders, urge the new owner to keep St. Gabe’s free of waterfront mansions and development. Many uses — a youth center? — can be found to keep and preserve an Island jewel sparkling in the sunlight.