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This week in Shelter Island history

Old, open book with a damaged cover.


Sir Francis Chichester embarked on a 228-day circumnavigation of the world leaving from Portsmouth, England, and becoming the first person to do so alone. He was later knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

People were flocking to the movie “Alfie” starring Michael Caine.

Jacqueline Susann’s “Valley of the Dolls” was the book of choice in the United States.

Americans were listening to “Summer In the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.

And on Shelter Island …

Peconic County again?

Fifty years ago, with former Island Supervisor Evans Griffing at the helm of what was the Board of Supervisors of Suffolk County, many East Enders might have thought surely there could be a Peconic County separate from Suffolk County.

But despite editorials at the time and a push from East Enders, it all came to naught.

POSTSCRIPT: In the past year with changes in the State Legislature, there was again talk of a separate Peconic County. But there has been no movement behind the idea.

Devastating realities of coastal development

Columnist Karl Grossman was warning back in August 1986 about the increase in hurricanes and  with more development along the coasts there would come a day when a storm could devastate Shelter Island.

A week before his column then, Hurricane Charley was expected to slam the East End, but just before it came ashore it veered east and went out to sea.

The previous year, it was Hurricane Gloria that was threatening with great force, but weakened just before it struck. But Mr. Grossman warned then that the day would come when East Enders better be prepared for “the big one.”

POSTSCRIPT: Superstorm Sandy caused flooding a few years ago. Each year, Police Chief Jim Read, who overseas emergency responders, meets with those involved to determine how to improve responses. In the wake of any major event, he and an emergency response committee assess what could be changed to improve weaknesses in the system.

Affordable housing project struggling toward completion

More than four years after it began, the six Bowditch Road houses that would become homes to families who were income-qualified to purchase them were still unfinished.

Four of the houses were occupied by late August 1996 and one more had just been finished so its new owners could take it. But there hadn’t yet been a ground breaking for the sixth house. While some of the houses were occupied already, the titles hadn’t yet been turned over to the owners, some of whom had been living in them from anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, mortgage free.

POSTSCRIPT: The Bowditch houses, of course, finally did get finished. But today’s focus is on determining how much need there is for rental housing. The Community Housing Board has been working on identifying the need and vetting potential projects.

Barbecue organizers face extra challenges

The annual Chicken Barbecue in 2006, was the major fundraiser for the Fire Department. As Islanders know, there’s always a great deal of work that goes into the popular event. But in 2006, a Suffolk County health official driving on the Island noticed the sign for the barbecue and decided to check on whether sanitary codes were being met.

There were a nervous couple of days as volunteers continued their preparations for the barbecue, unsure if they would be shut down.

All worked out and the event went forward successfully.

POSTSCRIPT: The barbecue, now in its 53rd year under the Shelter Island Fire Department, went off successfully last weekend.

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