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This week in Shelter Island history

Old, open book with a damaged cover.


Crime boss Tommy Lucchese, who spent three years in Sing Sing after being convicted in Riverhead of auto theft, died in Lido Beach, Long Island, after suffering a brain tumor at age 67.

Patrick Kennedy, former Rhode Island congressman and son of Ted Kennedy, who was diagnosed with bipolar disease and had problems with substance abuse, was born in Brighton, Massachusetts, and, since his political career ended, has dedicated his efforts to working for improved mental health care.

The Who began a United States tour opening for Herman’s Hermits.

Surveyor 4, meant to test soil on the moon to prepare for Apollo manned flights, exploded just two-and-a-half minutes before touching down on the lunar surface, but still managed to send back photographs before its demise.

And on Shelter Island  . . .


Liquidation of a landmark

Bohack’s, the Island’s only supermarket, liquidated its stock after the parent corporation declared bankruptcy. Shoppers, while delighted to buy some goods at sharply reduced prices, wondered how their needs would be met long term. George Walsh, who then operated George’s Market expressed interest and subsequently acquired the market under the IGA banner.

POSTSCRIPT: The market operated successfully here for many years, but several years ago, new management took over the operation. If there was early grumbling, reviews online show that Islanders have definitely warmed to the operation.


Annex plan creates controversy

For years, the “Annex” was a 17-unit rooming house on Stearns Point Road that its owner sought to convert in 1987 into a five-unit cooperative apartment building. The rooming house had operated pre-existing nonconforming use, but since it was no longer operating at that time, it reverted to its original strict residential use. That provided for a single dwelling with an accessory building that could be used for part-time occupancy.

Neighbors told the Zoning Board of Appeals they had concerns about the cooperative apartment building they feared would increase water usage, raise septic issues, create noise and have insufficient parking.

POSTSCRIPT: Today, the single, most worrisome issue, for Islanders is water quality affected by aged septic systems. Builders of new structures are required to put in new,  efficient septic systems and  Suffolk County is contemplating mandating new systems for properties in which more than 50 percent of a structure is being changed by renovations and expansions.



Due to particularly dry weather and the reality of increased water use during the summer season, the Heights Property Owners Corporation imposed temporary water usage rules in July 1997. Lawn watering was prohibited day and night. Gardens could only be watered with hand held hoses or watering cans. Well water could not be used for washing vehicles.

POSTSCRIPT: Shelter Island Town, like much of New York State, was under a drought in the past year, but with a number of restrictions already in place through  legislation such as banning filling of pools with well water, other limits were voluntary. The drought condition was lifted in April.


Fireworks not without a hitch

The annual Shelter Island Fireworks display 10 years ago was still in the hands of the Chamber of Commerce and crowds generally agreed the event was a success. But two hitches attended the event.

One was a shell that went astray, landing in the water just within the limits of a safety setback that had been established for spectator boats.

The other was the problem of paying for the event that would, through the next few years, lead the Chamber to give up the fireworks, and turn it over to a group of Island residents who have led the effort since 2015.

POSTSCRIPT: As the group that picked up the fireworks in 2015 has learned, raising money to pay for the popular event isn’t easy. In the initial year, a lot of contributors stepped up and more money was raised than was needed so there was money left when the fundraising job started.

This year, fundraising was slow, according to committee member Kelly Surerus. To try to spur the effort, three special fundraising events were launched. Saturday night all went well, with a record crowd and a spectacularGrucci display.

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