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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor


Ban the phones
To the Editor:
I am a retired teacher who taught at the Shelter Island School from 1976 until 2015.

There have been many changes at the school over the years that have reflected the times. When I started working at the school, all the doors were open for students, staff, parents and visitors, but several years ago the doors were locked, and a secured entrance was established to protect the children. This was inconvenient yet needed.

Also, when I began to teach, there was a pay phone where students could call home for lunches, lunch money, forgotten homework or gym clothes, etc. Parents could call the school office or nurse’s office to get a message to their child.

The point of my letter is to urge the school and parents to not allow cellphones in school. Everyone should be informed of the rule. Before the children enter the school, there should be a table where backpacks, purses and pockets are checked and phones taken away. I know there are no more pay phones, but an office phone could be used if the student needs to call home. When there is no strict rule, the use of the cellphone becomes an instrument that causes too much of a distraction.

Teachers are hired to teach, not deal with the phones.
Shelter Island

Ban airbnb
To the Editor:
Airbnb “hosts” are for-profit landlords, identical to McDonald’s or Day’s Inn franchisees.

They operate commercial businesses while their parent company, airbnb, provides marketing and logistical support in exchange for a slice of the franchisee’s revenues. We do not allow McDonald’s and Day’s Inns next door. Why do we allow airbnbs?

Shelter Island has always said “no” to big box businesses that squeeze out locals, and the Island rightfully limits commercial activities that would create noise, traffic and garbage in residential zones. Why is airbnb any different?

But it’s not just marketing airbnb offers its franchisees. It provides funding, legal counsel, strategic advice and tactical support to airbnb landlords facing community backlash. Airbnb uses its super-PAC, euphemistically called “Stronger Neighborhoods,” and its corporate offices to defend franchises facing restrictions that might crimp parent and franchisee profits. Airbnb corporate attorneys have appeared at our Town Board meetings, and airbnb lurks behind the local group on the Island, despite the group’s claims to the contrary.

One of these strategies is to intimidate small towns with expensive lawsuits. Luckily, airbnb continues to lose these lawsuits, including a recent loss in its hometown, San Francisco. San Francisco subsequently limited short-term rentals (STRs), and required landlords to register before listing a property on airbnb, because it violates zoning rules and limits affordable housing in high cost areas.

Shelter Islanders, are we ruled by a small group of landlords and their corporate sponsor? Or will we defend property rights for all? Other East End towns are fighting back. Please enforce the zoning and STR rules that rightfully limit commercial franchises in residential areas where they don’t belong.
Shelter Island

The Chamber responds
To the Editor:
Several recent letters to the editor question the Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to fulfill its mission to advance the economic, cultural and general interests on Shelter Island. Historically, the Chamber has always adhered to the values of the community and quality of life that makes the Island uniquely different than our neighbors. By no means do we now aspire to change the character of this wonderful community where we live, too.

A cursory look at our website, shelterislandchamber.org reveals an understanding and respect for the Island, including its history and scale of social and commercial activity. Yet, we do our best to represent the interests of our members, which broadly include real estate, construction, hotels and restaurants, professional services, transportation, churches and nonprofits. We carry out this commitment in varying ways and degrees, including use of social media, advertising and publicity, and by conducting well-attended events such as the annual Duck Race and long-standing Arts and Crafts Fair.

The Chamber is as much part of the fabric of our community as any local organization, and is run by deeply responsible and caring citizens. We hope that most will agree that “pleading with residents to stop supporting the Chamber” is not productive and represents a short-sighted campaign to destroy everything sacred to the history and foundation of our community established long before most of those reading this paper became aware of Shelter Island.
Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce

Save the student visa
To the Editor:
We are fortunate residents of Shelter Island — a unique haven in America — who never have to get on a ferry to learn about the world. Summer after summer, students show up right here from such far-flung countries as Uzbekistan, China, Montenegro and Kazakhstan to work at local businesses, taking up the slack when the supply of home grown labor runs short.

It is delightful to consider, as well, that our temporary guests will be returning to their homes not only with tales of skyscrapers, amusement parks and a big canyon, but with accounts of kindness, understated beauty and a brand of life that grows rarer by the day in America.

The J1 visa program which facilitates this annual exchange is now facing severe problems. Should this program be discontinued, not only will we lose the pleasures of mutual, personal familiarity, but local businesses will be deprived of much needed labor, which will be bad for them and the life of our Island.

We are board members of Council for International Educational Exchange (CIEE) a 70-year-old organization committed to both American students learning about the world — we send 10,000 abroad annually — and students of the world — we bring 30,000 over here — learning about us through summer work programs in our country.

Importantly, almost all of these J1 visa student workers go home with a profound understanding and affinity for America. A total of 180,000 inward bound visas are now in jeopardy, despite the fact that Americans seem unwilling to take these au pair, camp counselor, grocery clerk and other short term jobs.

In the spirit of selfish local pride and worldly international optimism, we ask that you write to your congressional representatives and State Department leaders to enlist their support in saving this valuable program that does right by us all.
Shelter Island

Organizing Fresh Pond
To the Editor:
This past Saturday afternoon a group of neighbors whose property either abuts or is in close proximity to Fresh Pond met with the purpose of the formation of a new homeowners group. The effort was spearheaded by Peter Grand and Laurie Goodstein, at whose home the meeting took place. The approximately 25 residents reached a consensus to form a homeowners group and to become a member of The Shelter Island Association.

Also discussed was the possibility of the formation of a larger, more diverse group, to be known as the Friends of Fresh Pond since people Island-wide have over the years, enjoyed swimming in the pond.

The group also listened to a presentation by former Peconic Baykeeper and expert in all water matters, Kevin McAllister. Mr. McAllister is currently the founder and president of Defend H2O, a non-profit environmental organization that works to protect waters on and around Long Island. Mr. McAllister had surveyed the Pond via kayak before the meeting and said he observed that the pond environment was generally good, but that neighbors could take steps to improve the water quality.

Those steps might include: avoiding the use of fertilizer; planting natural buffers at the water’s edge; discouraging geese; and evaluating and updating septic systems.

Mr. McAllister also suggested a program of regular monitoring be instituted, as well as sampling the pond to test the “first flush” immediately after heavy rains. He plans to present a list of recommendations as well as his interpretation of the Watershed Management Study that was adopted by the town in 2014 prior to the new groups next meeting, which is scheduled for September 16 at 4 p.m.
Member, Water Quality Improvement Advisory Board

9/11, never forget
To the Editor:
We must never forget those who were killed on September 11, 2001 and those who served in the ensuing wars. We must always remember we were attacked by extremists who still want to destroy our democracy. Our rights to free speech, to freely live and believe as we each choose is a threat to their insane ideology.

This 9/11, I also remember my colleagues in journalism who were there that day. The transmitter engineers at the top of the towers who died. Wing Lee, a cameraman who barely escaped with his life as the north tower fell, is a Shelter Island resident. We were hit by debris when WTC-7 collapsed. News crews ran to ground zero as everyone was fleeing. It was the media who gave us the assurance that after the WTC, Shanksville and the Pentagon attacks, there was no further threat.

Many of these journalists remained at ground zero for months and now suffer 9/11 related illnesses.

They were not first responders, but were there to report on the hazardous work that the responders were doing. Journalists were later embedded with our troops in the Iraq war.
President Trump never misses an opportunity to show his disdain for the media. During a photo-op in Houston last week, he said that a journalist would never go into the winds of a hurricane.

My former coworkers and I have been in more hurricanes, forest fires, floods, disasters, riots and wars than I care to remember. I was once hit by the same hurricane three times, flying to the next landfall each time.

Those who work as newsgathers in the mainstream media are real people who work long hours, often far away from their families. They take real risk to bring the truth to the American public. Mistakes are made — they are few — and are openly corrected.

When Mr. Trump exclaims “fake news,” he is obviously setting the stage to discredit the journalist who might discover his tax returns or alleged ties to Russia and the Russian mob. He insults every dedicated journalist and threatens the ideal of a free press, the cornerstone of democracy.

To honor the victims of 9/11, we must confront those who choose to undermine our democracy, whether they are from within or without.
Shelter Island

Capturing the magic
To the Editor:
A few weeks ago I watched the public screening of Peter Waldner’s film, “Behind Curtains,” which documents the making of the school’s 2017 spring production, “Curtains.”

At the premier screening, sponsored by the Historical Society in the Havens Barn, about 70 people sat totally mesmerized; Mr. Waldner and editor Robert Volpe have managed to boil down the 125 hours of video to 60 minutes of captivating entertainment.

The documentary opens during the audition process and provides a behind-the-scenes peek at the months of hard work needed to create the magic that transforms a bare stage into another world, and raw talents into professionals performances. From early rehearsals to the final curtain call, John and Anu Kaasik, along with others, mold, nudge and coax polished performances from our talented Island students.

The “Behind Curtains” we saw in August was not fully edited. The sneak preview was arranged so some of the student actors could see it before they left for college. In a characteristically brief prologue to the film, Mr. Waldner explained that he’d like to bring the finished documentary to the school auditorium in the fall.

I hope that happens so that more Islanders — especially those fans of our school’s wonderful productions — will have the opportunity to see the documentary and watch just how the magic happens.
Shelter Island

Thanks to Gary and Red
To the Editor:
Many thanks to Gary Paul Gates for his terrific column (“And that reminds me …” August 24) on the greatest sportswriter ever, Red Smith.

He was not only a talented writer but also gave us a great insight into all sports. I was fortunate when growing up on Shelter Island to read his columns in the Tribune nearly every day.
Beech Mountain, North Carolina

Faith Keeper
To the Editor:
The following message was written by Chief Oren Lyons, Faith Keeper of the Onondaga Nation in an invocation prefacing a speech he gave to a United Nations gathering in 1977 in Geneva, Switzerland: “I do not see a delegation for the four-footed. I see no seat for the eagle. We forget and we consider ourselves superior, but we are after all a mere part of the creation. And we must continue to understand where we are. We stand between the mountain and the ant, somewhere and only there, as part and parcel of the creation.”
Shelter Island