Shelter Island Reporter Editorial: Filling a vacuum


Shelter Island is the poorer with the resignation of John Cronin as town engineer.

He took his responsibilities seriously, worked hard and honored a personal commitment to keep the public and the elected officials who appointed him aware of existing problems, and perhaps, most importantly, the serious issues that loom ahead.

He was a passionate advocate of working on infrastructure now, and not waiting until it has deteriorated to the point it will be exponentially more expensive to save.

Two years ago, Mr. Cronin, a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, wrote to the Reporter, noting that “whether talking about roads and other town assets … almost all of these situations impact care of infrastructure. We are fast approaching a crisis.”

He never took things for granted, or accepted conventional wisdom, especially when the source of that “wisdom” had to be considered. Take for example the issue of St. Gabriel’s Chapel. Richard Hogan, the developer of the luxury community slated for the property where the chapel stood, originally said it would be moved and preserved.

But then he changed course and, through his attorney, said the building had been inspected and it was determined it was too aged and infirm to move.

There was no solution except demolition.

An inspection by Mr. Cronin proved this was wrong; the building was in good enough shape to be moved. But efforts to move it ran into roadblocks —none to do with its sturdiness — and the developer had the chapel razed.

On a clean water crisis facing the Island and the region, Mr. Cronin has not been one to bemoan our fate, but has been proactive on many fronts, from spearheading an effort to map the septic systems on the Island, to working with the Town Board to install state-of-the-art systems at the American Legion and Sylvester Manor.

Recently, when four test wells in the Center were found to have dangerously high nitrate levels, Mr. Cronin went to the town, and after receiving little interest, contacted the Reporter about the issue.

Town government woke up, issuing a statement that said, in part, “Residents in the Center may want to consider having their own wells tested for water quality as high nitrate levels affect the quality of drinking water.”

Mr. Cronin led a small chorus of public officials who sounded the alarm on the condition of Reel Point, the slim sliver of land that protects Coecles Harbor and the many businesses and residences that line its shores.

The private engineering report that was produced should be a wake up call to the town to shore up Reel Point before it’s lost.

Mr. Cronin told the Reporter this week that one problem with solving serious problems of water quality and basic infrastructure is “a leadership vacuum” in town government.

These are carefully chosen words from Mr. Cronin, who always weighed his public remarks for the truth and maximum impact.

He should be listened to, even as he goes out the door, leaving behind an exemplary record of accomplishment and a map of how to maneuver on the rocky road ahead.