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This week in Shelter Island history

Old, open book with a damaged cover.


U.S. gymnast Mary Lou Retton, who would take home a gold, two silver and two bronze medals from the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, was born in Fairmount, West Virginia.

“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef, was drawing in movie audiences.

“I Never Sang for My Father,” a play about a troubled relationship between a father and son, opened at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway and ran for 124 performances.

The Israeli submarine Dakar, with 69 sailors onboard, disappeared in the Mediterranean enroute from Scotland to Haifa.

And on Shelter Island . . .


City influence fuels Peconic County effort

All five East End towns and County Executive Perry Duryea favored separating from Suffolk County 50 years ago. What spurred the move then was that  some East End officials said New York City interests were dominating what they saw as the need to protect the rural farmland, peaceful living, beautiful beaches and the summer tourist trade.

With then Assembly speaker Anthony Travis saying the state Legislature would never pass a bill to create the separate county, his words stood as proof to them that those outside the area were dominating the wishes of locals here.

POSTSCRIPT: Fifty years have gone by and there is, from time to time, renewed whispers about a separate Peconic County, but there’s no indication that the will of the five towns is any closer to being heard in Albany where it would take a vote in the state Legislature to make it a reality.


Simes names housing committee

In January 1988 then Supervisor Jeffrey Simes named nine people to serve as members of a housing committee, charging them with studying the possibility of creating  affordable housing on Shelter Island.

It would take until the mid 1990s to see six houses built on Bowditch Road. There was a great deal of controversy over the site, but in retrospect, a lot of the concerns, such as possible odors or unattractive views from the town’s Recycling Center, would make them less than ideal. The new owners landscaped and most of those who qualified for the houses have since added to them. Odors proved not to be an issue.

POSTSCRIPT: Today’s Community Housing Board is exploring ways to provide affordables. Among the needs the committee hopes to fill would be more young volunteers living here who might become members of the volunteer Fire Department and/or the Emergency Medical Services.


Police chief post draws several applicants

It was at this time in 1998 that the Town Board began a search to replace Police Chief Jeff Brewer who had resigned the post and retired in December 1997. Then Supervisor Gerry Siller said the Town Board had made no decision on whether the next chief had to be a current Shelter Island resident.

But he said his own view was that the post should go to the best qualified candidate, regardless of where he or she live. Despite several executive sessions to talk about filling the post, Mr. Siller said there was no job description nor was there a compensation package for the next chief. He explained that the Town Board delayed such decisions pending the return of Councilman Hal McGee, who had been involved in contract negotiations with the Police Department. Mr. McGee had been off-Island attending to family matters, but had just returned in late January.

At the same time, Mr. Siller said there was no Civil Service “chief’s list.” But he said the next chief would be provisionally appointed pending completion of a Civil Service chief’s test.

POSTSCRIPT: In the interim, Police Sergeant-in-Charge Jim Read ran the department and went on to be named chief the following June. He continues to serve as chief today.


Hunting more than a nuisance in Hay Beach

Several Hay Beach residents 10 years ago complained about the “nuisance hunt” that typically goes on in winter months to try to reduce the deer herd to manageable proportions. Their concern was particularly aimed at night hunting in the area around Gardiner’s Bay Country Club.

They weren’t opposed to the idea of the “nuisance hunt” but said late night shooting was disturbing and they hadn’t seen many deer in the area. The country club had maintained a nuisance permit issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation over the previous 40 years, according to area resident Linda Holmes, who told the Town Board that to obtain the permit, officials should have to demonstrate that there were a sufficient number of deer to merit the ongoing hunt.

Police Chief Jim Read said then that the effort was to bring the herd to no more than 10 to 20 deer per square mile.

POSTSCRIPT: That aim continues today with a pilot program on town-managed sites to increase the number of deer taken during those winter months. The effort is being made to provide more incentive to hunters to continue taking deer during that period. Many hunters active during the regular season, which begins in October, have tended to stop their efforts in the winter, having taken a sufficient number of deer to feed their families and friends. They have often chosen not to continue the hunt given cold weather conditions.

But the Deer & Tick Committee is hoping greater incentives will result in more deer killed since there’s a perception that the efforts by recreational hunters are failing to cull the herd to manageable levels.

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