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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor


The people have spoken
To the Editor:
Columnist Karl Grossman and the Shelter Island Reporter know full well that the Long Island Pine Barrens Society is not anti-farming — we’re just pro voters (Suffolk Closeup, “Victory for preservation in Suffolk,” April 12).

In 2007, Suffolk County voters approved at referendum a program in which the public would pay farmers not to develop their farmland. Unfortunately, in 2010 and 2013 the agriculture lobby went to the Suffolk County Legislature and asked that the purchase of a development rights program be changed to allow them to do more building and construction than permitted by the referendum.

Our Long Island Pine Barrens Society objected. Why?

Long Islanders have preserved land — including farmland — by voting for it at referendum.

So, we don’t much like it when politicians and lobbyists change the laws the public created and the public is funding, without our approval. We’re afraid that residents and taxpayers will stop supporting land and water protection if they know that politicians and lobbyists can change the law we created at referendum any time they want.

Long Islanders have authorized more than $3 billion to protect land and water and they’re unlikely to keep doing it if special interests and politicians can change the rules without our approval.

Long Islanders have spent more money on land preservation than 45 of the 50 states. Let’s not let the politicians and the agriculture lobby kill the goose that lays the golden egg. The State Supreme Court and the Appellate Division on a similar case have declared that any law created by referendum can only be altered by a subsequent referendum. Sounds right to me.

Why not? We’re appealing the Appellate Court ruling.
Executive Director, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Regulating airbnbs
To the Editor:
Airbnbs are mostly not hardship cases; a handful of professional absentee multi-dwelling landlords capture most of the revenues.

Of the 82 listings on Shelter Island which earned $1.6 million in 2017, 73 percent of the airbnb listings are entire houses with absentee owners, only 27 percent are rooms for rent.

Forty percent of the airbnb landlords here are multi-unit landlords, who own and rent more than one property.

The top 10 properties earn 36 percent of the revenue, or $400,000-plus out of the $1.6 million, and given the cross-ownership, its likely that as few as 10-20 people are earning more than 50 percent of the revenue on Shelter Island.

The only way to make money is to maximize occupancy by having as many people crammed into as big a house for as short a stay as possible. These are high turnover share houses.

The source for statistics is AirDNA, www.airdna.co.

The community bears the brunt of high commercial turnover in residential neighborhoods that destroys quality of life with noise and garbage; consumes scarce resources; introduces crime; burdens police and fire departments; and reduces affordable housing.

Airbnb is making an expensive test case out of Shelter Island. Our town attorney ought to be networking with the other East End towns for support. Is he?

Airbnb is providing money and strategy to the “grass roots” group here, which is acting as a front for airbnb and a few landlords, using tactics used in other towns. Airbnb collects 9 to 15 percent of every revenue dollar in fees and looks for small, under-resourced communities to push their agenda.

There should be an audit of the petition to repeal the law. Given the above statistics it’s highly unlikely that 757 local people signed it.

Our zoning laws prohibit bed and breakfasts without a permit and disallow them entirely in near shore overlay zones. Our laws also prohibit most commercial activity (unless specifically described) in most residential zones.

Citizens should demand immediate disclosure by members of town government of any campaign contributions from airbnb and its Super PAC, and of any existing or planned airbnb rental properties owned by Town Board members, the town attorney and their families.

Anyone involved in shaping proposed short-term rentals rules changes should be precluded from profiting from those changes by either recusing themselves, or by agreeing not to be an airbnb landlord in the future.

A chance to make a difference
To the Editor:
I would like to thank Ken and Robin Lewis for their many years of service on the Board of the Island Gift of Life Foundation.

Ken joined our board several years after the foundation’s inception in 2001.

From the moment he joined, he proved himself to be a tireless worker, employing his considerable talents to further the mission of the foundation. That mission includes assisting those individuals — our neighbors — in their time of need when faced with life threatening illness and the uninsured expenses that invariably accompany them.

By helping people navigate the daunting waters of serious illness, including negotiation with doctors, hospitals and insurance companies, and through monetary grants, the foundation helps to ease the burdens on those individuals and their families. In addition, the other significant mission of the foundation is to increase the Bone Marrow Registry through monetary support of blood drives in our area and beyond.

A number of years ago, Ken was joined by his future wife, Robin Streck, who proved to be an equally hard worker and an instant positive addition to our board. She not only brought her experience as a teacher to bear, but also enhanced the board’s connection to East Hampton and Southampton, which together with the towns of Southold and Shelter Island, make up the foundation’s service area.

The board is very sorry to lose the services of these two great individuals. Their departure leaves behind a significant void that now must be filled. This brings me to my final point.

We are in need of people who would like to have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people who are your neighbors in this four-town area that we call the East End. The commitment involves one meeting per month; we meet on the second Tuesday of the month in the board room at the school.

I have found that my time as a board member has resulted in receiving far more than I could have ever given. Please consider this an open invitation to sit in on one of our meetings to see what we do and if it is right for you. I can be contacted by email at: [email protected] I look forward to speaking with you and hopefully seeing you at one of our meetings.
Shelter Island