Shelter Island Reporter Editorials

COURTESY PHOTO First responders at the scene of a boat fire after two people were rescued.
COURTESY PHOTO First responders at the scene of a boat fire on August 25 after two people were rescued.

Life savers

As summer wanes and the recreational boating season winds down, we send a hearty “thank you” to the ones who keep us safe on the waters surrounding our Island.

This was demonstrated in dramatic fashion on the afternoon of the last Saturday of August. Bay Constable Butch Labrozzi, on patrol, rushed to a scene that without quick reactions, calm demeanor and steady procedures could have ended in fatalities.

Constable Labrozzi saw a woman going off the side of a boat that had smoke pouring out of it. He got the woman safely out of the water. The other occupant of the 25-foot vessel was safely rescued by Bay Constable John Mahoney before it caught fire.

The Shelter Island Fire Department provided full fire suppression, backed up by crews from Southold, the Coast Guard and the Shelter Island Police Department.

Only minor injuries were reported, a medical report that everyone was thankful for because it could have been so much worse.

We said this was a dramatic example of what Bay Constables Labrozzi, Mahoney and Peter Vielbig do. The less dramatic, but in many ways as important, work is patrolling our waters and stopping boaters who are putting their lives and the lives of others at risk.

Boats are stopped with those at the helm who are drunk; not knowing or caring about the laws and proper conduct of boating; driving aggressively; in unsafe boats or not taking precautions so their passengers are safe.

We owe the bay constables a debt of gratitude for their dedication to the essential services they provide.

The public shut out

Serious mistakes were made Tuesday by Town Board members.

Supervisor Gary Gerth invited the Reporter to take a boat ride with the board to the site of a dock application in West Neck Creek to discover whether a new structure would hinder South Ferry boats using the creek for shelter from storms.

But the project manager handling the application, who owned the boat taking the board to the site, banned the Reporter, with no explanation. He didn’t care — and why should he? — that a Town Board meeting has to be public. Board members not only have to care, they have to ensure that the press is present when matters affecting the public are being aired by elected officials.

It was reported that on the tour questions were asked.

First mistake: The viewing should have been canceled since it should have been apparent there would be a discussion between the board and South Ferry’s Cliff Clark, who had been concerned about the dock impeding his boats’ access to shelter.

Second mistake: Maintaining that nothing was discussed, so the New York State Open Meetings law was not violated when there were questions put to Mr. Clark.

Why did the board take the advice of a project manager? Who elected him? Why didn’t the board overrule the decision to ban the press, or cancel the site visit?