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Reporter Letters to the Editor

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Yes and yes
To the Editor:
We get two questions at Mashomack that normally we have to say “No” to, but this coming weekend we say “Yes!”

And it corresponds to some of the best birding of the year.

Can I come in to hike before 9 a.m.? Yes, on Friday, May 17, we will open the gates at 6 a.m. As part of a state-wide “Big Day” birding competition for The Nature Conservancy, we invite early hikers and bird lovers to come in and ask them to let us know which birds they saw.

Can I sleep over at the Manor House? Yes, on Saturday, May 18 you may take a room as part of the “Birdwatch and Breakfast.” Come stay overnight at the 19th century bayside mansion and get up on Sunday morning to watch the migrating birds before enjoying a hearty country breakfast.

Call Mashomack at (631)749-4219 to get more information and to get your “Yes.”
Cindy Belt
Education & Outreach Coordinator, Mashomack Preserve

Respect and friendship
To the Editor:
Do you want to improve your Spanish? ¿Quiere mejorar su inglés? The Shelter Island Public Library is giving you the opportunity to do this at its Intercambio Program on Saturday, May 18, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Shelter Island Library.

The library is hosting this program for those who want to learn Spanish and those who want to improve their English-speaking skills. It will not be a class, but rather the opportunity to chat and improve both Spanish and English. Thirty minutes will be Spanish conversation and then 30 minutes will be English conversation. This group is free and open from beginners to advanced language abilities. Light refreshments will be served.

Intercambio builds understanding, respect and friendship across cultures. I taught Spanish and English as a Second Language at the Shelter Island School for 30 years, and I am delighted that the library is offering the Intercambio program.

My hope is that the Intercambio program will be well-attended, and there will be more in the future.
Teri Piccozzi
Shelter Island

A thriving church
To the Editor:
In spite of the present malaise within the Catholic Church, there are many parishes led by dedicated priests that are flourishing. Our Lady of the Isle is such a case.

This Easter Sunday, I attended its 10 o’clock Mass— the third Mass of Easter — and could not find an empty seat due to an overflow of worshippers. This experience prompted me to write this letter.

The parish, with about 300 registered households, is rather small, and the outfitting of the church building is relatively modest. However, during the summer months, due to second homeowners and visitors, the number of worshippers increases considerably.

The parishioners love their church and their pastor, Father Peter DeSanctis.

Under his guidance, more than 50 parishioners regularly participate in the religious and social programs of the parish and coordinate the activities, while two musicians and two cantors also provide the musical programme for the church services. The church’s cemetery, located in a serene wooded setting on the Island, is also attended to by volunteers. In spite of the many ministries and services carried out by the church, the annual budget is frugal, amounting to about $500,000.

Father Peter is a true mensch and dedicated “Seelsorger” — caretaker of souls — and in the words of Pope Francis, is a priest “with the smell of his sheep.” He not only knows his parishioners intimately, but is also familiar with most of the residents of Shelter Island.

As a dedicated priest, he provides spiritual and religious support to his flock, which also includes regular visits to sick parishioners, at home and in the hospitals and nursing homes in Greenport and Southampton. In addition, he participates in many community events — such as sports, social and interfaith functions — and is a member of the American Legion, the Fire Department and the Lions Club.

Shelter Island is such a beautiful and serene place and the Catholic parish under the leadership of Father Peter greatly contributes to the unique and caring community spirit.
Josef Klee
Shelter Island

Rights
To the Editor:
Last week, the hearing for the short-term rental legislation was held at the school auditorium. So many people attended, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs (school personnel), rich men, poor men, beggars and … wait a minute, no thieves, they were on the stage, stealing our constitutional rights and human rights.

It really is a human rights situation. Therefore, I am sending a copy of this law, especially what I am led to believe is an addendum to the initial law, “Rental Law of the Town of Shelter Island, 11 105.2 – Authority” to the New York State Division of Human Rights along with a “Housing and Housing-Related Credit Discrimination Complaint Form” for an opinion.

I am doing this because I am a state-licensed real estate broker, and have fiduciary and statutory duties and must follow the New York State Fair Housing Laws. I truly feel I am being discriminated against — good grief, I cannot advertise! To plagiarize someone: “Not advertising is like kissing a girl in the dark — no one knows what you are doing.”

Anyone affected by this law can also send in a complaint or ask for an opinion to the New York State Division of Human Rights, 250 Veteran’s Memorial Highway, Suite 2B-49, Hauppauge, NY 11788. Or call (631) 952-6434 and someone will answer any question you may have. I will also be sending copies to our County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac)).

We could also send this to Albany, but this is local, even though there are similar laws here and near, as it was stated that this law was drawn from other towns.

Well guess what, Shelter Island is not other towns, it is an entity unto itself. Love it or leave it!
Georgiana Ketcham
Shelter Island

A vote for ‘no’
To the Editor:
An unnecessary law was passed two years ago and we are now poised to compound the mistake with an amendment that makes decent neighbors into criminals and creates a costly and likely useless bureaucracy. Let’s take a deep breath and go back to square one.

There are three issues with the law and amendment. 1) They unjustifiably reduce the incomes of a large number of residents; primarily by limiting rental income, but also by measurably reducing commerce.

2) They criminalize the long accepted practice of renting residential properties, threatening fines and jail time.

3) The amendment creates a costly new bureaucracy that hasn’t been defined and has little chance of being effective.

The first two problems have been much discussed, but the third hasn’t and it should be a major concern to every tax payer. The amendment’s purpose was described, at the May 7 Town Board meeting, as a means to create a database of all home owners who might rent (or possibly even lend?) their home as well as the details of every transaction.

This database will dwarf the tax assessor’s in size. Hundreds of hours of data entry will be required and useful analysis will require additional costly technical expertise. None of these costs have been publicly acknowledged and they can’t be rationalized because we have no issues that the police can’t handle.

Owners who rent out their properties are an integral part of our community. The town’s objective should be to find ways to help them and this law and amendment do the opposite. No one wants a bad tenant in their house. Let people rent their homes when they are fortunate enough to find a tenant. Institute a good neighbor policy and make tenants sign it. Provide homeowners with a model lease and suggestions for managing renters’ behavior.

Let’s work toward the common goal of making this island an even better place to live for everyone. The board should begin by starting over. Vote no on the amendment and repeal the law.
Peter Humphrey
Shelter Island

Passive use
To the Editor:
Give me liberty or give me rent. You can’t have both on Shelter Island.
I asked a very hard question at the May 7 Town Board work session. What is the fundamental reason for the proposed short-term rental law (STR)? I was first told I wasn’t allowed to ask and Councilman Shepherd said that he wasn’t required to answer it.

So much for the First Amendment in Town Hall.

I pressed on and I was told that it is partly about “strangers.” Councilman Colligan said that it was about LLC’s making six figures in two hours.

So, every private homeowner is lumped into the same category as investment corporations looking to make a killing on Shelter Island. Councilwoman Brach-Williams explained how my home is deemed a commercial business should I rent it out, ever.

The renting of a single-family house is considered a “passive use” of property. Whether it is owner-occupied, rented or loaned to friends, the house is being used for what it is intended for.

Any income and tax-producing transaction can be considered commercial. Trading stocks from my home is also a passive commercial use of my property.

Such passive uses do not require special laws or zoning

The board should embrace STRs. An LLC or investment corporation could be required to offer one rental at affordable housing rates for every two or three homes rented as STRs.

A win–win. Leave the private tax-paying homeowner alone.

But this is also about “strangers,” as the councilman pointed out. The true purpose of this law is to inhibit the low-income “stranger” who can only afford a two-day rental. This connotes an element of racism and discrimination.

We, as individual citizens, are free to discriminate as we choose in our private lives. But our town government is required to promote equality. It is here where our freedoms are enjoyed or denied. The Bill of Rights and our Constitution are the foundations that all laws are built on, including this intrusive, intolerant and likely illegal STR law.

There is a section in the Long Island National Cemetery where there are rows and rows of “strangers.” They are mostly in their 20s and have “Iraq” inscribed on their grave stones. They are of all races and religions who thought that they were protecting the ideals of liberty and freedom for all. Well, almost all.
Vincent Novak
Shelter Island

Step back
To the Editor:
It may strike some as absurd that the text of the proposed “Rental Law of the Town of Shelter Island” expressly provides that a landlord might go to jail for 30 days for failing to provide a tenant with the “Good Neighbor Brochure.”

You see, Section 105-10 (A)(5) of the proposed law requires that landlords provide copies of the brochure to tenants prior to the commencement of the rental term. Section 105-42 (B), in turn, states that any “portion of a day that a violation exists shall constitute a separate and distinct offense.”

It is unclear just how much time constitutes a “portion of a day” but if one reasonably concludes that morning, afternoon, and evening are each portions of a day, it logically follows that a landlord’s failure to provide a tenant with the brochure from, say, 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. of the same day on the day just prior to the start of the rental term would trigger a third violation.

And, of course, the third violation of “any provision [emphasis added] of this Chapter” is declared to be an offense pursuant to New York Penal Law Section 80.10(2)(a) and possible imprisonment not to exceed 30 days (or a fine of up to $5,000).

So there you have it. Some might suggest that this is not what is intended by the proposed law but, still, that’s what it says.

Others might counter with: “Well, yes, but the Town Code Enforcement Department would never do that.” Be that as it may, the town certainly could rely on the letter of law to justify its actions. Such actions on the part of capricious, selective and self-aggrandizing public officials are certainly not unheard of in communities elsewhere around the nation.

Perhaps, after genuinely exploring the facts and then formulating sound public policy relating to property rentals on Shelter Island, the Town Board should pay very careful attention to the organization, wording and actual effect of any proposed law.

Make no mistake, this is hard work. Let us rise to the occasion, step back and do the hard work.
Joseph Kelly
Shelter Island

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