Columns

Codger’s column: Doing and undoing

Now that Shelter Island has an international reputation as “an exclusive Hamptons island” with “extremely picky locals,” Codger thinks it’s time to seize the narrative before Fox does it for us with even more spin and fake news. (Those quotes appeared in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post and News Corp Australia online.)

According to the Foxification, picked up by Vanity Fair, the recent divisiveness on Shelter Island turns out not to be about short-term rentals (STRs), sewage or deer management, but about an HBO shoot.

Apparently, it’s not, in Paul Shepherd’s persuasive observation, even “about preserving the character of our neighborhoods, of our community, in the midst of rapid technological and societal change,” but it’s merely a disagreement between people who think it’s too quiet here on Shelter Island and people who think it’s not quiet enough.

This latest twist began when a duly diligent Town Board, especially Councilman Jim Colligan, looked closely at a TV location scout’s offer of $15,000 for a shoot that would entail a helicopter hovering over the Island at night. Just that justifiable questioning was enough to send the company scurrying to East Marion without filing an application.

Later, misinformation was leaked, for HBO publicity and for political mischief. Then the two sides — the too-quiets vs. the not-quiet-enoughs — engaged.

Codger is sympathetic to both sides. After a dreary winter, the fantasy of running into stars at STARs — in this case Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant — might seem worth a few days of traffic congestion and a night or two of lost sleep. How about being picked as an extra — and discovered!

On the other hand, after a spell of nerve jangle in the city, the idea of having to deal with it here seems unfair. Back when Codger and Crone had a second home in Manhattan, they dreaded “Law and Order: SUV” frequently taking over their neighborhood. Besides losing parking spots, they had to navigate endless cables on the sidewalk, pipsqueak production assistants with bullhorns and block-long tables of food. Mariska Hargitay did not eat in the local joints.

Codger is hardly anti-film-making. Along with abetting too many location disruptions as a TV host and correspondent, he wrote two of the worst movies ever produced. During the production of one, the cheapskate director, needing a scene of police cars converging on a hotel, went up to the roof and called 911.

So Codger says, “Bravo, Town Board,” especially Colligan, who has been blamed for “rejecting” Nicole and “stopping” a shoot that never began. These attacks seem politically motivated; Codger suspects Colligan’s seat has been targeted as key to the anti-STR Republicans’ campaign to take control of the board in the upcoming election.

There will be more attacks on Colligan beyond ridiculing his perceptive noting of the “light noise” that would be generated by the helicopter’s spotlight. Since irony is passé, Codger won’t mention the latest proposed chopper shuttle ($995 one-way, app-booked) from Manhattan to East Hampton Airport. It will fly offshore, they claim, unless the pilot decides that weather conditions necessitate cutting across the North Fork and Shelter Island.

Hopefully, the name of the HBO series, “The Undoing,” is no omen of things to come, although the current uncivil war over STRs has mirrored the national nastiness, misinformation and spin, even seeping into the sacred precincts of these pages where the language in letters has ranged from opaque to vile.

If Codger were a conspiracy theorist he would wonder if the frequent writers of long analyses of the current STR law were trying to sow confusion. Codger is often unable to understand them. If he is the only one, he apologizes.

And then there is the correspondent who finds the Town Board’s methods reminiscent of those of the East German STASI. Codger wants to know which Town Board members evoke one of the most effective and murderous Soviet spy agencies ever created, Albert, Amber, Jim, Gary, Paul? Could one of them have been a member of the Communist government’s schemes to smear dissidents, gaslight their families, spread misinformation?

There were death squads. Could Bob DeStefano, Jr., have been a KGB partner in the plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II?

Oh, where is that Decency lady when we need her? Please bring your buttons to tomorrow afternoon’s public hearing on the latest tweaks to the law.

Once past that shout-down, Codger will be looking forward to today’s 40th edition of the Shelter Island 10K, a happy, inclusive event that first brought Crone to the Island 39 years ago, and last year gave Codger his most recent athletic thrill (walking the 5K) before his spine gave out. He is recovering.

So will we all, the quiets and unquiets alike, if only those secret agents would keep a civil tongue.