Around the Island

This week in Shelter Island history: New laws and a storm hits


The Beatles released the “Beatles Again” album that quickly became known as “Hey Jude.”

Marie Dionne, one of the Canadian Dionne quintuplets who had been born in 1934, died of a brain tumor in Quebec.

For the first time, bicycles were permitted to cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Georgy,” based on the Margaret Forster novel “Georgy Girl,” opened at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City only to close two nights later after only four performances.

The number-one hit song in the United States was Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”

And on Shelter Island . . .


Boat sewage law set to take effect March 1

Fifty years ago, boaters throughout New York were slated to have to comply with a law on the books since 1966 requiring that all pleasure craft had to be equipped with holding tanks so toilets could no longer be flushed into the water.

The law had been passed statewide in 1966, but implementation had been delayed because equipment necessary to comply was not available. But by 1970, it was expected that implementation would occur as of March 1, 1970.

POSTSCRIPT: It would likely come as a shock to many that boaters for years had been able to dump wastes into the water and today there are pumpout boats that serve boaters throughout Peconic waters. 


Snow storm wallops Island

It was at the end of February that an estimated foot-and-a-half of snow fell on Shelter Island 30 years ago. Just when Highway Department workers finished clearing roads, snow began again, coming down at the rate of an inch an hour resulting in another day of cancelled events and more cleanup of roadways. Wind gusts were reported at 40 mph, adding to the already icy conditions.

Frank Klenawicus was Highway Superintendent at the time and he described the storm as the biggest the Island had seen in awhile.

POSTSCRIPT: Despite a few frigid days, it has been a relatively mild winter so far. But as that storm 30 years ago demonstrates, Old Man Winter hasn’t yet given way to springtime forsythia, so don’t put away the snow shovels yet.


Critics jump on zoning code changes

About two dozen Islanders braved foul weather to attend a public hearing on proposed changes to the zoning code 20 years ago. They came to tell the Town Board the proposed changes were too cumbersome, insufficiently flexible and posed a threat to the effort to preserve open spaces on the Island.

Others complained the language in the revisions was vague and confusing.

The Board promised to revisit the suggested revisions, but also said that given the weather, if enough people still wanted to comment, they would make an effort to reopen the public hearing to afford more opportunity for comment.

POSTSCRIPT: Zoning continues to be a controversial issue with some complaining a zoning code is useless if the Zoning Board of Review is going to overturn it for most applicants seeking exemptions. ZBA members have argued that it exists to give relief where possible, but to often extract trade-offs from applicants that improve the outcomes for neighbors. 


Moratorium begins for coastal barrier zone

An immediate moratorium on developing the Island’s causeways and other coastal barrier lands was set by the Town Board 10 years ago, pending a public hearing to receive comment on a proposal that would block any further development in those areas for six months. The moratorium would affect both causeways to Ram Island, low lying peninsulas that included Shell Beach, Hay Beach Point, Reel Point, Mashomack Point, Taylor’s Island and beaches and coves in the areas of Crab Creek, Wades Beach and Majors Harbor.

The aim, according to councilwoman Chris Lewis, was not to stop area property owners from building, but to determine criteria for development in areas where there are flood hazards.

POSTSCRIPT: Today, as most contemplate climate change threats, there is more concern than ever about areas that need to be protected with limited development and those where no development is allowed.

For the past few years, town officials have been focused on the need to shore up the already eroding Reel Point, concerned that if it is not protected from hard hitting wave action coming across from Rhode Island, millions of dollars could be lost by both residences and businesses in the Coecles Harbor area.

The Town Board is hoping that Congress will vote to fund an Army Corps of Engineers project there and to shore up a previous Army Corps project that has been partially breached along the causeways and has taken a beating in the past couple of years.