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Supervisor Siller addresses COVID, current events, and Bootleggers Alley

Opening the Town Board’s work session Tuesday, Supervisor Gerry Siller read a statement. Below are Mr. Siller’s remarks.

First of all, I want to say how very proud I am of Shelter Island.

Starting with the Unified Command Team — Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams, Judy Meringer and Chief Read — have spent countless hours with me, planning our response to the current health crisis, both the immediate needs and future needs.

Working with the Town Board, our first responders, all town departments, as well as the ferry companies, the Library, School, and local businesses, we’ve tried to address as many scenarios as possible.

And our residents have been outstanding in their response to this crisis.  From social distancing, to wearing masks, to being considerate when shopping locally.  From supporting local businesses to volunteering to help those in need. Our churches have reached out, not only to their congregations, but to the Island as a whole.

We’ve been consistently ahead of the curve in both planning and execution. We are well aware that this health crisis is far from over and that we need to remain as vigilant as we’ve been so far.

Those of us of a certain age have lived through some remarkable times. Starting in the 60s with the Cuban Missile Crises, the assassinations of our leaders, the Vietnam War, and landing a man on the moon, to today’s advances in health and technology, as well as our current social discourse and worldwide pandemic.

Naively, on my part, I believed we had make great strides in civil rights, that racism and bigotry, while still present to some degree, were nowhere near the levels they were in the past. With the current status of our government, and the civil disturbances going on right now, I was painfully wrong in my thoughts of where America is today. Maybe because I have been sheltered here on Shelter Island, I had truly thought the country was in a good place moving forward.

Living on Shelter Island, it’s too easy to ignore the big picture. While we’re somewhat isolated and self-contained, we’d be foolish not to acknowledge what’s going on around us. When the Covid crisis started, we began hearing from residents that we should shut the Island down to outsiders. Homeowner, or not, if you weren’t here now, too bad for you.

Instead, we welcomed all property owners to seek safe haven here.

On the other side, we took some heat because of our mandatory quarantine signs. We knew it wasn’t enforceable, we were trying to make people aware of the importance of self-isolation. We also heard complaints regarding restrictions imposed by the governor.

From day one, we acknowledged that we were in the midst of a health crisis, and any decisions we made moving forward would have that as it’s number one priority.

Our latest cause for concern is non-residents coming to Shelter Island, specifically, Bootlegger’s Alley, to spend the day with their families at the beach. We heard concerns about lack of access to the fire ramp, of too many cars parked, blocking local access, of terrible sanitary conditions, and of a lack of social distancing.

The United Command Team and the Town Board discussed all these issues.

Through my authority as supervisor, I issued an Emergency Declaration, restricting parking to open the boat ramp, creating Resident only parking on the south side of the street, and open parking on the north side. We installed two portable bathrooms and a hand wash station, and clean them on a regular schedule. We installed signage, in English and Spanish, regarding social distancing as well as defining the high water marks for public access.

We also had our court interpreter, along with a police officer or bay constable make three visits each day this weekend, explaining to people what our concerns were and how they could help us.

Sgt. LeGrady reported back that it was an uneventful weekend, and all of the people spoken to were both compliant and thankful that we took the time to reach out to them.

I know that these are very trying times. First and foremost on everyone’s mind is staying healthy and protecting our loved ones.

In light of the present conditions going on throughout the country, I’m praying that the present concerns regarding Bootlegger’s Alley are strictly Covid related. That there’s not a hidden agenda regarding restrictions to our Island.

I want to believe that the people of Shelter Island, who are openly loving and caring of their neighbors, are as loving and caring, or at the least tolerant, of visitors who come to spend a day with their families on this beautiful Island that we call home.