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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor: May 6-11

Eye on country club’s expansion

To the Editor:

Gardiner’s Bay Country Club (GBCC) seeks to construct for its seasonal workers: a 40-bed staff building and a second structure with four one-bedroom and two two-bedroom apartments, accommodating up to 64 people (see story, page 11). Given the AA Residential zoning, the Town Board would have to issue a special permit.

At the ZBA hearing on May 26 at 7:30 p.m., residents should urge that: (1) an independent consultant study any environmental risks involved; and (2) if the expansion is found not to impose undue risks, the Board condition any approvals on GBCC, such as: (a) setting aside some apartments at rates affordable for year-round Island workers, including town employees and EMS and Shelter Island Fire Department volunteers; and (b) following more environmentally friendly practices.

Given the size of the proposed expansion, an independent study of wastewater and drinking water issues is imperative. To ensure independence and no appearance of conflicts of interest, a consultant should be vetted by individuals who have neither already shown a predisposition to support the expansion, nor knowingly get business from GBCC or its members.

If a large GBCC expansion is environmentally reasonable, before changing zoning, the Board should aggressively seek concessions that would benefit the town. These include (1) requiring that some apartments be set aside at affordable rates for some people in the community unaffiliated with GBCC, such as those identified above, and their families; and (2) requiring that GBCC install an I/A septic system at the clubhouse; reduce its use of irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides; and/or more closely monitor the environment impact of its practices.  The consultant should also evaluate any risks posed by GBCC’s reported plan to seek from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) an increase in the 6,000,000 gallons of water GBCC is now allowed to use annually for irrigation. The town does not have authority over the DEC, but could presumably condition any approval of a special permit on GBCC limiting its water usage.

STEPHEN JACOBS, Shelter Island

— Editor’s note: The GBCC request is on the agenda for the May 26 meeting, but is likely to be adjourned at the request of an attorney for the Hay Beach Property Owners’ Association.

A correction

To the Editor:

I’d like to correct an error in one of the letters that appeared in last week’s Reporter.

North Ferry proposes to charge a maximum of two passengers in a vehicle instead of the current three. We included this provision in our rate proposal specifically in support of Shelter Island families and to encourage commuter car-pooling. North Ferry is not asking to increase the passenger fares.

As such, a family of four going off-Island to the movies or for a few hours with friends, will actually see their total round trip North Ferry expense go down by one dollar below North Ferry’s current fare.

For Shelter Islanders with full cars, the three dollar savings on the third passenger in the car more than offsets the additional $1 each way for the vehicle. So, the full car will cost $13.80 as opposed to our current fare of $14.80 — and certainly not the $16.80 stated in last week’s letter.

Resident Round Trip tickets were introduced in 1989 at a cost of $3.80 for a round-trip ticket. When adjusted for inflation between 1989 and 2021, the original Resident Round Trip Ticket would cost $8.12 for the same ticket in today’s dollars. The fare North Ferry is proposing for a Resident Round Trip ticket, $7.80, is less than the inflation adjusted rate.  As demographics have shifted, North Ferry can no longer rely on cash one-way fares to subsidize the 58% of our riders who travel significantly below our cost.

North Ferry did not enter into this rate proposal lightly and understands that commuter and resident customers will feel the impact from the requested increase. However, that same group of customers are the most dependent on North Ferry’s continued operation and the adequate re-investment in our vessels and infrastructure.

BRIDGFORD HUNT, General Manager, North Ferry

No to rate increase

To the Editor:

The requested rate increase by the North Ferry is an unconscionable effort to use the pandemic and their monopoly status to gain a substantial windfall.

I have no doubt that they had a difficult year in 2020, but they also had many lucrative years preceding the pandemic. Most other businesses also were impacted during this crisis. However, they don’t have a monopoly that enables them to pass these costs directly and immediately to their customers.

Furthermore, the economy is recovering. One only has to look at the long lines both in the morning and the afternoon to appreciate that the ferry is benefiting from this rebound.

The size of this rate increase request is unprecedented and, if approved, will permanently alter the rate structure for use of the ferry. It not only will produce significant short-term profits for the ferry but also be the new base upon which future increases will be assessed.

I urge the legislature to reject the rate increase requested by the North Ferry.

DONALD E. BINDLER, Shelter Island

Compromise on rates

To the Editor:

North Ferry and Shelter Island residents need each other. Both have been affected by the pandemic and we’re stuck with geography. As each seek a solution, it’s quick to call the other the enemy, but neither is.

Whether presenting arguments by Powerpoint or via Heights representatives in Facebook chatter, it’s easy to jump to emotional blackmail; “your neighbors” are employed by the ferry. It’s equally as easy to slip into strawman arguments: you don’t care about Islanders surviving.

Instead, here are some less emotional things to ponder: As for their volume and revenue loss, roughly it’s about 1 to 2%, that’s with all of our observations of long lines now, versus last year’s emptier lines. The government website disclosing who got PPP shows North Ferry got $1 Million, with a second $1 million to be dispersed, an automatically forgiven loan. Remember, our elected officials formed a Comprehensive Plan Committee. Its public discussions have so far identified two major groups that deserve support, the elderly and working families  and that it will be a tragic loss to the cultural fabric of our island without them.

This fare hike will hurt them — a second kick in the pants after COVID. In financially tough times, individuals reassess, looking at where they can trim wasteful spending. The North Ferry should, too. It’s O.K. to say, “This is bad timing,” to increase rates for those commuting Islanders because it rubs up against that vision emerging from the Comprehensive Plan Committee. Part of that vision is that we are uniquely more close-knit than other places. Maybe that means asking for complete financial transparency, compromising (a lesser or different increase, trimming expenses), going back to the drawing board with Islanders directly involved, or even simply waiting, knowing traffic revenue is rebounding as the East End opens up? Prudence please, if this really is our vision.


Not informed of changes

To the Editor:

I just read Supervisor Siller is proposing increasing Island contractor licenses from $100/year to $250! 

I have no problem with fees when the recipient gets something for the fee, but contractors get nothing for that fee. We should at least be placed on a group email to be informed of changes in Town or Building Department policies that affect construction, rather than learning about these things after the fact.

Either keep the fee the same or give us something for it. Remember, increased fees imposed on anyone who works on the Island, whether Town, Recycling Center, or increased ferry charges, just get passed on to you, our fellow taxpaying residents.

PETER S. REICH, Former councilman, Town of Shelter Island

Go underground

To the Editor:

I was interested to read Karl Grossman’s recent column (“Suffolk Closeup,” April 29), on burying power lines.

I’ve been urging the Shelter Island Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee to flag this issue.

In recent decades, power and cable lines have become significant sources of visual blight along Shelter Island’s roads, in our communities and beautiful vistas, a trend that seems likely to worsen. On Shelter Island, the visual contrast is striking as one passes from streets and roads lined by poles to streets and roads where lines are buried.

Looking ahead, it seems to me as well that the combination of off-shore wind power, electric grid expansion, and increased economic integration of the Forks poses significant risk of cross-Island power line infrastructure.

I’ve been in touch with PSEG to learn more about what would be involved in putting lines underground. The consumer planning representative for PSEG’s Eastern Suffolk Division in their Building and Renovation Services unit is John Clark. Mr. Clark seems to be a good starting point to learn about how PSEG, Altice, and Verizon, etc., own and use poles and how utilities bury lines.

Mr. Grossman’s reference to research suggesting that long-term costs of poles exceed those of burial was especially notable. It is clear that the up-front costs of burial are very high, at least under the current financing model. It would be very useful to learn more about this past research.

Many thanks again for Mr. Grossman’s column.


Press review

To the Editor:

One potato, two potato, hot potatoes all over this island.

North Ferry rates, hottest at the moment, school budget, parking, housing, water issues on and on, and if it is not a hot potato it is a can of worms.

But, I just read the history of Gardiner’s Bay Country Club, and could history be repeating itself? Amazing, We have gone from horse-drawn carriages to Range Rovers. Ah, me. Tourism is still the mainstay of Shelter Island. It was 100 years ago and still is.

A milestone birthday for Shelter Island Country Club as well. I understand there will be cake and lots of games. Yes!

I had a wonderful Mother’s day, flowers, flowers, flowers, (just love them) and a very special book. Barnes and Noble’s Book Club selection for Mother’s Day, “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse,” by Charlie Mackesy, dedicated to his mum and handwritten, no index and no page numbers. The four of the characters wander around with many thoughts expressed about this that and the other thing and one of the pages has the boy, the fox and the mole overlooking the landscape and it appears the mole is saying to them, “So much beauty we need to look after.” It’s so thought-provoking and certainly pertains to Shelter Island.

And this island is beautiful, no doubt about it. Enjoy it and protect it. And, most of all appreciate it.