To the Editor:
I’ve been thinking a lot about “community” and “affordable housing” since returning to the Island in March from being an interfaith hospital chaplain near Boston.
I straddle the class and cultural lines between Islander and off-Islander, summer person vs. year-rounder or visitor. I’m both, and neither. I’ve felt distaste at the stream of Range Rovers pouring onto the Island on weekends, and fear at the xenophobia expressed by that big “Welcome” sign on the ferry line fence in Greenport.
Community is a place and a diverse group of people who share mission and purpose. It’s the willingness to engage in close listening and adopt an attitude of curiosity rather than aversion towards each other. As a Buddhist, it’s a given for me that we are interdependent. Doesn’t everyone belong here?
Can Shelter Island’s mission include: “We aim to be an inclusive, caring community?” From that, it would be much easier to formulate a Comprehensive Plan and to think creatively about housing.
For some, “affordable housing” equals a hand-out, so let’s drop that term, as well as the smoke screen of concern about water and sewage; no one complains about how much water the Island’s hotels use, do they?
Let’s include, here, people who want to contribute; who are already here; and people who want to be here, of all ages. Professionals, artisans, laborers, business owners, volunteers, students. People who want to belong.
One way to do this is through creating cooperative housing, or “co-ops.” I lived in one as a graduate student. Twenty of us, ages six to 60, shared a motel-sized building, making dinners together and maintaining the property. We met regularly to discuss chores and handle conflict. Each person had a room and bath, and there were large common areas. A small family had a two-bedroom apartment. The co-op was fully recognized by, partially funded by, and responsible to the municipality.
To join the co-op, you had to income-qualify and implement your intentions for contributing to the co-op and to the larger community.
Picture, say, a building like The Chequit in which 20 interesting people were living, paying $1,000 a month for rent and supplies, who were here because their mission coincided with Shelter Island’s. There is no downside.
I also lived in a co-op during some of the past year. It was a great solution to the problem of isolation with which so many people suffer — and not only during pandemics.
CHARLES HUSCHLE, Shelter Island
To the Editor:
The term affordable housing has been kicked around for a long time and created quite a stir with the Town Board and brought out the worst in them.
In my opinion the term is a misnomer. I cannot think of a single case where a successful program has been established. For starters, we had some affordable housing built on Bowditch Street. Where is it now?
I believe that a while back we allowed some apartments to be built over out buildings for affordable apartments. Where are they now?
New York City put through rent control after World War II to keep landlords from gouging the vets returning home. Seventy-five years later it is still in effect with many of the tenants being very wealthy. They have no way of controlling it.
There is no way this island could build enough housing to fill the needs of the people that would qualify for it without destroying the Island. South Bronx here we come.
There are federal programs for this purpose and if you want to support it with a little more money, feel free, go right ahead, but leave my Island out of it.
STEVE KOLLER, Shelter Island
A bitter taste
To the Editor:
Angry mob, Bob Kohn? (See Letters, July 8, ”Kohn responds.”)
I attended the Community Housing Board Committee meeting on June 29 at Town Hall. I did not see a “mob” by any commonly used definition. Describing residents at this Town Hall style meeting as a “mob” distorts the record and seeks to polarize the debate.
I saw numerous speakers, patiently waiting to be recognized by Councilwoman Brach-Williams, approach the podium to challenge your position in an orderly fashion, speaking in support of community housing. Many were passionate, some angry, but none violent — Councilman Colligan’s belligerent response to your cynical interruption notwithstanding.
The anger may well have been generated by your own comments. Your lengthy presentation that examined water quality and the possible impact of community housing eventually degenerated into your grim message to families, seniors and young workers struggling to secure housing in our community, simply stated: leave Shelter Island to seek affordable housing in nearby towns.
In fairness, I may have misconstrued your “out of the box” solution as divisive and aimed at the less fortunate, but its blunt tone left a bitter taste.
RICH O’HALLORAN, Shelter Island
Questions on affordable housing
To the Editor:
In a free society, debate on issues of importance, including analysis of theoretical ideas behind proposed actions, is essential to transparency and good governance.
Public service is a worthwhile endeavor until the “servant” decides to become the tyrant. Often the transformation from “servant” to tyrant is done in the name of “civic duty” and “earnestness,” but bully tactics and over-zealous self-promotion give away the true nature of the transformation.
What is “affordable” housing? Affordable to taxpayers? Affordable to people who want to live off others? Affordable to favorite builders and contractors? Affordable to people who could get other housing? The questions are endless because the term is deliberately vague to obscure the true nature of funding.
After the debacle of the housing market in 2007/2008 with fallout for many years after, the mania for government involvement in housing does seem more than misguided. Many studies have shown that government-supplied housing is inefficient in cost control, is liable to fraud, is influenced by special interests, and increases taxes on the general population.
It would never occur to me to want to move to an area that I could not afford, especially when I was just beginning my career, nor would it ever occur to me to demand that the taxpayers in a town or other jurisdiction be burdened with providing me with a home and a job. But then I know I am responsible for all my actions, my choices, and my own support.
My husband and I built much of our home, including the wiring and plumbing, and I remember when we were building (1977-1979) on the island we loved, some people born here were helping each other to build their homes. Sweat equity is truly rewarding — not a handout to burden others.
It may seem out of character for a poet and college-level English teacher to comment on the dismissal of a person from a town committee, but I have insights from literature and life that tell me a great wrong was done and this action bodes ill for the future of the town. Who will be next? What questions are not allowed? What opinions not valued? What facts not permitted? I wish I did not have to write this, but I love the truth and must speak it.
VIRGINA SHIELDS WALKER, Shelter Island
To the Editor:
This is a “thank you” letter to the very special and talented Jenny Zahler, Shelter Island’s animal control officer.
Jenny is more of an animal whisperer than she is a dog catcher. I saw her in action last summer when she captured my skittish Shiba Inu after he slipped his collar and ran off into the night. We chased him for hours in the middle of a storm. How she managed to track him and then get him to insert his head into a slip collar with a can of cat food is the stuff of legends.
We ran into Jenny a few days ago — she got out of her truck to greet Toby and he wagged his tail when he saw her (the devil). I had a feeling we would be seeing her again. And so it was this morning when Toby had his first escape of the season.
Jenny came over within minutes and worked her magic once again. Thank you to Chris on North Midway whose peaceful morning we disrupted and whose enclosed yard made it a slightly bit easier to catch Toby; and to all my other neighbors, past and present, thank you for your patience and understanding — you know who you are.
CRISTINA ROIG, Shelter Island
To the Editor:
In the nine years we have been coming to Shelter Island, we have noticed — who hasn’t? — a steady increase in the almost unbearable noise from that modern day scourge of beautiful places: leaf blowers.
There is no valid argument in their favor, beyond saving your gardening service time and money. They are bad for your garden (blowing away topsoil), bad for your gardeners (the fumes), and really bad for your neighbors, two- and four-legged, not to mention furry and winged.
If they hurt our ears, think what they do to the dogs and the birds, whose hearing is ever so much more acute. Please consider doing what we do, no matter where we find ourselves: asking the gardeners not to blow. They don’t, and it’s fine. If we have to sweep a bit, we sweep. It’s when my best ideas come to me.
VICTORIA SHORR, Shelter Island
To the Editor:
Once again, residents and taxpayers are forced to pick up the increased costs of the people who cause the increased costs of operating the ferries
We, homeowners and taxpayers, have no choice but to use the ferries for trips to doctors, hospitals, dentists, and vital necessary daily activities. Might I suggest that you all consider this, when you vote for the unopposed vote, from the elected officials who voted for the rate increase.
Please note that both North and South Carolina have ferries that do not charge residents for ferry passage. They wisely understand that seniors, and people on fixed incomes, should not have to pay for this service.
The tourists have a choice. So why not let them pick up the increased costs for their ferry use? We seniors are all very aware of the increases that are going on in our society — fuel costs being at the top of that list, not to mention food, heat, cooling, etc. Has any one of the elected officials thought of that, when they voted to include the voters and taxpayers of Shelter Island to be included in the ferry rate increase?
RICHARD G. KRAUSE, Shelter Island