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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor: Aug. 5

Thoughts on housing

To the Editor:

I’m so old that all my communications once required licking the back of an envelope. So I try to not just hit “send” when I have something to say.

Sometimes stated “facts” are not really facts. They are conclusions resulting from incomplete or false assumptions. I found two examples at the June 24 Community Housing Board presentation. The first I term “the cancer canard,” in our case, linking housing density to increased nitrates. California’s Proposition 65 lists over 900 cancer-causing chemicals. Enjoy swimming in your pool? As a potential carcinogen, chlorine is banned in Germany. Feasting on your BBQ meats? MD Anderson, the renowned cancer center, has concerns.

A water treatment expert I spoke to assured me that for well under $1,000, nitrates could be filtered from drinking water. My point: Using cancer as a political tool to stop housing may be convenient, but is dishonest.

The second error, invoking the Libertarian argument that the free market should decide all economic issues, is more complex. What was presented — the anticipated inability of the fixed-income elderly to pay increased town taxes and thus remain in their homes — was disingenuous from a Capitalist model for two reasons: 1) All elderly do not rely solely on fixed incomes. Many do, but many have diverse income sources and equity in their homes. These can and do rise with markets. 2) Sadly, it’s not only the elderly who are struggling to make ends meet. So are young families and single parents. What Libertarian free marketers are not supposed to do is create a protected class — in this case Social Security recipients — at the expense of others. That is pure socialism, the town picking winners and losers.

Historically, the elderly have moved to smaller residences, lower-cost communities, or taken out home equity loans. Don’t we all know civil servants who retire from town jobs in their 40s and promptly move south?  A community is a living thing. Denying services or negating the needs of people for whom housing is an issue should be an Island-wide discussion and decision, of which taxes are only one aspect.

There’s a strong Libertarian streak in my political thinking. However, affordable housing opponents’ claims to free market thinking and anti-socialist agendas should not be twisted into denying the community what it needs to thrive and survive.

JONATHAN RUSSO, Shelter Island


To the Editor:

I am opposed to any special permit requested by Gardiner’s Bay Country Club (GBCC) to downzone a double A (AA) zone to build multiple residency units for any purpose.

I have lived at my home in Hay Beach, for 42 years. This GBCC request is an attempt to undermine the zoning which protects Hay Beach and Dering Harbor from being denigrated in water/aquifer quality, quality of life and security in a well-established community, and in the quality of real-estate values.

The GBCC is trying to pretend that any downzoning will only affect properties that abut the course. This is far from the truth. Any downzoning in a traditional AA zone will affect all the Island and set precedents for future pillaging of our island.

Shelter Island is not any place. An island is not an ordinary place. It may be that people who come from Southampton do not appreciate our island and intend to siphon off all the water and leave their waste behind. Do Shelter Islanders want that? Is Shelter Island to be a colony of Southampton transients? Elected and appointed officials are in their places to protect the rights of the Shelter Island residents. A business cannot put a boot into the face of property owners. Anybody can shill for a corporation and I am sure monetary rewards will follow.

But Shelter Island should not be destroyed by one business — a business already using much water and flexing its muscles. Former employment partnerships or friendships should not interfere with decisions that are Island-wide concerns. Of course, anyone with a conflict of interest should recuse himself/herself from judging and deciding the GBCC Special Permit Appeal.

It seems a group of people, most with no ties to the island, want to cheapen the area by using the cheapest labor possible, if the huge dormitory is to be for housing of transient workers — a plantation barracks. Multiple unit housing does not belong in a neighborhood of AA zoning. Multiple unit housing does not belong on a fragile aquifer.

Once any downzoning is established Shelter Island will be under pressure for other dominoes to fall, and then the marauders with contempt for our island will turn this precious place into a hodgepodge of over-developed, water-deprived, crowded monstrosities for off-Island control and profit. The Island will be destroyed.

Concerned? Attend Town Hall, August 25, 7:30 PM, hearing on Notice of Appeal.


Opposed to Country Club project

To the Editor:

I have lived full-time in Hay Beach for 43 years. I am totally opposed to the “employee housing” building proposal, violating our zoning, made by the Gardiner’s Bay Country Club.

The plans show what looks like a hotel. Nothing being said by the Country Club sounds honest.

R. NEEDHAM, Shelter Island

For the birds

To the Editor:

What a summer this has been, and still six more weeks to go.

To every person who participated in “A Hill of Beans,” thank you! It was summer theater and Shelter Island at its best.

My osprey family, Tom, Tillie, Tom Jr. and the two little ones, keep me entertained daily. Flight lessons are beyond entertaining. Tom seems to find the best looking fish for lunch everyday — it’s amazing how programmed they are. This place really is for the birds. If my feeder is not full by 8 a.m., I hear about it, and the bird bath is a steady job keeping it full. However, the blue jays have no manners whatsoever.

There’s lots of animosity within our little town. It seems there ain’t nobody happy about one thing or another. So what to do? Ferry fares, water quality, affordable housing, ticks, jelly fish, Range Rovers, bicycle people, joggers, all seem to perpetrate angst against some citizens. I guess we need to get creative somehow, but how? Possibly by exercising our right to vote and finding qualified Islanders to run their town. My town.

There’s lots more to come this summer, so let’s all enjoy and be nice to all creatures great and small. And as the mole said to the boy, when the boy seemed perplexed, “One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things.” Think about that statement for a moment.


Start time

To the Editor:

I was surprised and dismayed to learn that the town has no restrictions regarding the time construction can begin in the morning. There is a house being built near us and they start hammering away at 7 a.m.

Bang, bang, bang. That’s what I hear while trying to enjoy my morning coffee. I think a law should be passed with a start time of 8 a.m.