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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor, Feb. 17, 2022

Fair and honest

To the Editor:

Over the past two weeks, the town of Shelter Island has been bombarded with accusations about Michael’s participation on the WMAC. It is clear this is purely a personal vendetta that should not be vetted in this arena.

My family has been on Shelter Island for over 100 years. Michael and I have been living and working on the Island for over 50 years. We have always lived by our parents’ tenets — treat everyone as you would like to be treated, live a fair and honest life and try to make a positive difference in the community.

Recently, I have witnessed my husband being verbally abused and slandered in a public setting by someone who has never been harmed or wronged by us in any way. This baseless defamation has gone too far. We cannot be responsible for the lack of success of someone else’s business. 

Michael has been working in the mooring business for most of a half century. He has constantly bettered himself, learning old and new techniques and technology.

We ran a safe and fully-insured business maintaining most of the Island‘s moorings. He has been on the Waterways Management Committee for 27 years. For over 30 years, he has been filing applications for mooring permits for his customers. This process includes assembling all pertinent documents and deciding on an appropriate space to apply for.  He has always recused himself from voting on all mooring applications he filed. His expertise has been a valuable asset to that committee.

We value the earned and continued trust of this Town and its community.  

CAMILLE ANGLIN, Shelter Island

A positive model

To the Editor:

I have been a Mashomack Preserve Volunteer since 1979. I am a two-time board member (1995-2004 and 2015-2021). I am compelled to reply to the article “Big Changes at Mashomack: Officials deny any plan to privatize the site,” Feb. 10). It seems misleading.

The Nature Conservancy has never said Mashomack would be sold. This is the oldest rumor on Shelter Island, fired-up when any kind of change takes place.

The efforts of TNC and community members of Shelter Island have been a positive model for the meaning of community-based conservation — linking the livelihood of the community to the benefits of protecting biodiversity. If the new format of an advisory council can result in greater engagement with the community, then this should be seen as a positive, negating the idea of “private club for wealthy donors …” 

Mashomack Preserve is part of an international organization. Mashomack cannot just do what it wants when it wants. The Mashomack Preserve Board has no independent legal status and exists to assist the Board of Directors of TNC in achieving the Conservancy’s overall conservation mission by overseeing Mashomack Preserve’s operations and programs at the local level. So, really, it has always been advisory.

Focusing on the board being “dissolved” seems over-dramatic. It seems TNC is trying to communicate openly about why it is making the change at Mashomack Preserve to an advisory council. Defining roles, reassigning tasks, and restructuring seems appropriate at a time when TNC is looking at hiring due to openings left by staff members who have moved on.

Mashomack Preserve did not “close down” during the pandemic. The buildings and offices are closed to the public, but the trails have remained open. (Trails are closed each January for the Deer Management Program, as it has for at least 30 years.) Forty-five thousand people have connected with nature during the pandemic by walking the trail system.

Programs were halted at the start of the pandemic. When you imply other organizations continued outdoor activities you forget to mention that these local groups are small organizations that answer locally, not internationally. In 2020 it was decided not to run the summer Environmental Explorers program. 

With hard work the 2021 Environmental Explorers did happen. No one should forget the Mashomack staff has continued to work throughout the entire pandemic.

SHARON A. GIBBS, Shelter Island

A choice

To the Editor:

Individuals and families have migrated from the city in great numbers seeking safety and natural amenities. One consequence of this has been to drive the cost of houses up dramatically and deplete the Island of affordable housing.

Following best practices of other East End communities, the Urban Land Institute, and HUD, Shelter Island is endeavoring to restore a balance of housing opportunities. The first project under consideration creates four single-family dwellings on Manwaring Road.

What will be the impact?

Water quality will be imperceptibly impacted due to advanced septic systems, which remove 80% percent of nitrates. Native plants will be utilized for landscaping, requiring no irrigation. The impact of these houses will be half the impact of one house served by a conventional septic.

Density will be equivalent to houses within the Heights. The proposed houses contain less square footage for all four than a typical new Island house.

The houses will have energy-efficient building systems. This initiative will provide housing for first responders, teachers and workers. The impact of sending these individuals off-Island is the “trade parade” creating long ferry lines, pollution from idling vehicles, and higher cost of services due to transportation.

The impact upon businesses will be positive, allowing business to attract talent based upon quality-of-life considerations including housing; and it will retain jobs for Islanders.

This housing will have no impact upon Town spending and offset the potential for rising taxes. The costs Shelter Island faces related to a non-volunteer fire and ambulance departments are significant for staffing and housing. The .05% transaction fee, initiated by Assemblyman Thiele on property sales, paid by the buyer, provides adequate funding.

The socio-economic impact is to preserve balance and diversity within the community. The forces of gentrification can be stemmed by creating housing that is accessible to more Islanders. The Island is facing accelerating gentrification, and if unabated, will become a homogeneous environment of large houses for an exclusive seasonal population.

We have a choice, to allow Shelter Island to continue on the path of change heading toward being an exclusive community, or choose another vision. We have the obligation now to exercise good planning and governance to guide the future. 

If your vision is one of maintaining a healthy, balanced community, please participate in shaping and supporting our future.


Not for sewage

To the Editor:

Michael Coles, who has quietly and effectively done so much to preserve Shelter Island’s natural beauty, sole-source aquifer and uniqueness, has been sharing with me his shock and dismay re: the current Town Board even considering destroying the open space program and Klenawicus Airfield, a symbolic grave quietly dedicated to another Shelter Island giant, Frank Klenawicus, by unnecessarily turning the beautiful open space there, sitting on top of a sweet spot in our fragile sole-source aquifer, into a sewage treatment plant.

I was fortunate to serve as chairman of the Town’s open space committee the first nine years of its existence, 1999 to 2007. During this time I humbly and gratefully met and dealt with many generous Shelter Islanders, anxious to preserve the Island’s uniqueness, natural beauty and very fragile sole-source aquifer.

Owners of substantial acreage, they each were willing to sell their open space property, often at bargain prices, to the Town for preservation in perpetuity as open space.

Not for sewage.

Any such action by this misguided Town Board would in effect terminate and destroy Shelter Island’s open space program — for sewage!

JIM DOUGHERTY, Former supervisor, Town of Shelter Island

Never done like this

To the Editor:

I was hesitant to pile on while everybody else was having a go at Mr. Siller … but then I thought, it’s not like he didn’t earn it. So here are some thoughts on the latest cars to roll over in this seemingly endless train wreck.

First — Mr. DeStefano and his dismissal. One could call it unethical. If you have to tell someone in the supervisor’s seat that this is not how you treat people, there is a fair chance that the wrong person is being dismissed. The rest of the Town Board shares in this shame as well.

We don’t treat people in our employ that way here. At the very least, they get a sit down and a warning if there is some reason their job is in jeopardy. It is never done like this. Ever.

As for the new attorney, well, I cannot imagine how the people in the high-backed chairs were unable to see just how bad the optics were here. Hiring the remora suggests that the shark is never far away. That is how it is seen. Period.

Did it rise to the level of unethical? I don’t necessarily see that, as there was no moral standard broken, only that of common sense. Hiring someone whom you have foreseen to have conflict issues is, well, kind of stupid.

My last thought on it is that, the way things are going, we may well need a very good attorney before this is over. Hopefully one that won’t have to recuse themselves just when we need them most.

PAUL SHEPHERD, Former councilman, Town of Shelter Island

Thank you, Bob

To the Editor:

The Town of Shelter Island has experienced a very active period with a multitude of often controversial issues being addressed in the public square by the Town Board. But, even with all that activity, it should not distract us when a dedicated town employee leaves.

So, we wish to take a minute and say farewell and thank you to former Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr.

Thank you, Bob, for your years of service, commitment and hard work on behalf of this Island that you love. We may not have always agreed on every issue, but we always respected your dedication and belief in preserving the qualities that make Shelter Island special.

Therefore, it is important to pause, and to take this moment to express our gratitude, and wish you and your family well in all future endeavors.

PATRICK CLIFFORD, Member, Shelter Islanders for Clean Water and Responsible Zoning


To the Editor:

I was quite shocked on a number of levels by the Town government when it announced the firing of our town attorney. First, the Town government apparently let the town attorney go with very little notice or explanation in an abrupt fashion. Then they made the most curious new hire to replace him.

The new attorney not only gets close to a 50% pay increase, but his salary has to be supplemented by outside private attorney fees because the new attorney has a strong and very recent professional relationship with new-to-the-town and somewhat controversial Soloviev family.

These are the folks who are fast becoming one of the largest business owners on the Island. Something does not smell right.

The supervisor made a statement that an “exhaustive” search process was conducted, which also does not ring right. Why in the world would such an exhaustive search lead the Town government to hire the one person who has represented the Soloviev interests out of all the candidates they interviewed ?

Why did the Town government then agree to pay outside attorney fees to supplement the new hire because he has to recuse himself on Soloviev issues because of his relationships with the Soloviev family? Why are the Town leaders not being transparent with the citizens of Shelter Island on this choice?

Answers to these and perhaps other questions of potential conflicts of interest and potential influence leveraging should be addressed fully and in print to the Reporter.

JAMES MURPHY, Shelter Island

Word du jour

The last election was very exciting. We selected two bright, dedicated young ladies to serve on our Town Board. We were confident they could supply the transparency and common sense to make our government work well.

We’re certainly disappointed, now. Only six weeks into their political careers, these ladies joined Siller, Colligan and Brach-Williams and voted to enable the Soloviev Group to install their personal lawyer on the public payroll. On top of that, they will have the taxpayers pay him $50,000 more than they paid the last guy.

How is that for effective government? In six short weeks these ladies have become astute politicians, they obviously have brilliant careers ahead of them.

Very few taxpayers would be aware of this fiasco were it not for the investigative efforts of our fine newspaper.

Transparency is a good newspaper, so perhaps our fine paper can shed some light on the cost to the taxpayers for the sloppy, poorly researched 58-page report filed by Mr. Lombardo that sparked the $3.8 million Klenawicus nonsense.

Maybe we can find out what happened to the $138,000 the taxpayers paid the consultants to produce a grandiose Comprehensive Plan that never happened. Do we get our money back?

To quote the Soloviev lawyer, “Transparency is the word du jour, my door is always open.” Well that’s good, because it won’t hit him in the derriere on his way out.

DAVID OLSEN, Shelter Island

Not wise

To the Editor:

Shelter Island seems to be at an alarming point of upheaval and change for the worst.

The new, quickly-appointed, highly-paid town attorney also represents the biggest developer of an historically litigious corporation

In the event of a problem with his recusal, it will require us to hire another attorney who may be inexperienced about town interests. This seems not to be a wise decision by our elected leaders and a conflict of interest for the attorney.

The issue of installing the new sewage treatment on the Klenawicus preserved land makes no sense to me since it’s in a flood zone, puts neighbors’ health at risk, and goes against what the family intended.

There is too little transparency in the workings of the Town and too many decisions I feel are not in the best interests of the people who love the Island.

ALICE KLARIS, Shelter Island


To the Editor:

The childhood home of Alice Hench in Dering Harbor lies in a heap of debris.

Alice Hench, who would later marry Andrew Fiske, was a person keenly aware of conserving the history of this place, and as the resident of Sylvester Manor she dedicated a lot of energy to that purpose.

Some people may find upsetting how little regard there is for the few remaining buildings of historic consequence on this historically distinctive island. Following the dis-figuration and re-branding of the Havens House into the History Center (with parking), the devaluation of the Hench Summer Cottage into a tear-down may come as no surprise.

The good news about the Havens House, is that it can someday be architecturally restored to its historic integrity; the Dering Harbor house of Alice Hench is history. She would be gutted.

TOM CUGLIANI, Shelter Island