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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor, June 9, 2022

Solemnly honored

To the Editor:

I want to clarify part of the article covering the singing of The Navy Hymn at the dock on Memorial Day. While John and I participated and John organized it, a sizable number of community members volunteered to sing as well. We all solemnly honored those who perished at sea while serving our nation.

Many thanks to all the people who sang so beautifully at this moving event.

PENNY KERR, Shelter Island

Gift of Life

To the Editor:

The Island Gift of Life Foundation takes this opportunity to publicly thank two recently-retired members of its Board of Directors. 

Gina Kraus and Corinne Wilutis served Shelter Island and other East End communities and the Foundation tirelessly, relentlessly, and with great dedication for many years. The list of Shelter Island and East End families faced with health and wellness challenges whose lives have been made better through Gina’s and Corrine’s compassion and caring attention to otherwise unmet needs is very long indeed.

Simply put, Corrine and Gina cannot be thanked enough. Although both will continue to support the Foundation in its work, their fellowship and commitment will be greatly missed.

With the departure of Corinne and Gina, the current Board invites any interested and enthusiastic individuals to consider joining the Board — and working with us directly to continue the Foundation’s mission of providing assistance to individuals and families facing challenges presented by serious health and wellness issues.

For more information or to volunteer, please contact any of the Board members or via our website: islandgiftoflife.org.

, Shelter Island

Yes to affordables

To the Editor:

I was deeply disturbed by the frank cruelty and unbridled elitism expressed in the letter you published by Christine Houston this (“No to affordables,”) June 2.

Ms. Houston seems to envision Shelter Island as a gated enclave for the rich, with no interest in maintaining the community which has developed here over generations.

I began spending my summers on this beautiful and friendly island 30 years ago, and have owned property here for 25. I am now a full-time resident. One of the great charms of this island has always been the long-standing and varied community, embodying a diverse range of incomes and activities. In view of the rising property values over the last several decades, many long-time residents and their families have been squeezed out. This impoverishes the community morally and spiritually. These folks have a right to live here, the Island is better for their presence, and we have a moral obligation to help them.

I doubt the true concern is about the aquifer, which the Town Board has always taken into consideration. It is also unlikely that anyone is contemplating building large apartment buildings. At most, I suspect we’ll see a few two-family homes.

I am not part of any “very vocal group,” but I strongly support the building of affordable housing in order to keep our people home on their island and maintain the character of this magical place.

If Ms. Houston prefers to segregate by socio-economic class, I’m sure she’ll fit in well in East Hampton.


Wait and see

To the Editor:

I recently started following the news about the Town Board wanting to build affordable apartments on the Island. The latest is a story in the Reporter (“Hiring a housing expert,” June 2) about the Town Board’s intention of hiring an expensive consulting group to write a “housing plan” in case voters pass a referendum in November to increase a real estate transfer tax on first time buyers to pay for these so-called “affordables.”

Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? Shouldn’t we wait to see whether the referendum is passed before spending taxpayer money on consultants? In an article here not long ago (“Town Board negotiating with sole applicant for affordable housing consultant position,” April 23), you report that a “housing plan” does not have to be in place before the vote on the referendum. It only needs to be in place before any money is spent. So why the rush?

The June 2 article says that even if the referendum is rejected by voters in November a “housing plan” written by these consultants could still be used. Why is that? If the referendum fails, won’t that be a message to the Town Board that residents here do not want our property taxes spent on “affordables” for people who can’t afford, but would simply like to live here?

There will be plenty of affordables built on the forks to the north and south of us where, unlike here, they have plentiful supplies of clean drinking water to support them. As several residents have said here, what’s wrong with commuting to work? Do we have to risk our water quality to reduce the commute for a lucky few who get to receive housing subsidies paid with our property tax dollars?

Let’s stop wasting our property tax money on things we clearly don’t need and don’t want.

PAT BLEISTEIN, Shelter Island

Fully support

To the Editor:

In 1969 my ex and I were able, with a loan from my parents and a mortgage, to purchase a house in Park Slope, Brooklyn for $19,500 — about two times our annual income. In 1976 we purchased our Shelter Island home for twice that amount, the mortgage being held by the seller. We were not wealthy by any standard. We were too young to know how lucky we were. Fifty years later, the math has changed. The annual income of the average household on the Island is about $84,000. There are few or no available houses for less than $900,000. That’s the new math. Yes, I worked hard and own my home. But I benefited from a different economy.

I find it interesting that the folks who are complaining the loudest and using hyperbole are not calling this a real estate transfer tax. Buy your home and pay .5% of the price over a certain amount. On Shelter Island, that tax on sales is currently 2% of sales over $250,000 which goes to the Community Preservation Fund. With the addition of 1/2% for Community Housing funds, sales proceeds under $400,000 (no longer $250,000) would be exempt, decreasing the tax on transfers under $1 million. Of course if you buy your home for $10 million instead of paying what is currently $195,000, it will cost $250,000. That’s the new math, too.

I want to see affordable housing on this island. I want to live in an economically diverse community. I want the young people who grew up here and graduated from the school to come back after college and settle back home if they want to. And selfishly, I want to live among people who labor for their living, providing the services I cannot perform myself. I want to know the checker at the IGA, the clerk at the library, the purser on the ferry, the plumber, electrician and carpenter who fix things around my home. I want them to be my neighbor and send their children to the school. I want to live in a robust, complex community. I fully support this additional transfer tax.

LISA RICHLAND, Shelter Island

A dynamic, prospering community

To the Editor:

Shelter Island’s housing crisis not only diminishes the Island’s quality of life, but also bars a robust year-round community through the skewed cost of housing. This is not an issue of providing low-cost housing, but rather affordable housing. Individuals who are committed to supporting the community include teachers, police, firefighters, and EMS workers. Although they may be well compensated, they cannot afford to live here. There is inadequate availability of rental and moderately priced homes. The Island’s median cost of a house is $1.7 million. A two-income family with an annual income in excess of $200,000 simply lacks the means to live here.

Having lived here year-around because of the pandemic, we understand how valuable a vibrant, year-round community is. What are the stated objections to affordable housing? They are mere red herrings:

• The aquifer will be strained, and our drinking water will be threatened.

No — The small number of affordable units needed pales in comparison to the strain imposed by renovated hotels and expanding restaurants. The one third of the Island that cannot be developed protects the aquifer.

• Affordable housing requires building “high density complexes, like apartment buildings.”

No — Affordable housing can be small buildings, including accessory buildings, or new development that can be clustered to have a small footprint on a large lot. Affordable housing would use the most up-to-date septic systems and would not strain the aquifer or threaten drinking water.

• People can commute.

No — Commuting does not build community; it produces large volumes of entries and exits, putting stress on the ferries, heightening traffic volume, and adding to air pollution.

The objectors seek to guarantee an exclusive community of the wealthy, a community supported by a subservient service population that commutes. Their selfish vision is both repellent and wholly out of touch with what makes a dynamic, prospering community.


Not South Beach

To the Editor:

Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer season. I was pleased to see newly paved roads leading to and at Crescent Beach. I was encouraged by the renovations to the Chequit, the Pridwin Hotel, the new restaurant at the corner of West Neck Road, and a number of other local businesses. These are all positive signs that our Town and business owners are investing in our island. However, with good always comes not so good.

The weekend crowd at Crescent Beach appears to be an extension of the Hamptons Crowd, all drawn to the Sunset Beach Restaurant, with fancy cars and motorcycles racing up and down Shore Road parking illegally and double parking.

Not only is this obnoxious; it’s dangerous. I witnessed a number of near-misses where folks were unloading their cars and an I-want-to be-noticed fancy car or motorcycle went speeding by. This is not South Beach; it’s Shelter Island!

Our Police Department and traffic control officers do a great job, but can’t be everywhere at the same time. I would encourage anyone who witnesses this type of unsafe behavior to report it immediately to the Police Department.

Let’s keep our island safe.

GREGORY E. SENKEN, Shelter Island


To the Editor:

On May 24, a teacher in Uvalde, Tex., propped open a school door with a rock in order to carry food from the parking lot to the classroom. The door had a faulty lock and did not close properly. A shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, entered the school through that same door moments later and killed 19 students and two teachers; 17 additional children and adults were severely injured. The school security guard was home that day. Uvalde police officers did not enter the school for a full hour in spite of desperate 911 calls from 7-year old children inside using their dead teacher’s cell phone.

Nine days later, on Thursday, June 2, I attended a wonderful Shelter Island School Children’s concert in the school auditorium. The door to the parking lot was propped wide open to allow hundreds of parents, grandparents, students, faculty, and friends enter and exit the building freely for a two-hour period between from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

There have been two documented Shelter Island school incidents involving threats of violence dated December 16, 2021, and February 16, 2022.

Apathy and carelessness can invite the unfathomable.