Featured Story

Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor: June 16, 2022

Please note a change in our Letters Policy notice, which appears every week on our letters page in our print edition. Starting this week, all writers are encouraged to keep their letters to a maximum of 300 words, a change from our previous policy of accepting letters up to 400 words. It’s said that one sign of a successful community newspaper is the number of letters to the editor it receives. We at the Reporter are blessed with an engaged community, with many readers coming to us to express opinions on the issues of the day. But we’ve found the length of letters has begun to curtail our ability to present more stories and information to our readers. Thank you, and we look forward, always, to hearing from you.

Meetings schedule

To the Editor:

Town Meetings

I think changing the Town Board meeting schedule from every third Friday is a bad idea for the following reasons:

• When the Friday meeting time was changed from 7 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. 20 or so years ago, there was outcry from second homeowners that they would not be able to attend them. Moving to the middle of the week would make that even more difficult for almost everyone to attend.

• The proposed time is in the middle of the work day. Most people, working locals, can’t just take time off to attend, whether in person or via Zoom.

• With more items, and most being increasingly complex, I don’t follow the logic in reducing the number of work sessions by 25%. Will they now be longer or will items be discussed behind closed doors?

• The supervisor and Town Board members knew the schedule when they ran for office. As public servants, their job is to serve the public, which includes easy and open access to meetings, not to make it more convenient for themselves.

PETER S. REICH, Shelter Island

June 28 Primary

To the Editor:

Please be aware that there will be a primary for statewide offices on Tuesday, June 28 (see story, page 1). There will also be early voting available this year — Saturday, June 18 through Sunday, June 26 on Shelter Island, at the Shelter Island Youth Recreation Center (Legion Hall upstairs), 1 Bateman Road. Any registered Democrat or Republican can vote at any of the designated early voting sites in Suffolk County. Please visit the Suffolk County Board of Elections website for locations and time, plus up-dated information about absentee voting at: suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/BOE

The registration date for new voters has passed, in addition to the date to apply for an absentee ballot for this primary. You must vote in person unless you applied prior to the cut-off dates.

The Democratic ballot for Shelter Island will be to select a candidate for governor and lieutenant governor. The Republican ballot will include governor and county clerk. As always, your vote is important.

HEATHER REYLEK, Shelter Island Democratic Committee Chair


To the Editor:

Summer 2022 is off to a bang and we are setting our sights on our favorite night of the year. This year the Shelter Island Fireworks returns after a two-year hiatus on Saturday, July 9, 2022.

Shelter Island Fireworks, Inc. was started in 2015 with the sole mission to continue the legacy of the beloved Shelter Island Fireworks show on Crescent Beach for generations to come. As we are 100% donor funded, it truly takes a community to launch the fireworks year after year. Our community supporters and volunteers help by sharing their donations, unique talents, time and resources. As always, we love partnering with local businesses.

We appreciate the endless support we have received year after year. We hope you can join us this Friday at Sunset Beach from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to enjoy canapés, signature drinks and beautiful raffle items. The night before the fireworks we will also have our annual party at the Shipwreck Bar at SALT Friday, July 8, with the Realm, food, drinks, highly coveted fireworks swag and more. Tickets for the Sunset event can be purchased on our website or at the door.

Donations can be made on our website — Shelterislandfireworks.com  — or via mail — Shelter Island Fireworks, Inc, PO Box 452, Shelter Island, NY 11964.

CAT BRIGHAM, Shelter Island

Yes to affordables

To the Editor:

I was disturbed by the letters published here on June 2 and June 9 opposing affordable community housing for full-time residents. I am confident these sentiments will remain shared with a vocal minority who are most certainly not signing up for the volunteer Fire Department, responding to EMS calls, collecting ferry tickets, scooping ice cream, bussing restaurant tables, clerking at the library or post office, harvesting vegetables, volunteering or participating in any meaningful way to the Island’s diverse community.

I am confident a pragmatic solution will result from the civic-minded individuals approaching the issue with enthusiasm and optimism. Shelter Island built housing before, including six affordable homes on Bowditch Road in the late 1990’s.

I am encouraged that everyone is an environmentalist and concerned about our aquifer, but we cannot exacerbate inequality for the residents working to ensure that this island functions on a daily basis. The positive implications from affordable community housing are too long to include in this letter, but I look forward to an island less car-dependent from commuters and increased micro mobility.

It’s imperative to maintain our school enrollment and ensure college students and Island alumni can afford to contribute to the local economy if they choose to return home. We are incredibly fortunate that our neighbors consist of talented farmers, winemakers, tradesmen and artists …it needs to remain that way.

SAM WOOD, Shelter Island

Speaking freely

To the Editor:

Unlike Town Board meetings or work sessions, where the right of a resident to speak is completely at the Board’s discretion, residents have a “legal right” to speak at public hearings.

Under State law, the very purpose of a public hearing “is to give the public an opportunity to express its views and to make inquiries” creating a “positive directive” upon government that “the public has the legal right to question the applicant,” “give evidence,” and “examine witnesses.” Hence, “the public may freely participate in such meetings.” (69-405, Dept. of Audit and Control, 6/6/69).

For this reason, public hearings are never to be treated the same as regular Town Board meetings. Granted, the time one is given to speak even at public hearings is not unlimited. It is a matter of discretion, but that discretion must be exercised reasonably. A public hearing on an issue that has for a decade appeared on the front page of the Reporter is not the equivalent of a hearing on whether one’s mooring should be moved a few feet.

At a meeting early this year, as reported here, I asked the supervisor for equal time to respond to several long presentations made over several work sessions supporting government-subsidized housing. But I was shut down after three minutes by the town attorney, recently accused of using his position to promote his personal views on affordable housing policy (“Legal Advice,” March 24), who said I would have an opportunity to respond with my views at the public hearing on the matter.

Well, I showed up last Friday with a five-minute written speech with my comments. It was not like I would be making a rambling extemporaneous speech with no fixed ending, which originally prompted the three-minute rule. I could have split the speech in two, read three minutes, and brought in a courageous neighbor to read the final two minutes, but I naively believed that I would not have to do such a childish thing. Indeed, I could have written a 15-minute speech and played the same childish game, one set up upon the advice of the town attorney. Indeed, I was followed by 10 people who spoke collectively for over 20 minutes.

Yet, upon the expert legal advice of the town attorney, the supervisor declared that I would be limited to three minutes, the same as a mooring permit application. I ask, under these circumstances, was the three minute rule reasonably applied and was confronting me with a court officer justified?

At the end of the day, the Town Board may have its political agenda, but the ends never justify the means. At least not in a Republican Democracy.

BOB KOHN, Shelter Island

American History

To the Editor:

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at my fellow Islanders who are in opposition to affordable housing. What I do know is that historical amnesia has afflicted them because one of the reasons governments exist is to extend a helping hand when its constituents need it. I can imagine these Social Darwinists saying, Social Security? Let them save on their own. Medicare? Let them pay their own hospital bills. The GI Bill? Let them save for college like I did. Federal homeowner mortgage insurance? Let them pay a higher rate or live in an apartment.

State universities and community colleges are necessary because many parents of smart, ambitious students can’t afford the crippling fees of private colleges. But as a society we think they should be educated anyway.

Another historical refresher: In colonial times, police and fire departments were private affairs. Crime was rampant and houses burned down while for-profit firefighting companies battled over the right to douse the flames. Even libraries were private. If you could not afford to join … illiteracy was always an option.

Collectively, Americans thought it was a good idea to tax themselves in order to have these public services, which we now take for granted. The goal of affordable housing is not to create massive housing projects or force re-zoning. Its goal is to restore the balance of community the Island once had. That same Island past that we infuse with romantic nostalgia.

So let’s have a real discussion, not one based on manufactured scare tactics. Will it all be perfect? Will the exact right number of units be built for the much-needed EMT/firefighters? Probably not, but that should not stop our elected town officials from trying hard to get it right.

I also reject the way the .5% real estate transfer tax initiative has been portrayed as some rogue operation from Town Hall. In fact this referendum comes from a state government bill directing the five East End Towns to address the affordable housing crisis. Frankly, the move-them-off-Island-solution sounds like how the colonists dealt with Native Americans. Are we to have a local Trail of Tears?

I’m looking forward to November 5 and will vote to extend a very small part of my good fortune (partially derived from ridiculously inflated real estate values) to my fellow Islanders.

See you at the polls.

JONATHAN RUSSO, Shelter Island

No to affordables

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to Dr. Wiedermann, who called me “elitist” in his letter (“Yes to Affordables,” June 9) for speaking out against the referendum to raise taxes for affordable housing. I also want to say a word about the public hearing held last week on this issue.

Dr. Wiedermann and I have some things in common. We both began coming to Shelter Island at about the same time and bought homes the same year. However, that is where the commonality ends.

I grew up in mid-Nassau County and discovered Shelter Island in the late 1980s. I fell in love the minute I got off the North Ferry and knew I wanted to have a home here. However, I couldn’t afford to buy, so I rented for years until I was able to purchase the home I have now.

I am not a “legacy” Shelter Island summer family (we “summered” at Jones Beach). I am the product of Nassau Community College, later a commuter student at one of the universities in Nassau County. I then went to evening graduate school while commuting from Long Island to NYC for work. My 3-hour commute was tiring, catching the last train two nights a week after class, but I simply could not afford to live in the city.

I missed the memo that outlined a plan to have my fellow taxpayers pay even more taxes to create a “piggy bank” for me so that I could reside in a place I could not afford to live on my own salary. I was completely unaware that I had a “right” to live where I wanted to, even if I could not pay for it. Dr. Wiedermann, I do not believe it is “elitist” to suggest that people reside where they can afford to. Nor do I believe it is elitist to object to paying more taxes to subsidize the lifestyle of others. It smacks of socialism, which I think has been proven to be ineffective and prone to corruption.

At last week’s public hearing I watched a resident get cut off by the supervisor and shouted down by some of the attendees, but not before he provided some helpful information: affordable units will be available to families with incomes up to $148,000. Also, will Town Board members who don’t own their homes recuse themselves from this program?


Data Collection II

To the Editor:

In the March 31, 2022 issue, I sent a letter requesting specific data be collected, such as the number of families, singles, elderly, etc. to evaluate the need for affordable housing. That information has not been written in the Reporter as of this date.

As a concerned Island resident for 52 years, I researched the following housing data from Town offices regarding the present inventory of Island accessory units. There are approximately 2,485 residences, and about 1,886 accessory units. Going through the coded 40 page, doubled-sided list I obtained from the Assessor’s office, I removed pool houses, studios, barns, horse barns, and “miscellaneous structures” from this report. I noted 208 “dependent units,” livable with no kitchens, and about 195 livable garage apartments with no kitchens. Also listed were bungalows, cottages, and other miscellaneous units totaling more than 500. The Building Department shared its list of 51 legal accessory units.

Therefore, I suggest deferring the referendum and focusing on this existing inventory of Island housing. I encourage the Town to begin to inspect and start the process of legalizing the Island’s accessory living units. Let the enthusiastic housing committee collect the data of how many units the Island needs in addition to what already exists. I’ll help. No one should be asked to vote on any expenditure without complete accurate facts.

KAREN KIAER, Shelter Island


To the Editor:

On May 24, a Robb Elementary School 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.