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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor, July 14, 2022

Celebrating a victory

To the Editor:

Congress has passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, legislation to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. It represents the most significant gun safety legislation in a very long time.

The critics have said it didn’t go far enough, while others will say that it went too far. These are the times we live in — it’s difficult to make people happy, especially at both ends of the spectrum. Nevertheless, for those of us who believe in working together, in compromising, this represents a beginning.

This bill contains enhanced background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21. It provides incentives for states to implement “Red Flag Laws” by temporarily confiscating guns from people who are deemed dangerous by a judge. It also closes the “Boyfriend Loophole” in an attempt to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and those who have been convicted of domestic violence.

In addition, there is funding for mental health and school safety, approximately $300 million over five years. This includes addressing school security and training school personnel on how to interact with minors concerning mental health issues. Finally, there will be tougher penalties on the illegal purchasing of guns involving people who buy guns for those not qualified.

This legislation is not perfect, but it represents a step forward for helping protect children and the public. But more importantly, let’s all recognize one very important fact — it will take moderate Republicans and Democrats, as well as Independents, to advance legislation that serves and protects all Americans. Those who refuse to work together, to listen and even find some common ground, should not be elected or re-elected. America’s strength comes from within and we need to recognize that those who choose to polarize, don’t have the best interests of our nation.

JIM COLLIGAN, Councilman, Town of Shelter Island

A great first step

To the Editor:

The Shelter Island Democratic Committee  believes that the hard-working current and future teachers, first responders, and small business owners and workers who serve this Island deserve a shot at living where they serve, which has become nearly impossible.

Housing is a complicated problem to solve because it is a basic human necessity beholden to ever-increasing market pressures. Creating a Community Housing Fund under our Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s framework, already approved by the State Legislature as an Authorization, will be a great, unobtrusive first step towards equity in housing on our Island.

HEATHER REYLEK, Shelter Island Ms. Reylek is the Chair of the Shelter Island Democratic Committee

The beating heart

To the Editor:

Strengthening the economic capabilities of our island should always be a priority. Keeping talent and our entrepreneurial spirit is vital. Anybody who has worked here understands the difficult challenges we face. When a few rainy summer weekends can jeopardize a business’s bottom line, we must think differently.

In this debate over community housing, it would be prudent to explore a multi-pronged approach. November’s referendum is one part of the debate. I believe that there is an opportunity for the private sector to be involved as well as an examination of the regulations regarding ancillary housing.

I am confident that an environmental impact study on our water will provide a path to move forward. It would be foolish to dismiss the concerns of people who have raised questions. However, the idea that “If you can’t live on Park Avenue, so you don’t” is equally foolish. Should we then put the New York City transit system and the economic opportunity that Manhattan provides on an equal footing with Shelter Island’s economy? Soaring inflation and gas prices are stretching us to our limits and this will eventually decimate our workforce and our elderly population.

This is not only an issue for today, but for 10, 20, 50 years down the line. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) started the “Hometown Heroes Initiative.”  This is a massive program that allows Hometown Heroes, such as police, nurses, health aides, teachers, veterans (totaling 50 professions in all), to cover the initial costs of a down payment on a first-time community home purchase. While this program is different than what we are talking about, the ethos is identical. We are talking about the economic, cultural and social heart of our community, and it is incumbent upon us to make sure that heart keeps beating.

GARY BLADOS, Shelter Island Mr. Blados is the chairman of the Shelter Island Town Republican Committee.

Can’t wait

To the Editor:

In his short and unconvincing response to last week’s two page ad, the supervisor attacks the rare and meaningful survey of Shelter Island residents, conducted in May 2021 (See “the Supervisor Responds,” July 7).

Mr. Siller claims that survey’s results are “confusing” and “not meant to be a referendum.” But only the supervisor seemed confused by it and the survey is never meant to be a referendum. It is a relatively large one sample of opinions of the Island residents, who cared enough to respond. The results were clear. Affordable housing was near the bottom of the list. Indeed the criticism of the survey, which Mr. Siller quotes, was written after the results came in. His team just didn’t like what our residents told them, so with hindsight, they made up excuses for it. Rather than ignoring our residents, the survey should be used by Town authorities to formulate policies, not outright negate them.

In the last few months we have noticed the creation of at least three large, well-funded community groups dedicated — broadly speaking — to preserve the Island, its character and resources. This phenomenon is indicative of residents’ concern of the policies and plans of the Town Board.

The supervisor is ignoring this fact. He limits the residents’ ability to express their opinions, makes no attempt to communicate or discuss his views and wants to impose his ill-informed will onto the community.

I can’t wait for the next election.

ANDRZEJ ROJEK, Shelter Island

Valid concerns

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to a column by Supervisor Siller in which he tries to deflect the points raised in the two-page ad run by the Friends of Shelter Island. I find his response to be emblematic of his so-called leadership style. Refuse to engage on point in preference for maligning the intentions of the many of us who have real concerns about his affordable housing campaign.

To restate what was in our ad, we are a group of concerned residents cutting across political party lines, full-time and part-time residents, both retired and still working.

I won’t repeat all of the valid concerns raised in our ad that he would like to brush off as being unworthy, but I think some simple math might open the eyes of many watching this debate. A a three-or more- person household earning up to $148,800 a year would be eligible for this subsidized housing. (The median household income for Suffolk County is $107,561). Using simple back of the envelope math and a standard deduction would net this couple $118,040 a year amounting to $9,920 a month.

This is a poke in the eye and wallet to those long time Shelter island retirees living off of Social Security and perhaps a pension to boot.

Again, to be clear, we are not resisting housing for workers critical to island resident’s safety, health and welfare. A referendum is not required to obtain that. Our resistance is targeted at those who have stated that they deserve to live here because they really like it here and cannot afford it so we just need to pay for it. I am reminded of a quote from Thomas Sowell, one of our national treasures: “What exactly is your fair share of what someone else has worked for?”

PETER KAMFORD, Shelter Island

More clarification

To the Editor:

One way to view the current fierce discussion about affordable housing is that Shelter Island is exhibiting growing pains, struggling with fixed ideas, trying to think differently.

We need more clarification, more of a birds-eye view. How do we define “affordable” and “housing?” Are we talking about building new structures with “affordable” rents for new/old/how many people? What will be the return on this “investment” for the Island?

Let’s stop blowing smoke about the aquifer, wastewater, “worker housing” (slaves are buried here), open space, and taxes. Let’s fly higher and ask ourselves, what do we really want for Shelter Island? Is it possible? What can we settle on? Who can help?

Can we move from discord and into cooperation? Can we, in fact, talk about “cooperative housing,” and not affordable housing? Cooperative housing solves the problem of space, money, isolation, and community benefit.

Cooperative housing builds a place like the Ram’s Head Inn (18 bedrooms, plenty of common space) and turns it into a residence and community center for 18 people who have low income, and yet contribute to the Island in all kinds of ways.

Let’s ask people or institutions who have land to donate four acres or so. Let’s ask builders to donate their time and materials to make apartments or tiny houses. Let’s install recirculating sand filter systems or aerobic treatment units to solve the wastewater problem (all homes here should have such systems, as the wastewater problem remains because of the hundreds of antiquated cesspools on the Island).

Let’s put something new in a closed system and see what happens.

Until we can appreciate the irony of seeing this letter sandwiched between real estate ads, or know the cost of the recent double-page “Q&A” ad about housing (way more than my monthly rent, for sure), we will not see our way forward.


No to affordables

To the Editor:

I am writing to comment on Gerry Siller’s response to the ad created by The Friends of Shelter Island (FOSI).

The tone of the ad was informative and constructive compared with Mr. Siller’s highly personal and misleading responses. I’ve never met or spoken with Mr. Kohn, a resident the Town Board is meant to serve, but I’ve watched Mr. Siller’s open hostility towards Mr. Kohn, repeatedly trying to shut him down in committee and Town Board meetings. Mr. Siller, I reside in China and live every day with what has resulted from elected officials being permitted to silence those who disagree with them. It is shocking to see these same types of attempts on Shelter Island.

Some of Mr. Siller’s responses to points in the FOSI piece make absolutely no sense, e.g., “Affordable housing will have absolutely no effect on open space.” How can this be true when Mr. Siller has said that affordable housing will be built by acquiring land and building high-density units? He says there will be “no net increase in density,” but states in the same sentence that the development rights stripped from open space “may be used elsewhere to increase density for housing.” Absolutely baffling.

He contends that the Town Board is not re-writing the Zoning Code, but the purpose of the Comprehensive Plan revision is to provide the legal basis to do so — why do it if not to change zoning laws for high-density housing?

Mr. Siller is attempting to lull residents into thinking that their property taxes won’t increase by claiming that all will be funded by the transfer tax. This is nonsense. Higher density means more people, increased school enrollment and a significantly increased number of Town employees that will be required to manage these housing units.


Thank you, Gerry

To the Editor:

Gerry Siller’s front page comment referencing the two-page spread in last week’s Reporter regarding affordable housing says it all.

Then there is the front page news in The Sag Harbor Express, regarding the affordable housing in the Village of Sag Harbor and the proposed affordable units. On the same front page, are the rules and regulations for building such a complex. This may be good for Sag Harbor, and I suppose this is what those who oppose affordable housing on Shelter Island think is going to happen. But it’s a whole different ball of wax.

Sag Harbor already has the Bulova Factory Complex, which is apparently unaffordable. I love them both.

Thank you Supervisor Siller for your great column.