05/14/13 8:00am


As Designated Historian and Poet Laureate of the Shelter Island Bridge and Tunnel Authority, I am hereby authorized to express SIBTA’s deep shock and humiliation at not being at least consulted on the current LIPA cable project. SIBTA, being an organization with a long and checkered history of providing alternate means of access to our fabled isle, could have provided valuable logistical support and expertise. But we weren’t asked.

According to the local highway superintendent, the “tunnel” (yes, you read that right SIBTA shareholders), will be a whopping 42 inches in diameter! SIBTA is quite rightfully very concerned and has some questions for which Islanders have a right to an answer. Why do we need such a large tunnel for an electric cable? Will other organizations be leasing “tunnel space” from LIPA? Who is going to make sure that people won’t start crawling to Greenport and back, avoiding SIBTA and North Ferry Company passenger fares? This is an outrage!

And of course the elephant in the room, or the harbor seal in the water, is the one question that no one but SIBTA dares to ask: If now “just a 42- inch tunnel,” how long before there is a petition to enlarge the tunnel to a car or truck width, thereby bankrupting the two aforementioned transit companies and ruining forever life as we know it on our up-to-now moat-protected enclave? Islanders have a right to know!

The reason we “need” this cable is because supposedly we only have one shaky cable and another that has been put out of commission by Superstorm Sandy. (Seems like everything from the price of gas to high school test scores has been blamed on this one storm.) We hear little of the bonehead sailor who last year tore up the electric cable with an anchor from his mega-yacht, unfortunately not giving him a good jolt in the process.

On a recent trip to the beach, Helpmate and I noticed a large chunk of the beach that has now been rendered unusable because of the upcoming cable project. You can bet that even though this is supposed to be only a “six week” interruption, you can be sure that lawyers, insurance companies, piping plover and osprey advocates will force the job right into the height of mid-summer season. This means that the mega-yachts, shuttle services and seaplanes to whom our town fathers have so graciously afforded unfettered access to what is ostensibly a “public beach” will be forced to inch westward into the swimming area. And what about the parking? How many spaces that would usually be used by snooty off-Islanders who ignore parking fines and provide an income stream to the town will be co-opted by this project?

It used to be so easy. You could drive to the beach. Park. Get out and pitch your umbrella. Swim — with or without your dog. Eat. Drink. Fish. Sleep. Fast forward to the present day. One beach has been taken over by a business that thinks it’s their own. Two other beaches are “not bathing beaches.” Several town landings have serious signs nearby warning those who might trespass on a beach “owned” by a property owner or neighborhood association. The only fresh swimming hole on the Island has been rendered almost inaccessible by crabby neighbors and the never-ending tentacles of the health department. And at the few places where you can actually legally swim, even more signage tells you of a whole list of things you can’t do.

When I was a lad working at a hotel on the Jersey shore, it was almost impossible to find a place on the ocean to swim without risking a fine, paying a fee or needing a permit.

I walked up to a beach guard once and spoke with him.

“Why does the town charge to have access to the beach? Do they own it?”

“Why no, they don’t.”

“What do they use the money for?”

“Well, let’s see … they pay my salary.”

“What do you do?”

“I make sure people pay the fee.”

“Oh, now I get it. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Sigh. Things haven’t changed much. I have been fortunate enough to swim and snorkel off some absolutely gorgeous beaches around the world. What’s notable about nearly all of them is that there are no signs telling you to get off, or that the beach is private property or that you can’t swim, camp, fish, walk dogs or play music. There are no signs that say “private beach” because, it seems, the beaches belong to everyone.

What a concept.

The last thing we need this season, one that seems to be having real trouble warming up, is less beach. So besides the nefarious doings of public utilities, we need property owners, associations, lawyers, insurance companies and the ever-dreaded health department to just lighten up a little.

If only LIPA had contacted the Shelter Island Bridge and Tunnel Authority, a proven expert in tunneling. We’d have been done already! But I tell you this — they had better be done in time for the fireworks display.

Hope they bring matches this year!

12/28/12 2:12pm

ANYA DUVIVIER PHOTO | “Lucky” and Captain Chris Young conversing at North Ferry Friday morning.

Shelter Island part-time resident and Ohio college student Anya Duvivier is naming a swan she sighted this morning“Lucky.”

He deserved the handle, Ms. Duvivier figured, after North Ferry Captain Chris Young saved the bird from what she  thought would be certain death with several drivers almost clipping him as he paraded on a ferry slip.

Captain Young has had many encounters with Lucky in his 11 years of working for North Ferry. More than once he thought Lucky was going to try to board a boat. This time, though, he warned the swan that the ferry landing wasn’t safe. He then  grabbed a slice of pizza and tossed it into the water where Lucky quickly claimed it.

“It came right up to me and I was a little nervous,” Mr. Young said. “But I figured it wouldn’t bother me, recognizing me. It’s no big deal.”

But it was very big for Ms. Duvivier, who praised the captain for taking action, cutting Lucky a break when no one else would, and giving him a new lease on life.

03/22/12 10:00am

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | A North Ferry vessel makes a run from Shelter Island to Greenport Monday morning. North Ferry GM Bridge Hunt said he'd welcome a water taxi proposal connecting Greenport with Sag Harbor.

Two Shelter Island-based ferry companies aren’t too worried that a proposed Greenport-Sag Harbor water taxi will hurt their business. In fact, they welcome a new route linking the North and South forks.

North Ferry general manager Bridge Hunt, whose ferry connects Shelter Island with Greenport Village, said he believes the new water taxi will create another destination for his passengers.

“If we can connect people to another transportation connection, then that’s a plus for us,” Mr. Hunt said. “We’ll do our thing. They are going to do their thing … One more transportation connection is a win-win.”

The plan, proposed by Jim Ryan of Response Marine and Hampton Jitney president Geoffrey Lynch, would include shuttle bus service to and from the water taxis. The 35-minute boat ride between the two forks would hug the western shoreline of Shelter Island. During bad weather, an alternative route would move along the island’s eastern side.

One-way tickets would cost $11 and round-trips $20.

South Ferry owner Cliff Clark, whose boats run between Shelter Island and North Haven, said he first proposed linking Greenport Village and Sag Harbor Village about 12 years ago.

At the time, Mr. Clark said, he had support from former Greenport mayor Dave Kapell and even received federal funding to help pay for the project. But Sag Harbor Village, which bars ferries, shot down his idea.

“We didn’t want to be a bad neighbor, so we backed down,” Mr. Clark said.

Although Mr. Clark said he doesn’t know how a Greenport-Sag Harbor water taxi will affect his business, he described the plan as positive for the East End.

“It may cause people that would never go to Sag Harbor to discover a new community,” he said. “I know Jeff and Jim will do a good job.”

While Mr. Ryan and Mr. Lynch are facing the same legal hurdle Mr. Clark did, Sag Harbor Village is showing more interest in the plan this time around.

Sag Harbor Village Clerk Beth Kamper said the Village Board agreed last week to schedule a public hearing in April to discuss amending its code in order to allow a water taxi pilot program to start this summer.

Now that its South Fork neighbor appears to be on board, the Greenport Village Board has warmed up to the water taxi proposal. But some details still need to be ironed out before the village signs off on the plan.

During a March 16 public hearing Village Board  members expressed the concern that water taxi passengers could fill up municipal parking lots. Mr. Lynch said at the meeting that he’s working on a parking agreement with the Greenport School District. If approved, Hampton Jitney would provide shuttle service between the school and the dock.

After Mr. Ryan and Mr. Lynch presented their case during the hearing, David Berson, owner of the electric boat Glory, was the lone speaker during the public comment portion. Mr. Berson said he’s concerned about the ferry’s potential negative effect on the bay and asked that an environmental study be completed before the plan moves forward.

After the hearing, Mr. Nyce reminded the public that anyone who could not attend the hearing can still submit written comments on the plan.

The village does not anticipate taking any additional action on the water taxi unless Sag Harbor makes the code change required for the vessel to land there.

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12/15/11 6:00pm

As requested by Supervisor Jim Dougherty, County Legislator Ed Romaine got an answer from the legislature’s Budget Review Office (BRO) last week to the supervisor’s inquiry about how North Ferry defines a resident when it comes to selling resident-only fares.

He made the request because, he said at a Town Board work session on November 29, two renters had complained to the town’s Ferry Advisory Committee that they had been denied resident passes because they were renters and could not produce a property tax bill. The supervisor declined to identify the complainants.

Gail Vizzini, director of the non-partisan BRO, responded to Mr. Romaine’s inquiry in a December 9 memo indicating a resident can be a renter and does not have to be a property owner. As a reference, she cited North Ferry’s own web page as well as past correspondence the BRO has had with company officials.

“Residents will qualify if they have a Shelter Island address on their driver’s license, pay Shelter Island town property taxes, or hold a lease on a Shelter Island dwelling for 10 months or greater,” she wrote, quoting from the company web site.

The president of North Ferry, Paul McDowell, wrote in a letter to the editor last week that North Ferry had not changed its policies to exclude renters from resident fares. He quoted from the tariff filing the company submitted to the county for its last rate increase, which includes the definition of a resident as a property owner, someone with an Island address on the driver’s license, or a renter with at least a 10-month lease.

Ferry manager Bridg Hunt commented Tuesday that officials did not know who the complainants were or why they had been told they did not qualify for resident rates. He said if someone on the staff had erred in telling them they had to be property owners “we’d be eager to make it up to them.”

Ferry rates are set by the legislature after a review by the BRO.

11/30/11 5:00pm

Two “credible younger renters” on the Island have been told they don’t quality for resident commuter tickets on North Ferry because they don’t own property here, Supervisor Jim Dougherty reported at Tuesday’s Town Board work session.

“It’s not so” that renters don’t qualify as residents “and if it is we’ll change it,” the supervisor said at the first Town Board work session since he won re-election to a third two-year term.

He said that County Legislator Ed Romaine, who votes on ferry fares as a member of the legislature, was discussing the issue with the county’s Budget Review Office, which reviews fares before they go to the legislature for approval.

“It would be nice to get them reimbursed” for the non-resident fares they’ve had to pay, Mr. Dougherty said of the residents, whom he declined to identify.

Otherwise the work session covered familiar topics that have been in the works — the senior kitchen renovations, a winter covering for the Recycling Center’s new paper baler, the long overdue 2010 municipal audit —  and was brief and low key until after an executive session that was held on contract negotiations and personnel matters. But in a rare move, the board reconvened in public session at the request of businessman John Sieni, who wanted the board to hear his complaint about the handling of a zoning application for his La Maison Blanche inn and restaurant (see separate story on page 3).

Also on Tuesday, Councilman Glenn Waddington announced that at the request of resident Theresa Andrew he and other town officials would hold a public meeting with a company called Waste2Energy to hear a presentation about converting the landfill to a “waste to energy site.” Mr. Waddington said if the company’s pitch “seems viable,” he’d recommend that the company send a representative to a future Town Board work session.


American Legion Commander Mike Loriz renewed his call for the board to reach a decision on the future use of the town-owned Legion Hall so plans could be developed for the building’s restoration and possible expansion. “It’s really imperative that we really address a 20- to 30-year framework for what the town’s plans are,” he said.

He said he was glad to hear the town would be receiving bids on Friday, December 2 for a new roof and he supported the idea of installing rooftop solar panels, which he said could provide more than enough electricity to run the building, which doubles as the town’s Youth Center. He submitted an updated report dated November 9 by consulting engineer John C. Cronin, who wrote that a bulge in wood-framed interior gypsum wall was the result of the deflection of a cracked foundation wall, which has been recognized as a concern for many months. He wrote that “loads emanating from deflection of the cracked foundation wall are being applied to the interior wall system. Although this was not and should not be the design intent of the interior wall, it nonetheless is now serving a purpose beyond merely aesthetic.” He added that “under no circumstances should it be viewed as a ‘permanent’ or ‘long-term’ fix.”

Mr. Cronin urged the town to “immediately begin planning the future of the building, including repairs or modifications to the foundation area in question,” because “without a finalized plan for the building’s future, needed repairs and work may languish.”

Mr. Loriz said the Legion didn’t want to be a burden on the town and would take back the building if the town couldn’t take care of it.

“We can take care of it,” Supervisor Dougherty said, repeating what he has said before: Mr. Cronin has told town officials the foundation is not at a critical stage and “is not a threat at all” to the integrity of the building, Mr. Dougherty said. He insisted the town has been “keeping a very good eye on it.”

In other business Tuesday, Supervisor Dougherty reported that the town had received a list of names of people recommended by the Red Cross Ambulance Corps to serve on an Emergency Medical Service advisory board to help the town manage the squad when it becomes a town department.