Whew! Labor Day weekend is upon us, which means for better or worse things will start quieting down a bit and, for locals, some semblance of normalcy will return to our lives.
First, the good news: it was a great summer. The weather was excellent. Business was booming – our merchants must be thrilled. The excellent weather fueled a healthy influx of visitors, great for motels and summer rentals. You would have to be an extreme curmudgeon not to admit it's been a blast!
The bad news was, of course, the traffic. Perry Duryea's vision of a highway bypass road four decades ago was obviously the way to go – witness the North Fork, where the north road allows motorists to bypass the local Main Streets.
Duryea was stymied by "environmentalists" who sold the public on their storyline – that Duryea wanted to make it easier for tourists to get to Montauk. In reality, he was concerned with the time it took ambulances from Montauk to reach Southampton Hospital. Many of the same people who questioned his motives quietly bought up land in the Northwest and other areas the Montauk Highway Bypass was slated to run through, paying cheap prices because the landowners were convinced some super highway was being laid out.
Later, a lot of the same people who squashed the project got rich by selling the land for huge profits – the deed transfers are here to see for anyone who doubts the truth.
As summer ends, hopefully traffic will subside, and the good weather will continue.
Our attention turns to the local elections. We will be interviewing many of the candidates in the coming weeks, and have many of them in for face-to-face debates. Readers and candidates are invited to use our letters section to chime in with your thoughts and observations.
The Independent is the only local newspaper on the East End that endorses candidates based on their merits, not political ideology. We are not beholden to anyone but the people of this community, especially the taxpayers. Let's elect the best and brightest to represent us, not the candidates with agendas, clandestine or otherwise.
The Lesson Of Fort Pond House
The brouhaha over East Hampton Town's decision to sell the Fort Pond House – which was recently rescinded -- brings up an issue all municipalities should address. Should a town sell-off real estate it owns to help keep taxes low?
Certainly East Hampton, reeling from a financial scandal that left the town $30 million in the hole, had reason to consider doing so.
Unfortunately, the debate broke down along political lines. Instead of a healthy debate about whether the community would benefit more from the sale of the asset, Fort Pond House became some sort of symbol, some environmental gem that was treasured by the people and utilized by community groups. Its sale, some said, would cause a giant void in the lives of so many of our citizens.
Let's tell it like it is: the place is a dump. Since the town purchased it a decade ago, it was allowed to fall into a dreadful state of disrepair. The few community groups that did use it abused the privilege, leaving, in some cases, half-eaten food lying around. No one attempted to clean it up, even after the impassioned uproar to save it became deafening.
There is little doubt the recent decision to keep Fort Pond House and the property around it as a "Nature Park" was politically motivated. Notice, though, that no provisions were made as to who is responsible for cleaning it up and renovating it, how much money it will cost to do so, and where that money is going to come from.
Knowing East Hampton like we do, the next thing that will happen (after the election) is some friend of a friend will get appointed caretaker, and money will be allotted to clean up the mess, and the so-called community groups that were supposedly using it will go about the business of trashing it again, resulting in more money wasted on more cleanups. The fact is, the building in its current state is uninhabitable, and isn't going to be used by anyone. Furthermore, it was always underutilized.
What it all means is this: a municipality shouldn't sell off its assets, but it needs to take care of everything it owns. And make no mistake, the Fort Pond House was allowed to go to hell, and not by the present administration. The decision to sell it was based in part on the fact that it was no longer a viable place for the community to use. If there is blame to be placed, place it on those who voted to buy it and then looked the other way – and those who used and abused it.