June 12, 2013

Ranting Letter

Dear Rick,

I'm sorry, but I have to respond to the (ranting) letter by Mr. Richard Kraus from last week about the pending "dark sky" (not dark ground) legislation for Shelter Island. He is mistaken on so many accounts, including referring to me as inventing a simple shield to direct light downward in order to "make a huge amount of money" when I, for years, have been giving these shields away (available from Group for the East End, Concerned Citizens of Montauk, Montauk Chamber of Commerce, Nature Conservancy).

I am an educator and a volunteer, educating the public about how to save money by using night lighting sensibly to better illuminate the ground by directing light downward in the correct amount to see well, to provide real security (instead of just a sense of security), and to control light trespass which is a nuisance between neighbors.

I have read the Shelter Island draft of its lighting law and it is not onerous in the least and will help Shelter Islanders to enjoy their lives at night (on the ground) and to continue to see their beautiful night sky, and money will be saved. This is a worthwhile effort for any town board to initiate.

And, if anyone wants to fabricate their own shields, just get a 7" clamp and a piece of sheet metal. I'll give you the template, or the shield for your floodlight. I also provide lighting plans for non-profit groups (schools and churches) and designed lighting for the Springs School in order to conserve energy with professional light levels, saving energy, and you can now see stars above that school at night.

I am a "senior citizen" and the older we get, the more glare from unshielded bulbs interferes with night vision.



Sneaky Deal

Dear Editor,

When Secretary of State Kerry can quietly give the Muslim Brotherhood controlled Egypt over $1.5 billion of our taxpayers' money, with no advance warning or news coverage, shouldn't there be an outcry?

Is there nothing to stop the hemorrhaging of our money by these progressive liberals in Washington DC? No, they can repeatedly give that much money to them each year! Isn't it time for the people of this country to demand the end of such extravagant "gifts" to countries that are joining forces to destroy our country and liberties?

They have 45 democracy workers, including 16 Americans, in prison for helping to establish civil liberties and promote democracy in Egypt. They burn down churches and kill those not of their religion, and still practice slavery.

We are throwing the money, that should be spent on our own country's needs, and tossing it into a desert full of war mongers. Why are we supporting those who are diametrically opposed to all that this country stands for? This sneaky deal is out of hand and must end. Americans, awake from your slumber and implore our representatives to stop the rupturing of our wallets.


Colonized Hamptons

Dear Editor,

Every summer since my family moved here in 1995, the Hamptons and Hamptonites have been faced with a similar problem: the desire to burn the Peconic Bridge. Because each year, the Hamptons have been invaded by a party-prone breed of nouveau riche which has filled our bars past capacity, drank on our beaches, and booked seemingly every trip on a bus making it impossible to get on those darn buses without a reservation anymore.

Each year we say "no more!" and each year nothing happens. Why?

Because in the end the discourse over who to keep out of the Hamptons is wholly reactive, narrow, and fruitless. It has no discernable answer (even if we burn the Peconic Bridge they can just take helicopters now). It is narrow - generally an argument between those rich enough to afford beachfront property and those rich enough to book beachfront hotel rooms. Even worse, it ignores the far worse problems that the Hamptons are experiencing.

While we complain that privileged youngsters are drinking on our beaches, each year another local family is priced out of the area to have their home turned into a McMansion second house. While we complain about the loud music we ignore that local businesses are being replaced by boutiques, which cater to the hyper-rich seasonal crowd. And while we laugh at the foolishness of local notables complaining to the New York Times that kids these days party too hard, the Hamptons we live in are, year by year, changing into a colonized community, which exists solely for the people that we impotently complain about.

It took me until I was 20 to realize how odd it was that I barely knew anyone older than me who stayed in the Hamptons. Now that I'm 22 (and a moveout myself) I know why -- to someone who actually lives here with a college degree, there isn't much to do.

Once you graduate, you find that your expensive new degree can find you barely gainful employment as a barista, a retail agent, or a busser and even if you do get that job it is likely to be seasonal.

Furthermore, if you live in the Hamptons as someone who is young or poor you can give up the idea of ever buying your own house: I have known 30+ year olds who sublet their apartments in order to afford them. Most 20+ year olds have the opportunity to move back in with their parents and re-attach the chain of dependence that they went to college or found jobs in order to give up.

In the face of this -- little to no gainful employment, no housing, no voice - many young people have turned to the one thing that you can definitely do in the Hamptons: they party. Nearly every one of my friends who has lived for extended times in the Hamptons after graduating has developed a problem with some substance or another.

It is an open secret that hard drugs are a problem for the Hamptonian youth, a problem, which, in recent years has taken the lives of several promising young men and women. But for most of us, and for me, the secret to living as a 20-something in the Hamptons is obvious: you don't live there. For most young people living in the Hamptons, there is only one option to success -- you get out of the Hamptons.

To many of us, these problems -- abuse, boutiques, and second homes, seem disconnected. But they aren't. The dearth of local businesses and the mansion-housing market has forced several successive generations of young Hamptonites to leave, many forever. To those who stay there is the feeling of unaccomplishment, a feeling that leads many to the bottle, some to the needle, and others still to the grave. And because our towns have little to no youth culture of our own because so many young people leave, we develop each year even further towards a seasonal economy, which just worsens the problem.

So what's my suggestion?

We burn the Peconic Bridge and the East Hampton airport. Only way to be sure.

No but really, what's my suggestion?

The main question of the Hamptons has never been: 'How do we keep people out?;' a discourse which leads nowhere because you can't possibly keep people out.

It has been "How do we keep people in?." Subsidized housing for the young and less well off of the Hamptons would help the region move out of a seasonal employment/economic cycle by making sure that there is a sizable population through the whole year. This will bring back local and economically sustainable businesses and move us away from an economy based on firms which are opened up with an eye towards summerfolk alone. Furthermore it will give us a degree of agency in the protection of our local culture by supporting the next generation of people who will carry that culture on.

This isn't a panacea -- there are problems with this policy too, and even if we enact a form of socialized housing for the Hamptons, there will be many more steps to go. At the very least we can start talking about this problem -- the colonization of our neighborhoods and the transformation of our quiet fishing communities into the playgrounds for the nouveau riche -- as a policy problem which can be solved, rather than something to merely complain about.


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