Hardy Plumbing
January 26, 2011

A Tale Of Two NIMBYs

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We believe in NIMBYism. The Not in My Backyard mentality can be abrasive – until a public project happens next to your house. Then you understand that invasiveness is offensive. At an East Hampton Town Board meeting Thursday, a throng gathered to discuss two seemingly disparate issues. Both were connected by NIMBYism, but the issues aren't just germane in East Hampton –they resonate across the East End.

A proposed rock convert in Amagansett dubbed Music To Know has drawn a slew of concerns from neighbors, and we believe the promoters must address their fears and appease them. It would be helpful though, if those opposed to the event stick to the facts.

One speaker compared the MTK with a festival she had recently been to, without mentioning 225,000 people attend the festival and acts like Kanye West perform.

Another compared the local event to stadium concerts featuring acts like Madonna and Metallica and warned people could get trapped and trampled – but the local event, on a farm field, will have hurricane fencing, not concrete walls.

The argument that the event, as a money making venture, violates zoning code by being on private property is irrelevant. Even if it were technically a code violation, the promoters of the event could easily form a not-for-profit entity and proceed. The biggest myth in the Hamptons is that Not For Profits give their money to charities. When the Hampton Classic was in its formative years, it paid its directors a small fortune while giving Southampton Hospital, its designated charity, a mere pittance. Now the Classic is a weeklong Labor Day weekend event that draws 100,000 people. No one complains about it.

The other part of the public segment of the town board meeting was devoted to the issue of whether or not to legalize illegal apartments in Springs and whether to allow more to be built. Speaker after speaker told the same tale: how they worked hard for years to afford their little piece of heaven, and now their neighborhoods are now ruined from overcrowding.

Bill Chaleff is the co-chair of the The South Fork Progressive Coalition. He is an affordable housing advocate who urged the town board to build more apartments. But the Smart Growth models he championed all recommend affordable housing to be built close to hamlet centers, so that people can walk to supermarkets and public transportation, and presumably because poor people can't all afford cars. Springs by that standard is the most illogical place in town to place affordable housing, let alone allow illegal apartments.

East Hampton, just as it has a moral commitment to the property owners of Springs to save their neighborhoods, also has a commitment to provide affordable housing to those who need it. The previous administration hid its head in the sand – and that includes Debra Foster – by choosing to build a handful of affordable houses but not housing units. The current town board must shoulder the responsibility now.

One Springs schoolteacher and resident spoke eloquently about the overcrowding conditions at the school, how there are so many kids they can't even get in the library. Yes, these are NIMBYs –people whose lives are shattered by loud music blaring in the night, cars parked in the streets blocking their driveways, property values dropping, garbage strewn in the streets, yes, even people urinating in public. Where is the empathy for them? Amagansett residents opposed to the concert face a two-day disruption -- Springs residents are forced to live with it on of a daily basis.

When it comes to action the bleeding hearts disappear. How many south-of-the highway parcels have been targeted as sites for affordable housing projects? How many estate owners have converted garage, pool house, or art studio space into housing for their workers? How many affordable housing activists live near one of these group houses?

Any property owner in this town can legally build an affordable apartment -- there have only been six built so far in three years, and that means a lot of people living illegally in Springs could be living legally somewhere else. We'd wager the most vociferous proponents of legalizing illegal apartments are those with none in their neighborhoods.

The fact is, there are rules and guidelines anyone that wants to live here must follow, and every immigrant that has settled here has done so until now, and over the years there have been waves of Italians, Poles, and more recently Irish. This is not a racial issue, it's a quality of life issue. It's the government's responsibility to make sure our neighborhoods remain intact.

We don't need to study the problem or debate it anymore. We need the laws to be enforced and stiffened, and that means illegal parking, illegal apartments, littering, and excessive noise must be aggressively tackled on a daily basis. The truth is, for all the talk and concern voiced, this isn't being done, despite the pleas and demands of the people.

If elected officials are afraid to confront the problem we need to replace them with individuals who will. It's really as simple as that.

To comment on this editorial in real time, visit www.indyeastend.com.

  1. print email
    Makes Sense
    January 26, 2011 | 01:49 PM

    You are very right, Rick. All those south of the highway types are worried about overcrowding in Amagansett for two days. In Springs we live with it 24/7 365. Why is it so hard for the town board to grasp the truth? It's illegal -- get officers down here and clean it up!

    Nancy Tollesten
  2. print email
    Makes Sense
    January 26, 2011 | 01:49 PM

    You are very right, Rick. All those south of the highway types are worried about overcrowding in Amagansett for two days. In Springs we live with it 24/7 365. Why is it so hard for the town board to grasp the truth? It's illegal get officers down here and clean it up!

    Nancy Tollesten
  3. print email
    Kudos to Rick Murphy and The Independent
    January 26, 2011 | 03:12 PM

    Rick: Another hard-hitting Editorial that hits the mark! It just goes to prove the point that the issues of illegal, overcrowded housing in The Springs, the lack of effective enforcement of existing single-family residential zoning ordinances, and the inequity caused by grossly differing taxation rates needed to fund the various East Hampton school districts, are not matters of concern to just people belonging to any particular political party. The Springs Concerned Citizens is a non-partisan group that will support any like-thinking Town official and oppose those politicians that oppose our stated objectives. Hey, Rick, have you ever considered giving up your day-job and throwing your hat in the ring? Just kidding.

    David Buda
  4. print email
    Please get your facts right~!
    January 26, 2011 | 03:29 PM

    Dear Editor -

    I spoke about Coachella and there are some facts here that you need to get right. First, all speakers had 3 minutes to speak. Second, 225,000 people do not attend Coachella. 75,000 people attended last year. 75,000 per day and these were the same folks each day because the ticket was a three day pass. I also very clearly noted that it was much bigger than the proposed MTK and that it is on a LOT more land which can accomodate 75,000. Third, I did not mention the acts because there was no time. But to single out Kanye is misleading your readers. Check out the line up for the last few years and you will find many, many acts including South Hampton's Roger Waters a few years ago, Prince, Sly, Florence and the MAchine, Little Boots, Neko Case, Phoenix, Muse, Vampire Weekend, Echo and the Bunnymen, the National etc etc. I for one am not a Kanye fan but he is, indeed, playing this year. It is misleading to only single out Kanye as this is a much more diverse festival than that would imply.

    The issue is two fold. First, transparency and information - none of which has been demonstrated by either the promoters or the Town Board either in their decisions or after the fact when logical and pertinent questions have been asked by taxpayers who will be impacted by this festival. The second is experience and safety or, rather experience=greater safety. It is dangerous to call this NIMBY when I and others have raised very legitimate issues concerning safety, traffic and quality of life. If experienced concert promoters can still have a stampede and drugs and alcohol all over the place is it not a logical and fair question to ask the promoters about their experience and how they will deal with such issues appropriately? I would argue it is. So far, in what has been filed with the Town and in responses to these legitimate questions only platitudes and generalities have been provided. That is not acceptable nor does it quell my and others concerns regarding safety and the myriad other concerns raised. As a tax paying citizen I have a right to ask and have answered these questions rather than the "easy out" of those "for" the MTK festival called NIMBY who would prefer not or can't yet provide these important details. Whatever it is, it does not ring true. Rather than jumping to the easy and disingenous conclusion of NIMBY, how about calling for disclosure, information and fact finding? Isn't that how good decisions, conclusions and opinions arrived at rather than filling in the holes after the fact?

    Susan Bratton
  5. print email
    Thank you Susan
    January 30, 2011 | 07:28 PM

    I would like to run your comments in next week's paper if that is appropriate. I took the Conchilla attendance figures from one of its own press releases. I also backed the neighbors of the site and said the town should listen to their concerns. My point was inaccurate statements --like about the number of cars, number of attendees, etc--hurts the cause of the neighbors who have legit concerns. Please let me know if we can print your comments --50,000 readers will see them in the paper.

    Rick Murphy, editor
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