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Holding On

Dear Editor,

My name is Tom Kopka. I have lived in the Town of East Hampton all of my life, as did my mother Julie Kopka (formerly Julie Zylis). I have been married nearly 17 years and we are raising five children on Floyd Street, the same street I grew up on. I work for the Town's Office of Housing & Community Development. I am proud to call myself a 'Local.' I love this community. I have no future plans of moving away or leaving. I have traveled extensively in my lifetime and have yet to find a place even remotely like my hometown. In short, I know exactly why people love to visit and move here. I cannot blame them. This I can understand; what I can't is what has happened to the community that was once here?

That said, I'm going to travel back in time. When I was very young I clearly remember my folks going on and on about stories of their parents. How the community rallied around this person or that or themselves. How people used to help other people and (dare I say it out loud) didn't ask for a single thing in return. My grandparents' and parents' friends used to look at me and say what wonderful people my parents and grandparents were and how they had helped them in some small way. Lord knows what it was all about, I was just a kid but everybody involved always seemed happy, and they always made time for one another, and they always made time to have a good time together.

What the hell happened to all of that!?!? You know, helping people simply because it's the right thing to do, not because it lines your pockets, then having the faith that others will do the same for you if it should ever be needed. By the time I graduated from East Hampton High School in 1988 this place had changed. And since then it has spread like some horrible contagion. Nobody cares about anyone else anymore. I call it "The Green Plague," MONEY!! You don't have money . . . you are not a person! You should move away because you are not worthy to live here!! Everything must be bigger, better, newer and shinier!!! You must outdo the neighbors!!!! When did we become second class citizens in our own hometown? It makes me sick to watch it. People's value should not be measured by their bank rolls.

This pestilence has crept into the local community as well, slowly but surely. The local population can't afford to go out, nobody knows each other anymore. People don't trust each other anymore. Nobody helps anyone anymore. People are too afraid of being taken advantage of, everyone thinks everyone is out to screw each other. People huddle in their homes praying they will make enough to get through next winter, working so hard to get by, they barely see their families, they forget what it is they are working for and families collapse. They count their meager fortunes and talk about their property values. Let me tell you something, my property has only one true value, my wife and children live there. It has no price, it's not for sale. My parents worked hard to have it and they left it to me to look after until my children get their turn. I would rather spend the rest of my life just getting by and have my family by my side as we do it together than have 10 times the amount my house is worth on the open market in my hand.

I have three blessings in my life. First, my family, those who came before me and those I have now and hold so dear. Second, a good job that I love and that allows me to help the local community. And last but certainly not least, a close group of friends that without them I would lose my faith in humanity. I help them, they help me and all we ask in return is each other's company, we see each other through the hard times, through the winters. I think my parents and grandparents would be very happy to see that a small piece of the East Hampton they once knew still lives on, as do the values they worked so hard to teach me. Don't worry Mom & Dad, I'm going to pass it on.

Editor's Note: Another Mouseketeer from The East Hampton Town Housing Department checks in. Do any of you guys do any actual work? So, what's your point? If you don't want the money the town pays you (which comes from our property taxes) you can send it to Editor Murphy so he can build a wall between his house and the ugly affordable house you're putting up next door to him. Or better still, move that house to Floyd Street and we'll all be lovey dovey.

June 27, 2006

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