Gold Stars and Dunce Caps - 27 East

Gold Stars and Dunce Caps

Editorial Board on Sep 6, 2023

GOLD STAR To the Southampton School District, for recognizing its demographic make-up and creating a world language program that helps mirror it. Students who are not native English speakers are typically treated as a problem to be dealt with in many school districts. In Southampton, they’ve turned that notion on its head, embracing the diversity and making it a strength. The district was an early adopter of a dual language program and recently celebrated a recent graduate, Bilma Pedro, becoming the first student to earn the New York State Seal of Biliteracy in her native language, Q’anjob’al, spoken in Guatemala. It’s a strategy that benefits all students and breaks down barriers.

GOLD STAR To Hamptons Pantry Pickup, a smart, sensible effort to direct perfectly good resources away from dumpsters and into the hands of families in need. Started by East Hampton law partners Thomas Crouch and Jameson McWilliams, with help from brokers at Compass, the volunteers made part-time residents an offer: As you’re cleaning out, contact us and we’ll haul away all the leftover food and other household items you don’t need, and deliver them to the Springs Food Pantry and the Kids Closet at the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center. A terrific idea at a time when local food pantries are facing increased demand. Perhaps other communities can copy the idea next summer, both here and in seasonal resorts farther afield.

DUNCE CAP To the East Hampton Town Architectural Review Board, for enforcing a far too restrictive idea of “aesthetics” in Amagansett. Rowdy Hall was an iconic part of East Hampton’s downtown, and it wants to bring its trademark black facade to its new digs in Amagansett’s business district. The ARB says “branding” isn’t a reason to allow such a marked departure from the buildings around it, which are nearly uniformly white. “This strikes me as a pub in London,” one ARB member said. In fact, the simple all-black design, with gold lettering and a touch of red in places, would complement its surroundings even as it is clearly identifiable as a pub — which defines aesthetics better than a blank canvas of uniform white. The ARB is overthinking this. Let Rowdy Hall paint it black.

GOLD STAR For Missy Hargraves, an animal rescuer with the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, who has given wild animals, large and small, a new lease on life. Like other volunteers with the center, Hargraves spends a great deal of time volunteering, driving around to scoop up wounded creatures and get them to the center for care. She recently spoke on the “27Speaks” podcast about a save of an osprey in Water Mill, but that only scratches the surface of her commitment to the cause: She likes to talk about the time she saved a mouse. She does it with grace and good humor, making her a wonderful ambassador to the animal kingdom, and a valued member of the community.

DUNCE CAP To U.S. Representative Nick LaLota. We’d like to give the freshman legislator some love, but his partisan, hard-line approach to the ongoing migrant crisis in New York City unfortunately puts him in league with the most xenophobic voices and out of sync with the values of many South Fork residents. We appreciate that LaLota tried to tone down some of the really cruel and dehumanizing GOP talking points on immigrants, but for somebody who still doesn’t even live in the district he was elected to represent, you’d think he would be a little more accommodating to border-crossing migrants.

GOLD STAR To the Shinnecock Nation, for another successful Powwow. The Labor Day weekend celebration has become a beloved East End tradition, not just for tribe members but for the whole community, which gets an opportunity to learn more about Native American culture and to share fellowship with neighbors who have been here for centuries. It’s a wonderful event, and the perfect social activity to bring the summer season to a close each year.

GOLD STAR To Southampton Village resident Peter Marino, for his offer to design, gratis, a new park envisioned for the west side of Lake Agawam. It will be a wonderful addition to the village and far better than the alternative: more private estates, maintained with chemical fertilizers, next to the polluted lake. The new park will have the opposite effect on the lake, as it will include elements designed to capture and filter nutrient-loaded stormwater runoff, which is just one of the many benefits this park will offer. And with Marino’s internationally recognized skills in landscape design, it undoubtedly will be a treat for the senses. It’s a generous offer from one of the village’s biggest supporters.

GOLD STAR To John Nicholas of East Hampton Oyster Company, and now East Hampton Shucker Company, whose new tool makes opening oysters safe and easy — two things that opening oysters has never been. Enjoying fresh oysters is one of the many benefits of living on the East End, and if it can be done by amateur shuckers without a trip to the emergency room, all the better.

GOLD STAR To Father Alex Karloutsos of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons, and other clergy from the church, for standing up against members of the Russian Orthodox Church who have punished clergy members of that church for opposing the war in Ukraine. Through the years, religion has too often had an ugly connection to war, justifying violence and oppression. Clergy must be compelled to speak from their hearts, and call out unjustified aggression, and those who do should be praised for their courage.

GOLD STAR To Westhampton War Memorial Volunteer Ambulance Chief Bob Bancroft and members of the Westhampton Water Rescue Team, for helping to keep our western waters safe for swimmers and water enthusiasts. At the close of a busy summer, thanks are due to these men and women who kept watch over vacationers and local residents.

GOLD STAR To the East Hampton Town Board and government, for helping to preserve a disappearing way of life for local farmers. Using Community Preservation Fund revenue, the board has purchased two local homesteads to be leased out to young farmers at a reasonable rate, as long as they promised to farm the land and keep the tradition alive. Land prices are making a historic way of life nearly untenable here; this program is a great way to both protect the land from overdevelopment and protect the agricultural community by nurturing the next generation of farmers to watch over it.

DUNCE CAP To state officials, for creating a tinderbox on Napeague. Miles of dead pitch pines, still standing, are surrounded by the remains of other trees felled because of infestation by southern pine beetles. It has the feel of a job half done — and a situation just waiting for a discarded cigarette, or a stray spark from a passing train wheel, to start a conflagration. The beetle infestation must be dealt with, but it seems shortsighted not to acknowledge the risks of wildfire. Finish the job.

DUNCE CAP To people who continue to release helium-filled party balloons into the sky, where they float out over the ocean, posing a deadly threat to endangered sea turtles, ocean sunfish and innumerable sea birds. If you insist on toasting someone’s birthday, engagement or baby shower with clusters of mylar balloons, at least make sure they end up in the garbage. And shame on any store that sells balloons and does not clearly relay that message when they hand them over.

DUNCE CAP To anti-wind farm protesters who say that work on wind farms should be halted to protect whales — but never utter a peep in support of “slow zones” for ships in areas where whales are known to be congregating. While the fervor with which the multibillion-dollar offshore wind industry is exploding is concerning, and certainly any potential impacts on whales, especially endangered northern right whales, should be investigated thoroughly and mitigation enforced vigorously, so far there is zero evidence — zero — that the surveying or construction of wind farms have lead to the death of a single whale. Meanwhile, ship strikes are unequivocally and undeniably the cause of the majority of the reported whale deaths, and researchers have shown that simply forcing boats to slow down to 10 mph will reduce strikes. Stop wasting energy on phantom threats and fight what’s actually killing whales.

GOLD STAR To Eastport equestrian Sadie Berkhout. The high schooler has succeeded in a sport that can be almost impossible to break into without enormous financial privileges, and she’s done it the old-fashioned way — through hard work. Berkhout makes the long trek from her home in Eastport to Northern Ridge Stables in Water Mill nearly every day, up early to care for horses, dispensing medicines to animals, feeding them, caring for them, cleaning saddles and bridles, filling out horse show entry forms, and corralling the child riders at the barn. She does it all, according to her trainer, Merry Harding. She works just as hard at improving as a rider — and that hard work paid off on a big stage at the Hampton Classic. She had a banner week, picking up an armful of blue ribbons and championship tri-colors on three different horses. In a sport that has a reputation for being open to the elite only, it is refreshing to see a hardworking, local teenager from a middle class background, with a pure love for horses, step into the winner’s circle.

GOLD STAR To the late, great Jimmy Buffett, who was not just an amazing musician but also an amazing part of East End life. Despite his fame and fortune, Buffett supported the community and often took time to show up and lend a hand to help local organizations in fundraising efforts or by taking the stage to play a few songs. Raise a margarita in his memory. His presence will be sorely missed.

GOLD STAR To Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, for intervening in the effort to produce a master plan for the park on the former Lovelady Powell property in North Haven Village. Honestly, it’s helped to have an adult in the room: The discussion about the park’s future has been marred by personality clashes that have threatened the park’s progress. If a plan comes to fruition, Schiavoni should get a measure of credit for making that happen.