Hold To Account - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2262270

Hold To Account

Strong opposition to the blighted Liberty Gardens housing development continued until moments before finally being voted down by the Town Board [“Southampton Town Board Denies Zone Change for Liberty Gardens,” 27east.com, June 12]. Petitions with over 500 signatures were handed over before the vote, to be added to the thousands on file.

Within minutes of the vote, the ego- and money-driven developer was threatening lawsuits and sanctimoniously castigating anyone who opposed his plans with desecrating the memories of the veterans who died at Normandy.

Echoing him was his factotum, Tommy John Schiavoni. Their insistence on omitting uncomfortable truths, framing issues and vilifying the opposition evokes Adlai Stevenson’s comment to Richard Nixon: “Stop telling lies about me, and I will stop telling the truth about you.”

The truth is that, despite craven use by Ralph Fasano of veterans in name, spirit and person, they were never the issue. The truth is, Fasano is funded by the New York State Office of Mental Health, which mandates strict eligibility requirements for the housing he builds and the support required. He and Jay Schneiderman consistently contorted the facts, painting Liberty Gardens as “affordable housing” for local workers — a “solution” to both a housing and traffic “crisis.” It was neither.

The truth is, if housing for the mentally and physically impaired, and those needing to reintegrate into society from prison, addiction or abuse, is proposed — including veterans or not — any responsible governance would, first, establish and document a need for it; second, bring it before the public and be transparent and specific about it; third, find an appropriate location for it; fourth, give the public as much help evaluating it as possible; and, fifth, give the public a real vote in a referendum.

Had any of this happened, this application probably would have been denied in pre-submission. Now thwarted, Fasano is threatening to sue, brandishing the Fair Housing Act — which the public brought to his attention, and the town’s, to counter their elided misinformation. Ironically, taxpayers foot the bills for all of this, including his marketing firm (which employs Bridget Fleming), hiring a former local reporter, and, ultimately, for a lawsuit. All of which should be scrutinized by the state.

“We invited him here,” huffed Schiavoni. Which is where the questions must begin if we don’t want to repeat this reprehensible experience. Who invited him here? When? What was assured him when he accepted that “invitation”? Who attended initial meetings? Was he in accord with characterizing the inevitable opposition as “NIMBYISM” by a “small but voluble group” of anti-veteran elites? Was he encouraged to barnstorm a public meeting with busloads of veterans told that people didn’t want them to have housing?

We pay the cost, so we must continue to question and hold them to account.

Frances Genovese