Paradise Lost: Sag Harbor Was an Ideal Place & Other Stories

Birdhouse cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

The Ideal Stationery store in Sag Harbor closed last month, and it is rumored that it will be replaced by an upscale women’s clothing store. Thus ends an era. For generations, Sag Harbor has been a wonderful paradise and an ideal place to live. Indeed, the stores by that name sat just a few doors down from one another on Main Street—one, the Paradise Restaurant and the other, the Ideal Stationery store. They were a symbol for all the mom-and-pop shops that anchored Main Street in that town for all that time. CVS proposed to open a branch on Main Street a few years ago, and townspeople rebelled. We already have a pharmacy, they said, the Sag Harbor Pharmacy, and it’s owned by Barry Marcus. Now, however, the owner of the Ideal, Gary Sanders, has retired. And the Ideal Store may become a Henry Lehr, which has branches in Amagansett, East Hampton and Southampton. Paradise became Doppio East last year—Doppio is an upscale Italian eatery with branches in Manhattan, Greenwich and Huntington. Nothing against them, but is Paradise being lost?

Long Island sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean like a baseball bat as hurricanes roar up the coastline from Florida. Sometimes the hurricanes are inside, sometimes outside, and sometimes right in the strike zone.

Every year, the weather service office based at Colorado State University studies the highs and low temperatures, the rainfall, the cloud arrangements, the weather turbulence that occurs in Africa where hurricanes are born, sticks a finger in the air to test the wind direction, and makes a prediction for the upcoming hurricane season.

This is bad news for the Hamptons this year. The reason is during the last 10 years, they’ve almost always gotten it wrong. So the bad news is they are predicting “one of the least active seasons since the middle of the 20th century,” which means, in my book, hang onto your hat, here come the hurricanes.

The average prediction over all the years Colorado has spoken is 12 storms big enough to get names and 2 big enough to be dangerous. This year, they predict 7 named storms, with only 1 classified as “major” hurricane status.

The weather service also released the alphabetical list of names they intend to give to these storms as they come sliding out into the Atlantic from Africa. The first three are Ana, Bill and Claudette. Well, I predict the most dangerous one will be the next one after that, Hurricane Danny. And after that, this service and I go our separate ways. They say that will be it for the season, I say watch out for Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor and Wanda.

Last week, the Town of East Hampton passed new rules restricting the use of East Hampton Airport. These rules, passed to alleviate the loud noise aircrafts make over the homes nearby, will go into effect for the summer at the beginning of the season.

The rules are simple. No aircraft may take off and land at the airport between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. Very noisy aircraft cannot land and takeoff there more than once a week from May 1 to Sept. 30, and not between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.

I spoke to the airport manager Jemille Charlton there today and he gave me a rundown of some of the questions people will want answered about these rules.

How noisy is “noisy?” Aircraft are rated for noise by their builders. One measure is the decibel level of an aircraft while on its approach. If the decibel level rating is 91 decibels or greater on its approach to an airport, it is a noisy aircraft.

If a noisy aircraft is permitted only one take off and landing a week, how will that work? It means exactly what it says. A noisy aircraft can land, it can drop people off, and it can leave. It can only do that once a week.

So it can’t drop you off Friday and then pick you up Monday? Correct. Unless the aircraft remains at the airport and makes it’s only takeoff for the week on Monday. Of course, if it’s a company aircraft, they might send another like it in on Monday. Or if it’s your personal helicopter, you’ll either keep it here or need two.

How will enforcement be done? I’m not sure, but we have cameras out and can monitor and identify the arrival or takeoff of any aircraft here. We can simply look up the aircraft type to see its decibel level designation for its approach. With that information, fines or summonses can be issued. How it will be done, I don’t know. You’d have to ask the ordinance officer.

From what you’ve told me in prior conversations the average number of takeoffs or landing a day in the summertime is about 130. Is that about right? I would say so, more on weekends, less during the week.

And about 1/3rd of them are helicopters? Yes.

People have said this will have a huge economic impact on the community. Others have said it would be minimal. From this information from Jemille Charlton, it is possible to make a rough guess of how many loud noise aircraft a day on average will be restricted to one take off and landing a week and how many aircraft passengers will be inconvenienced. With rare exception, an aircraft will carry somewhere between 1 person (just the pilot) and 12. Let’s be generous and suggest the average is 7. If we have 130 takeoffs and landings a day, deduct 10 because they used to come at night and now do not, deduct half because they are not particularly loud and multiply by 7, you get an answer. That answer is 60 that come and go, divide by 2 because half are for coming and half going, and you wind up with 30 round trips, and that means the total of people flying into East Hampton per day who will have to find other means of getting here is about 210. This is about the equivalent of five Jitney busloads of passengers a day.

A lot? A little? Well, it’s a guess. More might shy away just because there are restrictions. In any case, based on these calculations, fees from arriving and departing aircraft might be impacted by 20 percent in the summertime. And that could have an economic effect on the airport—unless they raise the landing fees 20 percent—or charge new fees, which those who mess with airplanes are used to doing.

I believe our Hamptons population swells from about 50,000 to 200,000 in the summertime. We’ll just have to see how this plays out, which is exactly what the Town intends to do. They will review the ordinances again in the fall.

I don’t know if the new social compact which considers hurtful speech a crime in America has trickled down to our local towns yet, but last week, a 33-year old man from Hampton Bays was arrested by police while handing out white supremacist literature in Hampton Bays. He was arrested not for what the literature said, which was to help matters by joining the KKK, but for not having a permit to give out the leaflets.

Douglas Munker admitted that he was the one who had also put up signs at the Capital One bank ATM machine in that town. One sign had a drawing of a hooded white man pointing at the viewer with the caption under it reading “The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Wants You to Join.” The other said “Stop AIDS,” with an anti-gay image next to it and also said “Wake Up America,” although there was no asleep Uncle Sam person drawn there.

Last summer, flyers were put on driveways on certain streets in Hampton Bays saying bad things about blacks and Jews and immigrants with a KKK invitation, but Mr. Munker said that was not him. He said there are more than 100 KKK members in Hampton Bays and that he had joined the White Knights group just a month ago. And he told the Southampton Press that the anti-white Black Panthers were protected by the first amendment years ago as an advocacy group in the 1960s, but that the same protection does not seem to apply to people of the white races. “We’re not trying to target anyone or hurt anyone, we’re just trying to inform people,” he says.

The KKK advocates burning crosses on the lawns of African-Americans and others, used to advocate hanging people, and Munker personally has been found to have a Google+ account on which he advocates “shoot to kill” on our border with Mexico.

Years ago, the publisher of a New York City weekly newspaper called the West Side Spirit assigned a reporter to set out a blanket on Jobs Lane, sit on it, put a tin cup out and see what happened.

He didn’t last long doing that either, although I don’t think there were any laws specifically they charged him with violating. I don’t think he was there long enough to be considered a loiterer. But he did write a story.

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