The debate over whether the petition to incorporate East Quogue as a village is legally sufficient has left Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and members of the town attorney’s department with a lot of work to do.
Claims that the petition was based off a list of regular inhabitants that include people who no longer live in East Quogue — or are even dead — were raised at a public hearing on the matter at East Quogue Elementary School Monday, May 13.
The approximately 100 residents in attendance seemed split, with some backing opponents and others members of the East Quogue Village Exploratory Committee, which brought the petition to Schneiderman April 3.
William Kearns claimed that the list of regular inhabitants in the village contained the names of 35 people who are deceased. Elizabeth Jackson said she personally knows 13 have died. The pair also said the total number of hamlet residents was never even listed in the petition’s cover letter, or on any of the other documents submitted. Jackson said she assumes the numbers presented to achieve the 20% needed to push the petition forward was based off a list that of residents, which she and Kerns were referencing.
“We need to have some accuracy,” Jackson added.
The committee’s choice of notary was also questioned by Kearns, a member of the Southampton Protection Water Alliance and Long Island Pine Barrens Society. Cynthia McNamara, a member of the exploratory committee who also signed the petition, notarized every page.
“This puts the entire petition in jeopardy,” Kearns said.
Jackson, a 2000 graduate of Westhampton Beach High School, said she also knows names of former classmates are on the list of regular inhabitants that no longer live in their childhood homes or even New York State.
She added residents were concerned about the origin of the incorporation committee, saying the word committee implies it was a group designated for the task. She said she had also heard that some people assumed when they signed the petition, it was to promote further study of the matter and not to bring forth a vote.
Joseph Sinacola wanted to try to set the record straight on that topic by discussing his personal experience with members of the committee before signing.
“It was clearly delineated to me when I signed the petition of what I was signing for,” he said. “And in no way did I feel there was any pressure to sign, nor did I feel I was tricked into signing something. I also want to point out that when I attended one of the public meetings the committee put forth the members did a really wonderful job explaining, actually beyond what I expected.”
Victoria Greenbaum requested Schneiderman reject the petition because she claims there was no formal notification, and that the community members need more knowledge on what incorporation would mean before signing a petition. She said there are too many unanswered questions regarding cost and ramifications.
Ronald Campsey, a 41-year resident, and Vito Gentile, asked residents to look at incorporating as a way to bring the community together, and help it grow.
“When you move to a small community, it’s our moral responsibility to be a part of that community and do as much as you can for each other,” Campsey said. “This is a beautiful for place for us to live and we have the potential, but so few people want to give this the energy to make it work.”
Karen Kooi, co-chair of the exploratory committee, said her 15-member group presented nothing but the facts.
“We decided early on that we would collect signatures that were verifiable at the county level by voter registration data,” she said. “We checked every signature by first verifying a resident’s name and address and in the most current Suffolk County voter registration lists available. We used this date along with Southampton Town tax map information to know exactly how many residents are in East Quogue.”
The supervisor must decide within 10 days of the hearing being closed. Schneiderman adjourned the matter to obtain more comments until Monday, May 20, at the elementary school. The hearing can be adjourned one more time after that, it would need to be closed within 20 days of the first hearing, which would be Friday, May 31.
“I’m going to do my best to be as factual as possible and review everything as factually as possible,” Schneiderman said. “I have a lot of work ahead.”
Once Schneiderman’s decision has been made, there will be an opportunity to challenge his decision. If, for instance, the petition was denied and the verdict not successfully overturned, future attempts could be made to incorporate.
This version corrects information that the list of regular inhabitants, not signatures on the petition itself, included the names of residents who have since died, or no longer live in East Quogue. It also corrects the spelling of William Kearns’ last name.