East Hampton Town Board Candidates Have Different Visions

Justin Meinken
David Lys, Sylvia Overby, Betsy Bambrick, and Bonnie Brady.

Forgive David Lys if he grows weary. Since entering politics after a stint on the zoning board of appeals, he has been appointed to a town board seat, challenged, had to survive a primary fight and an election, and now must run again — all in less than two years.

This time around, he’s running for a full four-year term on the Democratic Party line and has had to withstand a torrent of criticism from two well-versed challengers.

The town’s plan to consolidate its shellfish hatchery, championed by Lys, is under full-scale attack. The town purchased the property for the project, 36 Gann Road, in 2018, for $2.1 million using Community Preservation funds. The property is adjacent to the East Hampton Harbor Master’s facility on Three Mile Harbor. The town already has a shellfish nursery in the area, but the town will be consolidating the hatchery and nursery operation into one facility, and adding an education center.

Betsy Bambrick questioned the lack of an environmental review. “This is zone busting. It’s an enormous project.” Bambrick is a retired town department head that ran animal control for years. She is running on the Independence Party line as part of the Fusion Party.

Bonnie Brady said the board was operating on a false pretext because the oysters wouldn’t have the desired effect of cleansing water as much as claimed. She also said the board was guilty of establishing “a cottage industry” at the expense of the neighborhood.

Brady is head of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, a Montauk resident, and married to a commercial fisherman. She is also running on the Independence Party line as part of the Fusion Party.

Lys said he’s spent a lot of time on the project but his critics question why. Sylvia Overby is a Democratic Party incumbent seeking a third term on the board. She previously served on the planning board for seven years, four as the chair. She supports the Gann Road project and votes with the Democrats almost all the time — the party holds all five seats on the board. That, in itself, has become a campaign issue.

For example, the town board refused to allow the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee to reappoint Simon Kinsella, though he was chosen by the CAC for the advisory board. “If you have a contrary opinion, you get shot down,” Bambrick charged.

“There were other issues” the public isn’t privy to, Overby explained. “He was taken off because he had a strong opinion,” Bambrick responded.

The board more recently overruled the Springs CAC, causing another key member and board critic, David Buda, to resign from the board in protest. Overby said she never asked Buda his party affiliation. The board has been criticized for its lack of knowledge — or more pointedly, lack of transparency — on certain applications.

The owner of a Cross Highway Drive property, listed on the deed as Galaxy Group Investment LLC but identified in public hearings as Michael Novogratz, almost convinced the town board to hand over a swath of land used for a hiking trail until Buda intervened. Galaxy Group stated it was willing to grant the town “scenic, conservation, and trail easement in perpetuity” to a long, narrow stretch of land next to the parcel that is a portion of the Paumanok Path Trail. Buda stepped in and argued that Galaxy didn’t own the land in question in order to grant the easement.

Buda said that the parcel, 58 Cross Highway East, was purchased with the intent to relocate the former residence of architect Francis Fleetwood from its location at 85 Ocean View Lane in Amagansett.

“Did we have no oversight on the legal issues?” asked Bambrick. “Or was it choreographed?”

The biggest divide in town is over Deepwater’s proposed South Fork Wind Farm. Lys was an early critic, and is joined by Bambrick. Brady, also, is a staunch opponent and a dangerous adversary: in her position as representative for the fishing industry, she can hold the wind farm developers to standards that are supposed to ensure our fish stock is not damaged by the wind turbines.

Bambrick questioned why the first wind farm is coming ashore in East Hampton. “Why here? It feels like other people made that decision.”

“The biggest threat to marine life is climate change,” said Overby, who is a supporter of the South Fork Wind Farm. “Moving away from fossil fuel must be the town’s top priority.” Overby said she is looking long term. “I love my community and the people that are in it.”

Lys said he is running for similar reasons. “I grew up in East Hampton Village. I’m 110 percent vested. I’m doing my best moving things forward.”

“Montauk doesn’t have a voice, I feel it’s important to try. We’re at a tipping point,” Brady said.

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