Dan Rattiner's Stories

Little Hamptons Stories: Heliport, April Gornik, Leaf Blower Ban and More

There are lots of little stories in the local news this fall.

There are lots of little stories in the news this fall.

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The Village of East Hampton voted to stop landscape companies from using gasoline-powered leaf blowers between June 1 and Labor Day next summer because of the unbearable noise they make. It makes a certain amount of sense. The rest of the year, the leaves scatter. But in summer, the leaves are tightly stuck to the trees. So why blow at them?

This is especially bad news for the leaf hockey leagues, where teams of leaf blowers in full padded regalia battle a single leaf back and forth between two properties for prizes. It’s one less exciting thing for spectators. Interestingly, there can be an exception to the new rule. If the Town Supervisor declares a town-wide emergency, the games can go on.

One imagines thousands of leaf-blowing protesters at the Town Hall gates. That could do it.

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A helicopter service company named Analar has been banned from landing or taking off at East Hampton Airport for 90 days. They did something bad. [Landed at night and blinded everybody by keeping their headlights on high beams or flew too low. Not sure.] This should be a wake-up call for all the other airlines to obey the rules at all times. Ninety days can be an eternity for an airline.

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When Matthew Hunt, a 21-year-old surfing dude from Arizona (Arizona has surf?) lost his job, he decided to try his luck in the Hamptons, and decided to move here. But how would he pay the astronomic rents out here? He solved this problem by buying a used sailboat on eBay for $700 dollars and planned on living on it off Montauk. Great idea.

Towne Cellars leaderboard 2019

He was on it, happy as a clam, for only a few hours last week when winds sprang up, his engine wouldn’t start and the tide, despite his best efforts, sank his sailboat. Local mariners came to his rescue, though, and once ashore he got a job at Ed’s Lobster Bar in Sag Harbor as a waiter. He was temporarily living with Doug Kuntz, a photographer who works for The East Hampton Star, so it’s one of those exclusive stories that lands in a newspaper’s lap. Sounds like a GoFundMe situation.

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Mark Madden, a Sag Harbor property owner, has been trying since last June to get permission from the zoning board there to build a house higher than the law allows. So he came in with plans and got refused, then came back with new plans showing it slightly modified but still too tall for the board and got refused.

Last week, his lawyer Alex Kreigsman said this had been going on long enough, all the concessions were off the table and they were back with the original and highest application. Kriegsman then told the board it was against the law for them to tell him he had to talk to the neighbors. Is a lawsuit in the future? Sounds like a winning strategy.

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If you drive west out the three-mile-long Meadow Lane peninsula in Southampton, you see the bay on your right and great mansions on your left atop sand dunes, with the ocean beach beyond. Halfway out is a tiny helicopter pad where, noisily, helicopters land and take off. This pad has been there forever, or at least since helicopters came on the scene 70 years ago, and so it’s grandfathered in and nobody complains about the racket it makes anymore.

The wealthy neighbors now perceive the racket as an affirmation of their exclusive status. It’s the only other legal place to land a helicopter east of the canal other than at East Hampton Airport. Now some locals have decided to pretty it up. They’re paying to pave the adjacent gravel parking area. Maybe bring in lots of flowers. Can a concierge be far behind?

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Nearly all the Main Streets in our towns go back to the 1600s. White churches and windmills dot the landscape. But now the pedestrians have won (as they should). Frequent neon-yellow signs and bright flashing lights tell drivers to stop when someone steps into a crosswalk somewhere. But the residents of Montauk furiously objected when such devices were put into their town last spring. For some reason, the blinking lights and signs were put in way too high, almost as high as the street lights. Were these to tell you to stop for giants? Jolly Green Giants seeking to cross the street? They dominated the landscape. Finally, the town lowered them. Good news for parents with baby carriages, dogs, tourists and surfer dudes.

Reminds me of a time, maybe three years ago, when the State of New York used taxpayer money to put up these huge billboards at the borders of the state, welcoming those from elsewhere to the joys of arriving in New York. One billboard found its way to Montauk. You’d drive hours and hours to get to the farthest reaches of the state, to be welcomed as a new arrival in New York. A groundswell from the public got this idiocy removed.

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Wind farm on the water
Wind farm on the water, Photo: iStock.com

A company has gotten approval to build a wind farm out in the ocean off Montauk, so far away you won’t see it. The power from it will reportedly light up 50,000 homes, which is probably every home in the Hamptons. But where shall the underground cable from the wind farm come ashore? Certainly not in our backyard, say residents of where it was proposed in Wainscott. Why not in Hither Hills, the Wainscotters demanded. Oh yeah? Well, not in Hither Hills, the Hither Hillians replied. The wind farm people haven’t made the final decision yet, but they did announce last week that they’d be setting up an operations and maintenance facility next to Inlet Seafood on East Lake Drive in Montauk. Oh yeah?

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A family in East Hampton bought a small home on the dunes at 33 Lily Pond Lane—nothing special, a few picture windows, a deck, a boardwalk to the beach—but then proposed to tear it down to build a bigger home. There were objections and the family announced they would not tear it down. Hooray. But then soon after, they changed their minds. Booo.

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April Gornik in her North Haven studio
April Gornik in her North Haven studio

April Gornik, the celebrated painter who lives in Sag Harbor, has spearheaded the funding for turning a big old former church into a civic center and the burned down Sag Harbor Cinema into something bigger and better than ever. She is so good for that community that suggestions are being floated around town to pass a law preventing either her or her husband from ever moving away.

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Seven years ago, the Springs Fire Department had an emergency in that community because they didn’t have a proper communications tower to make sure all calls for help got through. In addition, cell phone service in the area was spotty. So they put up a 150-foot tower at the firehouse. But it’s never been used. The Town of East Hampton said it was put up without site plan approval and the ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) revoked the building permit, according to The East Hampton Star, and the fire district filed a lawsuit.

Now there are, finally, two more proposed towers on the table, one in the 100-acre Camp Blue Bay nearby and the other a 180-foot tower to replace the unused 150-foot one. But the Blue Bay one will cost taxpayers rental fees, and the 180-foot one has some neighbors objecting, so here we’ve got three underway, none up or being used, and the emergency situation continues.

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East Hampton railroad overpass trestle
Photo: Dan Rattiner

What is surely the biggest transportation project in the Hamptons is nearing completion. For two years, the Long Island Rail Road has been working to raise the trestle at North Main Street from 11 feet above the road to 14 feet above the road. Tall trucks had been hitting this trestle or getting stuck under it at an average of 17 a year for years. The Village keeps score.

Now, North Main Street will be closed to traffic off and on during the next four weeks as two enormous 40-foot-tall cranes jack things up. Railroad passengers will hardly feel the three-foot climb up and then back down when it’s done. But the truckers down below will have to get taller trucks if they want to keep up the kill rate.

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