Hold Still, Wainscott

Dan Rattiner

About 650 people live in the hamlet of Wainscott. Some of these people have passed around a petition. They want to incorporate and make the hamlet a village. The reason they want to do this is widely known and involves underground electric powerlines. But this reason is not important to this story. 

This story is about how elusive Wainscott has proven to be. It is like a bluefish you just pulled out of the water. It squirms around this way and that, trying to get loose. It wants to get away. Hard to imagine that a hamlet could be compared to a fish.

The thing is, for a hamlet to become a village it has to follow certain procedures. Those wishing to make it so must fill out forms and submit them to the town within which it lies to get permission to have the hamleteers vote yay or nay. Accompanying it has to be a map showing the metes and bounds of the borders of that place. And that’s where the squirming comes in.    

In December 2020, the lawyers for Wainscott submitted the map and the attendant papers to the Town of East Hampton to get such permission. Part of the map, on the eastern side, was a good-sized chunk of the neighboring Village of Sagaponack.    

Sagaponackers are mostly gentle and kind, but declaring a piece of that village a part of Wainscott was a declaration of war.   

The lawyers had also gotten overenthusiastic with mapping out the eastern side of Wainscott. They decided to include the 60-acre Ron Perelman estate on Georgica Pond.   Everybody knows that the estate is in East Hampton. The property has been in East Hampton since 1648. Perelman certainly would not approve of the takeover. And he’s got the bucks to prevent it. You can’t just willy nilly say it’s in Wainscott.   

People who read history are familiar with Herr Hitler’s demands in the 1930s to expand Germany’s borders into the countries immediately surrounding it. He grasped Austria. He wanted pieces of Russia. None of that flew either, although it took seven years and a lot of big military battles.

Obviously, East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc would have to reject the Wainscott application. Instead, he sent it back to the petitioners with notes.  

A few weeks later, a second application, revised somewhat, was humbly presented to the town by the lawyers for Wainscott. The lawyers had squeezed Wainscott down some.    The new map showed them backing off seizing the land in Sagaponack. The deep woods to the north didn’t go up quite as far. And they had set Ron Perelman’s estate free.    

But as a result of this, many Wainscotteers who were formerly living inside the expanded hamlet were tossed out in the cold, abandoned by the very hamlet they hoped to be part of. Sacre Bleu!  

Some said there was a solution to this. A mass migration of these cast-out people could be organized. Carrying their belongings and furniture the few hundred yards, they could get back inside the newly revised village line. If the United States could handle those crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico, surely the people of Wainscott could shelter the arriving refugees now in a foreign land home. It would be the right thing to do.

Much to everyone’s surprise, however, East Hampton Town Supervisor Van Scoyoc rejected this more modest request for permission to vote. Down went the Van Scoyac gavel. Thus, the second request for the now-shriveled-up and revised Village of Wainscott was tossed out the window.    

Where does it go from here?    

The lawyers for the incorporation effort were outraged at this decision. They described the rejection as manufactured and incomprehensible. One of them vowed they would file a third petition, a fourth petition and even a fifth petition, if necessary. Lawsuits were in the cards. Appeals to higher courts were in the cards.

“We will fight them,” one lawyer said, or that’s what I think he said; I have the notes.  

To paraphrase British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill’s World War II speech: “We will fight them on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air; we shall defend Wainscott, whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

And in the end, even if all of Wainscott slips away to just 1 square foot of land upon which only a single lawyer and perhaps his assistant could stand, they shall prevail.