A Roundup: Noise, Aquebogue, Squatters, Police Pay & Communications Towers

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A roundup of local (and not-so-local) stories in the Hamptons and North Fork.

NOISE

On August 20, the Town of Shelter Island is going to hold a public hearing about revising its noise ordinance. The old noise ordinance says you can be ticketed and fined if an event you run makes noises on the island exceeding certain decibel levels. No one objects to this. But there’s an exception to this old law. If your event raises money for charity in excess of $1,000, you are exempt from the noise ordinance.

Officials don’t think any event has abused the old law, but it seems to be rife with loopholes, some say, so it could be abused at any time. I’m pretty sure there will be defenders of the old law at the town meeting, and if there are and if there is shouting and cursing on one side or the other, the meeting could result in a violation and a fine—unless somebody writes a thousand-dollar check to a charity. If that happens and they change the law anyway, they can then discuss whether or not the check to charity could be returned.

AQUEBOGUE

Here’s another public hearing with consequences. A builder is presenting plans for a downtown Aquebogue commercial building that will be two stories high. It seems there has never been a commercial building more than one story high in Aquebogue. It’s a tiny village on the North Fork. This is a big step up. How can we approve a building that is twice as high as any built before? This is an outrage. Soon we will be inundated with proposals for two-story commercial buildings.   And Aquabogue will be changed forever. And how do you get up to that second story anyway?

SQUATTERS

There are several stories in the news this week about renters whose rental lease runs out but they refuse to move. They claim that the federal government’s no-eviction policy during COVID restrictions protects them. Who knows how long they can stay? And where would they go anyway, if they had to leave?

One story involves renters named Stephanie and Paul Pion who, in spite of the fact that their winter rental has ended, are using these no-eviction laws to keep living in a big mansion in Water Mill well into the summer without having to pay the huge, five- or even six-figure monthly rental fees that abound in these parts. The failure of the renters to move out has also hamstrung a proposed $5 million sale of the home. It’s said the buyer has withdrawn his offer.

The second story about a renter who would not leave was front page in The Southampton Press last month. The owner of the house, which is in Hampton Bays, is a woman who lives in Israel who came home expecting to live in her house for the summer since it surely would have been vacated by the tenant after the lease expired. Instead, she found the tenant still in the house refusing to leave, citing the same government regulation.

Eviction notices could be served, but when well defended by lawyers these matters could fail to get into a courtroom until autumn when the season is over. Possession, it is said, is nine-tenths of the law.

The third story is about a woman who moved into a new rental for the summer only to find out that the prior tenant moved out but left something behind. As she was moving in, she heard noises in a bathroom, opened the door and discovered a pet 4-foot-long ball python left by the prior tenant.

How do you move your python if it doesn’t want to leave? The new renter closed the door and called for help, which came and removed the python to some kind of shelter without hurting it, and so the story ended. But it does go to show that renting can be dicey. This took place in Florida, however, but still.

POLICE PAY

For months and months, the mayor of Southampton Village has been telling the village police chief and anybody else who would listen that the chief is paid too much. The chief’s total annual compensation was $248,342 in 2020. (The mayor, in contrast, is paid about $20,000, but it’s a part-time job.)

So, finally, last week, the chief said he’d had enough and stepped down.

But what good will it do? Police chief compensation is about that much everywhere. So he’ll just get a new chief.

It’s also important to consider that one of them can get shot at while just doing his job and the other can’t. Just thinking.

WI-FI IN SPRINGS

The northern part of the hamlet of Springs gets poor Wi-Fi reception because it doesn’t have a 150-foot-tall communications tower. There was one, which was behind the firehouse. But it had been put up without a permit and the court ruled it would have to be dismantled. It’s been a fiasco.

Meanwhile, this newspaper has suggested that a new tower be built as a pop-up, like they have done downtown with some of the clothing stores. We only really get poor service on Friday evening when the summer people all get on the phone at the same time to tell their friends, “I am in the Hamptons.” So why not just have the tower underground and at noon Friday press a button and have it pop up for 10 hours and then go back down into the ground.

My suggestion was meant in jest, but now some people are kind of taking me up on it. They are proposing that a tower be on wheels and get wheeled out into Springs somewhere and get erected for a time. No harm in that, right?

Well, they’ll get chased out of town, that’s what.

It’s also been suggested that the big tower be put up on a five-acre wooded site the town owns in the woods across from the Springs Tavern. And everybody wants to fight that.

I have still a better suggestion. When you take down that unused tower behind the firehouse, use it to start over, but with a permit. Propose it for perhaps 10 feet away from where they first put it up. It would be a new site. People seemed used to seeing it there, a comfort to have new Wi-Fi and an emergency services tower. The community might embrace having it back, urge everybody to vote yes, and so there it will stand again, but 10 feet off to one side of where it was before.

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