Stargazer,” the famed but storm-damaged sculpture in Manorville that is considered locally as the gateway to the Hamptons, was saved this year. Lindenhurst-based orthopedic surgeon Dr. Harvey Manes of the Manes American Peace Prize Foundation presented a $100,000 check in September to David Morris, who fabricated “Stargazer” with his late life partner, artist Linda Scott. The donation will help fund the beloved artwork’s much-needed restoration. The 50-foot-tall sculpture of a deer head glancing toward the heavens with a branch in its mouth has been increasingly weather worn since being erected three decades ago. The metal, wood and stucco sculpture located on a sod farm off Route 111 incurred some of its worst damage when Tropical Storm Isaias left its frame partially exposed last year.
The never-ending debate over the future of the East Hampton Airport in Wainscott took a few steps closer to a resolution. Of the options that a town consultant laid out before the council, the majority of the board signaled they preferred temporarily closing the airport in order to convert the facility from public use to private use, which would pave the way for enacting new restrictions, officials said. The change would allow the town to enact curfews and aircraft size limits, but it is unclear exactly how long the airport would need to shutter for the switch to occur. All eyes have been on the issue since its Federal Aviation Administration grant assurances expired in September, lifting limits on the town’s ability to potentially close the airport or issue new rules. Airport proponents maintain that closing the airport would negatively affect the local economy. Critics argue that the airport needs to be closed to resolve noise complaints and environmental issues.
In a story that garnered national attention, Southampton-based Tate’s Bake Shop workers voted on whether or not they should unionize. Some workers and labor leaders accused management of trying to intimidate immigrant staffers — allegations that the company vigorously denied. The National Labor Relations Board found May 13 that 354 of Tate’s workers voted against joining Amalgamated Local 298 AFL-CIO, a Valley Stream-based union that represents workers in manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and other industries. Twelve voted to join the union and 37 ballots were contested. The union challenged the results. Tate’s was founded by Kathleen King, who got her start selling the popular homemade cookies at an East End farm stand in the 1970s. King sold the company for $500 million in 2018 to Illinois-based Mondelēz International, Inc., the parent company of Oreo, Nabisco, Ritz and other snacks, which reported $27 billion in revenue last year.
The majority of the East End’s 15 town and village governments passed legislation opting out of allowing the sale of newly legalized recreational marijuana within their borders this year. New York State legalized recreational marijuana possession and consumption in March, but towns and villages had until December 31 to decide whether to opt out of allowing pot sales. The towns of Shelter Island, East Hampton and Southold opted out along with the villages of East Hampton, Dering Harbor, Greenport, Quogue, Southampton, Sagaponack, and Westhampton Beach. The Town of Riverhead rejected an opt-out proposal, and the Town of Southampton declined to vote on the issue, opting in by default. The villages of North Haven and West Hampton Dunes said they declined to take action since they have no commercial entities. Growing, consuming and possessing marijuana remains legal in the towns and villages that opted out of allowing sales.
A series of eight overdoses, six of which proved fatal, in August were connected to a batch of fentanyl-laced cocaine on the North Fork and Shelter Island, authorities said. Over eight days, between August 5 and 13, seven of the overdoses, five of them fatal, were on the North Fork, while the eighth overdose and sixth death occurred on Shelter Island. The East End Drug Task Force arrested Greenport resident Lavain Creighton, who allegedly sold the lethal cocaine to two overdose victims, and Justin Smith of Smithtown, was also charged in possible connection with the case. The case prompted candlelight vigils and officials to urge New York State lawmakers to pass legislation that would make it possible to charge drug dealers with felony homicide, in either the first or second degree, with a sentencing minimum of 15 years to life and a maximum of 25 years to life, if the drugs they sell cause people to die.
Three tornadoes hit the East End on November 13 during a freak storm that whipped up an unprecedented six twisters across Long Island in the same day, the National Weather Service said. Of the Twin Forks area tornadoes, one blew from Hampton Bays to North Sea, another tore up neighborhoods from Remsenburg on its way to Westhampton, and the strongest of the six across the Island traveled from Shirley to Manorville. The Manorville twister clocked in as an EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale that ranks tornado strength, with 110 mph winds, while the other two were EF0, with estimated 85 mph winds — same as the other three that hit up-island. Long Island’s prior record is three tornadoes in one day, which occurred in 1998. The event marks the first tornado to touch down on the Island since one hit Manorville on Labor Day in 2019. A year prior to that, the Island saw two tornadoes a month apart on Fishers Island and in Ronkonkoma, and a small tornado also hit Mattituck in 2016.
Hitting high gear was the debate over whether Truck Beach, a disputed stretch of Napeague beach popular with fishermen and daytrippers, is private property as the legal dispute bounced around the court system. The New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, denied in September the Town of East Hampton’s motion to hear an appeal of a lawsuit the town lost when an earlier appeals ruling found the public is not allowed to drive on and fish from the beach in front of the oceanfront property owners’ homes, effectively ending a lawsuit over the issue. But then, 14 fishermen were charged with trespassing when they drove onto the beach in October during an act of civil disobedience protesting the ruling. The homeowners who won the lawsuit then asked to have the charges moved from East Hampton Town Justice Court to Suffolk County Supreme Court, so the judge who originally heard the lawsuit could hear the case.
A plan to build New York State’s first offshore wind farm off the East End coast took a step forward in November when federal regulators delivered key approvals that advance the planned construction project. The U.S. Department of Interior approved the construction and operations of the planned 130-megawatt South Fork Wind project, which would include a dozen turbines built 35 miles off the coast of Montauk that generate enough electricity to power 70,000 homes. The state Public Service Commission approved in March a plan to connect a 7.6-mile, 138,000-volt transmission line from the South Fork Wind farm 30 feet under the beach in Wainscott, and linking to a substation in the Town of East Hampton. Some Wainscott residents seeking to block the line petitioned East Hampton town, which previously approved the power line, for a vote to incorporate as a village, to help fight the construction, but the petition was ruled invalid. Village proponents later sued the Town of East Hampton in Suffolk County court.
The Shinnecock Indian Nation is rolling the dice on renewed plans to build a casino, announcing in February that it plans to start consructing a gaming facility on its Southampton reservation. The Shinnecock, which previously cleared five acres of land to build a casino on tribal land in 2003, and then tried reviving that stalled effort a decade ago after winning federal recognition, is betting it will have better luck now. “We feel that we have all our ducks in a row this time,” Shinnecock Chairman Bryan Polite told reporters earlier this year. If successful, it would be the second gaming facility in Suffolk County, where Jake’s 58 Hotel & Casino opened in Islandia in 2017. Dubbed Shinnecock Casino Hamptons, it would be what’s known as a Class II gaming facility — as approved last summer by the National Indian Gaming Commission — meaning that like Jake’s 58, there would only be slot machines and electronically controlled table games, and no live dealers.
The winds of change brought in some fresh faces to the East End’s political scene. In June, Sag Harbor Village Trustee James Larocca unseated Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy by a 22-vote margin in a campaign that hinged on debate over redevelopment in the village’s downtown waterfront. In November, a surge of Republican voter turnout, dubbed a “red wave,” allowed the GOP to flip the majority of the Shelter Island Town Board from Democratic control, capture the lone Democratic-held seat on the Riverhead Town Board, and pick up a few seats in the Town of Southampton. And up-island, Republican Ray Tierney unseated first-term Democratic Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini. But in the Town of Southold, Democrats flipped a pair of GOP-held seats to form a tie in that North Fork municipality. More change is on the horizon, since U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who represents the East End, emerged this year as the GOP frontrunner in the 2022 gubernatorial race. This means that next year, Twin Forks voters will likely elect a new congressional representative for the first time in seven years.
Multiple Hamptons ties emerged from the biggest story of the year in New York State: Disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigning in September after being accused of sexually harassing 11 women. The former governor’s self-imposed exile from Albany has reportedly been spent living with a friend in the Hamptons. In addition, CNN fired his brother, former Cuomo Prime Time host and Southampton resident Chris Cuomo, after the New York State Attorney General’s office revealed documentation showing the broadcaster used his sources to help his brother counter news coverage of the scandal. That came after it was previously disclosed that the journalist took part in strategy sessions with the former governor’s team to brainstorm how to respond to the allegations. The ex-governor is facing a charge in Albany court stemming from one accuser, but Nassau County prosecutors declined to press charges from another.