Letters to the Editor

05/13/2010 12:00 AM |


A good track record

The natural beauty of our bays, wetlands, oyster beds and osprey nests are all part of everyday life on the North Fork. For this reason, it’s easy for us to feel the pain and sadness that those on the Gulf coast must feel as they witness the environmental destruction done by a gushing underwater oil well.

However, it was interesting to see Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal call for federal government action to deal with this growing calamity. Gov. Jindal has made a political career disparaging what he calls “big Washington” government. Now he has a big problem and who does he call? The feds.

I don’t begrudge his taking this action because, like most really big problems, it takes federal action to find a solution. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see Gov. Jindal on the horns of a dilemma of his own making.

There are those who bad-mouth the federal government, but the challenges of health care, financial reform, immigration, carbon dioxide pollution, global warming and clean energy technology, like the Gulf spill, will not be met without Washington’s involvement. It’s easy to say that the federal government is inefficient, but progress on complex issues is never a straight upward line.

Anyone who has worked in the private sector knows that even effective corporations make big mistakes. They just hide them better. But without strong federal action, how long would slavery have existed? Would our country have been Balkanized by the Civil War? Would segregation have persisted to the current day? Would there have been a GI Bill, TVA or interstate highway system?

If not for Social Security, who would have saved the elderly from living out their retirement years in poverty? And without Medicare, tell me which health insurance company would like to insure a 65 year old with prostate or breast cancer?

No administration in modern history, Democratic or Republican, has pared back the federal government, and that’s for one good reason; All administrations have recognized that it is Washington, D.C. that holds the key to solving our biggest problems and our ability to keep up with the times.

As much as some of us would like, in the words of the Lone Ranger show, to “return to those thrilling days of yesteryear”, it just will not work. The problems we face, much less the solutions we seek, have never been faced before and they will not go away by ignoring them or pretending there are easy, simplistic or painless answers.

We can solve them, but not without federal involvement because there is no other force that can counter the power of private health insurance companies, Wall Street investment houses or lobbyists and large corporations with the big bucks to “buy” laws and politicians.

There is no entity that can provide the economic environment and seed money so private enterprise can make us the world leader in clean, renewable energy. Only the federal government can hammer out a solution to 14 million illegal immigrants.

So we have two choices. We can hobble the federal government and portray it as inherently bad. Or we can recognize that Washington, with all its foibles, still holds the key to solving big problems and decide to make it work better.

We can opt for the illusion that an impotent government will keep us strong or accept the reality that an active federal government is our path to a prosperous, secure future.

I vote for the latter.

Morton Cogen


Better alternatives

It is understandable that there are some people in Orient who would like to be able to tap into public water and not have to fuss with filters. Many of us, having lived in New York or other cities, are used to being able to turn on the water without having to think about it. Now, however, people all over the country are having to think about it. There have been many articles in the New York Times and elsewhere about the deteriorating quality of public water distribution, and the fact that regulating agencies like the EPA have been under-regulating some pollutants and not addressing others.

We have two problems with the Suffolk County Water Authority, apart from our concern about development. One is with their (or the health department’s) regulations. Customers not satisfied with the service are not permitted to “opt out” and all new construction or alterations involving water, like a new bathroom, are required to hook up and are forbidden from accessing the aquifer. This elimination of the freedom of choice is unconstitutional. Everyone should have the right to make their own decisions. If at least 40 percent of Orient residents express a wish to hook up with SCWA, the Town should revisit its decision against expanding the water map to Orient.

The other problem we have is with the quality of SCWA water. The addition of chlorine, which is potentially carcinogenic, addresses the bacteria that grows within SCWA pipes. Nitrates are reduced by blending water high in nitrogen with water from different wells. All SCWA water is well water since there are no reservoirs on Long Island.

Most SCWA water is treated only with activated carbon filters, which many of us already use with our own wells. Only one SCWA well is treated with reverse osmosis. A high degree of protection is achieved with reverse osmosis filters, which many people in Southold Town have installed to remove the chlorine and other contaminants from SCWA water. SCWA water is a “blunt instrument” and their treatment options are controlled by financial considerations.

It may be that after studying the situation many people will prefer to install their own filtration systems, almost certainly at less expense than hooking up to the water authority. They may find that changing filters once a year will provide more reliably clean water than that provided by SCWA.

Freddie Wachsberger


A helluva gardener

I learned with great sorrow of the death of Charlie DeVoe, a friend and neighbor for thirty years. While his obituary was complete in fact, it fell short on back story.

To say “he enjoyed gardening” is true. But Charlie was more than a gardener, he was a gardening genius. He was actually able to grow artichokes! (Well, for one season, but hey.)

His one-acre vegetable garden was a legend in Orient and environs. Folks by the hundreds would visit Charlie’s garden each year to marvel at the fruits of his labor and to enjoy his largesse. He must have given away five hundred pounds of prime produce every season.

I once mentioned to him that I liked lima beans. Several weeks later I discovered a mountain of limas — uprooted plants included — in my driveway.

I’ll miss you, Charlie.

Joel Lauber


Sacrificing history

Having read your recent article regarding the Ramone house in Orient, I was extremely surprised and disappointed by the comments of Freddie Wachsberger and the Ramone family regarding the house on Village Lane.

You would think that Ms. Wachsberger, as a former president of the Oysterponds Historical Society, would understand that “an organic, living streetscape” is exactly what a properly created historic district does not permit.

The whole purpose of an historic district is to preserve a streetscape that is not interrupted by modern buildings and other inappropriate additions. The massing, design, details and size of buildings are regulated in such districts so that no structure will ruin the historic vistas and period feel of the location.

Ms. Ramone’s statements reported by The Suffolk Times make it sound like she wants, and expects, different treatment based upon her ancestry, which should not be allowed. Simply because she is considered a “local” does not mean she should be able to do what she wants.

Everyone who lives here is entitled to equal treatment under the law, regardless of where they were born or from whom they are descended.

Geoffrey Fleming

Mr. Fleming is the director of the

Southold Historical Society.


It’s coming our way

Greece, the nation that gave us democracy and philosophy some 2000 years ago, gave us another gift this week in TV images of adults rioting when their “benefits” were threatened.

Imagine your feelings if you could no longer retire at 53, or no longer get a bonus of two months of salary for each 12 months of “work.” The bankruptcy of the nation would hardly be a good reason to reconsider your anger.

Why is this a gift? We, the most powerful nation on earth, or so we’ve been told, are on the same path, just not as far along the path as Greece. Seeing our real future is difficult when dreams of equality, fairness, safety nets, universal healthcare, consumer protection and affordable housing are being promulgated from our highest offices. But rioting in the streets does make a strong impression.

Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, wisely observed, “… Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They (socialists) always run out of other people’s money.”

May God bless America and restore personal responsibility.

Gunther Geiss


A piece of history

To all you ex and present submariners out there, before it’s too late, let your voices be heard loud and clear.

The hamlet of New Suffolk in Southold Town, the home of the first submarine base and where the first submarine, the USS Holland, was commissioned, is in the process of change of ownership and future site planning.

Your voices and ideas should be part of this site plan. A proper memorial to honor all those submariners who went to sea and never returned is the least to be expected.

American history was made at this submarine base. Let’s protect and preserve it and memorialize all those who gave their lives in the “silent service.”

Jack McGreevy


Orient personified

Harry Burden was among the first people I met when I arrived in Orient over 30 years ago.

He represented what Orient was all about back then, dedicated to his church, his community, his family and his country. He and his bride Peg were always welcoming when we passed through Singer Island in Florida where Sarah was fascinated by the concept of picking your breakfast fruit in the back yard.

He left Orient close to two decades ago, but somehow in my minds eye neighbors like him still walk the streets for me and create a balance of what our town was, what it is and what the future holds.

I know that the “old timers” here extend their sympathy to Sandy Hands, Cleo Tabor and Mark and Howard Burden on the loss of their dad and brother.

Carol Gillooly


The simple truth

Let them play politics with our money, health, property rights. But when they start messing with the environment, it is time to start a citizens for truth organization.

Fact #1: The best water is from an unpolluted well.

Other Facts: The claim that tap water is better than bottled water is doubly false. The best tap water comes from wells and the best bottled water is better than any piped tap water.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the SCWA is a profit-driven company without concern for the public interest.

The water supply and waste water are not obscure issues. An intelligent, reasonable person can easily understand that the aquifer, the estuary and the environment are all are part of the common public economic sustainable interest.

Benja Schwartz


Keep the kids here

According to the May 6 Suffolk Times, school board candidate Carl Demarest is running for re-election on the platform that he “favors moving fifth- and sixth-graders to Greenport and using space at the Orient school to create special education programs for all North Fork districts.”

Does not the Board of Education have a primary obligation to provide the best possible education for our own students before they think of displacing our kids in order to import others in search of “profit”?

Many parents in Oysterponds are outraged by this idea. Some of them moved to Orient and East Marion and pay taxes here to be certain that their children could attend a small, nurturing elementary school in the immediate community. Surely they considered fifth and sixth grades as a part of what they were buying into.

In addition to the result of displaced 10-year-olds and outraged parents, Mr. Demarest’s idea simply does not make financial sense. To send the approximately 40 fifth- and sixth-grade students to Greenport, we must pay Greenport tuition of about $600,000 per year.

My research indicates that according to state regulations, some special education students must be in self-contained classrooms. Each classroom may serve only children with similar disabilities and needs and children must be within a three-year age range. More than two classrooms would be needed to allow us to “import” enough children to even pay the Greenport tuition for our own displaced kids.

Is Mr. Demarest thinking that we would offer a bond issue and tax residents to raise money to build new classrooms for his scheme? And how would we pay for special architectural alterations to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act’s stringent requirements?

What about staffing? How many additional special education-certified faculty, speech and language therapists, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, sensory motor specialists, reading specialists, coaches and support staff would we need to hire so that we could serve and accommodate our most at-risk children? At what cost?

Like all “get rich quick” schemes, this one is not based in reality. More likely, it is an unpredictable and uncontrollable financial risk that ignores what is in the best interests of our own students.

Dick Leslie


A field of dreams

I would like to thank Mattituck Park District Commissioners Charles Zaloom and Doris McGreevy for their work in revitalizing the Walter P. Sabat baseball facility on Aldrich Lane.

Many of the local community members have already commented on how nice the field is looking. The revitalization of this facility will allow the local youth travel baseball and Little League baseball teams a place to practice and play. Before this revitalization, some local youth baseball teams were forced to play all their games out of town.

Smart thinking by the commissioners also allows for our local youth soccer community to utilize the outfield grass for games and practice. We in the baseball community look forward to working with the Mattituck Park commissioners and local soccer teams to make the Walter P. Sabat field a great park for all youth sports.

Dennis Heffernan

Mattituck Mets


Don’t stop progress

In response to Ms. Wachsberger’s May 6 letter, I suggest she take advice from an old proverb: “Don’t make everything your own business, mind your business and some day you’ll have a business of your own to mind.”

She says, “the water authority is an organization of which (we) want no part.” My question is where the hell did you get the “we” part from?

She also writes that it’s not about health, but power. I say she is more interested in power than the health concerns of the people with contaminated wells. What part of the words “contaminated water” does she not understand?

Ms. Wachsberger could not live any further from Browns Hill Road than she does now. The water project does not affect her in any way. The only thing further from where she lives is the truth. And the truth is that those people living with contaminated wells need clean public water.

I am politely asking Ms. Wachsberger to find a cause in her own part of town and get out of the way of progress. Damn, where the hell is Erin Brockovich when you need her?

William Gibbons


Vote for the best

Let’s vote for school board candidates with innovative vision for our K-6 school. The board’s vision to select a place of learning for our seven-to-12-year-old students should be primarily based on securing educational excellence. Public school district funds are meant to pay for the best education available to a district’s students within the means of the taxpayers. It does not mean guaranteeing our tuition must be paid to Greenport if there are better options available within the North Fork.

Let’s vote for candidates who have the financial savvy to create a palatable school budget.

Let’s vote for candidates who will enforce the current requirements of employee contracts and will fight to change (or even rebel against) unreasonable mandates from the state and federal governments.

Let’s vote for candidates who recognize that we can no longer tolerate unsustainable public employee retirement contracts that are crushing private enterprise and the private retirement plans for many Americans. When our country was founded, ingenuity and independent thinking was the driving force that tossed big government to the side. Our country’s return to a leadership position in the global village will only happen if we produce changes on many levels, including the best education we can afford for all the students in our little district.

Let’s vote for candidates who have respect for the value of achievement and education for all students, special needs, mainstream and gifted/talented. The best candidates will balance educational advocacy with sound financial grounding and put an end to the “filibusterous” nature of past BOE meetings.

Just say no to candidates that simply cannot come close to fulfilling these requirements.

Deborah Kusa