11/10/12 3:00pm

Wading River resident Frank Seabrook has declared an interest in running on the Republican line for the Suffolk County legislative seat now held by Ed Romaine, who will leave it soon to take over as Brookhaven Town supervisor following Mr. Romaine’s victory in a special election on Tuesday.

A special election to fill the legislative seat is expected in early 2013.

“There are many interested in this position, all highly qualified and all really good people,” Mr. Seabrook wrote in a press announcement. “But having never held elected office before, I believe that I would bring a fresh perspective to the district.”

Mr. Seabrook, a member of the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals, is the publisher of the Suffolk County Liberty Report, a conservative blog.

“While we can all agree on the importance of preserving and protecting our farmland and open space, I believe of equal importance is the preservation of our people. Over the last 30 years, we have watched a mass human exodus off this once great island. And I believe a lot of that has to do with the policies that have been enacted by our county and local governments.”

He wrote that as “taxes, deficits, regulations, fees, fines, and red light cameras continue to rise, so do the amount of our parents, children, and industry leaving. It seems that our government no longer serves the people, it actually harasses the people.”

Mr. Seabrook, a New York City police officer who retired after 20 years, wrote that he is a construction manager for a large general contractor. He has been a resident in Wading River for 21 years.

He has been married 25 years, has two daughters attending Dowling College and a son in the Shoreham-Wading River High School. He holds a BS degree in architectural engineering and wrote that he is working on his masters in civil engineering and construction management.

11/10/12 1:32pm

“We are done dealing with LIPA Headquarters,” County Executive Steve Bellone declared Saturday, joining a chorus of state and local officials from Governor Cuomo on down who have decried LIPA’s slow pace in fully restoring power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the nor’easter that followed it this month.

Mr. Bellone said he had “cut ties with LIPA headquarters and has begun directing local assets to expedite restoring power.”

He made the declaration in announcing that he would hold a press conference on the issue at 2 p.m. Saturday at the parking lot of the LIPA-National Grid office in Brentwood.

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone became the latest public official to speak out against LIPA’s response to Hurricane Sandy today.

09/19/12 5:00pm

COURTESY PHOTO | The Peconic Bay Water Jitney.

The Peconic Bay Water Jitney, which ran five daily round trips between Sag Harbor and Greenport all summer long, might not be back next year unless investors show an interest in underwriting the business, according to a Shelter Island Town Board member.

The 53-passenger ferry, running seven days a week until recently, has carried more than 15,000 people since launching at the end of June, but “it’s not a moneymaker” yet,  Councilwoman Chris Lewis told the Shelter Island Town Board Tuesday while reporting on an East End Transportation Council meeting she attended last week. The council, charged with exploring mass transit alternatives for the region, comprises representatives from the five East End towns.

Ms. Lewis said Geoffrey Lynch, president of Hampton Jitney, had reported at the meeting on the Water Jitney’s first season in operation and predicted that it wouldn’t be back. Mr. Lynch  partnered with Mattituck businessman Jim Ryan to launch the service.

According to Ms. Lewis, Mr. Lynch said there will be “no second summer” for the ferry unless investors are found.

In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Ryan denied the claim that the passenger ferry won’t be back next season if investors aren’t secured.

“[Mr. Lynch’s] intention sounds like he was looking for additional investors to help support the service,” Mr. Ryan said.

Mr. Lynch wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The ferry was not a moneymaker, Ms. Lewis said, because there had been “so much outlay.”  Mr. Ryan agreed, but said he and Mr. Lynch knew the first season wouldn’t turn a profit.

“Before we even started, we knew we would run in the red,” Mr. Ryan said. “Next year, we’ll probably run in the red again. At this point, we’re focused on developing ridership.”

The 40-minute ferry run cost passengers $11 one way and $20 round trip.

Among the costs were $12,000 to rent parking lots in Sag Harbor and Greenport and the expense of shuttling passengers from their cars to the ferry terminals, which was a required service to ease concerns in both villages about downtown traffic congestion.

“They had hoped to pick up some commuter” traffic between the North and South forks, Ms. Lewis said, “but that didn’t work.”  Nevertheless, the partners continue to be interested. According to Ms. Lewis, the service generated so much enthusiasm that they had been encouraged “but they clearly need investors.”

Jennifer Gustavson contributed reporting for this story.

09/15/12 2:50pm

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL PHOTO | Lone star ticks at different stages of their life cycle, with recently hatched larva at right.

Anecdotal evidence suggests there may be a surge in the population of lone star tick larvae in the region, including Shelter Island. People who walk through a cluster of these freshly hatched ticks won’t know it until they start to itch and find red welts all over themselves — and perhaps in the center of a few of those welts they’ll notice a dot so tiny it’s smaller than a period on this page.

Hello, lone star larvae.

The good news is that the itching and the red welts are an allergic reaction to the tick’s saliva, not a symptom of some mysterious and terrible systemic infection. The welts and itching will go away but long after your ticks are gone; sometimes it takes a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, an anti-itch cream helps.
Even better news, larval lone star ticks are not known to carry any tick-borne diseases.

Lately, stories have been circulating of people finding welts all over themselves. Often they never notice any tiny ticks, all of which may have dropped off by the time the welts appear. These folks may be told by doctors or pharmacists that they’ve been bitten by chiggers.

We don’t have chiggers here, according to Scott Campbell, a Shelter Island resident and entomologist who heads the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Arthropod Borne Disease Laboratory. Since he went to work for the county in 1995, he says he’s never found a chigger anywhere on Long Island and he’s been looking. Chiggers are found to the south and west, in warmer climates, he says.

Lone star larvae begin to hatch in July and are active through late summer and into October. Chiggers are active earlier in the spring and into the summer, especially after wet weather. They lay scattered eggs, 15 to 50 a day in the soil. Adult lone star females lay hundreds of eggs in clusters. “That’s why people are coming in with dozens of bites,” Dr. Campbell said.

What to do? Besides the anti-itch cream, put all affected clothing and bedding in a hot dryer for 15 or 20 minutes to kill any live ticks. The ticks on your body will all fall off after feeding. Those that fall off in your house will die from dessication so they are not a health threat. Dr. Campbell said using permethrin cream is not necessary although it is one of the protocols described on some web sites  for lone star infestations.

Take preventative measures, including treating clothing with a permethrin-based pesticide and using repellents on your skin. Lone stars can survive in drier, hotter environments than other ticks so it may be harder to avoid the places they might be. Keeping clear of heavy brush and leaves and long grass works pretty well for dog ticks and deer ticks but it seems to be no guarantee the lone stars won’t find you.

It may not make it any easier to know you’ve been bitten by lone star larvae and not chiggers. But it is good to know, isn’t it, all that itching doesn’t mean you’re still infested with bugs, whether ticks or chiggers or any other little horrors?

This editorial appeared in the September 6, 2012 Shelter Island Reporter.

07/27/12 5:00am

CLIFF CLARK PHOTO | The crowd at a fundraiser for the Joe Theinert memorial scholarship at Claudio’s in Greenport on the evening of Monday, July 16. In its third year, it raised a record amount.

This summer’s cruise aboard the South Ferry’s Lt. Joe Theinert boat to a dinner gala at Claudio’s netted $30,000 for the Lt. Joe Theinert Memorial Fund, according to South Ferry president Cliff Clark.

The event was originated by Steve Pisacano, manager of Claudio’s Clam Bar in Greenport.

Set up by the Shelter Islander’s family, the fund raises money to help veterans and provide scholarships. Lt. Thienert was killed in Afghanistan in June 2010 and the first fundraiser was held only weeks later.

Mr. Clark said Mr. Pisacano approached him in 2010 “shortly after Joey was killed when he read we renamed the Southern Cross the Lt. Joe Theinert and said he wanted to do something in Joey’s honor. He asked if we would consider bringing the boat to the dock so the partygoers could see the boat and walk on board in Joey’s honor. Of course I said I would.”

According to Mr. Clark, the event raised somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000. In year two, it raised a bit more “and this year the net is right at $30,000,” he said.

Lt. Theinert’s Bravo Troop comrades from Ft. Drum attended the event, which was held July 16 and drew 125 people on board the boat, Mr. Clark said.

07/15/12 9:00pm

ELEANOR P. LABROZZI PHOTO | This did not happen Saturday night at Shelter Island’s Crescent Beach but, with a little more luck, it will tonight.

Update: Sunday night’s fireworks show at Crescent Beach has been cancelled due to inclement weather, Shelter Island Fire Department officials said.

No decision had been made about rescheduling the annual Chamber of Commerce event. More details to follow.

The fireworks were first scheduled for Saturday night but were cancelled because of a technical problem.

Original Story: A technical glitch forced the postponement of Saturday night’s annual Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce fireworks show at Crescent Beach until tonight, Sunday, July 15 at 9:15 when everyone will try again.

A fire truck with a PA system rolled down the beach road beginning about 9:40 p.m. Saturday night — above a half hour after the show should have started — with the announcement that the show had to be canceled and it would take place instead tonight, Sunday, at 9:15 p.m. A groan went up as the truck started the process and word quickly spread down the beach.

“Some people had been on the beach all day,” noted Chamber of Commerce President Arthur Williams.

A crowd of puzzled spectators estimated at between 3,500 and 4,000 people “handled themselves extremely well” when the official word came, said Mr. Williams Saturday morning. Chamber officials were heartbroken and  personnel from Bay Fireworks, which was to put on the show, had been mortified, according to Mr. Williams.

Radio communications had partially failed between the controllers on the beach and the fireworks array on a barge moored off the east end of Crescent Beach, he explained. At one point, technicians took the radio control box aboard a boat to get closer to the barge to see if a good signal could be obtained. That didn’t work.

Organizers discussed the possibility of putting on a smaller show with fireworks that could have been activated, Mr. Williams said, but they feared doing so might disrupt the technical set up for the rest of the array. In the end, the radio system failed almost completely and there was no choice but to cancel and reschedule for tonight, Sunday, Mr. Williams explained.

05/24/12 12:00pm

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The North Fork Soldier Ride took off from Greenport's Mitchell Park last year, but will be on Shelter Island this time around.

Wounded veterans from all over, perhaps hundreds of them, will be coming to Shelter Island on Labor Day weekend in September to take part in The Wounded Warrior Project’s first Soldier Ride bicycle event to include a course here.

The Shelter Island event will be the centerpiece of the 2012 edition of the North Fork Soldier Ride, which was launched in 2010. It is dedicated to the memory of 1st Lt. Joseph J. Theinert of Shelter Island, who was killed in Afghanistan just weeks before the inaugural event.

The 2011 edition drew 200 people to a North Fork bicycle course that started and ended in Greenport.

American Legionnaire Matt Rohde, chairman of the proposed Shelter Island event, has submitted an application for an outdoor assembly permit to the Shelter Island Town Board, which last week was awaiting recommendations from the Town Police and Highway departments before scheduling a vote to approve the permit.

Organizers of the North Fork event “asked if Shelter Island wanted to get involved,” Chrystyna Kestler, Joe Theinert’s mother, told the Town Board on Tuesday, May 15 before Mr. Rohde briefly described the proposal at the Town Board work session.

He said the event would raise money for the national Wounded Warrior Project and the Joseph Theinert Memorial Fund; it also would allow wounded soldiers who participate “to interact with the community.” The public is invited to join the ride.

Combat veterans who participate, some riding specially equipped bikes, include people with missing limbs, post traumatic stress disorder and other wounds as a result of their service.

Ms. Kestler told the board that Shelter Island has become “legendary” as an especially welcoming place for returning veterans.

When she visits Fort Drum, she said, where her son’s “Banshee Troop” is based stateside, she hears soldiers say “they hate New York except for New York City and Shelter Island.” They talk about Shelter Island, she said, and its elaborate and heartfelt public welcome of the Banshee Troop a year ago when its members visited the Island to pay their respects to the memory of 1st Lt. Theinert.

“What a gift this place and this community is to any returning veteran,” Ms. Kestler told the board.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty commented that the town was “honored to be partners and participants with you wonderful folks.”

In addition to the North Fork-Shelter Island event, Soldier Rides are planned this year across the country in Miami, Key West, Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida; Washington, D.C.; Chicago, New York, Seattle, Phoenix, Nashville and San Antonio; and overseas in Landstuhl, Germany.

“Soldier Ride is a unique four-day cycling opportunity for Wounded Warriors to use cycling and the bonds of service to overcome physical, mental or emotional wounds,” according to the Wounded Warrior Project website. “The rides are exhilarating and a great way to help warriors gain confidence and realize you can do this!”

There will be two courses on Shelter Island, according to the proposal before the town.

A 25-mile route covers much of the Island except Mashomack and Ram Island, with stretches on Cartwright Road, Manhansett Road, Shore Road in Dering Harbor, Route 114, West Neck Road, Peconic Avenue, Nostrand Parkway, County Road 42 along Crescent Beach and North Menantic and Midway roads.

A 12.5-mile route for those who prefer a less strenuous outing will exclude the longer route’s excursions to Silver Beach and West Neck. Both courses will be run simultaneously.

Fire Chief John D’Amato, who was in the audience at the work session last week, added that volunteers will oversee the event and that there would be no “extra expenses to the town.”

All Soldier Rides are four-day events for the veterans who participate, with the long bicycle ride the centerpiece. The tentative schedule for the 2012 North Fork Ride includes golf at the Laurel Links on Friday, August 31 for early arriving participants and a dinner in Greenport; on Saturday, September 1, there will be a North Fork bike warm-up ride to test equipment followed by a barbecue luncheon in Greenport and a dinner on Shelter Island.

The Shelter Island rides will start at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday to be followed by a barbecue that will be open the public at the American Legion Hall.

There will be a breakfast for veteran participants only on Monday hosted by the Shelter Island Fire Department.

For further information, go to rememberourjoes.org or the Wounded Warrior website at woundedwarriorproject.org.

Police Chief James Read told the Town Board at its work session on May 22 that the main event, the bike ride, would be over between 11 a.m. on noon on September 2 and that, during the ride, the impact on traffic would be minor. He said, at worst, drivers heading north on a stretch of South Ferry Road might have to drive at 10 mph behind the bicyclists for five or six minutes; southbound traffic would not be affected because riders will use only one lane, he said. No roads will be closed for the event.

Those veteran riders with injuries, who will be using special equipment, will get an escort, with a Fire Department vehicle in the lead and a Police Department vehicle trailing.

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02/18/12 11:25am

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Bennett Konesni with guitar and wife Edith Gawler Konesni at the ‘Blue Highway’ bluegrass concert before a packed house at the Shelter Island School in January to benefit Sylvester Manor.

About six years ago, the heir of Sylvester Manor, Eben Ostby, turned to a young man from Maine, his nephew Bennett Konesni, to help him figure out what to do with the 17th-century family holding on Shelter Island last occupied by Mr. Ostby’s aunt by marriage, Alice Fiske.

Preservation of the manor’s 18th-century house and remaining 241 acres was their goal — but how could it be done in a way that was financially self-sustaining, a way that would keep the manor safe from development for generations to come without costing Mr. Ostby millions?

The 50-year-old co-founder of Pixar, the animation studio now owned by the Disney company, Mr. Ostby some weeks ago talked in a phone interview about that challenge. Soon after, his 29-year-old nephew Bennett spoke at length about it in a chat in the chilly manor house.

Under Mr. Konesni’s guidance, his vision for a self-sustaining organic farm has been implemented over the past four years through the creation of the non-profit Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, Inc.

Its mission is to produce, promote and celebrate locally grown, organic food as a working CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. Through member-sponsored farm plots, sales at its farmstand on Manwaring Road and to area restaurants, fees collected for its educational programs and cultural events, the goal is keep the property productive and important to the community. Fundraising is also a major element of the plan.

How and why did Bennett Konesni came up with the vision for the historic property, which is said to be the only intact slave plantation north of Virginia — and yet is barely known beyond Shelter Island and a few historians and archeologists? And just who is this creative and marketing force behind the manor preservation effort?

‘LOOMING DECISION’

Mr. Ostby, who grew up in Connecticut and lives in California, is the nephew of Andrew Fiske, a Sylvester descendent known as the 13th “Lord of the Manor.” The first was Nathaniel Sylvester, a Barbados sugar merchant, who with partners bought all of Shelter Island in 1652 from the Manhansett Indians. Mr. Fiske, who died in 1992 at age 80, left the property to Mr. Ostby, subject to a life estate he granted his wife, Alice Fiske. She died in 2008 at age 88.

“As a kid, my family came frequently to visit Allie and Andrew,” Mr. Ostby recalled in a phone interview. “I was always a little cowed by Alice. She was a formidable figure to deal with for a kid.” When she died and the property came under his control, “We faced a looming decision,” he said: sell its 241 acres, mostly zoned for one-acre house lots, or try to preserve it somehow.

“Nobody wants to look a gift horse in the mouth today,” Mr. Ostby said of the option of cashing in on real estate worth millions: it was assessed at $15.68 million in 2011 and more than that before the market slumped. “Sometimes you look longingly at that prospect,” he said, describing himself as “not a wealthy guy.”

“Let a developer make his zillions and take one’s share. But I can’t do that. It’s been a family place for generations.” He said that “although I knew I wasn’t going to live there, I felt it was really important” to keep it functioning as “something akin to what it has been” — a working farm for most of its existence.

“It’s always possible that terrible things will happen,” said Mr. Ostby, but he added, “I’m not scared” the operation will stumble financially. The “development rights sale should provide enough of a cushion to make it through the next few years.”

Intended to preserve part of the manor property as open space no matter what happens to the farm operation, development rights deals on two manor parcels totalling about 80 acres are expected to close this year, with the county paying 70 percent of the $7.25-million price tag and the town paying the rest through its 2-percent preservation tax, paid by the buyers of Island real estate.

The farm is meeting its fundraising goals. The manor’s executive director, Cara Loriz (former editor of the Shelter Island Reporter), announced in a letter to the editor recently that the farm’s foundation had raised $250,000 in donations during 2011. Mr. Ostby has promised to match donations if they reached that level. In a letter to the community that appeared as a full-page ad in the Reporter of December 23, 2010, he pledged to match gifts of $1 million over four years.

WHY BENNETT?

Mr. Ostby turned to his nephew from Maine because Mr. Konesni knew the manor better than anyone else in the family; he also had a background in farming and environmental studies. Asked to write an essay in high school conveying “a platonic idea” of himself, he recalled, he wrote he should be seen either as a schooner captain or a farmer “because for me it’s about creating a good quality of life, a life worth living, essentially a life that’s fulfilling, that’s outside, that’s filled with community and landscape and good food, history, all the things that to me make life worth living and meaningful.”

A 2004 graduate of Middlebury College with a double major in music and environmental studies, Mr. Konesni also holds a master’s degree in business from Antioch New England in organizational development — a course of study he pursued after committing himself in 2007 to Sylvester Manor’s reincarnation as a working farm.

He grew up in Islesboro, Maine, population 800 in winter and 1,200 in summer, he said. On an island three miles offshore in Penobscot Bay, the town hired his mother, a physician’s assistant, to run its health center in her own house. Bennett remembers lobstermen clomping into the house through the back door at all hours to get medical attention. His father, a nurse — the couple had met at Memorial Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where Bennett was born in 1982 — was “Mr. Mom,” as Mr. Konesni put it.

The couple bought 14 acres on the mainland in Appleton, an old farming village, in part so Bennett could go to the Appleton Village School. They lived in a tent on the property for a year, during which time his mother commuted to a job as a PA in Rockport, Maine.

Ilseboro missed her. When Mr. Konesni went on to boarding school at Pomfret in Connecticut, his mother went back to the island and ran the health center until her retirement in 2011; she continues to live in Maine and works part-time at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Augusta. His father died of a heart attack in 2006 at age 63.

Bennett’s mother is Eben Ostby’s sister. He remembers occasional family trips to Sylvester Manor to see Uncle Andy and Aunt Allie.

“What I remember is the smell of the gardens. We used to run through the gardens and boxwood. Allie would serve Pringles on a platter. We were not allowed to eat Pringles at home. It was just amazing; I love Pringles.” Allie wore her trademark “hat and gloves and whole thing.”

“When I was a freshman in college, the U-Mass dig had just started here,” he said, referring to excavations that Mrs. Fiske allowed in the front yard of her 18th-century manor house beginning in 2001. “There was buzz in the family,” Mr. Konesni remembered. As an anthropology student, he could get credit for interning at the dig. “It seemed like an amazing opportunity to come down and learn about my family, work an actual archeological dig and really get to meet Alice, who is sort of the link. Because I never knew Andy.” Bennett was 10 when Mr. Fiske, his grandmother’s brother, died at age 80 in 1992.

“Alice said you can stay three days, three weeks or three months when I called her up. Stay as long as you’d like.”

“We got along really well. We played backgammon in the afternoons after the dig. She’d introduce me to people. I had jobs on local farms. In June, I was part of the dig. On weekends, I would go to Quail Hill Farm [in Amagansett] and Green Thumb [another organic farm, in Water Mill]. I started by volunteering and convinced them to hire me.

“When the dig was done, I had these jobs … [so] I asked Allie was it all right if I stayed through the summer. I was really enjoying myself. And so I suddenly was the expert on Sylvester Manor in the family and the one who really loved it here. Nobody else had spent any time here, really, to speak of.”

Mr. Konesni explained that there had been some divisions in the family dating back to the 1940s, when his great-grandfather had died without a will, six months after inheriting the property. His children, including Andrew Fiske, went to court over the disposition of the manor.

“For 30 years, there was this kind of deep chill about Sylvester Manor which affected Andy’s generation and his kids’ generation, which is my parents’. So they didn’t come around much when they were young and the fact that I spent the whole summer here was a big shift. And suddenly I’d been in on this dig and on early family history, so it was kind of natural for Eben to reach out to me and say, ‘What do you think?’”

Coming soon, Part II: Mr. Konesni’s vision and hopes for Sylvester Manor. To hear an excerpt of the Reporter’s interview with him, click here.