08/31/10 12:00am
08/31/2010 12:00 AM

Local school districts learned this week they will receive just over $235,000 from the federal education jobs bill.

The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District will receive the largest sum of any Southold district with more than $80,000 coming its way. The Greenport School District will receive just under $73,000, Southold will be awarded $59,000 and Oysterponds will get just under $25,000.

New York’s total share of the
federal funds is almost $608 million. The money is intended to create or
maintain 8,200 jobs across the U.S. The money will be distributed using
the state aid formula and is expected to start flowing next month.

funds can be spent on compensation including bonuses, pay raises,
in-service days, pensions, student loan repayment assistance,
transportation subsidies and childcare expenses.

Districts have until September 2012 to use up the entire fund.


08/31/10 12:00am

Long Island University has granted Peconic Public Broadcasting Inc.,
the group that currently runs Long Island’s only National Public Radio
affiliate, a three-day extension on the Aug. 31 deadline to make the
final $637,000 payment on the station.
LIU released a statement Tuesday evening saying that if the group
cannot meet that deadline, the university will offer 88.3 FM’s license
and equipment to “several other public radio organizations that have
expressed an interest in acquiring WLIU.”
Peconic Public Broadcasting, which was formed last year, beat out two
other suitors and signed a $2.4 million deal in October to purchase the
station from LIU. At that time, the group signed a letter of intent
with the university to purchase the station for about $850,000 in cash,
with the rest coming in services.
The group, headed by current staffers at the Southampton-based public
radio station, has been operating under the call letters WPPB since
then. Station manager Wally Smith did not immediately return calls for

08/31/10 12:00am

NOFO Rock and Folk Fest producer Joshua Y. Horton (center) joined Peconic Bay Winery’s Chief Financial Officer Cynthia Caprise and Retail Operations Manager Pascal Zugmeyer to present East End Arts Council Executive Director Patricia Snyder (left) with a $5,000 donation to be used toward establishing youth music programs at Brecknock Hall in Greenport. The NOFO Rock and Folk Fest was held at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue on July 31 and August 1.

The East End Arts Council was presented with a $5,000 check Monday for proceeds from the NOFO Rock and Folk Fest.
The money will be used toward establishing youth music programs at Brecknock Hall in Greenport.
The two-day Festival was held at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue on July 31 and August 1.

08/30/10 12:00am
08/30/2010 12:00 AM

A graphic from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration shows the path of destruction Hurrican Earl
appears headed on.

Hurricane Earl, the second major Atlantic hurricane of the season, is still way down by the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands, but it could hit here in a matter of days and that has Southold’s emergency management team on alert.
“We’re mobilizing now,” said Supervisor Scott Russell. “We’re certainly concerned every time the word hurricane is used.”
Earl could swing north east and miss the coast, but there’s also a chance it could make landfall somewhere in the Northeast, including Long Island.
By Tuesday afternoon the hurricane was moving away from Puerto Rico and had strengthened to a Category 4 storm. It was  moving west-northwest at 14 mph with top winds of 135 mph.
Should the need arise, the town would open emergency shelters in the Mattituck, Southold, Greenport and Oysterponds schools. The town’s Human Resources Center in Mattituck and the Peconic Landing facility in Greenport would be open for those with medical issues.
Depending on the storm’s track, a decision on the shelters could be made as soon as Wednesday, said Lt. William Sawicki of the Southold town police. the town’s deputy emergency manager.
The town conducted a hurricane “table top” drill at the Southold firehouse just a few weeks ago, the supervisor said. That involved police, local fire departments and ambulance corps and the town’s highway department.
“It was a good exercise and we think we’re in good shape,” Mr. Russell said. “Our first responders are very well trained, but you can never be too prepared for these things.”
Lt. Sawicki and the supervisor both stress that emergency preparedness begins in the home. During hurricane season people should stock their shelves with staples such as canned goods, bottled water, flashlights and batteries, and battery-operated radios.
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08/30/10 12:00am

Southold’s unemployment figures in recent years show a far more bleak picture than its sunny vacation shores reveal, and Riverhead is still struggling with high unemployment rates.
The Suffolk County Department of Labor is launching a pilot program in Mattituck in late September to help North Forkers who are out of work but can’t get to Hauppauge to visit the county’s One-Stop Employment Center. Another small satellite office of the One-Stop center is located at the County Center in Riverhead.
Labor statistics in Southold are sketchy, because New York State does not keep records on unemployment rates in towns with fewer than 25,000 residents, but Deputy Town Supervisor Phillip Beltz has received information from census analysts that shows 9.8 percent of Southold residents were unemployed in 2009, more than double the unemployment rate shown by the 2000 census.
The New York State Department of Labor’s most recent statistics show that 7.4 percent of Suffolk County residents and 6.8 percent of Riverhead residents were unemployed in July, when the national unemployment rate was 9.5 percent.  The unemployment rate in Riverhead has declined since a high of 8.9 percent in March 2010.
Mr. Beltz and Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell recently took a tour of the county One-Stop Employment Center to see what kind of services it could supply in Southold.
“That center is one of the best-kept secrets. It’s a hidden jewel,” said Mr. Russell at a recent town board meeting. “The whole facility is set up for training, for resume writing and computer skills. A lot of the problem is not just with the bad economy, it’s with jobs you’re not getting back. You need to refit a work force.”
The county plans initially to offer services one day per month at the town’s Human Resource Center on Pacific Avenue in Mattituck, beginning September 27 from 1 to 4 p.m.
“We’ll send one of our best counselors out here, someone who’s cross-trained,” said the program’s director, Marc Bossert, at a town board work session August 24. “It will be a person who can get them going in the right direction if they’re stuck with unemployment claims, food stamps. We’ll help them with a comprehensive job search strategy. Unemployment is a very lonely situation. People don’t turn to friends because of the stigma. Being able to talk to a professional is one of the first big steps.”
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08/27/10 12:00am
08/27/2010 12:00 AM

Greenport Mayor David Nyce disputed claims Thursday that the current Village Board squandered so much money on engineering fees for rehabilitating the Greenport Electric Plant that it does not have enough borrowing capacity to complete the $5 million upgrade.
Former trustee Bill Swiskey is claiming the board has spent at least $750,000 so far on the project.
But Mr. Nyce says that figure includes not only money the current board authorized, but money spent by the previous administration.  And not all the money went to pay engineering fees, according to Mr. Nyce. There was an upgrade to the electric distribution system approved by the previous administration in 2004 that ate up about $400,000, Mr. Nyce said.
Mr. Swiskey says at least 50 percent of the money planned for the initial phase of the electric plant upgrade was for engineering fees that shouldn’t account for more than 10 percent of the total cost.
Mr. Nyce’s numbers reveal that engineering expenses will average about 20 percent of the overall cost for the first phase of the project. He said that’s because engineering fees are higher when retrofitting changes to an existing system than they would be for a totally new system.
For complete coverage, see the Sept. 2 edition of The Suffolk Times. 

08/27/10 12:00am

The decaying scavenger waste treatment plant on Moore’s Lane in Greenport will likely be demolished within months, after years of squabbling between Southold Town and Greenport Village over who is responsible for the fact that the plant never worked the way they had hoped.
Southold Town built the facility on Greenport Village land in the late 1990s to allow cesspool trucks from throughout town to unload waste into the village’s sewage treatment plant.
In the ensuing years, the facility was plagued with operational problems and was cited by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation because of the high level of nitrogen in outflow from the connected sewage treatment plant. The village claimed the town constructed the facility incorrectly, while the town claimed the village was not operating it correctly. The plant was closed in phases over the past several years and the village has implored the town to remove the plant from its land.
The Town Board is expected on Sept. 7 to approve a resolution accepting the bid of the Medford firm D. F. Stone Contracting to demolish the plant, at a cost to the town of $673,498.
Town Engineer James Richter said Friday that, if contract negotiations with D. F. Stone go smoothly, work could begin as soon as three or four weeks after the bid is awarded. He said the demolition will be a straightforward operation that will not require oversight from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
“It’s a shame that a reasonably new building of this type is being demolished so soon,” he said.
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08/26/10 12:00am
08/26/2010 12:00 AM

Courtesy photo
‘Long Island Farm,’ an oil on board by Otto J. Kurth (1883-1965).

Driving through sleepy downtown Mattituck, it’s hard to tell that a wide-ranging artists’ movement once existed there. But just south of the Waldbaum’s shopping center, in a small studio called The Anchorage on Marlene Lane, two accomplished painters, Helen M. Kroeger and Otto J. Kurth, spent the middle of the 20th century honing their craft and teaching an ever-expanding number of local artists.

Terry Wallace, an East Hampton art dealer, began collecting their work in the early 1980s and later dubbed the group of plein air painters the Peconic Bay Impressionists.

Paintings from his collection are on display through October at the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead. The exhibit focuses primarily on those two painters from Marlene Lane who both drew their inspiration from North Fork locales.

The origins of the same local school were the subject of an earlier exhibit curated by Mr. Wallace that was on view for over a year at the historical society in 2006 and 2007, focusing on works by Caroline Bell and her students. Ms. Bell taught at the Old Town Art and Crafts Guild in Cutchogue during the first half of the 20th century and was in her 60s when she met Helen Kroeger, a retired schoolteacher from New York who was in her 40s when she moved to Mattituck in 1940. The older artist quickly took the younger apprentice painter under her wing.

Ms. Kroeger, in turn, shared the skills she learned with Otto Kurth, an illustrator and mapmaker for the New York Times. He lived with Ms. Kroeger in Mattituck from 1940 to 1965, despite the fact that he was married to another woman.

“Helen Kroeger taught him how to paint. Before he painted in a very European style, more like you would paint in the studio,” Mr. Wallace said. “She inspired him, taught him, and he became a really good plein air painter.

“They must have really trusted the people of Mattituck,” with the open secret of their relationship, he added.

By the early 1960s, Ms. Kroeger was sharing her technique with other artists.

One of those painters was Larry Waitz of Cutchogue, who recently turned 100, and who shared with Mr. Wallace much of the information about the group and Ms. Kroeger and Mr. Kurth’s relationship.

“Two men got me into it, Ron Edeen in East Marion and Bill Guyton, an antiques dealer in Mattituck,” said Mr. Wallace. “They knew a little bit of local history and they encouraged me to learn more about local artists. I later went to cemeteries to get their genealogies. The great thing about the North Fork is people don’t move around very much.”

Many of the artists who worked with Ms. Bell and Ms. Kroeger were women from local families. Their works are among those in the show at the historical society. Rachel Beebe, Julia Wickham, Annie G. Young, Dorothy Tuthill and Marguerite Moore Hawkins were among the daughters of farmers and townspeople who not only took up paintbrushes but also worked behind the scenes of most of the North Fork’s cultural and civic organizations.

“These artists were mainly local residents. People didn’t look at them as unapproachable,” said Mr. Wallace. “The painters did all of the other cultural events on the North Fork. The girls were singers, directors. They were very involved with the war effort. The studio in Mattituck was a gathering place on the North Fork.”

Ms. Kroeger’s students frequently painted New Suffolk, which at the time was a village of scallop shacks along Peconic Bay south of Cutchogue.

“There were many reasons they chose New Suffolk,” Mr. Wallace explained. “The girls were painters and there were mostly men working there. The women wanted to spend time with the guys. It also wasn’t far from Mattituck or Cutchogue, where they lived.

“I think they tried to paint it to preserve it for future generations,” he added.

“A few years ago, there was no name for this group of artists. The reason I called them the Peconic Bay Impressionists was they were plein air painters who painted for posterity,” he said.

Indeed, he said, Ms. Kroeger and Mr. Kurth often sold paintings for as little as $5. Mr. Wallace, however, has met many North Fork residents who have paintings by these artists in their homes that they refuse to sell for any amount of money.

“But you can still find these painters in garage sales on the North Fork,” he said.

The show will hang until Oct. 31. Mr. Wallace will give a related lecture at the historical society on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. and will be on hand there for painting appraisal workshops from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2.

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Helen M. Kroeger &

Otto J. Kurth

The Anchorage Studio and Peconic Bay Impressionism

On view through Oct. 31

at the Suffolk County Historical Society

300 W. Main St., Riverhead

08/26/10 12:00am

The old Brewster House, near the Memorial Park on Flanders Road, has seen better days.

Many visitors to Flanders today flock to see the Big Duck on Route 24, but just half a mile down the street, another local landmark is sitting in dire disrepair.

The Brewster House, a hulking four-story, 28-room former boarding house and hotel on 1.8 acres, can be seen through dense foliage behind the hamlet’s memorial park only because of its size and its deep blue paint.

Hugh Wyatt of Sag Harbor, who publishes a national newspaper called The Medical Herald that covers African American health issues, purchased the structure about a decade ago. He initially had several big plans, either to develop it as a hotel or Native American museum, or to turn it into a center where the underprivileged could receive affordable health care.

“I also considered using it as a UPS store. There’s no postal facility in the Flanders area,” Mr. Wyatt said.

The building’s roof, which was cut open by firefighters to attack a blaze in 1987, never has been repaired. Mr. Wyatt tried about two years ago to interest Southampton Town in buying the property through the Community Preservation Fund. The town was reluctant to sink money into a property that would require so much work. Since then, Mr. Wyatt’s asking price has risen. It stands now at $844,000.

“It is a very serious historic site,” he said. “I wanted to preserve it, but there’s no commitment, no real interest. It’s dangerous to go inside,” he said, adding that vandals had stolen many vintage light fixtures.

“If I don’t raise the money to develop it, I will sell it,” he said.

Gary Cobb, who founded the Flanders Historical Society last year, shares Mr. Wyatt’s goal of preserving the property, but he believes it will take a level of financial commitment that few can muster.

“It’s really a thorn in my side that it’s just falling down,” he said. “Water’s been pouring through that roof in excess of 20 years.”

Mr. Cobb has been researching the history of the house for several years. He said that he and historic preservation expert Zachary Studenroth have seen rough-hewn beams in the basement that lead them to believe parts of the building could date back to the 1700s. Back then, the property was owned by the Fanning family of Southold, who ran a 100-acre farm that covered the entire Pine Neck peninsula. Sea captain Nathan Penney purchased the farmhouse in 1844 and expanded it, opening it as a boarding house after he retired in the 1880s.

“That was the boarding house era. They were quite the thing at the time,” said Mr. Cobb. “It was the first one in the Flanders area. Apparently it attracted a very elite group of New York City businessmen who were looking for sport in hunting and fishing.”

“Everyone from the Roosevelts to Al Capone stayed there,” said Mr. Wyatt.

The most regular visitors formed The Flanders Club in 1891, which eventually controlled 10,000 acres on which black duck and pheasant were raised to be shot for sport. The members of the Flanders Club eventually leased the entire boarding house from Mr. Penney, who was hired as club superintendent.

“They were a very low key, quiet, reclusive group … They were looking for escape. They liked the duck blind, cabin in the woods feel,” said Mr. Cobb. “They eventually built a sportsman’s lodge on an adjacent three-acre parcel, where they spent their time sipping bourbon and telling hunting stories.”

Mr. Cobb’s research revealed that the Brewster family bought the property from Captain Penney in 1922 and ran it as a summer hotel until the early 1960s.

Late in the 1950s, Anna Brewster’s husband, a popular police captain, committed suicide in one of the hotel’s back rooms. After that, the Brewsters sold the hotel to the MacPhee family, who turned it back into a boarding house where summer workers would take rooms for the season.

“The MacPhees never really operated it to capacity,” Mr. Cobb said. “A few people would come scratching at the door, but it was pretty much done. It’s been done for 23 years or more. It’s just melting away.”

“I made an appeal to the Southampton Town Board,” he added, “and tried to get them to pay attention to it, but based on the condition of the building, they decided they were not interested. The building is not an asset, it’s a liability. You’re looking at a piece of land in Flanders, which is not worth that kind of money. It needs someone like the person who renovated the Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport to fix it.”

Mr. Cobb, who was appointed to the Southampton Town Landmarks and Historic Districts Board last year in part because of his advocacy for the Brewster House, said there’s little his board can do but document historic houses as the owners decide to tear them down.

“We’re working to change the town code to say we can landmark a building without the owner’s consent. But landmarking just recognizes that it’s historical. Landmarking does not save it,” he said. “If I won megamillions, I would buy it and restore it and give it to the town.”

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08/26/10 12:00am

The days are getting shorter, the start of school approaches, and opportunities for lying about at the beach with a book are diminishing. Advance planning will be necessary to squeeze the last drops of pleasure out of summer. My plan includes finishing ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler because it is Floyd Memorial Library’s next book discussion topic and it is actually a lot of fun to read. Published in 1939, when Raymond Chandler was 50, this is the first of the Philip Marlowe novels. Vivid bursts of sex, violence and explosively direct prose changed detective fiction forever.

Then I will read ‘Fall Asleep Forgetting’ by Mattituck author Georgeann Packard. Her brand-new novel takes place in a small Long Island beach town during one lazy, hazy, crazy summer. It is getting really good reviews and I am madly looking forward to reading it as soon as I get a few hours in my bathing suit.

Another local author, Jackson Taylor, has just published an amazing novel, ‘The Blue Orchard.’ There are lots of wonderful things about this book, but part of what Taylor has done is to take the true life experiences of his own grandmother, and from listening to her, doing research, asking questions and listening again, he has imagined and written, as a novel, the story of her life. That story mainly took place in Harrisburg, Pa., where she was a white nurse working for an African-American doctor who performed abortions in the 1940s and ’50s, when they were illegal. The story goes deep into the American confusion about race, sex, religion, politics and morality and it does so without any soapboxes, just with lives that are as real as the lives of any of our own relatives.


Reading the daily newspaper today got me thinking how we often separate the world into two kinds of people, the glass-half-empty people versus the glass-half-full people, or strict constitutionalists versus flaming liberals, early adapters versus Luddites and so on. Probably things are more complicated than that kind of dualistic thinking allows for and really everyone is on various continuums, sliding about a bit on the arcs of differing opinions. I was perplexed by an article in the Other Times (“Bookstore Arrives and Sides are Taken” by Julie Bosman, Aug. 16, New York Times) about the rivalry between two bookstores in Westhampton, and it makes me wonder whether I am a lunatic optimist or a laissez-faire capitalist or both or what?

There are those who feel that there are only X number of people in any locality who are going to buy books and therefore, if there are two stores selling books, they will compete for the finite number of dollars that the finite number of people have to spend. If you think this way, then you have to think that all libraries are in competition with all bookstores; that library book sales are in competition with library circulation figures; that, for instance, here in Greenport, our wonderful purveyor of used books, The Book Scout, is locked in mortal combat with our terrific independent bookseller, Burton’s Books, and both of them against us at Floyd Memorial.

Nothing could be further from the truth. That is some kind of old school economics based on some notion of scarcity that is entirely beside the point.

I am no economist, but it seems to me that what we are buying these days are experiences, not widgets, and while books as objects may be sort of widgets in one sense, the reading, the thinking about them, the browsing, the choosing, the talking about books are what constitutes the experience and that experience is enriched by a community of book lovers. A village where people can walk from one bookstore to another should be a happy place, for the booksellers as well as the buyers, because the very fact of choice and multiple opportunities makes more people buy more books. That model seems to work in Greenport for ice cream, dirty martinis and coffee. Why, in Westhampton, should it be so different for books?

There are people in Greenport who feel about coffee shops a bit like some of these Westhamptonites feel about bookstores. There was worry that Starbucks would eclipse Aldo’s, not to mention Bruce’s or D’Latte. It is a little different, because Starbucks is more like a Barnes and Nobles, a national corporate entity, but still, when you go in, there are local kids serving your coffee, art by local artists on the walls and good coffee of a certain sort. Aldo’s has what might be the best coffee in the world and a very idiosyncratic ambiance. Cafà society in this town can often be seen for a while in one place, then for a while in the other. There is no need to be monogamous in one’s relationships with coffee shops or bookstores. Thank goodness.

Ms. Johnson, of Greenport, is assistant director at Floyd Memorial Library and moonlights as an artist and newspaper columnist.