Readers react: An East End travel ban for second homeowners only aims to divide us

On Wednesday, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said in a press release, “A new trend is taking place that puts our residents at further risk — people seeking refuge from the metropolitan areas. It is simple math: the more people that come, the greater the spread and the greater the confirmed cases.”

The story has generation significant feedback. Here are some letters to the editor:

To the editor:

Scott Russell’s proposal for a ban on travel to the East End is based on a medieval mindset, stigmatizing second homeowners as the demonic “outsiders,” bringing unspeakable evil.

Constitutional restrictions on government power mean nothing if they can be pushed aside in situations short of imminent, horrific consequences, like shouting “fire” in a crowded movie theater. Like the right of free speech, the right to travel and the right to enjoy one’s private property are protected by the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution as well as in New York State’s Constitution.

Perhaps the next group we should ban are the poor who require extra help, or the very rich “full timers” who can afford to buy out a grocery store? Mr. Russell’s proposal is not based on a medical emergency. There is no evidence that second homeowners are especially infected with the virus.

As Mr. Russell explained his proposal, it is based on the inconvenience imposed on local residents when it’s not tourist season and second homeowners come here in unexpected large numbers. As such, it is a small-minded, demagogic appeal to the mob mentality. We have seen instances of this throughout our history. As always, times like this underscore the meaning and rationale for basic constitutional guarantees of liberty. The reason we are coming together to fight the virus is so that we emerge with our country intact.

Salem Katsh, Orient

To the editor:

The proposal by town supervisors to bar entry to our seasonal neighbors is absurd, bordering on immoral.

We are happy to accept their taxes and purchases. Can we legally or ethically deny them access to their own property?

Are we going to establish police check points on town borders?

Sooner or later, most of us will get the virus. Our seasonal neighbors have as much right as we do to try to delay infection and help flatten the curb.

They should buy two weeks provisions, preferably up-island on their way here, with appropriate caution and social distancing and then self-quarantine for two weeks.

John McAuliff, Riverhead

To the editor:

I was appalled to read Supervisor Scott Russell’s recent statement attempting to prohibit “non-locals” from being in Southold. He has chosen to follow the worst instincts of human nature in this crisis: to divide us, and to create an “us against them” mentality. He has no legal authority to do so.

This attitude will lead will only lead to hatred, angst and likely violence against residents of our town. I urge all residents to remember that the hated “summer people” that own property in Southold are actually residents of this town, even though Mr. Russell would prefer to not currently acknowledge that fact. We are entitled to the same political and legal protections as all other residents of Southold, and we will fight for them just the same as as any other American being arbitrarily denied his property rights. We will hold Mr. Russell personally responsible (under both relevant criminal and civil laws) for any attempt to deprive us of those rights, as well as for any harm that comes to us as a result of violence he attempts to instigate against us.

The difficulties we face in the current environment affect us all; as a local community, an island, a state and a nation. Mr. Russell’s attempt to divide people along arbitrary lines of “local” residents and “outsiders” is impossible to enforce or even understand in any logical manner. Where does he propose to draw the line? Does he want to prohibit anyone who happens to own another home somewhere else from entering Southold? What will he do if those other towns also try to enforce the same prohibitions in order to limit their populations during this crisis?

I, on behalf of all residents of Southold (including those who may happen to also own property elsewhere), demand that Mr. Russell rescind his irresponsible statements immediately. Thankfully, he has no authority to enforce his ridiculous decrees. However, many people will not understand that, and those people will incorrectly believe that his statements have the force of law. His statements are an invitation to vigilante justice that must not stand. I hope and pray that the residents of our town will prove better than their leader in this challenging time and rise above his petty attempts to divide us.

Matt Lyons, New Suffolk

To the editor:

Supervisor Scott Russell’s statement about using the local police to stop those traveling east to live in the homes they brought and pay taxes on is misguide and dangerous. It doesn’t matter if a person has lived out here 30 years, or brought their house in January. We are all members of this community and have every right to the full benefits of this community. Every resident brings a wealth of resources, which makes the East End a wonderful place to live. 

I would recommend if Mr. Russell is so in favor of stopping citizens from living in the homes they purchased then he should have no problem refunding the property taxes, the Peconic Land Trust fees and all the dues, payments and fees we all pay, because we are all full-timers now.

Orlando Martinez, Orient