Southampton Town Candidates Discuss Issues in Noyac
By Mara Certic
With the campaign season in full swing, candidates for Southampton Town Board and supervisor stopped by the eastern side of town this week to meet the members of the Noyac Civic Council.
Candidates discussed their past achievements, plans and answered queries about water quality, development, affordable housing, public transportation and the East Hampton Airport.
County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who is running for supervisor on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families tickets, spoke about his experience representing the town at the county level for the past 12 years, as well as his work as supervisor in East Hampton before that.
Bob Malafronte asked Mr. Schneiderman why there was nothing about the airport in the seven-page action plan that he and his running mates released last month.
“It focused on things that were problems townwide,” Mr. Schneiderman said of the plan, which addresses water quality and quality-of-life issues such as overcrowding, traffic and affordable housing.
His opponent, Richard Yastrzemski, is currently a trustee and the deputy mayor of Southampton Village, where he has lived all his life and is raising his two children, he said.
“I get what’s going on. I also know what it’s like to have kids in the school system, and also having older parents—I know what it’s like to struggle and survive here on all levels,” Mr. Yastrzemski said, adding that his motivation for running is his love for public service and community interaction.
One of his greatest achievements, he said, was a recent zoning change enacted in the village to deal with large houses on small lots.
When asked about the airport, he said he was there to back up and support the decisions of the East Hampton Town Board, adding that Mayor Mark Epley of Southampton and Councilwoman Christine Scalera were forming a committee to look at the effects the restrictions East Hampton has placed on the airport are having on different areas.
Ms. Scalera, an attorney who is running for re-election to the town board this year, said her goals for that committee were to keep the line of communications open between all of the stakeholders on the airport issue, and to be proactive.
“I don’t feel like they’re dealing with this the way they should,” she said of the East Hampton Town Board. “So here in Southampton, let’s all have identified goals and keep the communication going and the pressure on,” she said. She named the creation of the water quality protection fund and the septic rebate program as some of her proudest achievements.
Julie Lofsted, who is running for town board on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families line, may be a political newcomer, but has experience representing the community and working to effectuate change, she said.
Ms. Lofsted has her pilot’s license and worked in aviation, management, airport grant programs and designing lighting for runways until September 11 when she decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Since then, she said, she has helped run her family’s commercial fishing business, and has advocated for her neighbors.
When asked if she had any plans to create more affordable housing in the town, Ms. Lofsted explained part of her team’s action plan: a program to facilitate the creation of accessory apartments in existing houses.
John Bouvier, from Westhampton, is running on the same ticket. A former NASA engineer, Mr. Bouvier is on the town Conservation Board and was once a commercial diver, “and so water’s the issue we’ll probably be talking a lot about,” he said.
He was driven to run by his desire to restore the waters and the community to how it once was, he said.
When asked what to do about improving water quality, he mentioned Cape Cod’s approach, where the municipality owns all septic systems and cares for and maintains them with state, county and municipal funds—and the residents pay on a sliding scale based on income and other factors.
Damon Hagan, an attorney from East Quogue running for town council on the Republican, Conservative and Reform party lines, said he decided to run after friends told him he should.
One of his big plans is to revitalize main streets around the town by seeking out private grants to improve business façades. Businesses such as Lowe’s and Home Depot have grants for businesses to do exterior facelifts, he said, which could benefit a place like Hampton Bays. Combining that with community and family events in those areas, he said, “would bring people back to Main Street.”