The East Hampton Town Board began 2021 looking back at an unprecedented and difficult prior year, mostly spent under an official state of emergency, but one they say was addressed with aplomb, smarts and compassion by town employees, officials and armies of volunteers.
In has opening address at the board’s annual organizational meeting this week, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc applauded the town’s Human Resources department that helped organize and distribute hundreds of thousands of meals for senior citizens homebound by the pandemic, the government and business leaders who worked together to help businesses restrained by COVID-19 protocols make the most of the summer season in the wake of the spring lockdowns, and the logistical mastery by the town’s lifeguards and administrative staff for the management of public beaches that became the model for beachfront communities across Long Island.
The supervisor also harked to the summer Black Lives Matter protests over social inequities and institutional racism, calling the peaceful protests on the South Fork “an expression of one of the most revered parts of our democracy.” He said that the town is embracing the police reform mandate from Governor Andrew Cuomo and that, while many of the reforms called for are already in place in East Hampton, the town will embark on a robust public examination of its policing and the relationship between police and the community.
Looking to 2021, Mr. Van Scoyoc, who will be up for reelection in the fall, said that the continued fight with the pandemic will continue to swirl, but the town is looking toward advancing long term planning, addressing issues surrounding East Hampton Airport and addressing the critical need for more affordable housing.
Mr. Van Scoyoc appointed Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez as the new deputy supervisor, replacing Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who had served as his deputy since he took office in 2018 — a change he said was intended to spread out the burdens of the role.
The town’s first meeting of the year also showcased some of the prickliness and rancor that has tainted its business in recent years, with residents of Wainscott asking to secede from the town and the supervisor reassigning the Town Board liaison who has represented the board in the hamlet for the last two years. Councilman Jeff Bragman and Mr. Van Scoyoc have had a prickly — and at times openly hostile — relationship throughout their tenures and Mr. Bragman on Tuesday bristled against being reassigned out of the hamlet where he has been warmly welcomed by residents often critical of the town and Mr. Van Scoyoc.
“I think this resolution shows there’s a price to be paid for speaking out,” Mr. Bragman said.
The supervisor said that the regular reshuffling of the liaison assignments — four of the five board members had their liaison assignments changed — has always been standard policy.
“This has been a difficult year,” the supervisor said in giving thanks to the town residents and staff for the hard work and perseverance through the pandemic. “It brought about some of the greatest challenges in many generations. As we continue to confront challenges ahead, it is the resiliency and the depth of caring in our community that truly makes East Hampton such a special place.”