This has been an odd and, sadly, uneven race for East Hampton Town supervisor and the two council seats now held by Peter Van Scoyoc, Sylvia Overby and David Lys, three Democrats on an entirely Democratic Town Board. For several reasons, there will be not be any candidates on the Republican line for the three open slots, although David Gruber, Bonnie Brady and Elizabeth Bambrick are running against the incumbents with the blessing of the Independence Party and other less prominent tickets.
Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans in East Hampton Town, and recent local races have not exactly been nail-biters. Thankfully, Mr. Gruber, Ms. Brady and Ms. Bambrick have splashed some heat onto what could have been a bland incumbent march to victory.
One of Mr. Gruber’s contributions to the conversation has been his proposal that the town work far more swiftly to meet a long-stated goal of creating 1,300 affordable housing units by building high-density, three-story apartment buildings, thereby minimizing the cost of land. Mr. Van Scoyoc counters that chipping away at the shortage of housing by using a variety of means stands a better chance of preserving the rural feel of East Hampton. One way to go, he says, is to “capture” relatively modest homes before they are torn down and irrevocably replaced by large second homes that will never be affordable.
In addition to opposing the South Fork Wind Farm on behalf of commercial fishermen and on environmental grounds, Ms. Brady has accused the current administration of not listening to Montauk residents about everything from music permits to beach fortification to the idea of moving motels from the oceanfront. Ms. Bambrick has accused the town of failing to enforce zoning codes or of doing so selectively, even of inappropriately mixing enforcement with politics or retaliation.
Notably this year, virtually all the candidates, incumbent or challenger, expressed concern about town residents in some way becoming too factioned, or “micro” — whether that means Wainscott and Montauk being pitted against each other in not wanting to be the preferred landing site for the South Fork Wind Farm cable, or whether it means working-class people being exiled by high housing prices or else segregated in housing projects found only in certain pockets of town.
Somehow that notion seems to carry over to the political contest: the idea that town residents should still all be in this together.
It is incumbent, if you will, upon challengers to criticize incumbent opponents — on issues of policy. What is another story is using slogans about “detoxifying” Town Hall or making statements that suggest the present Town Board has no intention of meeting what it claims publicly to be its goals.
It seems fair to say that at times the Town Board seems to work in lockstep, with less public discussion than many would prefer. Even so, Peter Van Scoyoc, Sylvia Overby and David Lys, by all appearances, have been serving the public honestly, responsibly and earnestly. As a group they continue to endeavor to improve water quality, preserve open space, encourage the use of renewable energy, seek solutions to the housing problem, plan for the future of each unique hamlet, especially in the face of climate change, and at the same time work to resolve short-term problems.
The incumbents most certainly deserve reelection.