Letters to the Editor: 12/8/16


Fast Facts on Turf Field

Dear Editor,

On December 14, registered voters within the Sag Harbor UFSD will be asked to authorize the Board of Education to “expend a total amount not to exceed $365,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund” to provide additional funding for the installation of a new synthetic turf field at Pierson Middle/High School. We have provided some fast facts regarding the proposition below.

  • In 2013, voters approved the installation of a synthetic turf field with a price tag of $1.62 million. The final vote was 585 to 507.
  • In February 2016, the two bids received by the district for the installation of the synthetic turf field were $500,000 and $700,000 higher than the amount of funds authorized by voters.
  • In order to close the gap between the original project and the bids, the board decided to reduce the scope of the project and ask voters to supplement the funding of the project with $365,000 from the district’s Capital Reserve Fund. This would not increase property taxes.
  • If approved on December 14, the projected cost of installing the synthetic field at Pierson Middle/High School would be an estimated $1,985,000.
  • The infill being proposed is crumb rubber from recycled tires that has been coated with acrylic to help reduce the field temperature (CoolFill SBR).
  • Concerns have been raised about the safety of recycled tire crumb used in playing fields in the US. Limited studies have not shown an elevated health risk from playing on fields with tire crumb, however, existing studies do not comprehensively evaluate the concerns about health risks from exposure to tire crumb. On February 12, 2016 the US Government launched a multi-agency federal research action plan to study key environmental human health questions. More information can be found at www.epa.gov.
  • Currently, many Pierson student-athletes play on synthetic turf fields at neighboring districts. The new synthetic field behind Pierson will be utilized by all Pierson field sports with the exception of varsity baseball. The field will also be used for all physical education classes and recess for Pierson Middle/High School students.
  • If the majority of the public votes no to synthetic turf, the funds may be used to install new grass fields at Pierson Middle/High School in summer 2017 and Sag Harbor Elementary School in summer 2018, as well as a multipurpose court at the elementary school.

We appreciate our community’s active interest in this upcoming vote. Please exercise your right to vote on December 14, at the Pierson High School gymnasium. Voting hours will be held from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Katy Graves

Superintendent, Sag Harbor Schools


Correcting The Record on Artificial Turf

Dear Kathryn,

Our community faces an important vote on Wednesday, Dec. 14th about whether or not to install a synthetic turf field behind Pierson. The spirited debate that has ensued unfortunately has included a great deal of misinformation. I would like the opportunity to correct the record.

  1. The turf being proposed is a type of crumb rubber made from ground-up tires. A member of the community has been claiming that the board of education found a miraculous synthetic infill with “no health risks.” That is false. The material the board approved is called “coolfill” and it is a crumb rubber infill coated in plastic (“acrylic polymer”). “Silica sand” is another infill option. It is more expensive, requires additional shock padding, and, unfortunately, includes “silica,” which has been linked to fatal lung disease and lung cancer. The bond resolution itself does not specify anything beyond “synthetic turf field.” No wonder people are confused.
  2. Chemicals in crumb rubber include lead, for which the CDC says there is no safe level for children. Crumb rubber also contains mercury, arsenic, benzene, carbon black, and flame retardants (among other chemicals). While there has been no long-term study definitively linking the rise in cancers among young people with children’s exposure to artificial turf, common sense tells us that increasing exposures to known carcinogens (cancer causing) and neurotoxins (brain damaging) can’t be good for children or athletes.
  3. Government research review: Many of the studies claiming artificial turf is “safe” were conducted or supported by the turf industry. Independent researchers have raised questions about the long-term health effects and this led the federal government to announce, earlier this year, a review of the research. The findings from this review are expected to be released in 2018. In the meantime, the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have retracted their previous safety assurances of artificial turf.

The history of tobacco, lead, asbestos, and the pesticide DBCP, show us that industries will use their own research to create doubt about the risks, confuse the public, and prevent regulation. These industries also attacked researchers and health advocates who raised questions about the safety of their products. We have, unfortunately, seen the same malicious tactics used in our small town.

  1. Synthetic turf, injuries, and MRSA: Research also shows that certain injuries increase on synthetic turf and “rug burns” from sliding on the plastic carpet make athletes 7x more susceptible to staph infections. Concussions also tend to be more severe when sustained on synthetic turf as opposed to grass. Professional football, baseball, and soccer have been moving away from synthetic turf because the athletes don’t like it.
  2. Synthetic turf does not last as long as industry claims. In New York State alone, there have been numerous cases of synthetic turf fields breaking down in as little as two years. The industry says those fields were defective. Yet, while industry claims artificial turf should last 10-15 years, typical replacement time is closer to 7-8.
  3. Turf is more costly than grass. When installation, replacement, and maintenance costs of both synthetic turf and grass are combined and compared over a 20-year period, turf is substantially more expensive – up to 3x more than grass. In addition, the Bridge Golf Course has been donating thousands of dollars in goods and services to rescue the existing grass field. Progress is being made.
  4. With only one field, synthetic turf at Pierson gives families no choice. Pierson’s only field is not just for athletes; it is also used for PE, recess, lunch, and events such as homecoming. Meanwhile, industry guidelines state that children shouldn’t eat or drink on synthetic turf, events on the surface can void the warranty, and some departments of health advise that anyone who plays on synthetic turf shower immediately and wash clothes immediately to “reduce contamination.”

So what’s the bottom line? The school district is asking for more money for a project that has been reduced in scope (walking track, bleachers, etc. have been removed) than voters approved in 2013. Meanwhile, for LESS than the $1.6 million voters already approved, we can get two natural organic grass fields and a renovated multi-purpose court. And no toxic chemicals, of which the growing bodies of children and young athletes are especially susceptible.

Given all of this, I hope you will join me in voting against synthetic turf at Pierson on Wednesday, Dec. 14th, from 7 am – 9 pm in the Pierson gym. Anyone who is registered in Sag Harbor can vote.

Thank you,

Susan Lamontagne

Editor’s Note: Ms. Lamontagne is a member of the Sag Harbor School Board of Education, and notes she is speaking for herself personally, and not on behalf of that board.


Level the Playing Field

To the Editor:

Increased funds for artificial turf made of crumb rubber, is being voted on again on December 14th. This type of field has been strongly implicated in increased incidences of lymphoma, especially in soccer goalies, who “dive” into it, and has been banned in some municipalities. Studies are ongoing. An organic infill substitute for artificial turf, which would reduce the cancer risk, is much more costly and not on the table at this time.

Offers of free help to remediate the current grass field from The Bridge golf course aside, how can we level the playing field of this argument when there’s a real possibility that children’s health will be at risk with artificial turf?

April Gornik

North Haven


Financial Concerns of Artificial Turf

Dear Editor,

Next week’s turf vote involves a project very different from the 2013 vote. Despite paying consultants and architects a hefty sum to guide us on the procurement, turf installation costs have surged $500,000 to $1.95m since the last vote, forcing the district to hold another referendum asking the public for more money to proceed on a project whose core features, such as a two lane walking track, have been gutted to accommodate the gross mispricing of synthetic turf. Districts to the west have installed synthetic turf for around $1m. No, we didn’t already vote on this. We don’t even need to venture into the very real health and environmental considerations to vote against this deal. Because the financial considerations shouldn’t have even enabled us to get to the health debate in the first place.

In addition to new health concerns emerging since the last vote, a number of prominent studies have been done on the financial implications of synthetic turf, most notably by Forbes magazine, which questions the entire raison d’etre of artificial turf — its financial superiority.

Possibly the worst aspect of artificial turf is that it needs to be completely replaced at a price of one million dollars every eight years. Turf firms allege the shelf life is 10-15 years. Forbes alleges they’re lying, pointing to the warranty offered to districts, which is only eight years. Should we trust the turf firms on their annual maintenance assumptions as well? So every eight years the district will have to hold a referendum on whether to allow the replacement to proceed, since that $1million will have to come out the capital budget subject to referendum rules. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, layering more and more debt on the district balance sheet every eight years. One proponent of synthetic turf claims the replacement number is only $300-400k, given to him by a non-NYSED approved contractor that couldn’t ever conduct the work for our district anyways. That number also runs directly counter to what our own consultants have informed us

Some put forward the notion this project’s attraction derives from the fact its costs come out of the “capital budget” not subject to tax caps, and financed by low interest rate debt. But it doesn’t matter if the capital project you grossly overpaid for is part of the capital budget or part of the operating budget. Expenditures that are debt financed are still expenditures, plain and simple. The fact that we are exploiting historically low interest rates on our debt service doesn’t alleviate the horribly negative financial aspects of this deal. When you buy a house worth $500k for $2 million, whether you got a “great mortgage at super rates” doesn’t detract from the stupidity of the decision.

When pitched projects that rest on the notion we must take advantage of our bond rating and low borrowing rates, taxpayers need to consider some important points. When a project experiences a cost overrun, where most districts including our own seem to have a 100% batting average, the overage cannot come out of the capital budget. The district must deploy reserves, which in most cases requires another referendum on another bond offering to make up the difference. The turf project went over budget by 30%. The bond referendum covering the other recently completed items was 5% over budget.  If we apply a 5-30% range on the cost of the Stella Maris renovations, we are looking at a $600k- $3.6 million cost overrun that we must invade reserves to accommodate, or send our overworked district officials and board members out to more nightly debates on referendums for capital projects. One a side note, the fiscal aversion to natural grass that some of our board members have demonstrated becomes hard to reconcile when juxtaposed against the “free-wheeling” confidence on the Stella Maris project. Capital projects are hardly a “risk free” activity.

Jim Sanford

Sag Harbor


The Village Vs. Suburbia

Dear Editor:

You wake early one morning as the sun rises through the withering trees this time of the year and realize how special and fortunate to live and share  this village. As I walk my son to school on a crisp, sunny, clear morning, I can imagine as our foot steps pass the many varied and unique homes, where so many generations of children walked on their way to school. We run past the high school’s grass field and rolling hill and then I realize that I and you, our readers, must make a decision.

All of us now once again are faced with a choice, the lesser of two greens: nature, our environment, water use, our health, children, our taxes, and resources, or man made. “NATURAL GRASS” vs. “SYNTHETIC TURF.”

To spend our time and monies to suburbanize another part of our lives is just another example as is;

1]- Building sidewalks and gutters along Bridge-Sag Turnpike.

Q- Have you or anyone you know taken walks there recently?

2] – Sunday Bus service.

Q- Have you or anyone you know taken the bus (on Sunday)?

All of the above is what they do with our tax dollars with little or no benefits and obvious negative results.

And now on December 14, they shall have a vote to replace a field of green grass with questionable, expensive, water wasting, synthetic green rubber turf. So, an informal survey was given asking  a group having their morning cafe on Main St. on the subject and  here are some of the answers:

1] “ Stupid,” 2] “Whats wrong with natural grass?” 3] “Who cares?”

If you feel the very least bit concerned, whether or not you have a child in school, the only issue for every person living in or around this village, community, area, town, county, state, of country is, “Because YOU care”

Robert Arcs

Sag Harbor


I Have Been Wrong Before…

Dear Editor:

I was there for Stella Maris, and I am up at 6:15 every day but I’m still there for start school later. The crumb rubber turf or Real Grass is also a big one, and Sag Harbor isn’t just spirited about it, Sag Harbor is divided. The Real Grass team brought science, and medicine, and a reminder that our school district serves the kids, and not our convenience. Yes, the tire-pieces-turf gets really hot, way hotter than grass. So does a child running around, but that extra heat releases composting dump fumes from used tires. The rubber-pellet-turf team brought back the last vote that they won, and while it was close with 500+ votes each side, the price has now soared by a half million bucks. Kinda quick for an economy going sideways, eh? When Sag Harbor voted close to a tie in 2013 with chewed up garbage field winning slightly over actual grass, the company that makes the proposed industrial waste fields for our kids was not being sued by five schools on Long Island. I say NO.

NBC says Monsanto started Chemgrass, Astroturf, and MLB players said it made for a hard landing. Seventy-five percent of NFL players today say they are more tired after playing on it. Those are pros, we are talking about kids in development, and we are talking about every day at recess not just teams, (my child is on the swim team, but he has recess every day). The sales pitch for the fake field is that it lasts 7-10 years. If I believe the company selling this melty bouncy pellets, that’s still more than twice as much money. I don’t believe them. I snapped my ankle loudly, in a few places, on rubber when I would not have done so on grass. I personally believe the reason the voters are being asked for $365,000 more money since the last vote is because the chemical field companies now need $365,000 more money for insurance premiums. Follow the money, and it leads to insurance premiums, doctors, and lawyers in every order. Pfft. I say NO on the ballot.

In my real estate business I want our school to have the best, and so do my sellers and so do my buyers; but if I form my opinion as a parent first, based on full information, it’s more likely to be the right decision for our business and for our community, and for our kids. The soaring liability insurance is way up on this product, and it’s not for our district, our neighborhood, and certainly for our kids. The $365,000 is for the company trying to sell us their garbage with a sheen on it. I’m in real estate 30 years, and I’ve probably seen it all… and I’m just not buying it. I don’t believe many of their claims. If it passes, our district will end up in court. I like real grass, and I say NO on the vote for a bigger budget to buy their garbage.

Simon Harrison

Sag Harbor


Vote No on Artificial Turf

Dear Editors,

As many of us know there is a heated debate going on about the field behind Pierson.

There have been claims that we, who oppose synthetic turf, are not supporting our athletes.

I would propose that the opposite is true. People across the country and in our own community are turning a blind eye to some shocking facts. I understand that they might believe they are doing what is right for our children. Here are some things that they might not know.

Yale University did a chemical analysis on five samples of rubber infill from five different installers of fields and nine samples of rubber playground mulch. While their study doesn’t shock me as their products come from the hazardous tire waste industry perhaps it will shock you.

They found 96 chemicals. A little under half have been tested for their toxicity on humans and environment. Of the rest, 20% are probable carcinogens.Here are a just a few….

  • 2-mercaptobenzothiazole: Carcinogen, toxic to aquatic life
  • 9,10 dimethylanthracene: Carcinogen, can cause asthma
  • Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate: Carcinogen, may cause damage to fetuses
  • Fluoranthene: Carcinogen, One of the EPS’s priority pollutants
  • Phenol, 4-(1,1,3,3-tetramethylbutyl)-: Carcinogen
  • Phthalimide: Carcinogen, skin, eye and lung irritant
  • Pyrene, 1-methyl-: Carcinogen
  • Tetratriacontane: Carcinogen, Can cause systemic damage to the central nervous system
  • Pyrene: Carcinogen, toxic to liver and kidneys, a PAH
  • Carbon Black: Carcinogen, itself made up of many chemicals, many petroleum products
  • Benzenediamine: Irritant to skin, eyes and toxic to aquatic life
  • Anthracene: Irritant to eyes, skin and lungs and causes coughing and wheezing
  • Dehydroabietic: Toxic to aquatic organisms

And many other chemicals that cause harm to the respiratory system and aquatic life. To view the full results see http://ehhi.org/chemicals.

I implore the community to think about our Sag Harbor shoreline three blocks down the hill. More importantly think about our kids and their health! This is SCIENTIFIC FACT not hysteria.

Crumb rubber or coated crumb rubber along with lead and flame retardant filled plastic grass should have no place in any community. Even the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control will not back artificial turf products anymore. On top of all this there is mounting evidence of more severe injuries, more antibiotic resistant infections and more heat related health emergencies on synthetic turf. Please understand also that as Pierson has only one field for recess, sports and PE the exposure to all kids all the time is more extreme than after school practice and games.

Please VOTE NO on Wed, Dec 14th!

Real grass is the healthiest and most cost effective option for our children.

Thank you,

Jill Musnicki

Sag Harbor


Take a Walk for Dave

To the Editor:

I write in heartfelt sadness for the passing of David Lee, whom I am proud to have called my friend. He most assuredly was a Sag Harbor “institution” even as he was born in England. He came to the Harbor with his parents in 1948 and for every year thereafter, was a genius at selflessly promoting everything Sag Harbor.

I first met Dave and his lovely and sweet wife, Vera, back in the 1970s when he owned Cove Jewelers and co-owned the Cove Men’s Shop. He loved the people and the history of the community and thrived in learning about those who came to make the village their home.

Always a gentleman and actually a quiet scholar, David was a red, white and blue American patriot and was truly “Mr. Sag Harbor”.

When I was elected from the East End to the United States House of Representatives in 1994, there was no more enthusiastic supporter than Dave Lee. He was generous with his counsel and regularly reminded me to “never forget” the needs of the small towns here, particularly prodding me to find federal dollars to assist Sag Harbor with its infrastructure needs.

Men like Dave Lee are the lifeblood of community service, always interested in improving the life of those around them, of giving back and celebrating the good things that make the village a home. Like so many, I enjoyed hearing Paul Sydney and then Gary Sapiane regularly banter with Dave Lee on WLNG.

Thank you Dave for your generous heart and for putting first the beautiful Sag Harbor community. My condolences to his family and friends.

And in honor of Dave Lee, let’s all go out and “take a walk.” ‘Til we meet again, my friend,

Michael Patrick Forbes

Member of Congress (1995-2001)

Round Rock, Texas


David’s Contributions


Sadly David Lee, the Chair of the East Hampton Housing Authority, passed away this week.

The Board of Commissioners of the Housing Authority wishes to recognize the many achievements of David Lee. He will be greatly missed by both the Board of the Housing Authority as well as the Sag Harbor community and the Town of East Hampton.

David was appointed to the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners in 1997 and was most recently re-appointed to a 5 year term in 2014. He served as chair of the Board for 17 of his 19 years of service.

David was a very active member of the business/professional community.  His civic involvement in the community was extensive.

David was a veteran of WWII. He served the British Army as a radar technician and telecommunications mechanic.

Rest in peace David.

Patricia Gilchrest, Secretary

Board of Commissioners, East Hampton Housing Authority


Mr. Hersch:

Save The Point House

To the Editor:

In Mr. Hersch’s interview in last week’s edition of the Sag Harbor Express, he stated that “if the Village doesn’t like his plan for renovating the Point House then the Village should pick up the tab”. If we don’t, he is willing to let the house deteriorate and be torn down.

We are anxiously waiting for Mr. Hersch’s plan. This past summer the Village Board of Architectural Review & Historical Preservation prepared, at Mr. Hersch’s request, a set of guidelines that we would like him to follow in repairing and preserving the façade of this historic house. These were reasonable requests: Use the existing windows and repair the ones that are broken or damaged. Repair or replace the roof and siding with like material that would preserve its historic character. The Village requested him to immediately repair any damage that would cause further deterioration and expose the house to destruction. We have received no plans for repairing or renovating the house.

I urge Mr. Hersch to hire a competent contactor. Obtain an estimate of the repairs needed to protect the house from further deterioration and destruction and present the plan to the Village for their approval so the work can begin.

Only Mr. Hersch can save the Point House.

Jeff Sander

Mayor, Village of North Haven