Letters to the Editor: 7/30/20

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Remembering Rick

I appreciate being able to express my sincere condolences to Rick Murphy’s loving wife, Karen, as well as his loving sister, Phyllis.

I know that Rick mentored both Gavin and Kathryn Menu, co-publishers of the Express News Group, with tender, loving care and professional expertise at The Independent newspaper, when I was there watching you both win Rookie of the Year honors — because you were coachable! Rick defined your roles and gave you confidence. Since you were both willing to take direction, the entire team flourished.

I know that both of you appreciate Rick’s jovial personality, penetrating intelligence and outstanding sense of humor as much as I do. Since your one big, happy family revolves around appreciation, too, I believe that you appreciate Rick Murphy’s legacy far more than most.

Rick Murphy “Forcucci” and I have been lifelong friends, since 1957. During the summer, he lived in the last house on the left at the foot of Howard Street in Sag Harbor. I lived one street over in the last house on the left at the foot of Meadowlark Lane.

During the winter, I got into the habit of cutting through the Forcucci yard to get to my parents’ house. One fine summer day, I took my usual shortcut, when this scrawny pipsqueak kid jumps out of an apple tree, wrestles me to the ground and declares, “No trespassing, dipstick! This is my home turf!”

What I admire most about Rick Murphy is his indomitable free spirit. He still lives by the Golden Rule and treats others with respect and kindness. Yet let it be known that Rick Murphy is no pushover. He values the truth more than the opinion of those who happen to have belief systems that dramatically differ from his. He never shied away from controversy, even when it meant taking on the Catholic Church to report a sexual abuse scandal in Sag Harbor. Though Rick was as capable of reporting objectively on the president of the United States as he reported on the Grateful Dead rock band, I don’t know anyone who is more down-to-earth, especially now.

As for my belief system, I believe it’s never been about those whose right time has already come. It’s always been about those who have been left behind to find the right way to grieve, by fully appreciating those we love.

Fortunately, no one loves Rick Murphy more than his wife, Karen, and his sister, Phyllis. Since I am a big believer in keeping people I love alive in my beautiful mind by appreciating their enduring qualities, I have already begun communicating with Rick in this way. Thanks to him, there is no end!

Bob Vacca

Sag Harbor

Legacy Of Love

On Sunday, Congressman John Lewis made his final journey across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a horse-drawn caisson reflecting the moral conscience of Congress.

The bridge was named after Edmund Winston Pettus (July 6, 1821 to July 27, 1907), who was an American politician. Pettus represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate from 1897 to 1907. He previously served as a senior officer of the Confederate States Army who commanded infantry in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. After the war, he was politically active in the Ku Klux Klan, serving as a grand dragon.

This is the same bridge in Selma, Alabama, where, on Sunday, March 7, 1965, 25-year-old civil rights leader John Lewis, along with Dr. Martin Lither King and others, led some 600 protesters over the bridge to agitate for the right of African Americans to vote.

While most people must move through fear to find courage, Lewis said, “I never felt fear, not once.” But unfortunately, with no fear, he was the first to be beaten in the clash with state troopers, who cracked his skull with a billy club on the date that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” The positive outcome of their blood-drawn sacrifice inspired the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act just two months later.

In closing, I will leave you with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King that Congressman John Lewis repeated and exemplified: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Brenda Simmons

Executive Director

Southampton African American Museum

Southampton Village

Bad Timing

Congratulations to the graduating 2020 class of Pierson High School.

I looked forward to this day, as my grandson would be graduating. The weather forecast was heavy rain with thunder. As time went by, I would be updated as to a possible cancellation or change in ceremony start time. Graduation would begin at 5 p.m.; then, an update: the time was now set for 6 p.m. The storm was set to hit by 7 o’clock.

No sooner did everyone arrive, it began to sprinkle. This quickly turned into a downpour, complete with thunder — as promised. Needless to say, everyone was soaked. The graduates sat in their chairs with grace and composure, no choice, as their names were called to receive their well-earned diplomas.

My question to all those who made the decision to push the ceremony’s start time later (hence, closer to the storm) rather than sooner — like, maybe, 4 p.m., or 3 or 2 — is: why? The students could have had a totally different and pleasant day to remember.

Success to all the graduates.

Yolanda Field

Sag Harbor

Generous Grant

I would like to thank the Sag Harbor Partnership, personally and wholeheartedly, for its grant of $4,250 towards youth sailing scholarships. These funds will allow us to expand our existing sailing scholarship program and support an additional 10 juniors from our area, giving them each the opportunity of a one-week “learn-to-sail” program this August.

As with most organizations, the historic events of 2020 have caused us to do some soul-searching, and our board has determined that we would like to make a stronger effort to serve communities that historically have been underrepresented in sailing. The generous grant will focus exclusively on these efforts.

For the first time, we are now actively working with OLA, the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center and the Shinnecock Nation to find deserving and enthusiastic juniors to join our program. I look forward to sharing how they do! If even one young person discovers a lifelong love for sailing and the water, we will consider this summer a success.

Of course, Breakwater has instituted a strict set of health policies and procedures, following New York State day-camp guidelines — the safety of our sailors has always been our highest priority.

Breakwater’s mission is to foster access and a love of sailing and our local waters for all ages. We are a “community sailing center” that is welcoming and open to all who share this mission.

We are thrilled to be in partnership with this organization, as we share the same broad commitment to the Sag Harbor community. We look forward to working with the Sag Harbor Partnership on future projects in our beloved village.

Luke M. Babcock

Commodore

Breakwater Sailing Center Inc.

Sag Harbor Village

Silenced By Zoom

I’m writing in regards to the article “Bridgehampton CAC Voices Concerns about Plan to Convert Farm Stand to Fire Truck Storage Building,” which appeared on July 20 in your online edition.

The applicant is the Bridgehampton Antique Fire Truck Museum Inc. When asked why this application needs a special exemption, a member of the Southampton Town Planning Department explained that all museums need one. And there is the confusion: Ed Deyermond states that his group is only seeking to use the property, the former farm stand at the intersection of Scuttle Hole and Millstone roads, as storage for antique fire trucks — but the organization’s name, as well as its stated mission on Guidestar, the non-profit transparency website, is to build a museum. They have been working since 2011 to do this in Sag Harbor, but, according to articles in The Sag Harbor Express, failed to meet the village’s building codes in terms of size.

So have they come to Bridgehampton to take advantage of what may be more liberal building codes and easier reviews by Southampton Town as opposed to Sag Harbor Village?

The property is zoned for agricultural and residential use. Storing antique fire trucks fits neither allowed usage, nor does a fire truck museum.

Information on Guidestar indicates it is the Sag Harbor Fire Department that owns the land that this organization intends to sell to fund the purchase of this site in Bridgehampton, a hamlet with its own fire department and its own fundraising needs. The Sag Harbor Village Police Department already stores its impounded vehicles in Bridgehampton on property they had purchased.

The article further says that at the June 25 Planning Board public hearing, “no one offered public comment.” Rather, what actually happened — and this information was related to the paper’s reporter — was that I had signed up in advance on the town’s website to “speak” at the videoconference hearing. I logged on to the hearing, and after the applicant’s attorney had finished speaking, Jacqui Lofaro, the chair of the Planning Board, asked if there was anyone from the public who wished to comment.

I clicked on the appropriate icon to speak — but no one at this virtual hearing could see me, or hear me, or know that someone from the public was asking to speak. Nor did they know I had signed up in advance.

When I later spoke to the Planning Board attorney and asked that there be another public hearing, I was told that would be illegal, because the public portion of the application had been closed at the meeting. I replied that perhaps this wasn’t a legal public hearing if the technology malfunctioned. I did not receive a response.

Pamela Harwood

Bridgehampton

Ms. Harwood is chair of the Bridgehampton CAC — Ed.

So Many Better Places

All of the Bridgehampton Community Advisory Committee members have been very concerned with our chairman, Pamela Harwood, not being able to comment at the Southampton Town Planning Board Zoom meeting, regarding our feedback about the Sag Harbor Fire Museum locating a proposed “storage” area for its trucks on Scuttle Hole Road, near the roundabout at Millstone Road [“Bridgehampton CAC Voices Concerns About Plan To Convert Farm Stand To Fire Truck Storage Building,” 27east.com, July 20].

The members of the CAC, and many extended members of the community, have spent a great deal of time enumerating the many, many reasons why this is not a good idea. There are so many better places to locate such storage.

We all feel that, since this land is in an agricultural overlay district, it is fundamentally and conceptually wrong to allow the fire museum to buy the property. And we also feel that this is being proposed for financial reasons on the part of the owner, to enhance his return. It should not be allowed!

If that little triangle of land continues to remain as an agricultural “use,” it will be valued as agricultural. In this case, the property will continue to be affordable by someone who would like to put an agricultural use there — like the iconic farm stand that it once was!

This proposed change in use is not right to all the neighbors surrounding that triangle. These neighbors expected to be located near an agricultural “use,” not truck storage, and not the type of “use” that this truck storage could blossom into (like a fire truck museum). None of these “uses” is consistent with an agricultural overlay district, and we all feel that it should not be allowed.

We also feel that there should be another hearing on the television, so that all of the other residents of the Town of Southampton have the opportunity to hear Pamela Harwood express our opinions on this very important issue. I am sure that I have missed some important aspects of this issue that Pamela would like to bring up.

Jenice J. Delano

Bridgehampton

Here To Stay

What is the endgame of wearing our masks, social distancing and not sending our sophomores, juniors and seniors back to school? How long would you anticipate keeping this cohort of students out of the classroom? What solution are we anticipating for COVID-19? A vaccine that has a 100 percent cure rate?

Here are some scientific facts to consider:

During the 2017-18 flu season, 61,000 people died in the United States. That year, the flu vaccine was merely 40 percent effective.

Like influenza, COVID-19 is a virus, which, unlike bacterial infections, is not easily treated. Viruses continue to mutate, which cause them to build up tolerances to medical treatments. Granted, it appears that COVID-19 is possibly more contagious and to some degree more deadly, but there is still some debate going on about that.

The flu has been with us for centuries, and to date there is no cure. Similarly, we should anticipate that there will be no “magic bullet” for COVID-19, and any vaccine developed to treat it may only be effective within a certain percentage of the population. We must therefore face the realization that COVID-19 is here to stay.

But is COVID-19 as dangerous a threat to our children as the media would lead us to believe? In a May 28 article in the Washington Times, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in the 2016-17 flu season, there were 110 “influenza-associated pediatric deaths.” In 2017-18, there were 188; in 2018-19, 144. Yet schools were kept open. There had been only three pediatric deaths attributable to COVID-19 as of the reporting date.

Here are some questions if we do not send our sophomores, juniors and seniors back for the 2020-21 school year: How many students will suffer from irreparable depression? Become introverted? Develop addictions to online gaming? Turn to drugs? Lack a quality education that will allow them to succeed in life?

The three final years of primary education are key to plotting the trajectory of every student. These are also years when critical socialization occurs, shaping our children into budding adults. To contemplate not allowing this cohort of students back into the classroom without every conceivable effort to do so is simply outrageous, bordering on criminal. And to give any consideration to permitting preschool and kindergarten children to attend at their expense is beyond words.

No doubt there are significant challenges to overcome before all students can be allowed back into the classroom, but let’s not accept the path of least resistance. Online-only learning for this very impressionable age group is an appalling option and one that should be wholly discounted in favor of every other concession that will need to be made.

Chris Remkus

Sag Harbor

Acceptable Risk

I’m not sure what point Lars Clemensen, the superintendent of Hampton Bays schools, was trying to make with his article [“School Reopening Rhetoric Presents A False Choice,” Viewpoint, July 23].

I think he’s saying all choices are bad, and his fear is getting the best of him. A diatribe of academic PowerPoints pop out, such as “hyper-politized,” “manage competing ideas,” “issues of inequity.” Sounds impressive in an academic paper, but what we need is your outline toward a safer school opening, not a dissertation.

Mr. Clemensen, you and your staff did not fail. Online learning is a failure. At this age bracket, it’s just not appropriate for students to learn in this environment.

It’s admirable that he defends his staff and points out all that was accomplished. I’m sure they did the best they could, but online education is a failure for most young students.

I urge Mr. Clemensen to look at the American Council on Science and Health website and read “Covid Deaths Among Children and Reopening Schools.” Presently, in the United States, from the ages of 5 to 14 years of age, we have 14 deaths from COVID-19. From the age of 15 to 24, we have 149 deaths.

Fear seems to paralyze those when considering opening schools. When did we become so adverse to risk, even risk that is minimal? Certainly, staff consideration needs to be considered, and that should be done individually, and if teachers and staff need to make individual choices they should be able to do so.

But to suggest that “just do it” is not appropriate is a disservice to the slogan itself. Certainly, much hard work needs to be done, but some steps are easy, such as temperature checks, good hygiene, wash hands while leaving classrooms. Consider keeping students in the same classes and rotating teachers in and out. Custodians will have additional duties, and that may be where additional staff should be hired at least temporarily.

We all know that some will get the virus, but now we can quickly accommodate and isolate to maintain minimal contagion risk so as to minimize a public outbreak to a entire community.

You said you served 99,000 meals — any COVID-19-related issues occur from feeding so many? I don’t think so, otherwise you would have mentioned it.

Actions speak louder then words. Risk is inherent in life and must be dealt with as such, but fear cannot be the driving force in decision-making. Schools need to open, and I am saying that if you are too fearful to open, you have failed, because you failed to look at the real data that indicates that you can reopen and you should reopen.

Goethe once said: “The dangers of life are infinite and among them is safety.”

Thomas M. Jones

Sag Harbor

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