By Kathryn G. Menu
Peter Van Scoyoc officially took the helm of the East Hampton Town Board as supervisor on Tuesday morning, offering an inaugural address detailing an agenda focused on the need to address erosion, the crippling opioid crisis, sustainability, preservation, affordable housing and other important issues.
“I believe that foremost among them is protecting and improving our water quality,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc to a room filled with family members and supporters. “We must continue to be vigilant in protecting our drinking water resources. The water that we depend on is under foot. We must tread lightly and be mindful of the fact that what we do on the land can have a direct and significant impact on the quality of our water.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc, a member of the town board since 2012, took his oath of office alongside incumbent Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who earned re-election in November, and attorney Jeffrey Bragman, who won his first election bid as Democrats swept the November election. Sylvia Overby rounds out the four-member board, with a fifth member expected to be appointed at a January 16 work session.
On Tuesday, Mr. Van Scoyoc said water quality initiatives would include the continuation of work with county and state officials to determine the cause of private water well contamination by Perflourinated chemicals (PFCs) in Wainscott. As of January 1, the town also requires the installation of low-nitrogen producing septic systems in new or substantial construction projects — an initiative that is coupled with a septic rebate program funded through the town’s Community Preservation Fund in an effort to reduce nitrogen loading in aquifers and surface waters.
“Using Community Preservation Funds, qualifying projects such as building oyster reefs or growing macro algae, will help restore our water bodies’ natural ability to process nitrogen and other contaminates,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “We will continue to focus on preserving and restoring natural habitats within our critical watersheds.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc said he was committed to developing strategies to combat coastal erosion and sea level rise, working with the Coastal Assessment and Resiliency Planning Study in an effort to be “proactive, rather than reactive, in addressing impending impacts.” He added the town would continue to press the federal government for a “sand only” beach replenishment project to combat beach erosion in downtown Montauk.
Investing in solar technology for town properties, incorporating other energy efficient technologies into the town’s infrastructure, transitioning to electric powered vehicles, and supporting offshore wind projects are ways the town will move towards its 100-percent renewable energy goal, said Mr. Van Scoyoc.
“Sustaining our community and quality of life must not be limited to protecting our natural environment,” he added. “Protecting our history and traditions is important.” Mr. Van Scoyoc said the town would move forward with historic restoration projects like the preservation of the George Fowler House on Springs Fireplace Road, and fight to ensure access to the town’s waterways remain a public right.
Developing more youth services to help combat the opioid epidemic, working on new affordable housing initiatives, and improving infrastructure throughout the town are other priorities, said Mr. Van Scoyoc, as is continuing to find relief for those impacted by air traffic coming in and out of the East Hampton Airport.
“We must remain open to new ideas and be tolerant of our differences,” he said. “We must engage in constructive and civil dialogue, while respecting each other’s views. We must care for the most vulnerable among us, and work constructively in the best interests of all.”