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Sep 15, 2009 6:51 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

EH candidates up in arms over letter on GOP's environmental record

Sep 15, 2009 6:51 PM

A piece of campaign literature purported to be endorsing Democratic Town Supervisor candidate Ben Zwirn distributed over the past several weeks has been spreading what Republicans say are serious misrepresentations about the GOP’s environmental record and their plans for the future.

Mr. Zwirn, who said that he was unaware of the literature until this week, denounced the mailing and said that he had nothing to do with it.

The first written pamphlets were distributed two weeks ago, when attendees at a Democratic fund-raiser at the home of Andree Dean returned to their cars after the party to find a sheet filled with information about what some said were questionable environmental suggestions included in the early draft of a comprehensive plan completed by a firm called Horne-Rose during Republican Jay Schneiderman’s term as town supervisor.

Mr. Schneiderman said that many of the suggestions—including one for 410 units of worker housing at the Montauk docks and associated sewer systems—were brought up by community groups at public forums with Horne-Rose and were never even considered by his administration because they would have been environmental disasters.

Bill Wilkinson, the Republican candidate for supervisor, said that he had never heard of Horne-Rose or any of the proposals listed in the document, which included a 1,000-seat amphitheater at the Ed Ecker Park Preserve in Montauk and the creation of a $5 million English garden at the Springs Park on Three Mile Harbor Road.

The campaign literature states that “these measures would have benefited a few, not those of us who treasure the rural character and open spaces that define East Hampton. That’s why East Hampton needs Ben Zwirn.”

But Mr. Zwirn said that he had seen the leaflet for the first time only this week. “I didn’t put it out. I didn’t see it before it went out. There’s stuff in there that I had no knowledge of,” he said. “Personally I don’t think it’s relevant to this campaign. It may be of concern to some people. It’s not something I would have done. It’s not mine and I can’t respond to it.”

One influential East Hampton Democrat is more than happy to talk about the document—former Town Councilwoman Debra Foster, who first ran for Town Board in 2003 on a platform that opposed the “smart growth” principles in the Horne-Rose plan.

She said this week that the document was drafted by Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee chairwoman Lisa Grenci and that she herself had only perused it and agreed with it. But Ms. Grenci said this week that she had provided Ms. Foster with a list of Horne-Rose’s proposals for Montauk because Ms. Foster told her that she had heard rumors that the GOP was planning to resurrect the study. Ms. Grenci said that she is not involved with the preparation of any campaign materials for Mr. Zwirn and that she was unaware of what Ms. Foster planned to do with the information.

“I don’t really remember working on anybody’s campaign,” she said. “What Debbie asked me to do was make list of proposals that I was aware of.”

“I don’t know where they stand on any of these things,” she said of the GOP candidates. “It’s just Deb stirring the pot again.”

Mr. Wilkinson was adamant that the Republicans have no intention of enacting the 13 proposals listed in the leaflet, some of which are environmentally questionable, and include building sewage treatment plants in Harbor Protection Overlay Districts, increased development and allowing water taxis between the hamlets.

“When I read it, it was the first time I ever heard of Horne-Rose. It’s just as obvious that the items listed were brand new to me,” he said. “To say these are things we are planning to do is not only untrue but just wrong. This is smear campaign literature and the good people of East Hampton are tired of not hearing the truth.”

Mr. Wilkinson, who lives in Montauk, said that he was appalled at the suggestion in the leaflet that he was in favor of three to four-story condominiums with underground parking garages.

“In Montauk, you’re one to two feet above the water table already. It’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve heard. It’s just scare tactics,” he said.

The leaflet also accuses Mr. Wilkinson of attempting to undermine environmental protection by proposing a restructuring of the town’s Natural Resources Department.

The current Town Board, which is controlled by the Democrats, has moved many staff members in Natural Resources to the Planning Department in an effort to wrest control from the hands of Natural Resources Director Larry Penny. Some on the Town Board said that Mr. Penny has been unable to properly manage his department, though Mr. Penny claims the move is political payback for his unsuccessful 2005 run for the Town Board as a Republican.

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I see no one has commented on this - why not? Could it be that anyone who supports the Ben Zwirn/Deb Foster/Lona and David Rubenstein/Chris Kelley/Bill Taylor/Lisa Grenci/David Gruber/Alec Baldwin/Bill McGintee/Sylvia Overby "Save What's Left" (little did we know at what cost) venemous PAC supporters are all hiding -- hoping that no one has noticed that their politics have left this Town divided and in shambles? I've always believed it's not the party - it's the person . . .but when it IS the ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Sep 18, 09 10:45 PM
Yeah right, like the Wilkinson - Piette - Lerner special interest administration, give a free ride if they've got the bucks? But it's not about partys, nor about personal attacks. The big decision is who's running and who is best fit to solve problems facing us not just point fingers, like our former Sag Harbor Mayor said. You really cheat everyone with these personal attacks. But maybe you are a bored watcher and have nothing else to do and don't really care about the people at all.
By veritas (7), East Hampton on Sep 22, 09 10:53 AM
Same old scare politics we have come to expect from the Foster-Schafer-Mazur-Gruber-Zwirn-McGintee-Taylor crowd. They have nothing to run on so they make things up out of whole cloth. Underground garages in Montauk with a two foot water table line? Are you kidding me? Not only are the allegations despicable, they also assume local residents are idiots -- which they are not.
By truthinbonac (46), Amagansett on Sep 25, 09 6:07 PM