Throwing Out What You Came Here For

Isn’t it amazing that people come out to the Hamptons to enjoy the farms, bays, waters and other rural attractions of this place, and then fight like hell to destroy it all?

This comes up all the time. Our town boards try to keep safe what brings everybody here. It’s a constant battle. What is the matter with people?

It wasn’t so long ago that the local Bonacker fishermen, the original settlers, drove their pickup trucks around with a couple of black labs in the back, jumping around loose, all excited about heading down to the beach. They’d been doing this for generations.

But then city people came out and thought these dogs could get thrown out of an open pickup truck if it went around a turn too fast. If the people in the front have to wear seatbelts, the dogs should too. [expand]

A law was passed requiring all dogs in the backs of pickups to wear restraints. Could be like bungee cords, or straps. But they’d have to be attached to the truck in some way to keep the dogs secure, otherwise tickets would be issued. Most of the Bonackers moved away after that, to North Carolina, I am told, where dogs are left to be, well, dogs.

In Southampton several years ago, a dashing young Spanish artist by the name of Gines Serran-Pagan bought an old farmhouse on North Main Street that was being used as a storage shed and brought in goats and pigs and other farm animals to restore the historic feel of the place. It was, in fact, the oldest farmhouse in that town. Serran-Pagan was a very flamboyant fellow who had many friends. And he held wonderful dinner parties. Also, he had an open invitation for the school children in the town to come over to see the animals, and many teachers in the different schools took him up on it. Where is he today? Back in Spain.

Why? The Mayor’s father lived in a house next door to the Serran-Pagan farm. Suddenly the ordinance inspectors were over every day giving Serran-Pagan tickets for farm noises and animal smells. They drove him out by nearly bankrupting him.

Last week at a town board meeting in East Hampton, the talk was about roosters. Roosters wake up at dawn and commence crowing. There should be a ban on them.

“It’s very annoying when your neighbor has a rooster,” David Buda said. “What do we need them for?”

He was reminded that roosters are necessary if you want to have chickens and little baby chickens. They fertilize the eggs. John Talmadge noted that you can get day-old chicks in the mail overnight if you want. They need roosters where they make the chicks, but not here anymore. Somebody else suggested that these roosters were here for cock fights. Nobody had any good things to say about that.  Someone remembered that a few years ago, former Town Councilman Brad Loewen wanted to ban the keeping of not only roosters but chickens and other annoying creatures. That went nowhere.

I have heard stories about tourists staying in motels who couldn’t sleep because of the noise made by the ocean. Couldn’t something be done?

Then there is Mill Pond in Water Mill where so many residents have come to build homes along its shores with wondrous landscaping, gardens, flowers and lawns that the fertilizer run-off from them has turned the pond red.

One of the most curious examples of this phenomenon involves the old Katz Farm on the Montauk Highway in East Hampton. Thirty years ago, it became a condominium development called Dune Alpin—but the developers wanted to have the farm buildings and pastures and horses to look at, so they left as open space these great pastures and then allowed people to bring in their horses to graze.

I’m sure you have seen this place along Montauk Highway just to the west of the Red Horse Shopping Center. You may even have stopped there to enjoy having the horses come over to the railing.

Well, this year, certain members of the cooperative objected to the horses whinnying and running around in the field because the terms of the scenic easement put together back in 1983 specifically says that the fields are for ALL the residents, even those who don’t like horses, and this impinges on the rights of those who don’t and therefore no longer feel they can go for walks through the fields.

Specifically they object to the activities of some polo players who last year contracted with the management of the condominium to keep their polo ponies in these fields and once in a while have a polo match. That’s out of the question.

The Town Board weighed in with the opinion that the ponies were all right with them. Those opposed to the ponies threatened a lawsuit if the contract were renewed this year. It wasn’t. Now lawsuits have been filed.

For a long time, there was a big battle about farmstands. Who could object to farmstands? People who lived near them, that’s who. All these people coming and going, making all that noise, holding up pumpkins and ears of corn.

Ultimately, the Town made strict laws about what you could or could not sell at farmstands and even where you could have a farmstand. You couldn’t sell jam for example, if the kind of fruit it was made from was not being produced in the field behind the farmstand.

One of the most extraordinary things, little noticed over the years, has been the loss of grand vistas over farm fields and horse pastures. It’s not just because of all the restrictions about farming and horses. It’s mostly because of all these exotic trees and shrubs that have been brought in at great expense from around the world by well-meaning new residents who want to enhance their views by bordering them with wonderful gardens, flowers and hedgerows.

What people forgot is that these products reproduce themselves by issuing pollen out into the wind. (The wind takes the pollen to the neighbor’s property. Egad. Had the pollen seeds been big enough to be visible to the naked eye, people would have sued for being invaded.) So what if a European stand of cattails on one person’s yard soon becomes a stand of cattails that clog, for example, Georgica Pond, by overwhelming all the local plants in the wetlands?

Environmentalists refer to how this has taken place as the arrival of “invasive species,” but the result is that where once you could see forever, now you can see about 10 feet.

East Hampton Councilman Dominick Stanzione proposed a month ago that many of these vistas now blocked by invasive species be reopened by the town highway department so once again everybody, not just the rich as he said, could enjoy looking across a pasture to a dune and a body of water, as was the case a generation before. The matter was passed. Much overgrowth blocks views of Accabonac Harbor, Northwest Creek, Bluff Road, Three Mile Harbor and Scoy Pond in East Hampton and such places as Old West Lake Drive and Stepping Stones Pond in Montauk.

So now they have moved to implementation. Or have they? Not only have many residents noted that they could see better across a field, but now others could see across a field to THEM. Even such organizations as the Nature Conservancy have become alarmed.

“We look forward to working with the town to make sure that the land which we own at the nature preserve is not compromised in any way,” wrote Nancy Nagle Kelly, the executive director.

One remembers that a few years ago P. Diddy was cited for “clearing” some land on his property so he could have a better view of a nearby pond. They made him replant it all to the way it was.

Humans are indeed strange. The overwhelming urge is to come to a grand view across a field to the mist over the dunes at the back of the ocean and say—oh what a wonderful place to build a house, right in the middle of this. I’ll put a hedgerow around my house so nobody could see in. But I’ll leave it open where it faces the view. At least I’ll have mine. And the hell with everybody else.

Actually, the only species considered by humans to be superior to them are small birds called piping plovers. They were at one time endangered. But they were made special, so anytime a plover made a nest anywhere the humans had to keep away. All our beaches now have metal wire fences to keep the plovers safe and the people out. The plovers fly angrily around, slowly gaining the strength they can muster by working in giant flocks. And the humans run. They even cancelled the Fourth of July fireworks in East Hampton because of the plovers, since fireworks might scare the plovers. The end is near. [/expand]

 

BACK TO Dan Rattiner's Stories