East Hampton Town Supervisor Candidate: Zachary Cohen

Zachary Cohen is the Democratic candidate for East Hampton Town Supervisor in this November’s election. He describes himself as a man of many hats, saying, “My business interest, that continues from 1974 to today, is the design-build real estate business operated with my wife, Pamela Bicket, who is an architect. We do some new construction, but we like to do historic and other restorations and commercial property transformations (a golf cart factory into high-tech offices that we still own in Berkeley, CA). We tend to hold properties as rentals and long-term investments (in other words, we rarely do ‘speculative’ short-term deals).” [expand]

He also has been invited to advise the town on its fiscal problems in the past. So with this background I asked him why he is running for East Hampton Town Supervisor? Cohen said that he thought his opponent, incumbent Town Supervisor William Wilkinson’s “style and decisions are harmful to the Town of East Hampton long term.” He said he could bring “the town back together,” saying “Wilkinson’s style has polarized the community,” creating what Mr. Cohen called, “anger groups.”

As a graduate of the University of California at Berkley and with an MBA from the University of Chicago, Cohen frowned on the corporate bully tactics he believes his opponent uses too often at town meetings. When Cohen was asked why it was important that he win the 2011 election and why is this election so important to the town, he zeroed in on management style. “The town needs a supervisor who will treat the town employees and the town taxpayers with respect. That presently isn’t the case.” He went on to say he believes the present supervisor doesn’t listen to the town taxpayers once his mind is made up, using the ending of town leaf collection as an example.

Cohen explained, “It’s not what it cost the town budget, it’s what it cost the town’s taxpayers, whether they are paying the bill through town taxes or out of their wallets to remove the leaves from their property. To save the town budget money but cost the taxpayers more money is bad decision making.” When asked to illustrate some other bad decisions by the present supervisor, Cohen said, “There were so many—the Montauk Concert fiasco, the peddlers laws in Montauk, his attempt at farm legislation, then trying to sell the Montauk docks and Fort Pond House. Now the Poxabogue proposal….The town assets have value beyond their selling price.”

Cohen said he is more seasoned to deal with “the real long-term problems of the town concerning our water. He cited the dangers to the town caused by “the erosion of the shores, pollution in the harbors and worse the pollution of our aquifers. The town needs to be proactive on these issues.” Cohen said if he were elected “the town again would be run from the people upward, not from the supervisor down,” and that he would invite the “people of the town to lead discussions on the issues and problems in a respectful way.”

“Right now the squeaky wheels seem to be getting all the grease under the present Town Board.” Cohen insisted he would construct the town budget differently, and said, “I support a budget that maintains quality of life, but I also demand stiff financial restraint.”

As for his vision of the Town of East Hampton for the future, Cohen said, “A town where there will be a balance between the tourist industry and the full-time residents. Jobs and affordable housing so that the young, next generation can live in their hometown, and not be exiled upIsland or beyond to survive.”

He ended by saying, “Also, a town were neighbors come together to make the decisions for the town, not be divided.” Cohen said recent polls show him closing the gap and he believes with this momentum he can win.

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