I write this in my private capacity, and not as a representative of the town or the town planning board, which I chair.
On Dec. 30, the eve of a four-day weekend, the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott filed a petition that seeks to convert the hamlet of Wainscott into an incorporated village, thus triggering the very short deadlines leading to an election, as required by New York State Village Law.
After 350 years, Wainscott’s status as a vital and valued hamlet within East Hampton could end by early spring. Yet this is not fast enough for C.P.W., which has issued a press release urging “Supervisor Van Scoyoc to call the election as soon as possible.”
C.P.W.’s hubris is exceeded only by its disingenuousness. Having effectively shaved four days from the limited time which Village Law gives the voters of Wainscott to consider the myriad issues presented by its petition, C.P.W. seeks to shorten that time even further. Worse yet, C.P.W. seeks to rush the process in the midst of a pandemic. The imposition of a village upon the residents, taxpayers, and property owners of Wainscott deserves more discussion than the present circumstances afford. Leaving aside that the petition was filed in winter, which is not a particularly inviting time to have a lengthy conversation with one’s neighbors at the post office, this is not a conversation which can be easily had while social-distancing. During a pandemic, one cannot simply drop in on one’s neighbors and attempt to sort the truth from the lies about incorporation over a cup of coffee.
Instead, the voters of Wainscott are left with the glossy brochures, fatuous PowerPoint presentations, and invalid comparisons to Sagaponack that form the basis of the consultant’s reports within which C.P.W.’s wealthy benefactors seek to frame this vital debate. C.P.W. is attempting to impose a permanent change on Wainscott without the fulsome debate or meaningful discussion which it deserves, as is the intention of Village Law.
As I see it, there is absolutely no legitimate reason to incorporate Wainscott. Of what value is incorporation if, as C.P.W.’s press release admits: “[T]he new village would oversee a limited set of functions with a small staff. All other services (e.g., police, pire, environmental, tax assessment, highways, airport management) would continue to be provided by the Town of East Hampton through common inter-municipal agreements”? Why should the taxpayers of Wainscott bear the burden of this new layer of government when all the services which the village intends to rent are already provided, and provided quite well, by the town? It is quite clear that the only real goal of the proponents of incorporation is to attempt to prevent the cable landing at Beach Lane, and there is no certainty that a village of Wainscott could successfully do that.
If the motivations of incorporation’s proponents are genuine, they would stop the shenanigans (as evidenced by the slippery timing of the petition’s filing) and give all the voters in Wainscott the opportunity to participate in the conversation which Village Law plainly intends. Before long, the pandemic will be in our past and a proper debate can then be joined. The petition should be withdrawn, for now. After 350 years as a hamlet, the incorporation of Wainscott can surely wait a few months.
Very truly yours