Sunday, September 21, 2008

Doom and Gloom Part II

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
--Abraham Lincoln

As the Town of Southampton with its visionary government contemplates the permanent arrival of Dan Russo to complete the rejuvenated Republican control of the Town Board, a few things have become clearer.

One of the first acts of nouveau thought on the Board has come from Anna Throne-Holst, ostensibly a Democrat, who in the midst of a meltdown in the real estate and financial markets, has introduced legislation pushing “green” building for all new construction. The implications for this law were never thought through and while we would all like wind and solar power to take us off the grid – making all new construction more expensive and more difficult to accomplish – is like stabbing the EMS worker trying to save his victim on the gurney. Neither she nor the Town Board appears to know, or care about, the technical requirements that allow homeowners to recover the cost of solar installations through tax credits and rebates. Environmental consultants will tell you that there are serious limitations which prevent solar panels, geothermal pumps, wind generators or other “green” installations. The cost for the average person is prohibitive. Solar systems, which do not even eliminate electrical dependence upon LIPA, can cost $30,000 to $50,000. Then, there’s the heating system.

Wind generators, for example, are not permitted in many areas in the Hamptons. Solar panels will not work adequately in shaded locations and as a result, will not qualify for rebates and tax credits.

In some cases, where roof installations do not capture sunlight, the degree of exposure will not qualify for rebates and those mechanicals and panels would require sprawling installations that can encroach upon entire sections of one’s property.

And, a myriad of problems accompany the new law regarding pool heaters.

This law appears to have been conceived with no thought and certainly no consideration of the volatile economic environment in which we all live.

The proposed initiative threatens to cost homeowners more money and negatively affect local businesses while it will hinder the applications for new construction, except for the rich. This, as the housing implosion struggles on – and, as a 26 year low in new building permits dogs the economy.

That’s without even considering the meltdown in the financial markets.

For local homeowners, especially seniors, this is a kick in the head.
Why, then, is this new initiative being forced upon everyone in a disastrous economy?
Because, the Town Board, is a train out of control.

AND, this is a further attempt to continue the intrusive, unconstitutional tactics being used to target New Yorkers and landlords with “legal” codes.

It is a license to renew the Spanish Inquisition.

The local Hamptons economy is headed for a brick wall, as it is in Manhattan. In the Hamptons, finances are now a very serious problem. The Supervisors have been dipping into the Community Preservation Fund (the fund intended for purchases of open land), which is now being used to pay salaries. Property tax collections are down, transfer taxes are non-existent and fees are way off. Mortgages, the grease for the economy, which allows New Yorkers to buy in the Hamptons, are virtually non-existent.
And, yet, the Town of Southampton continues to target landlords as the anti-Latino immigrant Code Enforcement posse (initiated by “Skip” Heaney) continues to kill the rental market. The sales market (except for housing in the $500,000 range) is already dead. They want to bury it.

It won’t be long before local businesses will be wishing for more customers – whether they’re legal or speak English and hang out in front of 7-11. The Minutemen, the anti-immigrant group that has been harassing people and encouraging politicians, are not going to pick up the slack in business.
So, in order to keep beating the dead horse of New Yorker investments in housing, the real reason for the “green” laws -- may be more of an effort to provide yet another excuse for Building Inspectors, Fire Marshals and Code Enforcement police to enter your property with, or without, a warrant. And, with or without your permission.

Every time a new building permit is issued, every time that a new law is passed regarding housing modifications is passed – it becomes INSPECTION TIME. Let’s all go into your house and see what you’ve got.

Maybe, if we’re not looking to target you for something right now, we can keep a record (and some photos), so we can use it later if you’re not compliant. And, we’ll charge you for it so that the idiots who the Town needs to keep employing can get paid.

Further, the Town of Southampton is now desperately trying to bring in new fees and fines to support the economy. It won’t work.

The engine driving Hamptons economics is running out of steam.

Manhattan condo sales are starting to collapse. Coop and condo fee defaults will further stress the remaining owners who are not in default. And, the nearly 100,000 ADDITIONAL employees on Wall Street about to lose their jobs this coming year (yes, the ones that buy Hamptons properties and rent summer houses) will devastate the Hamptons. Some see this mini-Depression taking from 5 to 15 years to play out. Remember, it took housing 20 years to recover during the last Great Depression.

While Linda Kabot, the new Supervisor, is a local and a Republican – perhaps its time for the government to sit down with the enemy (New Yorkers who are landlords) and start talking cooperation.

If she continues to leave policy and planning to the likes of the clerical appointees, the racist Code Enforcement Police and the rest of the clueless Town Board, the flunkies in the Town Attorney’s office and the Building Department – they’ll all soon be out of a job, or broke.