Friday, October 31, 2008

Hamptons Crime Wave Redux

As repressed sadists are supposed to become policemen or butchers so those with irrational fear of life become publishers.
--Cyril Connolly (1903 - 1974)

At the risk of seeming repetitive, Westhampton Beach Village was hit with another break-in at a local business October 30th. Wearing hoods, the perpetrators climbed up on the roof of a building on Main Street after casing Magic’s Pub for roughly 45 minutes. Apparently, no police patrols saw anything wrong going on as the break in crew climbed through a second floor window. Only the security system alerted management.
A few thousand dollars worth of building damage makes this "thwarted" break-in more than just a little inconvenient.

Comments about the last robbery, during which armed robbers held up the Post Stop Café and confronted the owner just down the block, were criticized as “intellectually dishonest” by a local blogger. Apparently, the fact that a local resident is living among business people who are fearful that they may end up on the wrong end of a gun is in some way “dishonest.” That’s, no doubt, part of the problem when you live in a Police state like Suffolk County. This is not the Soviet Union and the NKVD is not going to visit you in the middle of the night – but the thieves might.
Let’s hope that there’s a better way of dealing with this problem. With four major break-ins and robberies (that we know about) in less than a year at Magic’s Pub and Sunset Café alone, thieves have targeted this Village. Criticizing what is written about it is, at the very least, missing the point. Instead, how about constant evening patrols by the police in a Village that is only a few square blocks – and electing a Mayor who knows what’s going on before we have a ghost town where business used to thrive.

Apparently, the former police chief (Mayor Conrad Teller) was not even aware that there had been a robbery at the Post Stop when he was told about the business owner’s meeting to discuss security. There’s no excuse for that. That’s incompetence. And, the current Chief, Ray Dean, needs to reevaluate his manpower strategy while he’s planning his retirement – without resorting to the old “we need more money and men” ploy. Pay attention to what’s going on and get to work!
The Hamptons has more than enough police at salaries that would make New York City cops red in the face. What we need are leaders who give a damn and can direct the ample forces already in place – before someone is seriously hurt or killed

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Hamptons Crime Wave

In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.
-- Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914)

Last year on Martin Luther King’s birthday, a local landmark, Magic’s Pub, was hit by an armed robbery in Westhampton Beach. The accomplished job was handled replete with ski masks and a casual pace that involved removing the safe and a few wide screen T.V's. There is no doubt that the significance of the holiday was part of the motivation for the robbery.
While it took place on Main Street in the Village of Westhampton Beach, with numerous lights on in front and behind the establishment, not a police officer could be found. Even the tapes of the entire event provided no useful clue to the Village government – which in a Police-happy location like the Hamptons is even more interesting – given the fact that the Mayor is the former Chief of Police. He was voted in on a law and order platform. Other establishments have been hit as well.
No follow up or leads have ever been developed and all has been forgotten. The Mayor has made no effort to solve the crime. No attempt was ever made to make businesses feel as if they are appreciated and the event was regrettable, if not avoidable. Business has gone on as usual since. Although, as one business owner has confided, this is no longer the little Village that I moved to twenty years ago.

And, then it happened again last night.

Scary or not, Halloween has not even arrived yet. Or, has it?
The Post Stop café on Main Street was hit again in Westhampton Beach at 12:30 a.m. early this morning. Two sources confirm that Sandy, the owner, was confronted by three men wearing ski masks – carrying guns. Apparently, they not only took the money but her purse as well. She survived but it took a toll on her emotionally.
This time it was armed robbery.
Thieves are emboldened when a Village is unable to, or unwilling to solve crimes. It is also an unofficial way of telling businesses to leave.

Makes you wonder why the Mayor, Conrad Teller, is so concerned with the Eruv controversy when he can’t even keep the Village safe from crime. While Rabbi Schneier has been perceived as being a little too heavy in his campaign, the real objection to the Eruv is the fear that Westhampton Village will become another 5 Towns – with all business closed by the Orthodox Jews on Saturdays.
But, it’s no wonder that businesses close down on Saturday – and every other day -- after Labor Day. It’s not just the lack of attendance by tourists. And, this year it will be worse – a lot worse. Between the fear of crime and the severe recession we are about to enter, there will be heavy layoffs in the Hamptons and businesses that close because it is simply not safe. The free-flowing property tax money and the disposable income from New Yorkers will also not be the same. Wall Street has taken care of that.

Speaking of the the spector of anti-Semitism in the air, the close relative of racism – apparently Spanish Night at a local café in Westhampton Beach, which has become a popular part of the Village one night a week, has at least one or two detractors.

While Village government is busy fighting the Jews, Barbara Ramsay, former Planning Board member and local realtor has decided that Latino music is far too loud for her -- at any decibel level.
Despite the fact that this occurs in a commercial zone, she objects. Instead of speaking to the staff about her opinion that the music played INSIDE the café a few hundred feet away from her office/home on Sunset Avenue is too loud, she goes directly to the police. She knows all of the government people very well.
But, is this a good neighbor problem, or is it just that those pesky Latinos – along with the Jews – are upsetting one of the “insiders” in Westhampton Village government -- by their very existence?
The local gossip is that business owners are getting tired of the do-nothing Mayor who nods off at meetings and who does not want to promote business. And, the word is that they are offended by the fact that the entire Village is being operated by the small time, small-minded and racist proclivities of people like Ramsay, Building Inspector Houlihan and Code Enforcer Bridget Napoli – supported by the Mayor. In a Village where it takes a year to get a sign approved for a new business unless it’s a friend of the Mayor or Ramsay, or Houlihan or Napoli – or someone else at Town Hall.
While Ramsay was an official deciding variance applications, her husband was taking orders on local building contracts. James Zizzi comes to mind in the Town of Southampton, on that score.

The fact that neither the police nor the government have sought to assure local business owners -- or have ever asked for their opinions on how to make local government more business friendly – is telling.
More and more businesses close up in the winter due to the lack of interest by elected officials or the harassment by building inspectors and code enforcement – and now the safety issue will compound that perception of an official anti-business agenda (except for compliant friends).

The times are apparently a-changin’ – and Mayberry is an old series whose time has passed along with Gomer Pyle. Apparently, Westhampton Beach Village government needs a top to bottom change itself. Like entering the 21st century.

If not, keep driving when you reach the Westhampton Beach exit on the Sunrise. Your life may depend upon it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Equal Rights in the Hamptons

Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things.
-- Russell Baker (1925 - )

Many of those who emigrated to the East End in the 60’s and 70’s now are the political cognoscenti who play out the moral and ethical tapes running the Hamptons government. In other words, while some headed for the Berkshires, as some might run to Burning Man now, artists, activists and reactionaries moved to the Hamptons for solace and escape.
Blacks, Asians, Gays, Latinos, need not apply. It was strictly lily-white, non-Jewish, and mostly Protestant.

Little has changed with regard to those sensibilities. Although, the police force and local governments have gotten a shot in the arm from eight years of “W” since he’s been off the bottle. The Republican Party, the party of Senator Craig, has managed nicely to co-opt the Democrats with the help of Rich Schaeffer, the County Democratic Chairman – and both Republican and Democratic politicians are “with the program.” Tim Bishop, a Democrat, regularly works with Assembly member Fred Thiele, who is Schaeffer’s relative.

As an aside, Schaeffer’s sabotaging of Democrats when they face Republicans he favors has become notorious. In the current Town Justice election (DeMayo vs. Schiavoni), for example, the balloting has been arranged so that a blank space appears in such a way that the voters eyes will drop – veering the voter away from Andrea Schiavoni towards Tom DeMayo. It’s an old Tammany Hall trick, which may cost Schiavoni the race.

The control of politics and the Hamptons culture inures to the Police and those politicians who trample upon the rights of anyone who gets in their way. The escapee mentality is less obvious in the summer when the money is to be made, but, in winter, all bets are off. Even local residents become targets when there are no New Yorkers to prey upon. Having worked in the South Bronx during the 70’s when death reigned in an area that resembled Berlin after WWII, the police at Fort Apache in the Bronx earned their money. Local law enforcement in the Hamptons, carrying Glock automatics, face about as much danger at their jobs as a bumblebee facing a hostile rose bush.

Consider the case of a young local woman, for example, who was pulled over for a missing license plate. Bear in mind, now, that only one plate was missing. This was not a renegade hijacking. But, police have little to do in Southampton. Being a cop in Southampton is slightly more intellectually challenging than being on the Town Board. Decisions are made carefully.
It takes a great deal of thought to decide how to deal with an attractive young woman who can’t open her car window and has some weed debris in the vehicle.
As Lewis Black, the comedian, recently opined, “The failure of our generation was that we never got pot legalized.”
That fact, and the fact that having a few seeds, a few butts or a twig of weed, was never considered more than an “appearance ticket” violation.

So, Stacy Hartline, was confronted with a situation Nancy Botwin (Weeds) would have played by embarrassing the cop into taking a walk.
Even Officer Gallo, who had just returned to the job after beating a record of 18 job-related complaints, decided to call in the situation to his superior, Darren Gagnon. But, what Gallo may or may not have realized until then was that Gagnon had put the make on Hartline the week before at the Public House and had been rejected. Cops with big guns don’t like to be turned down, or else. So Gagnon arrives at the scene and Hartline is cuffed and dragged to the precinct.

Gagnon, Gallo and their female compatriot, Maria Donovan – described as having been the Village Police force’s personal paramour in a prior life – prepared the homecoming. For having some weed debris, Hartline is strip-searched in full view of a video camera that beamed the unwilling sex party for the boys throughout the station house.
Apparently, Donovan, having had her day, was willing to violate not only the rights of Ms. Hartline – but also the rights of women – to regain her usefulness to the boys.

Keep in mind that it’s taken five years to get to the point where a jury will hear this case – or, it will be settled? For big money.

Makes you wonder when the local residents will get sick enough of the increase in taxes resulting from an avalanche of lawsuits hitting the Hamptons over civil rights violations and unconstitutional behavior that will make a change in behavior among police and government officials more appealing.

Watch for Nuzzi to use the current “Green” issue to help “Skip” Heaney rear his ugly head in local Hamptons politics. Nuzzi was always a Heaney plant --- from Crookhaven where the mob gained a footing in local politics – and who was taken on Board for the purposes of running for Supervisor after Heaney. There is little doubt that Nuzzi, who has been described as someone who has never had an original thought in his life – is being propped up by Heaney. This is Heaney’s ploy in an attempt to parlay the pork-barrel job thrown to him by County Executive Steve Levy – into a surreptitious control of the Town of Southampton where he was thrown out by Linda Kabot.
Levy, of course, like Rich Schaeffer, is a Republican in all but party designation. All of the typical bias, anti-Latino, anti-Civil Rights and anti-New Yorker rhetoric as well as sentiment are well controlled by Levy as well.
But, the legislative facts are the proof in the pudding.

Currently, in an attempt to appear forward-looking, Anna Throne-Holst, the current Board member who is doing Dan Russo (puppy eyes), came up with the idea of making all new construction energy-efficient.
While the thought is nice, the Town Board has not had an original practical idea for the last half-century and is currently coping with the fact that 2009 will be the year that police and civil servants get pink slips. And, that the party held with wheelbarrows of cash from New Yorkers -- is over -- and that the newer wheelbarrows of cash will more likely hold currency from the Weimar Republic: both Devalued and scarce.