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.