East Hampton Town might be located at the most eastern edge of Long Island, but it sits squarely at the convergence of numerous issues that will shape Long Island for generations.
Managing our precious coastline as sea levels rise, incorporating offshore wind energy into our electric grid to fight climate change, building more housing that is affordable for residents — East Hampton is grappling with all of that right now, along with the future of its indispensable airport. Navigating these challenges requires smarts, common sense, and a steady hand.
Incumbent supervisor Peter K. Van Scoyoc, 62, a Democrat from Northwest Woods, has been a deft and effective manager in his two terms. He understands the need to move quickly but carefully in meeting urgent needs, as in shepherding a proposed landing in Wainscott for the cable from the planned South Fork Wind Farm, overcoming the loud and well-funded, but minority opposition of homeowners in the hamlet.
One of his two opponents, fellow Democrat and town board member Jeffrey Bragman, 70, of East Hampton, an environmental attorney running on the Independence Party line, says the environmental review was too quick and that Van Scoyoc gave away too much leverage in negotiations with developers. But his argument is undercut by environmental safeguards in the agreement and a $29 million community benefits package.
Montauk Republican Kenneth I. Walles, 69, president of a hospitality and business management company, questions the wisdom of offshore wind in general and prefers a cable landing spot farther west where he says the construction would affect fewer people, an argument difficult to square with greater population densities there.
All three candidates understand the peril facing places like Montauk from storms and rising seas, with both challengers embracing elements of Van Scoyoc's long-term plan which includes strategic retreat of development and more natural resiliency along the coast. While all three agree on the increasingly dire need for affordable housing, Van Scoyoc has the most carefully thought-out plan for using funds from a tax on real estate transactions that likely will go before voters next year.
As for East Hampton Airport, the town can regain control from the FAA by closing it temporarily and then reopening it. Bragman wants to shutter it to all commercial traffic for one year and monitor the impacts. Van Scoyoc worries helicopters and planes will fly to smaller Montauk instead, creating more noise across the town, and proposes a two-month closure followed by curfews and other restrictions to see what works.