East Hampton Town Buys Second Squaw Road Lot

East Hampton Town will purchase a second property on Squaw Road in Springs, near Three Mile Harbor, after the town board held a hearing on the acquisition last Thursday night. The .62-acre lot, owned by Joseph Dragotta, will cost $455,000, which will come from the community preservation fund. 

David Buda, a Springs resident, spoke against the purchase. The property, in a one-acre residential zone, is “quite overpriced,” he said. Under zoning restrictions, asserted Mr. Buda, development is already restricted on much of the lot. “I think it is a poor use of C.P.F. funds,” he said. 

Mr. Buda, who regularly attends board meetings and has often raised objections to preservation fund land purchases, complained that the town board does not seem to actually take comments made at public hearings into account. The board “listens politely,” he said, does not respond to comments, and moves forward on resolutions of approval that are already prepared. “It is essentially a dog-and-pony show,” he said. 

Also at last Thursday’s meeting, several parents of autistic children spoke to the board in support of a recent proposal by the Gersh Academy, a private concern that runs a number of schools and programs for children in need of special services, to take over the former Child Development Center of the Hamptons building.

The building is on land leased from the town in Wainscott. While its owner, the former C.D.C.H., has reportedly come to an agreement with Gersh Academy, the town must sign off on reassignment of the land lease. 

Autism is a “growing problem,” said Julian Barrowcliffe, who said that after his young son was diagnosed, he was “shocked at how hard it’s been for us to locate and secure services for him here.” His family and others were “very excited,” he said, to hear about the Gersh Academy proposal, which he called “certainly the closest thing I’ve seen to a no-brainer.” 

He said he had been “rather baffled” to hear that “there is pushback” from some school districts concerned about loss of funding they receive to provide special education services for some students that may end up going to Gersh Academy. But, he said, if the districts are no longer required to provide for those students, there should be no net economic loss to them. 

“Many don’t realize that there’s a community of children here with autism,” Genie Egerton-Warburton told the board. “We need a school here for children with autism. This is a huge problem.” She said she had surveyed nearby pediatricians, who had estimated that there are up to 100 children in the area who could benefit from attendance at the Gersh Academy. 

“Since you have the facility there, if we could work out some sort of lease . . . what’s it going to take?” she asked the board. 

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell told her that after a presentation from the head of Gersh Academy, board members had followed up with questions for him, “and all that is under consideration. We are going to make a decision on it,” he said. 

Another speaker at Town Hall last Thursday beseeched the board to restore the townwide leaf pickup program, a service that was abolished by the previous supervisor, Bill Wilkinson. 

Vivian Wilkinson of Montauk said she had not brought up the topic with Mr. Wilkinson, her brother-in-law, but that her husband had spoken against abolishing the program at a town meeting several years ago. “The place was packed,“ she said. “Nobody wanted it taken away, and, darn it, that board did it.” 

Ms. Wilkinson said that not having the town Highway Department collect piles of leaves left at the roadside is particularly problematic for older residents who cannot easily rake, collect, load, or carry leaves to the recycling centers, or afford to hire someone to do it.

Ms. Wilkinson also supported the call for services in East Hampton for autistic children, citing her own family’s experience in underscoring the need for appropriate intervention and help.