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Oct 22, 2019 4:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Four Candidates Seek Town Seats On East Hampton Town Council

Oct 22, 2019 4:54 PM
The four people seeking to earn council seats on the East Hampton Town Board this year all have long histories of working with or within the town government.

Elizabeth Bambrick, 
Independence Party

Ms. Bambrick, who goes by Betsy, worked for East Hampton Town for some 30 years and is the former head of the town’s Code Enforcement Department.

She currently works as the coordinator of special services for the St. Michael’s senior housing complex in Amagansett.

She is a mother of two and has lived in Springs for 42 years.

Ms. Bambrick highlights that she is officially politically unaffiliated, having never registered with a political party, despite having been recruited by both major parties during her time in town government.

“I’m a staunch independent,” she said recently.

As a former department head for the town, she says that she is well suited to step into the role of a town councilperson who understands the workings of town government and the hurdles of dealing with public concerns.

“I have the institutional knowledge and I was a sensitive supervisor of town employees,” she said.

Ms. Bambrick, who has a pending civil rights complaint against the town, has been highly critical of the town’s management of Code Enforcement since she retired in 2017. She said that the enforcement of housing laws, particularly in Springs, has fallen by the wayside as the department struggles with staffing issues.

She touted the success the department had under her management, with large fines levied against overcrowded party spots like Surf Lodge and the former Cyril’s.

She has also been critical of the current administration’s approach to governing with the filter of the Democratic Party’s hegemony in Town Hall, saying the board has not been forthright in its dealings unless called out.

“What I hear on the campaign trail is that people in places like Montauk feel that the things they say in CAC meetings or to the Town Board are not being heard, or aren’t being listened to,” she said. “I believe that one-party rule leaves no room for other voices and I’m looking to make some changes, let some other voices be heard.”

Ms. Bambrick said she would like to advocate for town employees, who she says are not paid on par with those in other towns. She says she believes that the town can find ways to raise salaries for employees and remain below the state tax caps.

“We need to get them a living wage,” she said.

Working so closely with seniors at the St. Michael’s complex, she says, would make her a good advocate within town government for senior citizens and a useful resource to the Town Board on the needs of their aging residents.

Bonnie Brady, 
Independence Party

Ms. Brady is a registered Democrat running on the East Hampton Independence Party line. It is her first bid for elected office.

Ms. Brady is a Montauk resident and executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, a post she has held for 20 years, since helping to found the organization with the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Her husband, David Aripotch, is the captain of a commercial fishing boat in Montauk.

She has been the most strident and most vocal critic of the proposal for the South Fork Wind Farm and the East Hampton Town Board’s majority support for it. She says that the town’s focus on its pledge of being 100 percent renewable energy-dependent by 2022 is misguided and misrepresented.

“Sustainability is a great thing, for this town and every other town, but you can’t just take the first group of charlatans that get into the room and say ‘We’ll give you 100 percent and you won’t have to do a thing,’” she said, referring to the town’s reliance on the power from the SFWF to meet its 100 percent renewable goal. “We need sustainability but it has to come from efficiency and cutting out wasted energy. Why aren’t we making people replace light bulbs? Why are stores allowed to pump air conditioning out onto the streets because their doors are wide open? Why don’t we have solar panels on every rooftop?”

Ms. Brady also said that her running mate David Gruber’s suggestions that high-density apartment complexes are needed to address housing shortages shouldn’t be brushed aside by those worried about the impacts on local character. She nods to the many small apartment complexes around the area.

“The Villas at Montauk Downs, the Harborside, there are apartment complexes out here that are tastefully done,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be Long Island City you’re building but we have to do something or we won’t have anyone left. It shouldn’t be that everyone is a transplant from Manhattan who can afford million-dollar homes.”

Ms. Brady said she was spurred to run for office not by the wind farm fight but by the need for representation of Montauk’s residents on the Town Board.

“I had my ‘Network’ moment: I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” she said. “We needed someone from Montauk. I was feeling the Town Board whiplash over Montauk, from excavating the dunes to the hamlet study to Deepwater and the music permits. All of these issues that directly affected Montauk but … you have a small cadre of people getting together and discussing things and making decisions for everyone else. There should be many more voices.”

David Lys, 
Democratic Party

Mr. Lys was appointed to the Town Board in January 2018 and won the right to retain the seat last fall. He is now seeking election to his first full four-year term on the board.

Prior to his appointment, Mr. Lys had served five years on the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and had overseen the restoration of the Amagansett Life-Saving Station.

Mr. Lys says that he is basing his candidacy on his work ethic and his record of moving projects to completion.

“I’ve had the last two years as a job performance evaluation — I’m asking voters, ‘How am I doing?’” he said. “I think I bring a lot of energy to the job and I’ve moved a lot of things forward that had been stalled or were sitting on the shelf.”

He lists among the projects he has brought to fruition the resurfaced public tennis courts in Montauk, the construction of the Amagansett bus stop, the expansion and re-striping of the Amagansett parking lots, and the expansion of residents-only parking at Ditch Plains. And despite the controversy that has swirled around it, he holds up the plans for the new shellfish hatchery facilities the town has planned on Gann Road.

As liaison to the committee on nature preserves, he noted that eight new preserves have been dedicated and that he secured $90,000 for new sod at the Stephen Hand’s Path soccer fields.

In a new term, Mr. Lys said, he wants to help guide the move of the Little League baseball diamonds at Pantigo Road, which are to be displaced at some point by the new Stony Brook-Southampton Hospital emergency medical center, to their new location. He said he would also be intent on seeing shovels go into the ground on at least one or two more affordable housing projects before his term is over.

Mr. Lys also says that he plans to continue working to bring new, younger faces into town government roles so that the next generation of leaders can start building the experience needed to guide the town in the coming decades.

“We need the average age of municipal government to be a little lower,” Mr. Lys, who is 43, said, nodding to how infrequently young members of the community step into public service roles the way people in previous generations often did in their 20s and 30s. “It’s difficult to live out here, and lives are much more busy now, so people don’t have the time because they are working and then the ugliness of politics makes it unappealing. We need to fix that.”

Sylvia Overby, 
Democratic Party

Ms. Overby is seeking reelection to a third term on the Town Board. She was first elected in 2011 after having served on the town’s Planning Board for seven years, the last four as its chairwoman.

While on the Town Board she led the formation of the East End Arts Council, the reformation of the Anti-Bias Task Force, the creation of the town’s Agricultural Advisory Committee as well as the Recycling & Litter Committee — with which she crafted and moved to adoption bans on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene food containers.

“I believe experience is important in this job and I’ve been a champion for environmental issues, affordable housing, energy sustainability and the arts,” Ms. Overby, who raised her two children in Amagansett, said. “I’ve been working on water quality issues since the 1990s when I first became active in the community and town politics and I’ve carried that on throughout my time on the Town Board.”

She spotlights her work on affordable housing legislation, like the expansion of accessory apartment laws that now allow apartments to be built in detached structures like garages, on properties of less than an acre in size. She also points out that she was instrumental in getting the Accabonac Manor Houses affordable housing project off the shelf, after it had been stalled by the Republican majority under former Supervisor Bill Wilkinson.

“I had been on the Planning Board when that project was brought up and I thought it was a brilliant plan,” she said. “We were able to get it changed from 80 percent to 130 percent of median income, because we know that even people who make good salaries out here cannot afford to buy a house.”

She was the lead on most of the town’s energy sustainability initiative, Energize East Hampton, with the Department of Natural Resources and the Energy Sustainability Committee. The initiative brought free energy audits and a package of assistance for those seeking to add solar panels to their homes.

She said she is also proud of the work she did in leading the hamlet studies effort, which is entering its fourth year and counting, a long road that she says nods to the board’s fastidious accounting for every community’s needs and requests at each phase of the project. She notes that the Town Board recently embarked on an additional corridor study for the Springs-Fireplace Road commercial center, as an adjunct to the hamlet studies, in a nod to the requests of residents of Springs and East Hampton.

She pointed to the Montauk hamlet study as an example of both the difficulty of such a project and the town’s progressive approach to long-term sustainability.

“We’ve been leaders,” Ms. Overby says of the incumbent board. “Leaders in ideas and leaders in finding ways to make things work.”

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