ICB Minutes February 14, 2023 w/recording

by Jane Ahrens

P.O. Box 371, Fishers Island, NY 06390
Email: ficommunityboard@gmail.com

ICB Monthly Meeting
Wednesday, February 14, 2023
Zoom Only

Total Participants: 61

Meeting minutes will be added after they are approved at the March 14, meeting.

This month’s special reports include Nate Malinowski of Lighthouse Works, FI School Principal/Superintendent Christian Arsenault, The West End Café’s Lily Starbuck, and Bob Miller for the Land Trust.

These will be official after approval at the March 14th meeting.

ICB Representatives: John McGillian (President), George de Menil (Vice President), Staley Sednaoui (Vice President), Meg Atkin (Year-Round), Richard Miller (Seasonal), Linda Mrowka (Year-Round).

John McGillian:  Welcome to our February 14th Valentine’s Day meeting of the ICB. I’d like to make a motion to pass our minutes from our last meeting. May I have a motion from the board? 

Staley Sednaoui: So moved. 

John McGillian: We will approve the minutes. We’ll have a reasonably abbreviated meeting today because Beth Cashel is on vacation, so we’ll not be getting her Southold Report. We just found out that Kate Stevens, who was going to report for the Waste Management District, is also unavailable. Anyway, we have some other interesting reports coming up. We’ll start with Nate Malinowski. Is Nate on? 

Nate Malinowski: Hi, John. 

John McGillian: Hi, Nate. Oh, good. Perfect. So Nate, can you give us your lighthouse works report? 

Nate Malinowski: I certainly can. I just like to start by thanking you for inviting me to give an update here, and I’d like to start by just acknowledging the tremendous support that Lighthouse Works receives from Fisher’s Island. It’s hard to believe we’ve been at this for over ten years. Last year, we celebrated the first ten years of programming. We had the opportunity to reflect on how much or how this organization started and how it has grown and matured. And whenever I have that opportunity, I’m always struck by how many people have been involved in making lighthouse works what it is today and how much support Lighthouse Works has received here on the island from the beginning. I think that we’ve been blessed. We’ve had great people involved at the staff level and amazing artists and writers participate. We have, and we’ve always had, for that matter, an incredible board. And to be situated within such a supportive community. It’s truly incredible. I don’t think what we’ve done and the scale and speed at which we’ve done it would be possible anywhere else. So I would be remiss not to take this opportunity to thank you. If you come to lighthouse works, if you are financially supporting lighthouse works, if you are joining the events, exchanging ideas or information with the artists in our program, If you’ve answered my calls for advice or consent, if you’re collaborating with us or you volunteered your time, you are helping make this possible. I and we, as an organization, couldn’t be more grateful. And at Lighthouse Works, we believe that we are responsible for making good on this support and running a program that Fisher’s Island can be proud of. And we have a really exciting program lined up for the upcoming year. The program will connect over 50 emerging and mid-career artists to the island and integrate them and their work into our community. Our fellowship program will welcome 25 artists and writers from 17 states in the United States to Fishers Island this year. In my eyes, it’s the most diverse and impressive cohort today and includes some of the country’s most interesting and important up-and-coming artists and writers. We’ll announce our 2023 fellow cohort on March 1st and look forward to welcoming our first cohort to the island on Tuesday, March 7th. From there, we’ll be in session for six weeks, every eight weeks until December. That’s sessions 53 through 57 if you are following along at home. Our 2023 public art commission has been awarded to Rochelle Bang for a tentatively entitled “Sky Anchor.” The work will be installed at Silver Eel Cove, pending the Ferry District’s approval during the middle of May. And I’d like to take the opportunity to invite everyone to join us for champagne and oysters on Friday, Memorial Day weekend, at the site on Silver Eel Cove to celebrate the installation of the opening. There is a beautiful park on that site now. Shout out to the Fisher’s Island community for all the work that they’ve done there. I’d like to note that last year’s work, Candle by Chris Bogey, will be de-installed this month and moved to an exciting new venue in Catskill, New York, where it will be temporarily on exhibit. This is a great outcome for both Chris and for lighthouse works. I think of Lighthouse Works as an import-export operation. We are importing creative and engaging people. People who come to Fishers contribute to the island’s vitality by supporting those people in their work. We export creative thinking and expression, art and music, and the literature developed here on Fishers through Lighthouse Works to society made on Fishers Island. It’s something we can all be proud of. Chris’ sculpture moving to and continuing its life in the public sphere perfectly represents this idea. New this year, we’re establishing a program called “Lighthouse Works Presents,” which will allow us to connect performance-based activities to Fishers Island music, dance, and plays. And I’d like to put two dates on everyone’s calendar and save the date. There’s a concert on July 28 at the Fishers Island Club and August 11th at the Ordinance. These events build on the work of past organizations like Island Concerts, and we’re pleased to carry on this tradition. We’ll announce who is playing for those days very soon. They are exciting. Keep an eye out for that. Our exhibition program, which reconnects our past participants to the island, allowing them and community members to engage around new works of art, will host four or five this year on the island and feature some Lighthouse Works favorites, Rachel Grinoffsky, Anton Kunst, Coral, Cicero, among others. That exhibition program will start at the Annex in April and run through November. That’s generally the broad stroke of the program. I do have a couple of other small housekeeping items that I want to address. We have a new website which I’m excited about, www.LighthouseWorks.us. A major goal for the website redesign was to clarify the importance of Fishers Island, the landscape, the environment, and the community to our work. We hear time and time again from our fellows. We all know that the Lighthouse Works is great, but Fishers Island is special. And if you ever miss that Fishers Island sunset, you can always log on when the sun is setting over the island and catch it partly integrated directly into the website now. Keep your eyes out for an announcement on an extension of our fellowship’s kitchen program. If you love the community dinners, we were doing with Leon Johnson before the pandemic, you will be pleased to know that we’re working on a smaller-scale version of this program, and we hope it will happen this year. We are making our press more accessible for fellows in our community. It has been stored for the last couple of years, but we’re moving it out, setting it up, and getting it ready to print some things. We want to hear from you if you have an idea for a community print project. You can email us on hello@lighthouseworks.us. I want to just put two alumni notes in here. We’ve got two really exciting alumni events happening. Gabrielle Salazar, who was with us during the 10th session of our fellowship program, just closed a large-scale installation at the Whitney in New York City. Duke Riley, who was with us in session 36, has the solo show up at the Brooklyn Museum, which features his time on Fishers and his collaborations with the Conservancy’s Michele Klimczak. There’s a great write up on that show on FishersIsland.net right now. And we’re organizing a visit and walk-through with Michele and Duke on March 12th. If you’d like to join, we have a bunch of tickets, well, a few tickets left at this point. Please email us at hello@lighthouseworks.us to claim them. So people on Fisher’s know there will be a van from the island to the Brooklyn Museum on that Sunday if anyone wants to join. There is no doubt that this is a big ambitious program for us, and I’d like to formally introduce and acknowledge our staff, that works tirelessly to make this possible. I believe Claudia and Dylan are both on this call. Claudia is our fellowship coordinator. Dylan is our new program director. Claudia has been with us for five years now and is in charge of the hospitality aspects of our fellowship program. She’s our all-around secret weapon. Our fellow’s community liaison. We call her the residency mom. You know, that’s not her. It’s not an appropriate title, but it is true. She is integral to making our fellow’s experience a positive one on Fishers, and Dylan took the programming director rains from Tryn Collins last August. After Tryn was our program director for five years, he has hit the ground running. Dylan joins us with 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and for-profit art world. Dylan and his family are excited to move out to the island, and we expect them to join us on the island in late spring. Given the current availability of year-round housing on the island, you might ask how we will do that. I’d like to close with what I think is the most important point and, again, to express extreme gratitude to the Fisher’s island community. Last year we discovered that the house on Montauk Avenue, which provides an important residential component to our fellowship program, will be sold. Knowing that losing control of that house threatened our ability to run a program on the island, we wanted to launch a $1.75 million capital campaign to acquire that building. We want to provide some strategic renovations to the building and provide for the ongoing maintenance expectations for the property. And I’m happy to say that we are winding that campaign down and will be in a position to make that acquisition this year and begin the renovation process. Again, the generosity of the island community has made it possible for Lighthouse Works to secure its operations here. And when I said we have so much to be grateful for, this is part of what I mean. The house is an old boarding house. It is as if the property was purpose-built to support our fellowship program activities. The interior is compartmentalized into five small private bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a communal kitchen and living room. We have been renting the property for eight years since it was renovated in 2014 by the Burnhams. Purchasing the home will allow us to continue to run our program uninterrupted at an impactful scale on Fishers. The property has an accessory apartment that will allow us to help establish new staff members on the island. Dylan and his family will begin their Fishers Island journey there. And we also allow us to make some strategic renovations to address some ADA issues that have prevented lighthouse works from connecting national, regional, and state granting agencies with our mission. With that said, we’re already at work preparing applications to the NIA, NISCA, the Long Island Community Foundation, and various artists-run foundations. The piece of many of these applications is a letter of support from the governing entities of the town in which we are located. And we will ask the town of Southold for that letter, but I think it’d be more impactful coming from ICB. And I would like to ask if ICB would consider writing a letter of general support for the effort we could include in these applications going forward. It can happen offline and doesn’t need to be done immediately. Still, I would ask the ICB members to consider it very helpful for us as we endeavor towards national and state or regional funding to work on the island. I’m going to leave it at that. My message is one of incredible gratitude for lighthouse works. You know, nothing I’ve said tonight, nothing from the past, nothing from our future, is possible without the generous support of the community on the Island, so thank you. 

John McGillian: Thank you, Nate. We will be in touch about that letter to discuss exactly what you’re looking for. 

Nate Malinowski: That would be a pleasure. 

John McGillian: I have one question. Has any artist said they might want to live on the island full-time? Has that ever come up? 

John McGillian: It has. Yeah, and it’s really funny. We now have an artist who has secured a studio space on the island and is looking for housing. Her name is Amy Budowick. She was in our last session at Lighthouse work. She’s fallen in love with the place and is actively trying to make Fishers Island her home. 

John McGillian: And where is she now? 

Nate Malinowski: She’s in Brooklyn. You know, John, it’s funny. We think a lot about artists being kind of ideal candidates for life on the island, and I think that there’s something there, you know, one of the things we always talk about at ICB is trying to thread that needle between housing, economics, the job, you know the way of life on the island, and artists, I think, are uniquely situated actually to fill that role. Many of them have their economy off the island, and they are looking for a community and to have a place to, you know, to live and to engage with. They don’t necessarily require a job here. Once they reach a certain level, many of the artists who participate in our program support themselves through their work. It’s something that we’re thinking about. 

John McGillian: It’s something we can discuss. Also, I think anything that would increase our winter populations has to be a compliment to the island. So, absolutely. Let’s talk about that. But anyway, Nate, thank you for your excellent report. And next, we have Chris Ingram. I don’t know if he’s on the phone. Is Chris on? 

Chris Ingraham: Yes. I’m here. 

John McGillian: Your screen is dark there, Chris. You don’t want to show your face?

Chris Ingram: My camera’s broken. 

John McGillian: Okay, go ahead, Chris.

Chris Ingram:  Hi, everybody. So, we’re doing some things on Fishers for those who aren’t here. We’re sort of in the lull season. And that’s reflected in the IHP things are pretty quiet in the office, and very few ambulance calls, which is excellent from everybody’s perspective. There is an update I’d like to give. As you remember, over the last year, we’ve tried to move forward with this project with home care in hospice. We all made some advances in the last six months or so. But I think what was in many people’s minds was, you know, the status of the physical therapy program that we had started last summer, which was in a very nascent form. And we’ve made some progress in a good direction in the last, you know, couple of months or so. So working with Kevin Torres, the director, well actually the deputy director over at Lawrence and Memorial. We’ve created a physical therapy program linked to any MG, which is the outpatient branch of Lawrence and Memorial. And so we expect to have it by June and June through September. I believe it’ll be the same physical therapist that came out last summer. But it will be integrated into the Lawrence Memorial, any MG, Yale program. So it won’t be this out-of-pocket stuff that we were doing last year. That was very inconvenient and, you know, frankly expensive for a lot of people. We will be able to order through Epic and bill your various insurance plans. And so I feel that this will increase participation in those programs and allow us to integrate all of that into the medical records. I spoke with Kevin today, and he gave me the update that he was virtually assured that we would have that by June. 

John McGillian: So, Chris, I have a question. Is there any update on when we are supposed to get a new ambulance? And some equipment improvements. Is that happening? And improvements on the boat as well? I can get the Fire Department to report it, but I remember they mentioned it. Do you know anything about that?

Chris Ingram:  We hired the paramedic over the last six months or so. And he’s now integrated into the Fire Department and the EMTs. And he has obtained a paramedic status on the island. That’s not something that goes without some legwork. So he can now do everything from intubating to giving IV medications for all kinds of different things. And so he will be the second in command in terms of our EMT squad. 

John McGillian: Did they buy the new ambulance center for the base? 

Chris Ingram: So he has a patrol car that is newly purchased. I didn’t hear of a plan to buy a new ambulance. 

John McGillian: Well, it was a used ambulance, but an improved version of what we have now. That’s what I heard. 

Chris Ingram: Well, I can give you an update on that next time. And also we can get somebody from the Fire Department too, to brief us all. 

John McGillian: We will have the Fire Department on the agenda one of these days, but we’re waiting to hear from them and when they finally get the permit to build the new addition on the firehouse, and that still is pending from what I understand as of last week at least. It’ll be on the agenda in the next few months, but anything else, Chris?

Chris Ingram: I think that’s it. Thank you all.

John McGillian: Okay. Thank you very much. Does anybody have questions for Chris? No? Okay. Great. Next up, we have Christian Arsenault from the school. Christian, are you there? 

Christian Arsenault: I am. Happy Valentine’s day. I always want to start by sharing my extreme gratitude. Thank you to our students, staff, and families for the tremendous support Fishers Island School receives throughout the year. The perfect example was we had a boys’ basketball tournament, the first annual Fishers Island Classic, this past weekend. We had three teams, Middle Bridge, out of Rhode Island, Block Island, made the trek out. And then the Grove School. So that was a day-long event on Saturday. The gym was packed with community members and parents, and supporters. It’s a wonderful example of the support we receive throughout the year. So thank you to everybody who came out. Our boys really appreciate it. And we look forward to making this an annual tradition. We just celebrated our 100th day of school. It goes by quicker and quicker each year, I feel like. So we’re already starting to gear up for next year, believe it or not. We’re in the early stages of developing our budget for the next school year. They will be, as always, their traditional mailers that will go out to the mailboxes with all the budget information. We’ll have a budget hearing. Anybody is always welcome and invited to come to our monthly board meetings as well. So please, please, please, if you have any questions on the budget, do not hesitate to reach out to me for our business manager, Jim Eagan. Sadly, I have to announce we have a very important member of our team who left us the past couple of weeks. Those of you who have been to the school in the past ten years or so you’ve probably been helped by Ally Horn. Ally was our administrative assistant here. She was a jack of all trades and did some of everything. She has taken a new position and is enjoying her new home with her husband and kids in Ledyard, Connecticut. She will be sadly, sadly missed here at the school. Those of you who have interacted with her, you know how special of a person she was for our students and our family, and for our community. So, I just want to pass that along to anybody who comes in. You won’t be seeing her, but we will be posting for that position following tomorrow’s Board of Ed meeting. So they’ll be a posting out for that position, and we’ll get somebody new and wonderful. The big update I have is our construction project is moving along at this point. We have successfully received the building permit for the project, which through COVID and all of that, was an almost three-year journey to get the state Department of Ed on board and ready to sign off. In the office, the building permit is hanging up. The next step is we are waiting for bids to come back from contractors. Those are due back on March 15th. We currently have at least four, if not five, interested companies. So that’s a really good sign for us. There’s a scheduled walkthrough with all interested contractors on February 22nd. So that’s next week. And then, once we get to March 15th, we will open the bid and enter into a partnership and contract with the construction company. And we will have a clear timeline for the construction. Our early indication in working with our architecture team is that the bulk of the work will happen this summer. So as soon as schools let up, they will begin working through July and August. Then they will save projects for the next school year that will have minimal impact on the education of our students. So doing things like the sidewalks, the playground, and things outside the building mostly. And then coming back the following summer and finishing things off. We’re hoping for a summer school year and a summer. We are all set on that front, but we’re very excited to be able to really break ground on this. This is almost a six-year project from start to finish. There’s been a lot of work from many people on it. A tremendous amount of support from the community. So thank you again. And as we get closer to having your actual timeline, I’d be happy to come back and share that. I will have specifics once we have a contractor. 

John McGillian: Christian, are local contractors in on those bids? Or are they not involved in the bids for the school? 

Christian Arsenault: They’re invited to, but I haven’t heard from any yet. We’ve sent them out. You know, we made it public. I don’t know whether or not they would be interested. Haven’t heard yet. I imagine it would likely, well, our architecture team likely believes it will be a larger company. That has more workforce than I imagine what the locals do, but I don’t know. The two land sales.

As you know, I came on the last time I did the update. Our referendums both passed for Winthrop Road and Reservoir Road. Both purchase sale agreements have been signed. And both projects are in their due diligence period. I do not have a date for either closing, but it is coming up. Again, once we hear information on that, I’d be happy to report back, but nothing new to report on that other than we have signed a purchase-sale agreement with both sides. And lastly, we have a new website. Our goal with our website is to enhance further communication, not just for our students and our parents but our community. It’s more aesthetically pleasing, which is always nice, but our end goal will take time. But our end goal is for our website is a one-stop shop for anything you’d want to know about our school. Shortly, we will have a section where you can reference any board of ed policy, board minutes, or agendas. And we have further, you know, our ability to communicate with our families through our new website. And we want to use it as one of our main recruitment tools for new students just to get a feel of how special the Island is and how special the school is. So please, if you have time, check out ww.fischool.com. Any feedback is welcome on that, but we just want to ensure we’re being as transparent as possible and as communicative as possible. So if you feel there’s anything else we can do to improve those efforts, do not hesitate to pick up the phone or come down and talk to me. Really looking forward to the end of the year, you know, as we get towards the spring and into graduation, it’s always tremendously special. This year, we have four graduates who all have some wonderful options ahead of them. And we’re getting closer. So as always, you know, this is my sixth year here at Fishers, and I cannot imagine a place that is more supportive and cares so much about how to help the kids. So thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope everybody has a wonderful Valentine’s Day and you reach out with any questions.

Staley Sednaoui  I have one question. I noticed that you had an Open House last week. Was it for new parents and were those magnet student parents, and did you have a good turnout? 

Christian Arsenault: Yeah, it was a great turnout for our tuition magnet parents. It was a pre-COVID turnout. You know, it was hard to get people interested to come during COVID. I think all schools felt that. We had to cancel two years in a row from the in-person experience one year. We did it remotely, which is hard. And then one year, we had to do it on a Saturday because we didn’t want to bring any folks in that weren’t of our school pod if you will. So this is the first year in three years that we can have parents and their children come for a half day. Their kids spent the time in the classroom. Their parents spent time with me and our staff. We did a tour of the island and showed them the Community Center, you know, that type of thing. Overwhelming enthusiasm for the school and for the thought of their kids to come. I think we’re going to get back to where we were with pre-COVID recruitment, which is, you know, understandable that it was hard for folks, but it’s nice to see that it’s sort of getting back to normal on that front.

John McGillian: What are the percentages between locals and magnet students at the school right now?

Christian Arsenault: It’s more Island students than magnet students, which was wonderful when I first got here. We had 22 island students and are now in the low 30s. So we have some room. You know, we always try to make it about 50/50, and for a long time, we had more Connecticut students than Island students because the Island student population has gone, you know, went so low at one point that it is coming. But that is coming back up. We keep gaining kids moving to the island. This is wonderful. You know, I always say I think the viability of Fishers Island, you know, there’s housing issues. There are, you know, work issues. There are a ton of things that we come here to talk about and try to help each other resolve. But if the school isn’t what it needs to be, no one will move here with their kids. And I’m very proud that people are moving because of the school. I plan to partner with any organization with employees coming with children. I’m always happy to do a tour and talk to them about, you know, really my experience. I came here personally because I want my kids to attend Fishers Island School. And it’s why I’m still here because I want my kids to go to Fishers Island School. It’s a wonderful thing that the island numbers are up. Sorry, I don’t have them off the top of my head. My things still need to be updated, but more island kids right now than Connecticut kids. 

Nate: Christian, what’s the thinking on it? I was struck by the idea of 50/50. What’s the reasoning behind that? Is there a reason behind that?

Christian Arsenault: So I walked into the 50/50, I don’t think there’s an exact reason. I think it was always a push because we wanted more kids to live on the island. So it was a good metric to hit. I think our school is special, and we should open it up to as many kids as possible. That’s what the thinking is now. But that was always a question I would get every time we did the budget. It is 50/50. So no real reason. And then that was always what people wanted to know. 

Nate: Yeah, great. Just very curious. Thank you. 

Christian Arsenault: You got it. 

John McGillian: Staley, anything in the chat room?

Staley Sednaoui: Yes, we have two questions in the chat. One is about the school, saying, “what is the plan for IPP as far as the school?” Sarah, you can chime in, but I think that means using the school for IPP this summer. Is that what you mean? Because I don’t think IPP used the school last summer either.

Elizabeth Parker: Hi, it’s Elizabeth Parker. I’m on the call. I can comment on that. We did use the school, but we had planned not to use the school because we thought that the construction was going to be happening last summer. But then, at the last minute, we could use the school. So IPP was at the school last year, except for Fridays. We’re at the ball field. But we had already done all the planning to have it not at the school. So for this summer, we’re working on the assumption that we won’t be at the school. So we’ll be at different locations throughout the island this coming summer. 

Staley Sednaoui: Thanks, Elizabeth. Another question is, this goes back to the firehouse. “Have we been given a breakdown of the cost of expanding the firehouse and do we have any architectural plans for the addition?” So I can answer that I have seen the architectural plans. They are at the firehouse. They’re exterior renderings and a floor plan. And I think the firehouse is happy to show them to anybody. I think you can probably stop by and knock on the door. They’re very attractive. They look like they make a lot of sense. The living quarters look to be sort of a good two-bedroom apartment, maybe a little bit bigger. It might be two and a half bedrooms, like two bedrooms with an office. And I think, or maybe it’s three bedrooms because, on the plans, it says that some of the rooms are bunk rooms. And so I think what that means is whoever lives in that apartment would be able to make those extra rooms available to, like for a visiting instructor or a visiting firefighter person for a night or two. I think that’s the way it was explained to me. I don’t think we’ve seen any kind of a breakdown of costs and I have had a few people in the community frustrated that we don’t see the firehouse budget. And everybody feels that this is a tax district and we should see a budget. 

John McGillian: Well, I don’t think they’re hiding the budget. You have to go to the meetings to see the budget. And we can get a hold of it. Frankly, once we get one representative to report at the ICB, we can ask them all these questions. I haven’t gotten the feeling at all that they’re trying to hide anything or not being transparent. We don’t have any numbers on the new addition because the permit hasn’t been approved yet. And it’s not up for bidding yet. So we don’t really know the numbers. So we will have this specific soon. And we did see the plans. And I think, Staley, myself, Lucinda, I think you saw them too. They were all quite attractive. Anything else, Staley, you see in the chat? 

Staley Sednaoui: No, that’s it for the chat right now. 

Willard Soper: Hi, it’s Willard. I just had one comment, given Elizabeth Parker’s comment, about the IPP sometimes being at the ballpark. If we remember, last summer with all of the workers coming on the water taxis to West Harbor and then getting in their vans and going to their places. At the same time, the IPP folk kids were showing up at the ballpark. There were some dangerous traffic issues at that intersection by the ballpark. And the Edwards family brought that up numerous times last spring, and I meant last summer. And I’m still trying to figure out what can be done, but maybe even the school had a crosswalk person or something there with a bright yellow vest on to remind people to slow down. We certainly don’t want to have an accident. And we had some close calls last summer on that on that intersection. So just maybe some thought in advance on what could be done there? 

John McGillian: That has come up lately, Willard, and I think, Staley, you’ve been talking to the people in the neighborhood about it. So I need to find out what the latest is on that. 

Staley Sednaoui: Yes, there was some conversation about what happened to the concept of the four-way stop sign near the ball field because there was a petition signed by many, many people, and there seemed to be an overwhelming interest and need for a four-way stop. And then the whole thing sort of seemed to slide out of everybody’s hand. And I had heard a story that somebody from the town had come over and decreed that we didn’t need a four-way stop there, but that is a erroneous. That didn’t happen. So I have been in touch with Beth, and Beth is working to find out what happened to this project. She is trying to resurrect the original petition and sort of get us back on track for a four-way stop. 

John McGillian: So we can report on that later on, during the next meeting. 

Staley Sednaoui: Yes, Beth is on vacation right now. I was going to dial her up this morning, but I decided to let her enjoy her vacation. So, we’ll pick it up. 

Christian Arsenault: And John, I don’t know if this is helpful, but Willard’s comment sort of got this idea in my head. We have a school crossing guard each morning during the school day and in the afternoon that hangs around the Ferry area for similar reasons. It’s a funded position by the town of Southold. So I don’t know if there’s a way to reach out to them. If there’s anything to do there, we have three or four folks that are paid by Southold to do that work during the school year. It may be something that could be extended or something throughout there. 

John McGillian: Well, the good news is Beth has a good dialogue with the Highway Department and Southold. So we’ll get at least a response and hopefully a positive one. Do you see anything else, Staley, in the chat? 

Staley Sednaoui: Yes. Sarah Porter is suggesting that Paul Giles used to give the reports for the firehouse, and we should check with Jeff Edwards. You may have already done that. And then, “Let’s give a big shout-out to Scott Reed for clearing a view of the pond on treasure pond road to view the beautiful sunsets and providing easy access to those who may be physically challenged.” And then Lily Starbuck says she would love to give a quick Cafe update before we finish the meeting. 

John McGillian: Please, please, Lily, go ahead. 

Lilly Starbuck: I wanted to give a big thank you to the Community Center. We have been upgrading the kitchen and doing a little bit of work on that. I was here all day with my drill, taking some shelves down, which was very exciting. We’re getting some newer refrigeration in. We have a big summer coming up. We’re opening hopefully in May. Our chef from the first summer is coming back to cook with me. And so are a couple of front-of-house people, if you remember Nora and Danielle. And then, we have a community dinner on February 28th that is coming up at six p.m. And we’ve been able to make those happen once a month. So if you are around, please sign up and come down. I’m making Mac and cheese, so it will hopefully not be this warm otherwise, it won’t make sense. 

Meg Atkin: Lily, can you repeat the date? 

Lilly Starbuck: It’s February 28th. So it’s, I think, the last day of February. 

John McGillian: Great. Thank you, Lily. Next up, we have Bob Miller for the land trust. Go ahead, Bob. 

Bob Miller: Thanks, John. I want to report on a singular event regarding conservation and land preservation on the Island. The Ferguson Museum’s Land Trust has the opportunity to acquire 21 acres of environmentally  sensitive property.   An acquisition on this scale hasn’t happened since around the year 2000. It won’t happen again because there just isn’t any more undeveloped land.   Staley, maybe you could go to the first map we discussed.

Staley Sednaoui: Can you see that? 

Bob Miller: Is that visible to everybody? 

John McGillian: Yes. 

Bob Miller: Okay. This is an old map, maybe around 2010 or a little earlier, that shows Land Trust properties at that time.  As you can see, the distribution of sanctuary areas is weighted towards the island’s center.  The Museum first acquired  property on the West end, but the focus shifted to the mid-Island area,  not only because of the availability of land but also because of the exceptional environmental importance of the area. There are, as you all know, a barrier beach on Block Island sound, brackish ponds, pristine freshwater ponds, a large native maritime grassland, and hardwood groves, all within a half a mile radius. It’s just amazing. The area captivated people who were the first conservation proponents on the island – Matty Matthiessen, Ed Horning, Dick Baker.   A recent survey of Island flora and fauna conducted for the Museum by scientists of the New York Natural Heritage Program confirmed the extraordinary environmental  diversity of the area.  The opportunity we have now is to expand the protected portion of that area with contiguous property, which is important because the environmental value is magnified as compared to similar acreage that is not adjoining,

 Staley, you could go to the second map. 

This is a zoomed view of the mid-Island area. The areas in green are existing Land Trust sanctuaries that will be preserved in perpetuity in their natural state. They’re totally on ice. The two parcels that we now have the opportunity to acquire are shown in red. One is opposite the entrance to Chocomount Beach; it contains 15.4 acres and four building sites as shown on the original Olmsted Plan.  The other parcel, designated the Osprey Nest Parcel, is East of the Museum’s videocam between the main road and Middle Farms Pond; it contains 5.4 acres and two original Olmsted Plan lots.

The Museum identified these parcels as desirable Land Trust additions years ago.  In the spring of 2022,  adjoining landowners expressed a willingness to make donations to the Museum to acquire and maintain the Chocomount parcel as a sanctuary.  We approached FIDCO, which owns the parcel, and were told that there is no interest in selling it for development, but that FIDCO would be willing to transfer it to the Museum for open space.   I should note that FIDCO has a strong history of  land preservation in the Middle Farms area.  We then approached the Town and other owners of property in the area.  As discussions went on about acquiring that parcel, we had the opportunity to renew our interest in acquiring the Osprey Nest parcel.   FIDCO  agreed to transfer that parcel to the Land Trust if funds could be raised to purchase the Chocomount parcel. 

A long and intense discussion ensued among the Town, the Museum, and FIDCO whereby the Town  ultimately agreed to buy the development rights to the Chocomount parcel and impose a conservation  easement on it, with the Museum owning the actual property.  Town funding became “real” as of January 31, when a public hearing was held. Some concern that was expressed by non-Fishers Island folks at the hearing about application of tax-derived funds for this purpose, but Louisa rebutted them, and the transaction was approved.

Where we stand now is the Town has only to complete basic due diligence   – a survey and an environmental assessment of the Chocomount parcel.  There will be a simultaneous closing at which FIDCO will transfer both the Chocomount parcel and the Osprey Nest parcel to the Museum, the Museum will transfer the development rights to the Chocomount parcel to the Town, and the Town will impose its conservation easement.  We hope all this will take place before mid-summer. 

John McGillian: Bob, when you say town funding, does that come from a special fund trust? 

Bob Miller: Yes.

John McGillian: And can you explain that, I’m just curious? It’s very impressive what you’ve accomplished and what the museum has accomplished, but what did it take to get all these pieces to fall together for you? How many?

Bob Miller:  The ones in green or the ones in red? 

John McGillian: How about just the ones in red for now? 

Bob Miller: What did it take? Hours and hours, maybe hundreds of hours. One really difficult issue between the Town and FIDCO had to do with utility easements. The Town did not seem to fully understand how utilities are provided on the Island and FIDCO’s role in providing them.  They wanted a clean agreement so they knew exactly what they were excluding from the conservation area.   FIDCO felt it had to preserve flexibility to relocate utilities in the area of the Chocomount parcel, particularly in view of a planned upgrade of the water distribution system.  The final resolution is that the Town agreed to permit FIDCO to reserve, on behalf of the utility companies, the right to run utilities over a 50-foot strip on the north side of the main road, if necessary. That will probably not be necessary because the most efficient route is right along the road, but it provides flexibility for unexpected field conditions. 

 John McGillian:  Bob, kudos to you and the museum for this. It sounds like a great accomplishment. Anything here that preserves the land on the island is well appreciated by many. But we have some more questions for you, Bob. 

Staley Sednaoui: From the chat,  “Can invasive species be removed from the two lots?”

Bob Miller: Yes. 

Staley Sednaoui: Okay. And then, there was an answer here where yes, “the parcels will be managed for conservation purposes, including invasive species.” Okay. We will also be able to add a nature trail. 

Bob Miller: Yeah, absolutely, that was critical in getting the town to sign on with the fact that we have 12 miles of trails on the existing sanctuaries. And then, these new parts will be incorporated into that system.

Staley Sednaoui: Then John Brim says, “Hooray to Bob and the museum.” And someone says, “What is the town entity providing its funds?” 

Bob Miller: Yeah, they call it the Peconic Bay fund. I understand that’s not a separate entity. The town collects 2% on the sale of all real estate throughout the town. And that’s held in a side account. I’m not sure if it’s even segregated from town operating funds, but that’s the source. 

Willard Soper: Right. I can give a minor update on that, but if Louisa was here, she could do it better. The 2% is charged in any transaction in any town being off Peconic Bay. It was established by the New York State legislature quite a few years ago. And then the funds, as Bob just said, each town generates that are kept by that town to be used by consumers to conserve land. 

John McGillian: Can we determine how big of a reserve there is now?

Willard Soper: Oh, John, we did that a few years ago, and we can ask Louisa. 

John McGillian: Yes, we can ask Louisa. 

Staley Sednaoui: Well, there’s another question. “Why would the Peconic Bay fund provide funds to the Museum Land Trust?”

Bob Miller:  Well, the Peconic Bay Fund is only for conservation. And after extensive consideration, the Town came to the view that this acquisition is right in the wheelhouse of the purpose of the Fund to  preserve property within the town. 

John McGillian: Well, this is an excellent contribution to the community. What you, Bob, and the Museum are doing for the community. Thank you for this. Anything else, Staley? 

Staley Sednaoui: Nope. 

John McGillian: Okay. Oh, I see something from John Brim.

Staley Sednaoui: Yeah, he says we’re in the town, so we are qualified. 

John Brim: For once, we got something back, and it’s a lot of money.

John McGillian: Okay. Thank you for participating, and enjoy the rest of your day. 

Meeting adjourned at 5:55

Chat Room 2/14/23

00:42:52 SHP: What is the plan for IPP as far as the school?
00:45:22 Dianne Crary: Have we been given a breakdown of the cost for expanding the firehouse and do we have any architectural plans for the addition?
00:51:25 SHP: Paul Giles used to give the reports for the firehouse. Check with Jeff Edwards?
00:52:01 roberthoey: A BIG shout out to Scott Reid for clearing a view of the pond on Treasure Pond Road to view the beautiful sunsets – providing easy access to those who may be physically challenged.
00:52:33 lillianstarbuck: would love to give a quick cafe update before we finish xx
01:03:52 Dianne Crary: Can invasive species be removed from the two lots?
01:05:37 iPhone Elizabeth: Yes the parcels will be managed for conservation purposes including invasive species management
01:06:03 iPhone Elizabeth: We will also be able to add a nature trail
01:06:05 John Brim: Hooray to Bob and the Museum
01:06:49 Stephen Cook: What is the town entity providing its funds?
01:08:08 Stephen Cook: Why would PBF provide funds to the Museum Land Trust?
01:09:11 John Brim: Staley, we are in the town, so we are qualified. Huge win.
01:09:24 Dianne Crary: Thanks everyone!

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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