Greenport Village trustee candidates discussed a wide range of local issues last night during a forum at Floyd Memorial Library sponsored by SoutholdLOCAL and The Suffolk Times.
Incumbents Mary Bess Phillips and Julia Robins and challenger Paul Kreiling answered questions about parking, housing, PSEG’s Shelter Island cable project and more during a nearly 90-minute session before a full house in the library’s meeting room. Candidate Mary Given (aka Lucy Clark) announced on Sunday she has decided not to actively pursue election to the village board and would not participate in the debate. Given, a member of the village planning board, was in the audience along with Mayor George Hubbard Jr., Trustee Jack Martilotta, Village Clerk Sylvia Pirillo and ZBA chairman John Saladino. In all, about 50 people attended. The village election is scheduled to take place March 21.
Below are the questions posed to the candidates by Suffolk Times executive editor Grant Parpan and SoutholdLOCAL editor and co-publisher Denise Civiletti, with excerpts of the candidates’ responses.
Do you believe the village has a parking problem and, if so, how would you address it?
Kreiling: “We need to expand parking. And we need to meter the parking that we do have.”
Phillips: “Main and Front streets should be timed parking. The parking problem is seasonal. The traffic control officer has made an improvement.”
Robins: “The village has taken many steps recommended by a 2009 traffic study. Hiring a traffic control officer has helped. In the future we may need lots with meters. I believe in taking incremental steps.”
A hotel and restaurant is proposed for the corner of Front and Third. It received a variance from the ZBA to operate with just 10 parking spots. Do you believe that to be sufficient?
Phillips: “My issue is the traffic issue, the traffic congestion in the area. That whole area has intensified in use. The project is before the planning board and has not been approved yet. It’s not right to comment when another board is deliberating.”
Robins: “My gut reaction is it’s too much for that site, an overreach. It’s an extremely busy corner. I don’t like to intervene with the work of other boards.”
Kreiling: “I believe the design of the building should have been modified to accommodate cars — have an area where cars can pull in and pull out, maybe a double-decker for cars in the back?”
Should the Village of Greenport approve a short-term rental law?
Robins: “I do not support a rental law for short-term rentals only. The rental law should be for all rentals. There a safety and occupancy issues.”
Kreiling: “We don’t know how many rentals we have in this town, who’s doing what. We need to have a registration process before we can go on. We have overcrowding, illegal apartments, Airbnb. The law is not clear.
Phillips: “When we talk about regulating short-term rentals, what’s the true reason? Is it safety or are we trying to manage everybody’s property, to tell them how to rent? Registration is the only way to do that. It needs to be enforceable in a simple way, with simple language.”
Follow up: How are short-term rentals impacting affordable housing?
Phillips: “Has it affected affordable housing? In 2009 I sent out 2000 mailers [when running for trustee]. Yesterday I sent out about half that. Another thing to remember is years ago we had businesses here, like the shipyard, that had more employees. I agree the Town of Southold probably is the only area for affordable housing. We should be working with them. We have the sewer system. They have the land. We should work together in a joint effort.”
Robins: “I feel for people looking for rentals. I am a tenant myself. I know rental insecurity. I am in real estate. People come in all the time looking for rentals and I have nothing. There are exorbitant sales prices. Second homeowners are buying. We have another bubble occurring. If we were to disallow short-term rentals, I’m sure there will be a ready and willing buyer. Our little one-square-mile village — the Town od Southold has more opportunity to provide solutions for our working people.”
Kreiling: “Do they cut into the housing stock? Yes, but a lot less than houses being fixed up and left empty.”
If elected, would you enroll in the village health insurance plan? (Is this one a little outdated?
Phillips: “The village currently only pays for me. I pay the balance for my family plan. I would ask the other trustees, given the same opportunity, would they take it if they were no longer on another taxpayer-paid plan?”
Robins: “I am not taking a village-paid health insurance plan.”
Kreiling: “I am currently employed and covered on a private basis, not a public plan. The insurance is a nice perk, a good idea. It can be motivating, but I do not need it and I will not take it.”
The village is expected to receive more than $1 million from PSEG for its cable line project on Fifth Street. Is that a good deal for the village and how would you propose to spend that money?
Robins: “I am and have been a supporter of this project. “It’s actually over $1.3 million into the capital fund and will bring in an additional power line into the village, which I’m told is worth over $1 million itself. We couldn’t afford one on our own. I feel disruption to the neighborhood can be mitigated. And we’ll get a new paved road on 5th Street, which is music to any trustee’s ears. I’m not in a rush to spend that money. We should be judicious about it.”
Kreiling: “The first thing I’d spend money on is hiring a full-time grant writer, so we can afford other projects. We need to address the sewer expansion issue, the runoff issue.
To get a grantwriter first would be the best way. I believe our natural resources are being overrun by time and overuse.”
Phillips: “Grant-writing is a wonderful thing. Mitchell Park was built on grants and we got into a financial mess with that. Grant-writing is wonderful as long as its judicially used and managed. I want to see the village hire a planner someone who would advise the board, advise the management, advise the community of ideas of how we could make quality of life throughout the village better.”
Do you think the village should undertake a master plan?
Kreiling: “Yes we need to plan long-term, not just tomorrow, not just next year. We have to plan 10, 20 years. Among those things we have to address is our environment our traffic.”
Phillips: “We have what’s called a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. the LWRP. for years the village has used that as the basis of their master plan. It’s in the satages where it needs to be completed it’s been updated recently. It’s one of those projects that’s been lingering for a while, on a grant basis, so I would like to see that moved to the forefront. Once we deal with getting the LWRP completed and in place we also will now have a harbor management plan that is attached to it.”
Robins: “I agree with Trustee Phillips we do have the LWRP. We haven’t received back all the components yet. It’s quite extensive. I also think that as part of our utilities
we need to be forward-thinking. Our generators are working but they’re over 40 years old.
If the village does want to continue having generator capacity we might want to look into gas turbine generation. Also the area of renewable energy is going to explode in 10, 20 years. We might have solar or wind generation that will be our backup.”
Kreiling: “I would like to see a test of our generators to see that they work. Let’s start them up and find out.”
Robins: “We just did our DMNC test [Demonstrated Maximum Net Capability test]last week
and everything was fine. All 3 generators were functioning.”
Would you support a dollar-per-car ferry fee?
Phillips: “Legally there are some questions whether we can do that. Also, North Ferry’s rates are set by the Suffolk County Legislature. They have to go the the county legislature for approval. Our $1 fee would have to be written into their budget proposal.
Robins: “We are waiting for final say — the village attorney is waiting for word from the state comptroller. If it is legal, yes, I guess I would support it.”
Kreiling: “Yes I definitel would support it. It’s a terrific way for taxing the ferry for using the streets.”
Robins: “We do have a number of people who live in the village who travel to work via the ferry.”
Phillips: “I think North Ferry in orer to just keep good relations with the village should just be putting it in their request to the county.”
Should the village allow taller commercial/residential buildings downtown?
Phillips: “The height of the buildings have the opportunity where there could be affordable apartments built for young couples opportunity of increasing the height. There could be some type of apartments built if the buildings are higher.”
Robins: “I wouldn’t support going any higher than any of the buildings we currently have in the village. We’ve discussed allowing apartments on the second stories but I would be concerned about the impacts on parking.”
Kreiling: “I would be concerned about the ability of the buildings to stand. That is all fill down there from Claudio’s all the way up to what is now Crazy Beans. I don’t think that structurally it’s a sound process.”
Should the village continue to pay to broadcast its meetings live?
Phillips: “I fully support the webcasts as I’m one of the ones who pushed for them. A lot of people are starting to watch the livestreams.”
Robins: “I love the live streams I think they’re a valuable asset. It’s great to be able to go to the village website and pick any meeting you want and watch them, watch segments of them, get information. It’s great for residents who can’t make meetings to be able to keep up with that’s going on.”
Kreiling: “I think we should expand it. I think before the meetings one of the trustees should explain in clear language what is at stake, so when people come up to the microphone they have clear, well thought-out questions that forward the agenda.”
What are your thoughts on the issue of Greenport declaring itself a “welcoming community”?
Robins: “I’ve lived in Greenport for 40 years. I’ve always thought it was a welcoming community. I’ve raised my son here. A lot of his friends are Latino, My ex-husband was from El Salvador. Greenport has its own unique character and everybody is welcome here.
“I understood the spirit of the letter and the times we are in right now. I was moved by the comments at the meeting. I did hear comments from residents afterward that they were frustrated that people they felt came from out of town overshadowed them. I would like to have a community meeting regularly, where everyone can come together like the Synergy Greenport meeting.”
Kreiling: I believe this has always been a welcoming village in view of what is going on politically. I believe it was good, it was unifying.”
Phillips: I raised my son here because I wanted him to know what the real world was like. I didn’t want him to grow up in the world I grew up in, which was — and please excuse the expression— a lily white kid from Southold. I wanted him to understand the difference between different cultures. Ive always felt Greenport was welcoming. The statement first discussed was revised and not what we voted on. The original version brought in federal issues that didn’t need to be and were divisive.”