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Jun 10, 2019 5:16 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Supervisor Rejects Petition To Incorporate East Quogue As A Village

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman received the petition to incorporate East Quogue into a village in April. VALERIE GORDON PHOTOS
Jun 12, 2019 10:38 AM

East Quogue residents will not yet have an opportunity to vote on incorporating the hamlet into a village, according to a recent decision by Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

The supervisor issued a nine-page written decision on Monday outlining his objections to a petition—signed by more than 20 percent of the hamlet’s registered voters—calling for a vote to incorporate the hamlet. The petition, circulated by the East Quogue Village Exploratory Committee, a community group that has promoted creating the village, was hand-delivered to Mr. Schneiderman on April 3.

The issue is not the number of qualifying signatures—the supervisor determined that the number was sufficient. But an additional document, listing the hamlet’s regular inhabitants, was not, Mr. Schneiderman said. In his written decision, he concluded that the list included the names of 34 deceased people, rendering it inaccurate.

Additionally, when compared to the Suffolk County Board of Elections voter registration data, the list of inhabitants, which was provided by the Exploratory Committee, was found to contain 454 names that were not qualified to vote for town offices, a requirement to be included in the calculations.

Mr. Schneiderman pointed to previous court decisions that require village petitions to “be free from any imperfections.”

“I am compelled to find the petition insufficient in that said list includes the names of those people who have died,” his decision concludes.

Under New York State Village Incorporation Law, Mr. Schneiderman, rather than the Town Board, was solely responsible for determining the sufficiency of the petition.

State law requires that such a petition include the signatures of at least 20 percent of registered voters of a proposed village—or 595 of the 2,974 East Quogue residents listed in Suffolk County voter registration data, according to Mr. Schneiderman.

He noted that the committee’s petition contained 748 valid signatures—well exceeding that requirement.

Originally, the petition contained 781 signatures—33 of which Mr. Schneiderman invalidated for several reasons, including one instance where East Quogue resident Steven Brash said that his name appeared on the petition but he had not, in fact, signed it. At two separate public hearings last month, objectors to the petition had argued that 58 signatures were invalid.

On Monday, David Celi, co-chairman of the East Quogue Village Exploratory Committee, confirmed that the group is planning to appeal Mr. Schneiderman’s decision. However, he declined to comment further, noting that the committee was in the process of formulating a response.

“It’s disappointing, of course,” Co-Chairwoman Karen Kooi added. “… We believe that having a less than 1 percent error due to death over the course of two years is really not a valid reason to deny our petition.”

In fact, she noted that the findings actually work in the committee’s favor: “If there are less inhabitants, we need less signatures.”

She pointed to Mr. Schneiderman’s written remarks, which referenced the Appellate Division 3rd Judicial Department’s recognition that “a list can never be done with absolute precision.” It goes on to say that “such a list is impractical to obtain.”

In his written decision, the supervisor referenced the appellate court’s decision in Defreestville Area Neighborhood Association vs. Tazbir. He noted that the court concluded that rather than requiring a list “free from any imperfections,” that a list found to be “substantially complete,” which demonstrates a “good faith effort on the part of the petitioners,” is sufficient under Village Law.

However, Mr. Schneiderman explained that, “despite his inclinations,” he was “constrained” by the restrictions set forth by the 2nd Department.

“We’re talking about 34 people,” Ms. Kooi countered on Monday. “It is a technicality, and it is a technicality that is suppressing the right to vote for the people of East Quogue.”

Mr. Schneiderman did, however, dismiss several other objections made by East Quogue resident William Kearns, who submitted written documents, prepared by Shoreham-based attorney Jennifer Juengst of Gordon and Juengst, at a public hearing last month.

Mr. Kearns had argued that the petition should be invalidated because Cynthia McNamara, an East Quogue resident and member of the Exploratory Committee, had notarized several signatures on the petition.

However, Mr. Schneiderman explained that committee members are required to sign a witness statement that proves that they were present when the petitions were signed. Ms. McNamara notarized the signatures of those Exploratory Committee members. “Ms. McNamara is merely swearing in … the subscribing witness,” he said.

The supervisor also dismissed objections made by East Quogue resident Elizabeth Jackson, who argued that a majority of the petition’s signatories were misled into signing it.

Ms. Jackson had said that a large majority of residents signed the petition with the understanding that they would be learning more about the possibility of incorporating the hamlet. She said that they were not signing in support of holding a public vote to become a village.

However, based on spoken testimony by hamlet resident Joseph Sanicola, Mr. Schneiderman found Ms. Jackson’s objections to be unfounded.

At the second public hearing, held on May 20, Mr. Sanicola said, “It was clearly delineated to me, when I signed the petition, by members of the committee of what I was signing.”

On Monday, Ms. Kooi confirmed that the Exploratory Committee will file an appeal, adding, “We’re continuing to fight for the community and their right to vote—that’s what this is about.”

In the meantime, many community members have raised questions and concerns regarding the costs associated with incorporating the hamlet. If approved, the measure would likely have a financial impact on both East Quogue residents and those living in unincorporated hamlets within Southampton Town.

Greg Celi, a member of the committee, has repeatedly explained that the plan to incorporate East Quogue largely mirrors that of Sagaponack Village, which cut ties with Southampton Town in 2005. If approved, the Village of East Quogue would have an unpaid village government, consisting of a mayor and four trustees, as well as a paid village clerk and treasurer.

Additionally, the new municipality would create a planning board, zoning board of appeals, and building and code enforcement departments.

However, if the village is created, Southampton Town would still supply services, through an inter-municipal agreement with the village, including police, parks and highway departments.

That revenue is not collected by village residents and reimbursed to the town. Rather, individuals are charged for those services through their town tax bill, according to Sagaponack Village Clerk Rosemarie Cary Winchell. “They continue to be charged as any Town of Southampton resident,” she said.

In response to a Freedom of Information Law request, Southampton Town research technician Stephanie Leibowitz could not provide a breakdown of town revenue derived strictly from East Quogue residents.

In an email, she explained that “the Town of Southampton has a large number of revenue lines, almost all of which are not sorted by parcel and not broken out by [community].”

The exception is the town’s Building Department.

Last year—from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018—the town received a total of $410,512 from East Quogue residents, including fees accrued from the town’s Planning and Building departments. That does not include the revenue collected annually from mortgage tax, tax advertising and real property tax.

If a village were to be formed, it’s unclear how Southampton Town would address any budgetary shortfalls caused by the lack of East Quogue revenue.

In a recent interview, Mr. Schneiderman declined to comment on the negative effect the incorporation would have on the town, calling it “inappropriate.”

While the town would lose more than $400,000 in annual revenue, the new village, if approved, would gain it.

Based on the Village of Sagaponack’s recent budget, the committee estimates that the proposed village government will cost approximately $600,000 per year—67 percent of which is expected to be covered by tax revenue previously collected by the town.

Preliminary budget figures, prepared by committee’s attorney, Peter Bee of Bee Ready Fishbein Hatter & Donovan LLP of Mineola, show that the Village of East Quogue would collect, on average, $430,000 annually—including $120,000 in mortgage and sales tax, $250,000 in Planning and Building department fees, and $60,000 in utility costs.

That’s not including any projected increases. According to previous Sagaponack budget figures, toward the end of the fiscal year, those numbers are generally much higher than originally anticipated.

For example, in 2018-19, Sagaponack Village officials expected to receive $228,500 in departmental income—including zoning and planning fees, building permits, and “other permits.” As of February 28, 2019, they had already exceeded that number by $101,229. Ms. Winchell explained that it’s projected to increase to roughly $379,090 by the end of the year.

Ms. Kooi referred questions regarding the Exploratory Committee’s estimated budget to committee member Jessica Insalaco, who did not return emails seeking additional information this week.

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Still think the jay is over stepping his authority??? Bot, jay likes pics...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jun 10, 19 6:34 PM
Sounds like he didn't do the right thing, but he actually just saved the people of East Quogue a lot of money and aggravation.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Jun 10, 19 7:16 PM
There would be a minimal tax impact (For someone with a $500,000 assessed value, that means $50/year additional tax for the Village to operate.)

Go to the East Quogue playground and check out the gazebo - then go to Southampton and check out Agawam...we don't need anything crazy but is it too much not to have nails sticking out where our kids play?
By Christian Moscicki (4), East Quogue on Jun 11, 19 9:11 AM
It's laughable if you truly believe your taxes will go up "only $50 a year". Another falsehood perpetuated by the exploratory committee. You do realize that ridiculous number doesn't include many expenditures, including the salaries for the necessary future Village Trustees and Mayor? And the citizens have no say as to how much those salaries will be? Gee, that sounds fair .

Do you know how many citizens (VOTERS) live in the EQ mobile home park? Many---hundreds, actually. The mobile ...more
By 2329702 (67), East Quogue on Jun 11, 19 10:27 AM
2 members liked this comment
Believe me, the only people that would make out on this would be the attorneys. Start-up costs, lawsuits, etc, etc - go ask the people of Mastic Beach.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Jun 11, 19 12:17 PM
2 members liked this comment
#2329702, you obviously have not been paying attention. Since the proposal to create the village was first announced it has been stated that the trustees and mayor will occupy voluntary positions with no pay. Or, just maybe, you have been paying attention and your false claims here are simply intended to deceive.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 11, 19 3:39 PM
So - people who have not yet run for these positions have committed to working for free? Weird, how does this work - what if the people willing to work for free are not anyone who the people of EQ want to elect?
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 12, 19 10:02 AM
2 members liked this comment
That is a good point. Or what happens when a motion is made for salaries? Do those in those positions reject the salary? Not likely.
By zappy (65), east quogue on Jun 12, 19 11:11 AM
It's not weird at all, people all over the State of New York and farther away accept public office, in fact they compete for public office to better their communities, without pay. Southampton Town has many unpaid positions on its boards. One need look no farther than Sagaponack for an incorporated village with a volunteer Board of Trustees and Mayor.

The documents of incorporation may even specify that those positions remain unpaid. You should probably go to an informational meeting ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 13, 19 2:38 AM
Sorry, if there are 34 dead people on a petition of huge consequence, Jay did the right thing. I get the difficulty of exact precision, but if the petitioners are serious and diligent, that should not happen. So the appropriate presumption is that it wasn’t sufficiently serious and diligent.
By CPalmer (122), Southampton on Jun 10, 19 8:43 PM
2 members liked this comment
The fact that they got 34 signatures from the dead throws the whole petition into doubt.
By winkelby (38), westhampton on Jun 11, 19 6:37 AM
3 members liked this comment
The Village movement is "plan C" to have a future path to apply for approval of the hills golf course. The property there would be much much more valuable and viable with a golf course to build homes around. The problem is our bay cannot absorb all the additional poop, our aquifer would be imperiled, and our Town of Southampton would take a major credibility hit.
By MikeMirino (10), east quogue on Jun 11, 19 8:44 AM
3 members liked this comment
He made the right decision.

Not mentioned in the article are persons that said their signatures appeared on the petition without them signing it (now, how does THAT happen?), as well as those that were told signing it merely opens the course for more discussion---NOT to hold a vote to incorporate. Beware of liars. Sad these types reside in our town...
By 2329702 (67), East Quogue on Jun 11, 19 8:46 AM
2 members liked this comment
I grew up in Southampton (North Sea) and recently moved to East Quogue with my family (we have a 2 year old). This comment is fear-mongering at it's finest - the VAST majority of people I speak with in East Quogue are a) strongly in favor of this effort OR b) indifferent (because they are uneducated on the topic as of yet) - there is a SMALL but vocal group (4 or 5) of "old timers" I hear at the meetings who might be on Jay's payroll, and I expect you are one, but this comment is inaccurate - I ...more
By Christian Moscicki (4), East Quogue on Jun 11, 19 9:08 AM
2 members liked this comment
- You haven't spoken to the majority.
- The committee can't just engage in a little fraud and then say that it's ok b/c the numbers still work if you just ignore the fraud.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 11, 19 10:26 AM
4 members liked this comment
It seems like a number of people here either did not read the article or did not comprehend what it said. There is no indication that any dead peoples' signatures appear on the petitions. There is no fraud.

Part of the requirement of the filing is to list all the people who reside within the boundaries of the proposed village. Only after compiling that list can the percentage of that total number be calculated to determine the minimum number of signatures required to authorize the ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 11, 19 3:54 PM
2 members liked this comment
I see where i mis-understood Vos

- would change fraud to lack of due diligence if I were able to edit my comment.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 12, 19 10:02 AM
So who's the necromancer on the East Quogue Village Exploratory Committee?
By Pacman (273), Southampton on Jun 11, 19 9:09 AM
2 members liked this comment
LOL - what a morbid outlook by the committee :
'In fact, she noted that the findings actually work in the committee’s favor.
“If there are less inhabitants, we need less signatures,”
the more people that die the fewer we have to convince!
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 11, 19 9:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
Ageism is discrimination-stop it.Group for East End and hundreds of EQ Civic Assn members don't all collect Social Security.DO u insult your parents like this?
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jun 11, 19 9:38 AM
2 members liked this comment
How many homes in EQ have assessed value of $500,000?Is it based on average home values or an arbitrary number meant to diminish cost estimates?
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jun 11, 19 10:45 AM
1 member liked this comment
During testimony there we 2 complaining about the misleading nature of the doorstep encounter with the petitioners. There was only 1 who countered, yet that measure was satisfied ?
By MikeMirino (10), east quogue on Jun 11, 19 10:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
I don't live in East Quogue so I have no vested interest in the debate but I think becoming a Village is a good thing. You may pay a bit more in taxes but you'll have control of your destiny and locals will address concerns a lot faster than the Town of Southampton will. Keep up the fight!!
By yogi1 (14), on Jun 14, 19 6:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
So here's our friend Vos, a tireless defender of Discovery Land's golf resort project. Looks like he's going to be an equally tireless defender of the EQ Village proposal. Coincidence? I think not.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 15, 19 11:26 AM
2 members liked this comment
Actually, it's VOS, an individual who treats each subject based on its worthiness and what's best for the community rather than twisting things to fit one's political partisanship.

How are your political hacks doing with that pollution up Damascus Road?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 15, 19 2:37 PM
VOS! You should speak to the "...political hacks..." about what they are doing about "... pollution". They will be very happy to explain everything to you. Here is a summary:

Town funding is in place for the extension of ALL main water lines in the affected areas of EQ. Work may start on the first new main line extension as early as this month. Town funding is also in place for the connection of residences to existing or new main line(s). Residences connections have begun where current ...more
By wil (5), East Quogue on Jun 18, 19 11:07 AM
2 members liked this comment
Well, you are free to guess at anything at all as you have already done here. The exploratory committee is not a governmental agency so they can do nothing about what is currently the responsibility of the Town of Southampton both as the ruling agency and as the owner of the property recognized as the source of the pollution. And do you have a better word to describe that which is causing the groundwater to be undrinkable than pollution?

The exploratory committee has from the start however, ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 18, 19 11:49 AM
Bought and paid for!!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 15, 19 1:36 PM
So the pro-Hills people (who, strangely enough, are the same handful of residents that are pushing for incorporation) cry on the local FB page about the TOS's recent assessments, angrily exclaiming how their taxes will go up. But they are also using "higher property values" as a "pro" for incorporation. LMAO! Unbelievable!
By 2329702 (67), East Quogue on Jun 17, 19 9:44 AM
So the pro-Hills people (who, strangely enough, are the same handful of residents that are pushing for incorporation) cry on the local FB page about the TOS's recent assessments, angrily exclaiming how their taxes will go up. But they are also using "higher property values" as a "pro" for incorporation, which leads to, GUESS WHAT, higher property taxes! LMAO! Unbelievable!
By 2329702 (67), East Quogue on Jun 17, 19 9:58 AM
1 member liked this comment