Incumbent Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who recently announced he is running for another two-year term, may find himself squaring off against a popular fellow town board – and party – member.
Jeffrey Bragman, who has emerged as the champion of Deepwater Wind opponents and Wainscott residents who feel betrayed by the town, is being encouraged by members of both political parties to vie for Van Scoyoc’s seat.
In fact, the town’s Republican leader, Manny Vilar, is encouraging Bragman to seek the nomination. And a dissident group of Democrats led by Rona Klopman and David Gruber could also enter the fray, further eroding Van Scoyoc’s base.
And Bragman, who feels ostracized by some board members, said this week he isn’t ruling anything out.
The town board, comprised of all Democrats, has carefully honed a veneer of unity under party boss Chris Kelley, but since Bragman took a seat last January, a chasm has opened.
Bragman has refused to back Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Democratic party’s insistence that the town embrace the wind farm at all costs.
“This is about Andrew Cuomo’s ambition. He’s in the tank, and the Chris Kelleys of the world are beholden to him,” said Vilar, head of the East Hampton Republican Party and one of the first politicians in town to oppose Deepwater. The wind turbine company, recently purchased by Ørsted, wants to run an offshore cable under a Wainscott beach to a Long Island Power Authority substation in Wainscott. In recent months, however, there have been inklings that a much larger and intrusive project is in the works.
“This is about turning Wainscott into an industrial conduit for a giant public utility,” Vilar said.
Last week, Assemblyman Fred Thiele pulled his support for Deepwater, joining a coalition of commercial fishermen, Montauk and Wainscott residents, and others who think the proposed wind farm is a Trojan horse.
“Fred’s comments are very significant,” Bragman said. “I intend to talk to him about it. It won’t lower the carbon footprint . . . this massive infrastructure in this tiny hamlet is unsettling.”
Last week, Councilwoman Sylvia Overby and Councilman David Lys, along with Van Scoyoc, announced via press release they would seek reelection. While Lys, a board newcomer like Bragman, does not support Deepwater, he is more moderately opposed.
Overby said this week she still supported the wind farm. “As a board member, you try and solve problems. What’s impacting people’s lives? What are the best solutions?” she said. Overby is convinced long-term wind-generated electricity in East Hampton makes sense.
But the self-assurance of the board members seeking reelection conveyed little to appease critics like Vilar, who say they often take credit when it isn’t due.
For example, he said Van Scoyoc personally took credit for cleaning up the Amagansett dust bowl last week even though both he and Overby were out of town when the dust problem arose.
Though Van Scoyoc and the board recently touted its success in bringing clean drinking water to Wainscott, Bragman said last year the town hid the news of water contamination from the public for months. Vilar added that the board paid “retail” and the deal the town struck will cost Wainscott residents too much.
For now, though, Deepwater is the issue that will decide the next election.
“The most direct and least disruptive route is the Beach Lane route. The DWW cable will require two and a half miles of trenching of public roads and another two miles along the Long Island Rail Road right of way. By comparison, the recent installation of water mains in Wainscott required eight and a half miles of trenching of public roads and we didn’t receive a single complaint about that work,” Van Scoyoc said.
Bragman is opposed to the project, and Wainscott residents notified the board earlier this week that they have hired lawyers and will actively fight the Deepwater approval. Van Scoyoc, they charge, doesn’t have the facts straight.
Attorney David Seiler of Freidman Kaplan made that case in a letter to the to the town board dated January 31.
“The town board’s process regarding Deepwater’s proposal has obviously been flawed,” the attorney wrote. “Deepwater doubled the potential voltage to run under Wainscott Beach to 460,000V from 230,000V, even though Deepwater’s own electric and magnetic safety study only purports to address the effects of a 138,000V transmission line.”
According to documents Deepwater filed with the federal Bureau of Energy Ocean Management, and contrary to what Van Scoyoc said, the excavation planned for Wainscott will be a mammoth undertaking that will result in road closures and significant maintenance. Its scope is much larger than the project originally presented to the town.The trench dug will likely be wider than the entire road, many times larger than what was needed for the water mains.
Despite Van Scoyoc’s insistence everything is status quo, the New York State Public Service Commission secretary informed Deepwater that its application failed to comply with the requirements of the Article VII review process, Seiler said.
Van Scoyoc, who was elected to the town board in 2011 and re-elected in 2015, is halfway through his first two-year term as supervisor. Overby, also elected to the board in 2011, is in the final year of her second four-year term.