Challenger critical of incumbent’s leadership skills

Two Vie For East Hampton Supervisor’s Seat




Peter Van Scoyoc, as the East Hampton Town supervisor, gets his share of criticism. But he’s been around the block enough times to know it comes with the territory. He doesn’t blow his own horn, either — a rarity among politicians. But when prompted, it’s clear he is proud of his record. “People expect that government will spend their money wisely and keep taxes low. Would I like more? Yes, I would. But without burdening people with taxes,” he said.

David Gruber is challenging Van Scoyoc, one of five Democrats on the town board. He is a disgruntled Democrat who has settled on the Independence and Libertarian lines. “We have distortions,” he countered. “He’s achieved this on the backs of town workers.” Gruber said town employees make less than all their counterparts on the East End.

Van Scoyoc said, “There has never been a zero pay increase,” that there is a bonus system in place to reward exceptional employees, and that health benefits provide a valuable offset to payroll.

The two clashed on affordable housing. The town has been as proactive as possible under Van Scoyoc given the restraints — the major one is there is so little land available, another that people don’t want affordable housing in their neighborhoods.

Gruber would aggressively build units within walking distance of shopping and transportation and funded by the town. He said he is “not interested” in home ownership. But rather in keeping the price affordable.

The two have opposing views about Deepwater Wind’s proposed 15-turbine South Fork Wind Farm project. Van Scoyoc has been a supporter since the beginning, though he explained it’s the concept of wind energy, and the consequences of not developing it.

East Hampton Town, Van Scoyoc said, was on a quest “to meet its renewable energy goals.” The town has the goal of being 100 percent renewable by 2030.

The two squabbled over how aggressively the town lobbied to make East Hampton the landing site for the offshore cable. Gruber said the amount of power delivered by the wind farm would be insignificant.

“We support the concept,” Van Scoyoc responded. “We lead by example.”

Van Scoyoc has been a builder and a charter fisherman but government is clearly his calling. He served on the zoning board for five years, the planning board for six, and the town board for eight, the last four as supervisor.

His challenger is a money manager, a longtime Democrat, and former party chairman. “I am overwhelmingly the biggest contributor of the Democratic party over the past 20 years,” said Gruber. He ran and lost for the town supervisor’s seat two decades ago. He broke from the party this year and formed a reform group of democrats. Paperwork snafus and filing mishaps have robbed his momentum-gathering efforts early on.

Gruber, often allied with board watchdog David Buda and Jeff Bragman, the newest town board member, criticizes many of the board’s initiatives and blames Van Scoyoc for advancing projects favored by the party without sufficient public input. Criticism of the town’s proposal to relocate and expand town’s aquaculture facilities to Gann Road has become a local sore point. Those opposed feel the project, which now includes a learning center, is too ambitious for the neighborhood.

Gruber and the others have accused the town of trying to push the project through without proper environmental review. Gruber said when the town applied for grant money, it said on the application that a negative declaration had been issued — that a preliminary, somewhat shallow environmental review had indicated a more thorough one was needed.

He said town board member David Lys went “all over town,” discussing the plan with architects and builders “with no community review.”

Van Scoyoc said it’s too early to issue a determination under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, and championed the project. “We are trying to foster an industry of oyster gardening entrepreneurs.”

The pair also clashed over the Duryea’s controversy and accused Van Scoyoc again with making deals outside the public’s purview. Van Scoyoc said it was the applicant, Marc Rowan, who tried to evade the process. The brouhaha intensified when the town attorney cut a deal with the developer out side of the public’s purview. Critics, Gruber included, said court papers revealed that the board members were aware of the proceedings but denied it when quizzed at a board meeting.

Gruber said repeated failures of the current board to respond to the needs of the people have left the town stagnant and change is needed. “I don’t need the pension and I don’t need the headache.”

“We’re not stuck. We’re one of the most constructive boards in a long, long, long time,” Van Scoyoc said.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com