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September 17, 2010

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TEN VINEYARD GAZETTE, MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASS. FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2010 VINEYARD GAZETTE M a rth a ' s %W'.'le,_ Established Vineyard's  in 1846 Newspaper A Journal for 164 Years of Island Life Richard Reston, Publisher Julia Wells, Editor Joseph T. Pitt, General Manager Lauren Martin, Managing Editor Stephen Durkee, Director of Graphics and Design Phyllis Meras, Contributing Editor Richard Reston and Mary Jo Reston Publishers 1988-2003 Sally Fulton Reston and James Reston Publishers 1968-1988 Elizabeth Bowie Hough and Henry Beetle Hough Publishers 1920-1965 Bradley Square's Broken Dream The Island Affordable Housing Fund has reached the end of the road with Bradley Square and this week the depressing but unsur- prising news was announced: Bradley Square, the rundown Masonic avenue property planned as an innovative bit of small-scale urban renewal in the heart of Oak Bluffs, will be put up for sale. And the plan to convert the old Denniston House, the site of the first African American church on the Island, to affordable apartments and office space for the Vineyard chapter of the NAACP, will be scrapped. So what went wrong at Bradley Square? If it's true that hindsight is twenty-twenty, just about everything. The story of the project begins with the tory of a previous execu- tive director, who it is now dear, did much damage before he left the fund fourteen months ago. Patrick Manning led the charge to buy the Denniston House property in the summer of 2007, all with much fanfare, although looking back today it sounds more like the work- ings of a snake oil salesman. The pitch went like this: The property was on the market, highly valuable, and the window of opportunity was very small. The asking price was just over $900,000, and time was short. Money was needed for a down payment so the Island Affordable Housing Fund, a nonprofit organization that was itself the hottest new trend on the Vineyard, could buy it and convert it to badly-needed housing for Islanders of modest means. No price was too great to pay for this noble project. An emergency fund-raising campaign was launched; the newspa- pers wrote stories about it and about $200,000 was raised, practically over a weekend. Mr. Manning and his fund were jubilant; the dream of Bradley Square was launched. There were plenty of bumps with the neighbors and the Martha's Vineyard Commission as a very large, very dense-for-the-neighbor- hood project with a highly questionable business plan went through a rigorous process of review, but here again, an emotional zeitgeist of sorts trumped common sense. Affordable housing was so important. Judgment was clouded. Bradley Square was approved. In August of 2008 Gov. Deval Patrick and Prof. Charles Ogletree were summoned for a ceremonial groundbreaking. No one wanted to talk about the fact that there was no money to build the project and that the fund was carrying a huge mortgage of $700,000 on the property with no secure means to pay it down. One year later Mr. Manning was gone and the Island Affordable Housing Fund was broke, forced to pull the plug on its commit- ment to the county rental assistance program, putting hundreds of Islanders at risk for losing their stable year-round rentals. And the Bradley dream began to break apart, one piece at a time. Executive director T. Ewell Hopkins, who took over thirteen months ago, has been working tirelessly with an impossibly bad situation, facing not only the tanking economy that has impacted nonprofits broadly, but revelations that soured donors on the fund specifically: The housing fund had raised far less than the huge amounts of money Mr. Man- ning claimed it had raised. And the fund that was set up to provide affordable housing for needy Islanders had been extravagant; Mr. Manning paid $20,000 for a dance floor for one summer fundraiser and earned hefty commissions on large gifts, all with his board's ap- proval. Mr. Hopkins swiftly ended these practices, but by that time the horse was out of the barn. Looming even larger at this juncture is the future of the fund itself, which is out of money and quite possibly at the end of its own road. But when there is no money left, there is nothing left to do but close the door on a nonprofit. And absent a small miracle, that may be the only commonsense option left for the Island Affordable Housing Fund. Fa//T//t The autumnal equinox will take place this Wednesday, Sept. 22, at precisely 11:09 p.m.At that moment the tilt of the earth's axis will be inclined neither away nor toward the sun. It is as if the planet will be suspended, the sun hovering directly above the equator, for just a moment before the seasonal change begins to roll in. Here on the Island, however, the adjustment from summer to fall is already under way. If summer on the Island can be defined by the often-heard phrase, hurry up and work like hell, fall feels like an invitation to lie back and linger. The days have grown shorter and yet at the same time they seem longer, most likely due to the extra time available to enjoy them. Routines and schedules are in fashion again. The kids are back in school, workloads lightened, (unless you are a teacher), and the possibility of everyone making it home in time for dinner much greater now. Paychecks may be smaller, but sunsets at the beach, nature walks and good old-fashioned porch sitting are still available free of charge. Acorns seem to be everywhere on the ground. The squirrels are not yet at work collecting provisions to get them through the long Island winter. The fable of the ant and the grasshopper extols the virtues of planning ahead, but perhaps, at this moment, the squirrels know best. Although cooler air greets us each morning, it is wise to remember summer has just ended.There is no need to do anything quite yet. Far better to remain suspended for a while, like our planet, before tilting toward the next phase of life. THE EDITOR CAPABLE MR. BABSON Editors, Vineyard Gazette: I am writing about the resignation of David Babson, former manager of the Trustees of Reservations at Norton Point and on Chappaquiddick. I have read the previous letters and feel they were well written and each has had good points on this matter. I have worked for the Trustees for five years, two years at Wasque and three years at Norton Point, as a visi- tor service representative. I worked for Dave Belcher for the first two years before he retired. I don't think it would be possible to replace Dave. He was a quality person and treated everyone with respect. He was the ultimate man- ager and there was no one like him. We had a period in the third year where the appointed manager didn't work out, and after that season David Babson was hired to take over the man- ager's job. At his introductory meeting with his staff he impressed with his enthusiasm and energy. Speaking for the experienced staff, he came off as capable and willing to handle any task. He worked hard to establish himself and make TTOR a better organization. This past 2010 season he found him- self with a 20 per cent decrease in staff. He lost his accountant and beach staff. It didn't set him back from doing his best for the Trustees. David always seemed to do the best he could with what he had. He desig- nated employees' work, managed stock and permit sales, performed carpentry work and was a problem solver on both beaches. David took one vacation day this summer, to take his young son and daughter to the circus. Thursday eve- ning of that week he was repairing a tire on a TruStees' truck at Katama Farm. The next day he was issued an ultimatum to resign immediately or be fired the following Monday. He re- signed reluctantly. The staff was totally surprised. What mistake could he have made that would cost him his job, home and livelihood? He and his wife had to take their two children out of the Edgartown school system and move off-Island one month before the start of the school year! I think that the staff and supporters of the Trustees deserve an explanation of what caused this to happen. Manage- ment seems to be completely out of touch. Richard Stanton Edgartown GREEN-WASHED Editors, Vineyard Gazette: I found the recent article written in the Martha's Vineyard Times on the Mansion House to be one of the most laughable collections of claims and ir- responsible assertions I have ever read. I spent three months in an office space on the ground floor directly above the pool. In those three months,my cowork- ers and I experienced what I can only call an all-out assault to our respiratory systems and overall health. Water and glycol (antifreeze) routinely leaked and flooded our offices from the building's faulty cooling system. Furthermore, dur- ing June and July our office was without air conditioning or the ability to even open any windows. Needless to say, our rainforest-like office was an indisputably horrific work environment. There were times when the chemi- cal mix was allowed to stand for 12 or more hours and soak into the floors and carpets. The air quality was so toxic that most of us were forced to work Picasso Experiment One Sam Low from home. Complaints to the board of health were flat-out ignored and nu- merous requests to the building's own- ers to address our concerns were only met with hostility and outright refusal to admit that there was any problem at all. Requests to test the air quality were refused; requests for mold count tests were ignored and in the end we had no choice but to vacate an office that was slowly compromising our health to the point that one fellow employee was forced to go on a two-week course of Prednisone and Amoxicillin. The final straw came in late July when I entered our office, on Monday, to find nearly an inch of water covering our floor. I immediately alerted the build- ing's owner and the Tisbury building inspector. While I was waiting for our first-responders, I noticed that two ac- tive surge protectors were submerged in the water. Fearing that a fellow co- worker or tourist might accidentally walk into the hazard and electrocute themselves, I placed a small handwritten warning sign on entrance to our office. After more than an hour, the first person to respond to our flood was the Mansion House attorney. About an hour later one of the building's owners and the building inspector entered our office. It was at that time that one of the build- ing's owners ripped my warning sign off the entrance and then proceeded to physically and verbally threaten me. His actions were obviously a reaction to the placement of the sign. It was at the moment crystal clear to everyone in the room that the owner cared more about the appearance of his building than warning the public about a potentially fatal accident waiting to happen. But here is the real kicker:The same thing happened in 2004 and we were never told. That incident included several occupants with identical com- plaints except one of them ended up in the emergency room. Numerous complaints to the Tisbury board of health were ignored and even mocked, as those suffering from breathing prob- lems were told over and over by the building's owners and the board that it was the potpourri and candles that they sold in their stores and not the air quality. (Those mold levels would later test at approximately 130 times an acceptable level.) In a private cor- respondence one of the owners goes so far as to suggest that the entire episode was concocted so that the tenants could get out of paying rent. Being "green" isn't about cutting ev- ery comer, risking the health of others and thinking you can make it all okay by putting in a new geothermal ice maker. It isn't about doing the bare minimum and ignoring domplaints because fixing the problem is too much trouble or too expensive. This brings me back to pre- posterous notion of the Mansion House attempting to "green-wash" their image by holding a press conference. Great people don't have to lock you in a room and tell you how great they are. Everyone already knows it. Scott Condon Edgartown SEPT. 11 REFLECTION Editors, Vineyard Gazette: Today's Sunday paper of Sept. 12 is filled with divisive articles concerning the happenings of 9/11/2001. As I was reading, the thought came to me: why can't we turn this around? Why can't we turn this site of mayhem and death into a place of hope? Perhaps we could construct a chapel at Ground Zero sponsored by people everywhere of all faiths, dedicated to world peace. A space created by hate, transformed to a gathering place to pray and contemplate a world at peace. A place that once was a living hell, turned to a place of love and under- standing. This moment in time is an opportunity to turn mayhem and fear to hope and peace. This is just the seed of an idea; it is for others to flesh it out. There is an opportunity to turn bickering into something good for all mankind. This is a wonderful opportunity and big enough to attract all people. Don McGrath Edgartown SAFETY BARRIER Editors, Vineyard Gazette: The following edited letter is a re- sponse to a request from the Edgar- town selectmen that the homeowner remove rocks from the edge of her property on North Summer street. The rocks in question have been on the property approximately 10 years without a problem. They were ques- tioned by the town at that time and I was told that the rocks can stay. Un- fortunately, I do not recall who on the board I had contact with. The Massachusetts General Law is ambiguous. I have seen rocks, larger boulders, fences right on the asphalt, stone walls, stone posts, signs, metal edging, dangerous high curbing where there is no sidewalk and other obstruc- tions within the road layout of North and South Summer streets, Cooke street, Fuller street, Pease's Point Way, Plant- ingfield Way and many other streets in Edgartown. Also, the placement of some of these obstructions are not a safety issue as is the case with me. The rocks are a visual barrier that alerts the driver and keeps cars on the street away from me, my dogs and any- one else who may be walking or standing there. An instant distraction could cause a driver to veer right, hitting someone standing or walking in that area. The situation has not changed in 10 years but has become more hazardous due to the extension and change of position of the adjacent street parking space. I walk that section of grass with my dogs against on- coming traffic a minimum of three times a day. Also, myself and my landscapers use the area between the rocks to work on plants along the fence. There were many tire marks in the grass before the rocks were placed, which confirms my safety concern. It is not a safe place to be when cars and especially the larger trucks pass. They are very close to you. The rocks are smooth and there are no sharp edges. They are evenly spaced and sized and serve the same purpose as metal poles with reflectors, which are To Page Eleven Prepa j,it zg For a Whole New Preppy TRUE PREP:It's a Whole New Old World. By Lisa Birnbach with Chip Kidd. Alfred A. Knopf. September 2010. 256 pages. $19. 95, hardcover. HERE IS NO MORE SINGULAR OR PECULIAR strain of American than the White Anglo- Saxon Person known as"the Preppy." It's not just the technicolor dress code, the proper secondary school and appropriate (Ivy League) col- lege. It's beyond the almost vertical family tree, the return address to a handful of cities and appropriate family crest of the pinkie ring.The Preppius Maximus is a species of such unique habits and forms, it war- ranted a true sociological breakdown. In 1980, writer Lisa Birnbach recognized the nu- ances of the culture and created the original field guide to the clench-jawed and hair-banded: the plaid bound paperback Preppy Handbook, which swiftly became the field guide to the old money, very privileged and not particularly interested in the lower echelons (beyond the help, of course!) The book became an instant bestseller, copies being snapped up, celebrated, talked about and given as (gag) gifts in places like Newport, Palm Beach, Grosse Pointe, Shaker Heights, Princeton, the upper East Side, Nan- tucket, Hyannis and yes, even Edgartown. Given that By HOLLY GLEASON prep culture had long been the world that time forgot, no need for an update seemed to be necessary. Until now. Two decades -- and such extreme social, techno- logical and even economic shifts later -- Bimbach has teamed with Knopf designer and writer Chip Kidd to chronicle the evolution of those who would deem NOKD ("Not Our Kind, Dear") anyone who couldn't tell their Vineyard Vines from their Ralph Lauren or who would shrink from the thought of sporting Lilly Pulitzer Capri pants. The Prep Pantheon identifies the key prep icons (Kennedy, the Obamas, Ben Bradlee, AI Franken), but True Prep also includes the Prep perps-- brought down for forgery, prostitution, embezzlement, murder (Jean Harris, Sydney Biddle Barrows). Because even felonious folks of certain pedigrees know how to fall from grace with a modicum of taste. True Prep -- appropriately subtitled It's A Whole New Old World -- is the new field guide to the ways of the blue blood, Blue Booked and quite possibly blue ticked. Recognizing that many social structures have evolved profoundly, there are now chapters for dealing with stepchildren, new spouses, gay couples, the eradication of many opportunities for prep em- ployment and the 21st century of means for Mummy's need to define herself (repeat: decorator, docent, real estate, yogini/shaman/healer). For those looking to ascend to true prepdom, fear not. All the key brands of clothes, luggage, loafers are included -- as is a reading list of the kind of books the elite and unaware have enjoyed for yealx There is a diagram for dancing, a four step rites of lunging at a member of the opposite sex and a map of the brain/ thought of one's black Lab. Just as importantly, recipes for blandWASP food and-- more importantly-- cock- tails are included, as is a section on the new economy (what to do with a store credit?) and the proper way to weekend (hint: it's a verb, not a noun). With tongue firmly in cheek and fingers always on the pulse, the greatest truth of True Prep is the gift of laughing at oneself. Effervescently capturing the strange realities of prep life, it is funny -- even to the ones living it -- with its siIlifiess, charming in its will to be so utterly unto itself. If you or someone you know fits the bill, this is the way to remove the sting. Even better given with a pitcher of stingers and a long afternoon to laugh at page after page of field reporting from the right stores, clubs, towns and colleges, True Prep is cheap admission to somewhere jubilant you may already be residing. THE GAZETrE CHRONICLE Prickly Thistles From Gazette editions of September, 1985: The transition to the school season brings a big change into the lives of students across the Island each Septem- ber, and the youngest sometimes feel this most poignaritly. Mary Jacobson, principal of the Chilmark School, had a story to share this week about a first grader. Little Lev Wlodyka went to the school telephone at 10:15 Monday morning and called home. When his mother, Betty Wlodyka, answered, Lev had a message:"You can come get me now," he declared. "I've had enough." West Tisbury shellfish constable Ray- mond Houle wears many hats. But at age 87, he has decided to take one off and hang it up for good. After 20 years patrolling Pear Tree Cove, Muddy Cove, Spaulding Point, Deep Bottom Cove, Short Cove, Manter Point and Tiah's Cove, Mr. Houle will retire as shellfish constable with a singular re- cord: he has never once written a cita- tion. But then West Tisbury can be a pretty quiet town when it comes to shellfish- ing. The princiPal fishery centers on oysters in the q'isbury Great Pond, once the most productive pond for oysters on the Vineyard, with numerous coves and open water. Mr. Houle remembers the early days when there were two oyster companies on the pond. John Whiting ran an oyster business in Chil- mark and John Mayhew owned one in West Tisbury. By the time he took the position of shellfish constable, the bountiful har- vest was in a period of steep decline. Mr. Houle says that for the most part shellfishermen do not violate the roles, outside of the occasional out-of- town recreational fisherman who takes oysters without a permit.The Houle ap- proach avoids the oeed for a citation:"I make them put them back," he says. When he took over the job, fisher- men weighed their oysters as they left the pond. The rules set a 70-pound weight limit on each bushel, with a three-bushel daily limit for commercial fishermen. He says he saw quite a few attempted gimmicks and tricks over the ears, with fishermen hiding extra otr/'fri tti: brw bf their boats or under the culling boa?d. "I knoW tlae tried to do it for years." .... Mr. Houle holds the deep conviction that the states should take a hard look at the fisheries. People have to care about the resource, he says. Vineyard Haven businessmen, tovn officials and hundreds of ordinary citi- zens are lining up to stall the effort to recall Tisbury selectman Suzan Custer. While members of the Tisbury Busi- ness Association (TBA) urged towns- people this week to let the recall process die for lack of signatures, an informal group led by the chairman of the town library trustees collected signatures on an unofficial petition deploring the way the recall proponents set the machinery in motion. And Mrs. Custer conferred with a lawyer about ways to change the town recall law to force critics of elected officials to publicly state spe- cific reasons for seeking a recall. "I would urge everyone who is con- fronted with a recall petition to ques- tion the protesters," TBA spokesman Gino Montessi said yesterday, "and if they offer no foundation for the charges, don't sign the petition. "I wore out a lot of shoe leather try- ing to get the TBA together.The efforts that we are making in trying to create more cooperation between the town and the business community are hurt by the recall petition. The best thing to do is to let this die." Two weeks ago, six registered voters signed and submitted to the town clerk an affidavit demanding a special recall election. Since then the signers have either refused to comment on it, were back in college or on vacation or could not be reached for comment for nearly two weeks. So far none of the signers have openly faced Mrs. Custer with specific instances to back their charges that she deliberaately interferred with the proper administration of town govern- ment. Now that September is here, it is near- ing the end of the season of thistles. Throughout the summer they can be found, prickly and purple, here and there, along down-Island roadsides and in up- Island pastures.They are a favorite of the goldfinch, as well as all of Scottish ances- try. It was the prickly thistle that saved Scotland from conquest by the Danes centuries ago, legend has it. The invad- ers, barefooted to assure they would not be given away by the squeaking of their boots, in the dark of night were crossing a field. One of them stepped on a thistle and cried out. And the Scots, roused by the outcry, put the invaders to rout. Like the frugal Scots whose emblem it is, the thistle needs little to thrive on. Neither abundant water nor rich soil are prerequisites. It is hardy and simple, and adds a touch of color and history to ditches and fields. Compiled by Cynthia Meisner library@mvgazette, com