07/05/13 8:00am
07/05/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A view of Peconic Bay from Mattituck Beach.

Here’s some bad news for those of you hoping I would flunk my boating safety test: I passed. I — and all of my classmates, I am pleased to report — are now the proud possessors of a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety certificate and “license.” (It’s actually just a laminated wallet card, but let’s call it a “license.”)

Also, in the days following the final exam, our little 18-foot runabout passed the Auxiliary’s boat safety inspection, which it would not have done had I not taken the course. (Not enough life jackets, no throwing rescue cushion, no fire extinguisher.) And throughout the process, Auxiliary member Ted Webb of Orient could not have been more helpful or informative. And the same is true of his fellow Auxiliary members who instructed us: helpful and informative to a man and woman.

Having said that, I stick by my original assertion that the Suffolk County Legislature overreached in passing the new boating safety law. Licensing is a good thing and should be required, but there needs to be some sort of mechanism for exempting experienced boaters from taking the 11-hour course before they take the exam. In my opinion, only if they flunk the test the first time around should they be required to take the course.

Meanwhile, those of you out there who live in Suffolk and operate a motorized craft better get a-crackin’. The deadline for getting a license is Friday, Sept. 13. After that, without one, you will be breaking the law every time you operate your boat.

Note: This column was published before it was reported that a bill in the state Legislature would supercede county law.

And here’s another update to an earlier column, the one about my grandson receiving the gift of an expensive baseball glove from Major League pitcher Heath Bell, then of the Florida Marlins and currently of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In this day and age of pampered, over-compensated (and occasionally criminal) professional athletes, Mr. Bell appears to deserve his reputation as “the nicest guy in baseball.” Case in point: as this is written, Tyler, his mother and grandfather (that would be me) are preparing to drive into Manhattan to be Health Bell’s guest at lunch. After that, we’ll be Heath Bell’s guest as the D-backs take on the Mets at Citi Field. Of course he can afford it with a contract that pays him $9 million a year, but no one is paying him to be so very nice to a 12-year-old baseball fan from eastern Long Island.

I would never be so bold as to suggest that there is a major shift in the air, politically speaking in Southold Town, as there was when United Southold vaulted into power in the early 1990s. Although the Republicans still have a stranglehold on Town Hall, there isn’t a sense that it’s their way or the highway. And Supervisor Scott Russell’s quiet style of leadership and communication deserves much of the credit for that.

Still, there was a sense that this could be an unusual year, politically speaking in Southold Town, based on my observations at County Legislator Al Krupski’s fundraiser Friday night at the Pequash Club in Cutchogue. As you would expect, most of the usual subjects were in attendance. But it was the unusual suspects who caught my eye. As in Town Justice Bill Price Jr., a lifelong Republican who this year is running for re-election as a Democrat. (See earlier editions of The Suffolk Times for details.) Then there was Conservative (with a capital “C”) Town Board member Jim Dinizio, whom I would not normally have expected to see at a Democratic event, even though, as a friend of mine reminded me recently, “everybody loves Al Krupski.” It turns out the Conservatives have endorsed Krupski, but still …

And that got me to thinking the following: with the very-popular Al Krupski at the top of the ticket via his special election bid for a full term, Scott Russell not on the ticket because he’s in the middle of a four-year term, and Bill Price drawing Republican and independent voters to the ticket as he undoubtedly will, maybe, just maybe, some change will be in the air come Nov. 4.

(Disclaimer: Al Krupski’s was the first local political fundraiser that we’ve ever attended as paying customers. That’s because the former Joan Giger Walker and I no longer are owners of this newspaper, whose long-standing policy prevents editorial staff members from supporting or contributing to local campaigns.)

tgustavson@timesreview.com

06/22/13 8:00am
06/22/2013 8:00 AM
TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Boaters enjoying a day out on the Peconic Bay last summer.

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Boaters enjoying a day out on the Peconic Bay last summer.

At the risk of receiving an “F” on my final exam, I am compelled to take this occasion to express my deep personal reservations about the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety course currently being offered — if paying $50 to take a mandatory course can be considered “offering” it — at Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library.

First, a little background. On July 4, 2012, a 34-foot cabin cruiser with 27 passengers aboard capsized in Oyster Bay, L.I., killing three children, ages 8, 11 and 12. The man said to be piloting the boat had “over 25 years of experience on the water, said Michael Treanor, the brother of the owner of the boat,” according to The New York Times.

That the boat was seriously, perhaps even criminally, overloaded was never in doubt. Neither was the dubious judgment of the skipper and the adults who voluntarily came aboard with their children.

What is in serious doubt, however, is the ensuing overreaction of the Suffolk County Legislature, which subsequently passed legislation effectively requiring all county residents operating “a pleasure vessel upon the waters of Suffolk County” to take an 11-hour boating safety course and pass a final exam before being issued a boating safety certificate by “the Commission of the NYS Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary; or by any other entity that offers a boating course that meets the standards set by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators.”

I take no issue with the idea of requiring a certificate (read: license) to operate a boat in Suffolk. But why are my fellow classmates and I being asked to give up 11 hours over two consecutive Mondays to take a test the majority of us could have passed, I would argue, with little or no advance preparation. It’s like asking someone who has driven a car for 25 years to go back and apply for their learner’s permit and pass the road test and the written test before getting back behind the wheel.

With no disrespect intended toward any of our very knowledgeable Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer instructors, I imagine several of those attending the class could have been teaching it, based on their decades of operating boats — some for the U.S. military, others as commercial captains.

The reasonable thing to have done would be to require passage of a boat operator’s test — without the unreasonable classroom component. Then, and only then, require the classroom component if the applicant fails the test.

On Monday, during our first classroom session, some very useful information — dealing mostly with rules of navigation — was imparted. But an excruciating amount of time was spent on decidedly esoteric and marginal matters such as the difference between a sloop and a ketch and the fact that some PWCs (Personal Water Crafts; read: Jet Skis) actually can go backwards. (I, for one, did not know that fascinating fact!)

And here’s another consideration: Under the terms of the new law, non-Suffolk County residents will be allowed to operate boats in Suffolk County without certification even if their boats are registered in the county.

But if you own a boat and are a resident of Suffolk County, the following will come as decidedly sobering news: You have until Sept. 13 of this year to obtain your boating safety certificate/license. After that date, you could be fined $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third offense. And, oh yes, you could go to jail for up to a year for that third offense.

And so it is that I will attend class again next Monday morning, if somewhat reluctantly.

As my longtime editor, the former Joan Giger Walker, points out, the opinions expressed above are decidedly debatable. To wit: if a road test is required to operate a car, why not a water test to operate a boat? Accordingly, those holding opposing points of view are hereby invited to express them to me at tgustavson@timesreview.com.

04/28/13 6:00am
04/28/2013 6:00 AM

John Miller

My mother, borrowing some folk wisdom from the Disney film “Bambi,” routinely told me when I was a lad that if I couldn’t say anything nice, then I shouldn’t say anything at all. Obviously, at some point over the years, I stopped taking Mom’s (and Bambi’s) advice.

And yet I have something nice to say this week about a man who I had something not so nice to say about in this space not so long ago. The man in question is CBS News correspondent and part-time Shelter Island resident John Miller, who took some grief from me here for a televised report he did on Plum Island that I thought suffered from a rehashing of some oft-told but dubious tales about the island being the birthplace of Lyme disease and the Montauk monster.

After I criticized him here, however, we kissed and made up, after a fashion, and I have admired his work for CBS ever since.

And never have I admired it more than this past Friday night, when he and CBS anchorman Scott Pelley did an outstanding job reporting on the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two brothers implicated in the Boston Marathon bombing.

The former Joan Giger Walker and I had just returned from dinner with friends in Greenport when we turned on our television to scenes of celebration in the streets of Watertown, Mass. The headlines scrolling across the bottom of the screen informed us that there had been an arrest in the case, but all we were seeing were flag-waving crowd scenes and policemen honking the horns of their patrol cars. We were desperate to know the who, what, where, when and how, and all we were getting, as we surfed from channel to channel, was more of the same: crowd shots from Watertown.

Until we switched to CBS, that is. In the space of less than 10 minutes, Scott Pelley and John Miller did a superb job of summarizing the story and the situation. Mr. Miller’s reportage, in particular, was most informative, as he called on his insider’s knowledge of law enforcement gained from his years of experience as a police reporter, as an aide to New York City and Los Angeles police commissioner William Bratton and as assistant director for public affairs with the FBI in Washington, D.C.

In other words, the dude has paid his dues. And never was that more apparent than Friday night on national television, when he and Scott Pelley helped make sense of as complex a news story as we’ve seen in this country since 9/11.

I’d never done this before, but I was so impressed with his reporting that at 9:23 p.m. I fired off the following email to the address I had saved after our tête–à–tête over Plum Island: “John: Great job tonight. Your coverage was very best, by far. (We channel surfed for a while before getting the real story from you and Scott.) Well done, sir.”

And now for the truly amazing part of this tale, remembering that this was a man sitting in a CBS-TV network studio in New York City, having just reported what probably will be the story of the year.

At 9:27 p.m., just four minutes after my original email, I get this back from John Miller:

 “Hey! They blocked the road from the Orient Ferry because they thought he might have made it on to the Cross Sound [Ferry]. Do we know if that is true? Thanks for the kind words. ”

Does this guy have sources, or what? Yes, the road had been blocked earlier in the day, and I was astounded that he knew about it at all, given everything that had been going on in Boston that day. And when I responded by sending him a link to Times/Review’s detailed online coverage of the false alarm at Orient Point, he responded again with a simple “Wow.”

Wow is right. I think I have a new favorite television newsman. And his name is no longer Brian Williams.

When I first met Steve Rosin, some 25 years ago, he was working as an apprentice to electrician Sal Prato. Steve would have been about 30 then, and what I remember most was that he was precise in his workmanship and soft spoken in his bearing. What I didn’t know then, but what I came to learn over the next 2 1/2 decades, as he continued to be our electrician of choice both at home and at work, was that he was kind and funny and incredibly reliable. And, by all accounts, he was a loving and devoted husband to Aileen and father to Sascha.

So it is with great sadness that I acknowledge Steve’s untimely passing this week at the age of 55. That is way too soon for a man of his vigor and lust for life, and it’s going to take me some time to make sense of his death. If I ever do.

tgustavson@timesreview.com

02/14/13 10:57am
02/14/2013 10:57 AM

Yes, it’s true, ladies and gentlemen! You have arrived at our annual Academy Awards contest column, wherein readers of same are challenged to pick the winners of the 85th Academy Awards, which will be revealed on ABC-TV on Sunday, Feb. 24. 

Once again this year, due in no small part to a couple of friends who are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I have seen all 10 nominees for Best Picture. (Well, to be perfectly honest, 9 1/3 of the films; more on that below.)

And if you can hang in there until the end of this column, there’s a challenge awaiting that could win you a $100 gift certificate to the Mattituck Cinemas.

But first, my picks:

BEST PICTURE—“Les Misérables” is the film I could not make it all the way through. (It was, in fact, miserable.) I’ve always had trouble with dramatic musicals (see 1962’s “State Fair,” with Ann-Margret and Pat Boone crooning in their underwear when normal, red-blooded people would have had other things on their minds), and Russell Crowe’s croaking forced me to admit defeat long before the credits rolled.

Conventional wisdom might indicate Spielberg’s “Lincoln” for the top award, and my personal favorite was “Zero Dark Thirty,” which turned off some moviegoers because its core is a procedural about an obsessed CIA analyst who won’t quit in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But this contest isn’t about who should win, but who will win. And in that case my vote goes to “Argo,” director Ben Affleck’s engaging, if somewhat predictable, retelling of another CIA-based tale. Note: With the exception of “Les Mis,” “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi,” which was a tad too fantastic for my taste, I really (really!) liked the seven other finalists.

BEST DIRECTOR—And the winner is: Spielberg, mostly via default because neither of the real best directors, Ben Affleck or Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), was nominated.

Longshot: Michael Haneke (“Amour”) — because he got the very best out of his lead actors, 82-year-old Jean-Louis Trintignant and 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva. But when asked by a friend if I liked the film, I emphatically responded: “No, it’s way too depressing.”

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE—And the winner is: Daniel Day Lewis (“Lincoln”). You may safely bet the ranch on this one. If ever there were a prohibitive favorite in this category, it is Mr. Day Lewis. His bravura performance as our nation’s 16th president actually outshines his earlier bravura performances in “My Left Foot,” “There Will Be Blood,” etc.

Longshot/Should Be: Don’t even bother.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE—And the winner is: Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”). She may be young, but she’s building an impressive body of work, including in “The Help,” “The Tree of Life” and “Take Shelter.” And there would have been no “Zero Dark Thirty” without her riveting performance.

Longshot: Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Like Chastain, she’s young and previously overlooked. But as with her 2011 performance in “Winter’s Bone,” this one may be a tad too dark and too quirky for the decidedly conservative Academy members.

Honorable Mention: Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), who was 5 years old when this movie was filmed, and is the youngest actress ever nominated for this award.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE—And the winner is: Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”). This time, his deadpan delivery, bloodhound eyelids and southern inflection work to perfection as Lincoln’s vice president.

Longshots: Alan Arkin (“Argo”) and Robert DeNiro (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Both of these old pros chew up the scenery in engaging but predictable roles.

And the winner should be: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but not for his performance in “The Master,” for which he is nominated. Rather, for his performance in “The Late Quartet,” an outstanding ensemble piece roundly snubbed by the Academy.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE—And the winner is: Sally Field (“Lincoln”) in a brave performance as Honest Abe’s somewhat-unsympathetic mate. It’s also the safe pick, me thinks.

And the winner should be: Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”). Speaking of brave, what other 50-something actress would consider a role that requires her to appear in the buff for what seems like most of the film?

And now, the chance to claim that $100 gift certificate. All you must do to win is locate this column online at suffolktimes.com and be the first to post a comment below naming the most winners in the six categories cited above — having done so, of course, prior to the Sunday, Feb. 24, airing of the Academy Awards broadcast. Sorry, but in the event of a tie, the value of the gift certificate will be divided by the number of winners. But once again this year, popcorn is included.

tgustavson@timesreview.com

02/03/13 6:00am
02/03/2013 6:00 AM
A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings last week.

A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings.

So I have this old, rusty, single-shot, 20-gauge shotgun sitting in the corner of our bedroom, awaiting its fate.

What to do with it? Leave it where it lies, indefinitely? Attempt to melt it down in the burn barrel out back by the garage? (No, that would be against all sorts of laws, including those of nature.) Sell it through this newspaper’s classified ads? (No, can’t do that because the paper no longer accepts such ads, even for “antique” guns.) Or perhaps eBay? (No, “actual firearms” can’t be listed for sale there either.)

What to do with it? Hey, I have an idea: Why not encourage local police departments to implement gun buyback programs similar to those that have been so successful around the nation, particularly in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre.

This is basically how they work: Police departments set a place and time where and when guns of any sort — from single-shot derringers small enough to fit into the palm of your hand to the sort of multi-round assault rifle used to mow down elementary school children in Connecticut — are turned in voluntarily, with no questions asked. Those turning in the guns are compensated — sometimes with cash, but more often with gift cards that can’t be used to buy another gun — and the unwanted guns are properly disposed of by the cops.

I very much doubt that buyback programs here would generate the quantity of guns produced in big city programs, if only because our populations are so much smaller by comparison. But any gun taken off the street is a gun that won’t figure in an accident or an act of violence, such as the tragic shooting in Flanders this weekend, and that’s a very good thing.

Skeptics routinely disparage them as “feel good” programs that do little to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the criminally insane, but that’s not the only objective. As The Trenton (N.J.) Times editorialized after that city’s recent gun buyback program: “They represent an opportunity to safely dispose of old and malfunctioning firearms that could mean death in the hands of a child. We regulate the disposal of appliances, of paint, of outdated medication lest they spill destructive chemicals. It’s logical to be as conscientious about the clearing away of potentially deadly instruments.”

This week I have surveyed the chiefs of police in Southold, Riverhead and Shelter Island, asking them if they would support such a program in their towns, and I will let readers of this column know their responses as soon as I receive them. The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department used to buy back guns, but that program was discontinued when the grant money dried up, according to the department’s public information office.

And time is wasting, as they say, with recent reports in this newspaper about unprecedented sales of guns and ammunition in the wake of the passage of New York State’s tough new Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.

Meanwhile, a reader of my December column on gun control has pledged $1,000 to help implement such a program in Southold Town. And depending on the response we receive from the police chiefs, the former Joan Giger Walker and I will pledge another $1,000.

I wonder how many other community members would be willing to make small pledges to get the guns off our streets.

And if you’re wavering on this question, please take to heart these words of ex-New York City policeman Howard Martin of Manorville, as quoted in this newspaper last week: “Behind every tree, every window, every door there is a gun. It is the one thing that keeps America free.”

And bloody.

01/03/13 8:02am
01/03/2013 8:02 AM
Times/Review Newsgroup, Troy Gustavson, Andrew Olsen

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Times/Review Newsgroup owners Andrew and Sarah Olsen

Ownership of Times/Review Newsgroup of Mattituck was transferred recently from Joan and Troy Gustavson of Orient to their daughter, Sarah Olsen, and her husband, Andrew Olsen, of Cutchogue.

Mr. Olsen, the president-elect of the New York Press Association board of directors, became a co-publisher of the company in May 2003 when the Gustavsons retired as co-publishers. He was named sole publisher in 2009.

The Gustavsons had owned the company, formerly known as Times/Review Newspapers, since 1977. Times/Review publishes The Suffolk Times, Riverhead News-Review, The Shelter Island Reporter, Long Island Wine Press, numerous tourism and special-interest magazines, and the websites associated with those publications.

“We feel blessed to be in a position to keep Times/Review in the family,” Mr. Gustavson said in a statement. “Publishing these papers for the past 35 years has been a privilege and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of ours, and fortunately that dream is shared by Sarah and Andrew.

“We are absolutely confident that the company, and its publications, are in the best possible hands.”

TROY GUSTAVSON COLUMN: KEEPING IT ALL IN THE FAMILY

Mr. Olsen, 42, is a graduate of Southold High School and the University of Richmond (Va.). Before joining Times/Review, he was a vice president of Lowe, Lintas & Partners, an advertising agency in New York City. He is a former chairman of the East Marion Fire Department and recently transferred to the Cutchogue Fire Department. He also coaches youth baseball and basketball on the North Fork.

Ms. Olsen, 41, is a graduate of Greenport High School and Boston (Mass.) University. She was promotion director of Food and Wine Magazine in New York City before she stopped working to raise their two children, Tyler, 11, and Emma, 9. She works on the editorial side of Times/Review’s special publications.

“We are incredibly honored to build on the foundation established by Joan and Troy,” Mr. Olsen said in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to provide our readers and advertisers with the most compelling community news content across print and digital platforms.

“We’re confident our talented staff will continue to do this like no one else.”

gparpan@timesreview.com 

01/03/13 8:01am

JUDY AHRENS FILE PHOTO | Troy and Joan Gustavson outside the original Suffolk Times building in the late 1970s.

If you have not already perused this week’s business news section, let me be the first to inform you that this week marks a changing of the guard at Times/Review NewsGroup.

Effective with the new year, the former Joan Giger Walker and I have transferred ownership of the company and the three community newspapers it publishes — The Suffolk Times, The Riverhead News-Review and The Shelter Island Reporter — to our daughter, Sarah Olsen, and her husband, Andrew Olsen, who has served as publisher since Joan and I stepped down as co-publishers in 2003.

This is, as you might imagine, a bittersweet time for the Gustavsons. We purchased the business from the Dorman family in November of 1977, and our 35 years as owners have been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that began when I “published” The Coolidge Place Gazette as a 10-year-old in Hackensack, N.J. So this is the end of an era, and that’s the bitter part.

The sweet part is that Times/Review will remain in our family for the foreseeable future. Sarah and Andrew are ready, willing and able to take the helm, and Joan and I are confident that they and their amazing staff will continue to produce high-quality, prize-winning newspapers and websites.

You can assess the Olsens’ qualifications for yourself in the aforementioned business story, but here’s one most people are unaware of: Back in the late ’80s, before they were married, Sarah and Andrew were co-editors of The Quill, the newspaper jointly published by students from Greenport and Southold high schools. (Sarah went to Greenport, Andrew to Southold.) So, you see, they’ve had newspapering in their blood for a long time, too.

On Jan. 5, 1978, as the new owners we published an editorial under a headline that read: “What We Stand For.” It appeared in both The Suffolk Times and The News-Review, and the sentiments expressed applied once again when we acquired the Shelter Island paper some 20 years later. We’ll leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide if those promises were fulfilled or not, as follows:

“The changing of the guard at The Suffolk Times hopefully will be taken for what it is: a natural evolution. Newspapers are bigger than their owners, and The Times will be here for a long time after we’ve all played out our part in its life.

“Nevertheless, the community has a right to know what we stand for. And that will be up to you — our readers — to determine over a period of time. What follows is offered to help you keep score in the months and years ahead.

“We stand for truth. The truth will always be our guiding light.

“We stand for excellence. There is always room for improvement, but we intend to build upon the record of excellence that has become the standard at the Times.

“We stand for fairness. If we fail to be even-handed in our reporting and editorial policy, we hope it will be merely because we are human and not in the business of grinding axes.

“We stand for self-determination. The right of the individual to determine his own fate — beyond the influence of outside forces — is supreme in our eyes. And that goes for outside forces who would overdevelop our diminishing farmland, supply power to points west by despoiling the North Fork’s natural resources and endangering its people, or bring interstate ferry service to a village that has serious reservations about that service.

“We stand for non-partisanship. It doesn’t matter to us whether someone is a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent. Honesty, integrity and performance are what matter.

“That is what we stand for. Now it’s up to you to determine whether we live up to our word.”

tgustavson@timesreview.com