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Fight Over Montauk Green Starts War [UPDATED]

Chamber says there's more at stake than just a conflict between the veterans and an art show.

The Montauk veterans and artists are at odds over which group should get to use the Village Green Memorial Day weekend, but it would also appear an all-out war has begun over the green's intended purpose.

An ad hoc veterans group has asked the East Hampton Town Board permission to hold three days worth of events, starting Saturday, honoring those who have served, on and around the green, under the flagpole and next to the war memorials. Events, such as a parade and flag-raising, would displace the Montauk Artists' Association 5th annual Juried Art Show and Sale, scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the holiday weekend.

The veterans organization, led by Montauk resident Ken Walles, submitted paperwork for a mass gathering permit first, according to Supervisor Bill Wilkinson. The fight between the two organizations has been brewing for some time, Wilkinson said. For the inaugural parade and ceremony last May, the two organizations comprimised, sharing the area.

This year, Wilkinson said he asked them to do the same, but the veterans were not so willing.

Walles said that he wants to set up 4X8 boards with information about the wars on the green on Satruday. Then, on Sunday, a parade will start at noon and end at the green for a ceremony. Monday, revely, flag-raising, Taps and other ceremonies will be performed.

He suggested the art show move to Lion's Field, which is off Main Street, or to Second House Museum, which is further west on Main Street and is owned by the Montauk Historical Society.

"We've never had a conflict like this before," Wilkinson said, adding that it would make job would be a lot easier if the two organizations could come to an agreement. He said a decision won't be made until he hears back from the artists association.

"I'm obviously biased by my veteran status," Wilkinson said. But, he also added it may be best to return to the original purpose of the green, for use by non-commercial entities, as well as going back to the roots of Memorial Day.

"Most of the artists come from out of town," Walles said, who is also a business owner and chamber member. He added he's noticed all the events trample all over the grass at the war memorial at the green. "Somewhere along the time, you have to draw the line."

Walles, who is not a veteran and calls himself a patriot, said, "The kids are forgetting what Memorial Day is all about." He said there are about 100 to 150 veterans in Montauk. "I'm not against the artists, but who fought the wars?" 

"This is not really the artists' association against the veterans," Montauk chamber president Paul Monte said. "There's a definite sentiment amongst a group of people . . . that the green shouldn't be used for anything with a commercial link."

It's a movement the chamber is afraid is gaining momentum. It sent out a mass email on Wednesday asking members to speak out at a town board meeting on Thursday night or email town board members.

Several events take place on the green throughout the year including the chamber's Fall Festival, the weekly farmers market that raised $4,000 for the food pantry this year, the Montauk Library's book sale and Music on the Green.

The artists' association is a not-for-profit organization that runs the in Montauk. It has typically held two fine art shows per summer on the green (the other is scheduled for Aug. 17, 18 and 19) The art show is no longer sponsored by the chamber (though it does sell hot dogs and hamburgers there that raises a few hundred dollars for the chamber). Still, Monte said if it leave the green, downtown businesses will feel the impact.

"The art show brings hundreds of thousands of dollars to Montauk," from the motels to the restaurants, he said. He considers it as a destination, even on Memorial Day weekends that don't bring good weather. "War displays on the green are not a draw," he said.

The Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee lent its support to the veterans during a meeting on Monday night. The vote was 12 in favor, 1 opposed and 3 abstentions, to have the veterans at the green and move the art show elsewhere.

A concern raised was that the art show brings an increase in traffic congestion from the Surf Lodge -- even though Lion's Field is actually closer to the restaurant than the green.

Monte said he in favor of setting aside the actual holiday to honor veterans -- his father was a D-Day vet. "I'm the biggest patriot you'll find," he said. "The reality is Memorial Day is Monday." 

eugenia bartell February 21, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Your're absolutely right, Paul!!! And isn't it most peculiar that on Veterans Day there are no activities? And isn't it revealing as to why the Artisits Association is more than willing to share the Montauk Village Green? Didn't President Lincoln say, "A house divided cannot stand alone?"
Thomas February 21, 2012 at 06:47 PM
In reading that the issue has devolved into whether the Green should be used for this purpose or that purpose, when they do not conflict, is sad. What is worse is seeing a group, any group, in this instance the CAC try to make this an issue of patriotism, is both sad and disgusting. How dare they! And shame on them. I say this being a Vietnam veteran myself, having served on river craft during my tour of duty. Prior to going to Vietnam I was stationed on the USS Newport News where during general quarters I was assigned to the #2 turret. I returned from Vietnam in 1971, shortly after which the USS Newport News was deployed to the Demilitarized Zone. On October 1, 1972 while in action off the coast, the USS Newport News was involved in a tragic accident in which a defective projectile detonated upon firing. Lost in the explosion were 20 killed and 36 wounded, many of them close and personal friends. So I believe all of this gives me the ‘pedigree’ to speak openly to this issue. SHAME on the CAC, Bob Lamparder and Ken Walles for using veterans and patriotism as their instrument to control the public sentiment and emotions. Their agenda has been the same for years regarding events on the Village Green and most specifically the art shows. This further demonstrates that their issue has nothing to do with patriotism and a well-deserved memorial service for our veterans.
eugenia bartell February 28, 2012 at 05:09 PM
To exploit the veterans as the reason for the quagmire is an apparent cunning contrivance, especially when verbal abuse was directed at the artists during recent daytime events and tents slashed and objects of art taken under the edge of darkness. Such attitude and behavior defiles the words gratitude, sacrifice, sympathy, respect, patriotism, appreciation, honor, liberty, valor, security to upholdrity, faith and peace - the very words our countries 21,000,000 veterans have given us to uphold.
Kevin February 29, 2012 at 06:17 AM
Why can't there be memorial day theme, with scheduled events including a moment of silence to honor those who sacrificed. Each vendor could be asked to provide something at their area specifically to respect someone fallen... perhaps drawing names out of a hat then creating something to honor them. Obviously the art shows are needed and draw people in. It is also tradition. However we should never lose site of those who sacrificed or the true meaning of memorial day. The people who fought for us to be able to exercise our rights and live our lives as we see fit. But if we just fight and don't live.. then what is the point. You can honor the dead and have an art show... and it will be great. MAKE IT WORK. stop fighting.
Ken Walles February 29, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Not true David about last year. We had used Second House as we were asked to give up the space for the Artist Association.

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