The banging of chairs, disruptive shouting and loud choruses of boos frequently filled the air during the second public hearing on a proposed luxury golf resort application targeting East Quogue on Monday night.
The situation prompted Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman to repeatedly reprimand audience members who kept interrupting those offering their opinion of the proposed project, “The Hills at Southampton.”
“Being disrespectful doesn’t further your cause,” Mr. Schneiderman told the most disruptive of audience members gathered inside the East Quogue Elementary School cafeteria during the hearing, which lasted more than four hours and featured more than 100 speakers. “Whether you agree or disagree, don’t interrupt the speaker. I don’t want anyone to feel intimidated to speak their minds.”
Those warnings, however, did little to calm the most opinionated and passionate audience members, some of whom were later criticized for verbally attacking certain speakers—namely, those who support the planned development district application filed by Discovery Land Company.
Maria Daddino of East Quogue, a community columnist for The Press, said Al Algieri, president of the East Quogue Civic Association, got in her face after she expressed her support of the project, which calls for the construction of 118 residential units and an 18-hole golf course on 168 acres near Spinney Road in the hamlet.
“It was frightening in the sense that we are all members of the same community,” Ms. Daddino said on Tuesday, noting that Monday night was the first time she offered her opinion of the project.
In fact, so many people were shouting and interrupting her that Mr. Schneiderman needed to reset the clock; individuals were each given three minutes to offer their opinions on Monday, the second of four public hearings on the project’s draft environmental impact statement.
Once she left the podium, Ms. Daddino said several project opponents continued to shout at her, with Mr. Algieri approaching her in the audience.
“I said to Maria, ‘You just lie,’” Mr. Algieri said when contacted on Tuesday. “It was not an incident. I said it right to her face.”
“I have a right to my opinion,” Ms. Daddino countered. “I was just totally floored. It was shocking how rowdy the meeting got—the way people were yelling and booing.”
She later added: “This is the town that I loved, and I always loved the people in it. I thought they were the kindest, nicest people—and, at last night’s meeting, it was surreal. I was not prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared for the anger that surfaced.”
Donna Lanzetta of East Quogue, who serves as president of the East Quogue Chamber of Commerce and also supports the project, said she was disappointed to see how some of her neighbors conducted themselves. “It was horrible,” she said. “It was really bad … I think they see people are starting to speak up, and people are trying to be heard, and the majority are in favor of this development.
“I noticed clanking chairs when people were saying things that [project opponents] didn’t like,” she added.
Mr. Algieri disputed those observations, saying he did not think the meeting got out of hand.
“There were five or six people who got rowdy,” he said. “They got nervous. They got upset after hearing the same lie after lie after lie.”