East End Digest – September 18

Posted on 18 September 2008

Celebrating Local Ecology On The Greenbelt

On Saturday, September 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. will mark the 10th Annual Long Pond Greenbelt Celebration Day. Trail hikes with botanists, birders, local historians and a snake expert will be on hand, as well as Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre, ready to provide children’s activities, and exhibits from local environmental organizations. There will also be updates on the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt’s own vineyard field restoration project. Confirmed exhibitors include South Fork Natural History Society, Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund, Southampton Town Environment Division, Southampton Town Trustees, The Nature Conservancy, Southampton Trails Preservation Society, East Hampton Trails Preservation Society, Group for the East End, Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, Long Island Trail Lovers’ Conference and the John Jermain Library.

Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt is a non-profit membership organization formed in 1997 dedicated to the preservation, stewardship and public appreciation of the Long Pond Greenbelt — a unique expanse of over 600 protected acres of freshwater swamps, wetlands, and woodlands, stretching from Ligonee Creek in Sag Harbor to Sapaponack Pond in Sagaponack.

For more information on the celebration, call Sandra Ferguson at 537-3752.

Southampton Town: High-Tech Park At Gabreski

Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and councilman Chris Nuzzi traveled to Hauppauge on Monday, September 8 to join Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy in announcing a county deal struck with a major development firm to build an industrial-commercial park at Gabreski Airport.

The choosing of Rechler Equity Partners of Melville marks a milestone in the long-awaited collaboration between Suffolk County and the Town of Southampton to re-develop 58.6 acres of industrial land into a homeland security-oriented “Hampton Business and Technology Park.”

The project is part of a larger effort to foster economic development in the region, and more specifically to generate revenue from the county-owned property. Both the county and the town of Southampton have had long-held plans to upgrade Gabreski’s facilities and transform the area into a long-term economic rejuvenator.

“We want attract businesses offering year-round, decent-paying, jobs for East End residents,” said Kabot. “The Town of Southampton is excited about the selection of Rechler Equity Partners to capitalize the necessary improvements and create a visually-pleasing business center. The initial concept plan includes a 145-room hotel and conference center, as well as technology-based industries.”

The redevelopment will be made possible through the Town’s designation of the area as an Airport Planned Development District (APDD), with an accompanying Master Plan to detail site requirements and the types of businesses allowed there. Long-standing issues over zoning and suitable uses slowed the project for years, but it was revived and brought to fruition through the cooperative efforts of County Executive Levy and the Southampton Town board led by former supervisor-turned county economic development commissioner, Patrick Heaney.

Under the APDD, Gabreski Airport will be converted into a hub of commercial activity that will permit a host of high-tech industrial, office, service, support, ancillary retail, transportation, lodging, and related uses. In making the changes, the objective is to lure businesses involved in homeland security, alternative energies, and “green” research and development. Particular attention will also be paid to courting producers of film, television, and digital media.

In addition, the New York State Department of Economic Development designated 48 acres within the proposed park as an “Empire Zone” in 2004 for enhanced incentives to stimulate private investment. They include lower business tax rates, reimbursement of local taxes, exemption from state sales tax, lower utility rates, and up to $3,000 in annual credits for each new employee hired. The Gabreski Airport PDD is one of five such areas in Suffolk County, and officials say the designation complements Suffolk’s effort to increase investment in commercial sewer capacity upgrades and the potential development of workforce housing.

Overall, according to the county, the area’s redevelopment is anticipated to generate more than $7 million in rental revenue to Suffolk County over the next 10 years, and more than $40 million over the life of the 40-year lease.

Supervisor Kabot credited Deputy County Executive Jim Morgo “for helping to build consensus among community stakeholders and environmental advocates to balance the need for economic development, cap the site’s build out capacity, and ensure the County’s commitment to not grow aviation uses at the airport.”

“This project is a great example of all levels of government and the community working together,” concluded Nuzzi. “It not only offers an essential component for our affordable housing initiatives, but promises the creation of economic development opportunities within the town.”

Stony Brook Southampton: Doubles Students

It’s back to school for Stony Brook Southampton. Now in its second full year, the campus continues to grow as planned.

The student body has almost doubled in size to over 300 full-time students and approximately 400 students overall while maintaining the same rigorous admissions standards as parent Stony Brook University. The number of classes offered, majors and professors has also increased.

“We are very pleased with the progress we have made here at Stony Brook Southampton with our curriculum and our infrastructure,” Interim Dean Martin Schoonen said. “Students really seem to be responding to our focus on the environment and sustainability, and that shows with their increased interest in our programs.”

Building continues on a new library while more space for student affairs and student services will open in early October in the renovated Atlantic Hall building. This follows the recent renovation of the Avram Theater and Gallery that saw the Sustainable Treasures vocal series and the Southampton Writers Conference doubles its offerings this past summer. This past spring, new state monies were announced for the Marine Center and the Student Center. The historic and symbolic Windmill on campus is also undergoing a facelift with new blades being installed later this fall.

More residence halls are online with over 150 students living on campus now; again, almost double last year’s number. Residence Life has also added a community service element that will see more Southampton students going into the larger community to volunteer with not-for-profit, community and civic groups.

Stony Brook Southampton, a model of sustainability that was featured in The New York Times this past summer and on “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” and “The Today Show” this past spring, also continues with its plans to build one of the nation’s truly green campuses. All new buildings will have LEED certification, while, already, lighting systems, a greenhouse and even vehicles on campus are energy efficient and use alternative forms of energy. The school café doesn’t use deep fryers and uses local produce, some of which is grown on campus, whenever possible.

Earlier this year, Dr. Schoonen announced that the New York State Department of Education had approved three cutting-edge, new majors for Southampton: Ecosystems and Human Impact; Environmental Design, Policy and Planning, and Sustainability Studies, which join SBS’s existing three majors in Environmental Studies, Marine Sciences and Marine Vertebrate Biology. A “green” Business major is also in the works for Fall 2009.

Southampton Hospital: Collecting Clothing

Southampton Hospital proudly announces a new fundraising system utilizing the collection of used clothing. This concept will help to raise additional funds towards the expansion of the Hospital’s Breast Health Center in 2009. The pink metal containers, which stand 5x5x6 in size, raise awareness of the Breast Health Center, while housing all unwanted used clothing. Although new to the Hospital, this program has proven fundraising success. The company administering this program, Earthrite Textile Recycling, is presently working with North Shore LIJ, Southside Hospital, Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Imaging Center, Breast Cancer Help Inc. and its Long Island Cancer Help and Wellness Center. For more information on this program, please contact Earthrite Textile Recycling at 580-7092.

Westhampton Beach: Restoring Environment

Sun Stream USA, The Renewable Energy Company, located in Southampton will take part in an upcoming CURE (Classmates United in Restoring the Environment) meeting at Westhampton Beach High School on Friday, September 19 at 2:30 p.m. to help kick-off the year’s CAUSE program at the school.

The CAUSE (CURE Alumni Undertaking for Solar Energy) program is made up of alumni and students of CURE, who work to raise awareness about environmental protection and conservation.

CAUSE was developed by Jok Kommer, the environmental and marine science teacher at Westhampton Beach High School and Brian Tymann, Director of Operations at Sun Stream USA.

This year’s CAUSE program will focus on developing and installing two renewable energy solutions at Westhampton Beach High School. One system will use solar power-to-power waterfall pumps in the school’s new courtyard, and the other solar solution will provide back-up power to the school’s science lab, which contains many living organism such as marine animals, reptiles, plants, and a working tidal salt marsh ecosystem.

Suffolk County: Text Ban Begins

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy was joined by County Legislator Jay Schneiderman at a press conference Tuesday afternoon to remind Suffolk drivers that effective next week the text message ban will be in place for drivers in the county.

Suffolk’s landmark legislation banning text messaging while driving — sponsored by Legislator Schneiderman and co-sponsored by Legislator Jon Cooper — passed in May, was signed into law in June of this year and will formally take effect September 21. Violations will carry a fine of $150.

“Drivers of any age, but most especially young drivers who have practically grown up with a cell phone in their hands, need to realize how distracting typing and reading text messages can be while behind the wheel of a car,” said Levy.

“This groundbreaking law continues the long tradition of Suffolk County taking the lead in adopting innovative and important legislation that sets an example for the rest of the nation,” said Schneiderman, noting that similar bans are under consideration in Nassau and in New York City.

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