Tag Archive | "environment"

Renewable Energy STEM Center Earns Funding

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A two-story, 33,792- square-foot Renewable Energy and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Center on the Suffolk County Community College Michael J. Grant, Brentwood campus—the first of its kind in the state community college system—moved closer to reality when the Suffolk County legislature appropriated funding for design and planning of the new facility on May 13. Fifty percent of the $19.5 million center’s funding comes from New York State.

The new facility will house laboratories and classrooms to teach installation, maintenance and repair of solar, photovoltaic, wind, geothermal and other green power technologies, according to Suffolk County Community College President Dr. Shaun L. McKay who said plans call for the building to be solar-powered with geothermal heating and would contain a prototype solar house on rails that could be used indoors or rolled outside to test various renewable energy materials.

“Importantly, “McKay explained, “the second floor of the facility will serve as an incubator in conjunction with Stony Brook University, as well as space for cybersecurity educational and development opportunities.”

McKay said the new building will be sited next to the College’s Workforce and Development Center on the Michael J. Grant Campus.

East Hampton Sets Alternative Energy Goal

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By Stephen K. Kotz

The East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday voted to set a goal of meeting 100-percent of the community’s electricity needs with renewable energy sources by 2020.

“Energy efficiency improvements and solar rooftop systems can save homeowners several of thousand dollars a year while building local solar farms can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in lease revenue for the town,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell in a press release.

In response to several LIPA/PSEG-Long Island requests for proposals, the town has already selected a number of proposals from solar developers for large scale solar farms on town-owned land. Looking further ahead the Town Board also set a goal of meeting the equivalent of 100 percent of communitywide energy consumption in electricity, heating, and transportation with renewable energy sources by the year 2030.

“Our everyday lives are impacted by the effects of global warming. We owe it to the children of East Hampton to do something about climate change and air pollution caused by fossil fuels,” said Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby.

The move comes as the area has seen an increase in summer peak demand for electricity and PSEG Long Island began installing unsightly transmission lines which have become a point of public contention and legal action. The 100 percent goal was prompted by a unanimous recommendation from the Town’s Energy Sustainability Committee and builds on a Comprehensive Energy Vision document, adopted by the Town last October, which called for establishing specific energy efficiency and renewable energy goals and timelines.

“Establishing goals for renewable energy is the lowest hanging fruit in sustainable energy practices since the technologies have advanced sufficiently to be efficient and cost effective,” said Frank Dalene, chairman of the town’s Energy Sustainability Committee.

Rededication Celebrates Family Committed to Conservation

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Family members David Mulvihill IV, his son Liam and Mary Ann Mulvihill-Decker plant a Prunus Virginiana native cherry tree in memory of Dolores Zebrowski during the re-dedication ceremony for the Anna and Daniel Mulvihill Preserve on the grounds of the preserve on Friday, May 9. Photo by Michael Heller.

Family members Daniel Mulvihill IV, his son Liam and Mary Ann Mulvihill-Decker plant a Prunus Virginiana native cherry tree in memory of Dolores Zebrowski during the re-dedication ceremony for the Anna and Daniel Mulvihill Preserve on the grounds of the preserve on Friday, May 9. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Kathryn G. Menu

Long before Anna and Daniel Mulvihill purchased what would become known in the Mulvihill family as “The Farm” off Brick Kiln Road in 1921, a native cherry tree had taken root in front of the home.

“By the time I played here in their front yard, the tree was huge, strong, solid and like one of the family,” said Anna and Daniel’s granddaughter, Mary Ann Mulvihill-Decker, last Friday. “My cousins, sisters and I all played up in its labyrinth of thick branches.”

Ms. Mulvihill-Decker spoke these words at a rededication of the Anna and Daniel Mulvihill Preserve on Friday, shortly before she joined three generations of family members in planting a new cherry tree in the same location the old tree once stood. The new tree was dedicated in memory of the late Dolores Zebrowski (the daughter of Anna and Daniel Mulvihill), and was nourished with water from a holy well in Ireland where her great grandfather, Patrick Mulvihill, was born.

Friday’s rededication ceremony celebrated Ms. Zebrowski’s efforts to preserve 85 acres of land off Brick Kiln Road—land that was home to generations of her family. Ms. Zebrowksi worked with Southampton Town and the Peconic Land Trust to establish the original 75-acre preserve and, according to family members, worked tirelessly until her death in October 2012 to preserve the remaining acreage as well as the Mulvihill farmhouse, which is now a historic landmark. In December 2013, the house and remaining 10 acres of land were purchased by the town through the Community Preservation Fund.

Ms. Zebrowski’s dedication to conservation was matched by her brother, William P. Mulvihill, who preserved 34 acres adjacent to the Anna and Daniel Mulvihill Preserve in the Great Swamp in 2006.

The 300-acre Great Swamp is bounded by Brick Kiln Road, the Bridgehampton Turnpike and Scuttlehole Road, linked to the Long Pond Greenbelt and a part of the Peconic Bioreserve. Centered on the Bridgehampton moraine, according to research gathered by William Mulvihill and fellow conservationists, the Great Swamp contains a host of vernal ponds and freshwater wetlands, untouched stretches of red maple-hardwood swamp and pitch pine oak and mixed mesophytic forests, providing a sanctuary for a number of animal and plant species, allowed to grow wild under the stewardship of the Mulvihill family.

On Friday, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, the board’s liaison to Sag Harbor, said the board was unanimous in every effort to help preserve the acreage, but gave much of the credit to the Mulvihill family’s conservation ethos, and to New York State Senator Ken P. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the architects of the Peconic Bay Regional CPF, which has enabled towns on the East End to preserve vast acreage over the last 15 years.

“This year alone we have expended over eight million CPF dollars to preserve more than 44 acres and there is much more to come,” said Councilwoman Fleming at the rededication. “With the addition of these 10 acres and the landmarking and preservation of the farmhouse, we have accomplished the vision of Bill Mulvihill, Dolores Zebrowski and the whole Mulvihill family to assemble all 110 acres, which is now preserved in perpetuity as wild lands for the benefit of the public and in support of the wildlife and natural resources of this beautiful place.”

According to Assemblyman Thiele, within the next two years over a billion dollars will have been collected through the CPF for preservation purposes during the program’s 15-year history.

“To put that in context, that is more money than the State of New York has spent on open space preservation across the entire state,” he said.

“That being said, CPF or private conservation, it doesn’t work without one thing—you have to have a family that has the conservation ethic and sees the bigger picture, a family that realizes the stewardship of the land is not just important for the family but critical for the future and that is something the Mulvihill family recognized.”

“I think his legacy was really his children,” Daniel Mulvihill III, the grandson of Anna and Daniel Mulvihill and nephew of Ms. Zebrowski, said of his grandfather. “They inherited from him and my grandmother a love for this land and the desire to keep it this way for future generations.”

Daniel’s father, Daniel Mulvihill II, would introduce his own children to “woods walks,” days spent meandering the acreage around the farm.

“I think my grandfather imbued in his children a great sense of conservation and William and Dan were great disciples,” he said. “And then there was Dolores. I really think Dolores was the most remarkable woman I have ever met. When she died I think she was Sag Harbor’s most beloved person.”

“She wanted to complete this puzzle,” he added. “And she literally worked on this project until the day she died. I think in my mind, and for a lot of people in the family, this is a tribute to the dedication of Dolores.”

Surfrider Foundation to Host Paddle-Building Workshop with Master Craftsman Barry Walz in East Hampton

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A canoe and paddle crafted by Barry Walz. Courtesy of Mr. Walz.

A canoe and paddle crafted by Barry Walz. Photo courtesy of Mr. Walz.

By Tessa Raebeck

For one week last fall, Barry Walz navigated the rivers and streams of the Canadian wilderness, with only his dog, his canoe and his paddle for company.

“It was a bit lonely at times, I found myself talking to myself—but I didn’t answer,” he joked about his first solo canoe trip.

Not only did Mr. Walz manage the trip on his own, it was also entirely self-supported: He built his canoe and paddle by hand.

A master craftsman on the East End for nearly 30 years, Mr. Walz will teach a paddle-building workshop this spring at his East Hampton shop in conjunction with Surfrider Foundation.

“Barry has many years’ experience building beautiful and functional paddles and canoes, and is an excellent teacher,” said event organizer Mike Bottini, chair of the Eastern Long Island Chapter of Surfrider Foundation.

After coming to Shelter Island in 1985 to remodel the house of his brother, internationally known designer Kevin Walz, Mr. Walz decided to stay, making a name for himself on Shelter Island first in general construction. Later, after finding himself happiest doing detail work, he began to focus primarily on cabinetry and custom furniture. He moved Walz Woodworks to East Hampton in 2013.IMG_0022 paddle

The Walz brothers share two lines of furniture, as well as a patent for a technology that enables them to build graceful, lightweight, but very strong, furniture.

“It’s just a way to put things together so it can be very, very light, but very, very strong,” explained Mr. Walz. “We made a chair that weighs about two pounds—pretty cool.”

“I like being able to put things together so they fit well and they make sense to me,” continued Mr. Walz. “When you build cabinets or furniture, you have to be able to see things in three dimensions, so as they go together, you kind of anticipate certain joinery. I just like the way things fit. It’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, but you’re actually creating the pieces.”

After seeing Mr. Walz’s work, Mr. Bottini decided to pursue a collaboration between the craftsman and Surfrider Foundation, coming up with the idea for a paddle workshop. Participants in the workshop will be able to choose between canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard paddle designs. Mr. Walz, who will guide each participant through the entire process of constructing their custom-made paddle, will provide all materials.

An avid adventurer, Mr. Walz started building paddles in the late 1980s for his own use. “I was doing research, development so to speak,” he said. “I would take them down the rivers and say, ‘Oh this works’ or ‘This doesn’t work.’” He sent his paddles to experts to have them critiqued and took lessons to fine tune his craft, all the while using friends and his own wilderness canoe trips to test out his creations on the water.

“The first thing is function and then the next thing is the beauty of it,” he said. “Wood is a gorgeous way to build things. It talks to me, I guess, a little bit. That’s where you get a choice—to have it talk to the individual that’s designing it. Whether it’s the blade design or the key grip, it’s all custom; it’s all shaped to the individual hand and the person, so, really, the individual’s going to get a completely custom paddle that they like and talks to them.”

“There is a bit of a science and there’s a balance in everything,” he added. “Some people are talented in one way and you lean toward that and other people are the opposite. But there’s a science and that’s half the fun of it all—the functionality and the beauty of it all—being able to put something together and make it very functional and beautiful.”

People have been calling Mr. Walz’s work “functional art,” he said, but the craftsman is always focused on function first. He gets frustrated when he visits a client’s house to find one of his paddles hanging on a wall, rather than lying outside next to the canoe. “Although they’re very beautiful, I make them to be used. You can always refinish them and make it look pretty again if it gets scratched up,” he said.

The function sustains his love for his craft, as creating a paddle or canoe is a way for Mr. Walz to experience his true passion, wilderness canoeing, from home. “When I’m building a paddle, it kind of takes me there. I’m in the back of my mind as I’m constructing a blade; it kind of brings me back to that spot I love so much,” he said.paddle pics-0

In his younger days, he would do 100-mile loops through northern Minnesota and Canada. “It’s a million acres of anywhere you want to go,” he said of the region, called the Arrowhead. Today, his custom-made canoe has over 1,600 wilderness miles on it and will earn even more this fall, when he guides six novices on a trip up north.

Throughout it all, he always has his dog, his canoe and his paddle. He hopes to share that connection with others through the workshop, creating paddles that are “a special thing for them—something that means something to them,” he said.

With times and dates to be arranged with Mr. Walz, the workshop is limited to five participants and will be held evenings at Walz Woodworks, 216 Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton. The fee is $400 for Surfrider Foundation members and $425 for non-members, with a one-year membership included. For more information, contact Barry Walz at 767-8838 or bwcanoe@gmail.com.

New York Legislators Call For Two-Year Delay on DEC Plan to Eradicate State’s Mute Swan Population

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Virginia Briggs photo.

A mute swan swims in East Hampton. Virginia Briggs photo.

Editorial note: an updated version of this post can be found here.

By Tessa Raebeck

New York officials have introduced legislation that would impose a two-year delay on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) plan to eradicate the state’s mute swan population by 2025.

Co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor and state senators Tony Avella of Queens and Steve Cymbrowitz of Brooklyn, the bill would halt the DEC plan, which was completed and introduced in December 2013. The legislation would require the DEC to illustrate the “actual damage” the mute swan population causes to the environment or other species before exterminating the species.

“Wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not unanimously agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the eco-system or to our environment. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Department of Environmental Conservation to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

Mute swans are an invasive species of swan named “mute” because they are less vocal than other swans. Native to Europe and Asia, they were brought to North America in the late 1870s due largely to their aesthetic appeal. Initially introduced in New York as ornaments on the estates of the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, mute swans were present in the wild by the turn of the 20th century.

According to the DEC, the mute swan population had increased to about 2,000 statewide by 1993, peaked around 2,800 in 2002 and is now estimated at about 2,200. The swans, says the DEC, are still most heavily concentrated on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley, although they are also present in the Lake Ontario region.

“On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways,” stated Mr. Thiele. “My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem. This legislation will require all concerned to take a step back and take a hard look before any irrevocable action is taken by the DEC.”

A mute swan on the East End. Zachary Persico photo.

A mute swan on the East End. Zachary Persico photo.

The DEC says the non-native species causes a variety of environmental problems, “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation.”

To express your comments to the DEC on its draft mute swan plan, email fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us with “Swan Plan” in the subject line or send letters to NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway in Albany, NY 12233-4754. The deadline for submitted comments is February 21.

To express your comments to Mr. Thiele, call his district office in Bridgehampton at 537.2583.

Barking and Basking, The Seals Return to Montauk for the Winter

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A harbor seal sunning on the jetty at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. (Photo by Tessa Raebeck).

A harbor seal sunning on the jetty at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. (Photo by Tessa Raebeck).

By Tessa Raebeck

While most visitors to Montauk’s beaches come only in the summer months, at least one group prefers to spend the off-season basking in the sun. Harbor seals, once hunted as bounty and nearly depleted in the Northeast, are now abundant on the East End each winter.

Most of the seals in local waters are harbor seals, but grey, hooded, ringed and harp seals have also been spotted. The East Hampton Trails Preservation Society hopes to see at least one type of seal this Saturday, at a guided two and a half mile hike that weaves through a wooded trail along the bluffs in Montauk and ends, ideally, with a display of seals sunning themselves by the shore.

Several Northeast states enacted seal bounty programs in the late 1800s, and substantial catching and hunting contributed to a severe depletion of the seal population in local waters. A bounty program in Massachusetts existed until 1962.

Ten years later in 1972, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act largely prohibited the “take” of marine mammals in U.S. waters or by U.S. citizens anywhere.

The seal population began to recover following its passage, according to Gordon Waring, who leads the seal program at NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

The number of seals on the Long Island shore has continued to rise.

Dr. Arthur Kopelman, field biologist and president of the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI), has tracked changes in seal species, abundance and distribution in the Long Island Sound since 1995.

“What I’ve seen is a dramatic increase in population of harbor seals,” Kopelman said last week.

Harbor seals, Dr. Kopelman said, come down to New York from areas further North and usually stay from September to May, with the population generally peaking in late March in Westhampton Beach, his current area of research.

They have a cute, dog-like appearance and when flared, their nostrils resemble a cartoon heart. About six feet long, harbor seals are various shades of blue-gray, white or brown and covered in speckled spots.

If you’ve seen a seal on the East End, chances are it was a harbor seal.

They represent 95 percent of local seals. Dr. Kopelman counted 55 seals in Westhampton just last week, the vast majority of which were harbor seals.

Montauk has more grey seals than Westhampton, the population ecologist said, although the majority are still harbor seals. He has seen the rocks in Montauk filled with hundreds of barking seals in the past.

If harbor seals look like dogs, grey seals look like horses. Grey seals, larger and more aggressive with long faces and large snouts, account for four percent of the local seal population.

Adult males can weigh as much as 700 pounds; double the size of adult male harbor seals.

Dr. Kopelman said according to anecdotal evidence, the grey seal population in local waters is increasing. Typically classified as seasonal visitors like harbor seals, it appears grey seals – like many before them – have become attached to the area and are staying on the East End year round.

“In fact,” Dr. Kopelman said, “there are some folks who seem to indicate that there’s a year round presence of grey seals out here. Although, again, that’s somewhat anecdotal – but probably correct.”

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation has rescued and rehabilitated many newborn seals recently, but it is not officially confirmed the pups were born in the area.

According to Dr. Kopelman, female harbor seals are often pregnant while here but typically head back North before giving birth to their pups, which can swim minutes after being born. It is “likely,” however, that grey seals are giving birth locally.

The remaining one percent of local seals – harp, hooded and ringed seals – come from as far north as the Arctic.

“They are less frequently encountered,” said Dr. Kopelman, “but they are encountered.”

The Seal Haul Out Hike will take place on Saturday, December 28 at 10 a.m. at Camp Hero Road in Montauk. For more information, contact Eva Moore at the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society at (631) 238-5134 or sharstat@yahoo.com.

New Southampton Town Board Member Focuses on Environment

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Christine Scalera_7985 adjusted

By Claire Walla


Last Friday marked the four-week point for new Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera. The Republican from Water Mill defeated Independent Party member Brad Bender in a tight race last November for an open seat on the town board.

So, what’s it been like to be at town hall for one month? The Express sat down with the councilwoman to find out.

“I know it’s only been four weeks, but it feels like it’s been four months!” exclaimed Preston Scalera who said she felt almost fully integrated into the fabric of town hall pretty early on.

As the former deputy attorney for Southampton Town and a former councilwoman in Oyster Bay, Preston Scalera said she came into town hall with certain strengths, which she said she’s already put into action.

“My background is planning and zoning,” she noted. “I would very often help people through the myriad of legislation [surrounding such things as building permits], and help them deal with different people in different departments.”

Thus, she is already assisting Councilman Chris Nuzzi in his effort to create a project development council for the town.

According to Preston Scalera, this would be a resource for residents, particularly small business owners, who are in the midst of planning or building projects. The council would advise applicants how to best complete all necessary documentation with the town in the most efficient way possible, to avoid redundancies and superfluous material.

But beyond town hall operations, the councilwoman has already demonstrated a keen interest in environmental issues, and is spearheading the effort to build an educational campaign around the town’s use of plastic bags.

“I’ve been working on that diligently,” she said. “The challenging part of that is trying to get the food industry and the other business entities, and the town’s sustainability committee all on the same page.”

While Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst had pushed efforts to adopt legislation that would effectively ban all single-use plastic bags in the town of Southampton — as has already been done in Southampton Village — Preston Scalera said there are too many interests at stake, which is why she’s helping to promote an education campaign instead.

“I think that an all-out ban, legislation, is the easy way out,” she continued. Getting people to change their habits and stop throwing away plastic bags “takes more thinking outside-the-box. You have to balance the very real goal of protecting our natural resources and minimizing the impact on the business community.”

At this point, Preston Scalera called legislation a “quick fix.” But, she said if education efforts don’t seem to work, then the town might revisit legislation.

In the same vein, Preston Scalera is also beginning to draft legislation that would create a water mitigation fund, which she said would be general enough to apply to both freshwater and coastal mitigation projects.

“It could be used for a whole host of things, like upgrades to septic systems or even projects the [Southampton Town] Trustees are working on,” Preston Scalera said of the proposed fund.

“I also want to change the code so that it would be a town-wide benefit under PDD [Planned Development District] law,” she added. In this way, any construction project that falls under PDD jurisdiction would be able to put money toward water mitigation as a “community benefit,” just like low-income housing and pine barrens restoration.

Most recently, Preston Scalera also said that she completed the rather customary cycle for new board members of official “getting to know you” conversations with town hall department heads. She expects to review their written feedback — details on plans or studies in the works, and upcoming capital projects — in the coming days.

“I want to see where there may be room for us [town board members] to step in and help, or what may need to be put on the backburner,” she explained. “Just as we’ve streamlined staffs, we have to help them run [their departments] efficiently.

“The most challenging thing is constantly looking for that balance,” she continued. “Given our economic constraints, this means [streamlining the town’s workflow] and still getting residents the services they need.”