Tag Archive | "Fred W. Thiele Jr."

Thiele Proposes Legislation to Eliminate GEA, Give State Aid Back to Schools

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By Tessa Raebeck 

In order to fill a shortfall in its budget, five years ago New York State began deducting aid money from its school districts through the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), a formula loudly criticized by educators, school boards and districts across the state.

Now, state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor has introduced legislation to repeal the GEA. His bill is co-sponsored by State Senator Kenneth LaValle and supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Originally enacted to close a $10 billion state budget deficit in the worst years of the recession, the GEA has reduced education aid to New York’s schools by nearly $9 billion in the five school years since its inception in 2010. Schools in New York receive less state aid now than they did during the 2009-10 school year.

Although East End schools do not typically receive large amounts of state aid, the GEA has cost Sag Harbor more than $400,000 over the past two years.

The GEA was introduced by former Governor David Paterson when state legislators developing the budget realized New York’s anticipated revenue did not cover expenses, resulting in a “gap” between the money the state was taking in and the money it needed to operate. The GEA was created to fill that gap by essentially passing the financial burden onto the state’s school districts.

Assemblyman Thiele, who serves on the Assembly’s Education Committee and did not vote in favor of the reduced education aid when it was originally proposed five years ago, said on Tuesday that the financial issues used to promote the GEA are no longer facing the state, and thus its elimination this year is both incumbent and timely.

“I voted against it then because I didn’t think we should be taking money away from education, but now we’ve gone from a deficit to over a $5 billion surplus, so there really is no excuse for continuing the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which is a continuing cut in state aid for the local school districts,” he said.

“Continued state aid loss due to GEA reductions will continue to erode the quality of education school districts can provide. The state cannot continue to pass along its revenue shortfalls to local school districts,” the New York State School Boards Association said in a statement against the GEA, adding that the losses have resulted in “detrimental cuts to personnel, the educational program, services and extracurricular activities” as well as the depletion of reserve funding in districts across the state.

School district officials in both Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor regularly lament that the reduction in state aid has come at the same time as rising costs and the tax levy cap, a law enacted under Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011 that limits school districts and other municipalities from raising property taxes by district-specific formulas that take into account variables like the Consumer Price Index.

“At a time when New York State has the dual goals of freezing property taxes and improving the quality of education, it is imperative that we provide a level of state funding that is equal to the task,” Assemblyman Thiele said in a press release on the bill.

In a statement taking a strong stance against the aid reduction, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services said, “Several years into the educational funding crisis, many school districts are finding that they have few options left to preserve programs and services that students and families count on.”

The amount taken from each school district is determined annually by a calculation that leans harder on wealthy districts, so suburban schools on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley are, in general, adversely affected by the reduction more than those in New York City.

Last year, Long Island enrolled 17 percent of New York’s students, but received only 12 percent of state aid for education.

“It’s more important to us than it is to the city school districts,” said Assemblyman Thiele. For suburban legislators from Long Island and the Hudson Valley, he said “the number-one priority for education for us is getting rid of the Gap Elimination Adjustment.”

In the 2013-14 school year, the Sag Harbor School District had some $241,000 in state aid taken away through the GEA, according School Business Administrator Jen Buscemi. This year, the district lost $171,395 in aid it otherwise would have received.

“The bottom line,” Assemblyman Thiele said, “is that this issue is going to get resolved one way or another as part of the school aid package that we do with the budget, that hopefully will be done  before April 1.”

In January, Governor Cuomo announced he would not release his school aid figures unless the legislature adopts his package of educational reforms. He agreed to grant an additional $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent, in funding to New York’s schools if and only if the legislature passes his reforms, but threatened to limit that increase to 1.7 percent if they are not met.

Developers Sue Sag Harbor Village Again

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The developers who want to build condominiums on this waterfront property have sued Sag Harbor Village.

By Stephen J. Kotz

The relationship between two developers who want to build a condominium project on Sag Harbor’s waterfront, which seemed to be thawing in recent months, has plunged back into the deep freeze.

Michael Maidan and Emil Talel, the principals in East End Ventures, who have recently proposed a scaled back eight-unit condo project on their property at 1,3,5 Ferry Road, have reinstated a federal suit against the village.

The reason for the renewal of legal hostilities is twofold, they say. First, they are upset that Mayor Brian Gilbride hired a contractor to remove a derelict dock on the waterfront of their property and second, they claim that the village has been trying to confiscate their property, or at least delay their project, by claiming ownership of a portion that was a former Metropolitan Transit Authority right-of-way.

“We resolved the last lawsuit with the understanding that the village was going to allow us to proceed with our development,” said Sam Israel, the developers’ attorney. But since last summer, “the mayor started making noises about owning a piece of our property and he had someone come onto the property and destroy a dock.”

“To make a long story short, all we want to do is do the right thing in the village,” said Mr. Maidan on Tuesday. “We want to build you a park. If you want an easement to the water, no problem. We’ll give it to you.”

“We want to show them we are nice people. We don’t want anything that doesn’t belong to us,” he added. “We are trying to do a very nice project, a very scaled down project that meets zoning.”

Village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. said on Wednesday that the village was within its legal rights to remove the dock, which, he said, was in danger of collapse and could have posed a major liability issue to the village because it claims ownership of the underwater land there.

He added that although East End Ventures purchased a strip of land that was the former Route 114 from the MTA at auction several years ago, outbidding the village in the process, the village had since uncovered an easement the MTA gave it to the property, rendering that purchase moot.

He said the first step in untangling the legal mess was to determine the ownership of the Route 114 right-of-way.

“It’s not that big, but it is critical,” said Mr. Israel of the right-of-way. “Take it away and it craters the whole thing.”

Mr. Thiele acknowledged that East End Ventures had withdrawn their suit earlier, but he said they did so only after “98 percent of it was dismissed.”

East End Ventures purchased the property nestled between the 7-Eleven convenience store and the North Haven Bridge in 2005. The developers at first proposed to build 22 condo units on the site, but that plan engendered fierce resistance from the community.

The village later declared a moratorium while it updated its zoning code, and Mr. Maidan and Mr. Talel have claimed in court papers they had at first been assured they would be allowed to proceed with their project under existing zoning, only to be told later they would have to meet the new stricter limits. In the meantime, they claim the conversion of the old Bulova factory into the Watchase condominiums was moving along smoothly.

Last fall, East End Ventures presented a new plan calling for the construction of only eight condos to the village Planning Board as a discussion item. The board has yet to entertain a formal application.

Zeldin Easily Defeats Bishop in 1st District Congressional Race

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Voting in the 2014 Midterm Elections on November 4th, 2014

Voting in Sag Harbor. Michael Heller


By Stephen J. Kotz

With a jubilant crowd cheering and chanting, “Lee! Lee! Lee!,” State Senator Lee Zeldin claimed victory Tuesday night in the 1st Congressional District, where he handily defeated six-term Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Bishop.

Although many projected a tight race that might take days, or even weeks to resolve, the contest was over early, with Mr. Zeldin’s lead steadily growing to 55 percent of the vote to Mr. Bishop’s 45 percent by night’s end. According to unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Mr. Zeldin received 89,564 votes to Mr. Bishop’s 73,860 votes.

“We can’t change Washington unless we change who we send there to represent us,” Mr. Zeldin told the crowd that had gathered to watch the returns at the Emporium in Patchogue. “And that’s what you did tonight!”

“Across our nation, we took decisive action to fix America,” he said, noting that Republicans had won a majority in the Senate and added to their majority in the House to provide a “much needed check on the agenda of Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.”

Mr. Zeldin, who thanked his supporters and party regulars, began his speech with a simple, “Victory is sweet, isn’t it?”

He said he was able to maintain the grind of the campaign trail large part because of the of the focus and drive of his supporters.

Mr. Bishop conceded shortly after 10 p.m. from the Islandia Marriott, where he and his supporters gathered.

“A few minutes ago, I called Senator Zeldin and I offered him my congratulations and I pledged to him the full cooperation of my staff and, of course, me as we go through this transition over the next several weeks,” Mr. Bishop said. “It is a very important job. The people of this district deserve that it be done at the highest possible level. I think we have done that over the 12 years that I have had the good fortune to serve you.”

He added that he and Mr. Zeldin had had a “very gracious conversation.”

“I believe I and my staff have done this job in a way that characterizes or defines professionalism, so we are going to transition from this job in the same way,” he said.

“I want to thank all of you. I got to stand where I am standing 12 years ago in many cases because of the exact same people who are standing here tonight,” Mr. Bishop said.

There were no surprises in other races, although Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., who won his 12th term, received most of his votes as a Democrat, even though he is a member of the Independence Party.

Mr. Thiele received 18,346 votes, or 60.3 percent of the vote on the Democratic, Independence, and Working Families lines, to turn back Republican Heather Collins, who received 9,898 votes, or 32.5 percent of the votes. Brian De Sesa, a Sag Harbor attorney, received 2,162 votes, or 7.1 percent, running on the Conservative line.

But 14,852 of Mr. Thiele’s votes were as a Democrat, while he received only 1,991 from those voting Independence Party and 1,503 on the Working Families line.

“I am extremely grateful to East End voters for their continued confidence in me,” Mr. Thiele said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “I look forward to continuing to advocate for the East End in Albany and improving our quality of life and the outlook for our future.”

Republican State Senator Kenneth P LaValle also cruised to victory to win his 19th two-year term. He received 53,220 votes, or 70.4 percent of the total, to easily defeat Democrat Michael Conroy, who received 22,297 votes, or 29.5 percent of the vote.

In other races, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Governor Kathy C. Hochul turned back the challenge of Republican Rob Astorino and Chris Moss. The Democrats received nearly 54 percent of the vote to 40.5 percent for Mr. Astorino and Mr. Moss.

Also sweeping to victory in state races were Democratic Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who received 60 percent of the vote, to best Republican Robert Antonacci, who received 36.6 percent, and Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who received 55.5 percent of the vote to defeat Republican John Cahill, who received 41.6 percent.

Judith A. Pascale, who was cross-endorsed by Republicans and Democrats, was elected Suffolk County clerk, and Republican John M. Kennedy defeated Democrat James F. Gaughran to win the county comptroller race, receiving 53.2 percent of the vote to Mr. Gaughran’s 46.8 percent.

Three propositions on the state ballot, one aimed at removing politics from the redistricting process; one to allow bills in the state legislature to be sent to members electronically; and another to borrow $2 billion for school technology projects, all passed.

Two county propositions, one that eliminates the office of treasurer and one that repays money borrowed from the county’s clean drinking water fund and tightens rules for how money can be borrowed from the fund in the future, also passed.

A proposition in Southampton Town that would allow the town to swap a parcel of land purchased with money from the Community Preservation Fund with another parcel owned by the county, so improvements can be made to the Riverside traffic circle also passed.


Election 2014

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Although the ballot contains a number of state and county races and several propositions, Tuesday’s election is really about the race in the 1st Congressional District, where incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop of Southampton, who is seeking a seventh term, is being challenged by State Senator Lee Zeldin, a Republican from Shirley.


In an earlier contest between the two, back in 2008, Mr. Bishop easily turned back the then inexperienced Mr. Zeldin in a race that was no doubt influenced by the surge of support for Democrats nationwide, led by President Barack Obama, in the wake of the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression.


Today, with public opinion of the president at low ebb and Mr. Zeldin polishing his campaign skills, Mr. Bishop faces a much tougher test. That’s a pity because in an age when the public’s attention is typically limited to digesting sound bites, Mr. Bishop is a thoughtful candidate who addresses the issues not only in complete sentences, but in full paragraphs.


That means when Mr. Zeldin shouts, “Cut spending!”, Mr. Bishop points out that with 75 cents of every federal dollar already earmarked for senior citizens, the military or payments on the national debt, simply targeting welfare fraud—one of the few specifics, Mr. Zeldin has offered as a way to cut spending—is not going to go far in the absence of a true bipartisan approach.


When Mr. Zeldin says simply secure the border to deal with illegal immigration, Mr. Bishop counters that a bipartisan Senate bill, which would have done just that as well as deal with the millions of illegals already in the country by giving them a path to citizenship, has been ignored in the fiercely partisan Republican-led House of Representatives.


When Mr. Zeldin says Obamacare is a disaster, Mr. Bishop acknowledges that the Affordable Care Act, while having its faults, is a work in progress that has resulted in millions of Americans, who were previously uninsured, having access to that most vital of safety nets. And he accurately points out that despite Mr. Zeldin’s lip service to retaining portions of the law he supports, the Republicans are interested in nothing less than full repeal.


In the end, while Mr. Zeldin talks a good game and has mastered the ability to sound like all things to all people, he offers an overly simplistic conservative worldview that does not jibe with the pro-environmental, pro-equal rights views of East End voters.


Mr. Bishop’s attention to constituent service and his well earned seniority, which has allowed him to bring home funding for items as diverse as Brookhaven National Laboratory in Brookhaven to the erosion-control project slated for downtown Montauk make him too valuable of a legislator to turn out of office.


It appears obvious that Governor Andrew Cuomo, Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will all easily win reelection, but a pair of longtime state legislators, Independence Party Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Republican State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, are also worthy of voters’ support. Both legislators have played critical roles in helping to protect the East End’s environment, and they have always been there to support local libraries, schools, and other issues of importance to their constituents.


Voters will also be asked to weigh in on six ballot propositions (seven for Southampton voters). A county measure that would restore funds taken from the drinking water protection program and establish more stringent guidelines for how money could be borrowed from the fund deserves support. At the state level, a measure providing for $2 billion in borrowing to beef up technology in the schools is worthy of support. Another measure that aims to take the politics out of election redistricting efforts likely falls short of what is needed, but is a start in the right direction.  A Southampton Town measure to allow for the swap of land preserved with CPF money so work can be done on the Riverside traffic circle should be passed as well.

































Local Leaders Accept Sag Harbor Express’s Ice Bucket Challenge

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County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves accepted an ice bucket challenge issued by the Sag Harbor Express, which was dutifully administered by School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi and Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols on Friday, August 22. Photos courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves accepted an ice bucket challenge issued by the Sag Harbor Express, which was dutifully administered by School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi and Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols on Friday, August 22. Photos courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

By Tessa Raebeck

After being issued an ALS ice bucket challenge by the Times Review, Sag Harbor Express co-publishers Kathryn and Gavin Menu and consultant and publisher emeritus Bryan Boyhan boldly accepted the challenge on Thursday, August 21. View the video here.


Mr. Thiele, who was allegedly out of town Friday, accepted the challenge in Marine Park on a beautiful morning Wednesday, August 27. Photo by Mara Certic.

While trying to hide their fear awaiting the buckets–aptly distributed by our intern, Sam Mason-Jones–the publishers challenged some local heavy-hitters: Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Katy Graves and New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

At the top of Pierson Hill on Friday, August 22, Mr. Schneiderman and Ms. Graves were doused with buckets of ice water–much to the delight of their respective staffs. In the district less than a month, new School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi selflessly accepted the opportunity to dump ice on Mr. Schneiderman, while Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols soaked Ms. Graves with a smile on his face. A full video recording of that endeavor is available here.




Sag Harbor to Weigh Moratorium

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Village Board will be asked to consider a moratorium on most developments requiring setback relief from wetlands, pending a revision of its wetlands law.

Denise Schoen, the assistant village attorney who represents the village’s Harbor Committee and other regulatory boards, requested that a moratorium be considered when the village board held a work session on Thursday, July 10, to consider a series of revisions to its zoning code while building inspector Tim Platt, who left his position this week, was still with the village.

Village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. said this week he would present a draft of a possible moratorium to the village board at its August 12 meeting.

“There have been issues cropping up more and more frequently,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride, “and we probably need to put on the brakes.”

“I think the changes are gong to be pretty comprehensive,” said Ms. Schoen. “Instead of reviewing the applications, we should be going through the wetlands code to see how we need to rewrite it.”

Richard Warren, the village’s planning consultant, said about a dozen applications  requiring relief from wetlands law setbacks are currently in the pipeline and would have to be put on hold during a moratorium.

The idea for the moratorium was first suggested by Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait in June. In a soliloquy before that board began its regular meeting last month, Mr. Tait expressed frustration that his committee was often being asked to weigh in on applications that had already received variances from the village Zoning Board of Appeals, rendering his committee’s input moot.

He also criticized the village for failing to enforce Harbor Committee decisions and said applicants have on occasion ignored the committee’s conditions for approvals.

At that time, Ms. Schoen said there were so many problems with the wetlands law as written that the village might be better off scraping the current law and writing a new one. A key goal, she said, would be to clearly define which applications should go before the Harbor Committee first and which ones should go before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Besides confusion over where applications should go first, Ms. Schoen said there was a major problem with a provision allowing the Harbor Committee to reduce its own setback requirements “on lots that are so undersized that the applicant can’t possibly build without having that relief.”

The problem, she added, is that provision has “been interpreted by applicants and their attorneys that they automatically qualify for that relief. That’s not true. It’s a decision the Harbor Committee has to make.”

Mr. Warren recommended that the village simply remove the language describing undersized lots. “Right now the burden is on the Harbor Committee,” he said.

“Applications are coming in bigger and bigger,” he said. They want more and more swimming pools 20 feet from the bluff and on 10,000- square-foot lots 6,700-square-foot houses.”

The board also discussed changing the formula for determining how many parking spaces are required for restaurants from one space per three seats to one space per four spaces.

Although Mr. Platt said he thought the change would trigger requests from more restaurants for an increase in seats, others said the change would only bring restaurants into closer conformity with the state fire code—and besides, there are no parking spots anyway.

“You can put in 3,00 more seats and you aren’t going to get any more cars,” said Trustee Robby Stein. “It’s almost self-regulating.”

Trustee Ken O’Donnell, the owner LaSuperica restaurant, agreed. “I can put 200 more seats in, but if have a weekend like this when long Wharf is going to be covered with a tent, my backroom is going to be light.”

“I don’t know what to do with parking variances, I don’t know what to tell the board,” said Ms. Schoen. “I don’t know how we are supposed to enforce them. There are no parking spots so the analysis, legally, doesn’t work.”

Mayor Gilbride said he was concerned that if a restaurant were overcrowded, “and some bad event happens then people are going to be reaching out to find out who is liable.”

But Mr. Platt said if someone violates the fire code “the judge is going to take that much more seriously” than if they simply get slapped with a zoning code violation.

Hope for “Zone Pricing” Law to Lower East End Gas Prices

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The New York State Assembly Committee on Economic Development has approved legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. that strengthens New York State’s Gasoline Zone Pricing Law originally enacted in 2008.

“This legislation would end the unfair practice of ‘Big Oil’ companies establishing arbitrary prices for gasoline based upon geographical location without regard to cost,” Mr. Thiele said in a press release. Historically, big oil companies have charged higher prices on the South Fork as well as other areas such as Westchester County without regard to cost. The law passed in 2008 was a first step to reduce the differential in gas prices based on geography. However, the State Attorney General’s Office has requested amendments to permit him to more vigorously enforce the law.”

Mr. Thiele said he hoped for a vote on the legislation in the full Assembly by the end of June. The Assembly passed the bill in 2012, but it failed to pass the Senate. The bill is now sponsored in the Senate by State Senator Ken LaValle.

Lyme Disease Bill Advances

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced this week that the New York State Assembly has passed a bill he co-sponsored which would protect licensed physicians who prescribe long-term antibiotic therapy for Lyme disease from disciplinary action by the New York State Board of Professional Medical Conduct.

Throughout New York and East End of Long Island, there has been a dramatic increase in Lyme disease cases, which are often difficult to test for and even harder to treat. The bill would protect health care professionals with the authority to prescribe medication from disciplinary action against solely for prescribing, administering or dispensing long-term antibiotic therapy to a patient clinically diagnosed with Lyme disease.

“The extent and severity of the Lyme disease cases on the East End has escalated to the point of a public health crisis,” said Mr. Thiele in a press release. “Physicians should not be afraid to offer proper treatment. Early treatment can save lives.”

A senate version remains under review in that chamber’s Health Committee.

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

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Mute swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on February 17. Michael Heller photo.

Mute swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on February 17. Michael Heller photo.

By Tessa Raebeck

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

Co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor, the bill would halt the DEC plan, which was introduced in December, and require the DEC to illustrate the “actual damage” the mute swan population causes to the environment or other species before exterminating the birds altogether.

“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 ecosystem or to our environment. Therefore, it is incumbent on the [DEC] 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 a 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, most heavily concentrated on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley.

A mute swan in East Hampton. Zachary Persico photo.

A mute swan in East Hampton. Zachary Persico photo.

“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.”

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.”

Although opposed to the DEC plan, local ecologist Tyler Armstrong said there are ecological benefits to reducing the population. “It would help rare native waterfowl, as mute swans defend large nesting territories and exclude other birds from nesting, as well as competing with native birds for aquatic vegetation, like eelgrass,” he said.

The DEC has conducted “mute swan control activities” since 1993, but not to the extent permitted by the new management plan, which will include shooting free-ranging swans on public lands and private lands (with owner consent) and live capture and euthanasia.

North Haven resident Richard Gambino, professor emeritus at Queens College, said the DEC’s reasons for exterminating the swans are scientifically flawed.

“Everything affects the environment. The question is, do we have a sufficient reason, a necessary reason to kill them off, to exterminate them—and I don’t think we have one here,” he said, calling the plan “extreme.” The aggression shown by swans is evident in all mammals when they feel threatened and it’s arbitrary to call a species “alien” when it has been present for over 130 years, he added.

“If you’ve got a system such as nature—which is the most extreme system, with countless variables changing just about every second—we’re very limited in our ability to predict it,” he said, referring to the chaos theory.

Comments can be sent to the DEC by email to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us with “Swan Plan” in the subject line by February 21.

New York State Regents Delay Full Implementation of the Common Core Until 2022

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State Education Commissioner Dr. John King, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles at a forum on the Common Core in December.

State Education Commissioner Dr. John J. King, Jr., Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles at a forum on the Common Core in December. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

Following criticism from Governor Andrew Cuomo, on Tuesday the New York Board of Regents delayed the requirement that schools fully implement Common Core learning standards until 2022.

The regents also reversed their stance on a measure that would have allowed teachers to defend themselves should they face termination due to students’ low test scores.

On Monday, the state regents proposed 19 measures to address issues with the Common Core, a set of educational learning standards mandated by the state. Governor Cuomo issued a statement on Tuesday saying the action was “yet another in a long series of roadblocks” in the implementation of new statewide educational standards. On Wednesday, the board tabled its recommendation to delay teacher evaluations until April, although the other 18 measures were passed.

As it stands, teachers who receive a rating (calculated by a formula largely dependent on students’ test scores) of “ineffective” or worse for two consecutive years can face termination, even if they have tenure. The measure would have allowed teachers to defend their jobs on the basis of the poor implementation of the Common Core.

Education Commissioner John J. King, Jr. and the regents have faced harsh criticism for the Common Core rollout, which opponents said was haphazardly implemented without proper training, instructional materials and correlations between what is tested and what students actually know.

“We have listened to the concerns of parents and teachers,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch in a statement released Monday. “We’ve heard the concerns expressed at the hearings and forums, and we regret that the urgency of our work, and the unevenness of implementation, have caused frustration and anxiety for some of our educators, students and their families.”

The board delayed the requirement for high school students to pass Common Core-aligned English and math exams at the “college and career-ready” level in order to graduate. The full implementation will now be effective for the class of 2022, rather than the class of 2017 as originally planned.

The measures will also reduce local testing in a few ways, the board said, including the elimination of  local standardized tests in kindergarten through second grade.

The board also delayed the launch of data collection by inBloom, a third party data warehousing company hired by the state to house students’ scores and private information—an especially criticized aspect of the implementation.

“The implementation of the higher standards has been uneven,” admitted Commissioner King, “and these changes will help strengthen the important work happening in schools throughout the state.”

The board also asked the legislature to fund a three-year, $545 million Core Instructional Development Fund aimed at “providing increased professional development for Common Core implementation, and to provide increased funding to reduce field testing, allow for the release of more test items, and support the development of native language arts assessments for English Language Learners.”

Congressman Tim Bishop, State Senator John J. Flanagan, State Senator Kenneth LaValle, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Assemblyman Anthony H. Palumbo at the 10th annual Regional Legislative Breakfast Saturday, February 8.

Congressman Tim Bishop, State Senator John J. Flanagan, State Senator Kenneth LaValle, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Assemblyman Anthony H. Palumbo at the 10th annual Regional Legislative Breakfast Saturday, February 8. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Prior to the regents’ announcement, local legislators and school officials gathered at the 10th annual Regional Legislative Breakfast to discuss the state of education. Hosted by the Longwood Central School District and Eastern Suffolk BOCES, the discussion largely centered around the detrimental effects of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) on schools and how to eliminate it.

The GEA was created in 2010 to partially reduce a $10 billion deficit in the state budget. Pushing the burden from the state to public schools, a formula was devised to calculate an amount to be taken away from each district’s state aid.

During the 2011-2012 school year, the GEA was used to allocate an unprecedented $2.56 billion statewide cut in aid. Under the GEA, New York public schools have lost a total of $7.7 billion, or about $2,895 per student.

Centereach High School student president Sim Singh asked the officials what the legislature’s plan is to abolish the GEA and “to meet the state’s financial commitment to fund public education.”

“The battle with this will be with the governor and it will be in the assembly,” replied Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

Regardless of party, all legislators in attendance expressed their commitment to lobbying for the complete elimination of the GEA.

Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, watches a presentation at the Regional Legislative Breakfast February 8.

Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, watches a presentation at the Regional Legislative Breakfast February 8. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

According to the legislators, Long Island is disproportionately affected by the GEA. Long Island enrolls 17 percent of the state’s students, but receives 12 percent of aid.

“I think,” said Senator Kenneth LaValle, “we’ve got to not only protect what we have, but we’ve got to push back on other regions of the state who may want a disproportionate share.”

Since the start of the GEA, Suffolk County alone has lost $185 million in state aid, or $734 per pupil. Sag Harbor has lost $934,584 and Bridgehampton has lost $308,874.

On Long Island, a total of 3,908 school positions have been eliminated during the three years of the GEA. Long Island schools are receiving less state aid this school year than they received in 2008-2009 ($2.54 billion vs. $2.62 billion).