Tag Archive | "Jay Schneiderman"

Local Cops Gypped Out of Their Share of County Tax Dollars

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By Kathryn G. Menu


Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman was able to move a bill aimed at providing equal distribution of sales tax revenues earmarked for public safety funding out of committee and onto the floor of the Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday. However, the East End legislator cautioned he had no intentions of forcing a vote on the measure, but instead hopes to build support for the law both within the membership of the legislature and on the East End, citing Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s opposition to the bill.

The bill, sponsored by Schneiderman and the other East End Suffolk County Legislature representative, Ed Romaine, demands that East End police forces, independent of the Suffolk County Police Department, be given their fair share of sales tax revenues earmarked for public safety based on population.

East End police departments, based on population statistics from United States Census data would be entitled to 10.4 percent of the funding. That figure, noted Schneiderman, does not take into account the throngs of people who call the East End home in the summer months, which does impact public safety.

A similar bill was passed by Schneiderman in 2005, and vetoed by the County Executive.

By and large, police services on the East End are independent, with towns and some villages boasting their own police departments while a majority of western Suffolk is under the jurisdiction of the Suffolk County Police District.

Starting in 1992, the county began using sales tax revenues to fund police services in western Suffolk, according to Schneiderman, and while eastern Suffolk police departments did receive some of those monies for public safety, Schneiderman said it was at a disproportionately low rate.

According to Schneiderman’s budget figures, with the exception of 2010, between 2005 and 2011, East End police departments have been shorted anywhere from $1.5 million in 2006 to almost $3.6 million in 2005. For 2011, Schneiderman calculates the East End is being shortchanged to the tune of $2.2 million.

Schneiderman said the County Executive had slowly increased funding between 2005 and 2010, when the East End towns and villages were actually earmarked for $900,000 more in funding than what the county was required to give them. However, this year’s budget made Schneiderman realize in these economic times he would need actual law to ensure the East End would not be shortchanged by the county in the future.

In total, Schneiderman estimates the East End towns and villages have lost out on $13 million in funding since 2005.

On Monday, Schneiderman said he would not push the legislature to vote on the bill, saying he wants to be assured of its passage.

“I want to get the Police Benevolent Association behind it, the Supervisors and Mayors Association and the police chiefs,” he said. “I will probably table the bill with the hope that two weeks from now it will pass.”

Schneiderman said even with the bill’s passage, he expects it would once again be vetoed by the County Executive, and hopes to build enough support to override any veto.

“The County Executive might have doubled funding on the East End in his tenure, but he has quadrupled funding to the Suffolk County Police District,” said Schneiderman, “All I can do is present the facts to my colleagues and everyone on the East End and hope we are treated fairly.”

Short Term Costs for Long Wharf Could be Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

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By Kathryn G. Menu


According to a report compiled by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works and sent to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, while Long Wharf has “no structural deficiencies,” short term repairs to the wharf will cost the village about $340,000 should Sag Harbor Village officials decide to take the county up on an offer to buy the pier for $1.

Included in the purchase of Long Wharf is also ownership of Windmill Beach, and the deed to a Hempstead Street property the county has previously offered the village for the development of affordable housing.

However, according to a larger engineer’s report, furnished to the village on Wednesday afternoon, sometime in the next decade the village will need to spend $621,000 to cover repairs to the wharf to ensure no serious structural damage occurs as a result of not keeping up with the maintenance of the facility.

In the initial letter, Suffolk County Department of Public Works Chief Deputy Commissioner James Peterman writes that while Long Wharf was once owned by the Village of Sag Harbor, it was transferred to the county and placed in the county road system, he says, “to take advantage of certain funding opportunities then available under the New York State Highway Law.”

“Today, Long Wharf is a central part of the village’s downtown area and provides parking and recreational opportunities to residents and visitors,” writes Peterman.

While the county has paid the bill for the long-term maintenance of Long Wharf as its owners, the village has taken in revenues from dockage at the site, last year earning $93,000.

At this point in time, continues Peterman, the county would like to transfer the ownership of Long Wharf and Windmill Beach to the village, making the first formal offer by the county to Mayor Gilbride and the board of trustees.

Attached to Peterman’s letter, are the estimated costs to clean, paint and refurbish the wharf area, at a total price tag of $340,000.

According to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, that $340,000 in work would need to be performed in the next few years to ensure the long-term structural health of Long Wharf. The $621,000 costs laid out in the engineer’s report detail long-term maintenance required at the site. Schneiderman said if the county retained ownership of Long Wharf, it would likely seek to bond for the whole of the project rather than parse it out.

Schneiderman said he has been debating with county officials over the Long Wharf issue, trying to get an agreement for $340,000 in funding for the Village of Sag Harbor. While the county cannot bond a project and then sell the subject property without charging the buyer for all costs, Schneiderman suggested that if the county retained a partial ownership for the life of the bond, perhaps a deal could be struck.

However, while he supports that kind of measure, Schneiderman said he has not found similar support within the county.

“The county’s position is to give the wharf to the village, as is, and not to do anything” said Schneiderman. “I am just not sure I will be able to get that approved. The county is strapped for cash and can’t see why it would maintain and own this.”

Schneiderman said he believes it is in Sag Harbor Village’s best interest to retain Long Wharf and Windmill Beach as its own, and that he would hate to see a worse case scenario emerge, where the county sold the properties to a private owner who would then set up a paid parking system, and charge for docking and use of the facility for private events like the Bay Street Theatre Gala.

“It’s in the village’s interest to own Long Wharf so they can have total control over its future,” he said.

Village trustees have discussed taking ownership of Long Wharf in earnest, with a majority of the board appearing in support of the concept. Last month, trustees laid out tentative plans to create a budget line to fund the long-term maintenance of Long Wharf by socking away $100,000 each budget year, ideally funded through dockage at the site. Harbor Master Bob Bori has also discussed expanding the village’s transient docks as a way to increase revenues.

Schneiderman suggested additionally that a “Friends of Long Wharf” organization could be created and suspected many members of the community would be keen to support the long-term costs of maintaining Long Wharf and perhaps making it more pedestrian friendly.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Gilbride said he had received both reports and would discuss them in detail with the village board of trustees before the village makes a formal decision.

The next Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting is on December 14 at 6 p.m.



Schneiderman Survives

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By Karl Grossman

On Independence Day last year, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman dropped a voter registration form into the mailbox in front of the post office in his hometown of Montauk, changing his party enrollment from Republican to the Independence Party. And that, conventional political wisdom had it, would be the end of Mr. Schneiderman.

Indeed, one GOP politician declared: “Put a fork in him because he’s done.”

Well, something unusual happened along the political way. On Election Day, Mr. Schneiderman will be running for re-election not just on the ticket of the Independence Party but as the candidate of the Republican, Democratic, Conservative and Working Families Parties. Indeed, he’ll be on the ballot the week after next—unopposed.

“All the pundits said my political career was over, that I committed political suicide,” reflected Mr. Schneiderman at his legislative office in Sag Harbor last week.  

He said he changed his enrollment “to feel more authentic,” that he had “a real issue with the direction that the national Republican Party was moving in” with George W. Bush as president.

“I hoped I would survive. I thought most people would respect my independence, that most people consider themselves independent. I hoped I would secure a major party line. But I was prepared to run without one. It would have been the fight of my life,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to end.”

How did Mr. Schneiderman manage to not only survive but prosper politically?

His legislative district is principally composed of Southampton and East Hampton towns.  Southampton’s then GOP leader, Marcus Stinchi, and some other Republican committee members, “gave me a very difficult time.” They “put me through hell.” But “the Democratic Party in Southampton said we would like to work with you.” Mr. Stinchi and his supporters were left conceding he would end up running on the Democratic line, too, and “he’s going to win.” Mr. Stinchi “realized he couldn’t get rid of me.” If they could “keep me on a third party line” the thinking was the GOP could put up a candidate who could “beat me and punish me for leaving the party. Once it was clear that they were not going to defeat me with one of their candidates,” the town GOP endorsed him.

In East Hampton the situation was the reverse of Southampton. “The East Hampton Democratic Party was not on board.” Some Democrats were still upset over Mr. Schneiderman’s 1999 win, running on the GOP ticket, against the late Cathy Lester for East Hampton town supervisor. And, in East Hampton, “the Republicans liked me. They were happy with me as supervisor.” And, because “I was a blank when I was supervisor, they had seen me then as an independent on the Republican line.” So his switching to the Independence Party “wasn’t a big jump.” 

Mr. Schneiderman did face a Democratic primary challenge by George O. Guldi, who he defeated for the legislative seat in 2003, but he overwhelmed (by 1,054 to 134 votes) Mr. Guldi, who ran while under indictment on multiple fraud charges.

Mr. Schneiderman mused that “switching parties can be a disaster” for an elected official. He pointed to what happened to Congressman Mike Forbes of Quogue when he switched from Republican to the Democratic Party. “The Conventional wisdom is that you anger your old base and the new base may not accept you.” That’s what happened to Mr. Forbes who, after bolting from the GOP, lost the Democratic candidacy in a primary in 2000.

But changing to the Independence Party is not “going to the other side; it’s going to the middle.” And the “the beauty of the Independence Party” is that both major parties now often “need it to make the margin” for victory. Major party leaders don’t want to annoy the Independence Party. “So this was a different pathway and it succeeded.” He likes the Independence Party in that it has “no platform other than it wants its candidates to be independent and do the best for the people they would represent.”

As for his future, Mr. Schneiderman noted that after his next two-year term, he could run two more times for the Suffolk Legislature before the panel’s six-term limit kicks in. With a background in education, he said he might then be interested in getting into “school administration…And, if I stayed in government, I think there will be choices ahead…I’m taking it day by day.”

Meanwhile, with the switch earlier this month of State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor, also from Republican to the Independence Party, Mr. Schneiderman appears to have set a precedent.

Hotel/Motel Tax Hike Passed By County

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On Thursday, the Suffolk County Legislature voted through legislation that will increase the county hotel/motel tax from .75 percent to three percent. The law is expected to go into effect as early as December, much to the outrage of local lawmakers and hotel owners.

“There was zero input from people in our industry … There was no outreach,” argued Nathiel Egosi, owner of the Sag Harbor Inn. “This is going to have an adverse impact on our business. People are on a tight budget and they will now see that it is less affordable [to stay on the East End]. Some people think charging three percent more isn’t a lot, but how about cutting a salary by three percent?”

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer William Lindsay maintains that the money will help the county recoup some of the $100 million increase from the MTA payroll tax.

“Nearly all of these outrageous taxes we pay to the MTA go to support services for New York City residents,” said Lindsay. “This increase in the hotel/motel tax is going to have almost no impact on Suffolk County residents but it will recoup from visitors from New York City some small percentage of the hundreds of millions of dollars we pay every year to support New York City’s buses, subways, bridges and tunnels.”

Egosi argues that many of his guests hail from Long Island and Europe, not New York City. Further taxing businesses that already pay the increased MTA tax, added Egosi, will stymie economic growth.

County Legislator Jay Schneiderman also disagrees with Lindsay and fought to table the resolution on Thursday. But without the backing of fellow lawmakers, the bill was passed 13 to five.

“Many representatives of the hotel industry are representing that their revenues were down between 20 to 30 percent over last year,” contended Schneiderman during the legislative session on Thursday. “You may have convinced yourself that this tax won’t deter business, you are wrong. Anything that makes it more expensive to stay in an area will — over time — drive visitors to other tourist destinations that are more affordable.”

“My district contains more than half of the total number of hotels in Suffolk County,” added Schneiderman. “This hotel tax was put together without consulting the industry. The tax is estimated to collect an additional $5 million in tax revenues. Around $2 million goes to help the county budget. Of the remaining $3 million, around $700,000 will go to operate the Vanderbilt Museum. Another $100,000 to the Walt Whitman Museum birth place. It is interesting that this bill which purports to help tourism contains two earmarks in the Huntington area where only four percent of the county’s hotels are located and none for anywhere else — including the South Fork.”

According to Lindsay, the hotel/motel tax generated $1,905,406 in 2008, at a rate of .75 percent, but is expected to garner $1,653,892 in 2009. But with hotel/motel tax rate increasing to 3 percent next year, adds Lindsay, it is estimated that it would yield nearly $7 million dollars. The resolution further explains that the tax will be tacked onto daily rental rates per room.

Schneiderman contends that the increased tax will depress both tourism on the East End and sales tax revenue. A comprehensive study of the ramifications of increasing the hotel/motel tax, argued Egosi, wasn’t conducted. Egosi didn’t find out about the tax until a week before it was voted through the legislature.

“There was no input [from hotel owners] about how to better allocate that money,” contended Egosi. “[The tax] could have been good for business, if businesses were consulted about where more money should be spent to promote and encourage tourism [in the county].”

“I pleaded on the floor to wait one month to get the input of people in the industry,” added Schneiderman.

In the resolution, it is written that the tax money will be re-circulated to venues of tourism, with 24 percent of revenues to be given to the agency that promotes Suffolk County tourism. However, a large percentage of the collected funds are earmarked for the county parks and recreation department. Remaining revenue will be deposited to the general fund. According to the legislation, the hotel/motel tax will be in effect through 2015. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy still has to sign the bill into law.

“We are getting taxed to death,” remarked Schneiderman. “Or at least taxed out of business.”

Schneiderman Takes All: Beats Guldi in Primary

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gm-1.slc.edu

From the town to the county, the road to the general elections has had some surprising twists and turns this year. On Tuesday, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman faced off against former legislator, and alleged felon, George Guldi for the Democratic nomination. Considering Guldi’s implication in a pending fraud case, it wasn’t surprising that Schneiderman won the primary handily. This November, however, Schneiderman, a registered Independent, will run unopposed as he has secured the Republican, Conservative, Independent and Working Families parties’ nomination.

“It was a bizarre primary. I don’t know what motivated Mr. Guldi to jump into the race,” remarked Schneiderman on Wednesday. “I am certainly pleased that a number of Democrats came out to support me … Now I don’t have an opponent for the November election, but I will try to use the time to reach out to residents and hear what is on their minds.”

The Suffolk County Board of Elections released unofficial tallies from Tuesday’s primary, though it is clear that Schneiderman won by a landslide. Official vote counts will be posted three weeks after the elections. Schneiderman nabbed nearly 88 percent of the vote with around 1,054 votes in total. Guldi, however, fell far behind and garnered about 145 votes or 12 percent of the overall vote.

Guldi, 56, along with four others was arraigned in early August on a nearly 130-count indictment for a major mortgage fraud involving properties in Water Mill and Noyac. According to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, Guldi and the others allegedly masterminded an $82 million fraud by using false information on loan applications to elicit money from banks and mortgage companies. Guldi, who served two terms in the county legislature and was first elected to the legislature in 1993, was personally indicted on 110 crimes, but maintained his innocence.

Schneiderman’s primary win comes after many years of moving up the local political ladder. He began his political career as a member of the East Hampton Town zoning board of appeals in 1991. He was made chairman of the board in 1996 and went on to be elected East Hampton Town Supervisor in 1999.

During his tenure as supervisor, Schneiderman paid special attention to preserving open space in East Hampton and helped the town purchase almost 1,000 acres from 2000 to 2004.

From the town, Schneiderman moved on to the Suffolk County Legislature. He secured a seat as a county legislator in 2003 and ran for re-election again in 2005 and 2007.

As a politician, Schneiderman has focused much of his efforts on issues like land preservation, affordable housing, transportation and safety.

Southampton Town to Lease Electric Mini-Coopers

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Southampton Town residents might soon see town employees whizzing down the streets of Southampton in electric Mini Cooper cars. Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who drives a Mini Cooper herself, was first approached by the company, owned by the BMW group, to participate in their “Mini E” pilot program, allowing the town to test the endurance of the electric versions of these characteristically compact vehicles.
During a special board meeting on Friday, June 5, Throne-Holst informed the board that the Mini Cooper company offered the town the use of up to five electric cars for one year. The town in turn would pay a $120 annual lease for each car, but Throne-Holst added that the company would oversee the maintenance for the vehicles. According to the company, the cars travel between 100 to 150 miles on a single charge.
“If we participate as a municipality, we could add some cars to our fleet and [perhaps] take other cars off the road,” said Throne-Holst. “This will help us see how we can move this kind of technology forward.”
“Would [the company] give any consideration to loaning these five cars to cash strapped residents to do the same type of program?” countered Councilman Chris Nuzzi.
Throne-Holst explained that Mini Cooper is targeting municipalities to participate in this program because of the extensive liability insurance held by government bodies. If the town signs onto the project they will follow the lead of several other municipalities, including New York City, which added 10 “Mini E”s to their fleet in January.
“We shouldn’t do this as an advertisement for mini … This will help reduce our costs for this year,” said Throne-Holst, noting the cost savings associated with the project.
“We do have a few cars in our fleet used by various department heads that ought to be replaced. Some have 150,000 plus miles on them,” said Throne-Holst during a later interview. “This way we could put the ‘Mini E’s to use instead and delay the purchasing of new vehicles.”
She added that town comptroller Tamara Wright is going to conduct a cost savings analysis on the project. The town has a signed memorandum of understanding, said Throne-Holst, and she expects the cars will be delivered sometime this month.

Discussion of the Mini Cooper pilot program offered a much needed lighter note to a meeting dominated by discussion against a proposed piece of legislation coming out of Suffolk County. The county is looking to divert funds from the County Drinking Water Protection Program, which is one of the county’s main revenue sources for land preservation said legislator Jay Schneiderman, to use for property tax relief in the coming three years.
“This legislature determines that in assessing the difficult choices that must be made to maintain the county’s fiscal stability, this legislature cannot treat any program as a ‘sacred cow,’” reported the county in a draft of the law.
According to town supervisor Linda Kabot, in 2007 county residents voted to continue using funds from this program for land purchases until 2030.
“This is ill advised and breaking faith with the voters. We stand in opposition,” declared Kabot.
“This program is the main way we purchase land,” reported Schneiderman. “We are one of the most vital areas for preservation in terms of critical habitat.”
The legislation would have a direct impact on the town’s purchasing power. Recently, the board has discussed focusing their CPF monies on debt repayment and the creation of a rainy day fund. Additional land purchases in the town will most likely have to be made in partnership with the county.
“If the county doesn’t have any money to buy land then it can’t partner with the town,” noted Schneiderman, during an interview.

Locals Outraged Over New MTA Tax

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“Isn’t this taxation without representation? I thought we already went through this,” said Sag Harbor Variety Store owner Lisa Field when asked what she thought of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s new payroll tax.

The tax, signed into law earlier this month, will require local businesses, including hospitals, schools and governments, to pay a 34 cent tax for every $100 of payroll. Suffolk County is set to pump millions of dollars into the MTA to help shore up the authority’s $1.8 million deficit. From the halls of the state assembly to the sidewalks of Main Street, people are saying the MTA is unfairly taxing Suffolk County residents for a service they rarely use and the county is in essence funding the New York City transportation system.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele contends the MTA package was made “behind closed doors” with officials, hailing from the New York Metropolitan area, leading the negotiations.

Back in March, Thiele seemed certain the tax wouldn’t be voted through, but the state legislature indeed passed it on May 6, after state senator Brian Foley of Long Island swayed the vote, allowing the package to pass by two votes in the senate.

“Between March and now a lot of arm twisting went on,” explained Thiele.

“I thought we were pretty effective in putting up a unified decision,” stated Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of the efforts made by local officials to oppose the payroll tax. “We have lost the power, and all of this money is leaving Long Island and going to New York City.”

Schneiderman maintains the East End is underserved by the MTA. Although the county contributed $250 million to the transit authority last year, the MTA currently runs just three trains on weekdays from the East End to New York City.

Geoff Lynch of the Hampton Jitney said the transit system works well in New York City because the authority services a small geographic area with a high density population. But on the East End, he added, a smaller population is spread out over a wide geographic area.

According to a press release from Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine, the county will pay around $520 million when the new MTA taxes and fees are enacted or about $347 per resident per year — on top of the taxes residents already pay toward the MTA. Schneiderman believes only 10 percent of Suffolk’s population, or 150,000 people, ride the LIRR.

“The county will pay around $3,000 to $4,000 per rider. We could lease each of them a car and we could forget about the trains,” argued Schneiderman.

When asked if East End residents will get more LIRR service in exchange for their contribution to the MTA payroll tax, Sam Zambuto of the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) said no.

“[The Payroll Tax] allows the LIRR to maintain the existing level of service and eliminates the service reductions that were slated for implementation,” Zambuto reported. “It also reduces the fare increase from an average of 26 percent to an average of 10 percent.”

MTA representative Kevin Ortiz said even with $1.8 billion in funds procured from the payroll tax and other fees, the MTA will still face a small deficit in the upcoming year. Ortiz argued that the new funds would bring additional wages to the county because the MTA uses the services of  subcontractors in Deer Park, and other Suffolk locations. He added the MTA’s capital plan would create $11.8 billion in wages and salaries in the 12 counties it services.

“They have to look at the big picture,” said Ortiz of Suffolk residents.

But local residents, from hospital administrators to business owners, say they are having a hard time seeing the “big picture.”

“Everybody that is in business out here will be subject to this new tax,” asserted Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris. He added that the tax will cost the village administration upwards of $10,000.

Southampton Hospital faces an even steeper tax burden because of its large payroll. Marsha Kenny, the director of public affairs, said the hospital had already closed its books for the 2009 budget when they learned of the tax. The hospital expects to pay $140,000 to the MTA this year.

Len Bernard, the Sag Harbor School District Business Manager, estimated the school will pay between $46,000 to $50,000 for the tax, though the state has promised to reimburse school districts.

“I am not at all confident the state will give funds to reimburse the school districts,” remarked school superintendent Dr. John Gratto. “I am concerned that if they do reimburse the school district for the tax it will come at the expense of general state aid.”

“I can point to every single line item on the budget and tell you how it benefits someone in the community, but I can’t with this,” continued Gratto. “We are just subsidizing New York City.”

Responding to the outrage of local communities over the payroll tax, the Suffolk County Legislature voted on Tuesday, May 12, to create a commission to conduct a feasibility study on Long Island seceding from the State of New York.

“We want it to be on the ballot next year as a non-binding referendum to create the State of Long Island,” said Schneiderman. “Every year we give the state about $8 billion but we only receive around $5 billion in services.”

Schneiderman conceded, however, that a state hasn’t successfully seceded since the 1860s, when West Virginia split from Virginia.

“I think this is more symbolic,” said Schneiderman. “We want to send a message to Albany that the present situation is unacceptable.”

Thiele believes Suffolk County constituents are feeling increasingly overburdened by state taxes, especially in light of the economic downturn.

“I have never seen a recession end by taxing people more,” he declared.

It may be that the MTA payroll tax will have a trickle down effect, with implications not just for business owners but patrons of Long Island restaurants and retail establishments as well.

“A lot of businesses in the area increase their prices in the summer and decrease their prices in the winter,” said Tora Matsuoka, co-owner of Sen and Phao Thai Kitchen. “Prior to finding out about this tax, [and a new beer and wine tax] my feelings were that we wouldn’t readjust our prices, but it is something we are considering … taxes in New York are stringent and I think it is driving people out of the state.”

Toxins? Not Here.

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Although it is not the first time Suffolk County has passed a law before the rest of the nation, we commend the county legislators who recently voted to ban the sale of bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles and sippy cups made for infants.

We live in a county with some of the highest cancer rates in the country. It makes sense that we should consider abandoning products that contain cancer-causing toxins and we should be supportive of our government who did just that.

We’d like recognize our county legislator, Jay Schneiderman, who co-sponsored a bill allowing only for the sale of BPA-free bottles for infants. The chemical BPA has been found in many different name brand items made for children and some of the country’s biggest retailers sell them. The dangers of BPA exposure is much higher for children, so this law prohibits the sale of products containing BPA for children under three.

We understand the industry is suggesting small levels of this toxin aren’t harmful. But who’s to know what a small dosage is? We also doubt the plastics and chemical industries are putting a lot of effort into finding studies that show their products are unsafe.

The dangers posed by prolonged use of products containing BPA for children can include complications like an altered immune system, hyperactivity, reproductive health problems, an increased risk of cancer, obesity and diabetes.

Why are manufacturers using something that is potentially hazardous if there are alternatives? It may be that many of these products are coming from overseas, where quality standards are less stringent. Or it may be that they’re coming from companies who are under pressure to make money. Think of the stories that have been in the news in recent months about the salmonella outbreak caused by peanuts in this country and those Chinese made toys and food products that were tainted.

It seems like there’s precious little we can control in our lives these days. If we can take a few worrisome products off the shelves and eliminate at least one unhealthy substance from coming into daily contact with our children, then that’s something. There are enough things to worry about in this world. The safety of sippy cups and baby bottles shouldn’t be one of them.

Legislator Jay Schneiderman

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The East End Legislator based in Sag Harbor on banning the sale of plastic baby products with the chemical bisphenal A [BPA]. Schneiderman, the dangers of the chemical and what the community can expect next on the county level.

 

We  learned last week a bill was passed banning the sale of any plastic product for babies containing high levels of BPA- why do you feel this was an important change for the legislature to mandate?

 It is important in general because it is our job as lawmakers to protect the public – to protect public health. There is a growing body of research showing that this chemical is harmful – particularly to infants. And there are many alternatives. It’s not necessary to have bisphenal A, although the industry may think it is, there are plenty of alternatives and stores are already marketing BPA-free bottles.

I think the public has moved in the direction against this risk factor. I think we did the right thing by saying that you are not going to sell these bottles – baby bottles and sippy cups – that contain BPA.

 

What happens when the bottle is heated and what dangers are posed to infants because of this?

What happens when you heat these bottles up? It [BPA} is released into the milk in the bottle and it can affect brain development and it can cause tumors. There is enough research out there, but the industry will beg to differ. All the impartial studies that I’ve seen all say that the risk is too great to continue to allow this chemical to be used. BPA mimics estrogen and gets into the hormone system of infants and causes developmental problems. 

 

How are officials planning to get these items off the shelves of national retail chains in Suffolk County and how is the county going to implement that?

 Well, that certainly is an interesting question – because what happens to the inventory that they have? And I’m not sure how that is going to be addressed. I suppose they could move it into other stores in other counties - though I think this prohibition ought to be expanded statewide as well as nationwide. So I think it is only a matter of time, but I think the FDA is moving fairly slow.

 

Do you know of any other countries or places in the world that have also banned this?

 Canada. They did it not through legislative action, but as regulatory action - through their equivalent to the FDA. I think that will eventually happen here too.

 

Do you know of any national retailers that already stopped selling plastics with BPA?

I think a lot of them now, some of the Walmarts, King Kullen, some of the bigger stores. You will see bottles that say BPA-free. The educated public is looking for them. That’s what challenges [retailers]. The consumer is going to demand BPA-free bottles.

 

For a consumer looking at a product that doesn’t have a label indicating a BPA-free plastic – how can a customer know that there is BPA in the product?

I don’t think there are any requirements to list it. You’ll know in a few months when this law takes effect that you can buy that bottle in Suffolk County it’s BPA-free – because that is the only way that you will be able to tell.

 

What about those plastics bottles that have numbers listed on the bottom inside recycling symbols?

Yes, good point, I know plastic bottles with the number seven contain BPA – you can tell by the number. I remember that number seven has BPA, but if you went online you can find out. Those large Poland Spring water bottles that go into water coolers – those have BPA. It is more of a risk if the bottle is heated up or left in the sun – those chemicals can leach out. The problem is larger for infants because they are still developing. This law only affects infant bottles.

 

So what is the next step?

Well we already had the public hearing so now the county executive has to sign it. Then I have to look and see when the effective date is.

But I do think there may be litigation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the industry decided to sue over this.

 

Are there any other laws you are working on that look out for the safety of adults and children?

I probably will resubmit the pesticide law.

I may change it slightly, but the basic idea would be to prevent pesticides containing certain toxins being used for aesthetic purposes. So, for the pure purpose of a green law, you wouldn’t be able to put toxins on it or reproductive toxins or suspected carcinogens. I don’t know if this bill will ever get passed, people love their green lawns. But it is about time we look out for our children’s health before our green lawns. I’m not giving up and I may tighten it up a bit but that is the main purpose of the bill – that you cannot put toxins in the environment. It would be different if you were killing rats or something but if you are doing it just for aesthetics, that is not a good enough reason to introduce toxins into the environment in a county where the cancer rate is higher than the national average. And until we figure out what is going on – we should be doing everything we can to prevent unnecessary exposure to toxins. 

 

 

East End Digest, January 15

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Stony Brook Southampton

Bay Street Co-Founders Create New Programs at Stony Brook

Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Writing and Literature Program announced two new initiatives for 2009: a Playwriting Conference as part of the Southampton Writers Conference, and the Young American Writers Project, an interdisciplinary writing program for middle and high school students.
The Playwriting Conference will be directed by Stephen Hamilton and Emma Walton Hamilton, co-founders of the Bay Street Theatre. The conference will run concurrently with the Children’s Literature, Southampton Writers, and Screenwriting conferences, in three sessions from July 8 to August 2. Established and emerging playwrights will have the opportunity to develop their work in a collaborative setting with professional actors, directors and members of the Ensemble Studio Theatre. Three graduate credits are available to eligible students in each conference.
“When Stony Brook acquired the Southampton campus, we promised to build real strength in the arts,” Robert Reeves, director of the MFA in Writing and Literature program said. “We are proud to be able to carry out that mandate by broadening our programs. We are also thrilled that Emma and Steve accepted our invitation to become the newest members of the MFA program.”
For seventeen years, Stephen Hamilton served as the Theatre’s Executive Director and produced over 50 productions. Emma Walton Hamilton is a theater professional and arts educator, as well as a best-selling author and editor. Until 2008 she was Director of Education and Programming for Young Audiences, and spearheaded the Young Playwrights Program in area schools.
In addition to the new Playwriting Conference, Stony Brook Southampton’s will also establish the Young American Writers Project (YAWP). The inaugural YAWP program, focusing on playwriting, will be offered to middle schoolers in the spring of 2009. The YAWP curriculum calls for teaching artists to visit designated classrooms twice weekly during a two-month period, guiding students to create and develop their own plays. One play from each participating class will be produced at Stony Brook Southampton’s Avram Theater in April of 2009. Among participating schools in the inaugural YAWP program for 2009 are: Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island, and Eastport South Manor.

Schools
Inaug. Invite

Several local students will attend the inauguration of Barack Obama on Tuesday, January 20 in Washington, D.C. Jocelin Kalish of Bridgehampton was invited to attend by the University Presidential Inaugural Conference. Kalish is an alumni of the National Youth Leadership Forum and was the valedictorian of Bridgehampton High School last year. Fellow Bridgehampton graduate, Eddie Gholson is working for Ultimate Staffing and will help chaperone a group of children around D.C. and accompany them to the inauguration ceremony for the company. Ross tenth grade students Spencer Kuzon and Devon Leaver will also be in attendance. Kuzon and Leaver will participate in the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference from Saturday, January 17 to Wednesday, January 21. This five-day program provides students with a deeper understanding of the electoral process and its history, as well as the traditions surrounding the presidential inauguration.

Harbor Committee
“Mary E” Sails Elsewhere for Home

After months of dialogue between the owners of the “Mary E” schooner and the village Harbor Committee board, the board has finally decided to deny the owners request to permanently dock the schooner on Long Wharf. Although, the decision ultimately lies with the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees, the Harbor Committee agreed to draft a letter to the board recommending the denial of the owners request. During a committee meeting on Monday, January 12, Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait cited the owners lack of a comprehensive plan for upland support for the “Mary E” as the primary reason for the refusal of their petition. The owners of the “Mary E” sought to run a charter sailing business from the boat. Tait said at a previous meeting that parking would need to be provided for charter clients.
Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees member, Ed Deyermond swung by the meeting to treat the committee members to an update on the Keyspan/National Grid remediation project in the village. Deyermond said there wasn’t much to report as the project is on somewhat of a hiatus due to a delay in the shipment of equipment, specifically a tent.

East Hampton
Farmers Market

The Peconic Land Trust is requesting proposals for usage of the
farmland adjacent to the Amagansett Farmers Market located on Main
Street, Amagansett. The farmland consists of 5.7 acres of conserved
land that the Trust anticipates leasing in early 2009 with the idea
of integrating the produce into the Amagansett Farmer’s Market.
Interested parties are asked to submit a letter of interest to Pam
Greene, the Director of Stewardship, by February 1. A formal proposal
will be requested from those submissions. The formal proposal will
require a business plan and land use plan for the farm. For more
information call 283-3195.

SH Rotary Club
Inter. Grants

Kevin Luss, President of the Southampton Rotary Club has announced that Rotary International (RI) has approved a matching grant application, submitted by Southampton Rotary and the Rotary Club of Guntur (India). The approved matching grant, sponsored by the Southampton, Northport and Riverhead Rotary Clubs, will be used to finance the purchase of equipment that is critical in the medical mission being undertaken by International Surgical Mission Support, a group of local doctors who will be traveling to the NRI General Hospital, located in Andhra Pradesh, India.
During their short stay in India, the doctors will conduct several hundred medical screenings and life saving surgical procedures and will leave the newly purchased equipment with the local medical center.
Southampton Rotary will coordinate the project internationally, while the Rotary Club of Guntur will coordinate on a local level. The total grant budget for this project is equivalent to $62,000.

SHDC
New Dem. Chair

The Southampton Town Democratic Committee has unanimously elected Gordon Herr to succeed retiring Chairman Mike Anthony.
Anthony assured the committee that he was not leaving and would still play a significant role in the Democratic Party. He added that working with Gordon Herr for the past few years gave him full confidence that his efforts would be built upon for even greater Southampton Town Democratic Party achievements in the future.

Suffolk County
New EPA Chair

Legislator Jay Schneiderman has been named chair of the County’s
Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee (EPA) by presiding
Officer William Lindsay for the second year in a row. Schneiderman
has a background in science education and has been involved with
numerous environmental initiatives including land preservation and
water quality protection. Schneiderman currently has a bill pending
before the EPA committee that would establish a county-wide setback
from wetlands for fertilizer application. “Nitrogen and phosphorus
from fertilizers are contributing to nutrient overload in our bays
and harbors,” claims Schneiderman, “this is causing algal blooms that
are devastating shellfish populations and other marine life.”
Schneiderman believes the new law will be adopted earlier this year.