Tag Archive | "Jay Schneiderman"

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.

Bad News From the County

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Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman presented some pretty grim news to the Sag Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Town of Southampton on Friday, January 9. Schneiderman updated the CAC on the state of the county budget and legislative reforms for housing county sex offenders.
Schneiderman was a member of the budget working group that finalized the county’s 2009 budget. Nearly $1.2 billion of the county’s $3 billion yearly budget is garnered from sales tax. The budgetary group had predicted that sales tax revenues would increase by one percent for this fiscal year, but Schneiderman believes it will shrink for the first time since he was elected to the county legislature.
“Ten years ago, [sales tax revenues] were growing by seven or eight percent a year,” Schneiderman told the CAC. “[This year] there may be less goods sold than the year before and that would be devastating to the county in terms of delivering services.
This year, Schneiderman’s office reduced the number of grants it awards to various community organizations. Schneiderman’s grant money was decreased by almost $65,000. He focused his funding on organizations that provide necessities, like the Sag Harbor Food Pantry.
“I tried to focus on groups that do relief work, so some of the historical societies and beautification groups have lost their money,” said Schneiderman on Monday. He added that these relief groups augment the strain on the county by providing services to needy members of the community.
Schneiderman also discussed with the CAC two pieces of legislation related to housing homeless sex offenders, which he is trying to pass in the county legislature.
Currently, all homeless Suffolk County sex offenders who require emergency evening housing are taken to a trailer in the parking lot of the county jail in Riverhead. Nightly, the trailer houses some 20 level II and level III sex offenders. Level III sex offenders present the highest risk and are considered the most likely to re-offend. Schneiderman has received claims from members of the Riverhead community that these sex offenders have been seen wandering throughout the town and reportedly near areas where children gather. By law, a convicted sex offender is required to stay beyond 500 feet of a school, playground or daycare center.
The first of Schneiderman’s proposed legislations would require that no more than four homeless sex offenders are housed in any given trailer without a monitoring program. If the number exceeds four, then offenders would be given a tracking device or would be chaperoned if they want to leave the premises at any point during the evening.
The second piece of legislation calls for the facility at Riverhead to house only sex offenders from the five East End towns. The other sex offenders, proposes Schneiderman, should be sent to a trailer set up at their nearest police precinct. There are seven precincts in the county, and Schneiderman noted with his legislation, there would be a total of eight trailers in the county.
Schneiderman drafted both pieces of legislation hoping that the county legislature will choose one as a solution to this situation.
“It’s not that we shouldn’t be compassionate, but you really don’t want these individuals near your children,” said Schneiderman. “Some of their victims are young children.”
The Sag Harbor CAC members agreed that the second piece of legislation was better. CAC member Eric Cohen wondered if the first piece of legislation, which is designed to hinder the movement of these sex offenders who have already completed their jail time, would present certain issues of legality.

Above: Jay Schneiderman speaks with Sag Harbor CAC member Shauna Conran on the County’s finances. 

East End Digest: December 11

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ARF: Cats and Dogs Calendar 

 

         The 2009 Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons (ARF) Pet Calendar is now on sale at area bookstores, galleries and specialty shops. There are more than 100 animals featured in the calendar including mutts, pedigrees, former shelter animals as well as ARF cats and dogs available for adoption. The cover features Mimi Vang Olsen’s painting of cats and dogs in a kingdom setting. The calendar also features many candid photographs, contributed by pet owners.

         “While it’s handy for keeping a busy 2009 schedule, the Pet Calendar is just as likely to find its home on a coffee table,” says Dick Huebner, an award-winning art director who designed the original calendar.

         Founded in 1974, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons has found loving homes for over 15,000 animals. ARF currently provides for the health and welfare of dogs and cats on the South Fork of Long Island and Shelter Island through shelter and adoption services, medical care, spaying and neutering programs, community outreach and humane education. The calendar retails for $25, the 2009 ARF Pet Calendar is also available at www.arfhamptons.org, as well as local retail locations and galleries.

 

Southampton Town: Justice Court Receives Grant

 

   According to Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, the Town of Southampton has been awarded a grant in the amount of $6,500 under the State’s Justice Court Assistance Program. The grants awarded through this program make it possible for the local justice courts to make renovations and purchase equipment to improve their operations and make their facilities more secure.

         Of the grant, the State’s chief Administrative Judge, Ann Pfau, said, “Town and Village Courts play a critical role in the justice system of our State. It is vital that these courts, whose jurisdiction includes non-felony criminal prosecutions, motor vehicle cases, small civil claims, and landlord-tenant disputes, be well equipped and secure. I am therefore pleased to announce Justice Court Assistance Program grants totaling almost $5 million, statewide, to help ensure that these courts which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

         Senator LaValle added, “Local courts are the closest to the people and are an integral component of our justice system. However, town and village budgetary issues can limit their resources. This grant will help the court to better serve the community and improve the administration of justice.”

 

County Road 39: Sign Change on CR 39

 

         Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy today said that billboards cautioning drivers to watch their speed while moving through the fixed portion of County Road 39 will be changed at the request of Southampton Town officials, including Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and Councilwoman Anna Throne Holst.

         “After our project to provide a second eastbound lane was completed this spring, we felt it was necessary to properly warn drivers to maintain a safe speed,” said Levy. “This stretch of road was known for decades for being a bottleneck, and we did not want to be victims of our own success and have drivers speeding through the two smooth flowing lanes.”

         “Hopefully that message has been delivered this summer, both to visitors and to year-round residents, and we are happy to accede to the Town’s wish for more low-key speed warnings,” Levy continued.

         The billboards received a great deal of attention when they were vandalized in early December. An unknown vandal painted over the image of a police officer leaning onto his official vehicle, while pointing a radar gun at the oncoming traffic, covering it with white paint. The vandal spray-painted “Thank You” on the westbound side of the road and “Please” on the eastbound side.

 

Riverhead: Ribbon Cutting for New Unit

 

         On Thursday, December 4th, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, and Health Commissioner Dr. Humayun Chaudhry officially opened the county’s second state-of-the-art digital mammography unit in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The site of the new mammography unit is located at the Riverhead County Health Center.

         “This is a tremendous benefit for our patients,” said Suffolk County Health Services Commissioner Humayun Chaudhry. “We are proud that the county has taken such a proactive role in bringing this resource to our patients and in advancing the quality of health care services for our citizens.”

         The new unit in Riverhead is the second digital machine to come into operation in Suffolk under Levy’s leadership. In 2006, Levy sponsored a resolution to modify a portion of the first floor of the Health Center to accommodate the equipment, which was performed as part of the ongoing renovations to the Riverhead County Center. The first digital unit was installed in Coram in 2006; Suffolk is also proceeding with the availability of digital mammography equipment for its health centers in Shirley and Brentwood.

 

 

Suffolk County: A Gift of Food

 

         During their general meeting, on Tuesday, December 2, the Legislature by Certificates of Necessity adopted an amendment to the 2008 Operating Budget, which will provide an additional $20,000 of funding to the Island Harvest. Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman introduced the resolution that made these amendments possible, and was readily adopted in order to expeditiously make these funds available to Island Harvest. During this holiday season and in these challenging economic times, many more families will be able to receive additional food assistance.

         Island Harvest is one of Long Island’s largest hunger relief organizations that serve as the bridge between those who have surplus food and those who need it. Their volunteers and staff collect food from over 600 local restaurants, caterers, farms, and other food related businesses; and distribute it to a network of close to 500 soup kitchens, food pantries, residencies, shelters. Last year Island Harvest provided nearly 7 million pounds of food to local hunger relief organizations.

 

Suffolk County: Good Samaritan Diva

 

         Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) attended the Red Hat Divas Christmas luncheon to thank the ladies who collected supplies for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The divas collected donations from friends, family and neighbors over the last month. They contacted Legislator Schneiderman’s office, an official drop site for supplies donated to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Legislator Schneiderman has been working with the Family Readiness Group representing the Fighting 69th Army Reserve National Guard, collecting donations for the servicemen and women. These items include AA batteries, insect repellant, flea collars, and bags of charcoal briquettes for troops stationed in Afghanistan.

         “The County of Suffolk and its residents owe a debt of gratitude to our brave servicemen and women who often find themselves in dangerous and hazardous circumstances and give their lives for their County, making the ultimate sacrifice in the service of others, ” Legislator Schneiderman said. “I am pleased to assist in any way possible and encourage donations of these items for our troops.”

 

New York State Assembly: Request for LIPA Audit

 

         State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., and State Kenneth P. LaValle have sent a letter to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli requesting that its current audit of LIPA include the Southampton to Bridgehampton Transmission Line Project.

         LIPA originally proposed an approximately nine-mile transmission on the South Fork in the Town of Southampton from Southampton Village to the Hamlet of Bridgehampton. LIPA had proposed that the transmission line be constructed 45% above ground and 55% below ground through the heart of the South Fork’s farm country, where substantial amounts of land and scenic vistas had been preserved with public dollars.

         There was universal community outrage and opposition to the LIPA proposal including litigation. In response, Thiele and LaValle mediated the dispute between LIPA and the Town and the community. After long and extremely difficult negotiations, an agreement was reached this spring. The project was completed this summer.

         The agreement provided that LIPA would contribute the cost of its original proposal towards payment of the project (estimated to be approximately $20 million.) The incremental cost of burying the remaining 45% would be borne by LIPA customers from Southampton Village to the Southampton/East Hampton town line. This charge would be based on the actual electric usage of LIPA customers in the benefited area. After the project was bid, it was estimated that the incremental cost would be about $8 million.

         LIPA authorized substantial overtime to complete the project. As a result, LIPA is now estimating that the incremental cost may be as much as $12 million. Thiele and LaValle have requested the State Comptroller determine the total cost of the project, determine whether the up to $4 million increase in the cost of the project was prudent and justified, and determine whether any portion of the up to $4 million increase should be legitimately borne by the VBA area.

         Thiele and LaValle stated that this additional expenditure of up to $4 million dollars does not in any way increase the visual benefits for those in the benefited area, if indeed such addition expenditures were prudent at all. It is certain that not all the additional expenditures were to construct only 45%, which was the subject of the VBA.

 

 

 

 

East End Digest – September 18

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Celebrating Local Ecology On The Greenbelt

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

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

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

Southampton Town: High-Tech Park At Gabreski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stony Brook Southampton: Doubles Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southampton Hospital: Collecting Clothing

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

Westhampton Beach: Restoring Environment

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

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

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

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

Suffolk County: Text Ban Begins

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

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

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

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

East End Digest – September 11

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North Sea: Bocce Ball Finals

Councilman Chris Nuzzi, Trustee Brian Tymann and other members of the Southampton Bocce League played the final game of the season at North Sea Community Park on September 2. The Pollino Crushers were victorious over the Founders in the championship game.

New York State: Thiele Asks Paterson To Sign Gas Bill

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. released a copy of a letter last week that he sent to Governor David Paterson requesting the governor sign two pieces of legislation. The two bills aim to reduce gasoline prices – one allowing gasoline distributors and retailers to purchase and sell unbranded motor fuels and another that would prohibit the marketing technique known as “zone pricing.”

Thiele, a longtime sponsor of legislation to lower gasoline prices, writes, “Unfortunately, my Assembly District has been unfairly subjected to this scheme for far too long. Gasoline prices on the South Fork of Long Island are often higher than any other prices found in western areas of Long Island.”

Thiele has requested the State Attorney General’s Office commence an investigation into gasoline prices on eastern Long Island. The results of that investigation are pending.

“I hope the governor realizes that although prices have begun to decrease, zone pricing continues to be a problem plaguing residents and families who work and visit the East End. In addition, allowing distributors to sell unbranded fuels will result in lower prices at the pump.”

Southampton Town: Roof Replacement

Southampton officials informed residents today that work will soon begin to replace town hall’s aging roof, and to make repairs to the building’s cupola, chimney, flashing, gutters, and similar fixtures.

“The work is necessary to fix the leaks and other problems at town hall each time it rains,” said supervisor Linda Kabot. “We expect the project to begin in mid-September, and weather permitting, will be completed by the end of November.”

In order to conduct the necessary repairs, scaffolding will be erected around town hall and remain until the work is finished. Because of the presence of trucks, dumpsters, and other equipment, certain parts of the parking lot will be closed for limited amounts of time.

However, “there will be no interruption of town functions or service,” added the supervisor, “Town hall will remain open during regular business hours.”

According to the town’s department of general services, the Southampton Village Trustees and building inspector have been made aware of the project, and letters will be sent to town employees, as well as the surrounding community — including Southampton Elementary School on Pine Street.

During the planning phase, the town learned that certain components of the roof — such as the tar flashing and one of the three layers of shingles to be removed — contain a tiny amount of asbestos. Pursuant to federal and state law, the town must undertake an abatement project to remove these materials safely. To do so, the town has hired a New York State-licensed asbestos contractor, and retained an independent consultant to oversee the efforts. According to the consultant, the asbestos-containing material is considered “non-friable,” in that its fibers are bound or locked into the product. Because of this, they will not become airborne when removed. Nevertheless, air quality testing will be conducted regularly within town hall while the abatement work is underway.

At the request of the town, Southampton Village Trustees granted permission for work to begin each weekday morning at around 6 a.m., enabling the abatement work to commence each day in advance of town hall’s opening. It most cases, it will conclude by noon. A smaller, additional amount of work around higher traffic areas such as the entrances will be done on Saturdays when the building is closed. However, to minimize noise-related disturbances, the Saturday work will be performed by hand.

“We are making every effort to ensure the work on town hall is completed in a safe, clean, professional manner, and as quickly as possible,” concluded Kabot. “We appreciate the patience of the community and its visitors while these critical repairs take place.”

Suffolk County: Beach Cleanup

Chairman of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Environment, Planning, and Agriculture Committee Jay Schneiderman announced Suffolk County will once again participate in the 23rd Annual Beach Cleanup on Saturday, September 20. The Northeast Chapter of the American Littoral Society, a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the study and conservation of the marine and coastal environment, coordinates New York’s involvement in the annual September International Coastal Cleanup.

Each year the American Littoral Society enlists the aid of beach captains from local businesses, civic associations, scout troops, schools, SCUBA diving clubs, environmental organizations and individuals to organize volunteers to clean up shoreline debris. The cleanup usually takes about three hours and no special skills are needed. Volunteers pick up the debris and note the kind of debris on data cards, which are sent to the Ocean Conservancy. The information is then analyzed and used to evaluate existing pollution abatement programs and to develop new national and international policies to control debris in order to protect the health and safety of humans and marine life.

“With continuing efforts and dedication from volunteers, our local beaches will remain the source of beauty, pleasure and prosperity so many generations have enjoyed,” said Schneiderman.

Clean-ups are scheduled at several sites within Suffolk County. Contact site captain Jorie Latham at 324-1267 for information on the cleanup in East Hampton, at Louse and Gerard Points on September 20. In Southampton, a beach cleanup will be held at Sagg Main Beach on September 19. Call Jean Hartnagel at 765-6450 for information.

For a complete list of the participating sites in Suffolk County, as well as the name and phone number of the beach captains who will say where and when to meet, log on to www.alsnyc.org or call their HOTLINE 1-800-449-0790.

Last year, 9,339 volunteers cleaned and documented 142,243 pounds of debris along 677 miles of New York State’s shoreline.

New York State: Hurricane Assistance For Gustav

Governor David Paterson deployed an interagency team of New York State disaster management specialists last week to help assist Hurricane Gustav-battered parishes in Louisiana. The 24-person team began a two-week tour of duty and is staged in Hammond, Louisiana, to assist one of four battered parishes – New Orleans, Palquemines, St. Bernard or Jefferson – in recovery efforts. Team members are specialists in managing the various aspects of response and recovery including command, operations, planning and logistics.

The deployment of the disaster specialists is the latest assistance New York State is providing to hurricane victims in the Gulf Coast. The New York National Guard has sent helicopters and personnel as a part of the Gustav relief effort. Additionally, the New York City Fire Department is deploying its Incident Management Team (IMT) to aid Louisiana.

“Even when Gustav was on the horizon, New York State was prepared and ready to lend a helping hand to our fellow Americans in the Gulf Coast,” said Paterson. “Fortunately, the damage caused by this storm was not as severe as was initially feared; but there is still work to be done. New York State will always be prepared to answer the call to assist the residents here and across the country in their time of need.”

The State IMT, which departed Albany on Tuesday, September 2, came about because the state is a member of EMAC, which establishes a mutual partnership with the other 49 states, the District of Columbia and three territories to provide aid assistance in times of emergency.

As a part of the September Preparedness Month observance, New York State has unveiled its new “Aware/Prepare” website, www.nyprepare.gov — a one-stop shop for New Yorkers looking for safety information.

New York State: Mobile Home Rights

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced this week that a bill he co-sponsored relating to a right of first refusal for manufactured home owners has been signed by Governor David Paterson.

The bill would provide resident manufactured homeowners the opportunity to purchase their park by and through a homeowner’s association within 120 days from the time the park owner accepts an offer to purchase the park. In order to be eligible for a right of first refusal, a homeowner’s association would be required to notify the park owner of its existence and register such information with the county in which the manufactured home park is located. If such a contract were not executed within 120 days and the park owner thereafter offered the park at a price lower than the price specified in his notice to the association, then the association would have an additional 10 days to meet the price, terms and conditions.

“This legislation gives residents the chance to save their park by purchasing it, whenever the park owner seeks to sell the facility,” explained Thiele. “This will insure that existing parks can continue as an important source of affordable housing, especially for senior citizens.”

Thiele sponsored the legislation, which passed the assembly in the 2008 legislative session. The bill would allow homeowners to challenge rent increases that exceed the consumer price index and cannot be substantiated by the park owners. Under current law, manufactured home owners who rent lots have no legal remedy for unjustifiable increases.

“I am pleased this legislation passed the assembly,” said Thiele. “Unfortunately, the homeowner lacks bargaining power and pretty much renders them captive to whatever terms the park owner may choose to impose. This bill would provide the homeowner with a mechanism to legally challenge an increase. I can assure my constituents that I will reintroduce this bill in January when the 2009 legislative session commences.”

Thiele has been working with the chairman of the assembly housing committee, assemblyman Vito Lopez and Assemblyman Marc Alessi on the legislation. Thiele also participated in a public hearing in Riverhead last fall specifically on this bill.

The legislation would be subject to the creation of a local law by the county in which the manufactured home park is located.

Southampton Hospital: Mind Body Wellness

Southampton Hospital’s Mind Body Wellness Program has announced the next program in their series, the Medical Symptom Reduction Class. Classes will be on Wednesday afternoons from 3 to 5 p.m. beginning September 24 through November 12 and will take place at the Hospital’s “Bridge Room” located on the second floor.

The program teaches methods on learning to reduce physical and emotional problems caused by an illness. The course is taught by mind/body/wellness certified staff, trained at Harvard Medical College and is covered by most insurance companies. Early registration is required as a medical evaluation is required and space is limited. For more information, please call 726-8620