Tag Archive | "Jr."

2011 CPF Revenues Down for Most Towns

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This week, New York State Assembly Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced that the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund (CPF) totals for 2011 were on par with revenues collected by the five towns in 2010.

According to Thiele, the CPF produced $58.85 million in 2011, a 0.1 percent increase over the 2010 total of $58.78 million. While total CPF revenues were slightly higher in 2011, the five East End towns with the exception of Southampton have actually seen a decline in the amount of revenues they have collected through the fund.

Southampton Town earned about 15-percent more in 2011, pulling in $38.88 million in CPF revenues over $33.79 million in 2010.

Shelter Island saw the largest decrease in CPF revenues, down 39.7 percent for 2011, collecting $820,000. East Hampton Town also saw a sharp decrease, taking in $13.86 million in 2011 compared to $17.72 million in 2010, a 21.8-percent decrease. Riverhead collected $1.93 million in 2011, a decrease of 15.7-percent over the $2.29 million the town earned in 2010. Southold also saw a decrease of 7.5-percent, taking $3.35 million in 2011 compared to $3.62 million in 2010.

Since its inception in 1999, the Peconic Bay Regional Community Preservation Fund has generated more than $722 million, which the five East End towns use for preservation of open space, farmland, recreational facilities and historic preservation.

Thiele Looks to Create Standards to Alter School District Boundaries

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The New York State Assembly is considering legislation that would change the standards required for petitions to alter school district boundaries.

According to Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., who introduced the legislation, under the current law there are no standards in place for such a petition, which means school districts can summarily reject them regardless of merit.

There have been several cases on the South Fork where residents have proposed school district boundary alterations in recent months, noted Thiele, with proposals rejected with little or no consideration of education impacts.

In an interview on Monday, Thiele said two of the most recent examples have been in Southampton. A portion of the Tuckahoe School District lies in Southampton Village, and neighbors there have sought to alter that school district boundary line to send their children to school in the Southampton School District. Similarly, a neighborhood in Red Creek in Hampton Bays is technically in the Riverhead School District, despite the fact that it is actually situated in Hampton Bays.

In Tuckahoe, parents argued they paid taxes far higher than their neighbors because they were located in the Tuckahoe School District and not in Southampton. Parents in the Red Creek, Hampton Bays neighborhood located in the Riverhead School District made a similar argument. Both were rejected.

“Most of the current school district boundaries on the East End were established in the 1950′s and 1960′s pursuant to a 1947 State law. At the time, large areas of the East End were undeveloped,” said Thiele. “Over the last 60 years, the region has undergone substantial growth with changing demographics and some school boundaries no longer make sense for students and families. School districts have routinely rejected any changes not wishing to lose any tax base without any regard to the impact on school children.”

“This proposed law would change that,” he added.

Under the proposed legislation, a majority of qualified voters in a territory could petition the regional BOCES superintendent in the region where the school districts they hope to alter are located. The school districts in that region would be given 90-days to negotiate any alteration to school district boundaries. If no action is taken or the petition is rejected, the citizen petitioners could request a public hearing and within 30 days the district superintendent would be required to issue a findings statement explaining the decision to reject the application.

In the findings, the district superintendent must consider student educational opportunities as measured by the percentage of students performing at each level of the statewide mandated assessments, said Thiele. They would also have to consider student attendance, graduation and dropout rates, as well as the safety and welfare of pupils within each school district.

Geographic accessibility to neighboring schools, and all funding sources of the affected school districts, including the impact to their tax bases, must also be considered in the superintendent’s decision, said Thiele.

Where the transfer involves 10-percent or more of the student population, of any district, the petition would be subject to a referendum approval in each of the districts affected, added Thiele.

“Alteration of school district boundaries should not be easy, but it should not be impossible either,” said Thiele. “Such decisions should be based on what is in the best interest of the students affected, not just tax base. School boards should be required to articulate the basis of their decisions consistent with legitimate education policies.”


Thiele Supports Millionaire Tax

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In a press release issued last week, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said that he supports the extension of the “so-called” Millionaire Tax, one of the most hotly debated issues in the 2012 state budget discussion.

The proposal would extend for another year the existing tax rate on those earning more than a $1,000,000 a year at 8.97 percent. The rate on millionaires would be reduced to 6.85 percent on December 31, if no action is taken in Albany.

The surcharge generates upwards of $4 billion a year.

“Proponents state that the additional funding is necessary to maintain state spending and programs,” said Thiele. “Opponents say the additional tax will injure the states economic recovery. In 2009, I voted against this tax surcharge because the surcharge was imposed not on millionaires but those with incomes of $250,000 or more, and the revenue was used to fuel one of the biggest spending increases in New York State history. We could ill-afford such a tax and spending policy in the middle of a recession.”

Thiele said that under Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state has begun to address its fiscal woes, and has eliminated a $10 billion budget deficit with no new taxes or borrowing. Medicaid costs were also reined in, said Thiele, and the state adopted a two-percent real property tax levy cap.

That being said, Thiele noted that if the “millionaire tax” rate is reduced to 6.85-percent, those residents making over $1 million a year will be paying the same tax rate as a family of four making $40,000.

“Although I represent the Hamptons, not one millionaire has contacted me to complain about the 8.97 percent rate or has said they are leaving the state,” said Thiele. “At the same time, my office continues to be inundated by middle class residents who are being overwhelmed by real property taxes. Many have left the state. The two percent property tax cap was a good first step, but only a first step. New Yorkers need property tax reduction, not just a cap.”

This is exactly why Thiele has sponsored a new bill extending the 8.97-percent property tax rate on millionaires. It would also create a real property tax “circuit breaker,” said Thiele, for middle class homeowners earning $250,000 or less.

The legislation would cap property taxes based upon a percentage of income reflecting the ability to pay. Excess property taxes would be refunded through an income tax credit. This would reduce property tax payments by the middle class by $2.3 billion dollars. The remaining revenue would be placed in a separate account for state aid to education, further reducing school taxes and maintaining education quality.

“It is fair and equitable and is the path to real economic recovery for Long Island and all of New York,” said Thiele.


Demos Announces Candidacy for Congress

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Republican and former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer George Demos officially filed papers this week to run for Congress, sending an email and video to supporters and media Monday morning announcing his decision.

Seeking to unseat Congressman Tim Bishop, Demos will have to face off in a primary next year against Saint James businessman Randy Altschuler, who bested Chris Cox and Demos in a primary battle in 2010. Altschuler narrowly lost to Bishop in one of the closest elections races in the country last year.

“More than ever we see how important it is, not just to elect someone with an R next to their name, but to elect a real Conservative with steely determination who will not fail us, who will not falter, and who will not waiver when he gets to Washington,” said Demos in a statement.

Altschuler, who announced his decision to run for Congress in 2012 in June, already has the garnered the support of the Republican and Conservative party leaders in Suffolk County.

“We need to learn from last year’s mistakes and not let divisions within our own party allow Tim Bishop to sneak back into office again,” said County GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle said in a statement released to media on Monday. “Our country is in the midst of a severe economic and fiscal crisis, and we need a business leader like Randy Atlschuler in Washington to fix it.”

“Today’s announcement by George Demos has no impact on our strategy moving forward,” said Altschuler spokesman Chris Russell. “Randy is humbled by the broad support he’s receiving from Republican and Conservative Party leaders, and he’s focused on holding Tim Bishop accountable for the mess in Washington and defeating him next November.”

Bishop, currently serving his fifth term, has already said he will seek a sixth term in 2012.

26 Acres in Wainscott Purchased by East Hampton Town

The East Hampton Town Board approved a $3.2 million purchase of 26-acres in Wainscott through the Community Preservation Fund after holding a public hearing during its Thursday, August 4 meeting.

The property consists of exactly 25.7 acres at 198 Six Pole Highway near the intersection of Route 114, just outside the Village of Sag Harbor. The purchase was supporting by the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society at the Thursday evening meeting.

An additional acre on the same property has already been promised to an adjacent cemetery, which will be given the land through a lot line modification, according to a resolution passed by the board on the purchase of the land.

Thiele Continues to Survey Local Gas Prices

In his ongoing crusade to bring fair gas prices to the East End, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. submitted a third report this week to the State Attorney General detailing illegal zone pricing of gasoline on the Twin Forks.

However, according to the survey, gas prices have become more equitable and have stabilized over the last two weeks when compared to other regions in New York.

In the August 7 survey, the most prevalent price on the South Fork for gasoline was $3.99 a gallon or lower at nine stations located on Montauk Highway between East Hampton and Sunrise Highway. The lowest price was $3.97 and the highest $4.09. The average price is about $0.05 lower than the Long Island Average, and $0.04 more than the state average.

“Gasoline prices are still too high,” said Thiele in a written statement. “However, they have remained stable over the last two weeks. The differential between the South Fork and the rest of Long Island remains small with prices between East Hampton and Southampton slightly lower than the Island-wide average. The differential with the North Fork, which has the lowest gasoline prices on Long Island, was around $0.35 on the South Fork on Memorial Day. It is now about $0.10.”

However, the Assembly added that Amagansett and Montauk continue to face higher gas prices than the rest of the region. There, according to Thiele, gas prices are more than $.30 cents above the Long Island average.

“Amagansett and Montauk are clearly paying too much,” said Thiele. “This is why we need a stronger zone pricing law and open supply legislation.”

Thiele first contacted the attorney general’s office after Memorial Day weekend gas prices on the South Fork remained at $4.25 cents per gallon, while the rest of Long Island averaged around $4.08, and the rest of New York State averaged $4.02.

Thiele has also sponsored legislation to strengthen New York’s existing law on zone pricing of gasoline – when an arbitrary price is assigned to gasoline based on geography rather than the wholesale or legitimate cost of the product.

Thiele has also sponsored open supply legislation that would enable gas stations to purchase cheaper motor fuel on the wholesale market from alternative suppliers and pass the savings on to the consumer.

Governor Signs Southampton CPF PILOT Legislation

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that resolve some of the issues raised in a state comptroller’s audit of the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) PILOT payments by the Town of Southampton.

The legislation was sponsored by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and New York State Senator Ken LaValle.

The audit, completed in November of 2010, found that in the years 2008 and 2009 the Town of Southampton had made payments from the CPF to school and special districts that exceeded the amount permitted by State law by $664, 647. In particular, the Riverhead School District and the Eastport-South Manor School District received excessive payments, according to the report. The State Comptroller directed the town to resolve the issue in his report.

Under the proposed legislation, the overpayments would be legally validated and the school districts would be absolved from having to make any repayment. The town will be legally responsible to restore the excess payment to the fund either by dedicating land or providing non-CPF funds equal to or greater than the overpayment.

“The Town of Southampton made overpayments of CPF monies for PILOTS in 2008 and 2009,” said Thiele “This has been confirmed by the state comptroller. It was imperative that these funds be restored to be used for the rightful purpose of land preservation. This legislation insures that will happen. It also insures that local school taxpayers will not be punished for a mistake that they did not make. The school districts will be held harmless. Further, the Town will be permitted to use funds, such as impact fees collected from developers, to replenish the fund. This legislation will maintain the integrity of the CPF, while insuring that neither school nor town property taxpayers have to bear the burden of the repayment.”

The legislation also establishes additional requirements for PILOT payments in the future to ensure that such overpayments never happen again. The new law provides that in determining payments to each school and special district, each parcel eligible for a PILOT payment shall be assessed in the same manner as state land is and that the assessment for each parcel is approved by the state. The new law also states that not more than ten percent of the CPF may be used for these purposes. The maximum percentage of 10% for such purposes may be reduced by a proposition approved by the voters.

Finally, the new law requires the town board to adopt an annual plan, after input through a public hearing, which specifies each eligible parcel and provides the amount of payment for each eligible parcel.

Restoration of John Jermain Memorial Library Begins

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Just weeks after moving into a new temporary home on West Water Street in Sag Harbor, the John Jermain Memorial Library board of trustees was granted approval to begin exterior repairs to their historic Main Street library. It is the first phase of a complete renovation, restoration and over 7,000 square-foot expansion of the 101-year-old library that is expected to take from two to three years to complete.

On Thursday, July 14 architect Richard Munday and historic preservation expert Raymond Pepi, flanked by JJML Library Director Catherine Creedon, presented plans for the first phase of the restoration to the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB).

According to Creedon, library officials are “anxious” to get started on this first phase of the restoration, citing leaks in the building that have “increased exponentially” in the last year alone.

“The work proposed today is just one part of what we anticipate will be many phases with many presentations to the ARB,” said Munday.

The first phase involves the complete re-pointing of brick masonry that surrounds the historic structure, as well as repairs to the building’s limestone trim and cornice.

According to Pepi, his firm — Building Conservation Associates — has done a complete study of the whole building, assessing the exterior to determine what historic materials can be repaired and what needs to be replaced.

The original mortar, said Pepi, is a mixture of cement and limestone and has “experienced a significant amount of erosion” over the last 100 years, even with minor repairs made to the building over the course of its existence.

In addition to re-pointing the brick masonry, and repairing the mortar and limestone trim, ultimately, Pepi said a series of treatments will be applied to the library. These will ensure that with proper maintenance the building will no longer leak when the restoration and expansion is done.

The limestone trim and cornice, said Pepi, will be repaired with any missing pieces replaced with Indiana limestone – the same used when the building was first constructed.

All of the brick, granite and limestone will also be cleaned, he said.

Sag Harbor ARB Chairman Cee Scott Brown wondered if the new mortar used to replace eroded material would look different from what exists today.

Pepi said his firm has analyzed the existing mortar and has been able to match the new mortar so that it will closely resemble the color of the mortar that is on the library now.

“The bricks and the limestone have weathered themselves naturally,” he noted. “It doesn’t make sense to change it. We will keep a harmonious balance in terms of the mortar.”

The board unanimously approved the repairs, and according to Creedon, library officials hope to begin the project this September.

Thiele Continues Gas Wars

According to a press release issued by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. last week, he intends to file monthly surveys of gasoline prices on the South Fork with the New York State Attorney General in an effort to stop price gouging in the region.

Thiele said he plans to submit a survey comparing South Fork gas prices with other parts of New York State as a follow-up measure to price gouging he said occurred on the East End over Memorial Day weekend.

While the American Automobile Association provides a survey of gas prices in the state, Thiele said there is no survey that looks solely at the South Fork. He said he would provide the attorney general with the average price of gas on Montauk Highway in an effort to show what a majority of stations are charging for the fuel.

“The Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an investigation of gasoline prices in March and has been actively collecting data throughout the state, including the South Fork, as part of his review,” said Thiele in a statement.

Thiele had contacted the State Attorney General after Memorial Day weekend when South Fork gas prices remained high at $4.25 cents per gallon when the Long Island average was $4.08 and the state average was $4.02.

Thiele said he has also sponsored legislation aimed at strengthening New York’s laws on zone pricing of gas, which is the establishment of changes in the cost of fuel based on geographic locations, without regard to wholesale costs.

“It was clear that on Memorial Day prices had been kept artificially high simply to exploit the crowds flocking to one of America’s most popular vacation communities,” said Thiele.

In Thiele’s July 13 survey, the most prevalent price on the South Fork was $3.99 per gallon at nearly a half dozen stations on Montauk Highway. He said this was $0.03 cents more than the average for all Long Island, $0.10 cents more than the New York State average, and $0.02 cents less than the price of gas in New York City.

“Gasoline prices are still too high, nearly a dollar higher than a year ago,” said Thiele. “However, since I contacted Attorney General Schneiderman, the differential between the South Fork and the rest of the State has narrowed considerably. I appreciate his work on behalf of our motorists.

“To insure fairness in gasoline pricing requires constant vigilance and strong laws,” he continued. “I will provide the Attorney General with price data from my district monthly and will continue to seek strong legislation to inhibit price gouging of our residents.”

Sunday Riderships Soars

According to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, the number of riders on a newly introduced Sunday bus service on the East End has doubled in the pilot program’s second week.

Schneiderman said the first Sunday bus two weeks ago carried 396 passengers, but last Sunday an additional 190 passengers rode the bus, bringing the total riders using the public transportation to 586.

“This level of use demonstrates the clear need for public transportation on Sundays,” said Schneiderman.

For close to a decade, Schneiderman fought to make Sunday and holiday county bus service a reality on the East End, citing the resort community’s workforce, which is reliant on the service, as well as an increased desire for public transportation options.

The pilot program was approved this spring, increasing fares by $0.50 to $2 in order to offset the cost. Schneiderman said this week he would like to see the pilot program extended to the rest of Suffolk County.


Booth Balances Social Justice with Social Grace

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By Marissa Maier

As a child, Gini Booth effortlessly tread between two disparate worlds. By day, Booth could be found on the streets of New York City and its environs protesting racial prejudices and socioeconomic injustices with her father, Judge William Henry Booth, an African-American New York City Criminal Court Judge and Chairman of the city’s Commission on Human Rights. In the evening, Booth’s mother, Harriet Walker Booth, whisked her young daughter to debutante balls in the gilded halls of the Waldorf Astoria.

Above: Booth’s father, Judge William Henry Booth, to the right of Martin Luther King, Jr. during a rally.

Booth’s early balance between social justice and social graces served her well later in life as an actress, news producer, literacy advocate and breast cancer survivor. Her early life, and the lessons Booth’s parents taught her at a tender age, will be the subject of a talk at the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center on Thursday, February 25, as part of “Straight Talk: A series of community conversations.”

During her talk, Booth will highlight the convictions of her parents and how these beliefs influenced her upbringing and affected her as an adult. With a father who represented Malcolm X at one point and marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., Booth has one or two stories to tell about fighting for civil rights in New York City at a young age. During one rally, in support of a hospital union in Riverdale, Booth saw a police officer attempt to push her father along to move with the crowd. To the 13-year-old Booth, the cop seemed more like a six-foot giant dressed in blue than an officer of the law keeping order.

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“I went up to him and I tried to beat him up. I said, ‘Don’t you dare hit my father,’” recalled Booth. “No one had told me it was supposed to be a peaceful protest.”

After spending many childhood afternoons in her father’s office, Booth would later follow in his footsteps. As a teenager, William Booth served as President of the NAACP Youth Council in Jamaica, Queens. Years later, Booth was appointed Secretary of the Treasury of the same council.

After years of practicing law and setting up strong roots in the Episcopal faith, William Booth’s calm and forgiving approach to life helped his daughter in her struggles with issues of race and ethnicity. Though Booth’s parents are of African-American descent, she was born with blue eyes and blond hair — characteristics typical of Caucasians. As Booth was maturing into a young woman, she recalls several instances when she would be walking down the street with her father and a passerby would yell some racially derogatory comment.

“Someone started screaming at my father, ‘Who is that little white girl with you?’ The man said, ‘Was she dipped in Clorox?’ It was very hurtful. But my father said to just ignore him and that he doesn’t know any better,” remembered Booth. “And then I thought of something my father’s mother had taught me. She said ‘A garden is beautiful and in the garden are all different types of flowers of all shapes and sizes. But it is all one garden.’ At least I had the strength and the substance every day when I left that house with my parents.”

After growing up in Queens, Booth flew the coop to study acting at the University of California at Los Angeles. She returned to New York and joined the Negro Ensemble Company Actors Workshop, Frank Silvera’s Actors Studio and New Heritage Theater. Later, Booth relocated to Providence, Rhode Island for a career change in news broadcasting and producing. She created a talk show, named SHADES, on the local PBS channel and “Black News,” which was on the CBS radio affiliate for the state. Because Booth was a member of the National Black Programming Consortium, her television work was broadcast throughout the US, in Africa and the Caribbean.

Currently, Booth’s myriad projects include an affiliation with the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Suffolk County Executive’s African American Advisory Board, the Vestry of Christ Episcopal Church, ERASE Racism, the Witness Project LI and EVIDENCE Dance Company.

As a 21-year survivor of stage three breast cancer, Booth’s work has spilled over into cancer advocacy. She is affiliated with CancerCare of the Hamptons and the American Cancer Society. Booth’s work and life has been featured in many television shows and publications, including “Good Morning America,” “Good Day NY,” Town and Country Magazine and Family Circle Magazine.

Though Booth is ringing in her 60th year of life in 2010, she shows no signs of slowing down. She currently serves as the executive director of Literacy Suffolk. Literacy, says Booth, is often seen as a non-issue in the 21st century, but she pointed out that close to one in every seven adults in Suffolk County are functionally illiterate.

“I am wondering what I am going to be doing in 20 years,” exclaimed Booth. “I can only imagine. I can’t wait.”

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.

 

 

 

 

Bridge Graffiti Art Will Stay

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Over a month ago, under the cloak of night, a lone graffiti artist spray painted an homage to a 19-year-old Sag Harbor resident killed in the line of duty in Iraq. Two weeks later, the Sag Harbor-North Haven Bridge, under which the graffiti artist penned the red, white and blue, Captain America-themed tribute, was officially renamed the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge. And now, this week, the state has announced that it will not seek to have the illegally painted mural removed, but instead will allow it to remain as another honor to Lance Corporal Haerter’s young life.

On Tuesday, December 2, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced that the mural would be allowed to stay, rather than be repainted by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). The bridge is state property, and is maintained by the NYSDOT.

“Certainly, the village does not condone defacing public property, but this is not a village owned structure so we have no authority,” said Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris. “I am glad the memorial will stay and it is a tribute to Jordan. I hope it will be there as long as its integrity is still there.”

Following the mural’s creation, state officials had confirmed that they would allow the artistic display to remain under the bridge through the rededication ceremony honoring Lance Corporal Haerter on November 15. In addition to re-naming the bridge after the fallen marine, a granite obelisk memorial was also unveiled that stormy morning in Lance Corporal Haerter’s name next to Windmill Beach in Sag Harbor.

Lance Corporal Haerter was killed in Ramadi, Iraq on April 22 during his first month of duty as a Marine in overseas combat, along with Corporal Jonathan Yale of Meherrin, Virginia when a suicide bomber drove into the checkpoint they were guarding, detonating the vehicle.

Lance Corporal Haerter’s death had a profound effect on the Sag Harbor community, where he was raised by father Christian Haerter and mother JoAnn Lyles and graduated Pierson High School. The community gathered in collective mourning to welcome Lance Corporal Haerter’s body home in Sag Harbor, lining the streets and the cemetery, paying tribute to the sacrifice the young Marine made for his country.

And it seems another person, who remains anonymous, only known publicly by the tag “AMP 26” was also touched by Lance Corporal Haerter’s sacrifice, first spray painting a bench near the 19-year-old’s grave site with the words “thank you,” and then completing the mural weeks later. A man identifying himself as “AMP 26” called The Express office shortly after a police report indicated the spray painting of the bench was a “desecration.” “AMP26,” speaking through a device that changed the sound of his voice, maintained that his work was a “tribute,” not a desecration.

“AMP 26” is not unfamiliar to Sag Harbor Village Police or Southampton Town Police, who have logged numerous reports about graffiti in Sagaponack, Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, but have yet to catch the individual in the act.

The decision to allow the mural to stay, for now, said Thiele on Wednesday, was in part due to the effort of a letter writing campaign in support of the graffiti art.

“I had gotten somewhere between 20 and 30 letters requesting the mural be kept, mostly from Pierson High School,” said Thiele.

Thiele said he reached out to the New York State Department of Transportation after hearing reports that the mural would be removed as a part of regularly scheduled maintenance, but was informed the mural’s removal was not in fact imminent. Regardless, Thiele said he asked the NYSDOT for a commitment to allow the mural to stay as long as it is properly maintained.

“As long as it looks good and presentable, they will leave it be,” said Thiele.

Thiele said that the mural will remain as long as it is not defaced or begins to deteriorate. What will happen after that, he said, will depend on the wishes of community and government leaders in Sag Harbor.

“The mural is there to honor Jordan, and the person who put it there, that was their intention,” said Thiele. “If it is defaced or deteriorated it is not an honor anymore.”

“I understand the importance of the particular mural, to a family and a community that has endured an extremely painful loss. The artist is obviously very talented. I only wish he would use that talent in a more productive manner.”

East End Digest – December 4

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Holiday Tea and Décor Light Up Cormaria

Over 100 people turned out for Cormaria Retreat House’s annual holiday tea and Christmas décor workshop on Saturday, November 29. Sister Ann Marino and her fellow sisters in the order opened the doors of the former captain’s mansion for an afternoon that featured a workshop in creating holiday table décor.

Michael Grimm of Sag Harbor Florist, a longtime supporter of Cormaria, led participants through the intricate yet straightforward creation of floral designs to grace their holiday tables. Following the workshop, guests moved into the great entranceway of the mansion for a concert of seasonal carols and hymns performed by the Harbor Bells handbell choir. At the concert’s end, Sister Ann invited everyone to participate in one of the nun’s old traditions of marking pristine white starfish with the name of loved ones ill or lost who they wished the nuns to keep in their prayers. The starfish were then placed on the sister’s Tree of Remembrance with the promise to have their loved ones remembered in prayer.

New York State: Property Tax Relief Report Accepted

On December 2, the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief issued its final report to Governor David Paterson and the state legislature. The report contains dozens of measures that are aimed at reducing the costs for local school districts and provide relief to New York taxpayers, who pay some of the highest local taxes in the nation.

The report contains 32 recommendations, including a property tax cap and several additional proposals designed to rein in school districts’ costs, therefore addressing what the state perceives as the root cause of high property taxes. Included in those recommendations are consolidation measures, a property tax cap, limiting of school district operational costs, among others. Also suggested is a STAR “circuit breaker,” which would provide targeted relief to individual taxpayers based on income and ability to pay through an income tax credit.

“This report provided many thoughtful recommendations that I am in support of,” said State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. on Tuesday. “The main recommendation is the need for a property tax cap. As one of the initial supporters of the cap, I am encouraged that the commission, as well as the governor are continuing their support of this measure.  I am also in support of the commission’s recommendation to promote school consolidation. I am currently drafting a bill based on a Maine law recently passed which will provide for such consolidation.  Finally, I support the commission’s finding that unfunded mandates are a large part of high property taxes and that they need to be eliminated.”

Southampton Town: County Road 39 Workshop

Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and members of the town’s department of land management invite all residents to a public workshop this week to discuss the future of the County Road 39 “corridor” and the issues facing decision makers regarding the area’s future land use.

Running concurrently with the CR 39 corridor moratorium, the town’s consultants and planning staff will conduct a full-fledged area study in order to make recommendations on design, zoning, and possible future uses. The results of the public workshop, consisting primarily of input from residents and business representatives, will then be incorporated into an overall plan.

The workshop will be held at the Tuckahoe Common School cafetorium on Magee Street in Southampton on Thursday, December 4 from 7 to 9 p.m.

New York State Assembly: Enforcing Gas Laws

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. has called upon State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate existing illegal gasoline pricing practices and enforce the new prohibition on zone pricing of gasoline. The new law went into effect on November 24.

“In enacting the zone pricing law, the state legislature found that zone pricing was ‘artificial price manipulation.’ Zone pricing is the setting of different wholesale prices for gasoline for gasoline retailers that operate in different geographic areas. The legislature further found such practices harm consumers around the state, including the South Fork. We have outlawed this practice. It is clear that the major oil companies are challenging the state to enforce the law. The Attorney General must meet that challenge with quick and aggressive enforcement.”

Under the law, the state attorney general may seek to enjoin violations of the zone pricing law as well as seek restitution, additional allowances and civil penalties.

“My informal survey of gasoline prices indicates that there exist price differentials of 20 cents or more between the South Fork service stations and other regions just miles away,” added Thiele. “It is clear these differentials are based only on geography and not legitimate economic factors.”

Thiele urges South Fork residents to write or e-mail his office with any evidence of illegal zone pricing, which he will forward to the state attorney general.

Sagaponack: Deadline Extended For Pike Farm

The Hopping family in Sagaponack has decided to extend the amount of time the Peconic Land Trust has to raise over $8 million to preserve and save Pike Farm Stand on Sagg Main Street. The Peconic Land Trust originally had until mid-October, but the Hopping family has decided to extend that until April.

Hallockville Museum Farm: Victorian Christmas

Hallockville Museum Farm’s annual Victorian Christmas will take place on Sunday, December 7 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The event includes guided tours of the fully decorated historic Hallock Homestead, costumed interpreters, musicians performing through the day, antique dollhouses, antique toys and much more. Something new this year is a celebration of a Polish-American Christmas in the recently restored Cichanowicz Farm House. The Depression-era home will be decorated as it would have been in the 1930s.  Sometime in the afternoon, Santa is expected to arrive in Hallockville’s own bright red 1939 Ford farm truck. There will be special activities for children, horse-drawn carriage rides and antique trains from the Long Island Railroad Museum. A holiday market in the Naugles barn will feature hand-made crafts and Christmas accessories. Admission for adults is $8 per person, including free cider, hot chocolate and mincemeat tarts served in the Homestead kitchen; $4 for children ages 6 to 12; younger children are free; and families (two adults and children 12 and under) are $20. All fees directly support the museum farm’s educational programming and mission of re-connecting the community with its agricultural heritage.

Nature Conservancy: Green Gifts 

This holiday season, The Nature Conservancy on Long Island is encouraging consumers to give gifts that will go twice as far – gifts that will delight loved ones while also protecting and preserving some of our most precious habitats for future generations.

“Interest in green gifts is at an all-time high, and starting at just $10, the Conservancy makes it easy to stretch each dollar,” said Nancy Kelley, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy on Long Island “It’s an opportunity to give your friends and loved ones a unique holiday gift that’s also a lasting and secure investment for the future of our planet.”

For 2008, the Conservancy’s green gift offerings include opportunities to adopt an acre of a threatened landscape, protect Palau’s stunning coral reefs, and plant trees in South America’s Atlantic Forest. The conservancy’s new holiday gift site at nature.org/giftguide features an interactive map, photos, and fact sheets to introduce holiday shoppers to the regions they’re invited to protect.

 

East End Digest – November 20

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75 Christmas Boxes & Counting

Thursday night’s “Wrap a Box of Kindness” event, sponsored by the Bridgehampton Parent Teacher Organization, brought many Bridgehampton families out to decorate and pack gifts into shoeboxes. These boxes will be delivered to needy children all over the world.

Operation Christmas Child is a project designed and operated by Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse. It began in 1993 and has grown each year into a worldwide endeavor. All the boxes collected from around the United States are brought to over 130 countries and hand-delivered into the arms of a child – who may have never received a gift before.

Sag Harbor ARB: Vets Get Fence

Ralph Ficorelli, commander of the Sag Harbor VFW Chelberg & Battle Post 388, approached the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board on Thursday, November 13 to request a fence at the VFW in order to ensure the building’s parking lot is reserved for members of the post, rather than the general population, which has been parking there.

Ficorelli, accompanied by a number Sag Harbor veterans, requested a four-foot high, 261-foot long chain link fence, covered in green vinyl for the south and west sides of the VFW.

“The main reason we are doing this is because it is being used as a public parking lot and members down there, we have trouble finding places to park our cars,” explained Ficorelli.

The board had no quandary with the fence, but was concerned about residents on Rysam Street having to look at a green, vinyl chain link fence – which would generally not be approved in a residential neighborhood in the historic district of Sag Harbor.

Ficorelli argued that the green coating would help blend in the fence to the surrounding area and that the VFW intended to plant shrubbery around the fence to help shield it.

The board agreed to approve the fence with the caveat that the fence be shielded with shrubbery and the entry gate on Rysam be made partially of wood in keeping with the residential character of the neighborhood.

In other ARB news, Howard Kanovitz was approved to replace a historic column and repaint the historic residence at 27 Suffolk Street. Kanovitz also has sought to replace the windows, although the board has asked he look into restoration. Sean Murphy was approved to replace French doors at 27 Garden Street, Harbor Heights Gas Station was approved for new signs at their Hampton Street business, Anastasia Cole was approved for a picket fence at 3 Bay Street, Michael Butler was approved for building alterations at 37 Eastville Avenue and Blair and Cheryl Effron were granted permission for the demolition of an existing house at 34 Long Point Road and for a new two-story residence at the same site.

Suffolk Community College: Thanksgiving For The Needy

Faculty and students at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center will be partnering with the Dominican Sisters Family Health Service located in Hampton Bays to prepare and individually package more than 150 dinners that will assist in feeding those in need for Thanksgiving.

Under the direction of chef/instructor Jerry Dececco, preparation for this event will take place at the Culinary Arts Center located at 20 East Main Street in Riverhead on Tuesday, November 25 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The menu will consist of roast turkey with giblet gravy, seasoned cranberry bread stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, string beans Almondine, dinner rolls, apple pie and pumpkin pie.

New York State Assembly: Update On Fiscal Crisis

In accordance with a new law enacted last year to help increase fiscal accountability and transparency in state government, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., a member of the ways and means committee, joined Assembly minority leader James Tedisco and the Assembly Minority Conference last week to formally submit their assessment of New York’s current fiscal condition. The report outlines estimates of the conference’s disbursements for public assistance, Medicaid and school aid, along with estimates for tax receipts and lottery receipts.

“Our state is facing tough economic times ahead that will require us to tighten our belts and exercise true fiscal discipline to ensure New York can weather this fiscal storm,” said Thiele. “Our conference’s report is comprehensive and forecasts a continued decline in state revenues while emphasizing the need for fiscally sound proposals to close the budget deficit without doing so on the backs of taxpayers.”

In its report, the Assembly Minority Ways and Means Committee estimated the public assistance rolls will closeout the current fiscal year with 501,096 cases, that total expenditures for public assistance in the state will be $2.158 billion and that the state share of those expenditures will be $828.8 million. The conference also estimated that public assistance caseload for the 2009-10 fiscal year will be 512,683, with total expenditures of $2.212 billion at a state share of $848.6 million. The 2009-10 estimates represent a 3.2 increase in caseload and a 2.3 percent increase in costs to the state.

According to Thiele, the conference has also estimated the Medicaid rolls will increase by 2.8 percent in the current fiscal year – resulting in a total enrollment of 3.6 million individuals. The ways and means committee expects the state share for the current fiscal year to be $17.7 billion. They also estimate that enrollment for the 2009-10 fiscal year will rise 4.8 percent, for a total of 3.8 million individuals with a state share of $19.4 billion and a local cap of $965 million.

Additionally, the committee forecast state school aid to increase by en estimated $1.9 billion for the 2009-10 school year. The increase would bring total funding for annual state school aid to $23 billion. The estimate is based upon May data provided by the state education department.

The state division of the budget’s mid-year update projects that New York State is facing a $1.5 billion budget gap this year and a $12.5 billion budget gap next year. The minority conference fiscal analysis suggests the gap is likely to be $1.2 billion this year and $11.6 billion next year.

Nature Conservancy: Clam Population Recovering

The Nature Conservancy and Suffolk County today announced study results that show early signs of a recovery for the bay’s hard clam population.

Four years ago, The Nature Conservancy, backed by a wide range of public and private supporters, took a chance – embarking on a shellfish restoration to “make the Great South bay Great Again” by restoring its hard clam population.

Hard clams play a vital role in the bay, helping maintain water quality by filtering debris and plankton out of the water as they feed. At the start of this effort the Bay’s clam population was so low that in much of the bay they were no longer reproducing successfully.  To help boost natural reproduction, the Conservancy-led partnership added over three million adult clams to the Bay in the last four years, creating a network of over 50 sites, or sanctuaries, where adult clams could grow and reproduce without disturbance.

Carl LoBue, senior marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island said, “Our summer survey of the bay bottom revealed over 250 million juvenile clams which we believe to be offspring of the adult clams that we have been stocking in the Bay. That represents a 4,000 percent increase in the clam population of the central part of the bay since 2006. This is a very positive sign that we are on track towards meeting our restoration objectives. However recurring episodes of brown tide and natural predators are a continued threat. We must continue working with our partners to do what we can to ensure the continued success of this exciting restoration project.” 

Hard clams once were so abundant that Great South Bay supplied over 50 percent of the entire nation’s hard clams. Today the reported commercial harvest is down by more than 99 percent. Not only does the decline of shellfish have economic impacts, but water quality is also affected.  Chronic algal blooms (such as brown tide), which negatively impact marine life in the Great South Bay, have been linked to declining clam populations. Clams filter water and help keep the algae in control.

Inspired by its initial success, The Nature Conservancy will continue to work with partners on the Bluepoints Bottomlands Council on additional restoration activities, with the goal of eventually stepping back as nature takes over and the clams become self-sustaining.

Southampton Hospital: Recruits Genetic Counselor

Southampton Hospital is proud to announce the recruitment of the first Genetic Counselor to the East End of Long Island. Emily Smith, MS has joined Southampton Hospital this month to develop cancer counseling through genetic testing for ovarian and breast cancer (BRCA 1 & BRCA 2). She will serve as a resource for local physicians to explain the science of genetics, walk people through the decision of having a test and make recommendations on a case-by-case basis.

In the process of genetic counseling, family history and medical records are evaluated. At the patients request genetic tests are ordered and the results are assessed.  Counseling and psychological support are provided to enable the patient to reach a decision to learn more. 

Genetic counseling gives people an opportunity to sit down with a trained health professional to discuss their risk for a genetic disease and to help people learn more about the causes of genetic conditions and how they may be affected.

Previously, patients had to travel to Stony Brook Medical Center or Good Samaritan Hospital for genetic testing.

“I am anxious to provide this service to this great community, a service that many other parts of the country have had for more than 10 years,” said Smith.  She adds that the test results generally take approximately three-to-four weeks with a 99 percent level of accuracy.

“We plan to provide the state-of-the-art care that everyone deserves,” said Smith. 

Ms. Smith, a member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, is a graduate of Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois and has varied clinical experience in the Genetic Counseling field.  According to Frederic Weinbaum, MD, Chief Medical Officer, “Offering this new service to the community is indicative of Southampton Hospital’s direction.  We are striving to provide the most advanced medical care available and will continue in this direction with the communities support.”

Smith was hired to be working specifically within the Breast Health Center providing genetic counseling for ovarian and breast cancer but she hopes that the department will expand into other aspects of genetic counseling.  She also plans to hold an informational seminar on genetic counseling during the upcoming Health Insights lecture series this winter.

Additional information is available on the Hospital website at www.southamptonhospital.org or contact Emily Smith to schedule an appointment at 377-3477.