Tag Archive | "larry penny"

Shaw Named Natural Resources Director

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Kimberly Shaw was named the new director of the East Hampton Town’s Natural Resources Department at an East Hampton Town Board meeting on Thursday, March 8.

The Amagansett resident will replace Noyac resident Larry Penny, a decades-long employee of the town, no later than March 31, according to the resolution announcing her appointment.

Shaw has worked with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and with the town’s planning department. She will be paid $90,000 a year.

Plants, Animals Signify The Winter that Wasn’t

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purple-crocus

By Claire Walla


Is that? It can’t be… a purple crocus? In the middle of winter?!

Yes, it’s barely March, and June, it seems, is already bustin’ out all over.

According to Dee Yardley, Sag Harbor Village Superintendent of Public Works, the lack of snow and ice means the village is already shifting gears.

Rather than bringing out the snow plow, village crews are clipping branches and clearing leaves and debris from village roadways. And as far as he can tell, the weather still looks good at least through next week.

“We’re going to be ahead of schedule big time,” he noted.

The horticultural world is seeing a similar change of pace.

“I’ve been gardening all year long!” said Bridgehampton resident Paige Patterson, an avid gardener and garden consultant at Marder’s Nursery. “My garlic is up, so is my hellebore, and the daffodils are already six inches [tall],” she explained. Patterson went on to say she has two flowering trees in her yard, including a flowering Japanese apricot, which is already in bloom. “I have the most spectacular pink trees!”

Still, she added, “The most impressive thing is that my rose bush has new leaves on it… that’s crazy.”

She said rose bushes typically don’t sprout leaves until well into March, and hers had foliage in February.

According to Patterson, mild weather patterns will lead to a “gorgeous” spring — that is, if a cold snap doesn’t get in the way.

If a freak cold spell hits the East End while plants are starting to bud, Patterson said the blooms will get killed off. While most species of flower will regenerate and work toward re-blooming later in the season, she said the situation is not so sunny for hydrangeas.

The white, soft-serve-ice-cream-shaped Hydrangea Paniculata, will be able to weather the storm, but “Most hydrangeas only have one set of buds,” she explained, like the Nikko Blues that pepper the East End in the summer months.

“They set their flower buds in early August,” Patterson began. “The problem we first had was that [Tropical Storm Irene] defoliated everything. The salt air got on everything and all the leaves browned. So, most of the 2012 buds actually opened in 2011. The ones that didn’t are opening now.”

Because these flowers do not regenerate growth as readily as other flowers, Patterson said any freezing cold weather at this point could potentially kill-off the blue Nikko Hydrangeas for the season.

As for the climate we’ll be privy to in the spring, that much remains to be seen. What Patterson, and others, are already predicting with some degree of certainty, however, concerns another aspect of gardening: pests.

“I think we’re going to have a really bad bug year,” Patterson added. “I’m really stressed about that.”

According to Geoffrey Nimmer of East End Garden Design, the relatively warm weather combined with the lack of moisture we’ve experienced this year combine to create a recipe not only for more bugs, but for fungi.

“Fungi that lives in the ground and affects roses and some flowering trees are usually kept at least somewhat in check by a good hard freeze,” Nimmer wrote in an email. “I think it will be particularly hard on turf, both because of the fungus issue and because there will be more grubs closer to the roots of lawns earlier in the season.”

According to the circle of life, Nimmer continued, grubs mean moles and moles very often bring voles. And neither vermin happen to be good for vegetation.

And unfortunately, as many of us know, certain warm-weather pests are not restricted to the gardening arena.

Former East Hampton Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny, who lives in Noyac, said this year’s weather conditions could have created a big year for everyone’s favorite summertime arachnid: the tick.

“Just last Wednesday I got an adult female deer tick on me,” Penny said. “That’s the earliest I’ve ever seen them in winter.”

In the vein of springtime annoyances, Sag Harbor resident Lester Ware said he’s already started taking allergy medicine, a spring-time routine he began this year mid-February.

“It’s as early as I’ve ever taken it,” he exclaimed, saying he usually begins taking meds late-March.

According to Dr. Richard Nass — an ear, nose and throat doctor with offices in Amagansett — these early sneezes may not have a direct correlation to pollen count, at least not yet. He said biometric pressure changes that occur when the seasons shift initially cause nose and throat membranes to get agitated.

However, he added, this may just be the beginnings of more successive sneezes.

“In the long term, it’s been a wet season, so the root systems of plants have done very well,” he continued. So, in that sense, “we would expect it to be a bad allergy season.”

For his part, Penny has seen a lot of seasons come and go, and this one, he noted, is very odd indeed.

“This is the most unusual winter I’ve experienced in 76 years,” said Penny, referencing influential paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson who coined a theory he referred to as “sweepstakes,” which deals with random moments in evolution.

As Penny explained it, “Things come and go according to the season, but there’s always the chance that something unusual will happen to change the whole direction of evolution and nature.”

This year, reproductive rates are already up, Penny added, and with such warm weather fostering many throughout the winter, he said many species might grow even more.

“One group that’s going to really go sky high is the turkeys, they’re all over the place.” Penny continued. “And because the numbers are so high to begin with, when they get a little extra food from [more] vegetation and insects they’ll go hog wild.”

He predicted that the East End could be in the midst of a so-called “sweepstakes.”

Although, he said, cold weather would throw a wrench in the spokes. And, you never know, it could very well snow in June.

Hearing Officer Hired in Larry Penny Case

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On Tuesday, the East Hampton Town Board appointed Eileen Powers, an attorney out of Riverhead, to serve as the hearing officer in a disciplinary case town attorney John Jilnicki has brought against longtime Natural Resources Department Director Larry Penny.

Penny, a Noyac resident who was suspended two weeks ago without pay, could face termination depending on the findings during the hearing.

According to the town board resolution, Powers will be paid $750 per day. She will be charged with reviewing the case and making a recommendation to the town board on Penny’s fate, according to the town board resolution approving her hire. No date had been set for the hearing by Tuesday afternoon.

Penny, a decades long town employee and Natural Resources director, faces 16 charges of misconduct and incompetence, mostly relating to the alleged storage of animal carcasses on town property.

East Hampton Town Board Suspends Natural Resources Director; Looking at Termination

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larry-penny

The East Hampton Town Board has suspended its Natural Resources Director, Noyac resident Larry Penny, following a hearing on charges of “misconduct,” “incompetence” and “insubordination” levied against the decades-long town employee.

Last Wednesday, East Hampton Town Attorney John Jilnicki served Penny with 16 disciplinary charges and suspended him for 30 days without pay.

“If you are found guilty of the above charges, the penalty or punishment imposed upon you may consist of dismissal from the town, demotion in grade or title, suspension without pay, a fine or reprimand,” wrote Jilnicki. “Please be advised that the proposed penalty is termination.”

All 16 charges stem from Penny’s alleged storage of animal carcasses in the basement of the natural resources department, as well as formaldehyde, Penny’s management over clearing projects within the town, keeping permits in place, and his administration of the natural resources department.

Penny has until today, Thursday, to file a response to the claims if he chooses. After that, a hearing will be set that will determine his fate. If unsatisfied with the outcome, Penny could always choose to bring the matter to a higher court of law.

On Monday, Penny’s attorney, Thomas Horn, Jr. Esq. — a Sag Harbor resident — questioned why the town would choose to suspend Penny without pay when it could have moved forward with the hearing regardless of whether he was suspended. That this occurred during the holiday season for a non-union employee — one without access to free legal representation — Horn called “Grinch-like.”

Horn also noted that it appeared the town board was taking just a handful of alleged incidents in bringing these charges against Penny, rather than looking at the whole of his almost 30-year tenure with the town. He also said that he questioned whether or not the town board had specific policies in place that back up their charges against Penny.

According to the complaint, in September of 2011, it was discovered Penny had been storing “various animal carcasses and/or parts in a basement storage room.”

The complaint states that the East Hampton Town Supervisor emailed Penny on September 15 asking for an immediate plan to dispose of the animal remains. Without a plan from Penny, the town retained an outside contractor to do the work, states Jilnicki. However, it was his failure to comply with a supervisor’s directive to submit a plan that constitutes insubordination, or misconduct on Penny’s part, states the complaint.

In the second charge of insubordination, the complaint states that on October 6 Jilnicki sent a directive to Penny asking the remains be removed, which was also not heeded.

The third charge — for misconduct — states that Penny did not have permission to keep the animal carcasses on town property and that they were not necessary for him to complete his job as natural resources director. That charge is specifically for Penny’s conduct, and the “improper collection and/or storage of animal remains.”

Penny is charged with incompetence for allegedly storing the animals “without proper safeguards to protect others from noxious odors and possible contact with such remains and any pathogens such remains may host.”

He is also charged with misconduct by the town for “unauthorized use and/or storage of formaldehyde” on town property without permission, and for the way the formaldehyde was stored, which the complaint states was not in compliance with proper rules laid out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as the state, including exposure monitoring. That, says, Jilnicki, put the town under potential liability for non-compliance. For the same reasons another charge of incompetence was levied against Penny.

While Penny did in fact have permits in place for the collection of animals, according to the complaint, some of those permits were no longer current, also putting the town in potential liability.

In addition to the storage of animals, the complaint also references permits the town earned from Suffolk County to remove vegetation at the Barbara Hale Preserve in Springs. The complaint charges that Penny — in violation of these permits — authorized the removal of trees by mechanical means and permitted a private contractor to take the trees without town or county approval.

It also points to a state grant the town earned for East Hampton Harbor Habitat Restoration, which in part required the removal of 15 acres of Phragmites. According to the complaint, that has not been completed to date and Jilnicki also points to an alleged clearing on Squaw Road where Penny did not complete a full investigation as another form of misconduct.

Lastly, he is charged twice with failure to supervise his department and one charge of failing to perform his duties as Natural Resources Director.

Penny has led the department for 26 years.

“Larry Penny has been conducting himself the same way this year as he has done for the past several administrations, including the first two years of this administration,” said Horn. “He has used his independent judgment, which is part of the job of a department head. His job is to implement board policy and local law. His job is also to run his department.”

Horn added that if the town board had implemented a policy specific to the situation, Penny would have been obligated, and happy, to follow that town law or risk termination. However, without a policy in place, said Horn, it is up to the department head’s judgment.

“But to get into the cab and steer rather than point the way is I suppose a way to go, but it is not the way government is supposed to work,” said Horn.

Horn said he did not want to discuss the specifics of the case, simply because he and Penny were still going over the claims with very little time on their side.

“We are open to solving this and having Larry continue on as a department head and implement the policies the board sets in place,” said Horn. “He wants nothing more than to be an effective department head in a job he has really cared about for a number of years.”

Word Has It Tick Numbers Are Up

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tick-1

By Claire Walla

What’s small, black, and has the potential to give you up to a dozen different diseases?

Chances are, if you live on the East End, you didn’t even have to progress past the first four words of that sentence to come to the answer.

Ticks.

And according to numerous accounts, the presence of this poppy seed-size insect is more bountiful this year than last.

Though ticks are prevalent around the world, East Hampton Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny said one of the reasons they flourish in this area has to do with geography.

“When you add up all the mammals and birds, there are an awful lot of animals out here per square foot,” Penny explained.

Though it also has to do with nature.

“It’s mainly a predator/prey cycle thing,” Penny explained.  “It has to do with the population of the mammals that [ticks] live on,” he said.  “The deer, vole and raccoon populations are really high this year.”

Especially vole. Penny said the population for this small mouse-like rodent has “sky-rocketed” ever since the fox population began to decline on the East End.

“They’re almost at a record high out here,” he added.

Such news is certainly unpleasant to those who cringe at any noted upsurge in the bug population, but it’s more universally unsettling when it comes to issues of public health.

There are three tick varieties known to live on the East End, and each can carry what’s known as Lyme disease, an ailment that can affects the central nervous system and — if left untreated — can bring-on symptoms that are similar in characteristics to arthritis, multiple sclerosis and ALS.

Larry Penny is no stranger to Lyme.

“It starts with an achiness here or there, then your head gets foggy,” explained Penny, who was stricken with the disease after being bitten by a tick while working in the field.  “I had a strong central nervous system, but it affected my memory and my judgment.”

By Penny’s estimate, at least 50 percent of the population of the East End has been bitten by a tick — either a deer tick (the most prevalent), dog tick (the largest size-wise) or Lone Star tick. Penny added that about 40 percent of them are thought to carry the spirochete that causes Lyme disease.

If detected early enough, the disease can be combated with a dose of antibiotics.

But, Penny added that some people can contract a-symptomatic Lyme disease, in which the bacteria will lay dormant in the body until months, or even years down the road.

Penny told of a woman he knew who was bitten by a tick at age 14 and thought nothing of it until — 15 years later — she started to exhibit long-term symptoms of the disease.  Only after a spinal tap did she discover she had Lyme, and by that point she needed intravenous treatments and antibiotics.

“Those are the worst,” he said, “because you might not treat them until you’re in bad shape.”

Having originated in Texas, Penny said the Lone Star tick is the most recent to have been discovered in the area.  Based on the results of a process called “flagging for ticks” — during which a piece of cloth is dragged through foliage, theoretically collecting ticks along the way — Penny said in 1993 this species was only found to exist in Montauk and on Gardiner’s Island.

“But by 2000, they were pretty much all over East Hampton,” he added.

“It’s very fast in its movements compared to the deer tick,” Penny continued, adding that the Lone Star is distinguished from deer and dog ticks by the white dot on its back.  Whereas the deer tick is rarely found in foliage above the knee, the Lone Star Tick can climb four or five feet high, Penny added.

“It’s a real scrambler,” he said.

In addition to Lyme, ticks can spread other diseases like Babesiosis and West Nile Virus.

“It always amazes me that people are more worried about West Nile disease — which we have seen out here, but is very rare — as opposed to Lyme disease,” Penny added.

Part of the problem with Lyme, said East Hampton resident and author Jay McInerney, is that the blood tests meant to detect the disease aren’t always accurate.

“Both of my kids have been diagnosed with Lyme disease,” McInerney said. “And unfortunately, they weren’t diagnosed early enough.”

McInerney said his son and daughter (twins) both got tick bites around age 14, and when they were tested for Lyme, the results came back negative. It wasn’t until two years later, when symptoms began to crop up, that his children first began seeking medical attention.

He said his children have missed about a year of school in the process of getting the diagnosis. Having traveled throughout New York and New Jersey seeking medical help, he added that “Lyme-literate” doctors are hard to come by on the East End.

“The tests seem to be only semi-reliable,” McInerney continued. “For anyone who goes through the standard protocol of two weeks of antibiotics and still has symptoms, you’re operating in a mysterious area after that.”

Stacey Sobel is the executive director of an organization called Turn the Corner, whose sole purpose is to educate people about the presence of ticks and the consequences of tick bites. The organization maintains a website where people can read about Lyme disease and solicit advice. A big part of Turn the Corner’s mission is also to educate doctors around the world on how to detect early signs of Lyme, and other tick-born illnesses.  So far, Sobel said about 100 doctors have been trained in the U.S.

“Ticks carry multiple bacteria,” she explained. In addition to Lyme, there are at least 11 other diseases that can be contracted from the small black bugs.

For this reason, East End physician Dr. Joseph Burrascano calls ticks “nature’s dirty needles.”

Though he closed his practice about three years ago, Dr. Burrascano still educates doctors and communities about the potential harms and preventative measure associated with ticks.

“It’s very controversial,” Dr. Burrascano said of Lyme disease. “In the early state of Lyme’s, it takes four or more weeks for the bacteria to show. And because the blood test currently looks for a person’s reaction to the disease — rather than the actual Lyme bacteria itself — the results can be spotty.

“If you’ve never had Lyme before, the chance of a false positive is about five percent,” he said. However, he added that one’s blood work can still come out positive “sometimes for months, or sometimes for years,” even if the bacteria is gone.

“The trick is to find it early and treat it,” Dr. Burrascano said. “If you really think it’s Lyme, take the antibiotic. Get some treatment going early. A doctor can give you a week’s supply of medicine [while waiting for the results of blood work],” he continued.

As for Sobel, she added, “People need to be educated and aware. The longer it goes untreated, the sicker you can get.”

The best method of prevention, as far as Sobel’s concerned, is taking proactive measures to avoid tick bites in the first place. She and Penny both caution East End residents to wear long clothing when traveling though tall grasses, and try not to brush up against any kind of foliage. And most important: check yourself after being outside.

Since his children came down with the disease, McInerney said ticks have been high on his radar.

“It’s not just my kids, I have a lot of friends who have been affected by ticks. It’s tough if you’re a pet lover. I actually know people who sold their houses and left this area [because of ticks],” McInerney noted.

But, he added, he has no plans to move anytime soon.

“I check myself really carefully, I don’t really go in the woods this time of year, we treat our lawn (by keeping it really short) … and I try not to rub up against any brush,” he explained. “For better or worse, I don’t feel entirely disillusioned with my environment.”

A screening of the award-winning documentary “Under Our Skin” will take place on Sunday, June 26 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Vared Gallery in East Hampton.  A Q&A with Turn the Corner Executive Director Stacey Sobel and Dr. Leo Galland and Dr. Jeffrey Morrison (medical specialists on Lyme disease) will immediately follow.

Spotting Eagles

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eagle cropped

It’s unusual, but not rare, to spot an immature eagle in the skies over the East End. In fact there have been sightings of the big birds from Amagansett to the East Hampton Airport to Noyac Bay in the past few months.

But it is extremely rare to see a fully mature bald eagle.

Greg Boeklan of Sag Harbor spotted one last week and took the photo above.

The eagle was in the field on the east side of Route 114 just south of Steven Hands Path in East Hampton, eyeing a piece of meat a crow was loudly defending. We don’t know the outcome of the confrontation; but we can guess.

There are about two or three eagle sightings a year on the East End, said Larry Penny, director of natural resources for East Hampton Town. The vast majority of those sightings are the younger, or immature eagles, identified by their predominantly gray-brown color. The younger ones, said Penny, are more adventurous and prone to explore more.

It isn’t until an eagle becomes four or five years old that it gets darker body feathers and its distinctive white — or bald — head. Of all the eagle sightings, only one in about 15 is of a fully mature eagle, said Penny.

The eagles seen here are spotted generally during the winter and for the most part are passing through.

“How long they stay depends on the pickings,” said Penny, noting the birds can be scavengers, surviving on road kill. They are also great fishers, which makes up most of their diet, and will catch fish the way an osprey will.

They are rarely seen by the side of the road, as other scavengers might be, but will feed on deer, for example, that have hobbled off into the woods after being wounded or hit by a car. There has not been a nesting pair on Long Island since the 1930s, said Penny, when a nest was seen on Gardiner’s Island.

But Penny was optimistic for a comeback, noting the increased number of sightings locally and the increase in the eagle population in general.

“We know it’s going to happen; I mean they’ve nested here before,” he said.


A Declining Deer Harvest in Recent Years

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Larry Penny, the East Hampton Town’s director of Natural Resources said that in 2006, the East Hampton Group for Wildlife did the first ever deer count for East Hampton Town. The group found there were 3,293 deer in the 69.7 square miles area of East Hampton. The number of deer harvested that year, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), was 444. The following year, the number of deer harvested dropped to 390, with approximately five deer taken per square mile.

On Tuesday, the office of the Town Clerk of East Hampton, did a count of permits issued for access to town property for use of firearms for deer hunting. In their findings, it was reported in 2008, there were 92 permits issued for access to town property for use of firearms for deer hunting. This year, just two days into the season, 82 people have applied for these types of permits.

Aphrodite Montalvo, the Citizen Participation Specialist for the DEC, said the deer population in eastern Suffolk has actually declined over the past three years largely due to enhanced harvest of female deer, reduced natural food availability due to poor acorn production and severe winter weather. According to the DEC’s reports, the number of deer harvested in Southampton Town’s 142.2 square miles, was 462 in 2007 and 532 in 2006.

The DEC reports that there are roughly 4,000 to 6,000 deer on huntable land in Suffolk County. According to the DEC website, there were 850 bucks [deer with antlers] killed in Suffolk County in 2006 and a total of 2,357 deer killed overall. In 2007, however, those numbers were reduced and 2,159 deer were harvested overall and 781 bucks were harvested in the county.

For the 2008-2009 hunting season, there are approximately 360 residents in East Hampton with sporting licenses that include big game, such as deer, according to the DEC. And in Southampton Town, there are a total of 305 residents with sporting licenses.

“In areas open to hunting, the population of deer generally remains stable,” Mantavlo noted.