Tag Archive | "Long Island"

Barking and Basking, The Seals Return to Montauk for the Winter

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A harbor seal sunning on the jetty at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. (Photo by Tessa Raebeck).

A harbor seal sunning on the jetty at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. (Photo by Tessa Raebeck).

By Tessa Raebeck

While most visitors to Montauk’s beaches come only in the summer months, at least one group prefers to spend the off-season basking in the sun. Harbor seals, once hunted as bounty and nearly depleted in the Northeast, are now abundant on the East End each winter.

Most of the seals in local waters are harbor seals, but grey, hooded, ringed and harp seals have also been spotted. The East Hampton Trails Preservation Society hopes to see at least one type of seal this Saturday, at a guided two and a half mile hike that weaves through a wooded trail along the bluffs in Montauk and ends, ideally, with a display of seals sunning themselves by the shore.

Several Northeast states enacted seal bounty programs in the late 1800s, and substantial catching and hunting contributed to a severe depletion of the seal population in local waters. A bounty program in Massachusetts existed until 1962.

Ten years later in 1972, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act largely prohibited the “take” of marine mammals in U.S. waters or by U.S. citizens anywhere.

The seal population began to recover following its passage, according to Gordon Waring, who leads the seal program at NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

The number of seals on the Long Island shore has continued to rise.

Dr. Arthur Kopelman, field biologist and president of the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI), has tracked changes in seal species, abundance and distribution in the Long Island Sound since 1995.

“What I’ve seen is a dramatic increase in population of harbor seals,” Kopelman said last week.

Harbor seals, Dr. Kopelman said, come down to New York from areas further North and usually stay from September to May, with the population generally peaking in late March in Westhampton Beach, his current area of research.

They have a cute, dog-like appearance and when flared, their nostrils resemble a cartoon heart. About six feet long, harbor seals are various shades of blue-gray, white or brown and covered in speckled spots.

If you’ve seen a seal on the East End, chances are it was a harbor seal.

They represent 95 percent of local seals. Dr. Kopelman counted 55 seals in Westhampton just last week, the vast majority of which were harbor seals.

Montauk has more grey seals than Westhampton, the population ecologist said, although the majority are still harbor seals. He has seen the rocks in Montauk filled with hundreds of barking seals in the past.

If harbor seals look like dogs, grey seals look like horses. Grey seals, larger and more aggressive with long faces and large snouts, account for four percent of the local seal population.

Adult males can weigh as much as 700 pounds; double the size of adult male harbor seals.

Dr. Kopelman said according to anecdotal evidence, the grey seal population in local waters is increasing. Typically classified as seasonal visitors like harbor seals, it appears grey seals – like many before them – have become attached to the area and are staying on the East End year round.

“In fact,” Dr. Kopelman said, “there are some folks who seem to indicate that there’s a year round presence of grey seals out here. Although, again, that’s somewhat anecdotal – but probably correct.”

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation has rescued and rehabilitated many newborn seals recently, but it is not officially confirmed the pups were born in the area.

According to Dr. Kopelman, female harbor seals are often pregnant while here but typically head back North before giving birth to their pups, which can swim minutes after being born. It is “likely,” however, that grey seals are giving birth locally.

The remaining one percent of local seals – harp, hooded and ringed seals – come from as far north as the Arctic.

“They are less frequently encountered,” said Dr. Kopelman, “but they are encountered.”

The Seal Haul Out Hike will take place on Saturday, December 28 at 10 a.m. at Camp Hero Road in Montauk. For more information, contact Eva Moore at the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society at (631) 238-5134 or sharstat@yahoo.com.

South Fork Gas Prices Drop

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.  announced late last week his most recent survey of gasoline prices. According to that survey, South Fork prices have declined $0.08 since the last survey late in October.

Long Island prices have increased by $0.09 cents during the same period. South Fork prices are now $0.03 cents above the state and Long Island average. South Fork gas prices were $0.20 cents higher than the Long Island average in October. That differential has decreased by $0.17 cents since October when it was $0.20 cents.

The Automobile Association of America (AAA) provides for a regional survey on New York State gasoline prices. However, there is no survey solely for the South Fork. Thiele’s survey also includes prices in western Southampton along Montauk Highway.

“The average price for East Hampton and Southampton along Montauk Highway excluding Amagansett and Montauk is now $3.69,” said Thiele.  “The average price for Amagansett and Montauk is $4.09. A gallon of gas on the North Fork is now about $3.59. The LI average is $3.66 and the State average is $3.66.”

East End Winemakers Call 2013 Best Vintage Yet

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Grapes being picked at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead. Photo by John Neely.

Grapes being picked at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead. Photo by John Neely.

By Tessa Raebeck

As if anyone needed another reason to drink wine, the 2013 vintage is the best local winemakers on both forks have ever seen.

“It’s really spectacular,” said Roman Roth, winemaker for the Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack. “You hear about these fabled vintages like ’76 and ’45 – this is one that we have.”

“The entire East End is producing great wines,” agreed winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez of Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead.

Winemakers were nervous last spring, when May was a particularly rainy month and June was the second wettest on record. They soon found their worry was preemptive.

“Then came the most fantastic summer,” said Roth. A heat wave in July followed by a generally dry, long summer helped the winemakers to overcome the wet spring.

The summer was good, but the fall was better.

“What almost always makes a fine harvest – an excellent harvest – is a sunny, dry fall,” explained Larry Perrine, winemaker at Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton. “It doesn’t have to be hot, but it’s sunny and dry. And basically from Labor Day on, it didn’t rain. It rained the day after Labor Day and then it didn’t rain for the next seven weeks.”

The dry weather moves the ripening schedule of the fruit forward, preventing any rot. Because the fall was dry without being too hot, the tender varieties were not adversely affected. The yields were substantial and the quality superior across the board, ensuring that the 2013 vintage is excellent for whites, rosés and reds.

“All conditions were great,” said Lisa Freedman, a PR representative for Martha Clara Vineyards, “as far as weather and Mother Nature – and there were no hurricanes.”

Regions renowned for wine, such as Friuli, Italy or Bordeaux, France, have heavy rainfall during the growing season and a dry end of season. This year, the East End of Long Island got a taste of that perfect wine weather.

2010 previously held the crown as the best year in local winemakers’ memory and 2012 was also a landmark year, but it just keeps getting better, they say.

“There’s a lot of great wines up in the pipeline,” said Roth. “But it will all be topped by this 2013 – that’s for sure.”

The sun rises over the harvest at Wölffer Estate Winery in Sagaponack.

The sun rises over the harvest at Wölffer Estate Winery in Sagaponack.

Since he started making wine in 1982, Roth has seen maybe three lots (batches separated by varietal, date picked or vineyard section) “that are really special” each year.

“But this year,” he said. “We have thirty lots. The lots came in with the highest color, the deepest color, so it’s an amazing opportunity where you have lots of options for great wines.”

The first 2013 wines released will be the rosés in the early spring, followed fairly quickly by the aromatic, fresh white wines, such as sauvignon blancs. Fermented in stainless steel and bottled early, those white wines will be released by the spring or summer of 2014. Other whites fermented in oak, like Chardonnays, could take as long as 2015.

The reds take the longest, spending at least a year in the cellar. Channing Daughters is just now bottling its 2012 reds, so 2013 reds won’t be available for over a year, most likely two. At Wölffer, the top 2013 reds won’t be released until 2016. As Roth said, “good wine takes time.”

The goal of the North Fork’s Lenz Winery in Peconic is to release wine that “will be among the very best of its type, made anywhere in the world.”

Several years ago, that would have been a bold claim for a Long Island winery to make, but these days, it appears to be quite realistic.

Micieli-Martinez calls it the “Napa-fication” of Long Island’s wine industry, referring to the initial disregard of Napa Valley wines. It was believed California couldn’t compete with French and Italian wines, but today Napa Valley is considered to be one of the world’s premier wine regions.

“I think it contributes to the growing really positive perception…of the quality of Long Island wines and of New York wines in general,” Perrine said of the 2013 harvest. “It does improve steadily the reputation of the wines as being first-rate, world class wines.”

“It’s truly a special year,” the 30-year winemaker continued. “We’ll always remember.”

“It’s just perfect,” said Roth. “It’s a dream come true, basically.”

Plum Island: Sitting Duck

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By Karl Grossman

The National Research Council issued a report this month identifying “a number of deficiencies” in an “updated risk assessment” done by the federal government for the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) it wants to build in Kansas to replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center just off Long Island.

Congressman Tim Bishop, who has been challenging the project, issued a statement praising the report because “it bolsters” his view “that building NBAF in America’s agricultural heartland…is unacceptably risky.” He cited “the potentially devastating consequences of a release of the most virulent animal diseases in the heart of cattle country.” The Southampton Democrat also cited, as he has repeatedly, “the jobs of over 100 Long Islanders” threatened by the closure of the Plum Island center, and the NBAF’s $1 billion cost.

Randy Altschuler, a St. James Republican now in a second run to replace Mr. Bishop, although differing with him on most issues, on this agreed. He said in an interview last week that building the NBAF in Kansas to replace the Plum Island center “doesn’t make any sense.”

The National Research Council report, done by a variety of experts in veterinary medicine, engineering and other fields, said the “updated risk assessment” was an improvement over a 2010 “version.” But it still “underestimates the risk of an accidental pathogen release.” It said “the updated probabilities of release are based on overly optimistic and unsupported estimates of human-error rates” and “low estimates of infectious material available for release.”  Of great concern is the impact of a release on the many livestock, notably cattle, in the region. The malady on which most research on Plum Island is done, to be taken over by the NBAF, is foot-and-mouth disease which affects cattle.

But a release from Plum Island could impact on the many people in this region — and there have been releases at the Plum Island center. While Kansas is a center for cattle-raising in the United States, Plum Island is in close proximity to a national center of human population — a mile-and-a-half off the North Fork of Long Island with crowded Long Island and then New York City to its west, Connecticut, Rhode Island and then Boston to its north, .

Untrue is the claim — repeated this month by CBS News’ “Sunday Morning” which presented a segment on Plum Island — that there isn’t a link between diseases studied there and people. CBS reported that “the government says the germs stored on the island only affect animals.”

As noted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its 2003 report about the danger of terrorism and the Plum Island center, a camel pox strain researched at it could be converted into “an agent as threatening as smallpox,” and the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus worked on could be “developed into a human biowarfare agent.” The GAO declared that there is a substantial risk that “an adversary might try to steal pathogens” from Plum Island and use them against people or animals in the U.S. Further, it said, the center “was not designed to be a highly secure facility.”

And it can never be. Plum Island sits exposed amid busy marine traffic lanes. The main Plum Island laboratory sits astride a beach.

Moreover, the Plum Island center has been on the target list of al Qaeda. In 2010, Aafia Siddiqui, dubbed “Lady al Qaeda,” was convicted in Manhattan of attempted murder. Among the documents in her possession when she was captured in Afghanistan in 2008 were hand-written notes about a “mass-casualty attack” and targets including: the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty—and the Plum Island center. Also found with Pakistan-born Dr. Siddiqui (who has a doctorate in neuroscience from MIT) were jars of poisonous chemicals and details on chemical, biological and radiological weapons. A relative of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, she was found guilty of trying to kill Americans who came to question her. In 2002, U.S. Army commandos and CIA agents found a dossier on the Plum Island center in a raid on the Afghanistan residence of nuclear physicist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, an associate of Osama bin Laden.

Plum Island is a sitting duck for terrorists. That’s a major reason why the Department of Homeland Security, which after 9/11 took over running the center from the Department of Agriculture, wants it replaced by the NBAF. But can’t the proposed NBAF be put in a highly-secure location that is not in a center of cattle or of people?

Long Island: One State…Three Counties, Not One County

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By Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

Government can be too small, but it can also be too big.

During the Great Recession we have looked for chances to consolidate government where it would be more efficient. We should be equally diligent in looking at government entities that have become too large, expensive and unaccountable. The perfect example is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) which seems to constantly cost more and more in taxes and provide less and less in service. We would be better served on Long Island by the break up of the MTA into smaller more efficient and accountable units.

This brings me to the recent proposal by the Long Island Association (LIA) to study the concept of consolidating Suffolk and Nassau County into one county to be known as Long Island County. While I never oppose the concept of a study, this just seems inherently to be a bad idea.

First, from the perspective of the East End, if you think County government is already too big and far away and indifferent to our region, how can doubling its size and moving the center of power even further to the west be a good thing? Attempting to address the unique needs of the rural East End with its farms, fishing and tourist based economy would be that much harder as part of a county that would have more than 2.8 million people. If there were a 22 member Long Island County Legislature, the East End would have one member.

From a broader perspective, County government was not meant to serve 2.8 million people. It is local government. Nassau and Suffolk are already the two largest counties in the State outside of New York City, which does not have County government. Thirty-nine of New York’s 57 counties outside of New York City have 150,000 people or less. This new mega-county would become just as large, inefficient, and unaccountable as the MTA.

If we really want to improve government efficiency on Long Island, we should pursue the concept of the State of Long Island with three counties, Nassau, Suffolk and Peconic. State Senator Ken LaValle and I are the sponsors of A.1406/S.1453 which would establish a bi-county commission to study the feasibility of the State of Long Island, and A.2082/S.1312 which would establish a procedure for the creation of Peconic County.

Long Island is larger in area than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware. Our population is larger than 19 states. For the years 2002-2004, Long Islanders paid $8.1 billion in State taxes and received back only $5.2 billion.

As for Peconic County, it was confirmed long ago, that smaller Peconic County could better focus County resources on East End needs and reduce the County share of the property tax by 50 percent.

Admittedly, the creation of new states or counties of any sort is a long shot in the current climate. Nevertheless, it is always a fruitful exercise to focus attention on the East End as we fight for our share of government resources on the Federal, State, or County level.

However, let’s focus on what alternatives provide more efficient government. Bigger is not always better.

Thiele Secures East End Forum on Stimulating the Local Economy

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This summer, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of regional councils statewide that will vie for funding for projects aimed at stimulating local economies.

And New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. wants to ensure the East End gets its own fair shake at the funding.

After issuing a statement last week with New York State Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Dan Losquadro calling for the Long Island Regional Economic Council to host a public forum on the East End, Thiele’s request was quickly approved by the Governor’s office.

On Wednesday morning, Thiele announced that the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council — one of 10 councils in the state charged with creating economic plans for their regions — will host an East End forum. The event will take place October 3 at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center on East Main Street in Riverhead.

A time for the forum has yet to be announced, said Thiele.

Asking for the special session, said Thiele on Wednesday, was an effort to ensure the East End’s needs don’t get lost in the shuffle as the region’s economy differs from the remainder of Long Island.

“The regional council hosted public forums in Nassau County and the council had one in Melville, in western Suffolk, but we haven’t had one on the East End and they don’t call Long Island ‘long’ for nothing,” said Thiele.

So far, he said, the regional council has heard from communities that are largely suburban and densely populated, while the East End remains an agricultural Mecca, with an economy tied to the fishing industry and certainly, tourism and second homeowners.

“They are different issues at hand here, but no less important,” said Thiele.

At the forum, he said he expects local chambers of commerce to attend, as well as the Long Island Farm Bureau and the Long Island Wine Council, as well as representatives from the commercial and charter boat fishing industries.

“I just want to make sure our part of this region doesn’t get ignored, and I have to say, the governor’s office has been completely responsive to our requests.

Thiele has also asked the Long Island Development Council to revive the East End Economic and Environmental Task Force first created by Governor Mario Cuomo in 1994 to come up with new economic strategies for the East End.

Additionally, Thiele said he believes the council should consider specific policy initiatives, which could improve the East End economy, focusing on transportation, education, agriculture, fishing and the tourism industries.

Specifically, he would like the council to revive the repaving of Route 27 from County Road 39 to Montauk, and wants the council to explore the institution of a five town coordinated rail/bus shuttle system. Thiele also advocated the re-opening of the Southampton campus under the State University of New York (SUNY) banner, as well as the creation of a Regional Sustainability Institute.

To promote local farming and fishing industries, Thiele called the elimination of what he called “excessive paperwork” for local wineries and the promotion of aquaculture in general. He also called for state advocacy to revise fishing quotas that he deemed unfair for New York fishermen.

Thiele also said the council should revive a commitment in investing in land preservation and environmental infrastructure to protect the tourism and second homeowner industry, create a sales tax exemption at the pump for commercial fishermen and charter boats and revise the Resident State Income Tax on second homeowners.

All of these initiatives, argued Thiele, will benefit the East End economy as a whole.

Locals Feel the Earth Move During 3.9 Quake

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Image credited to the U.S. Geological Survey.

By Kathryn G. Menu

Around 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning, public relations consultant Robbie Vorhaus was sitting in his office at his North Haven home when his house began to shake.

His wife, Candace, didn’t feel the rumbling from beneath and passed it off as “just a truck on Ferry Road.”

In fact, Vorhaus was correct in his initial feeling that the ruckus “came from inside the earth,” as many residents on the East End reported what the United States Geological Survey confirmed: that a 3.9 magnitude earthquake occurred 135-miles south southeast from Southampton in the Atlantic Ocean.

Vorhaus, who responded to the United States Geological Survey’s request for information from those who felt the quake, said he was queried to whether he was scared or excited about the experience.

“I was definitely excited,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience.”

Over 1,000 people across Long Island and into New Jersey and Connecticut reported feeling the tremors to the United States Geological Survey as of Tuesday afternoon.

Five people responded from Montauk, 14 from East Hampton, six from Sag Harbor, and 18 from Southampton. According to a dispatcher with the East Hampton Town Police, that agency received just one call about the quake, which they forwarded to Southampton Town Police believing that agency was handling the breadth of calls revolving around the incident as that township was expected to feel the quake more than residents in East Hampton.

Kathleen Vonatzski, a dispatcher with Southampton Town Police, said that as of Tuesday afternoon she had received just two calls, but that the Hampton Bays police station shook for seven solid seconds when the quake hit the area.

No injuries or damages have been reported as a result of the quake.

“Most people didn’t even feel it,” said Vonatzski.

Some did, however. Bonnie Hoye of Southampton reported feeling the tremor, as did East Hampton’s Jeanie Strong, who lives in Springs. Strong said there was no damage to her home, but that the residence shook, dishes rattled and her young son was scared by the incident.

Adam Flax, a resident of Northwest Woods in East Hampton said he was getting ready to leave his house between 10:30 and 11 a.m. when he decided to turn down his thermostat to save fuel.

“A second after I hit the button there was this rumble, which didn’t seem normal when you are shutting the heater down,” said Flax. “So I walked around kind of startled and thinking something must be wrong with the boiler, but it is a new boiler. I contemplated going downstairs, but nothing was amiss so I left.”

Later, Flax ran into a friend who asked him about the earthquake.

“Then I realized, that’s what it must have been,” he said.

According to the Lamont-Doherty Cooperative Seismographic Network of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the quake occurred some five kilometers under the seabed, where an underwater canyon carved by the Hudson River drops off the continental slope and into deeper waters.

The United States Geological Survey reported that the earthquake was widely, but lightly felt, according to the network, and was felt at least from Toms River, New Jersey to outside of Boston, with many reports coming from Long Island.

According to Kevin Krajick, senior science writer for The Earth Institute at Columbia University, there was no indication a tsunami was generated as a result of the quake.

According to research compiled by the Earth Institute team, the area the quake originated from has produced at least five tremors in the last 20 years, including a magnitude 4.2 quake in 1992.

The State of Media

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By Karl Grossman

Media in the United States have been undergoing huge changes—and that goes for Long Island, too. Jaci Clement, executive director of the Fair Media Council and a former Newsday reporter and editor, outlined changes that have happened here at the annual meeting earlier this month of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System.

The biggest has to do with Newsday. Long Island’s only daily newspaper has “closed all foreign bureaus,” noted Ms. Clement’s PowerPoint presentation, cut its news staffs in Washington, Albany and on Long Island, increased use of Associated Press wire copy and “merged operations with News12.”

Commenting afterwards, Ms. Clement said the “basic premise” of Newsday now “is to be a local paper.” Newsday, although a regional paper, used to have major national and international reach. Also, since its purchase by Cablevision in May 2008, Newsday has increasingly, she said, blended its “content” with Cablevision’s news outlet, News12 Long Island.

The Fair Media Council was established in 1979 primarily to push for coverage of Long Island in New York City-based media. That’s still a focus of the Briarcliff College-based non-profit organization. But its broad mission these days, as noted on its website, is advocating for “quality local news coverage as vital for maintaining the community’s quality of life.”

Ms. Clement is extremely concerned about the Newsday situation saying it has “huge implications.” With a shrunken staff and coverage, readers “are receiving less information.” Highly problematic, too, is “one entity” now controlling cable TV on Long Island and owning its only daily.

As for other area dailies, the termination this year of the Long Island weekly section of The New York Times which provided “some diversity” is also “a big deal…A voice was lost.”  Meanwhile, the New York Daily News has reduced its Long Island coverage and New York Post does not “offer a lot of coverage” and tends to favor “sensation over substance.”

As for weekly newspapers, on Suffolk’s East End “the weeklies are very good. I wish they would expand.” In western Suffolk and Nassau County, the weeklies are not of such high quality. And in Nassau especially, most are owned by “chains” with an attitude of “let us put out 15 editions” with very few employees.

As to commercial radio, which used to be bustling with news operations on Long Island, she said that among the now 19 stations here there is only one full-time news reporter—David North at WALK. “In general, radio has gotten out of the news business entirely,” bemoaned Ms. Clement. “If you want radio news, it’s the city stations—880 and 1010.

Regarding the television scene, several of the New York City TV stations—which have long been heavily watched here—are now sharing their Long Island “footage” through a common news service they’ve formed.

Of Cablevision’s news coverage, News12 “is very small,” commented Ms. Clement. Further, it’s an arm of a cable TV company that  has “no mandate to work in the public interest” as do on-air television stations which must do so under licenses granted them by the Federal Communications Commission.

The Schmizzi brothers, owners of Wainscott-based WVVH-TV, “understand the importance of serving the public,” she said. (Full disclosure: I’m chief investigative reporter at WVVH.)

How does Ms. Clement see Long Island’s media future? She anticipates “more cutting back” at Newsday. The “whole concept of printing a newspaper and delivering it” is foreign for Cablevision. She predicted the departure of the paper’s editor which subsequently happened.

“If weekly papers would wake up, they’re the ones with the greatest opportunity,” said Ms. Clement, who has also worked in weekly journalism on Long Island.

On the national scene, in 1983 “50 media companies in the U.S. owned the majority of news outlets,” related Ms. Clement. “Now, it’s down to six.”  And people’s distrust of media institutions is “fueling the popularity of social networking. People are relying on social networking sites to share news and information with those they trust.”

What can you do? “Get involved,” declared Ms. Clement at the event in Bellport. “Demand more from…media outlets. Write letters. Complain directly to them or to the Fair Media Council.”

A Conversation With Richard G. Hendrickson

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A Conversation With Richard G. Hendrickson, a cooperative observer with the National Weather Service and lifelong Bridgehampton resident, who remembers the Hurricane of 1938, which ravaged the East End of Long Island 70 years ago this week, on September 21. He was in his mid-20s at the time.

I understand it was just eight years before the hurricane that you got involved in the weather service. Can you explain how you got into that?

I grew up on a farm here with my family. In my early years of high school, a friend of the family, Ernest S. Clowes roomed on Lumber Lane and used to walk northward over the rail road track that went to East Hampton, over the railroad track that went to Sag Harbor and would come up on a slight rise and from there on a hill, would gaze across the hills, waving with grain. And in the late evening that is what he would see, in the late summer, early fall – the sun setting over the fields waving with grain. It was a picture I would like to say no artist could paint, but it was Long Island … it was what any artist would describe as beautiful, spectacular – and it was that way since colonial times. Today it’s all houses, you can’

t see the fields.

This Mr. Ernest Clowes, a student of words, a man of history, who had written several books – one on how to get your product inland down to the seaport for shipping without using the railroads. Several others, including a pamphlet on weather and he summered with his brother on the East End of Long Island with his brother in a house that is long gone …

Ernest Clowes later lived on Lumber Lane, and would walk up, like I said, and he became quite a friend with my father in agriculture. I as a 17, 18 year-old was around and what evolved was the setup, at our Hillview Farm, of a cooperative weather station.

What is a cooperative weather station?

A cooperative weather station is a white box on four posts about four feet above the ground and in it are two thermometers in this white box, which is sheltered on all four sides. One takes the highest temperature of the day and another takes the lowest temperature that occurred the evening before. Also with it, a short distance away, is a copper and brass cylinder and that is about eight-inches in diameter and is about two feet long and in that is a smaller container. The inner container in the summer catches rain. In the winter that container is taken out and we catch the snow in the larger container, melt it and gather the water content. It usually takes 10 or 11 inches of snow to make one inch of water. These are our instruments. Other than that we have a weather vane, which tells the wind direction, we have a wind speed indicator, which tells the velocity of the wind.

In 1938 we only had the rain gauge and the thermometers. The velocity of the wind blew the rain gauge over. The wooden box lay flat on the ground. I don’t know at what time during the hurricane these things blew over, but I know the ground was exceedingly soft or mushy because it did not crack a single thermometer – they were both good. We did estimates and we looked at many containers still standing up and finally settled on an amount that is listed in the records for the amount of the rainfall during that hurricane. The wind velocity, I believe, has been over the years a little exaggerated. This hurricane, at that time, was the fastest moving hurricane that had ever been recorded in the world. I believe the wind velocity was somewhere between 100 and 115 or 120 at the most. Few people realize that during the hurricane there was a cyclone – the wind spinning in a circular direction, but only in a small area –

maybe 100 or 115 feet across. One of those, in the 1938 hurricane, is what pulled the Presbyterian Church Steeple in Sag Harbor, well over 100 feet high, right out of its socket at the base and dropped it in front of the church. There are many photographs of that scene. That is just one of the many odd things that occurred during the 1938 hurricane.

What are some of the other odd things you remember from the 1938 hurricane?

During the 1938 hurricane we had 25 to 30 milk cows and many chickens. We had 5,000 laying hens in the hen houses – we picked up about 4,000 eggs every day – out in the open field we had about 1,000 laying chickens that were going to be put in the laying houses. In September we were going to put them in a large house up by the barn, and there they would have stayed for the winter laying eggs. During the hurricane two of the large laying houses were destroyed. It happened around noontime. We have never seen, to this day, one of those chickens. They were laying hens – 150 in each building – where did 300 chickens go? Blown over the fields of Bridgehampton. We never found a single one. I don’

t know where they went.

Everything was obliterated and flat to the ground. Across the fields many of the trees in the hedge grove were blown flat. All the leaves were off the trees. You came into the morning to trees in late summer and after the storm it was like winter – the trees were stark naked, branches broken off, trees busted over, some of them the tree sticking up and all the limbs broken off as if this was a battlefield. Here, it was three acres where it had gone from late summer – foliage in the trees, flowers on the ground – to stark nakedness. Trees and cornfields blown flat, buildings destroyed, roofs off of houses. It was weather that had changed everything in a few hours, and we, and our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers – had never seen anything like this in our lifetimes. They had seen a northeast storm with high tide that blew a boat to shore, or a tree down, but they never lived or seen a condition on eastern Long Island in their lifetime where a hurricane blew just about everything flat … it was destitute – the roof was gone, the chimney was blown down, the orchard was gone –

no more apples. It was a scene that you can talk for hours about.

In your experience as a weather expert had you ever seen any storm cause so much damage?

No one has ever seen such a disaster. There was a man, Mr. Esterbrook, he was head of a pen company. He lived in Bridgehampton and rode the railroad to Manhattan each week. When he retired he was congratulated for spending a third of his life on the New York railroad. His house was a big white house next to the school. His wife had passed on and they had a woman from the islands – Jamaica or the Caribbean – who was his housekeeper. The morning of the 1938 hurricane we had the drizzle, the fog, once in a while a few raindrops and then the fog again, five-to-six mile an hour winds and it was very humid, oppressive. This lady spoke to a Mr. Halsey and said, “Mr. Halsey, this is like hurricane weather.”

A person who had been in them, a person who knew realized what was in the atmosphere and that we were in hurricane weather.

No one ever used the word hurricane until 1938. Everyone was more than upset. It was the Depression years. Everyone worked. It was several days before you could get to Sag Harbor – it was all blocked off. And many people had lost their chimneys, the very doors to their house, the front stoops blown off, a window blown out … it was destitute. My mother was very friendly with the man who started the Westhampton Beach Chronicle newspaper and his wife was drowned up there in Moriches, in the bay near Westhampton during the hurricane. They had been on the ocean beach and were trying to get home. The bridge was washed out and they swam across, but half way across the daughter turned around, “Mom, how are you doing?” She wasn’

t there.

Montauk was destitute. My wife at the time worked for the Southampton Town welfare department and she and Ms. Nesbit, who was the East Hampton Town nurse, were sent to Montauk with food and supplies. Nappeague Beach was completely under water. Montauk fishing village was obliterated and I mean that word as what it is truly meant to express. Many of the men, who were fishermen had not come back yet – some were found, some were not. It was a period that changed our way of life and what we knew, what we thought, what we wrote about. I wrote a book, “Winds of the Fish’s Tale.”


What are the chances of us seeing a hurricane in the near future?

The potential of eastern Long Island having another hurricane like 1938 or more severe – our chances are 100 percent. We cannot continue, summer after summer, with just a fall storm before the winter comes. There are many hurricanes that form every year off the east coast of Florida and as they migrate to the northwest, come across the ocean, some disappear, some intensify and in their period of intensification they come westward until they come to the Caribbean Islands. They disperse tremendously. They have a wide field to go to – to Mexico, Panama, out into the ocean, through Puerto Rico, Haiti – as we know this past week after watching [hurricane Ike] they can go right into the Gulf [of Mexico]. They thought, it will hit Florida. No, we think it will go to New Orleans, where they had the bad one. It might go to Texas, they said next, and go to Galveston. Get your history book out and read about the hurricane around 1910 that killed hundreds and hundreds … We are going to have another hurricane. If you live the next 100 years you will probably experience two or three of them. We have polluted the stratosphere and because of that we have had warmer weather in the summer and milder weather in the winter and the potential of having heavy precipitation in the summer time increases– if not more rains, maybe they will be a little heavier than they have been in the past – you’

ll notice your basement floods a little easier, your roof might leak a bit. We are in a period in the cycle of global warming. We have polluted our stratosphere with our big factories and it will happen. 


East End Digest July 31

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State Assembly: 4-Day School Week?

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. is requesting input from school districts in the Second Assembly District related to a bill currently pending in the New York State Assembly. This bill aims to provide financial relief for taxpayers by eliminating the state sales tax on diesel fuel used by school bus companies when the expense of the fuel exceeds the budgeted amount set forth by the school district. In addition, another potential energy cost saving measure would be the creation of a plan for the implementation of a four-day school week.

“As ranking minority member of the Assembly Education Committee, I believe it is important to solicit comments and recommendations from our school districts on this legislation,” said Thiele. “This proposal is well intended however, there may be issues regarding the impact to the quality of education that legislators may not be aware of.”

The bill remained in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee at the end of the 2008 legislative session.

RELI: Green Guide

A Long Island not-for-profit group, Renewable Energy Long Island, has seen such an increase in inquiries for green expert services and goods that it decided to compile and publish what it calls the region’s first annual LIGreenGuide.

The printed and online versions of the LIGreenGuide will offer practical information for consumers seeking greener choices, featuring tips on such topics as “Cool Lifestyles,” “Solar Roofs,” “How to Lose 5000 Pounds (of CO2) in 30 Days,” and “What To Look For in Carbon-Offsets.” The LIGreenGuide will also feature a directory of green businesses and professionals as a handy one-stop reference for anyone shopping for a greener future. “We have seen such an amazing growth in awareness and interest for green choices that we decided to publish an up-to-date directory of businesses which offer such services on Long Island,” said Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island. “For a number of years, RELI has been the go-to place if you wanted to find a qualified contractor to get solar energy systems installed; now we will provide that service for a much broader spectrum of green choices.”

The LIGreenGuide will be available starting in September, in time for RELI’s Annual Long Island Solar Tour and Open House on October 4. RELI will distribute the printed guide free of charge throughout Labor Day 2009 and have a continuously updated web version. The directory will list services in a number of categories, including building professionals such as green architects, builders, and landscapers, energy efficiency and renewable energy contractors, and retailers of green products.

Listings are free of charge but interested businesses must complete an online form at www.LIGreenGuide.org to be considered for inclusion in the directory. Deadline for the printed version is August 1.

CPF: Revenues Down

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. reported this week that cumulative Community Preservation Fund (CPF) revenues for the five East End towns were only $4.46 million, the lowest monthly total since 2003. Thiele also reported that the number of real estate transfers for the first six months had also declined from last year by 17.7 percent.

The Town of East Hampton has seen the greatest decline in revenue from the first six months of last year – by 49.6 percent. Southampton Town revenues are down 28 percent. Only the Town of Southold has seen an increase in revenue and transfers since 2007 – a modest one percent increase.

“It is clear that the national economic slowdown and housing crisis are finally impacting the real estate economy on the East End,” said Thiele. “We have been among the last to feel these negative impacts, but there can be no doubt that real estate activity has now slowed significantly. However, even with these problems, the Community Preservation Fund can still be expected to generate over $70 million for land preservation in 2008. The current market also present buying opportunities for environmentally sensitive land.”

East End Transportation Study: Thiele Urges Outreach

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. last week called for greater public outreach and elected official involvement in the East End Alternative Transportation Study, which is currently underway. The study is designed to investigate and evaluate whether a permanent rail/bus shuttle system is feasible for the East End and to identify and evaluate other alternatives such as bus rapid transit and expansion of existing rail and bus services. The concept of a rail/bus shuttle system was developed and presented by Five Town Rural Transit, Inc. (5TRT), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving mass transit on the East End.

Through the efforts of Assemblyman Thiele, the five East End towns received a $360,000 grant from the New York State Department of State under its Shared Municipal Services Incentive Program (SMSI) to study a permanent rail/shuttle service. The state is funding 90 percent of the study.

“The East End has been underserved by mass transit since forever,” said Thiele. “With increased traffic congestion only getting worse, the need for increased rail and bus service is critical. This past year, we proved that residents will use trains and buses to get to work. More than 40,000 passengers utilized the South Fork Commuter Shuttle from October to June during the reconstruction of County Road 39. Now we need to take steps to make this service permanent. We need to know what schedules will work best, what new infrastructure will be needed and how much it will cost. When the state funded this study, it was with the understanding that we would start to answer these questions for the people of the East End. The study must focus on this point.”
Thiele, a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee expressed concern about the current status of the study.

“Thus far, the study has been centered on data gathering and existing conditions. A competent job has been done in this regard,” he said. “The next phase is critical. It involves selecting alternatives and evaluation of the alternatives. There has been growing concern about the lack of public outreach and the involvement of public officials in the study. I share this concern.”

Thiele added public involvement is critical to the success of providing the right kind of transportation services on the East End.

 “Every East End town and village and elected officials from all levels of government must be invested in this process if it is to succeed,” said Thiele. “Otherwise we will end up with another transportation study that simply ends up on the shelf. Implementing mass transit takes money. We must involve those state and federal officials who will have to produce the finding to implement this program. In short, this study needs to now move from the bowels of government bureaucracies and consultant offices into the light of day where everyone can participate in creating the East End’s new, innovative mass transit system.”

American Cancer Society: East End Honors

The American Cancer Society, eastern division honored East End’s own breast surgeon Edna Kapenhas-Valdes MD, with the Dr. of Distinction Award. Dr. Valdes was chosen based on her commitment to providing quality care to cancer patients residing on the East End of Long Island and her interest in making a difference in the lives of those affected by cancer. The Denim & Diamonds Gala to benefit the society was held at the Diamond Ranch in Watermill.

Other honorees included Congressmen Timothy Bishop, recipient of the Linda Jasper award in recognition of his leadership in the American Cancer Society’s advocacy efforts, Count and Countess De Lesseps, recipient of the G.E.M. award (Gratitude for Excellence in our Mission) for their influence in the community and their personal interest in the fight against cancer. Roy Scheider, television and screen actor was recognized posthumously with the memorial award for his personal fight against cancer.

“The Denim & Diamond Gala allows the American Cancer Society the opportunity to raise awareness about the significant programs and services available before, during and after a diagnosis of cancer,” said Sylvia A. Diaz, Regional Vice President for Suffolk County. “It is important for people to know we are here and can help.”

Proceeds from the gala support the programs and services offered to those residing in Suffolk County. One of the programs showcased at the event was the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge. Hope Lodge is a free residential facility for individuals undergoing cancer treatment and their caregiver. More than just lodging, Hope Lodge provides patients and their caregivers with a supportive environment and sense of community. Since Hope Lodge opened its doors in November of 2007, it has housed 814 guests, many of which reside on the East End of Long Island. 

“Hope Lodge New York City-this house of hope-was my home for two and a half months and I was welcomed with open arms,” said East End resident and Hope Lodge guest Wendy Chamberlain. “I felt immediate relief-I didn’t have to explain myself or my condition to anyone.  All the Hope Lodge residents understand each other without words.  Every day was a positive one.  I gained more inspiration and strength with every interaction I had at Hope Lodge.  Staying here has been an incredible gift.” 

In addition to lodging, guests also have access to communal kitchens, activity rooms, and laundry facilities and are invited to participate in American Cancer Society programs, special shared meals and yoga classes.  All Hope Lodge services-lodging and support programs-are offered completely free of charge.