Tag Archive | "Long Island"

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.

 

 

Seeking New Energy Sources

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By Karl Grossman

“Using renewable energy sources has always made sense and with gas over $4 a gallon it makes more sense than ever. The technologies are ready. What we need is the political will and change in personal lifestyle,” Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, was saying last week.

Mr. Raacke walks the talk. On the roof of his house in East Hampton are solar photovoltaic panels that provide all the electricity needed. His monthly electric bill averages $6.

The cost of a similar 3 kilowatt system you can put on your house is $24,000, but with a LIPA rebate and federal and state tax credits, that’s cut to $7,000. So for $7,000, you could have a roof-top solar photovoltaic system that will reduce your electric bill to basically nothing. Add a solar hot water heater, it’s even cheaper—and considering current fuel oil prices, all but a necessity.

 “Renewables Are Ready” was the title of a book written by two Union of Concerned Scientists staffers in 1995. They’re more than ready now

But U.S. energy policy has been steered for decades by oil, nuclear and coal interests. Many government leaders are either manipulated or unaware of the renewable energy windfall at hand. Presidential candidate John McCain, with an energy platform consisting of more oil drilling and more nuclear power, is a prime example. But this is not necessarily a partisan issue. I wrote last week about breakthrough technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory called “hot dry rock geothermal” through which the hot rock a few miles below the earth’s surface is utilized to turn a turbine and generate electricity or provide heat, and how a transfer of a model HDR facility to industry was cancelled. That was by the Department of Energy under President Bill Clinton.

During the oil crisis of the 70s, President Jimmy Carter set up what’s now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Part of a DOE, 1,000-employee NREL in Golden, Colorado is a beacon for a sustainable, independent energy future.

Consider the use of solar power to break down water and generate hydrogen—widely seen as the best fuel for locomotion and more. With the “right kind of systems,” Dr. John Turner, NREL senior scientist, was explaining to me, “you can use sunlight to split water.” He flipped a switch and hydrogen was generated in a process called photoelectrolysis. “What we have here now is sunlight to hydrogen—basically an inexhaustible fuel,” he said. “Hydrogen can be used in automobiles in fuel cells, to power our homes, to power our cars, to power our society.”

“It’s the forever fuel,” said Dr. Turner.

He spoke of “the vision of a non-polluting energy society that uses our two most abundant natural resources—sunlight and water—to give us an energy supply that is inexhaustible and non-polluting.”

That was one of the amazing energy technologies at NREL. Another is “thin film photovoltaic”—a technology developed by NREL with industry. Flexible membranes are impregnated with high-efficiency solar collectors and can be applied over buildings. The structures that constitute the skylines of Manhattan or Chicago, or buildings here on Long Island, could serve as electricity generators. This is now being widely used in Europe.

There’s the new wind turbines designed at NREL and other breakthroughs. Take a tour of NREL, you’ll be amazed. Last month, NREL unveiled a Toyota Prius it modified to run at 100 miles per gallon. A month before it presented a blueprint for the U.S. to get 20 percent of its electricity from wind by 2030. “First of all it is doable, second of all it’s desirable,” said Dan Arvizu, NREL’s director. But NREL is a small part of DOE.

Over the weekend there was the Sag Harbor Energy Fair that included area cutting-edge energy entities. Long Island solar pioneer Garry Minnick, president of Go Solar!, was there with his mobile “solar education center” and optimism: “We’re seeing change,” he said.

Inside the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum was its summer exhibit, “Oil: Whales, Wells…What’s Next?”, featuring the words of Thomas Edison: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”  It’s not too late. But needed is widescale implementation of the abundant clean, safe, sustainable energy technologies.