Tag Archive | "New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele"

Southampton School District Earns Safe Routes to School Funding

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced Friday that the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) has agreed to amend the State Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) to include intersection improvements near Southampton Elementary and Intermediate schools. The proposed project will cost $498,374.

The project would be funded by the federal Safe Routes to School program. The intent of the Safe Routes to School program is to enable and encourage children to walk or bicycle to school; help children adopt a more healthy and active lifestyle by making bicycling and walking a safer and more appealing transportation alternative; and facilitate the planning, development and implementation of transportation project that will improve safety while reducing traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.

New York State Assembly Passes Bill to Ease Tax Filing Burden on Small Farms and Wineries

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A law proposed by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. to exempt farm wineries and craft breweries from what he terms “a burdensome tax filing requirement” was unanimously passed by the Assembly this week.

Under the current law, all beer, wine and liquor wholesalers are required to report sales made to restaurants, bars and other retailers to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Farm wineries and craft breweries were included in the definition of a wholesaler who had to comply with this law. Thiele’s legislation, which Governor Andrew Cuomo made part of his 2012 legislative program, exempts farm wineries and craft breweries from complying with the law, which Thiele said was a costly process and a burdensome paperwork requirement.

This week, Thiele said the restrictions already placed on farm wineries and craft breweries — farm wineries cannot produce more than 150,000 gallons annually, craft breweries are restricted to 35,000 gallons each year — it is difficult for them to afford this requirement. He added that farm wineries and craft breweries will still be required to maintain sales records through requirements imposed on them by the State Liquor Authority (SLA) and that the Department of Taxation and Finance can request those records.

“Farm wineries and craft breweries are small and mostly family operations that have struggled to comply with this needless filing requirement,” said Thiele. “The burden and cost on business far outweighs any benefit to the state. There are other ways that the State Tax Department can obtain this information. In particular, this legislation will benefit the farm winery operations on the East End. Our wineries can better use their time to grow their businesses and promote their product, rather than filling out costly paperwork.”

The legislation was supported by the Long Island Farm Bureau and is currently in the State Senate Finance Committee where it awaits further action.

Thiele Looks to Create Standards to Alter School District Boundaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thiele Supports Millionaire Tax

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

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

The surcharge generates upwards of $4 billion a year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

Restoration of John Jermain Memorial Library Begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thiele Continues Gas Wars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Riderships Soars

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

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

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

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

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


Thiele Stands Alone; Russo, Pope Debate Finances At Debate

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. stood alone at the podium at a League of Women Voter’s sponsored debate in Bridgehampton on Thursday, October 23.

“If I put up a wild card and start debating myself, stop me,” he joked to the crowd of roughly 40 people.

Thiele’s dilemma was that his opponent W. Michael Pitcher did not attend the debate, to the surprise of league members and Southampton Press executive editor and debate moderator Joseph Shaw. According to published reports, Pitcher was detained at a family emergency and planned on attending a second debate at the Hampton Bays Senior Center on Thursday, October 30 at 7 p.m.

Despite Pitcher’s absence, Thiele was given an opportunity to address the audience and field a handful of questions by league members.

Thiele, a Sag Harbor native, has served on the New York State Assembly for 15 years. He is running on the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Working Families line in his bid to keep that seat following Election Day next Tuesday.

Pitcher is the Democratic challenger, a former reporter and newspaper editor on the East End and now legislative aide to Suffolk County Presiding Officer William J. Lindsay.

On Thursday night, Thiele said the State of New York was looking down the barrel of “one of the most serious financial crisises since the Great Depression” – a national crisis he said will hit New York particularly hard due to our reliance on Wall Street revenues. Governor David Paterson, a Democrat who was praised by Thiele, has already said the state is looking at a budget deficit as much as $2 billion as a result.

“And what that means is we are going to have to spend less, tax less and we are going to have to borrow less,” said Thiele.

One issue that is front and center for Thiele, especially in light of the hard financial times to come, is his quest to reduce real property taxes for New Yorkers.

“We need to reduce our reliance on the property tax to fund education,” said Thiele. “People should not have to decide between a college education for their children and whether or not they can keep their homes because of property taxes. New York needs to be fair and more equitable in how we fund education.”

“I can’t control OPEC, I can’t control international politics, but when I notice that gasoline out here is 20 cents higher I do want to do something about that,” said Thiele, referring to the recent legislation he spearheaded that outlawed zone pricing of gasoline in the state.

Thiele also touched on recent revisions to the Community Preservation Fund, a two percent real estate transfer tax that allows for the purchase and preservation of open space, farmland, recreational space and historic buildings, as well as his work to ensure the Southampton College campus remains a viable center for higher learning. This year, Thiele said he helped to secure funding for a new marine science center at the university, which is now a part of the State University of New York system.

Thiele said he would also continue to strive for mass transit on the East End.

Southampton Town Council Debate

While the Thiele-Pitcher debate may have proved anticlimactic, the debate between current Southampton Town Councilman Dan Russo, and Democratic challenger Sally Pope proved more eventful, with the two sparring primarily over fiscal issues.

Russo, the Republican incumbent, was appointed last winter to finish the council term of newly elected Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot. He and Pope, the Democratic challenger, are vying for the last year of that term.

A Remsenburg attorney, Pope opened the debate stating Republican rule in Southampton has left a municipality in both a financial and environmental crisis. In her opening statement, Pope called for control over development in the town, and said workforce housing, a Noyac community center, implementing the Sag Harbor Gateway Study and ensuring the protection of historic buildings in Bridgehampton should be priorities in the town.

Russo, also an attorney who hails from East Quogue, countered that had Pope attended town board meetings regularly, she would not see a Republican-dominated town board. Curbing development, he said, is being addressed in a multitude of ways, including through moratoriums the board has enacted in Hampton Bays, East Quogue and on County Road 39 in Southampton.

The Southampton Town Board passed a green energy building code this year – a code that mandates environmental initiatives in new building projects or large renovations. While Pope said she supported the green energy codes, she criticized the board for going back and making revisions to the code that pushed back the dates of compliance and reduced requirements for the biggest homes in the town.

 “We scaled it back for certain sized homes, but in the spring we hope to bring them back,” said Russo, noting the town’s adoption of the green building codes and creation of a green advisory committee are both initiatives the board is proud to have accomplished in the last year.   

The Sag Harbor Gateway Study is a town planning department study that recommends re-zoning over half a dozen parcels on the Sag Harbor Turnpike from highway business to hamlet office, which would mandate less intensive businesses for new developments in the area.

Russo said he was “looking forward to enacting the zoning changes” and was “ready, willing and able to enact those codes.”

“The residents of Sag Harbor do not want it to become another County Road 39,” explained Pope to the crowd. “I know the residents of Sag Harbor do want this enacted … to really make sure Sag Harbor has the kind of entrance it deserves rather than a commercial strip leading into town.”

The $82.5 million dollar proposed budget presented by Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot will result in a five percent tax increase. The town is prevented, by law, to raise taxes more than five percent.

Russo said he supports a hiring freeze and said there are cuts that still need to be made to the spending plan. He added he has asked department heads to cut their budgets by 15 percent.

“This is the single most important issue the town board is going to face,” he said.

Pope said she believed it was the town’s one-party Republican rule that has resulted in financial mismanagement, specifically in the police and waste management departments.

Town Justice Race

Prior to the town board candidates squaring off incumbent Southampton Town Justice Tom DeMayo and challenger Andrea Schiavoni were invited to give five-minute presentations on why voters should select them for office next Tuesday.

DeMayo, who lives in Westhampton, opened by detailing his decades of experience in law and on the bench, which included time as a Suffolk County District Attorney assigned specifically to the East End courts.

“I am the only judicial candidate in this race who has been certified by the Suffolk County Bar Association as qualified to serve as justice for the Town of Southampton,” said DeMayo, adding he has been told that the justice court in Southampton is currently one of the busiest in the state, earning $2.3 million. 

DeMayo said he also wanted to clear up some “misstatements that have been made throughout the campaign.”

He said the addition of the fourth justice was made possible by the town board after Assemblyman Thiele passed legislation making it possible, and was not a decision made by the justices themselves.

DeMayo said while Schiavoni would like to see the hours of justice court extended, he was able to bring night court to the town on Wednesdays, although night court only looks at town code violations currently.

DeMayo also criticized Schiavoni’s experience.

“We deal with every day problems,” he said. “I am the candidate uniquely qualified to serve and I will stand by my reputation.”

Schiavoni, a Sag Harbor resident, has a career that spans 19 years in law, where she practiced civil litigation against large corporations carrying what she admitted was a hefty caseload.

“That brings someone up to speed in terms of court procedure,” she said, adding she learned to be a great litigator “from judges who demanded I be a great litigator.”

Currently working as a private mediator, she said she is honored to have varied legal experience.

“I believe justice can be served if all involved are committed to protecting it,” said Schiavoni.

Schiavoni said she would like to see hours expanded at justice court and night court made into a revenue producing entity. She would also like to make use of satellite courts, see justices work longer hours, implement an e-filing system and make use of video arraignments.

“Most importantly we need to being transparency to the administration of town court,” said Schiavoni. 

Top photo: Southampton Town Council candidates, Democrat Sally Pope and Republican incumbent Dan Russo, prepare for battle before last Thursday night’s League of Women Voters sponsored debate in Bridgehampton.

Middle photo: Incumbent New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. addresses the crowd of roughly 40 people on issues like the financial crisis, the use of Community Preservation Funds and mass transit on the East End.               photos by k. menu