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

Fred W. Thiele Jr.

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2. 2010 Headshot Thiele 300dpi

2015 will mark New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.’s 20th year in office. A native of Sag Harbor, who represents the 2nd District, Mr. Thiele spoke about legislative accomplishments in 2014 and his hopes for 2015 and beyond.

By Mara Certic

Would you say were the three biggest accomplishments of the past year?

I think the three issues that really dominated life here on the East End in 2014 were one: the increased focus on the need to reverse the degradation of our water quality; two: the resurgence of the East End economy; and three: the need to reform and improve our educational system and our schools. Clearly, the most welcome was the economy. The major indicators of the East End economy saw their biggest rebound since the Great Recession in 2008. For example, the Community Preservation Fund, a major indicator of real estate activity, hit the highest levels since 2007. As for education, issues such as Common Core, teacher evaluations, student testing, and school district reorganization were a focus of discussion on the state and local levels.

Of those, do you think that there is one that stands out as the most important of the year?

 I believe the need focus on water quality is the biggest issue of the year. The decline in water quality is the greatest threat to our quality of life and our economic bases of tourism and the second home industry, as well as our water-dependent industries. I think public awareness and citizen activism has placed this issue squarely on the agenda of every level of government. For the first time, we are seeing a coordinated response that hopefully will yield real results.

In your opinion, what are the top priorities for the East End in the coming year?

My top priorities for the East End for the coming years are several. One: the completion of the hospital agreement between Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook University Hospital; two: giving residents the option to add water quality improvement projects to those eligible under the Community Preservation Fund, the completion of needed infrastructure improvements on the East End such as the repaving of Routes 27 and 24, important erosion-control projects like downtown Montauk, and dredging projects such as at South Ferry. And finally…. twice I have passed legislation in the State Assembly to outlaw gasoline zone pricing, which is nothing more than price fixing. This bill needs to pass the State Senate and be signed by the governor.

What are some national, or even global, issues that you think are particularly important here on the East End?

As for national and global issues… the ones that affect the East End every day but are unresolved are one: the need for the federal government to institute real immigration reform that secures our borders and provides a real path for citizenship and two: global warming and climate change. My Assembly district has more coastline than any other district in New York. We need to address coastal resiliency now, before it becomes a crisis.

Last week, LIPA rejected a plan for a 35-turbine offshore wind project off the coast of Montauk, which could have supplied the five East End towns with 200 megawatts of energy. What do you think of the decision?

LIPA’s decision to reject the Deepwater Wind project and to reduce, in general, its focus on renewable sources of energy like solar power, is misguided and shortsighted. The LIPA Reform Bill, which I opposed, has only given us higher rates, higher debt, and less renewable energy. There needs to be greater oversight of LIPA and PSEG—Long Island to insure that public needs and not private agendas are being served by our utilities.


Voters Go to the Polls Tuesday

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Congressman Tim Bishop addresses the Concerned Citizens of Montauk on Sunday, as his challenger, Lee Zeldin, listens. Michael Heller photo,

Congressman Tim Bishop addresses the Concerned Citizens of Montauk on last week, as his challenger, Lee Zeldin, listens. Michael Heller photo.

By Mara Certic

Although certain book tours and photo opportunities might suggest otherwise, the presidential election is still two whole years away. But this Tuesday, November 4, East Enders will have the opportunity to vote for several elected offices during the midterm elections.

The race to watch, however, is the same fight that took place six years ago. U.S. Representative Tim Bishop has once again found himself battling it out against Republican challenger Lee Zeldin.

Mr. Bishop, a Democrat from Southampton, was first elected in 2002. He has beaten out Republican challengers in every election since, including when he beat Mr. Zeldin in 2008 by a 58-to-42 margin.

Mr. Zeldin, who lives in Shirley, represents the 3rd District in the New York State Senate. He is a major in the United States Army Reserve who served in Iraq in 2006 with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

The politicians have faced off in dozens of debates in the past few months, and each time have offered up views that differ on practically every issue before them. Mr.  Bishop has stressed that his record of constituent service, his ability to work across the aisle, and the seniority he has achieved after 12 years in the House make him the better candidate.

Mr. Zeldin has railed against the size of the federal government, high taxes, Obamacare, and the slow pace of economic recovery and has suggested that Mr. Bishop is part of the problem.

At a candidates’ forum hosted by the Concerned Citizens of Montauk last week, Mr. Zeldin, who says he is in favor of states’ rights,  said he thought issues such as the groundwater problem on the East End would be better solved at the state and local levels while Mr. Bishop said the federal government is an essential player.

Mr. Bishop supports a woman’s right to choose and same sex marriage and Mr. Zeldin, on the other hand, voted against the Marriage Equality Act in 2011 and describes himself as pro-life.

Although Mr. Zeldin has called for spending cuts, Mr. Bishop has often pointed out that 75 cents of every federal dollar is already accounted for and that reducing spending is easier said than done and needs to be approached in a bipartisan way.

A poll taken by Newsday, News 12 and Siena College in early September showed Mr. Bishop  with a commanding 10 point lead over Mr. Zeldin, but the race is expected to be a close one.

First on the ballot this year is the race for governor and lieutenant governor where incumbent Andrew M. Cuomo and his running mate Kathy Hochul, both Democrats, will face off against Republicans Rob Astorino and Chris Moss.

Governor Cuomo, who was elected in 2010, has been criticized by his East End constituents for what they say are his unfulfilled promises and lack of leadership regarding certain PSEG and LIPA projects. Mr. Cuomo and Ms. Hochul were challenged by a pair of law professors in the Democratic primary in September.

Although Governor Cuomo won the Democratic primary, his opponent Zephyr Teachout proved to be very popular on the East End when 100 more voters in East Hampton chose the newcomer over the incumbent.

Nevertheless, polls have Mr. Cuomo with a 21-point lead over Mr. Astorino, who has been Westchester’s county executive since 2009. Mr. Moss, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, is the sheriff of Chemung County, and is the first black candidate on the GOP’s statewide ticket.

Voters will also choose the state senator and assemblyman, with incumbents Kenneth P. LaValle and Fred W. Thiele Jr. both running against opponents who have neither campaigned nor shown up to any candidate events.

Michael L. Conroy of Manorville is running against Senator LaValle on the Democratic ticket. Mr. Conroy is a member and former chairman of both the Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town Democratic Committees.

Senator LaValle, who is running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party tickets, was first elected to the State Senate in 1976. A resident of Port Jefferson, Mr. LaValle has been involved in many local projects, recently has secured funding to fight Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses as well as money for other environmental and capital projects.

Sag Harbor’s Mr. Thiele has represented District 2 in the New York State Assembly since 1995 and is a sponsor of the Community Preservation Fund. Like Mr. LaValle, he has touted his ability to bring home state funding for important projects, just last week, announcing grants for the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor and the construction of a roundabout at the five-corners intersection in East Hampton Village  A member of the Republican Party until 2009, Mr. Thiele is now a member of the Independence Party.

Running against Mr. Thiele on the Republican ticket is Heather C. Collins, a Suffolk County Board of Elections official. Also vying against Mr. Thiele is Brian J. De Sesa, on the Conservative line. Mr. De Sesa is an attorney at Edward J. Burke and Associates in Sag Harbor and also sits on the Zoning Board of Appeals in Southampton Town.

Races for state comptroller and attorney general both will see incumbents, Thomas Di Napoli and Eric Schneiderman, on the Democratic ticket facing off against Republican candidates Robert Antonacci and John Cahill. East Enders will also get a chance to vote for justice of the Supreme Court in the 10th judicial district, county court judge, family court judge, county clerk and county comptroller.

East Enders will also have to cast their votes on five different propositions on their ballots, Tuesday, with Southampton Town residents being asked to vote on a sixth.

NYS, Proposal Number 1: An Amendment, Revising the State’s Redistricting Procedure, has been written in an attempt to prevent gerrymandering. The proposed amendment would establish a new redistricting commission, on which neither legislators nor other elected officials could serve. The new procedure would also involve more public hearings and would aim to establish principles to be used when creating election districts.

NYS, Proposal Number 2: An Amendment, Permitting Electronic Distribution of State Legislative Bills, would do just that. It would allow the state to electronically send bills to legislators at their desks, instead of giving out hard copies. The amendment stipulates all legislators must be able to print out the bills, if they so choose, and that no changes can be made to the bills electronically without leaving some sort of trace.

NYS, Proposal Number 3: An Amendment, The Smart School Bond Act of 2014, would authorize the sale of up to $2 billion in state bonds in order to improve technology in schools. The money would go toward providing better access to classroom technology and high-speed internet-connectivity as well as installing smart security features in schools and modernizing classrooms.

Suffolk County Proposal Number 1: A Charter Law To Consolidate Financial Management Functions In The County Department Of Audit And Control would abolish the office of the Suffolk County Treasurer and with that, the Department of Finance and Taxation. If this proposal is approved, the county comptroller would assume all of those powers and duties on January 1, 2018.

Suffolk County Proposal Number 2: A Charter Law Amending the 1/4% Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection Program (DWPP) for Enhanced Water Quality Protection, Wastewater Infrastructure And General Property Fund Tax Relief for Suffolk County would restore funds taken from the DWPP and put in place strict guidelines for future borrowing.

Residents of Southampton Town will be asked to vote on a proposition that would allow the town to swap a parcel of parkland purchased with Community Preservation Fund money for a piece of adjoining land twice the size owned by Suffolk County. This swap will allow the county to use town land to put in safety improvements at the Riverside traffic circle.




Thiele Finds Funds for Farmers

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced last week he had launched several new programs to assist new and early-stage farmers in order to encourage agribusiness throughout the state.

The New York State New Farmers Grant Fund kicked off last week and is seeking out applications from eligible farmers. The $614,000 fund will provide grants of up to $50,000 for farmers who “will substantially participate in the production

of an agriculture product, and employ the use of innovative agricultural techniques at commercial farm operations,” according to a release from Mr. Thiele’s office. The application is available at esd.ny.gov/BusinessPrograms/NewFarmersGrantFund.html. The deadline for those applications is January 28, 2015.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Bell will convene a working group in order to identify the barriers associated with initiating an agricultural operation.  The first meeting will take place at the Department of Agriculture and Markets in Albany on Thursday, October 30.

Also currently seeking applications is the New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program, which offers breaks on student loan repayments for those who obtain an undergraduate degree from an approved New York State college or university and agree to operate a farm in New York full-time for five years. Applications are available at hesc.ny.gov and the deadline is December 15, 2014.

East End Elected Officials Agree on Local Issues at LTV’s Second Village Green Meeting

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By Mara Certic

East End elected officials offered a strong, united front, seemingly agreeing on each and every local and national issue that cropped up during a “village green” discussion hosted by LTV Studios in Wainscott on Friday, October 17.

LTV hosted its second village green meeting of the year in an effort to give the public an opportunity to ask the five major East End elected officials about issues of concern.

Representative Tim Bishop, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst spent an hour and a half answering questions about various subjects including the potential of “Peconic County,” offshore wind farms, planning issues, heroin and Ebola. Robert Strada, the board president of LTV, moderated the discussion, and questions were submitted by the public through the website phlive.at.

The oft-examined notion of a new “Peconic County” was the first question to crop up during Friday’s forum, which Mr. Thiele and Mr. Schneiderman answered.

The discussion of Peconic County first began many years ago, when Suffolk County offices were moved from Riverhead to Hauppauge. Peconic County would be made up of the five East End towns, which officials have often complained that the county ignores their needs.

“We will never get our fair share from Suffolk County,” Mr. Thiele said, adding the East End represents 8 percent of the county’s population and yet pays in excess of 15 percent of the sales tax and over a third of the county’s property tax. He said Suffolk’s population of almost 1.5 million people is much larger than what a county’s should be.

“The East End is simply going to be the tail on the dog,” he said, “and it is only occasionally that the tail gets to wag the dog.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he had always been a supporter of local control but that starting a new county would be “an awful lot to take on,” and that now might not be the time. Mr. Thiele added there was currently a big push from the governor to consolidate and “we would be swimming against the tide.”

“The politics of creating new local governments is something that’s extremely hard to do,” he said. “The issue is whether or not you can get the political stars to line up to create the county.”

Supervisors Cantwell and Throne-Holst described some of the measures they have employed to protect local beaches, including the Army Corp of Engineers program in downtown Montauk and a $10 million grant East Hampton Town was awarded to protect the low-lying Lazy Point area of Napeague.

“Clearly we’re dealing with the issue of climate change,” Mr. Cantwell said. The elected officials all sprung at the opportunity to answer a question about Deepwater ONE, a proposed 200-megawatt offshore wind farm that would, if all goes according to plan, create enough electricity to power 120,000 homes.

“Wind has to be part of our energy portfolio going forward,” Mr. Bishop said, but emphasized the importance of siting the project appropriately so as not to disrupt aesthetics, fishing grounds or shipping lanes. “My own view is that it’s a pretty big ocean out there, and we should be able to figure this out,” he added. Legislator Schneiderman agreed it was important for the offshore wind developers to continue to work in conjunction with commercial fishermen but added, “This is too important for us to put up too many obstacles.” Mr. Schneiderman said the farm has “great potential to get our region off the grid”

“The reality is we’re woefully behind,” said Supervisor Throne-Holst about the use of renewable energy on the East End compared to the rest of the world.

Next week, the board of LIPA and Governor Cuomo are slated to have their last meeting about Deepwater ONE on Thursday, October 30. Environmental organizations have organized a “Rally for Renewables” to show the governor how much support an East End wind farm would have.

Governor Cuomo came under some fire when the assembled elected officials were asked how they allowed the 60-foot PSEG utility poles to be installed in East Hampton Village and Town. “That’s got a sorry tale, really,” said Mr. Cantwell.

“Public outreach and public notice isn’t opening up the window at the corporate headquarters at Hicksville at 3 o’clock in the morning and whispering ‘we’re going to build utility poles out in East Hampton,’” Mr. Thiele said. “They simply did not do what you would expect a public utility to do.” He went on to describe PSEG as “an unmitigated disaster.”

“The governor has been absent. I don’t know if he’s on his book tour, or what he’s doing but he’s not helping with this particular problem,” Mr. Thiele added.

At the end of the forum, each member of the panel was invited to make a closing comment. “We’re very, very fortunate to have this great and responsive group of people,” Ms. Throne-Holst said of her fellow elected officials. Representative Bishop said the good, professional relationships among the group of legislators “represents government at our best.”

“Really, I feel like we have an incredible team,” said Mr. Schneiderman, who is serving his last term as county legislator. Assemblyman Thiele said he knew he had said some “nasty” things about Governor Cuomo and added, “I just want to let you know, I’m not taking any of them back.”

East End Towns Budget Money for South Fork Behavioral Health Initiative

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By Mara Certic

Supervisors in both East Hampton and Southampton kept to their words this week when they put $25,000 aside in their tentative budgets to go towards improving mental healthcare in South Fork school districts.

In April, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle awarded $150,000 in state aid as seed money for the first step of the three-pronged South Fork Behavioral Health Initiative.

Senator LaValle secured an additional $5,000 each for the Sag Harbor, Southampton, East Hampton and Hampton Bays school districts. Each district, in turn, is expected to match that amount.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman managed to get his hands on $17,000 more from the county, bringing the anticipated total funding on the South Fork up to $257,000 for phase one.

This first phase, which Mr. Thiele had anticipated would require $320,000 in total funding, would establish a crisis service that would provide immediate mental and behavioral health needs specifically to South Fork area students. It is proposed one full-time psychiatrist be hired to work at the Family Service League’s East Hampton and Westhampton Mental Health Clinics. The first step is also slated to include the hiring of two full-time social workers.

“It also establishes Family Service League as the interim point of contact for crisis intervention,” Mr. Thiele’s proposal reads. “A permanent point of contact will be established in the second phase, which builds on and expands the crisis service through a mobile unit and community collaboration.”

The third phase would involve seeking out support from Stony Brook University’s psychiatric residency program.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the issue of seriously lacking mental healthcare on the South Fork was first brought to his attention by the East Hampton School District over a year ago.

As it stands now, there is no appropriate process set in place for a student who might be experiencing a crisis at school on the East End, be it threatening self-harm or contemplating suicide. According to Karen Boorshtein, president and CEO of the Family Service League, “When a school district encounters a crisis, they usually need to involve the police and have the youth transported over 60 miles to the psychiatric emergency room at Stony Brook.” Not only does this place strain on local police departments, but more often than not, these troubled children are handcuffed and placed into the back of a police vehicle for their trip up to their evaluation.

Once students return from their emergency evaluations, they then often face long waiting lists at local mental health clinics. There is not a large pool of mental health professionals on the East End, which many attribute to our remote location and rather sparse year-round population. Those who do operate on the South Fork often do not accept insurance and typically charge $200 to $300 an hour, according to Ms. Boorshtein.

“The last two years have seen the completed suicides of three youth and a significant increase in the number of mental health crises being experienced by youth and requiring school districts to respond,” Ms. Boorshtein wrote in a e-mail on Monday.

According to the CDC, the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24 is suicide. In a 2011 nationally representative sample of high school students, 15.8 percent of youths reported they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months preceding the survey.

According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), an organization dedicated to suicide prevention, the strongest risk factor for suicide is depression. The organization also claims that 80 percent of those who seek treatment for depression are treated successfully.

“The grant will increase and improve coordination of community mental health services to avoid future mental health crisis and suicides,” Ms. Boorshtein said.

The initiative also calls for telepsychiatry, which will provide secure phone lines on which troubled students can talk to licensed psychiatrists. The American Psychiatric Association recently deemed telepsychiatry “one of the most effective ways to increase access to psychiatric care for individuals living in underserved areas.”

The Family Service League is gearing up to start making these changes, and soon enough, phase one will be implemented on the South Fork. But the battle ahead is long, and much more money will be needed to complete all three of the steps.

“The potential catastrophe here is around the corner if we can’t deal with this better than we have been in the past,” Mr. Cantwell said.

Thursday, October 9 is National Depression Screening Day on which individuals can take a free online mental health screening at helpyourselfhelpothers.org 

Thiele, LaValle Go After PCP on Utility Poles

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Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth LaValle have introduced legislation that would prohibit the future use of utility poles treated with pentachlorophenol (PCP) and calls for the posting of warnings to inform people about the dangers of contact with PCP on existing poles.

PCP was once commonly used, but it is now a restricted use pesticide and no longer available to the general public because of a number of health-related issues.

“The federal government has made it clear that PCP is a dangerous chemical and has outlawed its use by the general public,” Mr. Thiele said in a release. “It is to be used only for industrial use away from the general population.  Yet, this chemical has been used to treat utility poles for transmission lines in places like East Hampton that are only a few feet from residential dwellings, exposing children and families to this dangerous substance. Further, at a time when we are all focused on the degradation of our water, it is inconceivable that wood treated with this substance would be permitted to leach into the groundwater on Long Island. There are better options and those options should be implemented now.”

“This is a critical public health and safety matter.  People need to be made aware of the presence of PCP, so they can protect themselves, their children and their pets from the potential dangers posed by this chemical,” added Mr. LaValle. “This type of coating to preserve utility poles needs to be discontinued for public health reasons as soon as possible.”

Another Good Month for CPF

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Another month, another windfall for the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund.

According to figures released by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the CPF collected a total of $9.94 million during the month of July in the five East End towns. Last year for the same period, CPF revenues were $8.8 million.

Total revenue for the first seven months of the year has been $55.7 million an increase of 5.8 percent over the same period last year when $52.7 million was collected.

Southampton leads all towns, having collected $32.4 million this year, up from $30.8 million over the first seven months last year. East Hampton has collected $17.4 million, up from $16.9 million. Southold has collected $2.8 million, up from $2.2 million; Riverhead has received $1.9 million, up from $1.4 million, while Shelter Island has seen a dip to $1.2 million from $1.4 million.

Since its inception in 1999, the CPF has generated $940.4 million. The CPF has generated $98.47 million over the last 12 months.

PSEG Gets an Earful in East Hampton

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach, Jr., and East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell listened to a presentation by Mike Voltz of PSEG and a public hearing at the East Hampton Emergency Services Building on Tuesday, August 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

There was hardly a spare seat in the house on Tuesday, August 26, for an informational session and public hearing hosted by the State Department of Public Services on PSEG Long Island’s Utility 2.0 Long-Range Plan.

PSEG Long Island, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based PSEG, submitted the plan to the DPS on July 1, and almost immediately came under fire for failing to provide specifics about it as well as its decision to install 50-to-65-foot utility poles through portions of East Hampton Village last winter.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. wrote a joint letter to PSEG, asking that it hold a public meeting in East Hampton because the utility targeted the East End for major upgrades in the plan.

“We believe the Utility 2.0 Long Range Plan needs clarification, detail and public discussion, and we urge a public dialogue for this plan for the Town and Village of East Hampton,” they wrote.

“This is a time my office can hear you, your concerns and take it all into account,” said Julia Bovey, director the New York State Department of Public Services, who hosted the meeting.

And hear from people she did, with many people lining up to once again voice their objections to the installation of the poles.

“They’re an assault on our very core,” said town resident Elena Prohaska Glynn.  “We cannot afford to despoil the landscape. Remove them; bury those lines,” she said to much applause from the audience on Tuesday night.

The new poles have resulted in the creation of two organizations—Save East Hampton and Long Island Businesses For Renewable Energy, a stop-work order issued by the town and even a lawsuit.

Some wore bright orange Save East Hampton t-shirts with “Bury The Lines” written on the back. Many of the orange shirt wearers spoke not about the new plan, but about what they feel to be a more pressing issue: the danger and unsightliness of the new, taller poles in the village.

“It’s not only a matter of aesthetics, it’s a matter of life and death,” said Helen Mendez. “Be the company that you say you are, help us have green solutions. Do what’s safe, do what’s right and bury the lines.”

All three elected officials who spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting also called for the new lines to be buried, including State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

“They have been willing over and over again to tax themselves to protect the quality of life here,” he said of his constituents.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell also called for the lines to be buried, to thunderous applause.

Jeremy Samuelson, president of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, gave DPS and PSEG Long Island some “history.” He explained that the public meeting process prior to the installation of the taller poles left much to be desired. The process lacked any transparency or community engagement from the utility company, he said.

“You come back a year later, and you have to eat some crow,” he said to the representatives from the DPS and PSEG. “You guys got it wrong, so that’s the history.”

“The question is,” he continued, “are you going to be our partners in fixing this mess? This thing is an atrocity; I won’t sugarcoat it for you. So the question is: LIPA isn’t in charge anymore. Are you going to help us find the somewhere between $20 million and $30 million to fix this mess?” he asked.

Elected officials and environmentalists also seemed unsatisfied by the lack of consideration for the town’s existing policy. “With regard to the presentation: that is something we would like to see more of, alternatives to fossil fuels,” Mr. Thiele said.

“The town has adopted a very important and ambitious goal,” Mr. Cantwell said of East Hampton’s decision to power all of its community-wide electricity needs with renewable energy by the year 2020. “I would urge that the power sources on the South Fork be met with renewable energy sources,” he said.

Gordian Raacke, president of Renewable Energy Long Island (RELI) criticized the shortsightedness of the plan. “I know you will make sure that while PSEG may not be in the room anymore, they will hear our comments,” he said to Ms. Bovey—about 20 minutes prior to that, it had become apparent that Mike Voltz, the director of energy efficiency and renewables for PSEG Long Island, who gave an overview of the plan, had left the meeting in the middle of the hearing.

“The plan is not a 2.0 plan. At best it’s a utility 1.1. It’s more business as usual and fails to provide a vision for utility or the future,” he said. “Work with the Town of East Hampton, work with us to build a sustainable energy future and we’ll work with you.”

PSEG needs “to be a collaborator, not an opponent,” he added. “You need to propose a better plan.

The meeting kicked off with a presentation by Mr. Voltz, who tried to shed some light on the plan and presented a series of slides and bullet points.

Mr. Voltz discussed items on the five-year plan, including a call to spend approximately $60 million on energy saving steps over the next five years, including providing programmable thermostats to upward of 60,000 residential customers.

The plan also includes a four-year-long educational campaign, at a cost of $8 million, an energy efficiency expansion in the Rockaways, which was explained in great detail as well and a $15 million initiative that would aim to install 6,000 new advanced meters in hard-to-reach locations.

The information on South Fork improvements left much to be desired, according to some of those who spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting. In that section of Mr. Voltz’s presentation, he discussed plans to use solar energy, battery storage and programmable thermostats, and also discussed the need for new generators to boost electricity output during periods of peak usage in Montauk, and other places. “They’re very old,” Mr. Voltz said of the generators, “they’re getting worn out.”

Elected Officials To Pressure East Hampton Town on Ending Helicopter Crisis

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Congressman Tim Bishop answered questions about helicopter noise at a very well-attended meeting of the Noyac Civic Council on Tuesday, August 12. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

It was a full house at the Noyac Civic Council’s August meeting on Tuesday, as residents from all over the East End perched on desks and hovered outside open doors to hear Congressman Tim Bishop and other elected officials address the ongoing issue of helicopter noise at the East Hampton Airport.

Residents from Sag Harbor, East Hampton, North Haven, Noyac and Mattituck gathered at the Bridgehampton Community House on Tuesday, August 12 and expressed their frustration with the seemingly endless helicopter traffic that continues to plague eastern Long Island.

Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, played a recording of helicopter noise taken at her house to the FAA representatives who had come to answer questions and listen to grievances at Tuesday’s meeting. “This is what it’s like when you’re having company, or having a birthday party,” she said over the sound of whirring blades and engines.

Ms. Loreto complained about the “B-team” of FAA representatives who had been sent to the meeting, asked where FAA administrator Michael Huerta was, and accused them of being mute.

FAA representatives responded that Mr. Huerta was in Washington D.C. and that they would report back to him. “A lot of what we’re doing is listening to what your concerns are,” said Mark Guiod of NY TRACON. He was the only FAA official to express sympathy to the crowd and said, “what you’re experiencing just shouldn’t happen.”

“The issue we’re going to focus on is what’s in the best interest of the people that we represent,” Congressman Bishop said on Tuesday. He added that he has reached out to the senior leadership of the FAA inviting them to a meeting with Senator Charles Schumer and supervisors from the five East End towns. “We hope to have that meeting in the next week to 10 days,” he said.

Shelter Island Supervisor Jim Doherty announced loudly, “Shelter Island cannot take it anymore.” The island recently banned the taking off or landing of any helicopters other than emergency services. “What has been our reward?” he asked. “We’ve become a dustbin.”

“We’re fed up and we’re with you all the way,” he said to the crowd.

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. encouraged the masses.  “Our goal is to get the federal government to act as soon as possible,” he said, adding that they need to identify exactly what changes need to be made. “It’s not good enough to rearrange the furniture on the Titanic,” he said to great applause.

There was much discussion and some confusion throughout the meeting of the various helicopter routes, but it became apparent that no new route could provide a satisfactory result. Wainscott resident Barry Raebeck said, “Shifting helicopter routes does not solve the problem of noise and pollution. It does not even lessen the problem. It simply shifts the problem to other people. There is no such thing as an all-water route to a land-locked airport.”

The way to solve the problem, he said, “is to eliminate commercial operations at East Hampton Airport.”

Kathy Cunningham of the Quiet Skies Coalition, and countless other speakers, implored the citizens of neighboring towns to attend the next East Hampton Town Board meeting on Thursday, August 21. “They need to see this support,” she said.

When asked what chance the East Hampton Town Board had of imposing regulations on the airport, Congressman Bishop directed that question to the amassed FAA representatives. Mary McCarthy from the FAA answered that until the grant assurances expire on December 31, 2014, the town board would not be able to restrict the use of the airport except for safety reasons.

After that point, however, if the town board decided not to take anymore FAA money, the airport would be able to impose flight restrictions. Frank Dalene, who serves on the airport subcommittee of the town’s finance advisory committee, said they have found that if helicopter traffic were eliminated from the airport, it would still be able to support itself without the help of FAA money.

“The decision maker on January 1, 2015 will be the town board,” he said. He added that East Hampton lawmakers needed to know there are people who would support new regulations.

All those who spoke about the East Hampton Town Board mentioned the encouraging changes that they have seen in the new administration, including North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander. The next step, he said, is to get the board to regain control of the airport from the FAA.

“But I think there’s a much larger problem here. I’ve seen letters from the other side, and I’ve seen the distribution of those other letters,” he said, adding that every billionaire on the East End is on that distribution list, and that an expensive lawsuit will ensue.

“This is a regional problem. We’ve got to make it a regional fight,” he said.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst at this point announced that the board was planning to have a special meeting on Thursday, July 14 to pass a memorializing resolution that would support East Hampton in a decision to refuse money from the FAA. She added they are encouraged by the change in town board, and addressed the representatives of the FAA, “We should not have to worry about getting sued for making decisions that should be happening on your level,” she said.

When asked if they would support the East Hampton Town Board if they were to make this decision, both Congressman Bishop and Assemblyman Thiele said that they would support whatever decision the town makes.

“When the people lead, the leaders will follow, and I think that’s what it’s about here tonight,” Mr. Thiele said.

Editor’s note: Barry Raebeck is the father of Sag Harbor Express reporter Tessa Raebeck.