Tag Archive | "Noyac"

A New Look at Septic Systems

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Raun Norquist demonstrates Pirana septic system to officials earlier this year. Photo courtesy of danielgonzalezphotography.com.

By Stephen J. Kotz 

To hear Raun Norquist tell it, “we live in a flush and forget world and nobody wants to pay attention to the problem.”

Ms. Norquist, who now lives in Noyac not far from Sag Harbor Cove, in a house with an aging brick septic system built in the 1930s,  has been paying attention to that problem—the treatment of wastewater—for the better part of two decades.

“We need a paradigm shift in the way we think about treating our waste,” she said. Most methods “count on lots of water, and lots of space. And nobody is thinking about where we’re going to get it.”

Ms. Norquist represents a company called Pirana that was started by a California entrepreneur and inventor, Jerry Fife. It offers, she said, a simple method to boost the efficiency of a standard home septic system so that it releases much cleaner wastewater into the drainage field—the area surrounding the cesspool rings.

If such systems were to gain a foothold on Long Island, with its hundreds of thousands of private septic systems, there would be large scale reduction in groundwater pollution and leaching of septic waste into nearby surface waters, she said.

There would also be benefits to homeowners and local governments that must treat sludge from traditional systems.  “This system is digesting what you have on site,” Ms. Norquist said, noting that regular systems need to be pumped every few years. “Pumping is expensive, it stinks, and then you are shipping it down the road to be treated at a wastewater treatment plant.”

The secret to a cleaner system lies in introducing and cultivating a large number of voracious bacteria—far more than are found in a typical septic system—that gorge themselves on the stuff we don’t like to mention in polite company. The bacteria can survive aerobically (with oxygen) or anaerobically (without it). Because there are so many of the little critters, they flow with the wastewater into the drainage field. There, they help control the formation of  “biomat,” a sort of sludge formed by conventional anaerobic bacteria released by a traditional septic system and a major cause of failure.

The Pirana system that Ms. Norquist sells costs about $3,000. It consists of a 1-by-3-foot cylinder that is lowered into the existing septic tank. The cylinder has about 150 square feet of thin plastic lining coiled within it. That lining serves as a breeding ground for the bacteria that are introduced into the system in the form of a beeswax-like cake.  The final element is a small pump, which injects air into the system, to help the bacteria thrive.

Ms. Norquist said about eight years ago, she had one installed  in that 1930s-era septic system at her Noyac home, which was at the point of failure, and  within hours the odor was gone and within days the system was functioning properly again.

The system requires little in the way of maintenance, although she said people who shut their homes down in the winter would probably be wise to add bacteria each spring when they reopen it for the season. Although hardware stores typically carry bacteria additives for septic systems, Ms. Norquist said a quart added to a system each month would produce only a fraction of the bacteria that the Pirana system supports.

Ms. Norquist who had previously been involved with a company that used an earlier but more cumbersome technology to improve septic systems, eventually became a sales representative for the firm.

Now that East End communities have turned their attention to combating the pollution caused by wastewater, Ms. Norquist is hopeful they will at least be willing to give the Pirana system a try.

She recently had what she calls a “show and tell” at her home, to which she invited Southampton Town officials and pulled the lid off her own system and retrieved a sample from it. “It looks like pale tea, it has no odor and no particulates,” she boasted.

Not only can it work in home septic systems, but Ms. Norquist is starting a pilot program to work with the Sag Harbor sewage treatment plant that will involve setting up one of its smaller holding tanks with a Pirana system to reduce the amount of sludge that must be hauled away. “They are spending $80,000 to $100,000 to haul away sludge now,” she said.

She said she regretted that East Hampton Town decided to shut down its scavenger waste plant, which she said, would also have been a perfect facility for another pilot program.

“We’ve got to stop thinking about this heavy-handed, expensive way to find ways to force nature into doing what we want,” she said, “and let it do what it wants to do.”

For more information about Pirana systems, contact Ms. Norquist at raun@optonline.net .

Tintle Says Sand Land Has Long and Legal History

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By Stephen J. Kotz

To hear John Tintle tell it, the neighbors of his Sand Land mine, composting and recycling facility in Noyac simply want to make his business go away to increase their own property values.

“They don’t like it that we’re here,” he said on Friday, while giving a tour of the deep pit, where grinding machines and screeners process mountains of sand and gravel for the manufacture of the concrete used for roads and foundations; stumps and branches for compost and top soil used in landscaping; and construction debris for things like driveway bases. “Yet they all need what we sell.”

Those neighbors, and many other residents of Sag Harbor, Noyac, and Bridgehampton, as well as elected officials and environmentalists turned out last week in a bid to have the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation deny Sand Land’s request for an expansion of its mining permit—or at the very least require that an environmental impact statement be done to protect the groundwater and reduce the potential for other environmental harm at the site. That hearing is covered separately in this issue.

But Bob DeLuca, the president of the Group for the East End, who was among those who is calling for a DEIS, said “the idea you would not do a comprehensive environmental review would be laughable if it were not so disconcerting.” He criticized the DEC for not planning to hold a hearing on the matter until the public pressured it to do so.

He pointed out that sand mining only makes up a portion of the activity at the site—although Mr. Tintle says it accounts for about two-thirds of his business—and said environmentalists are more concerned about mulching, composting and construction debris recycling.

Sand Land sits atop the aquifer and chief among the concerns of Mr. DeLuca and other environmentalists is the potential for groundwater pollution.  He cites a DEC investigation of the Long Island Composting site on Horseblock Road in Yaphank, released in 2013, which showed sharply higher levels of manganese emanating from the site. As a result, Long Island Composting has agreed to build an indoor composting operation on a concrete pad with runoff contained on site.

“It’s kind of crazy to think of all the work we did to get rid of the landfills” in New York State, he said. “And then to allow an industrial waste site to continue operating” with no additional oversight.

“In my mind, projects like this over time should probably be amortized,” Mr. DeLuca said. “These places are grenades waiting to explode.”

The trouble for Sand Land—and Wainscott Sand and Gravel, which operates the 50-acre site off Millstone Road and Middle Line Highway, in the shadow of the exclusive Bridge golf club—began in 2005. A group of three neighbors, with financial backing from Robert Rubin, the golf club’s owner, sued. They sought to have the site declared a nuisance and shut down because of, among other things, its odor, noise and the hundreds of large dump trucks that rumble onto and off the site each day. The opposition came, Mr. Tintle said, despite the fact that the mine has been there for more than 50 years—and provided much of the sand used for fill when the World’s Fair was held at Flushing Meadows, Queens, in 1964—and was opened when the land was zoned for industrial uses and the nearest house was a quarter mile away.

The result of that suit was a protracted battle between Mr. Tintle and Southampton Town. In 2011, the town’s chief building inspector, Michael J. Benincasa, issued a certificate of occupancy that recognized that the mine was operating before 1972 when the town changed the zoning from industrial to residential. It also legalized the compost and mulch processing at the site. The neighbors, who had sued, Margo Gilman, Joseph Phair, and Amelia Doggwiler (who replaced Robert Flood, an original petitioner, after he sold his house), appealed the issuance of that C.O. to the town Zoning Board of Appeals.

The Z.B.A., in turn, “wanted to make everyone happy,” according to Mr. Tintle. “They wanted to split the baby in half.” In 2012, the ZBA ruled that while the sand mine was legal, the other activities were not, and ordered them shut down. Mr. Tintle sued, and last February, New York State Supreme Court Justice W. Gerard Asher, ruled in his companies’ favor, ordering the C.O. to be reinstated in its entirety.

In his ruling, Justice Asher gave considerable weight to the testimony of people like Bill Masterson, the former Southampton Town highway superintendent, and Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, who was formerly the town’s director of sanitation. In affidavits, they and others who worked at the site or made deliveries, described an ongoing operation that had been in place for decades.

Mr. Tintle said in 2013, the Suffolk County Department of Health Service asked to test the water from wells used to supply both his office at the Sand Land site and in an irrigation system that is run during the dry summer months to keep dust down. The tests have shown no sign of any contamination, he said.

“If the DEC wants me to put in test wells, I will, but I’ll be the only [sand mine] place on Long Island to have them,” he said.

Mr. Tintle says much of the public opposition to his plans have been stirred up by Mr. Rubin. House lots approved as part of the Bridge development back up to Sand Land, and Mr. Tintle showed a reporter photographs of surveillance cameras he says are on the Bridge property overlooking his mine. “I’m under a microscope here,” he said.

He also charges that Mr. Rubin has enlisted the Group for the East End to fight the battle for him. Mr. DeLuca dismisses those claims, while acknowledging that Mr. Rubin is a contributor to the Group and has attended its annual benefits.

“We made Bob Rubin’s life very difficult for three years” during the review of his golf course, Mr. DeLuca said, with the result that he now spends an estimated $200,000 to 300,000 annually to monitor the groundwater. “The bottom line is our position is consistent, whether it’s been Bob Rubin’s or this project,” Mr. DeLuca said.

“He’s in a position where he feels this is personal,” Mr. DeLuca added. “But it’s not like somebody went to the phone book, found this guy and decided to pick on him.”


Hearing on Sand Land Permit

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, November 19, on the permit of the Sand Land Corporation to continue mining sand at its site on Millstone Road in Noyac.

The hearing, which will be presided over by an administrative law judge, will take place at 6 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Community House at 2357 Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton.

Sand Land wants to expand its mine by 4.9 acres and to excavate 40 feet deeper than authorized under the facility’s existing permit. The mine has been permitted by DEC and operating since 1981. The Mined Land Reclamation Act was enacted by the State Legislature to ensure that reclamation of permitted mine sites occurs after mining operations are completed.

The DEC determined that the hearing was needed after receiving many written comments after notice of the application was published in the Environmental Notice Bulletin on July 23.

The DEC will accept oral or written comments on the application during the public hearing. Equal weight will be given to both oral and written statements.

Written comments about the permit application must be received by November 21. They can be sent to: NYSDEC Region 1, Att. Mark Carrara, Deputy Permit Administrator, SUNY Stony Brook, 50 Circle Road, Stony Brook, NY 11790.

A copy of the permit application is on file at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton or by contacting Mr. Carrara at the above address or by telephone at (631) 444-0374.

County Officials Say Guardrail’s Here to Stay

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Engineers from the DPW informed residents on Tuesday evening the new guardrail along Short Beach Road won’t be removed any time soon. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

Tension and frustration soared during a meeting on Tuesday night, when critics of a newly installed guardrail along Short Beach Road were told the galvanized steel structures wouldn’t be removed any time soon.

There was quite the outcry from Bay Point, Noyac, North Haven and Sag Harbor Village residents one morning in June when they awoke to find the Suffolk County Department of Public Works installing guardrails along the previously open road that runs between Long Beach and Sag Harbor Cove.

After a change.org petition started by local artist and North Haven resident April Gornik reached over 600 signatures, a public meeting was set up for residents to air their concerns about the guardrail—which they criticized both for being dangerous and unattractive—with members of the DPW and County Legislator Jay Schneiderman.

The meeting, which took place at the North Haven Village Hall on Tuesday evening attracted a large crowd. Ten minutes before it was slated to begin, the parking lot was full and several residents had to stand in the back of the room throughout the 90-minute meeting.

Bill Hillman and Bill Colavito, both of the DPW, answered questions from the public and attempted to explain why the guardrails were installed.

Mr. Hillman, chief engineer for DPW, said he received a letter from a member of the Noyac Citizens Advisory Committee, alerting the county to a safety issue along Short Beach Road—the lack of guardrails.

“There’s criteria that needs to be met to install guiderail,” Mr. Hillman said. “We don’t install guiderail lightly.” He added it’s his job to removed fixed objects from highways. “In most times we’re denying requests for guiderail,” he added.

Mr. Colavito, the DPW’s director of highway design, explained some of the guardrail guidelines.

“It was really a no-brainer of a situation,” he said. Mr. Colavito explained the county inputs information into a chart—the speed limit is, any hazardous slopes, the average number of cars that use the road, any potential danger and enough of a “clear zone” to allow a driver to recuperate if they need to swerve for any reason.

Guardrail skeptics said Short Beach Road has heavy pedestrian traffic and accused the DPW of not considering the issue of pedestrian and cyclist safety. Many said they believe the new guardrails could be much more dangerous to those traveling by foot or on two wheels, who now would have nowhere to turn if a vehicle swerved off the road.

“About 8,000 vehicles use that roadway every day, clearly there are not 8,000 pedestrians or cyclists using it every day,” Mr. Hillman said. “We have 8,000 opportunities for [cars] to veer into the water. What’s the likelihood of that compared to having a cyclist or pedestrian being at that same spot at that exact time?” he said.

David Beard, president of the Bay Point Property Owners Association expressed particular concern about one stretch of the road. When drivers traveling west try to turn left onto Bay Point, he explained, the cars behind zip quickly around them, potentially forcing walkers or joggers into the guardrail. Mr. Beard asked what could be done to alleviate the traffic situation before next summer.

“There’s no silver bullet, there’s no one thing we can do,” said Mr. Hillman. “We’re just not going to remove the guiderail. You guys are entitled to your opinion, but I’m the one who makes this decision.”

Mr. Hillman and Mr. Schneiderman explained the county is hesitant to remove the guardrails because of liability. Mr. Hillman added that the county would probably be willing to sell or give the road to the Town of Southampton, which could then choose to do with the road what it wishes.

Mr. Schneiderman said he would be in touch with Supervisor Throne-Holst and added it might not be out of the realm of possibility, considering Noyac Road was county-owned until Southampton Town took over responsibility for it a few years ago.  But he added “the town might not want it.”

Conversation then turned to a complete redesign of the road, in an effort to make it as safe and pleasant as possible for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike.

North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander, Deputy Mayor Dianne Skilbred and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. brought up past traffic calming studies and suggested a similar study might be the answer for this particular stretch of road.

“Sometimes these things provide an opportunity to do something greater,” Mr. Thiele said, “in my opinion we should be looking at traffic calming for the entire quarter.”

Mr. Thiele said he and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle would look into funding for a large traffic calming study and redesign. “I hope this moves forward and we can come up with something we could all be proud of at the end of the day,” he said.

Mr. Hillman said he would see if any funds were available in the DPW’s capital program in order to conduct an initial study right away. Still, he said, this process would be very costly and would likely take three to four years.

“We’re willing to take a look at everything,” Mr. Hillman said. “There’s a legitimate safety concern.”



Sag Harbor Schools Defended at Noyac Civic Council Meeting

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By Tessa Raebeck

Members of the Noyac Civic Council expressed a grim outlook for the future Tuesday evening when they gathered in the Old Schoolhouse in Noyac to hear a presentation from Sag Harbor School District administrators.

Some 15 people, including Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and Sandi Kruel, a member of the school board, heard presentations by Superintendent Katy Graves and School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi on testing results, the Common Core, the district’s financial status and other topics chosen by the council, such as “plans to improve student achievement.”

Ms. Graves and Ms. Buscemi, who are both in their first year with the district, introduced themselves to the group and stressed the strength of Sag Harbor’s students and schools. Those gathered in the room were predominately retired members of the community who do not have children who attend schools in the district.

“My guiding principle is, I do what’s best for children, what’s fair for adults and what the community can sustain,” Ms. Graves told the group, adding that she always has time to speak with all community members. She expressed the need for school administrators to communicate with the many families who are not connected to the district because they do not send their children there, but who pay taxes to the schools and “want to know what the value is.”

Ms. Graves shared figures and charts on Sag Harbor’s performance on mandated state, federal and local tests for students. “Assessment is only one piece, but we have a really shiny piece,” she said.

Despite data, information and personal anecdotes from Ms. Graves and Ms. Buscemi about the district’s financial health, “extraordinary” programs, staff and students, the room appeared unconvinced.

“Katy,” John Arendt, a Noyac resident, said to Ms. Graves, “we love our results here, but let’s fact it, we’re inundated every day with the failure of our education system, so we want to see results.”

“They don’t even teach penmanship anymore,” said Noyac resident Vincent Starace.

Although students still learn how to write, New York State no longer requires cursive instruction.

Other members of the council said teenagers no longer have summer jobs, “can’t write a sentence” by the time they get to college, and raised concerns over drug use, as well as teacher benefits and salaries.

Guardrails To Be Discussed

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When the Suffolk County Department of Public Works installed new guardrails along a stretch of Long Beach Road between North Haven and Noyac, there was a groundswell of criticism from residents who said the new rails both spoiled the view and could pose a safety hazard for bicyclists and pedestrians.

A petition seeking their removal has gained 572 signatures, and Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman has agreed to meet  with foes of the project as well as North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander and county highway officials to discuss the issue.

The meeting, open to the public, will take place at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 21, at North Haven Village Hall on Ferry Road.

Noyac Civic Council Celebrates 60 Years With Gala to Benefit Ambulance Corps

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The Noyac Civic Council will celebrate 60 years of community services with a gala celebration on Saturday, September 27 from 6 to 10 a.m. at Harlow, 1 Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. The event, which is $90 per person with tickets available at The Whalebone General Stone, will feature cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, as well as a sit down dinner with all proceeds benefiting the Sag Harbor and Southampton Volunteer Ambulance Corps. The civic council is offering a group discount rate of $80 per person for purchases of six or more tickets at one time. For more information, email cnmn@optonline.net.

Voter Registration Drive

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The League of Women Voters of the Hamptons will register voters at 12 sites across the East End on Tuesday, September 23, which is the third annual National Voter Registration Day.

Now in its third year, National Voter Registration Day was established in 2012 on the fourth Tuesday in September and boasts more than 1,000 partnering organizations across the United States. Its purpose is to bring attention to the importance of registering to vote on time.

The New York State deadline is October 10 for the general election on November 4.

“Anyone who was not registered previously, or who has moved, or changed his or her name needs to fill out a voter registration form,” said the Hamptons League’s voter services co-chair Anne Marshall. “We hope you will stop by one of our tables, where we will also be glad to answer any of your questions.”

League volunteers will be at Schiavoni’s Market in Sag Harbor from 10 a.m. to noon; at the Bridgehampton Post Office from 10 a.m. to noon; at Cromer’s Market on Noyac Road from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; at Waldbaums Supermarket on Jagger Lane in Southampton from 4 to 6 p.m.; at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton, also from 4 to 6 p.m.; at Chancellors Hall at the Stony Brook Southampton campus from 5 to 7 p.m.; at the East Hampton Post Office from 10 a.m. to noon; at One Stop Market in East Hampton on Springs-Fireplace Road from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Montauk Post Office from 10 a.m. to noon; at King Kullen in Hampton Bays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; at Stop & Shop in Hampton Bays, also from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and at Simon’s Beach Bakery in Westhampton Beach from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Those with questions can contact the league at (631) 324-4637 or visit lwvhamptons.org or call the Suffolk County Board of Elections at (631) 852-4500.

Over 300 Show Up to Discuss Aircraft Noise in East Hampton

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Helicopters at the East Hampton Airport on Wednesday evening, just down the road from where over 300 residents gathered to discuss the aircraft noise problem. Photo by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic

More than 325 people from all over the East End turned up to a special meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the East Hampton Airport.

For almost three hours, residents from East Hampton, Southampton, Noyac, North Haven, Shelter Island and the North Fork told the board their concerns, their stories, and their solutions. Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who acts as the board’s airport liaison made a statement before the public hearing began. She assured the public the town board was committed to do everything they can legally do to address the problem.

She also asked those who had signed up to speak to stay respectful of each other, and the board, and said “I request everyone observe basic rules of civility.”

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez’s wish came true. There was a sense of support and unity among the residents and elected officials who gathered to speak at Wednesday night’s meeting.

Southold, Southampton, Shelter Island, North Haven and Noyac passed memorializing resolutions in the past few weeks, all calling for the East Hampton Town Board to refuse any future grant money from the FAA and then impose regulations on the airport.

Currently, the board is receiving grant assurances from the FAA, which will expire on December 31, 2014. “We implore you to not accept the funding from the FAA,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I can just tell you that from a North Haven standpoint, we’ll do everything to try and support you,” said Jeff Sander, Mayor of North Haven Village. This feeling was repeated throughout the evening, by residents as well as elected officials.

“We’re behind you 100%,” said Shelter Island resident Jim Colligan.  ”Don’t be in fear of those helicopter companies, if we need to rally behind you, we will definitely rally behind you.”

Speakers expressed concern about non-stop noise, which many say goes from as early as 5 a.m. to as late as 2:45 a.m. Frank Dalene, who sits on two of East Hampton’s Airport subcommittees, likened the endless noise to torture. “Will there be satisfaction if you just stop the torture?” he asked. “The only relief is to stop torture. We will not be satisfied until helicopters stop.”

As well as noise, many brought up issues of health and safety. A specialist in animal behaviorism and a Northwest resident explained that the “looming” sound of the helicopters has damaged wild life on the East End, and could be damaging people, too.

Solutions were put forward by the public, as well. Many called for banning helicopters, some called for shutting down all commercial operations in and out of the airport.  Certain residents suggested closing the East Hampton Airport and moving operations to Montauk Airport. This may prove slightly difficult as the 40 acres of the Montauk Airport is less than a tenth of the size of the East Hampton Airport.

“It’s truly a pleasure to listen to th voices on the East End and the conduct at this meeting was exemplary,” Supervisor Cantwell said on Wednesday.

Bret Parker Raises Money By Conquering His Fears

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Bret Parker, right, and his trainer Lyon Marcus, left, after an intense training session at Long Beach on Monday. Photo by Mara Certic. 

By Mara Certic

Bret Parker is a husband, father, skydiver and lawyer, and if all goes according to plan, by next month he will also be a triathlete. While this may not seem particularly newsworthy, it is important to mention that not only does Mr. Parker have Parkinson’s disease, he is deathly afraid of water. But he has resolved to conquer his  fear in order to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

He still remembers it vividly: he was 3 years old, running around a pool when he tripped over a hose and fell in. Someone pulled him to safety quickly, but the damage was already done. Mr. Parker was traumatized and has been terrified of water for decades.

Mr. Parker grew up, became a lawyer, got married and lived with his wife and two children in the New York City. The family bought a house in Noyac in 2001, and Mr. Parker considers Long Beach his “backyard,” but still he didn’t want to swim. Then, in 2007 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

He had noticed a slight tremor in his right hand. He went to the doctor, who, after a series of basic motor tests, concluded that Mr. Parker, now 46, had Parkinson’s. “There’s no blood test,” he explained, so the diagnosis really took him aback. So much so that Mr. Parker and his wife Katharine kept it secret, didn’t really tell anyone and carried on business as usual.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement, causing tremors, stiffness and the gradual slowing down of every-day motions. There is no known cure—as of yet—but medications can mitigate many of the side effects.

In 2012, when Mr. Parker began to take medication for his disease, he decided that it was time to “come out.” He wrote a blog on Forbes.com, telling his friends, family, colleagues and the rest of the internet world about his diagnosis. “For a long time, silence seemed logical.  As long as my Parkinson’s was not impacting my day-to-day functioning, no one had to know,” he wrote in his 2012 “outing.”

“When I was first diagnosed, my symptoms were almost impossible to detect and there wasn’t anything for my family or friends “to do” so I figured it wasn’t worth telling people,” he continued.

But then a close friend of his told him that he had plans to run 50 miles for 10 charities, and invited Mr. Parker to run a five-mile stint with him to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “I was so touched by his grand gesture — how could I refuse?” he wrote.

“The answer is finally clear.  This is the year to leave my secret behind — to literally run past my fears, my doubts and my hesitation,” he continued. Mr. Parker ran the five miles and raised $115,000 for the Fox Foundation. The next year, he decided to take a leap of faith, literally, and raised $50,000 for the organization by jumping out of a plane at Skydive Long Island.

“When you have an illness you realize you were living under the fiction of being in control,” said Mrs. Parker, a breast cancer survivor herself. When Mrs. Parker signed up for the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon on September 7, her husband resolved to conquer his fear of water once and for all and to do the same.

He hired Iron Man veteran Lyon Marcus as his trainer and began the slow process of really learning how to swim in May. In the first four weeks of his training, Mr. Parker didn’t go into the water once. In fact, when he told this to a triathlete friend of his, she told him to fire his trainer and get a new one. But Mr. Parker kept with it, learning exercises on land to strengthen his core and upper body.

“It was terrible,” Mrs. Parker said of her husband’s swimming, “I can’t even tell you what a transformation this is,” she said as she watched him swim laps in Noyac Bay on Tuesday morning.

One of the lesser-known facts about Parkinson’s disease is that stress and anxiety worsen the tremors and stiffness. Mr. Parker’s fear of the water exacerbated his symptoms. But soon his 10-minute swimming stints became 20 minutes and last week, Mr. Parker swam the full 1,500 meters he will have to swim during the triathlon. “He’s got a will you can’t even imagine,” Mr. Marcus said.

After over 40 years, Mr. Parker has conquered his fear. He is not planning on winning the triathlon, but he’s certainly planning on finishing it—even though he will have to take a day’s worth of medication in a period of about four hours.

Mr. Parker is the executive director of the New York City Bar Association and a member of the Fox Foundation’s Patient Council. “I have two big beefs with Parkinson’s,” he said on Tuesday. The first is something that he was guilty of for five years—keeping it a secret. The second is the extreme optimism shown by many sufferers of the disease. “Optimism masks the fact that they’ve been using the same drug for 40 years,” he said, adding that more research must be done.

Days after Robin Williams’s suicide shocked the world, his wife released a statement disclosing that her husband had been suffering from depression, anxiety and the early stages of Parkinson’s, “which he was not yet ready to share publicly.”

The diagnosis was hard, but Parkinson’s has taught Mr. Parker about the uncertainty of life and has provided him with a new mantra: “live life as large as you can, as long as you can.”

For more information about the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research visit michaeljfox.org. To donate to Mr. Parker’s fundraising efforts visit www2.michaeljfox.org/goto/parker. The Mighty Hamptons Triathlon will take place on Sunday, September 7. The event will begin at 6:40 a.m. with the 1.5-kilometer swim at Long Beach. For more information about the triathlon visit eventpowerli.com.