The Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund has raised $28.26 million for the first five months of the year, a 5 percent increase over the same period last year when it collected $36.38 million, according to Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.
Since it was created in 1999, the CPF, which is funded by a real estate transfer tax in the five East End towns, has collected$923 million.
It is on pace this year to better the 2013 totals, which was the second most successful year in its history, after 2007.
“This reflects the continued strength in East End real estate and the continued availability to local towns of the necessary revenues to protect community character,” he said in a release.
Southampton is leading all towns, collecting a total of $22.5 million this year, while East Hampton has collected $11.66 million. Southold has collected $1.7 million, Riverhead $1.58 million, and Shelter Island, $820,000.
By Kathryn G. Menu
State government leaders announced this week an initiative aimed at combating heroin abuse on the East End, as law enforcement, public health and court officials acknowledged the growing threat the drug—and other opioids—in Suffolk County.
On Monday, New York State Senator Ken LaValle, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo announced the formation of the Heroin Addiction Legislative Task Force, or HALT.
The legislators said the group was created to identify causes of and solutions to fight the growing heroin epidemic. The task force will specifically look at the five East End towns, according to Assemblyman Thiele.
The creation of the task force was spearheaded by Senator LaValle, after Senate leaders formed a statewide task force in March.
On Wednesday, Assemblyman Thiele said state officials representing the East End recognized approaches to battling the epidemic would need to be tailored for the region—a region with many law enforcement jurisdictions, local court systems, and its own set of obstacles when it comes to mental health care and treatment.
“The increase in heroin use has reached alarming levels and we need to take action to address this critical situation,” said Senator LaValle. “A broad based East End approach will help us to identify areas where we can be productive in combating the scourge of heroin and other opiates. The initial meeting will be the first in a series that will assist us in determining the types of resources that are needed on the East End.”
“The issue of heroin abuse certainly became more high-profile after [the actor] Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death, but if you talk to people in drug treatment programs and law enforcement, this has been a growing problem in the state for several years now,” said Assemblyman Thiele in an interview Wednesday.
“We don’t have a county police department or district courts, we have town and village police departments and town and village courts, so from a law enforcement perspective, dealing with this issue on the East End is different than the rest of Long Island,” he continued.
According to Assemblyman Thiele, the first meeting will be held on May 16 at 10 a.m. at the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center on Main Street in Riverhead. That session, he said, will focus on bringing together law enforcement officials, counselors, representatives from treatment groups, as well as town and village justices and government leaders to talk about the epidemic before the task force begins to look at targeted solutions that can aid the East End.
On Wednesday, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said he expects the village will be represented at the forum.
“I think this is a great initiative because this is a problem and it seems to be growing at a crazy pace and is affecting a lot of people,” he said. “Either myself of one of the members of the village board will attend that first session.”
“This first meeting we largely expect it to be us as legislators doing a lot of listening,” said Assemblyman Thiele. “Before we can decide what government can do from a policy perspective we have to talk to the people on the ground dealing with this issue.”
The creation of the task force comes on the heels of two major heroin arrests by the East End Drug Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional agency led by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office that includes officers from town and village police departments across the North and South forks.
In February, nine men—six from the Riverhead area—were charged with multiple felonies for their alleged involvement in the sale of “Hollywood” heroin, a particularly potent brand of the drug that was sold to residents on the East End, including Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. During the course of a years long investigation into that ring, police said they confiscated 2,000 bags of heroin and thousands of dollars in cash.
In April, Suffolk County Police announced the arrest of 14 individuals in connection with an alleged sales ring that ferried heroin from Brooklyn throughout Suffolk County. According to Mr. Spota, that ring had flooded Suffolk County with 360,000 bags of heroin with a street value of $3.6 million.
The arrests come at a time when law enforcement and mental health care professionals are reporting an increase in the amount of heroin and opioid abuse in Suffolk County.
According to a report issued in 2012 by a special grand jury empanelled by Mr. Spota, heroin use between 1996 and 2011 accounted for a 425-percent increase in the number of participants in the Suffolk County Drug Court Program. Opioid pill abuse, according to the report, accounted for a 1,136-percent increase in the number of drug court participants. According to data issued by the county medical examiner’s chief toxicologist Dr. Michael Lehrer, there were 28 heroin related deaths in Suffolk County in 2010, which increased to 64 in 2011 and to 83 in 2012 with 82 deaths officially reported for 2013, although that figure is expected to rise as investigations into other deaths are completed.
The Bridgehampton National Bank (bridgenb.com) Annual Apple Campaign, which was started in 2011 to provide contributions to local food pantries, culminated Monday with the distribution of $1,000 checks to each of 23 food pantries from Montauk to Greenport to Deer Park and Melville. At a presentation and reception at the BNB Bridgehampton office, pantry representatives Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Southampton, Springs and Sag Harbor were on-hand to accept the funds. Maureen’s Haven, which helps the homeless on the East End, also received a check for $2,000. This is only part of the $25,000 donated by bank customers, employees and the company itself.
“This is one of the community programs we are most proud,” said Kevin M. O’Connor, president and CEO of Bridgehampton National Bank. “It is a true collaboration between the bank, its customers and employees, working together to help those most in need in our communities. It is the essence of what it means to be a community bank.”
The Apple program began nearly five years ago with a conversation initiated by the East Hampton Food Pantry. They suggested the “apple” as a means of recognizing donations. With 26 branches across Suffolk and Nassau Counties, BNB took its Apples bank wide. The program is an annual holiday tradition which runs through the end of January. In lieu of a holiday gift, BNB donates in the name of its employees, customers enthusiastically participate and BNB matches donations and fills in any gaps to reach the goal and fund one pantry in each of its markets. In addition to the financial gift, branch staff collected non- perishable foods during the months of November, December and January, which are also distributed to local pantries.
The East End Women’s Network celebrated women’s history month last Wednesday, hosting a panel discussion with local women leaders. The event entitled “Women Making Policy: A Women & Politics Panel Discussion” featured Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst, Southold Town Board Member Jill Doherty and Former Suffolk County Legislator and Deputy Presiding Officer Vivian Viloria Fisher as panelists. Award winning journalist and Islip town Councilwoman Trish Bergin-Weichbrodt served as moderator for the discussion.Discussion focused around the challanges women face in pursuing leadership positions. Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst pointed to the headway Southampton Town has made with women in Leadership positions in the Town government. However all the panelist acknowledge the challenges women still face in politics and government. The panelists agreed that more women are needed in the political pipeline. Vivian Viloria Fisher stated that “women need to be asked to run” and encouraged the audience to ask more women to run for office.The East End Women’s Network was founded in 1981. The purpose of this organization is to bring together women of diverse accomplishment and experience, directing women into policy-making positions through the dissemination and sharing of career opportunities; to educate members and the public on issues affecting women on the East End; and to promote the interests, conditions and positions of women in science, business, industry, labor, government, the arts, education and public service.
By Tessa Raebeck
Blues, soul, rock, jazz and country music are awakening the vineyards of the North Fork this winter as Winterfest: Live on the Vine combines over 100 musical performances with the natural beauty and exceptional wines of the East End.
Started as Jazz on the Vine in 2006, the annual six-week music festival returns this year as Live on the Vine, with a wider range of musicians, including many Grammy recipients and Grammy-nominated artists, performing at local hotels, restaurants, vineyard tasting rooms and other venues. Designed to stimulate local businesses – and entertain local residents – during the off-season, the festival offers countless specials on accommodations, restaurants and transportation for ticket holders, including ‘Winterfest Getaway’ package deals. Hopper Passes, new this year, allow festivalgoers to see multiple performances in a single day, weekend or throughout the entire festival, without paying separate entrance fees at each show.
Winterfest: Live on the Vine kicked off January 17 at the Suffolk Theater with a sold-out performance by blues-rock icon Johnny Winter. The music continues with multiple performances each day over six weekends, ending Saturday, March 22.
This Friday on Valentine’s Day, the Alexander Clough Trio, a jazz ensemble from Brooklyn, will play a free show at Bistro 72, a restaurant and lounge at Hotel Indigo in Riverhead from 7 to 10 p.m. Also in Riverhead at the Suffolk Theater, Myq Kaplan of Comedy Central’s show “Last Comic Standing” will present a stand-up routine, “Valentine’s Candlelight Comedy,” with dancing to follow.
Throughout the day on Saturday, February 15, 10 North Fork vineyards are hosting shows, with a performance by Gene Casey & The Lone Sharks at the Hotel Indigo Ballroom in Riverhead closing out the day. Another 10 concerts are scheduled for Sunday.
General Admission tickets for Winterfest: Live on the Vine cost $20 and include a glass of wine. Hopper passes do not include wine and are $30 for the day, $50 for the weekend or $200 for the entire six-week festival. For more information, visit liwinterfest.com.
By Tessa Raebeck
Plans to unleash federal sharpshooters on the East End deer population have been met with bureaucratic setbacks and vocal opposition, but are moving forward nonetheless.
In coordination with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Long Island Farm Bureau (LIFB) plans to hire USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) sharpshooters to kill deer with high-powered rifles to cull the local herds.
In addition to carrying tick-borne illnesses, causing car accidents and adversely affecting other animal habitats, deer destroy an estimated $3 to $5 million worth of crops annually on the East End, according to Joe Gergela, LIFB executive director.
Gergela said the cull, which will be largely funded by a $200,000 state grant, aims to kill 1,500 to 2,000 deer. All processed meat will go to Island Harvest to feed the hungry on Long Island.
“We felt whatever we did with the grant should be for community as well as farming benefit,” Gergela said Wednesday, adding a cull is crucial to having a successful agricultural industry.
LIFB has asked that villages and towns who want the sharpshooters sign onto the program by committing $15,000 or $25,000, respectively.
The DEC has yet to reveal whether it will require a single permit for the program or make each municipality signing onto the program file individually. Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said Tuesday although many municipalities have expressed interest in joining the program, they don’t want the legal liability of having the permit in their name.
So far, East Hampton Village, Southold Town and the eastern part of Brookhaven Town have signed on.
North Haven Village opted out, but is pursuing its own organized cull.
Sagaponack Village’s participation is contingent on the participation of both East Hampton and Southampton towns.
Southampton Town has thus far stayed mute on the subject — which has been under public discussion since September. Calls to Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst were not returned as of press time.
The East Hampton Town Board, under the previous administration, adopted a deer management plan that included plans for a cull. On Tuesday, however, newly elected Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he was unsure if the town would, in fact, join the LIFB in this initiative.
“At the moment, it’s up in the air,” Cantwell said, adding he would like to see culling on a limited basis and there are advantages to participating, but the town’s decision will be based primarily on the opinions of its residents.
“To some extent,” said Cantwell, “this is happening fairly quickly in terms of building a community consensus moving forward.”
The East Hampton Group for the Wildlife, the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons and 13 individuals have filed suit against East Hampton Town, East Hampton Village and the East Hampton Town Trustees.
The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order against the town’s deer management plan and specifically, any proposal that calls for an organized cull.
“The lawsuit,” Cantwell said, “is certainly a factor in the decision-making process about this.”
Critics contend little information has been provided to show the cull is truly necessary.
“Killing other beings as a way of solving the problem is abhorrent, unethical and monstrous to me,” said East Hampton Group for the Wildlife President Bill Crain. “These are living beings with families and social lives and emotions, so to kill them just seems like a moral outrage.”
“It’s not about animal cruelty and all the nonsense that the Bambi lovers are spouting,” Gergela said. “If they would sit down and listen to people, they would realize there are no practical solutions other than to hunt or to cull.”
A petition on change.org to stop the “stealth plan to brutally slaughter 5,000 East End deer” had garnered over 10,600 signatures as of press time. In addition to local residents, activists from as far away as Belgium have signed the petition, which calls for the “unethical, ‘quick-fix,’ non-science-based plan” to “immediately cease and desist.”
A rally in protest of the cull will be held Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. at the Hook Mill in East Hampton.
Gergela dismissed the opposition as a “vocal minority” of non-locals with “no vested interest other than they enjoy animals and they enjoy their peaceful weekend on Long Island.”
“That’s very nice,” he added, “but for those of us that live here, whether you’re a farmer or a general citizen that’s had an accident, that has Lyme Disease or whatever, everybody says to me, ‘You’re doing a great thing.’”
Local hunters have also expressed their opposition to the cull, arguing if state and local governments lessened hunting restrictions, they themselves could thin the deer population.
Terry Crowley, a lifelong Sagaponack resident whose family has been hunting on the East End for generations, called the cull “a little ridiculous.”
“They should just change a few laws so more deer can be killed,” Crowley said Tuesday.
Thiele is working on legislation that would implement the state deer management plan, which has a number of recommendations to increase hunting opportunities, including expanding the January season to include weekends and allow bow and arrow hunting.
Cantwell voiced his support of such legislation.
“I certainly want to work with the local hunters who want to take deer,” the supervisor said Tuesday, “because I do think that removing some deer from the population on an ongoing basis is necessary to control the population.”
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. reported this week revenues for the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund (CPF) produced $11.03 million in October 2013. This compares with $6.02 million a year ago. The 10-month total for 2013 of $75.73 million is 50.9 percent higher than a year ago for the same period when $50.19 million was collected, according to Thiele.
Since its inception in 1999, the Peconic Bay Regional Community Preservation Fund has generated $865.03 million. The CPF expires in 2030. The CPF has generated $92.38 million over the last 12 months. Based on recent activity, CPF revenues are projected to be in the $90 million range for 2013. Revenues for 2012 totaled $66.84 million.
In 2011, the New York State Legislature enacted Chapter 97, which is most well known for establishing the 2 percent real property tax cap. However, the legislation also included a number of provisions for mandate relief for school districts, including a provision promoted by State Assemblyman Fred Thiele.
Specifically, Thiele’s proposal permits up to three school districts with enrollments of 1,000 students or less to enter into a contract to share a school superintendent. It could not impair any existing school superintendent employment contract in effect before July 1, 2013.
There are 19 school districts in Suffolk County with 1,000 or fewer students, mostly on the East End. Before the enactment of Chapter 97, each district was required to have its own school superintendent.
Southold and Greenport school districts, with enrollments of 850 and 650 respectively, are the first school districts on Long Island to take advantage of the new law. They will share a school superintendent beginning July 2014.
“I was proud to shepherd the Shared Superintendent Program through the state legislature in 2011,” said Thiele. “I am equally proud that the first school districts have taken advantage of the program. Southold and Greenport are to be commended for taking advantage of this opportunity to share administrative services and reduce taxes. Other East End school districts should take a hard look at this groundbreaking initiative.”
By Kathryn G. Menu
While the results have yet to be made official by the Suffolk County Board of Elections (BOE), according to Southampton Town Democratic Party chairman Gordon Herr, it appears that Independence Party member Brad Bender and Republican Stan Glinka have held on to their Election Day leads and will join the Southampton Town Board in January.
On Wednesday morning, an official with Suffolk County BOE chairman Anita Katz’s office declined comment on the race stating official results would not be available until later this week.
However, Herr said the counting of 879 absentee ballots was completed last Wednesday and that Bender and Glinka have secured seats on the town board.
Bender and Glinka bested Bridgehampton resident Jeff Mansfield and Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone in the town board race.
“I am so very thankful to my friends, family, co-workers, colleagues, everyone who was so generous and encouraging during the campaign,” said Glinka, the town board race’s top vote getter, in a statement on Wednesday. “But more importantly I am thankful to the voters of this great town, my hometown of Southampton, for endorsing me with their vote. I look forward to continuing to listen to all the people and to working on finding balanced solutions to many crucial issues at hand.”
“As I committed to be your full time representative, I am currently winding down my workload and finishing off projects that are in progress,” said Bender, who is in the construction field. “I am excited about this next chapter in my life as a public servant. Working for you the taxpayers to solve problems and protect our community.”