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Schneiderman Praises County Budget as “Good for the East End”

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At the November 20 meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said lawmakers were surprised to learn that Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone had not vetoed a single budget amendment proposed by the legislature for the $2.8 billion 2013 budget.

In previous years, according to Schneiderman, former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy vetoed many changes proposed by the legislature to the budget submitted by the county executive.

“Not this year,” said Schneiderman. “There is a much greater level of cooperation between the two branches of government. We have come together to tackle the fiscal challenges that face the county as a team, and it’s paying off.”

Schneiderman said the county’s financial situation has improved greatly, in part because of what he called “difficult choices” the legislature has made including significant reductions in the county workforce. This year alone, Schneiderman said he and other lawmakers agreed to eliminate 700 positions from the county workforce.

Legislator Schneiderman served as a member of the Legislature’s Budget Working Group.

“The approved budget is good for the East End in many ways,” said Schneiderman who said this is the ninth county budget he has participated in without a general fund property tax increase.

“These are challenging times for everyone,” said Legislator Schneiderman. “It is our responsibility as elected officials to find ways to operate government without asking residents to contribute more.”

The county also increased dredging by $5 million for next year and increased the sales tax revenues distributed to East End police departments by $3.5 million while also decreasing the amount given to western Suffolk County by $17.2 million. Schneiderman said he has also secured an additional $113,500 in hotel tax revenues for East End museums and cultural centers, including Guild Hall, Bay Street Theater, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center and the new Parrish Art Museum.

Schneiderman said money was also allocated for the renovation of the John A. Ward Memorial Windmill in Sag Harbor. A total of $218,500 was given in cultural funding to East End organizations.

The budget also established a $5 million emergency fund for Hurricane Sandy related repairs.

 

Future of Sag Harbor-Greenport Ferry Service Unclear

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Whether or not the Peconic Bay Water Jitney — a passenger ferry service between Sag Harbor and Greenport that operated on a pilot season basis throughout the summer of 2012 — will be proposed for 2013 remains uncertain.

The passenger ferry service has been running since July after both Sag Harbor and Greenport villages green-lit a trial run in May. The Peconic Bay Water Jitney is a partnership between the Hampton Jitney and Response Marine’s Jim Ryan, who oversees the water Jitney between the villages. The Jitney seats 53 people below deck and has over 20 seats on the top deck.

The permit from the Village of Sag Harbor allows the service to run through October 31 when the temporary law allowing passenger ferry service from Long Wharf will sunset and ferry service will become illegal in Sag Harbor without board intervention.

Since the service started, the village has been studying the impact of the ferry service through its environmental planning consultants, Inter-Science Research Associates.

According to Inter-Science President Rich Warren, that study will not be completed until later this month.

According to Ryan, there has been no official discussions about the future of the ferry service while the Hampton Jitney awaits financial statistics about the ferry service expected later this month.

While Hampton Jitney vice-president Andrew Lynch did not return calls for comment this week, in last week’s edition of The Southampton Press, Hampton Jitney President Geoff Lynch stated the service generated less than $200,000 in revenue, with daily ridership around 200 passengers, short of the 300 to 350 the company originally said was necessary to keep the business afloat.

In that interview, Lynch said outside investors would likely be needed for the service to continue in 2013.

On Monday, Lynch said nothing was off the table and that he has personally met with investors regarding the future of the passenger ferry, which he said, despite rumors, has no intention of expanding to include a Connecticut launch to casinos, nor has any dream of making Sag Harbor Village a passenger ferry hub.

If anything, said Lynch, if the service moves forward, because of the lack of infrastructure in Sag Harbor it would look to a maritime port like Greenport to become a hub, but that even for 2013, the company was simply not there yet.

If they do want to move forward in 2013, the Peconic Bay Water Jitney will need the approval, again, of the Suffolk County Legislature as well as the village boards in Sag Harbor and Greenport.

In Sag Harbor, if the Peconic Bay Water Jitney hopes to operate outside of a conditional license it will likely need approval from not only the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees, but also the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee, its planning board and potentially its zoning board of appeals.

Sag Harbor ARB Jurisdiction Questioned by Resident; Board Delays Voting

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Sometimes just one sentence, or the lack thereof, can cause a lot of confusion.

Until 2009, when the Sag Harbor Village zoning code was rewritten, the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) had jurisdiction over any project — commercial or residential — that required a building permit in the village, whether it was in the historic district or not.

While the 2009 code revision went as far as to define the different assessments the ARB should make depending on whether or not a project was within the village’s historic district, it left out one key sentence — that the ARB did in fact have jurisdiction over projects, commercial or residential, outside the historic district of Sag Harbor.

This year, because of that omission, the Sag Harbor building department stopped requiring projects outside of the historic district to seek ARB approval. This led the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees to consider amending the code to give that board jurisdiction over all projects in the historic district and commercial projects outside the historic district. However, at last month’s village board meeting the Sag Harbor Historical Society, Save Sag Harbor and ARB Chairman Cee Scott Brown asked the board to reconsider what they viewed as a jurisdictional change for the ARB, citing the importance of properties just outside the historic district but in the gateways to a village celebrated for its historic aesthetic.

They were heard and the village board instructed Sag Harbor Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. to rewrite the code change to give the ARB purview over the entire village, still keeping a different, more lenient set of standards for properties outside the historic district.

That law was up for public hearing at Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board meeting. This time it was not support for restoring the ARB’s jurisdiction over the whole of the village, but opposition that emerged through one resident, Bruce Fletcher, who plans to build a home in the village.

Fletcher has been working on the project since 2011 and for close to a year worked with the Suffolk County Health Department to gain that board’s approval so he could apply for a building permit through Sag Harbor Village. On Tuesday night, Fletcher said after meeting with Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt he learned the village was considering this code revision, a change he described as “adding another grueling step” to an already lengthy process to build a house.

“It seems to us in proposing a building totally in keeping with the neighborhood — in this case a three bedroom Cape — we should be able to get a decision without going to yet another committee,” said Fletcher.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said if it is in keeping in the neighborhood, Fletcher would likely not have a problem getting ARB approval fairly quickly. He added that in the last year, the village has allowed its attorney, Denise Schoen, to keep office hours to advise applicants on all the steps they will need to take to gain a permit.

“The way we were told, this was already something required in the past,” said Gilbride. “My understanding is this is not really adding anything.”

Thiele added that for the most part projects move fairly quickly through the village boards, as opposed to the county health department, which can require a lengthy approval process.

“I know the building inspector is not very fond of this expansion of this authority and I will thank him for this later,” joked Thiele.

Fletcher said he was not prompted by Platt, but rather by his concern over another layer of bureaucracy being added in an approval process.

“I don’t think this is helpful for the economy around here,” he said.

“I don’t blame you in coming here, but I am saying this could be a non-issue for you. Where this really comes in as important is in a project that really needs this type of scrutiny,” said Gilbride.

Thiele added the new code specifically did address the criteria the ARB should use in the historic district and outside of the historic district and that for whatever reason the specific sentence giving the ARB full jurisdiction was omitted.

The public hearing was closed. However, when Gilbride called for a motion to adopt the law he was met with silence by board member Kevin Duchemin. The only other member of the board in attendance, Ed Gregory, asked that the decision be held one month while he looked at ARB guidelines for approval.

The next Sag Harbor Village Board meeting will be held on October 9 at 6 p.m.

Thiele & LaValle Create CPF Advisory Opinions Bureau

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Since its inception in 1998, the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund has raised approximately $757 million, which the five East End towns have used to preserve open space, farmland, historic buildings and places as well as recreational fields. During its tenure as a resource for preservation, the bounds of the CPF have been questioned for concepts like a 2008 proposal between East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor to use CPF funds to preserve Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, which was ultimately deemed a purchase that went beyond the intentions of the law.

The revenue for the fund is derived from a two-percent real estate transfer tax. It expires on December 31, 2030.

Last week, the architects of the CPF, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and New York State Senator Ken LaValle, announced they have created a Peconic Bay Regional Community Preservation Fund Advisory Opinions Bureau in an effort to have a specific group ensure the effective and consistent administration of the fund.

The 11-member bureau will also provide legal opinions and interpretations regarding any questions that are raised about how the five East End towns — East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Southampton, Shelter Island and Riverhead — are expending their CPF monies.

A representative from each of the five towns, appointed by the town supervisor, will serve on the board as will a representative from each of the East End villages. Thiele and LaValle will also appoint five members of the public at large.

“This Advisory Bureau will institute oversight measures to help protect the integrity of the Community Preservation Fund,” said Thiele. “The Peconic Bay Region taxpayers and communities deserve to know that the Fund is being implemented appropriately and consistently throughout the region.”

“Transparency and accountability to taxpayers is essential to the fund’s continued success,” said Senator LaValle.

A Wharf Shop at the Heart of Sag Harbor

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For nearly 45 years, The Wharf Shop has stood at the heart of Sag Harbor’s Main Street. Many things have changed since Nada Barry opened the doors in 1968, but not the philosophy of the shop.

“It’s about this community,” says Barry. “As long as we can pay our staff enough to live here, and the shop can economically survive, it’s not about the bottom line. I could have rented this place to a bank and made a lot more money. It’s not about that.”

Barry, who is a member of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and helped to create the web sitewww.sagharborkids.org, believes Sag Harbor needs a place that offers kids toys that are both educational and built to last.

“We spend quite a bit of time picking out items,” she says. “A lot of teachers come in here to supplement their curriculum. We weed through masses of books. We educate people from birth to 106.”

And it isn’t just the toys and books that make up The Wharf Shop’s business. So much of what the place offers is about the identity of Sag Harbor itself, which is one reason the store gets a major bump in business over HarborFest weekend. Barry said people come there looking to capture the essence of Sag Harbor as it was, and as it is.

“We try to have a lot of seafaring and whale-inspired merchandise for people who remember Sag Harbor as a whaling village,” says Gwen Waddington, co-owner of the store and Nada’s daughter. “We have more people coming in to buy whale pocketbooks and wallets as well as cast-iron whales and whale door knockers.”

The store also carries handcrafted wooden whales, created by longtime Wharf Shop employee Dede O’Connell. They have an extensive line of wooden replicas of familiar local landmarks, done by the Cat’s Meow, an Ohio-based company.

“We have the movie theatre, The Sag Harbor Express and we just got the windmill back,” says Waddington.  “Now on the back it acknowledges that the windmill has been named for John Ward, who helped to build it. We’re waiting for the newest, which will be Marty’s barber shop as a tribute to Marty.”

Waddington notes the bump that HarborFest is expected to bring will be particularly welcome after a summer that looked busier than it was.

“There seemed to be many more people,” says Waddington, “but they weren’t necessarily spending a lot of money. As far as people’s spending habits, I think they’ve become a lot more frugal since 2008. I think in the last two years it’s hit here more than it had before.”

At a time when people are suffering financially, Barry and Waddington know it’s important for a small Main Street business to be original and reliable.

“We just try to provide the best customer service we can and keep customers coming back when there’s a need,” says Waddington, “and to provide their special requests as well… People don’t want a generic town, and they don’t want a generic shop.”

To that end, The Wharf Shop is all about attention to the customer. This comes not just from the owners, but from all the employees. And that’s important to Barry.

“Our atmosphere is very much a family,” she says. “It’s a community unto itself. Our staff is extremely supportive and they work hard serving the customers. We are there for our staff in times of trouble and in good times, and that’s a basic philosophy.”

Barry also prides herself on educating the young people of the community in a business-sense.

“We’ve trained over 100 students for their first jobs,” she says. “We give them a groundwork of how to be good workers. We have them come back — lawyers and doctors and mothers now.”

The purpose of The Wharf Shop, according to its owners, is not to take from the community, but to add to it.

“We represent the old as well as being contemporary,” says Waddington. “We come to work to contribute to the community.”

The Wharf Shop (725-0420) is at 69A Main Street, Sag Harbor.


An Effortless Challenge for a Sag Harbor Couple

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By Emily J. Weitz; Photography by Michael Heller

Douglas Mercer, President of the Wellness Foundation, started the organization with a vow — to make East Hampton the healthiest town in the country.

While this is not an easy goal to measure, there are many participants in Mercer’s program who will say his efforts have been successful in changing one life at a time, and the reach of the Wellness Foundation has expanded to include Southampton, Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor.

For one Sag Harbor couple, Susie and Jim Merrell, last year’s Wellness Challenge was a six week journey that has unfolded into a completely new approach to food.

“We were living the epicurean diet,” explains Susie. “It wasn’t just cheese. It was Cavaniola’s cheese. It was slow, local, and everything was the best of everything.”

Because they were already conscious eaters who paid attention to what went in to their bodies, the Merrells weren’t necessarily looking for the big change that was about to come.

“I didn’t want to do it,” admits Susie. “I liked the way we were eating. Jim sort of dragged me into it. Because it was just the two of us, there was no way we could do it if we weren’t on the same page.”

Jim had learned about the Wellness Challenge, a six-week program in which participants do away with all animal proteins and processed foods, by his doctor.

“I was trying to bring my cholesterol down and address some digestive issues,” Jim says. “Before we talked about any statins, he suggested I try the Wellness Challenge.”

“Even at the first meeting,” chimes in Susie, “I was telling everyone, ‘I’m not here because I want to be.’ But now I’d say I’m the one who’s more fanatical. I love eating this way. I love the way the food tastes, and the way I feel.”

Before the Wellness Challenge, neither Merrell knew it was possible to have a great meal without an animal protein.

“I didn’t know I could live without parmesan cheese,” says Susie, “but I really can.”

One thing the Merrells enjoyed about the Wellness Challenge is the fact their group really represented a cross-section of the community.

“The group was so diverse,” says Susie. “Not just the reasons they were there, but where they came from in the community and what they do. It was lovely. There wasn’t anything elitist about it.”

And when Susie announced she wasn’t there because she wanted to be, she wasn’t alone.

“This was not a group of the converted,” says Jim. “You aren’t going into a group that’s already convinced. There’s skepticism in everyone in the room.”

That healthy skepticism was refreshing to two foodies who loved their coffee and wine. It meant they were all in it together, and they would all approach the changes that were to come with their own obstacles and their own failures.

You have to bring current blood work to the first meeting, and there you will be weighed and measured. Then you’re given practical instructions for things to do.

“The first meeting is everyone introducing themselves and explaining why they’re there,” says Jim. “Some people just want to lose a little weight, and others have real health concerns. It was amazing: here is someone who’s had a bypass and they’re being told to do this. And then as you move forward, you get to see how people are evolving, and the benefits.”

Once they made the decision to do it, the Merrells say they found the whole thing remarkably easy.

“It was much more difficult in anticipation than what actually happened,” says Susie.

For Jim, the biggest transition was in creating a morning routine that set him up for a healthy day.

“I used to have coffee and a muffin for breakfast,” says Jim. “Now our daily ritual is a vegetable smoothie. It’s an unbelievable way to start the day. All these minerals and nutrients.”

For Susie, part of the intimidation was in the preparation, but once she bought the right foods, it became simple.

“Once you get over the idea that there needs to be an animal protein,” she says, “and you realize how much protein there is in leafy greens and beans and nuts, you start seeing limitless possibilities for the foods you’re eating. The transition wasn’t hard, but it took different planning. Now we have to soak the beans a couple of times a week, instead of marinating the steak. I’ve even figured out a way to make them look pretty.”

When they first began, Jim and Susie decided to do their best to stick to the regimen, even letting go of coffee and wine. At the end of the challenge, they said they could decide what worked for them. Now nearly a year has passed and the couple have kept to their vegan lifestyle — most of the time.

“At the end of the six weeks,” says Susie, “you feel so good that you think ‘I’ll never have a glass of wine or a piece of fish again. But now, we’ve broken every rule.”

That doesn’t mean they’ve given up.

“When we go out to dinner,” says Susie, “we never say ‘We’re vegan.’ But when we come home, we are. You’d think that after breaking a rule, you’d want to go back to the old way of being, but we never have, because this feels so good.”

“Nothing has curtailed our social life,” laughs Jim. “We know we can go back and be good most of the time. People tend to brand these things all or nothing, but so much is about the inconsequential meals: the breakfasts and lunches.”

They also eat a lot. They just eat a lot of healthy food.

“I eat constantly,” says Susie, and I never think about what I should eat based on calories. But I lost 10 or 12 pounds, 50 points off my cholesterol, and so many inches off my belly that I am embarrassed to even tell you. In that six weeks, it was so effortless.”

For Jim, the biggest surprise is the shift in mindset about it.

“Every time we talk to people, there’s always a one thing they couldn’t give up: coffee, cheese, wine. People put it into a frame of negation and self-denial. There wasn’t a whole lot of self-denial involved.”

Once he saw what he could eat, he realized how decadent it could feel.

“The kind of stuff that is natural is more luxurious than the bulk stuff,” he says. “Choosing between a muffin or a smoothie? What am I giving up here? You quickly get past the frame of self-denial and onto one of the pleasure, and all those better luxuries.”

The Fall Wellness Challenge begins October 1. To sign up, visit the website or attend one of the upcoming events. Tonight, a screening of “Younger Next Year” will take place at the East Hampton Rec Center. On Thursday, September 13 there will be an Optimum Wellness Seminar with Dr. Pam Popper at East Hampton Middle School. Vegan potluck dinners take place one Monday per month (the next one is September 10 at 6:30 p.m.) at East Hampton Middle School. Cost for materials, including two books, is $50. The cost for participation is free. Go to www.wfeh.org for more information.

 

Jim and Susie’s take on the Wellness Challenge Morning Smoothie

Put in a blender a handful of flax seeds, grind up dry.

Then add a banana, handful of blueberries, a couple of shitake mushrooms, 2 cups of kale, a cucumber, parsley and ginger (optional), one carrot cut up and a handful of frozen fruit.

Add a little pomegranate or cherry juice, then some water.

Grind it all up.

After the first sip, you realize you are drinking a vegetable, then you never think about that again.

Thiele Calls for Revisions to Redistricting Plan

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A New York State Legislature task force recently released redistricting recommendations that would join the East End under one legislative district – much to the ire of many North Fork politicians. Last week, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said he believes the North Fork and the South Fork should have separate representation and the task force should go back to the drawing table.

On Wednesday, February 15 Thiele announced he has requested the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment revise its redistricting plan for the East End to establish a Brookhaven/North Fork District that would include northeast Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southold. Thiele’s current district — the Second Assembly District — would encompass East Hampton, Southampton, Shelter Island and southeast Brookhaven.

In January, the task force released redistricting plans that would add one Assembly district to Long Island based on population increases, as laid out in the state’s Constitution.

Thiele, who has been critical that the New York State Legislature completed a redistricting proposal rather than have an independent party make recommendations, said last week he would support a redistricting plan that was truly independent and non-partisan. Thiele has already sponsored legislation in an effort to ensure the legislature would have to adhere to that standard in the future.

“I am disappointed that this year’s process was not independent,” said Thiele. “We must adopt a constitutional amendment that will insure that all future redistricting plans are prepared by an independent, non-partisan commission.”

Thiele said that while the Task Force proposal for the East End met non-partisan criteria such as equal population, contiguity, and not dividing political subdivisions, it was clear from public hearings and comments there was strong sentiment in Southold that the community should be part of the Brookhaven/North Fork District.

“I have enjoyed working with Southold Town government through the years including the Peconic Bay Estuary Program, the CommunityPreservation Fund, Five Town Rural Transit, Peconic County, the East End

Supervisors and Mayors Association, and the repeal of the MTA payroll tax and the saltwater fishing license,” said Thiele. “I would enthusiastically represent them in Albany. However, the state should not compound its failure to utilize an independent, non-partisan redistricting process by ignoring home rule. The final plan must accurately reflect the will of the public. The most important function of any elected official is to listen. Therefore, I have urged the Task Force to modify the plan.”

A final plan is expected to be approved in the next few weeks and will be in effect for the 2012 election

2011 CPF Revenues Down for Most Towns

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This week, New York State Assembly Fred W. Thiele, Jr. announced that the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund (CPF) totals for 2011 were on par with revenues collected by the five towns in 2010.

According to Thiele, the CPF produced $58.85 million in 2011, a 0.1 percent increase over the 2010 total of $58.78 million. While total CPF revenues were slightly higher in 2011, the five East End towns with the exception of Southampton have actually seen a decline in the amount of revenues they have collected through the fund.

Southampton Town earned about 15-percent more in 2011, pulling in $38.88 million in CPF revenues over $33.79 million in 2010.

Shelter Island saw the largest decrease in CPF revenues, down 39.7 percent for 2011, collecting $820,000. East Hampton Town also saw a sharp decrease, taking in $13.86 million in 2011 compared to $17.72 million in 2010, a 21.8-percent decrease. Riverhead collected $1.93 million in 2011, a decrease of 15.7-percent over the $2.29 million the town earned in 2010. Southold also saw a decrease of 7.5-percent, taking $3.35 million in 2011 compared to $3.62 million in 2010.

Since its inception in 1999, the Peconic Bay Regional Community Preservation Fund has generated more than $722 million, which the five East End towns use for preservation of open space, farmland, recreational facilities and historic preservation.

MTA Hopes to Implement Some of SEEDS Study Before 2015

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By Claire Wall


Do you remember when you could see a flicker of light at the end of the Long Island Rail Road tunnel?

Well, according to those integrally linked to the future of transportation here on the East End, it may be faint, but it’s still there.

It’s been 10 years since local transportation experts banned together under the leadership of the New York Mass Transit Council (NYMTC) to create SEEDS: Sustainable East End Development Strategies. And while not much has been said of the plan since it came to a conclusion in 2005, those at the helm of the effort believe change is afoot.

“I’m optimistic,” said New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. of the possibility of increasing rail service between Patchogue and Montauk. He noted that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has already allotted $80 million in its capital plan for 2010 – 2015 for small diesel trains, called “scoot trains,” that would be added to rail lines to increase the frequency of train service in the east.

What’s more, as Southampton Town Director of Transportation Tom Neely pointed out, the MTA has also reserved $50 million in its five-year capital plan to create an electronic signal system on the South Fork. One of the biggest issues responsible for the infrequency of train travel between Patchogue and Montauk, Neely explained, is that train operators on this leg of the LIRR track are in “dark territory”: they’re not in communication with one another, so two trains headed for each other on the same track would have no way of knowing they’re aiming for collision.

“It’s the same way they did it 150 years ago,” he exclaimed.

While funding is only really targeted for this service at this point and is not a total guarantee, Thiele continued by saying, for him, seeing this support from the MTA “is a step in the right direction.”

It also helps, Thiele continued, that the newly elected Suffolk County Legislator Steve Bellone “has endorsed all of this,” having made transportation his number one East End issue on the campaign trail.

“We’ve had the most support we’ve ever had on this,” he added.

Comprising nearly five years of research, the SEEDS study lays out comprehensive plans for both sustainable growth in terms of population and infrastructure, and increasing the frequency and efficiency of public transportation on the East End. In the end, the two go hand-in-hand. In building up village and hamlet centers to be high-density and therefore low-impact, this would create opportunities on the East End for implementing transit centers.

Neely pointed to the new development plan at the Bulova building in Sag Harbor as a good example of sustainable growth. Because it aims to create high density residences in a downtown area, “it’s a very good example of a development that can make good use of public transportation,” he said.

Recognizing the problems with scant train service on the East End and the subsequent absence of a coordinated bus system, the SEEDS study ultimately resulted in two plans aimed at increasing train travel to and from the East End, Neely said.

The system would ideally function with inter-modal transportation hubs. After restoring train service to Calverton and Grabeski Airport, Neely said there would be at least five major inter-modal hubs (linking train and bus services) throughout the East End: East Hampton and Southampton Villages, Hampton Bays and downtown Riverhead. The SEEDS study also discussed the need for a water taxi between the North and South Forks, which would necessitate an inter-modal transportation hub in Greenport, as well.

“To move forward we would need strong political report,” said Neely, who played a significant role in overseeing the SEEDS process. The transportation projects alone are estimated to cost more than $1 million to fully implement.

While he did say Congressman Tim Bishop had once requested $1 million in earmarked funds to continue this project, the poor economic climate has impacted the state’s ability to move forward in support of this.

“Earmarks are pretty much dead in the water at this point in Congress, “Neely said.

And while Assemblyman Thiele has also drafted two bills, one to create a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Council and the other to create a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority, he said legislators have thus far failed to act on either measure.

Ideally, Neely said the five towns of the East End — Southampton, East Hampton, Shelter Island, Riverhead and Southold — should work together to create a Transportation Development District, as NYMTC recommended. However, at this moment, nothing seems to be moving forward on that front.

While he continues to hope the MTA will pull through and put its money where its mouth is, in the meantime Neely said efforts to rebuild and construct the towns of the East End in environmentally sustainable ways will have to be done on a local level. Southampton Town, for example, has adopted a Complete Streets policy that will encourage new developments to consider adding bike lanes and sidewalks, for example, when repaving town roads.

In the end, Neely hopes legislators will continue to work to get state funding to act on the SEEDS plan.

“Anything would be better than what we have right now,” he continued. “Which is nothing.”

East End Towns Weigh in on Copter Regulations

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Sag Harbor resident Susan Baran believes the Federal Aviation Administration’s draft plan aimed at regulating helicopter flight paths and curbing the chopper noise that has plagued East End residents for years does not go far enough.

In comments made to the FAA on the proposed “Schumer Rule,” Baran was among hundreds of Sag Harbor and Noyac residents who asked for the regulations to be expanded to include more than one mandatory route for helicopters, as well as higher altitude requirements for pilots.

“We have borne the brunt of the departing traffic for years,” said Baran of the Sag Harbor community. “Our house shakes, windows rattle and conversation is impossible.”

Residents were joined this week by the supervisors of four East End towns, state government leaders, and Congressman Tim Bishop in asking the “Schumer Rule” be expanded in order to aid residents on the East End as well as those further west on Long Island.

Under the proposed regulation, helicopter pilots would be required to follow a northern route one mile offshore over the Long Island Sound to Shoreham where they would split off either to Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, the Southampton Helipad, the Montauk Airport or the East Hampton Airport following voluntary routes established in 2007, some of which bring flights from East Hampton directly over Sag Harbor and Noyac.

Regulations also propose that pilots keep a minimum altitude of 2,500 feet.

Following the FAA’s announcement about the regulations in May, government and community leaders commended the agency for taking action to deal with helicopter noise on Long Island, but almost unanimously were outspoken that a single northern route would unfairly burden a few communities, demanding a southern route to the East Hampton Airport over the ocean and Georgica Pond.

This week, those recommendations became official with East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell and Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty, all of who submitted a joint response to the FAA asking the agency to support nine recommendations created by the East End Helicopter Noise Stakeholders Group.

Recommendations made by the stakeholders group have received the support of Congressman Tim Bishop, with New York State Senator Ken P. LaValle, New York State Assemblyman Marc Alessi and Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine making similar recommendations to the FAA.

According to Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, Senator Charles Schumer’s office was instrumental in setting up the stakeholders group, which included Kathy Cunningham, the chair of the East Hampton Airport Noise Abatement Advisory Committee, East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, Graboski, airport noise abatement advisory committee members Peter Wadsworth and Charles Ehren, and Shelter Island resident Don Kornrumpf, among others.

The stakeholders group asks the FAA to create two mandatory designated routes, one along the North Shore and one along the South Shore, with pilots required to fly one mile from shore on both routes.

“This is essential in order to accommodate the important southerly transition routes from [the East Hampton Airport] and other East End Airports and to equitably distribute the volume of helicopter traffic using the North and South Shore routes,” reads their statement.

Stakeholders recommend that helicopters flying the North Shore route to East Hampton be required to transition east from Plum Gut, and proceed south to Barcelona Neck and over Route 114 to the East Hampton Airport.

Both the East Hampton Airport and Gabreski Airport should also be empowered directly or through the FAA to manage the number of flights coming into their airports at one time, according to the recommendations, and should be allowed to establish curfews for when flights can take-off and land.

They also ask the FAA to establish procedures in coordination with area airports to monitor and enforce compliance with the proposed routes and that any helicopters maintain an altitude of 3,000 feet when flying over land while departing or arriving at any of the local airports. Pilots should also be mandated to follow noise abatement policies established by each airport, states the group.

“Since the FAA has found that the Long Island helicopter noise problem is unique, the present rulemaking must deal expressly with that problem as it relates to the East End Airports,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst in a letter to the FAA. “Current and recent trends indicate that the burden of helicopter traffic centering on [the East Hampton Airport] will increase substantially in future years, further exacerbating the noise problem for the East End.”

The Noyac Civic Council, as well as a number of Sag Harbor and Noyac residents, would also like to see the northern route require pilots to use Orient Point as a waypoint before flying to East Hampton and Montauk airports.

At a Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Monday, Graboski praised the FAA for making “a significant move” by beginning the process of regulating helicopter routes to the East End, but noted the regulations as proposed aid residents in western Suffolk County and Nassau County, more than they do the Twin Forks.

The proposals supported by the four supervisors, she said, would round out the regulations to protect residents on the East End as well.

“It was probably one of the more challenging things we have been involved in,” she said.

The deadline for comments to the FAA was June 25. To view comments submitted to the FAA, visit www.regulations.gov and use the keyword FAA-2010-0302.