Tag Archive | "State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle"

Voters Go to the Polls Tuesday

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

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

By Mara Certic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




East End Towns Budget Money for South Fork Behavioral Health Initiative

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By Mara Certic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thiele, LaValle Go After PCP on Utility Poles

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

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

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

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

Southampton Town Helps Keep Farmers Farming

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Elected officials and local farmers celebrated the protection of 33 acres of farmland in Water Mill on Tuesday. Photo by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic

In one afternoon on the East End, you can visit rolling estates, beachfront shacks, or thousands of acres of working farms.  Preserving that farmland has been no small feat, but thanks to the work of the Peconic Land Trust, Southampton Town has established a precedent that might make farming easier throughout the state.

The Southampton Town Board voted unanimously in May to impose additional developmental restrictions onto agricultural land that would ensure that it remained productive and affordable, and on Tuesday, local and state elected officials, farmers and conservationists gathered to celebrate this latest success.

“This is farmland preservation 2.0.,” said New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., at a Tuesday morning press conference in Water Mill, where officials gathered to celebrate the purchase of 33 acres from the estate of Charlotte Danilevsky.  “And more than farmland preservation, this is farming preservation,” he said.

For the past few decades, as real estate prices have continued to rise, local farmers and conservationists have struggled to find ways to keep the farms working and in the hands of farmers.

In the 1970s, the town started buying the developmental rights on farmland, which prohibited future owners from building on the land. It did not, however, stop developers from turning the acreage into vast lawns or horse paddocks.

“We were preserving land, but that land was ending up being the front yard or the rear yard of an estate. Or ending up as a horse farm, or for horticulture,” Mr. Thiele continued.

The Peconic Land Trust purchased the Water Mill farmland, on Head of Pond Road, earlier this year for just over $12 million. According to John v.H. Halsey, president of the land trust, if the town had purchased the standard development rights for the parcel of land, it still would have cost a potential buyer approximately $120,000 an acre.

“It is abundantly clear, especially on the South Fork, where we have an overheated real estate market, that this farmland that has been protected can trade for between $100,000 to $200,000 an acre and that really puts it out of reach, particularly of our food production farmers,” Mr. Halsey said.

With the help of the Southampton Town Agricultural Advisory Committee, chaired by Southampton farmer John L. Halsey, the land trust was able to propose some additional restrictions on the land that were unanimously approved by the town board on May 27. The sale went through on July 10.

“This project represents a milestone in the evolution of the purchase of development rights program,” Mr. Halsey said on Tuesday. “And that is that the Town of Southampton has not only purchased standard development rights that have been in place for nearly 40 years, but has enhanced restrictions that will ensure that this farm, this 33 acres, will be available to farmers at its agricultural value—its true agricultural value.”

Mr. Halsey said the land trust would now solicit proposals from qualified farmers who are interested in purchasing the land. According to Mr. Halsey, the land will now be available at approximately $26,000 an acre. Restrictions will ensure that 80 percent of it be used for food production, that it cannot be used for equestrian use, and certain resale restrictions allow the land trust to lease the land out to farmers if it remains fallow for more than two years.

Tim Davis of Corcoran real estate agreed to reduce his commission by 50 percent on the sale, which allowed the land trust to compete in the sealed bid process to purchase the land, according to Mr. Halsey. “I am honored to have played a critical role in the process of the Peconic Land Trust acquiring the Danilevsky parcels,” Mr. Davis said in a press release issued on Tuesday.

“Our goal is to make sure each farm is producing food for the people of our state and our country,” said Senator Kenneth P. LaValle on Tuesday morning. Mr. Thiele announced during Tuesday’s press conference that he and the senator had been working on legislation that would provide additional property tax benefits to landowners with similar restrictions on their farms. Mr. Thiele also announced that they have been working to increase the exemption on estate taxes, which can often force farm owners to sell their land.

“One of the things I’ve learned as county executive is that there are so many Halseys around here, I run into them all the time,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone joked on Tuesday morning.

Tom Halsey, John L. Halsey’s brother, was also at the event on Tuesday with his son Adam and grandson, Eben. Tom Halsey was instrumental in the introduction of the purchase of development rights in the 1970s.

“Please, I urge everybody here to stand here and look there,” he said, pointing toward acres of open fields adjacent to the property. “And then imagine what it would be if we had not had 40 years of preservation.”




Bill Would Ease Burial of Utility Lines

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle have sponsored legislation that would permit New York State towns to create “underground utility improvement districts” by which they could enter into agreements with public utility companies to bury electric transmission and distribution lines, cable television lines, and telephone lines. Towns would also be able to negotiate with utilities to have as much as 50 percent of the additional cost of burying the lines absorbed by the utility.

“The current dispute in East Hampton over electric transmission lines is only the tip of the iceberg in a nationwide debate that relates to climate change and public utility infrastructure,” said Mr. Thiele in a release. “On Long Island, which is particularly susceptible to nor’easters, tropical storms, and hurricanes, the selective undergrounding of utility infrastructure must be part of that debate. Other states … have been at the forefront of new policies to underground utility infrastructure. In New York, the only thing we are burying is our heads in the sand.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the legislation was welcome. ”The Town of East Hampton and its residents have invested millions of dollars to preserve open space and residential neighborhoods,” he said. “The economic future of our community depends on its natural and manmade beauty. Large overhead transmission line projects threaten this balance and private utility companies and New York State must support burying as the first alternative, not the last.”

“It is important that not just for the current situation we are going through with the utility, but that a comprehensive approach is developed and adhered to concerning any future projects,” said East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach, Jr.

Under the new legislation, any town in New York State would have the authority to create an “underground utility improvement district,” using the same process and procedures that currently exist for the creation of other special districts such as water or sewer districts. The creation of a district would be subject to a permissive referendum.