Tag Archive | "Supervisor Larry Cantwell"

PSEG Gets an Earful in East Hampton

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

By Mara Certic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flights, Complaints Up at East Hampton Airport

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By Mara Certic

Over half of the flights into and out of East Hampton Airport over the Memorial Day Weekend—a weekend that saw a 20 percent increase in traffic over last year—were the subject of noise complaints, airport manager Jim Brundige told the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday.

About 25 percent of all complaints came from eastern Sag Harbor Village, although senior airport attendant Peter Boody reported that “somewhere around 80 percent” of those complaints were from one particular resident of the village who “has a problem with aircraft noise” and makes numerous calls a day.

From May 22 through May 26, there were a total of 872 flights. The airport tracks flights through a combination of aircraft tracking, cameras and logs filled out by airport personnel. According to Mr. Brundige, there are limitations to the accuracy of the process, but that the best estimate shows that 40 percent of the activity over the holiday weekend was by helicopters.

The airport manager said there was a 20 percent increase in operations over Memorial Day 2013, and that increase resulted in airport managers and Eastern Regional Helicopter Council executive director Jeff Smith agreeing at a May 30 meeting to alter the southern helicopter approach to the airport because the existing rules “were not working.”

Prior to the Memorial Day weekend, helicopters would begin their descent over Georgica Pond and would do a “circling, descending route” over the airport before landing, Mr. Brundige said. The route has now been tweaked to make it safer by having helicopters continue eastbound, past Georgica Pond, before they start their descent from a height of 2,000 feet as all other air traffic does.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell expressed concern about the route shift. “The downside to this is more complaints,” he said. “I look at the [area] you suggested and I see more houses.”

That was a consideration of last week’s meeting, Mr. Brundige said, but those participating decided it was the best route for safety.

Mr. Cantwell reiterated his worries and said that “No matter how you look at it, there’s substantially more traffic over this period of time [than last year.] Substantially more complaints lead me to the conclusion that we need limits—we really need limits here.”

The airport manager attributed the increase in air traffic this year to better weather, and added, “we have the same helicopters coming and going as we have the past few years. We haven’t changed our clientele.”

Mr. Brundige also presented two resolutions for the town board to consider when it meets on Thursday, June 5.

The first is a proposal to increase landing fees by 10 percent in order to provide adequate revenue to maintain the airport, Mr. Brundige said. This would be effective immediately and would result in a $100,000 increase in revenue for the town for the remainder of this year. According to Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, landing fees provided approximately $1.3 million for the town last year, and are the airport’s “biggest source of revenue,” she said.

The second proposal is to increase the fuel charge from 15 to 30 cents a gallon. Cindy Herbst of Sound Aircraft Services, which operates at East Hampton Town Airport, expressed concern over the potential change. “There has to be some kind of justification for not raising it 5 cents but doubling it,” she said. “We have to pass that along to our customers and I’m not sure that we can do that.”

Some airports charge as much as 32 cents a gallon, she said, but that they provide operators better access.

The town’s budget and finance committee proposed the changes, said Mr. Brundige. “They did their homework; it’s really what the going rate is among other airports. This is their recommendation as a stop-gap for 2014.”

In 2002, when the 15-cent per gallon fee was adopted, the retail price for fuel was $2.52 per gallon. It now costs about $7, he said.

“I know it’s been a long time since the fee was raised,” Ms. Herbst told the board.  “I just don’t think that a 100-percent raise is justifiable. Please take that into consideration.”

The board suggested a sit-down with Ms. Herbst and Mr. Brundige before the resolution is considered during Thursday’s meeting.

East Hampton Town Revises Formula Business Legislation

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By Mara Certic

Members of the East Hampton Town Board agreed to bring a new draft of legislation restricting formula businesses in historic districts to public hearing during a Tuesday morning work session.

In response to a public hearing in April and letters received by the town board, changes have been made to the proposed legislation which simplifies the structure of the law, according to town Planning Director Marguerite Wolffsohn.

The law would aim to prohibit any establishment that falls under the definition of “formula business” in historic districts or within half a mile of any historic building.

In the previously proposed legislation, a formula business was described as any store or restaurant that was part of a chain of 10 or more, under common ownership or a franchise. In Tuesday’s work session, however, Ms. Wolffsohn explained that the law now will define a formula business as “one of 15 or more other businesses or establishments within the United States” meaning a corporation would have to have over a dozen other stores or restaurants of the same name to fall under the formula business definition.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who is sponsoring the law, explained Tuesday afternoon that the change was made at the request of several people who believe that 10 stores worldwide was too restrictive and that it was too small a number.

The law also calls for new standards and safeguards before a special permit can be issued for a formula store in the neighborhood business and central business zones.

One of these standards insists that formula businesses be compatible with the existing and surrounding uses and be designed and operated in an unobtrusive manner to preserve the community’s unique historic character.

“It means it should blend in with the character of the community rather than a standard formula for all of the stores throughout the country. Except for of course what they’re selling. The business and its attributes should be those of East Hampton, rather than what’s around the country,” Ms. Wolffsohn explained.

Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc suggested that the board consider allowing special permits for formula businesses in waterfront zones, where the law previously prohibited them. “I wonder if the board might consider that that would also be allowed by special permit seeing as those types of uses already occur within a waterfront zone.” The other members of the town board agreed with the concept.

“Where we stand today, if you’re building a new building or if you’re making site improvements, there’s a site-plan review process but there’s no special permit requirement for formula businesses in today’s law,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said.

He added that he was unsure how much support the law would have when presented for a public hearing, but added that the standards would raise the bar of review and would employ a higher level of scrutiny, which he said “is the right thing to do.”

“I’m fairly comfortable with what’s been outlined here, and I think we should proceed to public hearing,” said Supervisor Cantwell.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said that the most important part of this legislation is that “it would require a special permit, which requires a public hearing, and the public has the right to weigh in on any proposal.”

A public hearing was suggested for Thursday, July 3, but may be postponed after Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez expressed concern that business owners might be too busy before the holiday weekend to voice their opinions on the newly amended law.

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.

Town Hopes Agreement Leads to Fewer Helicopter Noise Complaints

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By Stephen J. Kotz

A voluntary agreement to regulate helicopter traffic at East Hampton Airport that is hoped will reduce noise complaints was unveiled before the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday.

“Do we have to talk about helicopters? Do we have to do this?” quipped Supervisor Larry Cantwell, referring to the controversy increased helicopter traffic has caused in recent years, before Peter Boody, the recently appointed assistant to airport manager Jim Brundige, began his presentation.

Mr. Boody was accompanied by Jeff Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, an industry group that, he said, counts among its members all of the pilots who typically use the airport.

The agreement, which largely focuses on asking helicopter pilots to maintain minimum altitudes and set routes into and out of the airport, was struck between the council, the airport manager’s office, the control tower, and a pair of town airport subcommittees—one that is made up of airport users and another that is made up of anti-noise activists.

“Most of these routes were in effect last year” when noise complaints declined from about 11,000 to approximately 6,700, Mr. Boody said.

The difference, he said, is that the airport will now monitor flight data from its air traffic control tower. When a complaint is received or a monitor notices that a pilot has not followed the recommended flight path, the information will be forwarded to Mr. Smith of the helicopter council, who will address the concerns with the offending pilot.

“I’ve already had this conversation with every one of my members,” Mr. Smith said. “They have all agreed this is doable.”

“That’s what Jeff and I will be doing all summer long, talking about these problems,” said Mr. Boody after reviewing a few examples on a PowerPoint presentation that showed the paths of helicopters that did not follow the designated routes.

“It’s remarkable how much eagerness there is to comply,” said Mr. Boody. He added, though, that in the summer, as traffic picks up, pilots tend to not follow the routes as precisely as they can. There is also some confusion, he said, among those who don’t understand the new routes.

Mr. Boody said a key element to the new approach is convincing pilots of the need to maintain reasonable altitudes as they approach or leave the airport.

“There have been ups and downs,” Mr. Boody said of efforts to control helicopter traffic. “Generally that the trend is up in terms of altitude is true.”

He conceded, though, that while getting pilots to fly at higher altitudes “affects the intensity of the noise, it doesn’t make it go away.”

Helicopters using a northeasterly route are asked to attain an altitude of at least 2,000 feet before leaving the airport boundary and climb to 3,000 feet by the time they pass over Barcelona Neck and fly over the bay, over the South Ferry channel and on toward the North Fork.

About 30 percent of helicopters use a southerly route that passes over Georgica Pond. They too are asked to climb to 2,000 feet before leaving the airport boundary and over the center of Georgica Pond before turning at the cut at a preferred height of 3,000 feet.

Mr. Smith said that fewer helicopters use the southern route because airplane and jet traffic is already concentrated at that end of the airport, often making the skies too crowded.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby asked whether air traffic controllers could direct helicopter pilots to follow a set route, but Mr. Boody said since the routes are voluntary, the air traffic controllers would have no authority to direct them.

Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc expressed reservations about the whole idea of sending most flights northward over land that the town, county, and state had spent millions of dollars to protect as open space.

“We have now created a helicopter superhighway to the Hamptons over an area we preserved,” he said. “I find that a troubling contradiction.”

Mr. Van Scoyoc was also perturbed Mr. Smith told him that larger, larger twin-engine helicopters will be sent north over Northwest Harbor and Cedar Point along the eastern edge of Shelter Island before heading out over Orient Point.

“So, the heavies which are 50 percent of the traffic will now be going the length of Northwest Harbor,” he said, adding quietly, “terrific.”

 

Solar Farm Pitched for East Hampton Airport

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The East Hampton Airport could be going green in a big way.

Tonight, the town board plans to accept the recommendation of its energy sustainability committee and seek proposals for a solar farm at the airport that could produce up to 38 megawatts as part of an initiative sponsored by the Long Island Power Authority and PSEG Long Island, the company that manages the island’s electrical grid.

The solar farm would sell the power it generates to PSEG Long Island, and share the proceeds with the town through a 20-year lease.

According to Frank Dalene, the chairman of the committee, the solar farm, which he said would be one of the largest town-owned facilities in the country, could generate up to $3.5 million a year for the life of the lease.

“It’s at step one,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell, “but it’s exciting. Besides providing a source of sustainable energy, it has the potential to bring in revenue.”

Although Mr. Cantwell said Mr. Dalene’s revenue estimate may be on the optimistic side, he was quick to point out, “Even at $1 million a year that would go a long way toward funding airport improvements.”

Because the airport revenues and expenses are segregated into a separate fund, all revenue generated from a solar farm at the airport would have to be used on site.

Mr. Dalene said the proposal is still in the early stages. “There are a lot of variables,” he said. PSEG Long Island “has to approve the contractors, the site and how it connects to the grid.”

Still, he said, in this latest phase, the company has committed to sponsoring larger renewable energy projects that could generate a total of 280 megawatts islandwide.

“They are looking for the East End to fulfill a certain amount of the need,” he said. “The transmission lines are beyond their peak, the local power stations on Buell Lane and Southampton are at capacity, so they are really going to focus on the East End.”

According to the Long Island Power Authority, the typical Long Island house uses 9,548 kilowatts of energy a year. Mr. Dalene said a 38-megwatt solar farm could generate nearly 46 million kilowatts a year, enough to provide power to approximately 4,600 houses, although he added, “It’s safe to say the typical East Hampton house consumes more electricity than a typical Long Island house.”

Last month, the town board agreed to ask three contractors to provide smaller solar arrays of no more than 2 megawatts apiece at 10 town-owned sites.

The board will also seek proposals for the energy committee’s recommendation to solicit proposals for peak power energy storage centers that would use new fuel cell battery technology to store electricity that is generated during low-volume use periods for release during peak periods. The battery plants would play a similar role to the small diesel operated power plants that are scattered across Long Island.

The town must renew the proposals it receives and make its recommendations to PSEG and LIPA by March 31.