Tag Archive | "Tim Bishop"

Zeldin Easily Defeats Bishop in 1st District Congressional Race

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Voting in the 2014 Midterm Elections on November 4th, 2014

Voting in Sag Harbor. Michael Heller


By Stephen J. Kotz

With a jubilant crowd cheering and chanting, “Lee! Lee! Lee!,” State Senator Lee Zeldin claimed victory Tuesday night in the 1st Congressional District, where he handily defeated six-term Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Bishop.

Although many projected a tight race that might take days, or even weeks to resolve, the contest was over early, with Mr. Zeldin’s lead steadily growing to 55 percent of the vote to Mr. Bishop’s 45 percent by night’s end. According to unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Mr. Zeldin received 89,564 votes to Mr. Bishop’s 73,860 votes.

“We can’t change Washington unless we change who we send there to represent us,” Mr. Zeldin told the crowd that had gathered to watch the returns at the Emporium in Patchogue. “And that’s what you did tonight!”

“Across our nation, we took decisive action to fix America,” he said, noting that Republicans had won a majority in the Senate and added to their majority in the House to provide a “much needed check on the agenda of Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.”

Mr. Zeldin, who thanked his supporters and party regulars, began his speech with a simple, “Victory is sweet, isn’t it?”

He said he was able to maintain the grind of the campaign trail large part because of the of the focus and drive of his supporters.

Mr. Bishop conceded shortly after 10 p.m. from the Islandia Marriott, where he and his supporters gathered.

“A few minutes ago, I called Senator Zeldin and I offered him my congratulations and I pledged to him the full cooperation of my staff and, of course, me as we go through this transition over the next several weeks,” Mr. Bishop said. “It is a very important job. The people of this district deserve that it be done at the highest possible level. I think we have done that over the 12 years that I have had the good fortune to serve you.”

He added that he and Mr. Zeldin had had a “very gracious conversation.”

“I believe I and my staff have done this job in a way that characterizes or defines professionalism, so we are going to transition from this job in the same way,” he said.

“I want to thank all of you. I got to stand where I am standing 12 years ago in many cases because of the exact same people who are standing here tonight,” Mr. Bishop said.

There were no surprises in other races, although Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., who won his 12th term, received most of his votes as a Democrat, even though he is a member of the Independence Party.

Mr. Thiele received 18,346 votes, or 60.3 percent of the vote on the Democratic, Independence, and Working Families lines, to turn back Republican Heather Collins, who received 9,898 votes, or 32.5 percent of the votes. Brian De Sesa, a Sag Harbor attorney, received 2,162 votes, or 7.1 percent, running on the Conservative line.

But 14,852 of Mr. Thiele’s votes were as a Democrat, while he received only 1,991 from those voting Independence Party and 1,503 on the Working Families line.

“I am extremely grateful to East End voters for their continued confidence in me,” Mr. Thiele said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “I look forward to continuing to advocate for the East End in Albany and improving our quality of life and the outlook for our future.”

Republican State Senator Kenneth P LaValle also cruised to victory to win his 19th two-year term. He received 53,220 votes, or 70.4 percent of the total, to easily defeat Democrat Michael Conroy, who received 22,297 votes, or 29.5 percent of the vote.

In other races, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Governor Kathy C. Hochul turned back the challenge of Republican Rob Astorino and Chris Moss. The Democrats received nearly 54 percent of the vote to 40.5 percent for Mr. Astorino and Mr. Moss.

Also sweeping to victory in state races were Democratic Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who received 60 percent of the vote, to best Republican Robert Antonacci, who received 36.6 percent, and Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who received 55.5 percent of the vote to defeat Republican John Cahill, who received 41.6 percent.

Judith A. Pascale, who was cross-endorsed by Republicans and Democrats, was elected Suffolk County clerk, and Republican John M. Kennedy defeated Democrat James F. Gaughran to win the county comptroller race, receiving 53.2 percent of the vote to Mr. Gaughran’s 46.8 percent.

Three propositions on the state ballot, one aimed at removing politics from the redistricting process; one to allow bills in the state legislature to be sent to members electronically; and another to borrow $2 billion for school technology projects, all passed.

Two county propositions, one that eliminates the office of treasurer and one that repays money borrowed from the county’s clean drinking water fund and tightens rules for how money can be borrowed from the fund in the future, also passed.

A proposition in Southampton Town that would allow the town to swap a parcel of land purchased with money from the Community Preservation Fund with another parcel owned by the county, so improvements can be made to the Riverside traffic circle also passed.


Election 2014

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Although the ballot contains a number of state and county races and several propositions, Tuesday’s election is really about the race in the 1st Congressional District, where incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop of Southampton, who is seeking a seventh term, is being challenged by State Senator Lee Zeldin, a Republican from Shirley.


In an earlier contest between the two, back in 2008, Mr. Bishop easily turned back the then inexperienced Mr. Zeldin in a race that was no doubt influenced by the surge of support for Democrats nationwide, led by President Barack Obama, in the wake of the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression.


Today, with public opinion of the president at low ebb and Mr. Zeldin polishing his campaign skills, Mr. Bishop faces a much tougher test. That’s a pity because in an age when the public’s attention is typically limited to digesting sound bites, Mr. Bishop is a thoughtful candidate who addresses the issues not only in complete sentences, but in full paragraphs.


That means when Mr. Zeldin shouts, “Cut spending!”, Mr. Bishop points out that with 75 cents of every federal dollar already earmarked for senior citizens, the military or payments on the national debt, simply targeting welfare fraud—one of the few specifics, Mr. Zeldin has offered as a way to cut spending—is not going to go far in the absence of a true bipartisan approach.


When Mr. Zeldin says simply secure the border to deal with illegal immigration, Mr. Bishop counters that a bipartisan Senate bill, which would have done just that as well as deal with the millions of illegals already in the country by giving them a path to citizenship, has been ignored in the fiercely partisan Republican-led House of Representatives.


When Mr. Zeldin says Obamacare is a disaster, Mr. Bishop acknowledges that the Affordable Care Act, while having its faults, is a work in progress that has resulted in millions of Americans, who were previously uninsured, having access to that most vital of safety nets. And he accurately points out that despite Mr. Zeldin’s lip service to retaining portions of the law he supports, the Republicans are interested in nothing less than full repeal.


In the end, while Mr. Zeldin talks a good game and has mastered the ability to sound like all things to all people, he offers an overly simplistic conservative worldview that does not jibe with the pro-environmental, pro-equal rights views of East End voters.


Mr. Bishop’s attention to constituent service and his well earned seniority, which has allowed him to bring home funding for items as diverse as Brookhaven National Laboratory in Brookhaven to the erosion-control project slated for downtown Montauk make him too valuable of a legislator to turn out of office.


It appears obvious that Governor Andrew Cuomo, Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will all easily win reelection, but a pair of longtime state legislators, Independence Party Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Republican State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, are also worthy of voters’ support. Both legislators have played critical roles in helping to protect the East End’s environment, and they have always been there to support local libraries, schools, and other issues of importance to their constituents.


Voters will also be asked to weigh in on six ballot propositions (seven for Southampton voters). A county measure that would restore funds taken from the drinking water protection program and establish more stringent guidelines for how money could be borrowed from the fund deserves support. At the state level, a measure providing for $2 billion in borrowing to beef up technology in the schools is worthy of support. Another measure that aims to take the politics out of election redistricting efforts likely falls short of what is needed, but is a start in the right direction.  A Southampton Town measure to allow for the swap of land preserved with CPF money so work can be done on the Riverside traffic circle should be passed as well.

































Police Unions Endorse Bishop


The Coalition of Suffolk Police Unions endorsed Representative Tim Bishop last week, according to a press release from Bishop for Congress.

The Coalition of Suffolk Police Unions is made up of five member organizations: the Suffolk County Officers Association, Suffolk County Detective Investigators PBA, Suffolk County PBA, Suffolk County Police Conference and Suffolk County Detective Association.

“I am honored to receive this endorsement from the Coalition of Suffolk Police, an organization with an unyielding commitment to supporting the men and women who keep our families safe. Long Islanders depend on the Coalition, not only for public safety, but also for their outstanding work in our community. I will always stand with these exceptional individuals that have dedicated their lives to protecting ours,” Representative Bishop said in the release.

“Suffolk County PBA President Noel DiGerolamo said, “We’re proud to endorse Representative Bishop, a man with a long and distinguished record of supporting the Suffolk County police, for reelection. His solutions-focused approach to working issues and his commitment to public safety truly make him an exceptional leader for our police officers and our community.”

Representative Bishop will face his Republican opponent Lee Zeldin on Tuesday, November 4.

Bishop, Zeldin Offer Divergent Views at Debate

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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 Sunday, as his challenger, Lee Zeldin, listens. Michael Heller photo.

By Stephen J. Kotz

In what has become an almost daily occurrence in this year’s campaign, the two candidates for Congress in the 1st District, incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop and Republican challenger Lee Zeldin, offered up sharply differing views in a debate last Thursday, October 16.

Mr. Bishop touted his track record of providing excellent constituent service and his ability to bring the federal government “to the table to solve individual problems,” calling it “life-altering work.” He said he was recently told he had “a laser-like focus on my constituents. I took that as very high praise because that is exactly what I have done.”

Mr. Zeldin, who repeatedly attacked the size of government, wasteful spending as well as the domestic and foreign policies of President Barack Obama and said he supported term limits, said Mr. Bishop was part of the problem. “If you elected enough people like my opponent,” he said, “Nancy Pelosi would be the Speaker of the House.”

With the spread of the Ebola virus into the United States a top news story in recent weeks, both candidates said they agreed on at least one thing: that President Obama has not done enough.

“I think the president is making a mistake in not putting into place a travel ban to west Africa,” where the virus is spreading unchecked, said Mr. Bishop. He said he would support reconvening Congress before its scheduled November 12 session to deal with the problem.

Mr. Zeldin described the president’s handling of the health crisis as “terrible” and said it was time to “have maximum security procedures at our airports.”

Last week’s debate, one of some 75 joint appearances by the candidates scheduled between Labor Day and Election Day, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons and held at Westhampton Beach High School. The pair also faced off at a candidates’ forum sponsored by the Concerned Citizens of Montauk on Sunday.

Both candidates spent a considerable amount of time complaining about the negative tone the campaign has taken, with political action committees on both sides filling mailboxes with literature and radio and television with ads targeting the opponent.

Mr. Zeldin said “Nancy Pelosi’s super PAC is spending seven figures targeting us, trying to scare women” into believing that if he were elected women would wind up paying more for health care coverage and lose the right to have abortions. Other campaign literature wrongly suggested he would require taxpayers to foot the bill for corporate polluters, Mr. Zeldin complained.

“You can repeat a lie over and over and over again and eventually people will be believe it,” he said.

That brought a chuckle from Mr. Bishop. “It’s pretty cheeky on the part of my opponent to talk about our end, given the scurrilous nature of the ads his side is running against us,” he said.

The incumbent Congressman said Supreme Court rulings opening campaigns to unlimited corporate and special interest financing were “fundamentally imperiling our democracy. We are now in the realm where elections are bought and sold as opposed to won or lost,” he said.

Mr. Zeldin complained that a Bishop ad campaign was trying to scare senior citizens into believing he wanted to cut Social Security payments. “I would never vote for any piece of legislation that would take one dime away from anyone who is a senior or close to retirement,” Mr. Zeldin said.

But Mr. Bishop said Mr. Zeldin has in the past supported the idea of allowing those 40 and younger to put their Social Security withholding into personal investment accounts. “That’s privatization, folks,” he said. And the result would be dramatic shortfall in funding for the Social Security trust fund, which would require a reduction in benefits paid to current retirees.

“We either tell seniors we were only kidding or we borrow,” said Mr. Bishop, adding, “My opponent obviously does not understand how the trust fund works.”

The $17.8 billion national debt is growing beyond control, according to Mr. Zeldin, who said both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations had spent too much money. “We need to pick a number…. $18 trillion? $20 trillion? $22 trillion? When is enough in regards to our nation’s debt,” he said.

“The easiest thing in the world is to say cut spending,” responded Mr. Bishop. “The hardest thing in the world is to actually do it.”

To illustrate his point, he said 48 cents of every federal dollar is earmarked for retirees, 18 cents for defense and 9 cents for interest on the national debt. That leaves only 25 cents of every federal dollar eligible for cuts, he said, adding that he was not going to be the one to cut Social Security payments, veterans’ healthcare or federal law enforcement.”

Mr. Zeldin said that more needs to be done to reduce welfare fraud and provide private sector jobs to entice people to leave the unemployment rolls.

“The incumbent is not giving you a single thing that is going to make this bloated federal government operate more efficiently,” Mr Zeldin said.

“What the incumbent Congressman has done was vote for a piece of legislation that capped the growth of domestic spending and saved $2 trillion,” Mr. Bishop shot back.

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was also a topic of contention, with Mr. Zeldin saying there were portions of the sweeping healthcare legislation that should be preserved, such as allowing children to remain on their parents’ policies until the age of 26 and the requirement that prevents insurers from refusing coverage to those with preexisting conditions. But most of the program needs to be scrapped because it has resulted in higher premiums, fewer choices for consumers and other problems,” he said.

“There should be a productive dialog between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives” to fix the healthcare system, he said.

“I suppose that conversation should begin with repeal rather than fixing,” said Mr. Bishop, pointing out that “there is no commitment on the part of the majority party to fix it,” noting that the House has voted more than 50 times, along party lines, to repeal the legislation. He described it as “a work in progress” that needs to be improved. “There are many good things that we should keep and build on and elements that we should fix,” he said.

On immigration, Mr. Zeldin said the first order of business was to tighten border security. “When you a leak, the first thing you do is shut off the faucet,” he said. “You don’t grab a mop.”

Mr. Bishop said that the Republican-controlled House has refused to recognize the need to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants who are already here. A bipartisan Senate bill offered increased border security as well as a path to citizenship, he said, but the House would not act on it. “Is it perfect?” he said. “No. But it is a way that is dealing with a problem that has no easy solutions.”

Mr. Zeldin also criticized President Obama’s leadership against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, saying the president’s strategy would never be successful in defeating the militants. For his part, Mr. Bishop cited the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff who told a Senate committee there was no easy way to militarily defeat ISIS. Mr. Bishop said he would not support a return of American troops to Iraq.

The candidates parted along predictable party lines on a number of other issues, with Mr. Bishop supporting an increase in the minimum wage, a woman’s right to have an abortion, and same sex marriage, while Mr. Zeldin said a minimum wage hike would backfire, that he was pro-life and that he believed marriage should be considered between a man and a woman.

Mr., Bishop said he would work for federal money to help solve some of the growing problems with Long Island’s groundwater, while Mr. Zeldin said he thought such solutions were better left at the state and local level.

Although it is a state initiative, Mr. Zeldin said he opposed Common Core, which he said was setting school children up to fail, while Mr. Bishop said he supported higher educational standards and recognized that the “rollout of Common Core was the only thing that could make the rollout of Obamacare look good.”

Krupski Backs Bishop

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Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, a Democrat who represents the North Fork, announced last week that he would endorse U.S. Representative Tim Bishop in his bid for a seventh term in Congress.

“I am honored to receive this endorsement from my friend and colleague, Legislator Al Krupski, a man who knows North Fork Long Island better than anyone I know,” said Mr. Bishop in a release, “Just as we share a lifelong commitment to Long Island, we share the common belief that for the farmers, fisherman and families of the East End, the environment is more than just beautiful surroundings—it’s their livelihood.”

“Congressman Bishop has done a good job fighting for the middle class and protecting the East End’s natural resources,” said Legislator Krupski.  “He understands the fragile balance between economic growth and maintaining those things that make the East End such as special place, like our farms, wineries, open space, creeks and bays.  I am happy to give Congressman Bishop my endorsement.”

Al Krupski was born and raised in Peconic. He owns and operates Krupski’s Pumpkin Farm, a fourth generation farm. Before joining the legislature, he served for 20 years as a Southold Town Trustee and seven years as a Southold Town Councilman.


Meet the Candidates Night Becomes One-Man Show

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U.S. Representative Tim Bishop listened to Sag Harbor resident Bob Malafronte at an evening sponsored by the Noyac Civic Council. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

What was supposed to be a meet the candidates night with U.S. Representative Tim Bishop and his Republican challenger, Lee Zeldin, sponsored by the Noyac Civic Council Tuesday night, instead turned out to be a one-man show featuring Mr. Bishop.

Citing a scheduling conflict, Mr. Zeldin first tried to cancel his appearance Tuesday afternoon, before agreeing to arrive at 9 p.m., two hours after his scheduled slot, to informally meet voters.

The Republicans sent Southampton Town Trustee Ed Warner as a stand-in, who deferred most questions of national issues to Mr. Zeldin.

Noyac Civic Council president Elena Loreto on Tuesday said that Mr. Zeldin’s camp had informed her its candidate would not be able to attend the event at 2 p.m. that day, citing another scheduled appearance upisland and despite confirming on Friday that he would appear.

Mr. Bishop said at his previous appearances before the council, helicopter noise was the chief concern. This time none of the two dozen people attending asked about that, instead peppering him with questions about everything from budgets to energy policy.

In his opening statement, Mr. Bishop said he was proud of his record of constituent service and cited his role as one of four sponsors of federal waterways legislation, which he described as one of only 26 pieces of “substantive legislation” passed by the current Congress. The bill successful, he said, because its sponsors engaged in the lost art of compromise, which, he said, has become a “four-letter word” in Washington.

Mr. Bishop said he was particularly proud of his role in helping reform the federal student loan program, which he said, ended $61 billion in bank subsidies and resulted in an additional $26 billion being funneled to Pell Grants to aid the neediest students.

“I ran for Congress because I wanted to be a voice for the middle class,” Mr. Bishop said, recounting how his father used to work an average of  80 hours a week for the phone company to put five children through college. “I used to hate the phone company because I couldn’t understand how they could make this guy who had five kids work every Christmas.” It was only when he was in college, he said, that he learned that his father had put in for the overtime.

Audience members had some tough questions. Reg Cornelia of Springs, said Democrats had prevented inquiries into many scandals.

“What bugs me the most is this IRS scandal,” Mr. Cornelia said. “You and your colleagues have done everything to thwart this investigation.”

“Your characterization is simply not accurate,” Mr. Bishop responded, pointing out that the Internal Revenue Service’s inspector general, a nonpartisan investigator, had determined that the IRS had simply not targeted Tea Party organizations in its efforts to determine whether political groups qualified for tax exempt status, but had also investigated liberal organizations.

Carole Campolo, another East Hampton resident, said the country has been brought to the precipice of financial calamity annually and asked why the federal government has failed to pass a budget since 2009.

Mr. Bishop said that while the budget itself may be an “overrated document” in that Congress achieves the same ends by passing appropriations bills, he said it was a “bipartisan failure,” said that both President Bush and President Obama had sent annual budget proposals to Congress.

Stu Jones, another East Hampton resident, said it was his understanding that no more soldiers were being sent to Afghanistan, but said his son had just received his third posting there. Mr. Bishop thanked Mr. Jones for his son’s service, but explained his being sent back to Afghanistan had to do with troop rotations, not a clandestine increase in force levels.

“If it was up to me I would have been out of Afghanistan a long time ago, and if was up to me I have never gone into Iraq,” Mr. Bishop said. “I think that was the single greatest foreign policy mistake this nation has ever made.’

James Sanford of Sag Harbor wanted to know why New Yorkers pay more for natural gas, a problem he said was caused by a shortage of pipelines and storage capability. He also wanted to know Mr. Bishop’s position on fracking.

The congressman responded that most pipelines are privately owned said he saw no “federal impediment” to more lines being built. As to fracking, Mr. Bishop said he supported Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cautious approach, saying a national policy has to be formulated for dealing with wastewater.

Gene  Polito of Noyac pressed Mr. Bishop on his support of natural gas as a source of energy, saying “global warming is for real” and carbon dioxide levels had to be reduced. “We ignore its implications at its own peril,” he said.

Janet Verneuille of Sag Harbor wanted to know what Mr. Bishop’s stance on the practice of corporations moving their headquarters offshore to save on taxes and asked if he favored lowering the American corporate tax rate.

“I think it is an obscenity that corporations are more interested in the bottom line than in the country that has allowed them to be successful,” Mr. Bishop said, pointing out that they had benefited from a publicly educated workforce and publicly provided infrastructure.

He added, though, that while the American corporate tax rate is one of the highest in the world the actual amount collected as a percentage of gross domestic product is the lowest. He said he favored reforming the corporate tax structure.

Nada Barry of Sag Harbor asked about the prospects for meaningful immigration reform. Mr. Bishop said he was not optimistic and said when the Senate passed a decent bill, House Speaker John Boehner announced it “dead on arrival.”


North Fork Helicopter Panel

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South Fork residents aren’t the only people complaining about helicopter noise. Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, who represents the North Fork, and the Southold Town Board will discuss that very topic at 6 p.m. on Monday, August 11.

Speakers will include Adam Santiago, the district director for U.S. Representative Tim Bishop’s office, Kyle Strober, the director of the Long Island District Office for Senator Charles Schumer, and Debbie Tinnirello, Long Island regional director for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. In addition, several citizen advisory committee  members from communities of the South Fork will provide their perspective as well as airplane pilot Joseph Fishetti.

In an effort to accommodate all interested parties, panelists will speak for a total of five minutes and residents will have three minutes to ask questions or offer comments.

The meeting will take place at the town’s Recreation Center at 970 Peconic Lane in Peconic.

Bishop, Thiele To Meet with Noyac Civic Council

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The Noyac Civic Council has chosen a slightly larger venue than the Old Noyac Schoolhouse for its monthly meeting on Tuesday, August 12, when it welcomes U.S. Representative Tim Bishop and New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. to discuss helicopter noise.

Tuesday’s meeting will take place at the Bridgehampton Senior Nutrition Center on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike at 7:30 p.m.

The elected officials, along with a representative from Senator Charles Schumer’s office, will talk about the status of the changes to the northern route, which directs helicopters north over Long Island Sound, as well as discuss what additional restrictions the East Hampton Town Board can impose on the airport.

The civic council also invited Federal Aviation Administration administrator Michael Huerta to answer questions, but he did not respond to the organization’s invitation.

Elected Officials Ask FAA to Make Helicopter Route Rules Permanent

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By Stephen J. Kotz

United States Senator Charles E. Schumer and Representative Tim Bishop this week urged the Federal Aviation Administration to renew a rule, set to expire in August, that requires that most helicopters traveling to and from the East End follow an over-the-water route along the North Shore of Long Island.

The federal lawmakers have also asked the FAA to require that helicopters fly east of Orient Point when flying to East Hampton Airport.

“It is imperative that the FAA continues to require helicopter pilots to utilize a route that travels over water rather than residential communities,” said Mr. Bishop in a joint release with Senator Schumer.

“Over the past several years, we, as East End elected officials have banded together to fight for over-the-water helicopter routes to ensure that the least number of homeowners are negatively affected by summertime air traffic and noise,” said Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., in his own press release.

But Jeff Smith, the executive director of the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council, an industry group, said lawmakers’ enthusiasm for the route may be ill-advised.

He said that relations between East Hampton Town and the pilots group, have been improving, with both sides working together to reduce noise complaints.

“The reason there has been improvement” and a reduction in noise complaints “is because we have the ability to work with the town and [airport manager] Jim Brundige to massage the routes,” he said. “If the FAA says you are going to fly this line, we can’t do that.”

Mr. Smith said he feared the new rule would result in more complaints because it would require that pilots pass over Springs and the Village of East Hampton on their way into and out of East Hampton Airport.

“The FAA has to show data that its rules will result in an improved situation, but we have data that shows just the opposite,” he said.

Gillibrand, Bishop Call on USDA to Designate LI Sound and Peconic Bay as Critical Conservation Areas

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U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Congressman Tim Bishop urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week to designate the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay watershed as a critical conservation area.

Such a designation could lead to increased federal funding to help protect and improve the quality of drinking water and estuaries by assisting the agricultural community in adopting more water-friendly practices.

Lawmakers pushed for the designation through a newly created federal watershed program under the 2014 farm bill, which passed earlier this year. Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Bishop pointed out that steering critical funding toward Long Island would address water quality issues and enhance soil fertility, allowing Long Island farmers, who faced devastation from Superstorm Sandy, to access tools to help adapt to severe weather patterns.

“Safeguarding Long Island’s water quality is vital to preserve and protect economic vitality of the Sound and help Long Island farmers for generations,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Designating Long Island as a critical conservation area will provide the needed federal resources to improve the health of the Sound.”

“Protecting the quality of Long Island’s water is an urgent priority,” said Congressman Bishop. “I commend Long Island’s farm community for its leadership in adopting more environmentally-friendly farming methods to conserve water and ensure that it is suitable for drinking and basic needs. I am pleased to work with Senator Gillibrand in sending this message to the secretary of agriculture with the hope that USDA will designate the Long Island Sound watershed as a critical conservation area with federal funding to meet our water quality goals.”

“I commend Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Bishop for their efforts to seek more investment to protect the most important resource Suffolk County has:  our water,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.  “Our federal representatives know that water quality is worth the fight.  It affects our quality of life, our economy, our land values, our tourism industry and our recreational use of Suffolk County’s waterways. I join our federal representatives in their efforts and will continue to make water quality the top priority of my administration.”

The new partnership program, known as the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, promotes coordination between Natural Resources and Conservation and its partners to provide federal assistance to farmers and landowners. Regions must apply in order to be eligible for the program and be eligible for federal funding.

Lawmakers in a press release said that water quality issues in Long Island Sound and the Peconic Bay watershed are of state and national significance. Examples of the kind of agricultural conservation practices that would address water quality issues include the purchase of agricultural conservation easements, nutrient management, cover crops, conservation tillage, alternative pest management methods and bio-controls, the use of controlled-released fertilizers, well water testing, riparian buffers and filter strips. This initiative would also incorporate soil health practices that are a national priority for NRCS and are valuable to Long Island farmers. Conservation practices to enhance soil fertility would also aid in adaptation to severe weather patterns, which are an increasing threat as evidenced by Superstorm Sandy last year.