The federal government decided in 2009 to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder, presumably a private owner. In 2013 Donald Trump announced his desire to purchase Plum Island to create a golf resort. Southold Town had no interest in that plan, which quickly fizzled.
Leading conservation organizations, including Save our Sound and Group for the East End, are suing to block the sale. A federal judge denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in January. Congress can and should act to permanently block the sale. It has failed to do so.
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) takes credit for passing a bill in the House that would provide a one-year period to study alternative disposition strategies for Plum Island and prohibit pre-marketing of the Island until 180 days after the submission of the report to Congress. But this bill has not become law because the Senate won’t pass it.
Note that the bill does not actually stop a sale, only potentially reopen the question as to whether to sell it. Senators from New York and Connecticut have introduced an alternative bill that would formally and unconditionally repeal any plan to sell Plum Island. Unfortunately, Republican leaders have refused to let that bill advance.
Plum Island has recently been closed to visitors, prohibiting scientific research by groups such as Audubon New York. New York and Connecticut senators have objected, while Mr. Zeldin remains silent.
Where is Mr. Zeldin on truly defending Plum Island? His short-term delay plan can’t even pass the Senate, which his own party controls. Perhaps Mr. Zeldin is content letting the clock run out so that his friend Mr. Trump can profit from making the island another Trump golf course?
Regardless, as your future congressman, I will fight to make sure Plum Island is not sold and to facilitate passage of appropriate legislation in both houses of Congress. Few members of either chamber are speaking up in favor of a sale, so why can’t our current elected representative put a stop to this ridiculous proposal that would sell off a precious natural asset? First District residents deserve better.
The author is the Democratic candidate for Congress from New York’s 1st District.