05/13/15 5:13pm
JULIE LANE PHOTO | Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. argues tax relief should be the top priority for the State Legislature in its final five weeks.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. argues tax relief should be the top priority for the State Legislature in its final five weeks.

The most important priority the State Legislature needs to concentrate on in its remaining five weeks is to provide real property tax relief, Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) said Monday. In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed what he called a “Real Property Tax Circuit Breaker Program” that would cap property taxes based on a percentage of household income. (more…)

04/11/15 12:00pm
Audubon Society Conservation Data Manager Tom Auer will try to rally support to save birds. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Audubon Society Conservation Data Manager Tom Auer will try to rally support to save birds. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Birds aren’t political.That’s why the National Audubon Society’s Conservation Data Manager Tom Auer hopes he’ll be able to engage his audience at Mashomack Preserve today in taking steps to protect the feathered population from becoming extinct.  (more…)

11/03/14 12:00pm
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week federal grant money that will be distributed to The Retreat, a domestic violence prevention organization based on the East End.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week federal grant money that will be distributed to The Retreat, a domestic violence prevention organization based on the East End.

The Retreat, an East End nonprofit serving victims of domestic violence, is receiving $75,250 in funding through the Federal Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced October 29. (more…)

10/20/14 10:00am
Real estate agents say that while Community Preservation Fund revenues indicate the market has slowed on Shelter Island in 2014, they believe a number of pending transactions will show an improved market in the fourth quarter. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Real estate agents say that while Community Preservation Fund revenues indicate the market has slowed on Shelter Island in 2014, they believe a number of pending transactions will show an improved market in the fourth quarter. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Real estate sales continue to lag despite the appearance of market recoveries on both the North and South forks, but Shelter Island may still be the hidden jewel in the East End’s crown for some house hunters.

There are, however, finally signs that this year’s property sales could, by the end of 2014, surpass last year’s numbers on the island. Community Preservation Funds — a 2 percent fee buyers pay to acquire property on Shelter Island — still lag behind 2013 revenue. But there has been significant movement in the past two months.  (more…)

08/17/14 8:00am
JULIE LANE PHOTO | The Plum Island Lighthouse, built in 1869, is in disrepair with no government money to restore it. Stories persist that it’s haunted.

The Plum Island Lighthouse, built in 1869, is in disrepair with no government money to restore it. Stories persist that it’s haunted. (Credit: Julie Lane)

Tell people you’re visiting Plum Island and be prepared for a litany of the perils in store for you. You’ll be reminded of persistent rumors springing from dire biological experiments that have taken place there and that still might be going on.

Just one,“How interesting” would have been nice. (more…)

12/11/13 9:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Hall.

While many are turning their attention to completing Christmas shopping in time, there’s another December deadline that looms that has the potential to affect many Riverhead homeowners.

A new law requires homeowners re-register for the Basic School Tax Relief exemption by December 31.

Of the town’s eligible residents, 79 percent have re-registered, according to state statistics. But 1,401 homes have yet to apply, the records show.

The easiest way to re-register for a Basic STAR exemption is to file on the Tax Department’s website.

You will need your STAR code to re-register (check your mail from weeks back). If you don’t have the code, you can get it online or by calling the Tax Department at 518-457-2036. You may also call that number to re-register if you prefer not to do so online.

In re-registering, you should have Social Security numbers available for all owners and spouse

The state Department of Taxation and Finance won’t be notifying local assessors about those who have failed to re-register until February 2014, meaning it will be too late to get the exemption for next year.

The reason for the re-filings is a new state law aimed at eliminating fraud, state officials have said. Whether purposely or accidentally, people throughout New York who own multiple homes had registered for multiple STAR exemptions.

But that’s not allowed under the law. A homeowner has to prove primary residence by such documents as vehicle and voter registrations, and it’s up to the local assessor to make a judgment on eligibility.

To be eligible for the Basic STAR exemption, a household must have earned $500,000 or less.

There is no age requirement.

If you have never filed for a STAR exemption and believe you are eligible, you won’t be affected by the re-registration process, but you will need to file a Form RP-425, also available online.

Those 65 or older who receive Enhanced STAR exemptions aren’t required to re-register. Their eligibility is based on age and an annual income of $81,900 or less.

Throughout Long Island, there are 31 percent, or 175,092, who have failed to file, state officials said.

jlane@timesreview.com

11/24/13 10:00am

AMBROSE CLANCY FILE PHOTO | This East End backyard, which once had views of wetlands and berry bushes, is now overun by mile-a-minute vine.

No one is declaring victory just yet, but the man-versus-nature war on what has come to be known as the mile-a-minute vine has been joined. The invasive vine has a predator, experts have found, and it comes in the form of the stem-boring black weevil.

Although he’s taking a cautiously optimistic approach, Cornell Cooperative Extension scientist Dr. Andy Senesac says there’s reason to hope that over the course of several years, the plant could be eradicated

“We’re encouraged, but we can’t be throwing any parades as far as success,” he said.

COURTESY PHOTO | Weevil damage to a mile-a-minute vine leaf.

For the past two years, CCE scientists have been running test programs using the weevil on the North and South forks. The protocol for releasing the weevil was developed by a professor at the University of Delaware and the weevils are being distributed without cost by the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insects Laboratory in Trenton, N.J., where they are being raised.

While the weevils may not be as prolific as their prey, early tests are promising that the insects will steadily eat away the invasive species and eventually wipe it out without damaging other plants that grow alongside it.

The hope is that as mile-a-minute dies off, the weevils themselves will also die off, Dr. Senesac said.

Persicaria perfoliata, as mile-a-minute is properly know, grows up to six inches a day when conditions are right. Also known as “the kudzu of the north,” it easily overmatches native species. It blocks other plants from sunlight, stopping their ability to photosynthesize, which will eventually kill them. Mile-a-minute devastates the natural ecology on a wide scale, stopping the regeneration of forests and woods and doing damage to a community’s economy.

And being an annual, with a generous amount of seeds, it’s a recurring nightmare for homeowners, gardeners and farmers.

“If you look around now, you might think, ‘Oh, it all died. But it’s not over; it will be back the next year,” said Roxanne Zimmer of Peconic, a volunteer at Cornell. “Because it’s an annual, all those beautiful blue berries will seed and reseed. And, of course, the birds and insects will carry it around as well. It doesn’t really poke its head up until June or July. And July is when you start to notice it again.”

CORNELL COOPERATIVE EXTENSION COURTESY PHOTO | Researchers plan to continue to release more weevils in vine-infested sites on the East End in 2014. The program has been in practice for eight years in Delaware, New Jersey and other states, and in that time the weevil has been observed to feed only on the weed and no other plants.

Ms. Zimmer said the vine has a unique feature that she described as a “curved barb that allows it to grab.”

“That’s what makes it so vicious,” Ms. Zimmer said. “It can hook onto a limb or tree and then the next barb will hook on and then it just continues to grow up and out.”

According to research compiled by the University of Delaware, mile-a-minute is an Asian vine introduced to the United States in the mid-1930s at a nursery in Pennsylvania, where it was mixed with holly seeds imported from Japan. Deceptively beautiful, not only for its vibrant green color, its leaves are delicate triangles, almost heart-shaped, and its berries, when ripe, are bluish-purple. The vine has now made its home in 12 mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, extending west to Ohio, south to the Carolinas and north to Massachusetts.

But designing and managing programs to put the weevil to work is no easy process, Dr. Senesac said.

For the dozen states experimenting with weevils, there’s a two-step approval process. It starts with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Once a permit is received from APHIS, those in New York have to apply to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a permit to deploy the weevils. The entire process takes about six months, Dr. Senesac said.

He generally begins the application process in October with the aim of deploying the tiny critters, which are twice the size of the head of a pin, in test areas in late April or May.

In the two years that test programs have been operated, there’s a positive indication that the weevils move beyond the point where they are originally deployed. There has also been some evidence of weevils arriving on Long Island on their own from other locations, Dr. Senesac said.

He cautioned that people whose property is overrun with mile-a-minute not pull it out at the roots at this time of year. It will die out during the winter, and early next spring would be the best time for property owners to destroy new plants, pulling them out at their roots, before they’re able to take hold.

Cornell Cooperative Extension has plans to get information to residents in early spring about how to identify the weed.

Dan Fokine, a volunteer organizer for Shelter Island Vine Busters, an awareness group, said mile-a-minute is relatively new to that island and the East End. He first saw it a couple of years ago.

“Once it hit the ground it really took off,” Mr. Fokine said.

If a neighbor has mile-a-minute, that neighbor should be approached about removing it, he advised.

He compared rooting out the vine with fighting terrorism. “You have to take the fight to it,” he said, “You just can’t fight them on your own turf.”

jlane@timesreview.com

With Michael White