03/28/12 2:00pm

JULIE LANE FILE PHOTO | Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine intorduced the bill for a LIPA Oversight Committee.

Think you’re paying a lot more than you should for electricity? So does the Suffolk County Legislature’s volunteer oversight committee. Earlier this month, the six-member committee called for an elected board of trustees to oversee LIPA.

After a year-long investigation, the committee, created by a bipartisan resolution introduced by Legislators Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) and Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), concluded that LIPA needs greater transparency and the type of oversight an elected board of trustees would provide.

LIPA customers are among the highest ratepayers in the nation, but they’re being poorly served by a utility that bows to “political influence,” according to findings released by the committee at last week’s meeting.

Customers are often being overcharged and their complaints are left unresolved, oversight committee co-chairman Matthew Cordoro said.

The utility has failed to take steps to reduce its $10 billion debt, has high tax obligations, poor budgeting and lacks liquidity, Dr. Cordoro said. Because of its failure, until recently, to put its power needs out to bid, it has been paying a premium price to National Grid for its electricity. And because LIPA hires outside crews to assist in emergencies, such as last summer’s Tropical Storm Irene, there are “questionable charges” for such services.

In the 192-page report, committee members outlined the problems they identified and put forth recommendations Dr. Cordoro said would result in lowering rates. The question now, members said, is how to implement those recommendations.

Committee member Irving Like said the state requiring an elected board of directors would be a good start. Mr. Romaine pledged to write Governor Andrew Cuomo to request that a Board of Trustees be filled by members of the oversight committee.

“LIPA needs a good pot-stirrer,” Mr. Horsley said. “This is our bully pulpit.”

The full committee report is available online at lipaoversight.org.


03/06/12 9:43pm

DON BINDLER PHOTO | Dolphin close to shoreline in the shallows of West Neck Bay Sunday afternoon.

A common dolphin that had been spotted swimming in West Neck Bay on Shelter Island was found dead on Cedar Point in East Hampton, according to Julika Wocial, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation supervisor.

Further details will be reported as they become available.

The dolphin had been spotted on Shelter Island two days ago swimming in a tiny cove area in the northwest corner of the waterway.

The foundation’s rescue unit arrived on the scene about 11 a.m., initially determining that the animal didn’t appear to be in distress. But there were concerns about it beaching itself in the shallows, especially during low tide, Ms. Wocial said. The team remained on the scene for more than 6 1/2 hours.

About 3:15 p.m., after the tide rose, the dolphin approached the deepest part of the cove and “that was good,” Ms. Wocial said. But she still had concerns that it was staying close to the shore and “I started to get a little nervous.”

She and team members donned dry suits and prepared to enter the water when the dolphin swam out and headed for deeper water in West Neck Bay.

Police and Shelter Island residents helped the team to ride around to various areas around the bay so the team could monitor the animal’s progress, Ms. Wocial said. Islanders not only provided rides around the bay but also gave the rescue team food and drinks, she said.

“I could wish all my dolphin rescues were around Shelter Island,” she said, crediting the cooperation of police and residents with making the job easier.

When last sighted before darkness Sunday night, the animal was in deeper water and appeared to be jumping and diving and making sharp turns consistent with feeding behavior, Ms. Wocial said.

State forest ranger Brian McAllister and Shelter Island Police continued to monitor West Neck Bay Monday morning and by midday had made no new sightings of the dolphin, leading Ms. Wocial to speculate that the animal had moved out to sea.

02/26/12 7:00am

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Do you have a tattoo and a story to tell about it? Here's your chance.

Wanted: People with tattoos and stories to tell about them.

The East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation in Greenport will launch an exhibit of tattoo art Memorial Day weekend, in conjunction with the village’s sponsorship of the Tall Ships of America tour.

Sculptor and artist Arden Scott, whose husband Keith McCamy, is a member of the museum and foundation board, is spearheading the project designed to focus attention on the history of tattooing, much of which, in the United States relates to sailors. But Ms. Scott isn’t limiting her search to just sailors, she said. Anyone with a tattoo and a story to tell about it is welcome to participate.

Tattooing dates back well before there was a United States, Ms. Scott said. There was tattoo art during prehistoric times and in ancient historical periods. But in the United States, the practice took hold among sailors, she said.

“If you have a tattoo, thank a sailor,” Ms. Scott said, noting that phrase is likely to be printed on tee-shirts the museum will sell this spring and summer.

She’s hoping the exhibit will tap into the sensitivities of young people, so many of whom, in the rock music era, have embraced tattoos.

She and a small cadre of local artists will be painting recreations of tattoos on mannequins to be displayed at the museum this year, She’ll also be using photographs of tattoos with brief stories about how each came to be, she said.

“Tattoos are basically a story,” Ms. Scott said, explaining that those who have them chose the art to express specific memories and feelings.

The week before the Greenport exhibit opens, there’s a tattoo festival in New York City that will feature tattoos from all over the world, Ms. Scott said. She’s hoping she can entice some participants from that event to come out to Greenport the following weekend. And she’s hoping that what she is able to gather for the Greenport exhibit might eventually find its way into the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where it can be included with holdings on tattoo art that are maintained there.

So if you have a tattoo and would like to share your story about it for the Greenport exhibit, Ms. Scott would like to hear from you at 477-0272.

02/20/12 2:25pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Ted Lucki, Riverhead Toyota, with a newly designed, 2012 sport edition Camry.

It’s all about mileage, right? That’s what you’d think would be driving vehicle sales and leases at a time when gas prices are almost $1 a gallon higher than at the same time in 2011 — and still rising.

But while fuel efficiency is among the driving forces for people entering an automotive showroom, it’s certainly not the only consideration, according to local salespeople. Safety and technology are right up there with gas mileage, and today’s consumers are entering the showroom with far more information than they did several years ago.

They not only know the anticipated mileage but they also have a pretty good idea about sticker prices and the new technology they want in their next vehicles, salespeople agree.

What’s more, they know the reputations of various dealers — and that informs where they buy, according to Rich Mullen at Southold’s Mullen Motors.

“Everybody builds a good car today,” Mr. Mullen said. “Good service is important” for dealers who want to seal the deal. It’s a major factor in buyers’ decisions about where to put down their money, he said.

While there’s definitely a trend toward more economical vehicles, Howie Lucas of Lucas Ford in Southold says people want a vehicle that gives them both good mileage and new styling.

And don’t forget about safety, says Anne Marie Quaranta of Apple Honda in Riverhead. That’s definitely the deciding factor for those shopping at her showroom, she says.

The reason technology is coming into play this year is that much of it is tied into improving mileage, says Jeff Pastor of Riverhead Buick GMC. And he’s not just talking about electric vehicles and hybrids. Mr. Pastor says manufacturers have invested a lot in steps to improve mileage and overall driveability in many vehicles.

Ted Lucki of Riverhead Toyota speaks to that when he notes that the Prius hybrid is no longer the only option he pushes for good mileage.

“Take a look at the new Camry,” he advised, noting that it gets 35 miles to the gallon, not far from the 40 mpg typical of many hybrids. And new cars aren’t just more fuel-efficient, he said, they’re also safer thanks to new technology.

What are people asking for when they enter a dealership?

They don’t care so much about a sunroof, said Ron Siegel of Riverhead Bay Motors. But they want anti-lock brakes, Bluetooth technology and a basic AM-FM radio, he said.

They also want comfort and styling, Mr. Mullen added.

All-wheel drive is also important to a lot of drivers, Mr. Siegel said.

After four years of an ongoing economic downturn that had “a lot of people milking their old cars” for longer periods of time, Mr. Lucki is optimistic that 2012 will bring an uptick in sales.

Interest rates are at historic lows, Mr. Pastor says, predicting an increase in new vehicle sales.

Buying versus leasing

Car dealers are also seeing a leveling out where leases are concerned, although the popularity of leasing can vary greatly by make.

In recent years, Mr. Siegal said, 70 percent of his Volkswagen customers chose leases, compared to 40 percent for Subaru and 10 percent for Suzuki. But today, with low — sometimes 0 percent — financing, more people are opting to purchase rather than lease.

For some customers — especially those who want to be driving a new vehicle every two or three years — leasing is still a practical alternative, according to Ms. Quaranta. If a driver isn’t racking up excessive mileage, the cost can be 27 percent of what it would cost to buy the car outright, she said.

“People like new,” she said, and for less money, a lease enables them to drive a new car every 36 months.

For other drivers, leasing is a means of keeping down monthly payments, according to Mr. Lucki. Instead of paying $500 a month for a purchase, a person may opt to lease for three years at a lower price, then buy out the lease and keep the vehicle permanently, he said.

Another route that’s still proving attractive for a lot of drivers — since so many manufacturers have extended warranties and changed the jargon from “used” to “certified pre-owned” — is acquiring a vehicle that may have just been turned in after a two- or three-year lease, according to the dealers.

“It continues to be a great buy for many people,” Mr. Siegel said.

The purchaser can get a relatively new car with a lot of bells and whistles they could never afford if buying a new car, Mr. Pastor said.

What are the dealers’ favorite new models?

Most dealers have a personal favorite in their fleet, although Ms. Quaranta maintains that 90 percent of her Honda models have five-star ratings and would make great purchases for any driver.

For Mr. Siegel, it’s the new Suzuki SX4 Crossover, which he calls “a lot of car for the money.” It averages about 35 mpg, has four-wheel drive and carries a seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty, he said.

Mr. Lucas brags that the Ford Explorer is “a real winner” that sells for between $28,000 and $33,000 and gets 20 mpg in the city and about 28 mpg on the highway. And while earlier Explorers sustained recalls because of problems with rollovers, most automotive writers maintain that design changes have saved the brand. “It still has a lot of cachet with buyers,” Mr. Lucas said.

The Buick LaCrosse eAssist is Mr. Pastor’s choice for its comfortable ride and fuel economy — averaging 37 mpg, he said.

Mr. Mullen likes the Jeep Grand Cherokee, maintaining that “they can’t build them fast enough.” It combines style and comfort and gets 18 to 23 mpg, he said.

As for Mr. Lucki, while he acknowledges that most might expect him to say the Prius hybrid, his choice is the newly designed Camry.

“It hits all the marks,” he said, noting that its new styling is more attractive than recent Camrys and that it gets about 35 mpg.


12/04/11 5:14pm

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Elizabeth Maroney, left, and Aaron Candreva, both 6, learn how to bake the old fashioned way in the farmhouse kitchen.

More than 100 people spent Sunday afternoon exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries at Hallockville Farm on Sound Avenue, getting a taste of a more simple time when Christmas was less commercial and more about family ties.

Christmas at Hallockville, a collection of 19 historic houses on 28 acres, is an annual trip back to yesteryear. The 2011 edition of the  holiday event was particularly special, according to executive director Dr. Herb Strobel. In addition to the usual attractions, it featured Polish history with a tour of the Cichanowicz homestead, replete with babka and spice cookies for guests.

Visitors  got a chance to learn about life there in the early 1900s, when a look out the window at the expanse of farmland was a close as people back then got to watching television. And when dinner time rolled around on Christmas Eve, everyone sat down at the table together, without cell phones, texting or any other interruptions of modern day, according to guide Carol Grzywinski.

In the living room, a simple Christmas tree decorated with paper chains and cutouts of angels sufficed for entertainment. And there were no extravagant gifts because money was tight, guide Paul Hoffman explained.

Kids hung their Christmas stockings out and — if they were fortunate — saw them filled with an orange, some walnuts and a few coins, he said.

“We come every year,” Theresa Kaya of East Moriches said about visiting Hallockville Sunday. Her 11-year-old son, Jonathan, “just loves it.”

Others pronounced the day a special way to enjoy family fun without a lot of expense in today’s difficult economy.

For the full story on Christmas at Hallockville, see Thursday’s News-Review.

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