08/08/14 10:00am
08/08/2014 10:00 AM
An application by the Department of Environmental Conservation for a four-car parking lot at the end of Beach Way, a private road in Baiting Hollow, has prompted nearby homeowners to sue the state agency. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

An application by the Department of Environmental Conservation for a four-car parking lot at the end of Beach Way, a private road in Baiting Hollow, has prompted nearby homeowners to sue the state agency. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

In a town awash with thousands of parking spaces, an application for another four might not seem like that big of a deal.

But tucked away on the far side of a private road in Baiting Hollow, abutting land the New York State Department of State has labeled “irreplaceable,” four parking spaces the state Department of Environmental Conservation permitted itself last year are creating quite a stir.

A group of Baiting Hollow homeowners have taken the DEC to court over the proposed spaces, claiming the state regulatory authority went out of bounds in granting itself a tidal wetlands permit for the spots “in secret — free from any public awareness and scrutiny,” according to court filings.

“If I wanted to build on that DEC piece of property, they would make me go through a full environmental review of the impacts,” said Frank Isler, the Riverhead attorney representing the Baiting Hollow Beach Association. “It’s surprising to us that they didn’t do that themselves. And our argument is that they can’t benefit from mishandling a procedure incorrectly.”

Last summer, the DEC filed for — and approved — four parking spaces in a .2-acre lot at the west end of Beach Way, a private road at the end of Edwards Avenue overlooking the Long Island Sound. The application calls for the removal of approximately 100 cubic yards of sand to be replaced with pervious material to facilitate car use. In addition, it proposes removing an existing gate on the site and installing guard rails along the perimeter of the parking area.

The .2-acre site abuts a larger, 81-acre parcel also owned by the DEC — land the agency says it wants to open to the public. In 2005, those lands, called the Baiting Hollow Wetlands and Beach, were added to a list of “significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats” by New York State’s Department of State.

“Any activity that would disturb or eliminate marsh, natural beach, and duneland plant communities would result in a loss of valuable wildlife species,” the designation states. The 81-acre property — one of about 250 such areas statewide — is considered “an important nesting site” for the endangered piping plover and the threatened least tern, according to the DOS.

But members of the Baiting Hollow Beach Association argue that the DEC’s application ignored that designation. And because the application was deemed to have a minor impact on the environment, notification otherwise required was not given, and neighbors were unaware of the permit until weeks after it was filed. One homeowner, Roger Schilling, said he heard about the permit in passing as he tried to obtain repair permits for his own property.

But by then, it was too late to challenge the DEC’s permit, as a 30-day window had already passed by the time homeowners filed suit.

“As soon as we heard about it, we brought [the legal challenge,]” Mr. Isler said.

Mr. Schilling said the project would require some “major dune bulldozing” to clear land for the parking spaces.

“Part of that dune is what saves the back row of houses [on Beach Way] from flooding,” he said. “That’s why this is one of the things that infuriates us, by calling it a minor project. It’s a major project.”

07/25/14 2:00pm
07/25/2014 2:00 PM

The North Fork Preserve in Northville has been called the county’s “last great park.” (Credit: Tim Gannon file photo)

With plans for Northville’s North Fork Preserve already taking shape, the county Legislature is set to vote Tuesday on the creation of an advisory committee to make recommendations for development and future use of the park.

Because of the park’s 314-acre scale and the number of proposed active uses — which include camping, hiking and horseback riding — the park stands to have “significant” impacts on nearby communities, according to the resolution introduced by Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue).

The North Fork Preserve Advisory Committee would be made up of 10 members, including representatives from the county and Riverhead Town government, as well as members of local civic group, an environmental group and horseman’s organizations to gather input from the community and make use recommendations, according to Mr. Krupski’s proposal.

In an interview Friday morning, Mr. Krupski said he made the recommendation after hearing from residents neighboring the park, who had voiced concerns about use and infrastructure, including drainage for storm water runoff. Last winter, the county decided to borrow $850,000 to fix drainage problems coming from the property which have plagued an abutting Northville neighborhood for years.

He said Friday that the community is also interested in completing and inventory of natural resources on the parcel “to make sure that everything on the parcel is protected.”

Mr. Krupski said local input is very important, as the “people who live nearby, who are probably are going to use it the most, should have some input as to how it is developed.”

The county purchased of the final three acres of the Preserve in February 2013 with a price tag of $702,000, while the bulk of the property, two parcels totaling 314 acres, were purchased in 2011 for $18.3 million, according to prior News-Review coverage.

Current plans include leaving 133-acres of the northern section undeveloped for uses like hiking or horseback riding, while the southern portion will be used for more active recreation like camping, tennis and basketball.

The three acres most recently purchased contain existing structures on them which will be used by the Suffolk County Parks Department for a check-in station, parks maintenance equipment, a caretaker residence and include a small office area for parks personnel, Mr. Krupski said during prior to its purchase.

“The North Fork Preserve has been called ‘Suffolk’s last great park’ and I agree with that description,” Mr. Krupski said during the final acquisition. “The park, with fishing, hiking, camping and more, will be a highlight of the entire Suffolk County park system.”

Read more about the committee in the proposed legislation:

North Fork Preserve Advisory Committe

07/14/14 2:31pm
07/14/2014 2:31 PM
Paul and Barbara Stoutenburgh being interviewed in their Cutchogue home in 2011. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Paul and Barbara Stoutenburgh being interviewed in their Cutchogue home in 2011. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

When Paul Stoutenburgh was a boy roaming the fields of Cutchogue and fishing in its creeks, it would have been impossible to imagine the impact he’d one day have on the region’s precious natural resources.

But given the gift of hindsight last year, at a ceremony renaming Arshamomaque Pond Preserve in Mr. Stoutenburgh’s honor, county Legislator Al Krupski did his part to put it in perspective.

“He helped change the culture of the town,” Mr. Krupski said of the longtime environmentalist. “He really had a vision of the town going into the future.”

Mr. Stoutenburgh, a longtime Cutchogue resident, died at his home Sunday surrounded by family members. He was 92.

(more…)

07/07/14 8:00am
07/07/2014 8:00 AM
Former baykeeper Kevin McAllister at the wheel on the water. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Former baykeeper Kevin McAllister at the wheel on the water. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

After he was ousted from the Peconic Baykeeper program in March, ex-president Kevin McAllister now has his own group devoted to protecting Long Island waters.

Following a 16-year run with the advocacy group, Mr. McAllister founded Defend H2O last month with former East End business owner Skip Tollefsen and environmental consultant Mike Bottini.  (more…)

06/28/14 10:00am
06/28/2014 10:00 AM
(Credit: The Nature Conservancy)

This map uses pie charts to break down the various sources and levels of nitrogen pollution found in the Peconic Estuary from Calverton to Montauk and Orient. Click on map to enlarge. (Credit: The Nature Conservancy)

The Nature Conservancy released a report last week on the various ways nitrogen finds its way from the air and land and into surface waters throughout the Peconic Estuary.

The report’s data shows that causes of nitrogen pollution vary significantly across the East End.

(more…)

06/27/14 12:00pm
06/27/2014 12:00 PM
A view of the bay and SHelter Island from Pepi's Restaurant in Southold, near Port of Egypt. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A view of the bay and SHelter Island from Pepi’s Restaurant in Southold, near Port of Egypt. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Despite the op/ed pieces, press conferences, television appearances and lobbying by county and state officials and environmentalists from across the region, 2014 may not be the year for clean water on Long Island.

The state Senate failed to act last week on sweeping legislation aimed at safeguarding Nassau and Suffolk county’s many bays and tributaries, Long Island Sound and groundwater aquifers.

(more…)