07/02/15 6:00am
07/02/2015 6:00 AM

As we celebrate Independence Day this weekend, we should recall those words near the beginning of the Declaration of Independence that changed the world: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

America witnessed a living example of those words, taught to every school child, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5 to 4 decision that people of the same sex are free to marry in all 50 states.

The ruling moves the United States forward toward a more just society, which the brave men in Philadelphia in July 1776 were willing to enact with the shadow of a British gallows hanging over them.

But our society has even further to go.


06/26/15 5:59am
06/26/2015 5:59 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Peconic River boardwalk that runs along the East Main Street parking lot.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Peconic River boardwalk that runs along the East Main Street parking lot.Could

The state of “progress” in downtown Riverhead is often discussed but hard to pin down: crime rears its head now and again, vacant storefronts still dot Main Street and a short drive to the railroad station area — or even the Main Street area — at any time of year can reveal a homeless population living in the shadows.

On the other hand, it would be disingenuous to discount some of the anchor projects that have come to Main Street in recent years and subsequently drawn other businesses and investments to town. (more…)

06/13/15 5:59am
06/13/2015 5:59 AM
Bunker fish at Nassau Point Sunday morning. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Bunker fish at Nassau Point Sunday morning. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

We’ve been reminded a lot in recent weeks that fish kills are a regular occurrence in these parts, and aren’t anything new.

These comments are being made mostly to cast doubt on assertions by scientists and other researchers that high nitrogen levels and the resulting algal blooms are to blame for depleted oxygen levels in area waters — hence all the dead fish. Yes, local environmental organizations have used recent fish kills to push their agendas — albeit noble ones — and figure out how to prevent such high levels of nitrogen from reaching our waters moving forward. But they’re doing so for good reason.

There were bunker kills in 2008 and 2009 as well — and there’s no denying that massive kills have been happening for as long as anyone around here can remember. But it’s also a fact that for generations, Long Islanders from Brooklyn to Montauk have been polluting our waters with chemicals, fertilizers and, if you go back far enough, even raw sewage.

Just because people weren’t talking about nitrogen in the 1960s or 1970s doesn’t mean it didn’t play a part in fish kills back then, or even just a few years ago. It’s only relatively recently that researchers have been able to identify nitrogen — most of it coming from our wastewater — as the culprit responsible for the unhealthy state of our local estuaries and shellfish.

The passage and funding of the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the funding that came with it, along with fertilizer restrictions and more efficient sewer treatment plants, have improved the state of our bays and Long Island Sound. But it’s all been a zero-sum game in the face of nonstop residential and commercial development.

With development came people, and their outdated septic systems — all sending more waste into groundwater and surrounding surface waters. Deny that or not, but wouldn’t common sense dictate we shouldn’t go to the bathroom where we drink? People in Southold and more rural areas of Riverhead are right to be wary of installing more public sewers, because that does often lead to more housing, but they can’t have it both ways. The movement now is toward figuring out more efficient methods of filtering our residential waste, and doing so in a way that’s financially feasible.

Even if people are skeptical of the researchers, keeping our most precious resource as clean as possible is a goal worthy of time, attention and, most of all, government funding — because it’s clear that developing, installing and maintaining newer technologies is going to be expensive.

06/05/15 5:59am
06/05/2015 5:59 AM
Jack Van de Wetering and his son Kurt in a climate controlled greenhouse area that they would modify to grow medical marijuana. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Jack Van de Wetering and his son Kurt in a climate controlled greenhouse area that they would modify to grow medical marijuana. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The East End would be hard-pressed to find a more respected farmer and concerned community member than Jack Van de Wetering to be the face of a possible medical marijuana operation. (more…)

05/31/15 7:00am
05/31/2015 7:00 AM

Suffolk County’s capital budget for 2016-18 contains $1 billion for projects countywide, with more than half planned to be spent in 2016. Yet funding for the county’s most economically distressed community — factoring in employment levels, median household income, housing values, etc. — was on the chopping block for a scary amount of time. (more…)

05/23/15 6:00am
05/23/2015 6:00 AM


Whether it’s Riverhead’s Cardboard Boat Race, the Shelter Island 10K, a bird’s-eye photo of the Main Road corridor, the Enterprise Park at Calverton or the waterfront in New Suffolk, this media company has employed drone operators on a number of occasions to better tell the stories of our lives and times. Larger news outlets across the U.S. have also used drones to cover breaking news events that are difficult to document on foot or by car, such as floods and mass protests.

Images captured from these unmanned flying devices are also used by realtors, travel agents, chambers of commerce and other businesses. Even Amazon hopes to one day use drones to deliver packages to homes and businesses.

Yet much of the attention they’ve been getting lately has focused on the negative, from Peeping Toms using them to spy on NYC apartment dwellers, to worries about a remotely piloted aircraft possibly interfering with a commercial airliner. The federal government has been slow to respond with regulations that would simultaneously address safety and privacy issues and legalize commercial use of these unmanned aerial vehicles by trained and responsible operators. Under current rules, only the recreational use of drones is fully lawful, so long as the devices don’t disrupt air traffic.

• Read More: While the FAA makes new rules, local drone pilots are left waiting

The FAA has spent years crafting regulations and still seems likely to miss an official deadline set by Congress for enacting these rules. When any new measures will be adopted now seems unclear.

That’s probably just how government bureaucracies like it — who enjoys deadline pressure?

But in the meantime, many commercial drone operators are keeping their aircraft grounded while they could otherwise be contributing to their local economies and earning a bit of a living for themselves. For those who are still airborne — well, it’s pretty much impossible to enforce the outdated laws currently on the books anyway.

The FAA needs to come up with regulations that are flexible enough to support legitimate commercial uses but still address real safety security and privacy concerns. That shouldn’t have to take too much longer. Otherwise, a hodgepodge of local laws — which we’re already seeing in Suffolk County — will emerge that could unduly restrict both careers and recreation for many law-abiding citizens.