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With development came people, and their outdated septic systems — all sending more waste into groundwater and surrounding surface waters.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.

06/11/15 5:59am
06/11/2015 5:59 AM

I had a few things in mind when I left a good job at the Daily News in 2008 to write for a weekly newspaper in a place I was only vaguely familiar with. For one, I wanted to write stories longer than 600 words and The New York Times wasn’t exactly knocking on my door. I also wanted to write about the people of Long Island, a place to which I felt more of an attachment than any of New York City’s five boroughs. (more…)

06/08/15 7:00am
06/08/2015 7:00 AM

I’m not a dog. Just in case some of you might have thought … As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t want to come back as a dog. To be someone’s Chihuahua traveling in a woman’s purse or Great Dane to impress the neighbors’ hissing cat, no, no. If I do come back for a second try at life and happiness, let it be as a seagull, flying high and free over Long Island’s beaches and bays, yes, I’ll take that. As I am slaving away in my yard, I see the gulls gliding in sensuous abandon, carried by the wind, a mix of silent flight and piercing cries, ready to dive for that unfortunate fish or for a quick sweep by our picnic table left alone too long.  (more…)

06/06/15 5:59am
06/06/2015 5:59 AM

Over the past several weeks, the East End’s waterways have been inundated with toxic red and mahogany tides resulting in die-offs of diamondback terrapin (turtles), bunker and alewives. Our local media have done a good job of not only reporting on these occurrences but also speaking with the experts to explain them. So I was infuriated when Riverhead Supervisor Walter, asked about these die-offs, was quoted as saying that previous rain “may have washed toxins into the water” and quickly backed away from the “toxic” idea, saying later when asked about scientists’ findings, “Yeah, well everybody has their own theory. Mine is that the bluefish are chasing them into the river.”

Yeah, the bluefish are to blame. (more…)

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…)

06/02/15 6:00am
06/02/2015 6:00 AM
(Credit: MSNBC)

(Credit: MSNBC)

There was a moment during Saturday’s premiere of MSNBC’s “Lockup Extended Stay: Long Island,” the new reality series filmed at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, that offered a truly unique look at the inside of our local jail.

Two inmates — a woman facing a relatively short prison sentence and a man staring at life inside a tin can — are pronounced man and wife by Southampton Town Clerk Sunday Schiermeier, who announces, “You may now kiss the bride.”

After a few seconds of rare intimacy — they met only three months earlier inside that same jail — they are told to return to their stations.

They are now man and wife, but they’re inmates above all else.

It’s this moment that best illustrates why “Lockup” makes for great television, even if it merely exploits the unique circumstances of some of the jail’s more colorful inmates and will do little to improve their overall place in society.

A more informative and better intended show might feature inmates after they are released from prison or cover subjects dealing with Long Island’s heroin problem away from our jail. Like most reality shows, the primary goal of “Lockup” is to entertain.

I went into this review fully expecting to blast the show for its exploitative nature, but found it to still have enough heart and journalistic value to keep me interested. I will watch again.

One of the chief concerns we heard from readers since first reporting that the show would air this week was that it would portray Riverhead in a negative light. Of course, since it’s a show about life in jail, it’s hard to imagine it serving as a booster for tourism. The show is not meant to be a reflection on the people of Riverhead or Suffolk County, but rather a small portion of the prison population.

After one episode, “Lockup” has told us nothing about Riverhead or Riverside, except for a few brief glimpses of landmarks like the Suffolk Theater or the water tower. In fact, none of the three inmates featured in the first episode, “Sufferin’ County,” is from the East End.

Aisha Figueroa, the bride in the first episode, was arrested by police in Huntington for a robbery in which she allegedly fired a gun at a gas station attendant. She wed Chris Colbert of the Bronx, who is described as a high-ranking Bloods gang member awaiting trial for second-degree murder. The concept of Ms. Figueroa marrying someone who may never spend another day on the outside is explored in the episode, but not at any great depth.

Instead, we’re shown the actual ceremony and told how prison weddings work. Ms. Figueroa’s mother, one of the two witnesses permitted under jail rules, is shown being asked to remove her jewelry and even her bra before entering the jail.

“It has underwire in it,” corrections officer Neil MacDonald explains. “In here, that’s a dangerous instrument.”

Perhaps the episode’s most poignant moments involve the third featured inmate, Tyerance Mickey of the Bronx. Also a Bloods gang member, we’re told he’s in jail for charges of robbery, assault and murder — online prison records show he was actually convicted of robbery, assault and criminal possession of a weapon — and was awaiting transport to an upstate prison. He was originally being held on Riker’s Island, but was moved to Suffolk County because he was involved in too many fights there. He said he’s been a gang member since he was 10 years old.

In the episode, Mr. Mickey, a violent criminal who has spent half his life in a jail cell, is shown during a rare visit with his wife’s children, encouraging them to stay out of trouble. In another scene, he tells young gang members to get out of the lifestyle before it’s too late.

Online prison records show that both Mr. Mickey and Ms. Figueroa have since been shipped to upstate prisons. She’s eligible for parole next year. He’s facing between four and 10 years.

In a perfect world, we’d get more of these characters. But this is the television world and the trailer for the show promises to give us new characters and more violence in the coming weeks.

At least this week’s episode provided us with a handful of tender moments and a few glimpses of the harsh reality of prison. Will Mr. Mickey abandon his gang member past for a better life, as he promises? Will Ms. Figueroa and Mr. Colbert ever spend time together in a world where their meetings aren’t shared with guards?

We’ll probably never know what becomes of any of these three inmates, but their present circumstances tell us a happy ending isn’t likely.

The first episode may have been a pleasant surprise, but that’s television, not real life.

grantCMYKThe author is the executive editor of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at gparpan@timesreview.com or 631-354-8046.

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…)