07/18/15 7:00am
07/18/2015 7:00 AM
Darren Stakey of Riverhead will attempt to sing and play piano nearly five straight days next month. (Credit: courtesy)

Darren Stakey of Riverhead will attempt to sing and play piano nearly five straight days next month. (Credit: courtesy)

Let’s get right to the first question.

In the 111 hours, 11 minutes and 11 consecutive seconds that Darren Stakey attempts to sing and play the piano, can he take a bathroom break?

“Obviously, it’s a big concern,” the 33-year-old Riverhead native said.  (more…)

07/16/15 6:00am
07/16/2015 6:00 AM

Over the past several years, these editorial pages have called for plenty of funding, resources and advocacy to improve the Riverside area.

But now that the price tag is in and consultants have been paid for renderings, Southampton Town officials are being wise to hold off on moving forward with a bridge that would connect the downtrodden hamlet with downtown Riverhead.

READ

07/11/15 5:59am
07/11/2015 5:59 AM

In the four years since New York State adopted the 2 percent property tax cap, we’ve weighed in on its success from time to time.

Mostly, it was to say it wouldn’t be — or hasn’t been — at all successful.

Since the cap was enacted, it’s been the position of this editorial board that it’s little more than a political gimmick — a way for Albany lawmakers to say they’re doing their part to keep the cost of living down for the general public that elects them.

Our biggest issue with the legislation remains that it tells schools and other local municipalities to limit their spending an arbitrary amount while doing nothing to provide relief from the mandates the state imposes on them.

The bill also fails to consider existing contracts. It appeared to us, we wrote in a Sept. 22, 2011, editorial, that Albany was patting itself on the back for a law that tells local municipalities what to do but offers no guidance about how to get there.

“How do we meet that requirement?” we opined on behalf of local governments. “Hey, that’s your problem.”

In May 2013, we took a look at school district spending to see if it had, in fact, decreased in the first two budgets since the tax cap was enacted. We found it had not. Overall spending increased $19.2 million in those two years in the seven North Fork school districts — nearly double the $10.2 million combined spending hike in the two years prior.

At the time, Albany lawmakers defended the cap, saying school spending would have gone up even more in those two years if the law was not in place.

So when we learned late last month that state legislators had extended the cap another four years, we decided to once again take a look at how effective the cap has been. This time around, the results were different.

As you’ll see here, reporter Tim Gannon learned that the tax warrants — the total amount of money collected in property taxes — in both North Fork towns have increased at a much slower rate in the past four years than they did in the four years before the cap was approved. The same can be said for the tax levies in most local school districts.

The need for mandate relief in Albany still exists, but perhaps these numbers demonstrate that the tax cap has had a positive impact. And although we’re constantly reminded of how it causes constraints that will lead to cuts in our schools, that threat existed long before the cap <\h>— and our schools are, for the most part, still offering many of the same programs to our students.

A 2 percent tax cap will never solve our property tax issues, but the intention behind it was never that ambitious. If it forces local governments to live a little more within their means — like the rest of us — it should remain in place.

It may be a political gimmick, but it’s one that seems to be saving us a little coin.

07/09/15 5:59am
07/09/2015 5:59 AM
Doug Wald and Ernie Townsend at the Yankees game they went to in late June. (Courtesy photo)

Doug Wald and Ernie Townsend at the Yankees game they went to in late June. (Courtesy photo)

Ernie Townsend and Doug Wald come from different backgrounds.

Ernie, 68, grew up on his parents’ farm in Kingsport, Tenn. He recalls walking over a half-mile to school when he was a kid and singing from the top of his lungs while driving his daddy’s plow. Doug, 49, is a Queens native whose father owned a car dealership. When the family moved out to Riverhead and Doug attended Bishop McGann-Mercy High School, there was very little, if any, walking to school or driving a plow.

Despite where the two came from, how old they are or which school they went to, they share a pair of very strong common bonds: music and sports. Specifically, karaoke and baseball. Even more specifically, karaoke at Outerbanks and the New York Yankees. (more…)

07/06/15 5:00am
07/06/2015 5:00 AM

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati has become the first country in the world to declare that climate change is rendering it uninhabitable.

Unfamiliar with the name? Try Gilbert Islands, its former name. And the World War II generation will know the Battle of Tarawa, the site of one of the bloodiest in U.S. Marine Corps history. It was a critical battle to free the Gilberts after a Japanese invasion and two years of occupation.

Now Kiribati, an independent country since 1979, with a population of 103,000, is facing another invasion. Its 33 low-lying islands are being attacked by a rising sea, a result of climate change, also interchangeably called global warming. Kiribati’s government last year began purchasing land for evacuating its people — eight square miles on Vanua Levu, one of the Fiji Islands, 1,200 miles away.

Other Pacific island countries are expected to follow Kiribati’s lead and declare themselves uninhabitable in the next few years, while major parts of other nations will also be decimated by climate change. An anticipated 3-foot rise in sea level will put one seventh of Bangladesh underwater, for example.

We here have more time, but not as much as one would think, before things get bad and then worse on Long Island and New York City. Significant portions of both are expected to be hit hard in coming decades by sea level rise.

Preparing for this, last week the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) held four public meetings, two on Long Island and two in the city, to seek citizen input on a report of the Sea Level Rise Task Force created by the state in 2007.

The DEC sums up the report on its website. The DEC states: “By 2100 scientists project that sea levels along New York’s coastlines and estuaries will likely be 18 to 50 inches higher, though they could be as much as 75 inches higher.” With much of Long Island and New York City, only 2, 3, 4 and 5 feet above sea level, those kinds of increases could be devastating.

There are projections of the sea level rise at Montauk Point. In the decade starting with 2020, they range from a low of 2 inches above the levels of the last decade to a high of 10; in the decade starting with 2050 an increase of 8 and a high of 30 inches; in the decade beginning with 2080; a low of 13 and high of 58; and in 2100 a prediction of a total low of 15 and a high of 72 inches.

Long Island naturalist Larry Penny says low-lying downtown Montauk could be especially hard hit, along with other areas of the town. Indeed, much of the Napeague stretch between Montauk and Amagansett could end up underwater with Montauk becoming several islands.

As for Shelter Island, he said, “Shelter Island is pretty high,” but land along the Ram Island causeway “is vulnerable.”

Commenting on other vulnerable Long Island locations, Mr. Penny, former director of the East Hampton Department of Environmental Protection, cited parts of East Hampton, Noyac, North Sea, “downtown Sag Harbor especially,” Shirley (where one of the DEC meetings was held), “Westhampton Beach is very vulnerable,” Mastic, Mattituck, “Riverhead is very low” and Fire Island, among other locations.

“New York City will have a hell of a time,” he said. “Scary.”

The DEC also notes: “Most of the sea-level rise observed to date has been due to the thermal expansion of warming waters. But today, added water from melting glaciers and land ice sheets is starting to contribute more to sea-level rise than heat-driven expansion of existing seawater. And the Arctic and Antarctic have abundant supplies of land ice yet to melt, all of which will add to sea levels.”

The report offers recommendations, such as: “Provide financial support, guidance and tools for community-based vulnerability assessments … Support increased reliance on non-structural measures and natural protective features to reduce impacts … Raise public awareness of the adverse impacts of sea-level rise and climate change and of the potential adaptive strategies.”

Key issues in climate change are the burning of fossil fuels that have caused global warming. As important in increasing global warming is denial of the situation, led in the U.S. by Republican leaders of Congress. We must move to a society energized 100 percent by clean, green power. And reality must be recognized.

Otherwise we will see more plaintive declarations such as these on the national website of Kiribati — “Although in most of the world there is some time to plan and prepare for climate change, Kiribati is the first to feel its effects as a direct threat to continued life in our country … In Kiribati, the entire nation faces real danger — our own survival is at stake as a people, as a unique and vibrant culture and as a sovereign nation.” And little Kiribati shares none of the responsibility for the situation. Kiribati’s carbon dioxide emissions have been “lower than any other country except one in the world,” it says.

As Pope Francis emphasized last week in his encyclical on the environment: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political … It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

grossman_karl150 Karl Grossman’s syndicated “Suffolk Closeup” column is printed in the Shelter Island Reporter, a Times/Review Newsgroup publication.

07/05/15 6:00am
07/05/2015 6:00 AM

I am a lucky guy: I have three vacuum cleaners. It took years for this achievement. A story of hope. Each machine promised a dust-free life. Just let the new cleaner run in the house. Sit back, watch and relax. What is dust anyway? I never got a clear answer. All I know is that you can write your name in it wherever it settles. Never makes a sound. A good companion in a way. It doesn’t ask for much except no dusting, please.

Is dust dirty? If you leave it alone it doesn’t move about. If you come with a duster, cruel instrument, then it will fly until it finds another landing patch. I’ve lived with it at times. Then a woman friend comes in, frowns, raises her voice, pulls a broom out of her tiny purse and says, “How can you live like this?” Never try to answer such questions.

The problem with three vacuum cleaners: It raises the issue of choice. Which one to use. A perilous moment. The one with the “long-haired” brush, the one that can climb walls or the cordless that needs recharging just when I want to press on.

Which reminds me: Many years ago I drove in the “Press on Regardless Rallye” in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We started early on bumpy roads and I’d like to report that my Renault won top prize. But it’s not true. We did finish in a cloud of dust, one of the last cars on the road.

“Press on Regardless,” when it involves pushing a recalcitrant vacuum machine around the obstacles scattered in the house, is not quite as noble as negotiating treacherous turns on a dirt road. Although in my house I seem to have done a pretty good job at replicating a Michigan road race. I wonder if some new invention, one day, will come along with a gadget that would swallow all the useless things that we manage to settle in our good homes. A machine that would have better intelligence than I to decide what can stay and what has to go. I classify myself as incompetent in this activity.

Perhaps I was born with a built-in incompetence. It seems that my brother Jean came into this world with an active filing system at his side. Where I stumble confused in search of answers he can pull out a file out of his well-organized cabinet and the answers to all questions are within reach. His speed of knowledge gives him authority. In a peaceful way. No need for loud demonstrations.

I’m running. Late again. Last chance one Saturday in New York City. Gavin Brown’s Enterprise gallery. The first re-creation in the United States of Jannis Kounellis’s “Untitled (12 Horses.)” Twelve live horses. A church-like quiet. We don’t speak, we whisper. The horses, tied to walls, stand barely moving. Their magnificent, powerful bodies awaken a sense of peace. So unexpected. An experience of the spirit. At the end of the show, one by one they are taken to a trailer and driven away. The crowd is subdued, in a meditative mood. Not a word spoken. At times the sound of munching or a hoof unsettling the hay covering the floor.

Twelve horses, a work of art. No need for explanations. We just stand and listen to our own silence. So simple. Beautiful. All it takes, a gathering of horses at peace with the world.

Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. Email: npgazarian.dc@gmail.com

07/04/15 5:59am

Almost daily, the media teases stories about how to lose weight and get into shape and the answer is always the same: diet and exercise.

Most folks don’t want to hear that, though. We like the idea of a magic solution, but in the end, most of life’s answers are pretty easy. It’s the doing it that’s tough. That’s why it’s kind of disheartening to see all the attention yet another downtown study is getting (cover story, June 26 Riverhead News-Review: “Downtown parking & traffic & housing, oh my!”). We know what the answers are in this town; the hard part has been doing it. (more…)