10/09/13 12:00pm
10/09/2013 12:00 PM
DANIEL GILREIN COURTESY PHOTO | A female deer tick.

DANIEL GILREIN COURTESY PHOTO | A female deer tick.

Suffolk County is one step closer to better managing its growing tick population and the resulting health concerns.

The county Legislature passed a law Tuesday requiring Suffolk County Vector Control to aggressively address the increase in cases of tick-borne disease.

Approved 16-0, with one abstention, the bill requires county Vector Control, which is charged with controlling the spread of insect-borne diseases, to submit an annual plan to combat their occurrence. Outlined in the plan should be the measures being taken, work to be done and an analysis to determine the program’s effectiveness, legislators said.

The measure has the support of County Executive Steve Bellone, who was represented by a deputy executive at Tuesday’s meeting and now will sign the bill into law.

In recent years, Vector Control has focused mainly on mosquito-borne illnesses, such as West Nile virus, said county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), the bill’s primary sponsor. But an individual is 300 times more likely to contract Lyme disease than West Nile virus, according to a press release from Mr. Schneiderman’s office.

Lyme disease is now the most widespread vector-borne disease in the U.S., but cases are often under-reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“Most of us have been impacted in some way by tick-borne disease,” said county Legislator Al Krupski, a co-sponsor of the measure. “This is a problem that seems to be a recent phenomenon and the quicker we act on it to try and address it the better.”

Vector Control officials have about a year to develop a plan, which will be due next October, Mr. Schneiderman said. County residents will not benefit from the plan until it goes into effect in 2015, he said, adding that funding for the plan will be considered in the 2015 budget.

“But I don’t think [the budget] should be driving the train here,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I think public health should be the main consideration. We’ll figure out what we should be doing and then let’s figure out how to pay for it.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he envisions a comprehensive plan that begins by studying the number of deer, rodents and ticks in the county, to better understand the role each plays.

“We don’t really have a handle on how many ticks there are or where they are,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “They are going to have to start getting counts. That is what Vector Control does with mosquitoes — they have a really good handle and hopefully they will be able to do the same thing with ticks.”

With data in place, he said, a viable plan will follow. He said simply focusing on deer, the target for tick control among many local communities, will not be enough.

“I think a real tick-control program has to go way beyond deer,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “It’s going to get into rodent control, clearing high grass areas and maybe even controlled burning in certain areas. There are a lot of things the plan could include.”

Mr. Krupski said he “would like to see [vector control] focused on more deer control, and to letting people do more effective deer control. Right now what can be done legally is just not effective.”

Some residents have voiced concern that the plan may include aerial spraying, as is done for mosquito control, Mr. Schneiderman said.

“I don’t honestly think that it will,” he said. “There is no product out there that will just kill ticks and I don’t think that is going to happen.”

Both legislators said they will be working closely with representatives from Vector Control as they piece the plan together.

After being bitten by several ticks so far this season and “luckily” not getting sick, Mr. Schneiderman said this new legislation is just the beginning of his work on the issue.

“I am not stopping here,” he said. “My next step is to try to convince the state that this is a health emergency. I want to assemble the people together to make that case to the state so we can get the door open for funding. And I want to correspond with our senators and Congressman Bishop to try and get federal attention to this issue.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

10/03/13 3:00pm
10/03/2013 3:00 PM
DANIEL GILREIN COURTESY PHOTO | An adult deer tick, which are known to  carry pathogens causing Lyme disease, babesiosis or anaplasmosis. Adult ticks are active in spring and late fall, according to Daniel Gilrein, entomologist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

DANIEL GILREIN COURTESY PHOTO | An adult deer tick, which are known to carry pathogens causing Lyme disease, babesiosis or anaplasmosis.

A proposed law introduced recently to aggressively address tick-borne illnesses was unanimously approved by the Suffolk County Legislature’s Public Works and Transportation Committee on Tuesday, and will go to the full legislature for a vote next Tuesday at its meeting in Riverhead.

The proposed law would require the Suffolk County Vector Control to submit an annual plan that indicates steps being taken to reduce the incidence of tick-borne illnesses — including work to be done, active measures being taken and an analysis to determine the effectiveness of the program.

Vector Control has focused mainly on mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile Virus. However language in the bill itself states that “an individual is 300 times more likely to contract Lyme’s disease than mosquito-borne West Nile Virus.”

County Legislator Al Krupski, a co-sponsor of the bill, called Lyme disease an epidemic on the east end of Long Island. And at a deer forum held last week in Southold, leaders highlighted the fact that tickborne illnesses are an issue on the North Fork.

“Most of us have been impacted in some way by tick-borne disease,” he said in a recent release. “Suffolk County needs to play an active role to control this growing health problem.”

09/29/13 9:58am
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The Massoud family at the 30th anniversary celebration of Paumanok Vineyards Saturday night.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The Massoud family at the 30th anniversary celebration of Paumanok Vineyards Saturday night.

Paumanok Vineyards celebrated its 30th anniversary Saturday night with a gala party to thank local chefs for their years of support. The Massoud family, owners of the Aquebogue vineyard, will donate all proceeds from the event to Peconic Bay Medical Center.

SEE PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT AT NORTHFORKER.COM

Several hundred guests gathered under a festive white tent at the edge of the vineyard and were treated to tastings from some of Long Island’s most celebrated chefs, including many from the North Fork.

READ HOW PAUMANOK GOT ITS START

Master of Ceremonies Doug Geed, anchorman for News 12 and host of The East End, spoke of his affection for the North Fork and for the Massoud family, whom he has known for over 25 years.

Peconic Bay Medical Center president and CEO Andrew Mitchell gave a short and sometimes funny history of the Massoud family’s journey and of winemaking on Long Island.

Suffolk County legislator Al Krupski presented the Massouds with a proclamation and brought the entire family up to the stage to receive it.

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09/17/13 5:00pm
09/17/2013 5:00 PM
DANIEL GILREIN COURTESY PHOTO | An adult deer tick, which are known to  carry pathogens causing Lyme disease, babesiosis or anaplasmosis. Adult ticks are active in spring and late fall, according to Daniel Gilrein, entomologist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

DANIEL GILREIN COURTESY PHOTO | An adult deer tick, which are known to carry pathogens causing Lyme disease, babesiosis or anaplasmosis.

In an effort to combat tick-borne illnesses, county Legislature Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) has introduced new legislation to step up pressure on Suffolk County Vector Control, which is in charge of controlling the spread of insect-borne diseases.

The proposed law would require Vector Control to submit an annual plan that indicates steps being taken to reduce the incidence of tick-borne illnesses — including work to be done, active measures being taken and an analysis to determine the effectiveness of the program.

The division has reportedly focused mainly on mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile, according to a release from Mr. Schneiderman.

Area hospitals reported a spike in tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease earlier this year.

Nearly 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported nationally each year, while 1,000 cases of West Nile are reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lyme disease is now the most widespread vector-borne disease in the U.S., but cases are often underreported across the U.S., according to the CDC.

It is estimated only 10 percent of total cases nationally are reported, CDC officials said.

“Towns and villages are struggling to develop plans to respond to the growing Lyme disease cases,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “The county should be playing a leadership role in prevention.”

County Legislator Al Krupski, a co-sponsor of the bill, called Lyme disease an epidemic on the east end of Long Island.

“Most of us have been impacted in some way by tick-borne disease,” he said in a release. “Suffolk County needs to play an active role to control this growing health problem.”

Mr. Schneiderman said the county has, however, done a good job preventing West Nile.

While mosquito and bird samples have tested positive for the virus, no humans have tested positive for West Nile so far this year, according to the county health department officials.

cmiller@timesreview.com

07/30/13 10:55am
07/30/2013 10:55 AM

 

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Legislator Al Krupski has a new proposal to protect farmland, such as this hayfield in Mattituck.

Conceding that he doesn’t have the votes, Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) is withdrawing his bill that would have given farmland preservation and open space purchases an equal share of dwindling county funding.

The lawmaker will instead offer a new bill to streamline the approval process and require properties considered for preservation meet a certain rating threshold.

“It doesn’t make sense to get an appraisal on all these parcels if you have only $2.5 million to spend and 20 parcels on the list,” Mr. Krupski said. “With limited money, we want to acquired the highest quality open space and the highest quality farmland. Why appraise them all, especially if the ratings aren’t high?”

The county currently appraises each property suggested for preservation, regardless of its environmental value. The new Krupski measure would require open space parcels reach a minimum rating of 45 out of a possible 100. Farmland, which follows a different rating system, must obtain at least 11.25 out of 25.

If another municipality shares the cost, the parcel would receive a higher score.

While disappointed the original draft didn’t gain the 10 votes needed, Mr. Krupski said he’s optimistic the amended version will pass in the 18-member legislature.

“I think I have support for this,” he said. “There is a realization that we should be preserving the best and highest quality. With money being so short it’s important to start now.”

The lawmaker said he has yet to come to an agreement on his new proposal with Long Island Pine Barrens director Richard Amper, the most outspoken critic of his original bill.

Mr. Krupski said he would introduce the amendment during the legislature’s Tuesday meeting in Hauppauge.

07/11/13 8:00am
07/11/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A memory and a roadside attraction at Reeves Farm in Aquebogue.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A memory and roadside attraction at Reeves Farm.

Long Island Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper and 1st District county Legislator Al Krupski have been engaged in a public battle in recent weeks over Mr. Krupski’s draft of legislation that would give farmland preservation a guaranteed 50 percent of whatever land protection money the county has at its disposal, which these days isn’t much.

In keeping with his public persona, Mr. Amper wrote an opinion piece, published in this newspaper last month, in which he accused the legislator of a nefarious scheme to undermine the county’s tried-and-true land preservation program. He went as far as to suggest that Mr. Krupski deserves the name “Korruptski.” In a response published the following week, the legislator took a more low-key approach and discussed the need to preserve active farmland.

All of this ignores the geopolitical forces at play. The East End has only two representatives in the 18-member Suffolk County Legislature, crucial numbers given that when new legislation is laid on the table the first thought that comes to many lawmakers’ minds is, “How does this benefit my district?” When the topic is farmland preservation, the answer for 16 representatives is, “It doesn’t.” To be fair, there would be no county farmland program without the support of non-farming communities, who realized that losing productive, valuable agricultural land would be a blow to the entire county, not just a few East End towns.

Mr. Krupski’s bill would upset the political equilibrium that gives all of Suffolk, particularly the West End towns that dominate the Legislature, a shot at open space buys, even if for only a tiny parcel.

Putting the politics and strident criticism aside, the Krupski bill raises an important and timely question: What lands should be protected going forward?

Mr. Amper has led the opposition to allowing greenhouses to be built on preserved land, a position we share. It’s true, the days of the old-time farmer riding a tractor through row crops are all but a memory, and growers must have the flexibility to respond to a changing market. But preserving open space is a key component of county and town farmland programs.

Mr. Amper also correctly points out that some farms have fallen into uses that no one imagined when the county created the nation’s first ag preservation program in the 1970s. Some wineries, for example, are little more than catering halls; others are open-air saloons. And when objections are raised, we’re often told that the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, which has the power to override local land use regulations, sets virtually no limits on what commercial activities can occur on farmland.

The Krupski bill forces the issue of how much money should be invested in new farmland preservation projects and what new restrictions, if any, should follow. It’s not a question of restricting farm operations; it’s a matter of better defining which farms fit in with the public protection goals.

07/05/13 8:00am
07/05/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A view of Peconic Bay from Mattituck Beach.

Here’s some bad news for those of you hoping I would flunk my boating safety test: I passed. I — and all of my classmates, I am pleased to report — are now the proud possessors of a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety certificate and “license.” (It’s actually just a laminated wallet card, but let’s call it a “license.”)

Also, in the days following the final exam, our little 18-foot runabout passed the Auxiliary’s boat safety inspection, which it would not have done had I not taken the course. (Not enough life jackets, no throwing rescue cushion, no fire extinguisher.) And throughout the process, Auxiliary member Ted Webb of Orient could not have been more helpful or informative. And the same is true of his fellow Auxiliary members who instructed us: helpful and informative to a man and woman.

Having said that, I stick by my original assertion that the Suffolk County Legislature overreached in passing the new boating safety law. Licensing is a good thing and should be required, but there needs to be some sort of mechanism for exempting experienced boaters from taking the 11-hour course before they take the exam. In my opinion, only if they flunk the test the first time around should they be required to take the course.

Meanwhile, those of you out there who live in Suffolk and operate a motorized craft better get a-crackin’. The deadline for getting a license is Friday, Sept. 13. After that, without one, you will be breaking the law every time you operate your boat.

Note: This column was published before it was reported that a bill in the state Legislature would supercede county law.

And here’s another update to an earlier column, the one about my grandson receiving the gift of an expensive baseball glove from Major League pitcher Heath Bell, then of the Florida Marlins and currently of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In this day and age of pampered, over-compensated (and occasionally criminal) professional athletes, Mr. Bell appears to deserve his reputation as “the nicest guy in baseball.” Case in point: as this is written, Tyler, his mother and grandfather (that would be me) are preparing to drive into Manhattan to be Health Bell’s guest at lunch. After that, we’ll be Heath Bell’s guest as the D-backs take on the Mets at Citi Field. Of course he can afford it with a contract that pays him $9 million a year, but no one is paying him to be so very nice to a 12-year-old baseball fan from eastern Long Island.

I would never be so bold as to suggest that there is a major shift in the air, politically speaking in Southold Town, as there was when United Southold vaulted into power in the early 1990s. Although the Republicans still have a stranglehold on Town Hall, there isn’t a sense that it’s their way or the highway. And Supervisor Scott Russell’s quiet style of leadership and communication deserves much of the credit for that.

Still, there was a sense that this could be an unusual year, politically speaking in Southold Town, based on my observations at County Legislator Al Krupski’s fundraiser Friday night at the Pequash Club in Cutchogue. As you would expect, most of the usual subjects were in attendance. But it was the unusual suspects who caught my eye. As in Town Justice Bill Price Jr., a lifelong Republican who this year is running for re-election as a Democrat. (See earlier editions of The Suffolk Times for details.) Then there was Conservative (with a capital “C”) Town Board member Jim Dinizio, whom I would not normally have expected to see at a Democratic event, even though, as a friend of mine reminded me recently, “everybody loves Al Krupski.” It turns out the Conservatives have endorsed Krupski, but still …

And that got me to thinking the following: with the very-popular Al Krupski at the top of the ticket via his special election bid for a full term, Scott Russell not on the ticket because he’s in the middle of a four-year term, and Bill Price drawing Republican and independent voters to the ticket as he undoubtedly will, maybe, just maybe, some change will be in the air come Nov. 4.

(Disclaimer: Al Krupski’s was the first local political fundraiser that we’ve ever attended as paying customers. That’s because the former Joan Giger Walker and I no longer are owners of this newspaper, whose long-standing policy prevents editorial staff members from supporting or contributing to local campaigns.)

tgustavson@timesreview.com

07/03/13 8:00am
07/03/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Farmer Phil Schmitt (left) and his sons Matt (center) and Phil Jr. loading boxes of cabbage onto a flatbed at the family’s Riverhead farm in 2011. Phil Schmitt says most food safety issues have come out of West Coast and large farm operations.

Land preservation does not pit farmland preservation against open space protection. It’s about hard work and a commitment to preserving the character of our community, towns, county and island for future generations. It’s about quality of life.

In the 1970s, Suffolk County led the way by starting the farmland preservation program. Why? Because the people had the foresight to realize the importance of agriculture to Suffolk County. The seal of the Suffolk County Legislature, symbolically, is a plow.

Over the years, the towns and county have borrowed and spent millions to achieve the goals of protecting open space and farmland. Open space was prioritized for scenic and recreational qualities and habitat and sensitive wetland areas also were protected. Acquiring a critical mass of land is crucial to the preservation of meaningful wildlife habitat. These areas also provide for the active and passive recreational activities and the access to the water that we all enjoy.

Farmland preservation is critically important and food production must not be trivialized as so few things are produced in this country. We all appreciate food quality and safety. Without active farmland we would have no choice but to become dependent on foreign nations for our food, which could be of questionable safety.

The value of locally produced food cannot be minimized. Fruits and vegetables picked at the prime of ripeness provide not only great flavor and meals, but also are at their peak of nutritional value. The health benefits of locally grown produce cannot be refuted.

My bill would not prioritize open space preservation over farmland protection, but rather give them equal footing. A benefit of farmland protection is that the government pays less per acre, doesn’t have to fence, clean or police the property and it stays on the tax rolls. The landowner is forever responsible for the stewardship.

Another goal of the legislation is to insure that the money spent is well spent. The Suffolk County Planning Department has a rating system in place for both farmland preservation and open space acquisition. The professional planners rate available parcels, and following their recommendations we should acquire the very best properties that reach a higher standard. The land should reach a certain threshold before the county invests in appraisals, etc. The designated portion of the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection money for acquisition has been heavily borrowed against leaving little to spend. Let’s make sure we preserve the highest quality open space and the best soils.

I’ll be happy to work with anyone and everyone to find a different funding source to continue the efforts to protect today’s land for tomorrow’s generation. My long record of land preservation in Southold, both in open space and farmland protection, tells the whole story.

My 28 years as an elected official have been spent saving both open space and farmland. I helped to make the difficult decisions about how to focus preservation efforts and prioritize spending our always limited resources. I look forward to bringing this commitment of preserving the best to the county level.

In 100 years my name and those in all the current and past preservation efforts will be forgotten. But the people who live on Long Island will benefit from and appreciate the hard work and resources that we used to preserve both open space and farmland.

Al Krupski is the Suffolk County legislator for the 1st District.