06/24/14 9:06am
06/24/2014 9:06 AM

east end helicopter noise long islandA mandate for helicopters to stay off Long Island’s north shore that was set to expire in August has been renewed by the federal government — though a loophole will still permit aircraft heading to the Hamptons to fly over the North Fork, and local representatives are still working to close it and force pilots to detour around Orient Point.

The goal of the renewed route, implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2012, has been to reduce noise in residential areas that helicopters fly over on their ways to other locales on Long Island — namely, the Hamptons. The only way pilots can deviate from the route is for safety reasons, weather conditions, or if transitioning to or from a destination or point of landing.

But Southold Supervisor Scott Russell has said the last excuse to deviate from the plan hasn’t brought the expected results to Southold he was hoping for. And after U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Tim Bishop issued a joint statement last week announcing that the current route was extended — and not expanded to require flights to head around Orient Point — Mr. Russell called the oversight of Southold residents “deplorable.”

“Quite candidly, our federally-elected representatives just sold us out for the interests of western Long Island,” he said. “This is a disaster for Southold.”

Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop said last week that the current route — which towns to the west of Southold have embraced — has been extended for another two years, and the two are working to make it permanent. The announcement came weeks after the two stated that they were attempting to get an extension on the current route requirements, while also pushing for an expansion to require flights to go around Orient Point.

The route requires every helicopter operating along Long Island between Visual Point Lloyd Harbor (VPLYD), located 20 miles north of LaGuardia Airport, and Orient Point to fly one mile off the north shore.

If pilots do not follow the route, they may face fines or have their pilots’ license revoked.

“Luckily for Long Island residents, the beginning of August will not also mean the return of onerous helicopter noise that once interrupted dinners, disrupted people enjoying their backyards and had an effect on quality of life and on property values,” Mr. Schumer said in a release.

Mr. Russell said on Tuesday that last week’s announcement was indeed good news for those on the western part of Long Island, and shrugged off any suggestion that it might have anything to do with the political make-up of Southold’s Town Board — which has no elected Democrats on it.

“This isn’t a partisan issue. This is an East versus West issue,” he said. “The lesser populated East End simply has less clout at the voting booth.”

While expressing satisfaction for the current route’s extension, both Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop stated that they hope to see further results and relief for Southold residents.

“It is my sincere hope that FAA will continue to review ways to minimize the reach of noise pollution,” he stated.

Mr. Russell said he would be reaching out to Mr. Bishop’s office this week to try to remedy the issue for Southold residents.

05/28/14 4:05pm
05/28/2014 4:05 PM

east-end-helicopter-noise-long-island

A temporary Federal Aviation Administration requirement that helicopters fly over Long Island Sound rather than homes on the North Fork is set to expire on Aug. 6, according to Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). Mr. Bishop and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn) are now working on a bill to make that requirement permanent and to also extend the area where helicopters must stay over the water.  (more…)

02/18/14 7:00am
02/18/2014 7:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Coast of the Long Island Sound in Greenport.

The Long Island Sound in Greenport. (Photo by Carrie Miller)

New legislation that would provide $325 million in federal funding for a Long Island Sound restoration project is heading to the U.S. Senate for a vote, according to a press release issued by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s office.

(more…)

02/05/14 2:00pm
02/05/2014 2:00 PM
A 'fisherman' at Kenny's Beach in Southold last week.(Stanley Siejka courtesy photo)

A ‘fisherman’ at Kenny’s Beach in Southold last week.(Stanley Siejka courtesy photo)

New York anglers can now enjoy the same fluke size and bag limits as neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut, leveling the playing field when it comes to catching one of region’s most popular fish — summer flounder, commonly known as fluke. (more…)

12/13/13 10:00am
12/13/2013 10:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Newly-purchased fire hydrants may have to be sold for scrap if new federal regulations aren't changed or put on delay.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Newly purchased fire hydrants may have to be sold for scrap if new federal regulations aren’t changed or delayed.

Stockpiles of fire hydrants previously purchased by local water districts could soon be useless following new federal standards for lead used in infrastructure that provides drinking water.

Effective Jan. 4., the maximum amount of lead allowed for use in pipes distributing drinking water will change from 8 percent to .25 percent — a new standard enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The new standard is a result of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act passed in January 2011, aimed at reducing the amount of lead in drinking water pipes and other plumbing fixtures to protect public health.

Although the act was passed nearly three years ago, the EPA only recently indicated fire hydrants would have to meet the new standard – because they can be used to provide drinking water in emergency situations – according to a release from Sen. Charles Schumer’s office.

Any hydrant installed on or after Jan. 4 would need to meet the new EPA standard, according to the guidelines.

“As soon as [the law] was passed we changed our policy to immediately order fittings that didn’t contain lead so three years from then we’d be ready – nobody had any idea they were going to include fire hydrants,” said Suffolk County Water Authority commissioner James Gaughran. “Fire hydrants are used for fire safety purposes.”

He said had the agency known three years ago, it would have prepared to comply. They agency was notified Oct. 22, when a summary of the law’s guidelines was released by the EPA, he said.

The SCWA services about 1.2 million people annually through more than 37,000 hydrants, and services most of Southold Town.

The agency’s existing stock of hydrants yet to be used numbers about 400 — valued at about $1,000 apiece — that, combined with associated fittings, totals about $450,000 of what could be unusable equipment, Mr. Gaughran said. If no exemptions are made, or delay is granted by the EPA, the existing stockpile would be sold at scrap value, he said.

“We’re certainly concerned about lead contamination getting to the drinking water, but it takes a long time,” Mr. Gaughran said. “Give the industry time to develop and manufacture the new hydrants, so that there is competition – so we don’t get rate shocked,” he said. “Who knows, they could double or triple in price.”

Riverhead Town Water District Superintendent Gary Pendzick said he only keeps about a dozen new hydrants in stock, each valued at about $1,500.

“For us it’s not that much of a consequence,” Mr. Pendzick said, adding that he hopes to be able to order equipment to retrofit the hydrants he currently has in stock.

Problem is, the supply industry hasn’t had the time to manufacture parts that meet the new EPA standard, he said.

“We called to get pricing and our supplies said they are not making retrofit kits yet,” Mr. Pendzick said.
They are not even making the hydrants yet.

At a press conference Monday, Mr. Schumer called on the EPA to exempt existing stocks of fire hydrants purchased before it released the guidelines in October, which he says will save water districts thousands of dollars.

On Dec. 2, the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation that would add fire hydrants to the list of devices exempt from the new lead standards – which includes toilets and shower parts. Action from the Senate and presidential approval would still be needed to fix the problem for local water districts.

Mr. Gaughran, who called the problem “just another example of government bureaucracy out of control,” said the agency replaces about 200 of its roughly 3,700 hydrants each year – many of which become damaged in winter storms and car accidents, he said.

The Riverhead Water District replaces about a dozen of its 2,000 hydrants each year, Mr. Pendzick said.

While lead is rarely found in source water, it can enter tap water through the corrosion of plumbing materials, according to the EPA.

Exposure to lead can affect nearly every system in the body, and exposure above levels of 15 parts per billion can cause  delays in physical and mental development in babies and children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

cmiller@timesreview.com

11/16/13 2:30pm
11/16/2013 2:30 PM

JOHN DUNN FILE PHOTO | Senator Charles Schumer at a news conference in Port Washington.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has announced plans to introduce legislation aimed at leveling the playing field for New York fishermen when it comes to catching one of region’s most popular fish — summer flounder, commonly known as fluke.

Mr. Schumer says the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which manage tri-state area fisheries as well as others along the East Coast, are using outdated and flawed data to set New York’s fluke regulations.

As a result, local anglers are at a disadvantage, with stricter size and catch limits compared to nearby states, Mr. Schumer says.

He is now proposing The Fluke Fairness Act, intended to require the two leading bodies to consider a regional management system that would establish uniform size and bag limits for neighboring states – and require the commission and the council to use “the best available” science and data to amend the Fishery Management Plan for fluke, which is used to ensure that fish stocks remain sustainable.

“Fluke was the mainstay of our business,” said Captain Sloan Gurney of the Black Rock fishing charter boat, which operates out of Orient Point. “But the unfair regulations have hurt us tremendously.”

Mr. Gurney, who has been fishing the area for about three decades, said when the regulations came down in the late ’90s, they made the East End a less desirable place to fish compared to other areas with higher bag limits.

He calls the regulations “unfair and inequitable,” and said “they’ve been going on for far too long.”

“The fish don’t know state boundaries. It doesn’t make any sense that a fish swimming from New Jersey to New York should have a different size limit,” Mr. Gurney said.

Data sets from the 1980, 1989 and 1998 fishing seasons were used to determine the regulations for each state’s commercial and recreational fluke industries, according to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

1998 was the last time anglers in the tri-state area were subject to the same regulations, said Captain Bob Busby, president of the North Fork Captains Association, which represents area charter boats. He’s also a member of the advisory panel on fluke for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Mr. Busby said those outdated numbers don’t adequately account for the area’s current fluke populations, which have since shifted due to migration, water temperature and recovery from any over-fishing, according to 2012 data from the Interstate Fisheries Management Program, which assess fish stocks annually.

Currently, recreational fishermen in New Jersey and Connecticut can catch up to five fluke at least 17.5 inches long per day, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, while recreational anglers in New York can take only four fluke, which must be at least 19 inches long, according to the state DEC.

“If it was going to change then I certainly think regional management would be a step in the right direction,” Mr. Busby said. “New York would probably be the ones with the most to gain from it.”

If managed as a region, Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut would all have the same size, bag limit and season, he said. Though, he warned, North Fork fishermen rely heavily on a May 1 opening date for the fluke season, which is when the area gets its “run of fish,” and potential changes to that date could hurt the local industry. (For example, New Jersey’s fluke season starts May 18 and Connecticut’s starts May 15.)

“Who knows, in some way we may be shooting ourselves in the foot, too,” Mr. Busby said.

Mr. Schumer said that by wiping out the old data and encouraging the two leading councils to adopt a more regional approach, “New York should be expected to gain the type of fairness in the management system they have lacked for approximately 15 years.”

11/04/12 3:54pm
11/04/2012 3:54 PM

JOHN DUNN FILE PHOTO | Senator Charles Schumer announced Sunday federal aid is coming to local municipalities.

Local federal elected officials announced Sunday FEMA aid is now available to fund repairs for public infrastructures and facilities damaged this week by Hurricane Sandy.

According to a press released issued by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s office,  FEMA administrator Craig Fugate agreed to expand President Barack Obama’s major disaster declaration to include all categories of public assistance for the counties affected by the storm, including: roads, bridges, water control facilities, public buildings and equipment, utilities, parks, recreational facilities, beaches and more.

Initially, municipalities on Long Island and in New York City and the Hudson Valley were only eligible to receive federal aid for some public services like debris removal and emergency protective measures.

Residents in those areas have been eligible for individual assistance from FEMA.

Mr. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand applauded FEMA’s recent decision.

“It is critical that FEMA has heeded our call and expanded the major disaster declaration to include full public assistance for communities throughout storm-ravaged New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley,” Mr. Schumer said.

“Providing this full range of federal disaster assistance is essential for repairs to everything from sewages facilities, to parklands, to the hundreds of roads and bridges that were destroyed in the storm, and I am pleased that our communities can know that the federal government will be there to help as they continue their response and recovery efforts.”

Ms. Gillibrand agreed and described the damage she has seen as “devastating.”

“The federal government has a responsibility to stand with these families every step of the way to help them recover and rebuild better than ever before,” she said. “The Obama administration promised no red-tape, and this is another example of the president backing up that commitment.”

jennifer@timesreview.com