07/16/13 6:55pm
07/16/2013 6:55 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Members of the public packed Town Hall Tuesday night.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Members of the public packed Town Hall Tuesday night.

The Riverhead Town Board Tuesday night listened to suggestions on how best to plan and accurately assess the environmental impacts of the town’s proposed 50-lot subdivision and re-use plan for the former Grumman site now called the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

The EPCAL scoping hearing’s purpose was to seek input on potential issues should be examined in the upcoming environmental study of the town’s plans for town-owned land that has sat undeveloped at the site.


The hearing happened during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting and kicked off at 7:30 p.m. to a packed audience in the Town Board meeting room, though most of the audience members were union workers.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon reported live from the meeting.

Click the blog box below to see what transpired.


07/09/13 8:00am
07/09/2013 8:00 AM

DUANE ARNISTER PHOTO | The DEC has confirmed this photo taken in Water Mill is of a coyote.

Speaking before the Southold Town Board in August 2011, Fishers Island resident Charles Kadushin said his cat had been missing for months and he believed coyotes living on the island were to blame.

While Fishers Island is a part of Southold Town, its location 15 miles off the North Fork meant there was little danger of the coyote population spreading to the East End, where state Department of Environmental Conservation officials say the mammal hadn’t been spotted in more than a century.

Now, two years later, a photo depicting a coyote walking across a farm field on Blank Lane in Water Mill has erased that statistic. The New York State DEC confirmed last week the animal shown in the photograph is a coyote and that an investigation has since been launched.

“Investigators have gone out to tour the site,” said DEC spokesman Bill Fonda. “[They’re looking] for scat, paw marks or anything the coyote may have been eating.”

Mr. Fonda said the first attempt by DEC officials to track down the coyote and its possible pack was unsuccessful last Wednesday, and no paw marks were visible, though he said the search began one week after the photograph was taken and it had rained for several days in between. He added that investigators will continue to search the area for the animal periodically.

While the coyotes living on Fishers Island are believed to have arrived by swimming two miles from Connecticut, where state officials say coyotes have been a part of the ecosystem since the mid-1950s, it is unclear how a coyote might have found its way to the South Fork.

Mr. Kadushin said Monday that coyotes can still be heard howling at the sound of Fishers Island’s noon whistle each and every day, believes the Water Mill sighting is not connected to his hometown of 236 year-round residents.

“That would be impossible,” he said. “The current’s just too strong.”

Mr. Fonda said DEC officials also believe there is no way the coyote seen in Water Mill could have come from Fishers Island and while there have been sightings in Queens in recent years there have not been reports of the animal in Nassau County, making it unlikely the coyote traveled all the way from the city.

In order to swim from Connecticut to the North Fork, the coyote would have to swim close to 10 miles, also an unlikely feat for animals that experts say can typically swim about a half-mile at a time.

“Maybe it was somebody’s pet at some point and it escaped,” Mr. Fonda theorized.

Coyotes were one of the animals included on a furbearers survey released by the DEC in May, in which Suffolk residents were asked to report a physical description, location, habitat and to send a photograph when spotting an unusual mammal.

Mr. Fonda said the local DEC district has received many photographs of foxes but last week’s coyote photo was the first of its kind.

“Until now they had been seen on Fishers Island and Queens but that’s it,” he said.

In the two years since he approached the Town Board, Mr. Kadushin said no research has been conducted to determine the coyote population on Fishers Island, where they’ve been known to kill many household and feral cats.

“There’s no way to tell how many there are here,” he said. “They tag and track them in other places. That’s not being done here.”


A map of the farm field where a coyote was spotted in Water Mill more than a week ago.

06/25/13 3:00pm
06/25/2013 3:00 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | DEC officials announce funding to repair a canoe launch in Riverhead.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is designating millions of dollars in funding toward improving recreation areas and the North Fork is expected to reap the benefits.

In recognition of Great Outdoors Month New York, state Department of Environmental Conservation regional director Peter Scully announced $950,000 for outdoor recreation projects in Riverhead and Southold.

The funding derives from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York Works II program and the Environmental Protection Fund, which provides money for expanding and improving access for recreational activities on public lands.

Of the total funding, $750,000 will be used to repair the Peconic River dam and a canoe launch off of Edwards Avenue in Riverhead.

The remaining $200,000 will go toward designing a boat ramp at a public waterway access on Peconic Bay near the site of the former Old Barge restaurant just off Route 25 in Southold.


06/17/13 1:27pm
06/17/2013 1:27 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | DEC officers hunting for the alligator Friday.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | DEC officers hunting for the alligator Friday.

The alligator that’s been living in the Peconic River and eluded capture for more than a week was located and euthanized Sunday in Calverton.

The gator was killed about 25 yards down river from the state Department of Environmental Conservation kayak and canoe launch site off Connecticut Avenue.

The gator was killed by a single shot fired by a DEC conservation officer, a DEC spokesman said.

“Dart guns do not work on cold-blooded creatures,” said the spokesman, Bill Fonda.

Officers had been spotting and trying to capture the 3-foot long alligator alive for about a week near the boat ramp, Mr. Fonda said.

“As an option of last resort, the alligator was euthanized on Sunday in the interest of public safety,” he said. “Tranquilizing the alligator was not an option as the animal could still have evaded capture and returned to the water, continuing to pose a public safety threat. DEC has re-opened the canoe site.”

The boat ramp had been closed to the public during the search.

A DEC officer at the scene Friday said they hoped to catch the gator alive, if possible, but that proved too dangerous, Mr. Fonda said.

“DEC officers and staff used baited hooks, nets and catch poles in an attempt to capture the animal,” Mr. Fonda said.. “All these attempts proved futile.

Officials have said the gator was probably a pet that someone turned loose, and they have stressed owning an alligator is illegal in New York State.

The DEC in April found four other small alligators in the same area of the Peconic River boat ramp, and capture them alive.


DEC COURTESY PHOTO | These four gators were captured in the Peconic River Friday morning. A Manorville residents spotted the reptiles and contacted the DEC.

DEC COURTESY PHOTO | These four gators were captured in the Peconic River in April.

06/14/13 5:29pm
06/14/2013 5:29 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | DEC officer Don Damrath shows some DEC employees where he thinks the gator may be.

An elusive alligator remained on the loose Friday in Calverton as State Environmental Conservation Officers converged on the area to attempt to bait the gator.

Spotted in the Peconic River near the state boat ramp on Connecticut Avenue, the gator is estimated to be about 3 1/2 to 4 feet long, officer Donald Damrath said.

It’s the second time in less than two months a gator has been spotted in the area. Four baby gators were found in the same spot in mid-April.

Mr. Damrath spotted the gator Wednesday and another man photographed it earlier in the week. Officer Kaitlyn Grady and Lt. Frank Carbone assisted Friday in trying to lure in the gator near the ramp where a trail leading to it has been closed to the public since Wednesday. Officials believe the gator is likely still near the boat ramp.

Mr. Damrath said the gator may be dormant. Gators become dormant when temperatures reach 55 degrees and stop feeding when the temperature is about 70 degrees, he said.

The air temperature was near 70 degrees Friday but the water temperature was unknown. The gators will stay on land if it is warmer than the water, Mr. Damrath said.

The officers put some chicken down by the ramp  in an attempt to bait the gator. Mr. Damrath said the gator was likely domestic, so the trap might not work.

It’s possible that this gator was owned by the same person that owned the other four, he said.

The goal is to catch it alive if possible, he said, but cautioned, “It’s a dangerous animal.”


TIM GANNON PHOTO | The hunt for the gator continues Friday.

05/23/13 10:00am
05/23/2013 10:00 AM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Calverton Enterprise Park, looking south.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Calverton Enterprise Park, looking south.

Trees or grass?

That’s a question Riverhead Town officials will have to wrestle with at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation “potentially wants us to take back some of the early succession forest at EPCAL to create grasslands,” Mr. Walter told the News-Review.

This could mean cutting down about 50 acres of full-grown evergreen trees on the eastern portion of EPCAL in order to create a new grasslands on a site just south of land where a garbage transfer station is proposed, and where a garbage-by-rail plan was proposed 10 years ago.

The town has already agreed to maintain existing grasslands at EPCAL in the areas adjacent to both runways, and preserve them as a habitat for migrating birds, including the endangered short-eared owl.

On the western runway, which is inactive, the town has agreed at the DEC’s request not only to preserve existing grasslands, but also to cover the runway with sand and plant grass over it to create additional grassland habitat.

The 7,000-foot western runway is no longer used for aviation. The 10,000-foot eastern runway is still used for aviation, but the town’s draft plan for subdividing EPCAL into 50 lots would see that runway shortened.

Mr. Walter said not everyone supports the idea of cutting down trees for grass. State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) prefers keeping the trees, the supervisor said, as does Andrew Sabin of East Hampton, whom the town is allowing to conduct a salamander study at EPCAL.

“I’m not in favor of it, either,” Mr. Walter said.

“Early succession” forest is a scientific term used to describe land that is in a transition period between grassland and forest.

“If we did nothing on the existing grasslands, we’d have woods there in 20 years,” Mr. Walter said. “But if we do the subdivision, we’re going to have to maintain the grasslands that are there.”

He said the town’s development plan for EPCAL would end up preserving about 600 of the approximately 650 acres of grasslands at EPCAL.

The area where trees would potentially be cut down is just south of the Calverton Industries property, where a group called East End Recycling and Composting has a pending site plan application before the town to build a 315,000-square-foot garbage transfer station and indoor composting facility. East End Recycling has a valid DEC solid waste permit for the site that dates back to the late 1990s, and would rent 10 acres there to build the proposed facility.

At a town work session in 2003, Calverton Industries’ principal Michael Cholowsky had proposed extending the EPCAL rail spur through the EPCAL property so garbage collected on his property could be taken out by rail. No formal application was ever made and the spur wasn’t even operating at the time.

John Cameron of East End Recycling told the News-Review last year that his company has no plans to use freight to take garbage to or from the proposed facility.

East End Recycling’s site plan application was filed more than two years ago and has not been approved.

“I don’t even know if that project is moving forward,” Mr. Walter said.


04/19/13 4:01pm
04/19/2013 4:01 PM
DEC COURTESY PHOTO | These four gators were captured in the Peconic River Friday morning. A Manorville residents spotted the reptiles and contacted the DEC.

DEC COURTESY PHOTO | These four gators were captured in the Peconic River Friday morning. A Manorville residents spotted the reptiles and contacted the DEC.

Four alligators were captured from the Peconic River in Calverton by state conservation officers Friday morning, officials said.

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials said in a press release the reptiles — ranging 2- to 4-feet-long — were spotted by Frank Naase about 8 a.m. near a dock at the Connecticut Avenue canoe launch.

The Manorville resident, who officials said frequents the dock after his morning cup of coffee, immediately contacted the DEC after noticing one of the alligators floating by.

The alligators were lethargic due to the cold water they had been exposed to, and were transferred to DEC’s regional headquarters in Stony Brook and will ultimately be sent to the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, officials said.

Lt. Dallas Bengel, left, and ECO Mark Simmons caught these gators Friday morning.

Lt. Dallas Bengel, left, and ECO Mark Simmons caught these gators Friday morning.

After catching a nearly 2-foot-long alligator with a catch pole, Lt. Dallas Bengel and Environmental Conservation Officer Mark Simmons observed three more alligators in the water and secured each of the animals with tape around their jaws, officials said.

Alligators are illegal to own as pets in New York. People planning to use them for exhibition, research or educational purposes are require to obtain a DEC permit, officials said.

Friday’s incident occurred a week prior to Long Island’s first illegal reptile and amphibian amnesty day.

The DEC has partnered with the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow for a “one-time only amnesty program,” where people can anonymously bring their illegal or unpermitted reptiles and amphibians without fear of prosecution.

Species that do not require permits, or are not threatened or endangered will not be accepted.

DEC Regional Director Peter Scully said in a press release he hopes residents will take advantage of the program.

“Alligators released into Long Island waters have become an all too common occurrence in recent years,” Mr. Scully said. “Unfortunately, individuals who attain these animals often find themselves incapable of caring for them as they grow, and they ultimately release them into the waters of Long Island where they are unable to survive and may pose a risk to recreationalists.”

The program will take place at Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive in Smithtown, on April 27 from noon to 4 p.m.

To report any environmental crime, contact DEC’s hotline at 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332) or Dispatch number at (631) 444-0250.

Officials said calls will be kept confidential.


04/12/13 10:00am
04/12/2013 10:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | DEC staffers will be leading cleanup efforts Sunday at Otis Pike Preserve in Calverton.

Decades of development and natural vegetation changes have combined for a loss of grasslands in Calverton and across eastern Long Island, leaving endangered animals with smaller habitats to roam, state environmental officials say.

This weekend, in honor of Earth Day, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking the public’s help in reclaiming some of those grasslands. DEC staffers will be leading cleanup efforts Sunday at the Otis Pike Preserve in Calverton, state-owned property set aside for recreational use, like hiking, biking and hunting.

The preserve is home to native species, including endangered short-eared owls, eastern meadowlarks, northern harriers and woodcock birds, officials say.

Volunteers will be removing invasive species and woody vegetation,under the direction of DEC wildlife staff. They will also reseed the area to promote regrowth of native grasses.

FedEx employees have already volunteered to help.

“Grasslands are one of the most important and imperiled habitats across our state,” said DEC regional director Peter Scully.

Volunteers are being asked to meet at 10 a.m. outside Otis Pike Preserve on Route 25A (Parker Road) just north of the Route 25 (Middle Country Road) intersection in Calverton, parking spot 36.

Long-sleeved shirts, pants, boots and especially gloves are recommended. Volunteers should also prepare themselves with food and water, sun protection and bug protection and hand-cutting tools to trim shrubs, according to a release.

“DEC thanks FedEx for their initiative to help expand grasslands on Long Island and hopes many more volunteers will assist in this needed effort,” Mr. Scully.


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