03/02/13 8:00am
03/02/2013 8:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The Miss Nancy fishing boat moves through Greenport Harbor.

Life could get just a little easier for East End commercial fishermen if a bill Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-C-Port Jefferson) ushered through the New York State Senate has the same support in the Assembly.

The bill that passed the Senate with only a single negative vote would allow commercial fishermen to aggregate their daily catch limits over a seven-day period. A fisherman could, for example, catch three times his daily quota on Monday and two times the limit on Wednesday and then stay off the water until the following Monday, thereby conserving fuel. The bill that passed the Senate would also allow individuals, each of whom had a fishing license, to go out together in the same boat with each able to take a daily or aggregate limit.

“Fuel for running a fishing boat is extremely costly,” Mr. LaValle said, noting that it “significantly cuts into the already slim profits” fishermen get.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who is shepherding the bill through the Assembly, said he and Mr. LaValle drafted the bill together in consultation with local fishermen.

While the Assembly is focused on getting a budget passed by the April 1 deadline, Mr. Thiele said as soon as that’s accomplished, the fishing bill would move ahead.

“It’s a bill that is high on my list,” Mr. Thiele said.

Assuming the Assembly gives the legislation the go-ahead, it would go to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

jlane@timesreview.com

03/15/12 3:57pm
03/15/2012 3:57 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Assemblyman Fred Thiele.

A newly revised set of New York State Assembly district maps was passed by the State Legislature late Wednesday and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo this morning.

The new maps reconnect Riverhead with Southold, but place Shelter Island in the South Fork’s Assembly district.

An earlier proposal would have placed both Southold and Shelter Island in the South Fork district represented by Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).

Southold and Riverhead political leaders, and eventually Mr. Thiele as well, said the North Fork’s voice should not be divided in the state Legislature.

The new proposal will also swap the East End district numbers. What’s now the 1st Assembly district, represented by Dan Losquadro and currently comprising Southold, Shelter Island, Riverhead and northeastern Brookhaven, will become the 2nd District. Mr. Thiele’s South Fork district would become the 1st.

New Assembly, state Senate and congressional districts must be in place in time for the upcoming fall elections. They must be approved by both houses of the state Legislature and the governor.

“I look forward to representing the new 1st Assembly District. 98 percent of the district includes areas I already represent,” Mr. Thiele said in a press release. “Shelter Island, which will be added to my district, was part of my county legislative district in the late 1980s. I am pleased that the redistricting task force listened to public opinion and kept Southold in the current district with northeast Brookhaven and Riverhead, as I had requested.”

Mr. Losquadro echoed this sentiment.

“This was a critical issue for the future for the North Fork and all the communities represented within my Assembly district,” he said in a release. “I would like to thank my fellow elected officials from the county of Suffolk and the towns of Riverhead and Southold, who joined with me to speak out against this proposed inequity. This effort truly resulted in a victory for the residents, who now will continue to have their interests and concerns best represented before the state.”

Mr. Losquadro said Wednesday that he would vote against the changes as a protest against the Democratic Assembly majority’s shutting out minority input on the proposal. He added he was only voting against the proposal because he believed it would pass.

Mr. Losquadro also said he’s supporting a constitutional amendment that would guarantee equal representation on the committee that draws up the district lines. He said he believes that amendment, which will be ready later this week, will have the support of the State Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Despite my no vote objecting to the process, the second set of maps are going to pass,” he said. “I simply cannot support the process.

“I think the revised maps are good for the East End, and for the North Fork they’re very good,” he added. “If it hadn’t been for residents stepping up, this wouldn’t have happened. I am so happy that we prevailed in the most egregious of the shortcomings in the initial plan. But parts of the plan are still very lacking.”

Redistricting occurs every 10 years to reflect changes in population statistics gathered during the U.S. Census.

byoung@timesreview.com

03/12/12 1:06pm
03/12/2012 1:06 PM

COURTESY MAP | This map shows the new First district, which will include the southeastern Brookhaven, the South Fork and Shelter Island. Riverhead, Southold and northeastern Brookhaven would be represented in the Second Assembly District, according to this latest proposal.

A newly revised set of New York State Assembly District maps puts Riverhead back in the same district as Southold and places Shelter Island in the South Fork’s Assembly District.

An earlier proposal released by the state last month would have placed both Southold and Shelter Island in the South Fork district represented by Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).

Southold and Riverhead political leaders, and eventually Mr. Thiele as well, said the North Fork’s voice should not be divided in the state legislature.

The new proposal would rename Assemblyman Dan Losquadro’s (R-Shoreham) district, which currently includes Southold, Shelter Island, Riverhead and northeastern Brookhaven, from the First to the Second Assembly District. Mr. Thiele’s district, currently the Second Assembly District, would be renamed the First Assembly District.

“I look forward to representing the new First Assembly District. 98% of the district includes areas I already represent,” said Mr. Thiele in a release issued Monday. “Shelter Island, which will be added to my district, was part of my county legislative district in the late 1980’s. I have continued to work with Shelter Island on many regional issues and look forward to representing them again. Further, I am pleased that the redistricting task force listened to public opinion and kept Southold in the current district with northeast Brookhaven and Riverhead, as I had requested.”

Mr. Losquadro was not immediately available for comment.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years to reflect population statistics gathered during the U.S. Census.

byoung@timesreview.com

02/16/12 11:00am
02/16/2012 11:00 AM

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | Assemblyman Fred Thiele speaking at a breast cancer awareness forum on Shelter Island in November.

South Fork Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) has added his voice to the chorus of opposition to a redistricting plan that would place Southold in his assembly district.

“I have enjoyed working with Southold Town government through the years including the Peconic Bay Estuary Program, the Community Preservation Fund, Five Town Rural Transit, Peconic County, the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association, and the repeal of the MTA payroll tax and the saltwater fishing license,” he said in a press release issued Wednesday. “I would enthusiastically represent them in Albany. However, the state should not compound its failure to utilize an independent, non-partisan redistricting process by ignoring home rule. The final plan must accurately reflect the will of the public. The most important function of any elected official is to listen. Therefore, I have urged the task force to modify the plan.”

The New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research (LATFOR), announced a proposed change that would put Southold and Shelter Island in the same assembly district as the South Fork, while the current North Fork district would end at the Southold Town line in Laurel and would extend westward to Brookhaven. The district lines needed to be redrawn after the 2010 census to reflect population changes.

Mr. Thiele suggested that the South Fork district include Shelter Island, East Hampton and Southampton and a southern portion of Brookhaven, while the North Fork district would include Southold, Riverhead and a northern portion of Brookhaven.

Mr. Thiele said in the release that “it was clear from public hearings and comments that there was strong sentiment in Southold to be part of the Brookhaven/North Fork District.”

North Fork Assemblyman Dan Losquadro has led the charge to keep the North Fork district contiguous. He held a press conference urging residents to keep the district intact at Southold Town Hall last week and spoke against the proposed change at a LATFOR meeting in Hauppauge last Thursday.

LATFOR is expecting to present revised maps to the public within a few weeks, in order to have the new district lines in place for this year’s election.

byoung@timesreview.com

02/08/12 9:00am
02/08/2012 9:00 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | New smaller, faster scoot trains could be used to improve LIRR service to the East End.

For several years, a group called Five Town Rural Transit has been advocating for the creation of East End Shuttle, a coordinated shuttle train and bus network solely for the five East End towns. The plan was to use smaller, two-car shuttle trains on the existing East End railroad tracks, instead of Long Island Rail Road trains, to provide a more frequent rail service back and forth.

Now, the MTA appears to have embraced at least a part of that vision.

According to Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), the MTA has included a $37.2 million expenditure in its five-year capital plan for the purchase of smaller, more reliable diesel trains for LIRR.

The new trains, known as “diesel multiple units,” or “scoot” trains, have smaller engines, are lighter, more cost effective and will travel shorter distances, Mr. Thiele said.

“The Long Island Rail Road is committed to exploring the possibility of providing “scoot” service as a way to increase service opportunities and ridership in eastern Suffolk County,” said Salvatore Arena, a spokesman for the MTA.

“We’re glad to hear this,” said Vince Taldone of Riverhead, who is a member of Five Town Rural Transit. “These trains would be smaller, more energy efficient and would provide more frequent service to the East End.”

The other key component to Five Town Rural Transit’s plan is to establish a network of feeder buses that meet passengers at the trains, Mr. Taldone said. However, getting the so-called scoot trains in place is a good first step, he said.

The LIRR’s East End lines, which end at Montauk on the South Fork and Greenport on the North Fork, have far less frequent train service than points west of Ronkonkoma, and are mostly single-tracks that are not electrified, so only diesel engines can run on them.

The proposed expenditure will permit the LIRR to purchase five of the new trains, which come in sets of two cars, Mr. Thiele said.

When ridership is heavier, another pair of cars can be attached.

According to the LIRR the new trains could “increase frequency of service, increase reliability, and promote intra-island commuting. The new diesels will be ideal to provide additional service in the non-electrified areas of the LIRR east of Ronkonkoma.”

“We are closer than ever to increasing public transportation opportunities for East End residents,” Mr. Thiele said, adding that the region “has clamored for increased service through the implementation of an integrated rail/bus shuttle service.”

“This could be very significant if it happens, and we’re hoping it does,” said Jim Ellwood of Riverhead, who is also a member of Five Town Rural Transit. He said he’d like to get more information, along with confirmation that the LIRR is actually going to move forward with the plan.

But he said getting the shuttles in place is a first step.

“The East End Shuttle was really an ideal,” he said. “If we can get half of that, or even a third of that, it would be welcome.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

02/01/12 2:00pm
02/01/2012 2:00 PM

A map showing the redistricting proposal's impact on Long Island.

Assemblyman Dan Losquadro doesn’t want to see Southold and Shelter Island towns removed from his Assembly district and he’s taking the fight against North Fork redistricting to a public hearing next week.

If the redistricting occurs as a state committee suggests, most of the East End will only have one representative, with Fred Thiele representing the South Fork, Shelter Island and Southold and Mr. Losquadro representing Riverhead.

Mr. Losquadro (R-Shoreham) currently represents the North Fork, and the South Fork is represented by Mr. Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).

“As the assemblyman representing the largest population of any district in New York State, I understand the new district lines would result in my district becoming smaller. That being said, it pains me to see the North Fork split up in the new redistricting plan put forward by the Majority,” Mr. Losquadro said in a statement. “The North Fork and the South Fork are very different districts, with the North Fork having a large winery and agricultural base and the majority of its homeowners acting as primary residents.”

Assemblyman Losquadro and other North Fork elected officials are encouraging residents to voice their concerns at a Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment public hearing at 11 a.m. next Thursday, February 9 at the W.H. Rogers Legislative Office Building in Happauge.

Read more about the redistricting plan in Thursday’s News-Review.

gparpan@timesreview.com

01/26/12 12:59pm
01/26/2012 12:59 PM

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | Assemblyman Fred Thiele speaking at a breast cancer awareness forum on Shelter Island in November.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) could become Southold and Shelter Island’s new representative in the State Assembly, if a redistricting proposal released today by the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment takes effect.

The redistricting, which could be in place by this November’s election, would change the boundaries of the First And Second Assembly Districts. The South Fork, Shelter Island and Southold would become the First District, which would be represented by Mr. Thiele, who currently represents the Second District, which is comprised only of the South Fork. First District Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) would see his new Second District start in Riverhead and head west.

If the proposal takes effect, Mr. Thiele would no longer represent the hamlets of Mastic, Mastic Beach, and Shirley.

A public hearing, which is required before the redistricting occurs, will take place at 11 a.m. on Feb. 9 in the auditorium of the William H. Rogers Legislative Building of the Suffolk County Legislature in Hauppauge.

In a statement Thursday, Mr. Thiele said he would have preferred if the redistricting had been drawn by an independent and non-partisan committee, but he found the end results acceptable.

“This district includes as much of the East End in the same district as was constitutionally possible. Further, it avoids dividing the Tri-Hamlet Area (Mastic, Mastic Beach, and Shirley), which is currently the existing situation where I share the peninsula with two other Assembly members. My Assembly District had to be reduced in population under the State and U.S. Constitution. This district plan does that without dividing communities in my district to serve the political needs of those to the west.”

He said the redistricting was done because there were too many people in his district as it was formerly drawn.

Using figures from the 2010 U.S. Census, each Assembly District should include 129,089 residents. Mr. Thiele’s district was 13,744 residents over the average. The new district will have 128,929, 160 less than the average.

“Based upon enrollment numbers, the district is politically competitive and does not discriminate against any minority group. It unites communities of interest and does not divide villages,” Mr. Thiele added.

A map showing the redistricting proposal's impact on Long Island. Click to enlarge.

Mr. Losquadro said Thursday afternoon he was surprised that the redistricting committee didn’t see fit to keep the North Fork intact on its new maps.

“I really think that the North Fork and South Fork issues vary pretty significantly. There are far more primary homeowners on the North Fork. They also have a lot more agriculture on the North Fork than the South Fork.

Mr. Losquadro said he knew his district was going to change substantially when the census figures showed it had 149,700 people in it.

“I knew I’d be losing 21,000 constituents just to reach a parity with the other districts, but that could have been done in a way to keep the geographic areas contiguous.

Mr. Losquadro said that, while he’s enjoyed representing Shelter Island, he believes residents there could be represented by an assemblyman from either fork.

“It’s not like I don’t want to represent them,” he said. “It was a real honor for me to represent those areas.”

Southold Republican Party chairman Denis Noncarrow said he’s disappointed in the redistricting, which he believes is “a done deal” in Albany.

“The South Fork and the North Fork have different concerns,” he said. “There are battles that the North Fork had exclusively that we’re not going to have somebody fighting for.”

He said that those issues range from helicopter noise en route to the East Hampton Airport to issues that Mr. Losquadro is working on for Fishers Island, including training emergency responders and helping to provide access to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

“A lot of individual things are exclusive North Fork problems,” he said.

Mr. Losquadro said, even though the boundary lines have changed, he will continue to pressure the Federal Aviation Administration to change its recommended helicopter routes to alleviate the noise of helicopter traffic on the North Shore.

“We have an FAA which has just been lax, wanting and delinquent in finding a solution and implementing a solution to this problem,” he said. “The area I’m still representing will still be the area on the North Shore most impacted. I will still continue to keep my pressure up on the federal representatives and the FAA.”

Mr. Noncarrow said he doesn’t know Mr. Thiele well.

“Only time will tell. We’ll have to see how it goes. It was nice having someone who handled just the North Fork and its concerns,” he said, adding that, since Mr. Thiele is a member of the Independence Party, not a Democrat, he doesn’t see the redistricting as a concern for Southold Republicans.

Mr. Thiele, a lawyer by trade, is a former Southampton Town Supervisor and member of the Suffolk County Legislature. He was raised in Sag Harbor, where he graduated from Pierson High School before attending Southampton College. He received his law degree from Albany Law School and was admitted to the bar in New York State in 1980. He was elected to the State Assembly in 1995.

He was not immediately available for comment.

Mr. Thiele is most widely known as the architect of the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund, a land preservation program in the five East End towns that is funded through a 2 percent real estate transfer tax.

He has been actively involved in land preservation and transportation issues on the South Fork.

Mr. Thiele had served in the Assembly as a Republican until he switched his party affiliation to the Independence Party in Oct. 2009, after briefly flirting with the idea of becoming a Democrat. He said at the time that his support of marriage equality put him at odds with Republican leadership. He was endorsed by the Democratic, Independence and Working Families parties in his 2010 re-election campaign.

byoung@timesreview.com

04/14/11 6:40am
04/14/2011 6:40 AM

If a legislative proposal meant to eliminate dramatic variations in tax rates between the Riverhead and Southampton town portions of the Riverhead School District had already been implemented, Southampton residents would have seen a tax rate increase in the range of 2 percent this year, rather than the 23 percent they actually got.

That’s according to Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who joined state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Southampton Town officials in addressing the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association Friday night.

Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle plan to sponsor a bill they hope will eliminate similar school tax rate spikes in the future for the Southampton portion of the district. The measure proposes an equalization rate based on a five-year average of property values in Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven, the three towns that make up the school district, rather on annual property values.

The equalization rate is a formula that’s used to divvy up the tax levy — the overall amount of money collected from local taxpayers — in districts that are split over two or more towns and, according to Mr. Thiele, it is also the reason for big differences in tax rates from town to town.

“It always comes down to the same thing,” he said. “It’s the equalization rate that’s causing the problem.”

Over a 10-year period, the percentage of the tax levy that’s landed on Southampton and Riverhead residents has been relatively balanced, according to Mr. Thiele. But on a year-to-year basis, the difference has sometimes been significant — and Southampton has frequently gotten the worst of it.

For this school year, for example, the overall school district tax levy was up just 2.5 percent, but the Southampton part of the district saw its school taxes jump 23 percent while the Riverhead rate dropped by just under 1 percent.

The tax rate for the Southampton side has increased by 22, 14.5 and 14.6 percent over the past three years. But the Riverhead side saw a decrease this year and increases of just 1.16 and 2.67 percent in the two previous years.

“It’s a continual problem year after year after year,” said Brad Bender, former president of FRNCA. “It’s unfair, we’re tired of it and we’re trying to see if we can bring about some type of a solution.”

According to interim Southampton assessor John Valente, the imbalance has to do with the fact that Southampton assesses property at 100 percent of market value, while Riverhead, which hasn’t done a townwide reassessment since 1980, assesses at about 15 percent. Because Southampton continually updates assessments, its numbers are more likely to change than Riverhead’s, he said. In the recent recession, the total assessed value of property in the Southampton portion of the Riverhead school district decreased.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne Holst said the Town Board is considering discontinuing the practice of updating assessments annually.

Mr. Thiele said of the proposed solution, which has yet to be filed, “We can’t guarantee that the Southampton side will do better that the Riverhead side, but instead of seeing wild taxes increases, up and down, it would be steady over five years.”

Both Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle said they have submitted many bills over the years aimed to easing the tax burden for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton residents, but none has yielded a permanent solution.

Mr. Thiele said part of the problem is Riverhead school spending, which has increased 60 percent over 10 years, which he said is twice the rate of inflation for that period.

He said another problem is that the Southampton portion of the district is only about 20 percent of the total land value, while the Riverhead side if about 80 percent, so changes in the 20 percent are likely to result in bigger percentage changes.

tgannon@timesreview.com