04/14/16 6:00am

North Fork volunteers

In December, Bill Toedter, a longtime environmental advocate and president of the North Fork Environmental Council, announced he would be stepping down from the position to move to Arizona.

But as of this month, Mr. Toedter is still in charge of the Mattituck organization.


12/07/15 6:00am
12/07/2015 6:00 AM


Visitors to the North Fork next year may find new sculptures of wildlife made of untraditional materials — say, a jellyfish with fishing line as tentacles or a sea turtle whose shell is made of green sea glass. READ

01/07/15 2:00pm
01/07/2015 2:00 PM
 Plum Island (Credit: file)

Plum Island. (Credit: Times/Review, file)

An advocacy group is threatening a lawsuit against two federal agencies in the latest attempt to halt the public sale of Plum Island, claiming officials have failed to protect endangered species inhabiting the isle.

Connecticut Fund for the Environment, along with the Long Island version Save the Sound, issued notice Monday to the Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration — the two agencies that oversee the island — of an intent to sue under violation of the Endangered Species Act.


09/04/14 8:00am
09/04/2014 8:00 AM
Deer in the backyard of a Southold home. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Deer in the backyard of a Southold home. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Considering the disappointing numbers reported last week from the controversial deer cull that took place earlier this year, a call is going out to get all stakeholders — especially environmentalists — involved as state and regional authorities regroup and figure out a plan to tackle Suffolk County’s overpopulated deer herds.  (more…)

03/17/14 12:00pm
03/17/2014 12:00 PM


Saying a lawsuit against the Suffolk County isn’t quite enough, environmentalists have taken to parking lots from Southold to Huntington to get a referendum on this fall’s ballot to halt a county effort to use $33 million in reserved Drinking Water Protection funds.

Dollars are raised for the Drinking Water Protection Fund through a 1/4 percent sales tax, and several dedicated programs exist within the fund. One of those, the sewer stabilization fund is meant to offset large spikes in sewer rates for residents, and the last fall the county decided to budget $32.8 million from that fund to help balance the 2014 spending plan.

While the Pine Barrens Society of Long Island, along with the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum, filed suit last week against the decision, Group for the East End has joined the Pine Barrens Society in gathering 10,000 signatures before the end of April. The hope is to get a measure to overturn the decision to use the funds this year.

“We’ve been arguing against it pretty vociferously,” said Bob DeLuca, president of GFEE. “But you hit that point when you realize nobody’s listening.”

Suffolk voters last agreed to renew the tax in 2007 — approving a ballot measure to maintain the tax through 2030.

The PBS sued Suffolk after it decided in 2011 to use close to $20 million to balance its budget previously. That litigation is still making its way through the justice system, though is expected to be heard later this year.

In order to qualify to get on the ballot, according to PBS president Dick Amper, the groups have to gather 2.5 percent of the population in each town who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

That equates to about 10,500 signatures, or a town-by-town breakdown as follows:

  • Shelter Island: 39
  • Southold: 237
  • Riverhead: 268
  • East Hampton: 205
  • Southampton: 475
  • Brookhaven: 3,137
  • Smithtown: 974
  • Huntington: 1,623
  • Islip: 1,917
  • Babylon: 1,623

Mr. Amper said on Monday morning that he’s been “amazed at the number of people who know about” the issue as PBS and GFEE petitioners have approached citizens in public places such as parking lots at supermarkets or post offices.

County Executive Steve Bellone’s original budget last year had not called for dipping into the sewer stabilization fund at all, but rather closing the budget gap in the $2.7 billion budget through borrowing from the New York State Dormitory Authority, a path that would have required legislation approved at the state level. A report from the County’s Budget Review Office identified that plan as a risk because of the necessary legislation.

Justin Meyers, communications director for Mr. Bellone, said last week that the county exec plans on replenishing the fund.

“The fact of the matter is that there are two overarching concerns,” he said. “First, if the money is being taken and used for something other than drinking water, it must be repaid. The county executive completely supports that.”

He added that also, the county “needs to engage the public and voters on the issue if it moves forward.”

Mr. Meyers added that once the county decides to spend the money from the sewer stabilization fund, the county legislature would have to pass a measure approving the spending. Within the language of that approval would be a repayment structure outlining when the county would pay the fund back.

Mr. Amper said a ballot referendum would be the only way to ensure that the funds are paid back, noting that a similar use of Drinking Water Protection Program money in 2011 did not require county legislation.

“We want to guarantee” that the money is paid back, he said. “And we’re going to do that through courts, or the court of public opinion.”

The plan laid out by the county last fall intends to start paying back into the sewer stabilization fund in 2017, though the county would still have to formally adopt a repayment schedule. Last fall, the balance in the sewer stabilization fund hovered around $140 million, leaving over $100 million left, should the $33 million be allocated this year.

However Mr. DeLuca noted that part of the Drinking Water Protection Fund already reserves a portion of revenues raised for balancing the budget. According to the county charter, about 32 percent of the proceeds raised by the tax go toward reducing county property taxes.

“You got money for the purpose of reducing taxes,” Mr. DeLuca said. “Stay away from the other part.”

[email protected]

02/28/14 5:00am
02/28/2014 5:00 AM


News-Review and Suffolk Times editor Michael White will be appearing Friday morning on the “Going Green” radio show hosted by Group for the East End president Bob DeLuca.

The show airs at 11 a.m. on WPPB (Peconic Public Broadcasting) at 88.3 FM and runs until noon.

Mr. White will be joined by fellow East End newspaper editors David Rattray, editor of the East Hampton Star, and Joe Shaw, executive director of the Press News Group, which publishes The Southampton Press eastern and western editions, and the East Hampton Press.

The journalists will take to the studio for an in-depth discussion on the region’s top environmental issues.

“From the controversial culling of deer, to the future of water quality, learn how the local media decides what issues matter and where the truth lies,” reads a press announcement from WPPB, “while we consider the impact these decisions have on community perceptions and attitudes about the future of our environment.”

Listeners are invited to join the conversation by posting questions on the WPPB Facebook page.

The show is produced by award-winning broadcaster Bonnie Grice.

11/19/13 9:00am
11/19/2013 9:00 AM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has signed the 2014 budget.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Steve Bellone has signed the 2014 county budget.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has signed a 2014 budget previously amended by county legislators earlier this month, though the amended plan has environmental groups preparing to sue over how the county is balancing its books.

Signed on Monday, the $2.7 billion spending plan – which calls for no tax increase in the county’s general fund – calls for using nearly $33 million from the county’s sewer stabilization fund, a reserve account created when Suffolk County taxpayers approved the Drinking Water Protection Program via referendum in 1987.

The fund comprises one of several dedicated revenue streams created by the sales tax — another being open space preservation, for example — which is one-quarter of one percent, and critics say the choice to use it to close a budget gap violates the terms under which voters agreed to tax themselves.

“The public has repeatedly voted to tax themselves – and they are paying 2.5 times the national average as it is – to protect their drinking water with the explicit assurance that the writing can’t be altered for any other purpose,” said Long Island Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper. “There’s no justification for violating this solemn contract with the public.”

Suffolk voters last agreed to renew the tax in 2007 — approving a ballot measure to maintain the tax through 2030. The recent plan laid out by the county intends to start paying back into the sewer stabilization fund – which is used to offset spikes in sewer rates – in 2017.

The balance currently hovers around $140 million, leaving over $100 million left in the sewer stabilization fund.

Mr. Bellone, in the budget he presented to the Legislature, had suggested closing the budget gap through borrowing from the New York State Dormitory Authority, a path that would have required legislation approved at the state level. A report from the County’s Budget Review Office identified that plan as a risk because of the necessary legislation.

Legislator Tom Barraga (R-East Islip), who spent over 20 years in Albany as an assemblyman, voted along with legislators Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) and Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) against the county Legislature’s budget – pointing to past bailouts in New York City and Nassau County as evidence the legislation would not be much of a risk at all.

Supporters of the decision to use the funds said the plan will save over $40 million in interest payments from what they would have paid if they borrowed from the Dormitory Authority.

“It’s a huge savings,” said North Fork Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), who added that he wasn’t exactly sure how the use of the funds was legal.

He said that’s “a legal issue for the lawyers to decide.”

An opinion of the county attorney’s office, provided by a spokesperson for Mr. Bellone, pointed to case law — considered analogous with Suffolk County — that held that “The New York Court of Appeals has endorsed the statement that ‘laws proposed and enacted by the people under an initiative provision are subject to the same constitutional, statutory, and charter limitations as those passed by the legislature and are entitled to no greater sanctity or dignity.'”

While the county and some environmental groups remain in court over similar action taken in 2011, Bob DeLuca, executive director of Group for the East End — which did not take legal action then — said his organization’s members are deciding for themselves whether or not to sue.

Mr. DeLuca questioned whether or not the sewer fund would ever be replenished as promised.

“Anybody can promise anything in order to get a short-term gain,” Mr. DeLuca said. “But in 2017, to go back to the Legislature and say, ‘You promised to put the money back’ — there will be different people in place and different priorities. Maybe there will be another economic downturn.”

Aside from the county’s decision to use reserves from the sewer stabilization fund, an attempt to bring back about $120,000 more in revenue to the East End, generated through the county’s hotel/motel tax, stalled in the Legislature’s economic development and energy committee.

In addition, the Legislature rejected measures to adjust its police revenue sharing program — a move that would have brought over $500,000 to Riverhead, more than $400,000 to Southold and over $50,000 to Shelter Island — as well as an attempt to fund the Vocational Education and Extension Board, part of the county fire academy for a full year, as opposed to six months.

Pointing to the police revenue sharing defeat, the decision not to fund VEEB, and the loss of additional hotel/motel revenue — as well as use of the sewer stabilization funds — Mr. Schneiderman voted against the budget for the first time in 10 years.

“I don’t feel this year’s budget was great for the East End,” said Mr. Schneiderman, who was just re-elected to a sixth and final two-year term in office under term limit laws.

Mr. Krupski, meanwhile, said that some hotel/motel funds were brought back to the East End during the budget working group meetings, a closed-door process that has earned criticism on its own.

He also pointed to success “keeping revenue projections in a more realistic place,” and added that police revenue sharing is something that needs to be addressed on a percentage basis, rather than the hard numbers currently negotiated.

While he said the budget’s end product might not be exactly what East End voters would want, he said, “I did have some constructive input on it, but everything doesn’t always go my way or my district’s way. Every dollar was allocated evenly.”

As far as going to court over the use of sewer funds, Mr. Amper said the Pine Barrens Society’s board of directors has already approved litigating the topic. Group for the East End is still considering, while a request for comment from the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, another major environmental group in the region, was not immediately returned.

[email protected]

10/24/13 9:00am
10/24/2013 9:00 AM

Law enforcement agencies nationwide have scheduled another National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, so unwanted or expired medications can be disposed of safely – keeping them out of the wrong hands, and the island’s groundwater.

The Riverhead Police Department and Peconic Bay Medical Center will be accepting medications on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It is very important to legitimately get rid of these prescriptions because some can be very addictive and are gateway drugs to other more dangerous narcotics,” said Riverhead Police chief David Hegermiller. “Keep track of quantities; missing pills could be a warning sign. When finished with a prescription, make sure you dispose of it properly.”

“Properly disposing of medications not only protects the drinking water from contamination of pharmaceutical residues, but it also ensures that children, young adults and others will not have ready access to controlled substances,” said supervisor Sean Walter.

Soon, East End residents will not have to wait for drug disposal events to turn in their unwanted medications.

The Group for the East End, with the help of Suffolk County’s Soil and Water Conservation District, has established the East End Medication Disposal Program, giving residents year-round access to drop boxes at local police departments, including Riverhead and Southold departments, to dispose of unused medications.