Suffolk County officials are touting the success of East End Sunday bus service following the first month since its expansion. (more…)
Suffolk County officials are touting the success of East End Sunday bus service following the first month since its expansion. (more…)
Despite holding just two of 18 seats in Suffolk County Legislature, the East End will be represented among the legislature’s leadership, as South Fork Legislator Jay Schneiderman was selected as the county’s next Deputy Presiding Officer earlier this month.
Schneiderman (I-Montauk) will serve as deputy to new Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), who was voted to lead the body unanimously by all legislators who were present (four were absent). Mr. Gregory takes over for Wayne Horsley, who left the county legislature for a job in state government.
According to Mr. Schneiderman, the title of deputy presiding officer doesn’t technically bring with it any added responsibilities — though the title is “more of a reflection, I think, of the support of my colleagues. It doesn’t give any special powers unless the presiding officer is not present. Then I would chair the meetings.”
The longest-tenured legislator in the county, Mr. Schneiderman represents the South Fork, Shelter Island, and part of Brookhaven town. He will be termed out after this term, and was voted to the post by 12 legislators, with five legislators — all Republicans — voting against the Independence Party member.
“It’s unfortunate — I would think they would like to start the new year out with some effort of bipartisanship,” he said. “I hope it’s not indicative of that kind of year.”
According to the county, Mr. Schneiderman will be the first member of the Independence Party to hold a leadership position at the county level.
When Vince Taldone saw the state had given an $88,875 Economic Development Council grant for the pedestrian walkway he has been pushing for on the Peconic River in Riverside, he wasn’t sure what to think.
“I thought, how do they expect us to build a bridge for $88,000?” said Mr. Taldone, who is the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.
Southampton Town, on behalf of FRNCA, has submitted a grant application seeking $1.145 million for the pedestrian bridge project.
But upon closer inspection, it turns out that the $88,875 was specifically meant for the planning and design of the bridge.
Mr. Taldone said they had submitted the grant application quickly in order to make the deadline for submissions, and had not done any engineering or design of the proposed bridge, which would allow people to walk over the river from county parkland in Riverside to the parking lot in downtown Riverhead.
“I thought they were missing a zero,” Mr. Taldone said. “But they made it clear they weren’t saying no and they weren’t expecting us to build a bridge for $88,000.”
Mr. Taldone and County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who has been involved in a number of Riverside revitalization plans and who proposed the pedestrian bridge at a FRNCA meeting, both said in interviews Friday that they fully understand why the state would want to commit money to the design of the bridge before committing money to constructing it.
“They put their stamp of approval on the concept,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “That’s big. The fact that they put $88,000 into the design of it anticipates that they will also fund the construction of it.”
He said he believes the design work can easily be done in time to submit additional grant applications for the construction work next summer.
“Obviously I was hoping to get the whole thing funded in the first round, but I’m not disappointed,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I’d be disappointed if we got nothing.”
Southampton Town recently received a $15,000 county grant for walking trails through the parkland leading to the likely location of the pedestrian bridge, and the town currently has a number of revitalization efforts underway in Riverside, which has traditionally been an area with little commercial development and high amounts of blight.
Included in these efforts is a recently awarded contract with Renaissance Downtowns to be a “master developer” of Riverside, a county study on the feasibility of establishing a Riverside sewer district, a study to redesign the Riverside traffic circle as a two-lane roundabout, and a recently awarded $236,900 state Brownfield Opportunity Area grant to study ways to redevelop areas in Riverside that may have had contamination in the past.
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.”
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.
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.
A small sewage treatment plant specifically designed to handle the area between the Riverside traffic circle and nearby Vail Avenue, along with a possible supermarket farther south, would cost about $3.75 million, according to a draft study for a Riverside sewer district that was unveiled last week.
But since only 17 properties would be included in the proposed district, the cost of its operation and maintenance — plus debt service on initial construction costs — figures to be about $4,915 annually per residential property and $11,135 per commercial property. And those numbers are based on the project receiving $3 million in grants from Suffolk County’s alternative on-site sewage disposal system fund, officials said.
The county currently has about $4 million in that fund, said county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who represents the Riverside hamlet, the rest of Southampton Town and the South Fork.
Mr. Schneiderman has said in the past he’s confident he could secure a large sum of money for a Riverside plant.
About eight of the 17 parcels in the potential sewer district are residential, according to Mary Anne Taylor of the engineering firm Camp Dresser McGee, which is heading up the $750,000 study for Suffolk County.
“Dividing anything out over 17 properties is a lot of money,” she told those in attendance at last Monday night’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association in Flanders.
However, if the sewage treatment system does what it’s intended to do, it will help establish additional viable commercial property and attract more businesses to Riverside.
Should that happen, the annual costs would be spread out over a larger base.
The sewer district is considered key to facilitating increased commercial development near the blighted area around the traffic circle, where a high water table and proximity to the Peconic River currently limit what can be built. Locals have long complained that the lack of a business center also contributes to higher property taxes for residential property owners in the area.
With the sewers, county and town officials envision a new Main Street-type commercial strip along Route 24 (Flanders Road), with three-story mixed use buildings along the south side of Flanders Road and a small supermarket near the existing Budget Host Inn — if property owners agree to develop their properties in such a fashion. The vision also calls for a footbridge over the Peconic River to downtown Riverhead.
“Right now, they are dividing numbers out over 17 properties,” Mr. Schneiderman said at the meeting. “But if this new Main Street actually happens, one property might have several storefronts and many apartments above it. And that’s when the numbers start to make sense. If you just left the single-family house there, you wouldn’t want to have that in the sewer district. It looks really expensive for a house.”
The sewer study began about three years ago, when officials initially possibly extending the district as far east as Longneck Boulevard in Flanders. That was found to be too large an area, and likely too expensive a project to ever get funding. So officials, following public meetings with FRNCA members, agreed to shrink the study area to cover just commercial property in Riverside.
But again, that was considered too large and unlikely to get funding. So earlier this year, at Mr. Schneiderman’s suggestion, the study scope was limited to just the south side of Flanders Road between Vail Avenue and the traffic circle and the area near the Budget Host Inn.
A list of potential locations for a sewage treatment plant had originally included about 10 sites, but that was narrowed down to one: an acre of Southampton Town-owned land behind the New York State Police barracks on Riverleigh Avenue.
Linking into existing sewer systems owned by Riverhead Town and Suffolk Community College also was considered, but those options were dropped because of lack of available capacity in those facilities, officials said.
The study is recommending use of a type of sewage treatment plant known as Membrane Bioreactor — and, specifically, the Nitrex system, which the county health department recently approved for use in Suffolk County. The Nitrex system, patented by Lombordo Associates of Massachusetts, requires very little space and has been shown to reduce nitrogen from sewage effluent at rates much better than what’s now required.
Nitrex president Pio Lombardo said in an interview in July that the Suffolk County standard for nitrogen in drinking water is 10 milligrams per liter, but that Nitrex has undertaken projects that brought levels much lower.
“We have a project in Malibu, California, in the low 1’s and we know what to do to get it below 1 [MPL],” Mr. Lombardo had told the News-Review.
All property owners within the proposed district would have to first approve the creation of the district through a referendum, Ms. Taylor said.
From there, environmental impact studies, preparation and approval of the proposed district map, public hearings, development of construction documents, state and county review of the project, lining up of financing and issuing and awarding bids would likely be needed before construction begins, Ms. Taylor said.
“It probably wouldn’t be on line until about 2019,” she said.
“The next step is really up to the community to decide what to do,” she added.
“The purpose of the study was to find out what it would cost,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Now we know what it costs. We have a very small area that’s being looked at for redevelopment and all those property owners have to now weigh in and see if this is something they want to go forward with.”
Mr. Schneiderman said officials also have to see how much grant money can be acquired for the project.
“That would affect the ultimate costs,” he said. “That’s something I will work hard on.”
Realtor Larry Oxman, who was at last Monday’s meeting representing a property owner in the proposed district, asked if there were any other affected property owners in the audience. There were none.
The complete study can be found online at http://suffolksewerstudy.cdmims.com.
A plan to create a walking trail through Suffolk County parkland to the banks of the Peconic River is now in line to get $15,000 downtown revitalization grant, town and county officials announced Friday.
The trail comes as part of a larger vision to create a true Riverside business district along Route 24 and the traffic circle.
The 5 1/2-foot wide, 1,000-foot long trail will be created using permeable natural stone material and run from Route 24 sidewalk to the riverfront, across the river from the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center, said county Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who announced the award, which was recommended by members the Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Citizens Advisory Panel.
The county Legislature must still approve the grant recommendation, and the money would go to Southampton Town, officials said.
The trail is planned for a 14-acre wooded area purchased by Suffolk County in 2011 for $2.4 million.
The news comes on the heels of Southampton Town, with support from neighboring Riverhead, applying for a grant to fund the construction of a footbridge that would span the river, connecting the trail to downtown Riverhead.
“I am happy to see we are moving forward with this very important grant from Suffolk County,” Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said in a statement. “Along with substantial financial support from Southampton Town, this Suffolk County money will fund the construction of the first phase of the town’s long planned Riverside Maritime Trail. That trail is the first step in developing a waterfront park and revitalized commercial center in Riverside.”
Mr. Schneiderman, who in May suggested Southampton Town apply for downtown revitalization grant, said he’s confident that the trail will full legislative support.
“The trail will encourage park use by providing access to the scenic Peconic River,” Mr. Schneiderman said.
An agreement between Southampton Town and the county will see the town maintain the trail.
The trail project could be completed within nine months, officials said.
At a FRNCA meeting in June, Mr. Schneiderman unveiled a 3-D computer graphic “vision” for the area near the Riverside traffic circle.
The vision calls for creating a new downtown commercial area for the long-beleaguered Riverside hamlet just east of the traffic circle, with three-story mixed use buildings on the south side of Flanders Road, across from McDonald’s; a restaurant at the former Riverboat Diner property; a supermarket near where the Budget Host Inn is; as well as the walking path and footbridge.
Mr. Schneiderman’s plan also showed a realignment of the traffic circle as well as one small sewer plant to serve just this small business district.
He has said other small decentralized plants could be built elsewhere in the future if the business area grows.
The Suffolk County Legislature voiced its support Tuesday of Southampton Town’s application for state funding to build a pedestrian footbridge that would span the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.
The resolution, which was approved 16-0, allows the recently acquired county parkland in Riverside to be used as the southern terminus for the proposed bridge, and authorizes the county to take whatever steps are needed to facilitate the bridge plan.
The northern part of the proposed bridge would begin near the Long Island Aquarium on the Riverhead Town side of the river, officials said.
Approvals from Southampton and Riverhead towns would ultimately be needed as well.
Southampton Town also has applied for a $50,000 county grant to make a walking trail from Flanders Road to the river, at a point where the bridge would begin.
The estimated cost of the bridge is $1.145 million, according to county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who sponsored the resolution. The state grant being sought allows the cost of land acquisition — which was already paid to the former property owner — to be used as a matching portion of the grant, so long as it was purchased in the past three years.
In this case, the $2.4 million land acquisition occurred in September of 2011, which puts it within that three-year window, and means that the entire $1.145 million cost of the bridge could be funded by the state grant if it is awarded for the project, Mr. Schneiderman said in an interview.
“It wouldn’t cost the county or the towns of Southampton or Riverhead anything,” he said.
The 14-acre parkland in question had been owned by Dede Gotthelf of Southampton, who had planned to built a hotel there, but her proposed plans got bogged down by environmental concerns and she sold the property to Suffolk.
The grant being sought has an Aug. 12 deadline for submission, so Mr. Schneiderman had to convince Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to put the vote on the agenda through a certificate of necessity, allowing it to skip the committee process.
The Flanders Riverside and Northampton Community Association is already in support of the foot bridge, said Vince Taldone, the group’s president.
“We have these 14 acres that were acquired for parkland and now we’re looking to find what we can do with it,” he said. “How can we make the best use of it? Now is the time to start looking, because Southampton Town is seriously engaged in a revitalization effort for Riverside.”
The town has a Riverside economic development committee that is planning on issuing a request for proposals from developers with ideas on how to rebuild the beleaguered Riverside hamlet.
“We think one of the things that will make the area more attractive to investors is to have a beautiful park across the street” from a Main Street-like business district envisioned for Flanders Road, Mr. Taldone said in an interview.
“This would be a great addition to the kind of economic development and facelift we’re trying to bring to that area,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst told the Legislature Tuesday. “It’s somewhat unique and a great attraction that would help both Riverhead and the Town of Southampton in the areas of Flanders and Riverside, which have been in some economic distress.”
Mr. Schneiderman recently unveiled a 3D computer graphic “vision” for Riverside at a FRNCA meeting, calling for the creation of a small downtown area near the traffic circle. The vision includes the walking trail and footbridge over the Peconic.
“I think this will become a landmark,” Mr. Schneiderman said of the proposed bridge. “People will get married on the bridge, and people will come to Riverhead just to walk on the bridge.”
The legislator spent Wednesday measuring the height of the Route 105 bridge, which spans the Peconic River to the east, with some string he bought from Kmart to find out how tall the proposed footbridge would have to be.
At high tide, the Route 105 bridge was 27 feet above the water, so the Peconic River bridge would not need to be any taller than that in order to avoid obstructing boat traffic, Mr. Scheiderman said.