11/09/13 2:31pm
11/09/2013 2:31 PM
GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | The main entrance to the Kenneth P. LaValle Campus in Manorville.

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | The main entrance to the Kenneth P. LaValle Campus in Manorville.

The public forum with New York Department of Education commissioner John King that was first scheduled for Riverhead High School is now being moved to the Eastport-South Manor High School auditorium in Manorville.

Kenneth P. LaValle

Kenneth P. LaValle

After the News-Review reported the state education department had chosen Riverhead as the location for the Nov. 26 meeting — even listing the venue on its website — State Senator Ken LaValle told the newspaper the planned location would be changing.

He said he suspected the event would be well-attended and need about 200 more seats than Riverhead High School’s 800-seat auditorium.

State education officials then said they were “working with the senator to pick a location.”

The state’s website was updated Friday with the new location at the Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School, located at the Kenneth P. LaValle Campus. (See map below.)

The forum will be run from 6 to 8 p.m., and is designed to answer questions and provide information to the public on the Common Core Stand Standards Initiative, and with that, teacher evaluations and state assessments.

Mr. LaValle, himself a former educator, said he has concerns about how Common Core is being implemented.

Among those concerns, he pointed to excessive testing for elementary school students and students with disabilities.


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07/08/13 3:00pm
07/08/2013 3:00 PM
Striped bass on Long Island

MELANIE DROZD PHOTO | A striped bass caught recently in Peconic Bay.

A New York Senate bill to extend the striped bass season by two weeks went belly-up after it failed to make it through an Assembly committee.

The Senate bill, which was approved in May, would have allowed fishermen to harvest striped bass until Dec. 31 of each year, adding another 16 days to the season.

Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) sponsored the bill, and initially proposed to have the season extended to Jan. 15 of each year.

The bill states that extending the season “will help create jobs, boost the Long Island economy, and ensure that quotas can be reached even if affected by natural causes.”

But the bill did not make it out of the state Assembly’s environmental conservation committee, government officials said.

William Young, president of the New York Coalition for Recreational Fishing, a preservation lobby, said the striped bass stock is in decline and that extending the season would threaten the fish.

His group sent letters to assemblymen and senators, urging them to let the bill die.

“The signs are that [the bass population] is not going in the right direction,” he said. “That’s up and down the coast, not just one area.”

A status update of the striped bass stock hasn’t been completed since 2011, said Mike Waine, a coordinator with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which helps to set fishing quotas for commercial operations to protect fish populations.

The commission will complete its latest assessment later this year and release the results in the fall, Mr. Waine said.

Mr. Young said it would be unwise to change fishing regulations without knowing the latest information on the striped bass stock.

“Right now is not the time to do it, there’s a question mark,” he said. “Right now is the time to wait and see what’s coming down the road.”

But Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said the bill would have helped fishermen meet their quotas, even if stormy weather or other conditions prevented them from getting out to fish.

“[Unfilled quotas are] money that’s gone, basically out to sea,” she said.

The regulations were put in place to protect the bass when their population plummeted in the 1980s. Now the stock has been rebuilt, Ms. Brady said.

“It’d be nice if the regulations would come into the 21st century like the fishermen have,” she said.

psquire@timesreview.com

06/20/13 2:59pm
06/20/2013 2:59 PM
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.

UPDATE:

The New York State Senate approved a bill today designed to fast-track development proposals at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

The bill was approved in the Assembly in the morning and in the Senate this afternoon.

“We’re firing on all eight cylinders now,” Supervisor Sean Walter said of the approvals. “The marketability of that property has increased 10,000-fold with this vote today. There should be nobody ever comparing this to the vacancies in Hauppauge or Melville, because nobody else in New York State has what we have now.”

The bill, which still needs to be signed by the governor, establishes a generic environmental impact study, or GEIS, at the outset, to cover all possible development proposals that meets a re-use plan agreed upon by the town, county and state.

Any fully engineered development proposal for within the area covered by the study will be guaranteed approval within 90 days of the application being filed.

If an application isn’t approved in that time frame, it will receive a default approval, Mr. Walter said.

“This is the single biggest piece of economic development legislation for Long Island, probably ever,” he said.

The state also passed a law that gives tax exemptions to businesses associated with hi-tech research projects at SUNY campuses, Mr. Walter said.

The 50-acre Stony Brook Business Incubator at EPCAL would fall under that bill, he said.

The town still needs to complete the GEIS , the new zoning and land use plans, and the subdivision at EPCAL before the fast-track proposal can take effect, the supervisor said.

That process, which has already begun, is expected to take about a year to compete.

Today was the last day of the current session for both houses of the state Legislature, which next meets in January.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Riverhead Town’s plan to fast track development at the Enterprise Park at Calverton is going right down to the wire, with the state Assembly slated to vote on the measure today, Thursday, the last day of the current legislative session in Albany.

The state bill would establish the EPCAL Reuse and Revitalization Area, 2,124 acres for which Riverhead Town would develop an overall generic environmental impact study (GEIS) outlining what can and can’t be built there.

“This is probably one of the most monumental pieces of legislation that will hit the East End and, in my opinion, all of New York state,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said Friday. “What this does is, it gives the town a mechanism to have approval of projects at EPCAL in 90 days, and it is going to put EPCAL on the map in a way that nobody else in New York State is on the map.

“It’s been a long time coming,” the supervisor added.

Under the proposal, if a development application is submitted within this area, and its impacts have already been studied by the GEIS, that project would require no further environmental studies and would receive approval within 90 days of submission, provided the application was deemed complete by the town.

Normally, each individual development application would potentially need to conduct a separate environmental study.

Similar legislation passed in the state Senate last year but never made it out of committee in the Assembly. As written at that time, the bill would have created a commission comprising the five Town Board members and one representative each from the state and county. The current version of the bill gives full authority to the Town Board, eliminating the need for a new commission.

As of Wednesday, the revised bill had been moved out of the Senate’s local government committee and was listed on the Senate’s agenda of bills to be voted on Wednesday afternoon, according to Drew Biondo, an aide to state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), the bill’s sponsor in the Senate.

But it was uncertain if the bill would be voted on by the full Senate on Wednesday or Thursday. (See riverheadnewsreview.com for updates.)

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, said he expected it to be voted on Thursday by the full Assembly.

Officials say they expect the bill to be approved in both houses.

The Town Board on Tuesday also declared itself as the lead agency in the review of its EPCAL reuse plans, which include amending the town master plan and zoning and creating a new 50-lot industrial subdivision at EPCAL.

This vote came after the state Department of Environmental Conservation raised no objection to the town’s taking the lead in the review of those plans.

“This is an amazing thing we’re about to undertake,” Mr. Walter said Tuesday, as the Town Board prepared to vote on the lead agency status.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said Wednesday she thinks this is the most important legislation the town has adopted in more than 10 years.

The board also voted to schedule a public scoping hearing on the draft GEIS for July 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

A scoping hearing allows people to suggest issues they feel should be studied in the GEIS.

On Friday, the Town Board also approved a home rule message, which indicates the board’s local support for the state proposal and was needed before the state Legislature could vote on the measure.

Board members gave Mr. Walter credit for his work on the bill, as he had made numerous trips to Albany to lobby for its passage over the past two years.

The board got the idea after taking a bus trip, complete with media members, to Devens, Mass., in January 2011. That community had worked with officials within the Commonwealth to redevelop a former military base.

The EPCAL property had been owned by the U.S. Navy and was used by the Grumman Corporation to built and test fighter jets until 1996. The land was given to the town in 1998 for economic development purposes to replace the jobs lost when Grumman shut down.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/14/13 1:48pm
06/14/2013 1:48 PM
Calverton EPCAL sign

MICHAEL WHITE FILE PHOTO | One of two signs marking the EPCAL entrance along Route 25.

Riverhead Town’s plans for developing the Enterprise Park at Calverton took a few steps forward this week, and are expected take a few more steps forward next week.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of the former Grumman property now called the Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of the former Grumman property now called the Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL

The Town Board on Friday unanimously approved a “home rule message” resolution in support of a revised version of a bill in Albany that would allow development projects to be “fast-tracked” at EPCAL.

And Supervisor Sean Walter said officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation are not objecting to the town’s request to be the “lead agency” in the review of a proposed 50-lot subdivision the former Grumman plant property.

Town officials and the DEC have frequently disagreed over development approaches at EPCAL in the past, and who should hold lead agency status, which carries the most weight among all government agencies involved in permitting and approvals.

A “scoping hearing,” at which speakers can suggest issues to be examined in the environmental impact study of the subdivision, is tentatively planned for July 16.

“This is probably one of the most monumental  pieces of legislation that will hit the East End and, in my opinion, all of New York State,” Mr. Walter said in voting for the home rule resolution Friday in Town Hall. “What this does is it gives the town a mechanism to have approval of projects at EPCAL in 90 days, and it is going to put EPCAL on the map in a way that nobody else in New York State is on the map.

“It’s been a long time coming.”

Council members credited Mr. Walter, who has made many trips to Albany to lobby for the bill.

The town also had George Hochbrueckner, a former congressman and state assemblyman, working on the case this year to get both the EPCAL legislation and the EPCAL subdivision approved.

Mr. Hochbrueckner was the congressman who sponsored the bill that saw the U.S. Navy give the land to Riverhead Town for economic development to replace the jobs that were lost when Grumman, which tested fighter jets at the site, closed up shop in the early 1990s.

“I started this in 1993 and I’m glad it’s finally settled in 2013,” Mr. Hochbrueckner said Friday.

The bill has undergone numerous revisions over the past two weeks until language acceptable to all parties was agreed upon this week, Mr. Walter said.

There are currently identical versions of the revised bill in the State senate and Assembly.

The revisions eliminate the original bill’s plan to create a commission made up of town, state and county representatives and instead leaves the approval process entirely within the Riverhead Town Board’s control.

The proposal would call for a generic environmental impact study of all development at EPCAL to be completed upfront with input from town, state and county agencies, and then subsequent development applications that conform with that overall plan would not need to do separate environmental studies, thus cutting the review time needed for the project.

It’s similar to a plan the town enacted for downtown Riverhead under the Cardinale administration, although that plan relied on Apollo Real Estate Advisors to complete the upfront study, whereas in this instance, the town has already begun the study under a contract with VHB Engineering, which also is creating the subdivision map for EPCAL.

The bill was on the floor of the full Senate for a vote on Wednesday but was set aside so that the changes could be made to the language.

The Assembly also made those same changes to the bill on Thursday, according to Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who is sponsoring the bill along with state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Mr. Thiele, whose district covers the South Fork, has been acting as a sort of “defacto” North Fork assemblyman since the North Fork position was vacated earlier this year when Dan Losquadro resigned to become Brookhaven Town highway superintendent.

The bill must still be voted out of the local government committees in both houses and then be approved in a vote before the full houses of the Senate and Assembly by Thursday, June 20, which is the last day of the current session of the state Legislature.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/08/13 3:00pm
06/08/2013 3:00 PM
North Fork Wine Trail sign in Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A North Fork Wine Trail sign at the intersection of the Main Road and County Road 105 in Aquebogue.

The North Fork ‍Wine ‍Trail might be getting longer.

Last Wednesday the New York State Senate passed a bill sponsored by Senator Ken LaValle that proposes extending the North Fork ‍Wine ‍Trail about nine miles to Orient Point.

If the legislation passes in the Assembly, the ‍wine ‍trail will continue to the end of Route 25 in Orient. The official ‍trail currently begins at Edwards Avenue in Calverton and ends at the junction of Routes 48 and 25 in Greenport.

“North Fork wineries are an economic engine for our region,” Mr. LaValle said. “Extending the North Fork ‍Wine ‍Trail will help boost agritourism, which will benefit our farmers and wineries.”

The bill also calls for the creation of a road sign at exit 73 of the Long Island Expressway notifying drivers that the ‍wine‍trail is accessible from that exit. A sign is already in place at exit 71.

Ron Goerler Jr., president of the Long Island ‍Wine Council, said not placing a sign at exit 73 was an “oversight.”

“If you take exit 73, you’re right at Tanger Outlets,” Mr. Goerler said. “It’s a straight shot onto the North Fork. Tanger brings 13 or 14 million people a year and to have a sign stating the ‍wine industry is just ahead brings more awareness to the region.”

Steve Bate, executive director of the ‍wine council, said the organization doesn’t have revenue fi gures for North Fork wineries but estimates that the region’s more than 50 wineries attract 1.2 million visitors a year — a number that proponents of the bill hope will only increase.

“Senator LaValle has always been a huge supporter of the local ‍wine industry,” Mr. Bate said. “He has helped us with many important pieces of state legislation over the years. This new ‍wine ‍trail bill is just the latest example of how he helps enhance our wineries’ contribution to the local economy.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

02/23/13 2:19pm
02/23/2013 2:19 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Elected officials met with education advocates Saturday in Middle Island.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Elected officials met with education advocates Saturday in Middle Island.

Local elected officials told a group of Long Island educators Saturday that they believe the majority of education cuts in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s state budget will be restored.

Educators attending the annual Longwood Regional Legislative Breakfast — including superintendents from the Shoreham-Wading River, Riverhead, Mattituck-Cutchouge and Southold school districts — urged their elected representatives to help ensure Long Island doesn’t bear the brunt of the governor’s proposed cuts in his $146.6 billion budget.

While districts across New York would see an average state aid increase of 3 percent next school year, each of the districts in Southold Town is slated to lose money. In all, 23 Suffolk County districts would lose aid under the governor’s proposal. Fifteen of those school systems are on the East End.

Gary Bixhorn, chief operating officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, which cosponsored the event at Longwood Middle School, suggested in his presentation that school administrators focus their rally on having a $65 million reduction in high cost aid restored, which is a budget line item that has been used to provide additional aid to districts that rely more heavily on property taxes to balance their budgets. He also said attention should be focused on restoring funding from the Gap Elimination Adjustment, another factor in the state aid formula. It should be split more equitably, Mr. Bixhorn said, because while schools across the state are only losing 9 percent of this portion of aid, Long Island schools will receive 12 percent less.

“We’re losing more and getting less back,” he said. “That is, basically, a double whammy.”

Local Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said after the meeting that he’s confident high tax aid and the gap elimination adjustment will be restored.

“We in the Legislature are going to do it,” he said. “It’s a priority … I think those two things will be restored in a way that’s beneficial to Long Island school districts.”

In Southold, where the school district would lose $190,000, high tax aid would drop by more than $200,000. While other aid lines would increase, the high tax support would drop dramatically.  Southold would receive just under $1.4 million in total state aid next school year.

Southold Superintendent David Gamberg said after the meeting that he believes the annual gathering of school officials and politicians plays an important role in making sure local districts get their fair share of support from the state.

“We come here each year with the hope that the voices of many districts are going to provide the ammunition our local legislators need to fight for us,” Mr. Gamberg said.

Riverhead is the only East End town where district aid would increase. Both the Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River school districts would receive increases of more than 5.5 percent next school year.

During the meeting, Superintendent Steven Cohen asked the panel if they would support legislation to exclude school security costs from the tax cap, as well as provide support for the newly mandated annual professional performance review plan, known as APPR.

“Our district will have to hire two new clerical positions to deal with the reporting process and that will be a permanent cost to the district,” he said.

Mr. LaValle said a provision was added in last year’s state budget to reimburse school districts for expenses related to APPR, but couldn’t immediately give a dollar amount.

No North Fork district was hit harder in the Governor’s budget than Oysterponds, which would see a 20 percent drop if the budget were approved in its current state, down to $245,000 from just over $300,000 this school year. Greenport’s state aid would remain nearly flat under the governor’s proposal, falling by just $10,000 to $1.12 million for the next school year. Administrators from both districts did not attend Saturday’s meeting.

Longwood officials said Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) couldn’t attend due to a scheduling conflict. The original date of the breakfast was changed from Feb. 9 due to the blizzard that fell that weekend.

The state Legislature is expected to approve its budget by April 1.

jennifer@timesreview.com

02/19/13 3:00pm
02/19/2013 3:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Canada geese in the Peconic River just south of Riverhead’s West Main Street.

Long Island environmental groups are planning a new campaign this spring with the slogan “It’s the water, stupid,” aimed at focusing on nitrogen, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other harmful substances making their way into the island’s ground and surface waters.

That’s according to Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, who was among more than 65 environmental group representatives who pitched ideas to state Senator Ken LaValle earlier this month, during his annual environmental round table at Suffolk County Community College’s culinary arts center in downtown Riverhead.

In addition to the increased frequency of algae blooms in the bays, linked to nitrogen from faulty septic systems, Ms. Esposito said 117 pesticides are found in Long Island’s drinking water.

Atrazine, the No. 1 weed-killer in America and one of the most common chemicals found in groundwater, has been banned in Europe because it is an endocrine disrupter.

But farmers and their advocates in attendance said some pesticides and fungicides are absolutely necessary on Long Island.

Deborah Schmitt, whose family owns Phillip A. Schmitt & Son Farm Inc. in Riverhead, made a tearful plea to environmentalists to back away from supporting a ban on all pesticides.

She said her family’s farm has participated in Cornell Cooperative Extension’s agricultural stewardship program, using compost and less synthetic fertilizer, but needs some chemicals to survive.

“We grow food for many people. This is how we make a living. We are in the business of farming,” she said. “We used to grow spinach, but we no longer have good weed control. We are losing our competitive edge as profitable agricultural businesses. We need pesticides, or plant protectors, whatever you want to call them, to grow food. We are almost at the point where we just might have to quit.”

She added that farmers must obtain licenses to ensure that they’re applying pesticides responsibly, while no such demand is placed on homeowners who use the same materials.

“I’m 55 years old. I have eaten conventional food all my life and I drink Long Island water,” she said. “My doctor says I’m healthy. I would never feed my family something that would make them sick.”

Ms. Esposito said she’s not requesting a ban on all pesticides, just the top three.

Ms. Schmitt responded, “Those are the ones we need most!”

Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela said his organization wants to find common ground with environmental groups on pesticide issues.

“We, too, as farmers, are concerned about pesticides,” he said, adding that 95 percent of pesticides in groundwater are “legacy” chemicals that are no longer in use.

“We need alternatives. We’re not going to ban medicine. We’re not going to ban cars and trucks on the highway,” he said. “We can’t ban pesticides. They have a place in our society.”

Also on the issue of groundwater pollution, Peconic baykeeper Kevin McAllister asked why the state DEC has not responded to a request he made last September that it review sewage treatment plants on Long Island that are not in compliance with their DEC permits.

“It’s poor regulatory policy,” he said. “There was not even a legal response to my request.”

Jeremy Samuelson of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk also implored Mr. LaValle to help waterfront communities put in place innovative coastal zone management plans in light of the devastation from Hurricane Sandy.

“The reality is, we need state leadership to ID appropriate funding sources,” he said. “It’s obvious to us in Montauk that we need to have these conversations in advance of the storm.”

Mr. LaValle said the federal government is just beginning to help communities do just that, and he urged leaders in all local towns to take advantage of the opportunity to plan for the future.

Mr. Samuelson also thanked Mr. LaValle for helping pass state law to protect sharks.

“Given what we do, it’s a professional courtesy,” quipped Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who was also in attendance.

byoung@timesreview.com

02/15/13 4:00pm
02/15/2013 4:00 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Former congressman George Hochbrueckner addressing the Riverhead Town Board in October.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | George Hochbrueckner addressing the Riverhead Town Board in October.

State legislation needed to create a special commission to fast-track development proposals at Riverhead Town’s Enterprise Park at Calverton was re-introduced in both the state Senate and Assembly last week, officials said.

The bill last year was approved in the Senate but never even came up for a vote in the Assembly.

Supervisor Sean Walter, who has touted the proposed commission as a key to redeveloping the former Grumman site now referred to as EPCAL, said he’s heading up to Albany the week of Feb. 25 to meet with some key Assembly members.

“Congressman Hochbrueckner is my new strategy,” Mr. Walter said of Assembly efforts this go-around. “Last year I went as far as a Republican supervisor for the Town of Riverhead could go, and congressman Hochbruecker is the next step.”

Former congressman George Hochbrueckner, a Democrat who lived in Coram when he held New York’s First Congressional seat in the mid-1990s, was recently hired by the town as a lobbyist on EPCAL issues, since he was the congressman who wrote the legislation that got EPCAL turned over to the town for economic development once the Grumman Corporation left.

In addition to being a congressman, Mr. Hochbrueckner, who now lives in Laurel, served as a state assemblyman before he ran for Congress.

The bill proposed last week is exactly the same as the one submitted last year, according to Drew Biondo, an aide to state Senator Ken Lavalle (R-Port Jefferson), who is again sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), is again the main sponsor in the Assembly, with Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) and Assemblyman Ed Henesssey (D-Medford) as co-sponsors.

The bill is based on legislation used in Devens, Mass, in that is seeks to get all of the players involved in processing development applications at EPCAL in the room at the same time, so that projects aren’t stalled by having to go from one level of government to another.

If approved, it would establish a seven-member commission comprising five Town Board members, along with one member each appointed by the governor and the county executive. There also would be two non-voting, ex-officio members who would come from civic or environmental groups.

Mr. Walter said that he and deputy supervisor Jill Lewis, deputy town attorney Annmarie Prudenti and community development agency director Chris Kempner are also heading upstate with him. They have even registered as state lobbyists for the upcoming trip to Albany, he said.

Mr, Walter said Ms. Prudenti suggested this.

“I personally don’t think the town supervisor has to register as a lobbyist to speak with state representatives,” he said.

Last year, Mr. Walter said there were some officials in the Assembly who wanted the bill to be redrafted to help their own districts, and others who feared it would set a bad precedent in their districts.

“I think it just ran out of time in the Assembly,” Mr. Biondo said.

The commission, which would also have a paid executive director, would be similar to the state Pine Barrens Commission, in that an overall plan for the area in question is developed first, and development applications that comply with that plan can be approved quickly.

The town would retain zoning power, but any plan that is submitted and deemed a complete application must be acted on by the commission within 90 days, or it is automatically approved, according to the proposed legislation.

If the bill fails again, Mr. Walter said that assuming he is re-elected in November, he probably would resubmit it for a third try the next year.

tgannon@timesreview.com