11/17/14 10:00am
11/17/2014 10:00 AM
This shot was found shot with an arrow in July 2011 in Riverhead. It was treated and released back into the wild that September.

This swan was found shot with an arrow in Riverhead in July 2011. It was treated and released back into the wild that September. The person who shot it was never found.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has launched a new hotline for the public to report wildlife and environmental crimes.

The toll-free number is 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267). The 24-hour hotline connects callers to a DEC police dispatcher, according to a press release.

(more…)

10/02/14 4:00pm
10/02/2014 4:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Northampton Flanders Volunteer Ambulance Corps first responder Ronnie Hintze (left), driver Matt Deerkoski (center) and paramedic Marco Guecha take the accident 'victim' to an ambulance after it was removed from the car with the 'jaws of life' during a demonstration at the corps headquarters on Bell Avenue in Flanders Saturday afternoon. They enlisted one new member Saturday and three during the week.

Northampton Flanders Volunteer Ambulance Corps first responder Ronnie Hintze (left), driver Matt Deerkoski (center) and paramedic Marco Guecha handle an accident ‘victim’ to an ambulance during a demonstration at the corps headquarters in 2012. (Barbaraellen Koch file photo)

Local fire department and ambulance chiefs are praising recently signed legislation that protects volunteer firefighters and EMTs from losing their regular jobs for missing work while responding to disasters and crises.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law Sept. 23. The new law provides excused leave for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers who are called away to help out during a state of emergency. (more…)

08/31/14 8:00am
08/31/2014 8:00 AM
The airbase was established in 1946 and is currently used by a few area pilots. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

The airbase was established in 1946 and is currently used by a few area pilots. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed removing Mattituck Airbase from New York’s Superfund program, saying the property no longer poses a threat to public health or the environment, DEC officials said.

Before it makes a final determination, the DEC will accept public comment for the next month. The property is currently on the state’s Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site list, which identifies properties being investigated for potential hazardous waste and outlines any cleanup efforts taking place.

The airbase, located off New Suffolk Avenue in Mattituck, is one of 11 properties currently being investigated across Riverhead and Southold towns.

It was created in 1946, when Parker Wickham of Mattituck, who overhauled airplane engines during World War II, converted part of his family’s New Suffolk Avenue potato farm into a small airport and plane engine rebuilding shop under the name Mattituck Services, according to previous Suffolk Times coverage. The property is still owned by the Wickham family.

The site currently operates as an “informal airbase used by a few area pilots,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell.

The 12-acre site included a half-acre parcel where chemicals — including fuels, oils and cleaners — were once used for maintenance and repair work, according to state DEC officials.

According to the state agency’s listing, solvent rinses and wastewater used on the property were discharged to leaching pools in the area from 1946 to 1979, leaving elevated levels of copper, iron, nickel, zinc, lead and cadmium in nearby soils, as well as several pesticide ingredients.

To remedy the pollution, 25 tons of contaminated but non-hazardous soils were excavated from the area surrounding the leaching pools in 1997, with excavation extending at least three feet below the water table, the DEC listing states. The area was then packed with clean fill and closed.

Soil testing conducted in November 2013 found no lingering impact from the contaminants in question and it was determined that no public or environmental threats exist at the site, according to DEC officials.

Mr. Russell said he’s encouraged to hear that the historic site stands to be removed from the Superfund program.

“If the DEC is satisfied, naturally we are,” he said. “Certainly it is in the town’s interest to see all [of these areas] get remediated and delisted.”

Agency officials are asking that any public comments regarding Mattituck Airbase be mailed to Cynthia Whitfield, project manager, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Remediation, Remedial Bureau A, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7015 or emailed to cynthia.whitfield@dec.ny.gov. You can also call 518-402-9564.

The comment period will close Oct. 5 and a final decision will be made on or after Oct. 26, according to the DEC release.

cmiller@timesreview.com

07/23/14 1:07pm
07/23/2014 1:07 PM
TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Regina Calcaterra of New Suffolk opening her State Senate campaign in the summer of 2009.

Regina Calcaterra of New Suffolk opening her State Senate campaign in the summer of 2009. (Credit: Tim Kelly, file)

In mid-September, the three co-chairs of a high-powered commission aimed at rooting out corruption in state politics arranged for a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who set up the commission last summer. In the governor’s mid-town office, William Fitzpatrick, a district attorney from Syracuse, raised concerns he felt were hampering the commission’s effort, the New York Times reported today .

At the center of those concerns were alleged roadblocks  planted by Regina Calcaterra, a New Suffolk attorney who had been appointed the commission’s executive director. The commissioners threatened to quit, alleging that Ms. Calcaterra was running interference on investigations that pointed back to the governor’s office.

Lawrence Schwartz, the secretary to the governor, responded by saying of Ms. Calcaterra: “She is not going anywhere.”

These bombshell revelations were detailed by a three-month New York Times investigation published today.  (more…)

06/26/14 2:25pm
06/26/2014 2:25 PM
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation on Monday at the University of Binghampton related to tightening controls on heroin. (Credit: Office of Gov.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation on Monday at the University of Binghampton related to tightening controls on heroin. (Credit: Office of Gov.

“They say in drug abuse treatment, the first step is to admit the reality, right?” Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked last week. “We should not deny the problem we currently have with heroin.”

Legislation to combat the growing epidemic of heroin and opioid use — a problem that has reached the East End in recent years — was considered the “top priority” in Albany last week as the state legislative session came to a close, and Mr. Cuomo touted a package of 11 separate bills designed to address “the problem” from all angles.

Calling the epidemic a “public health crisis,” the governor unveiled legislation June 18 that was designed with four particular goals in mind: assisting enforcement against illegal trafficking of such drugs, helping with emergency response in overdose situations, improving treatment options for individuals suffering from heroin and opioid addiction through insurance reforms and creating public awareness campaigns with reach to school-age children, adults and even prescribers, who are the legal gatekeepers to opioid drugs.

“I believe that this is a comprehensive approach. It has a public safety component, has a public health component and also has a public awareness campaign,” he said during a press conference about the bills, flanked by leaders of both legislative houses, as well as the state’s health commissioner.

The 11 bills were passed unanimously June 19 and were signed into law Monday during a press conference at Binghamton University. The governor said funding for all of the measures and other treatment services would be addressed in the next budget cycle.

At the same time, Mr. Cuomo announced plans to hire 100 additional experienced investigators for the State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota has already asked that some of these new hires be placed with the East End Drug Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional unit that investigates drug activity in the area.

In a letter to Mr. Cuomo requesting additional police resources, Mr. Spota called Suffolk County “ground zero in this crisis.”

According to data released in February by Dr. Michael Lehrer, chief toxicologist with the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office, heroin-related deaths have increased countywide by almost 300 percent in the past four years — from 28 in 2010 to 64 in 2011 and 83 in 2012, with at least 82 deaths reported in 2013. 

04/25/14 6:00am
04/25/2014 6:00 AM

tax

Legislation signed in December by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that made school tax exemptions for available to certain veterans took effect with little advance notice, making it difficult for school boards tasked with deciding whether their districts would participate in the program to make well-researched and educated decisions.  (more…)

03/11/14 10:00am
03/11/2014 10:00 AM
Governor Andrew Cuomo. (Credit: NYS Executive Chamber, courtesy file)

Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday new Common Core implementation recommendations doesn’t include slowing down or halting teacher evaluations. (Credit: NYS Executive Chamber, courtesy file)

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday his newly formed Common Core Implementation Panel has released its preliminary recommendations on how the the state could improve rolling out new academic standards within New York public schools.

(more…)

03/05/14 8:00am
03/05/2014 8:00 AM
Talmage Farm Agway worker Rachel Harrison-Smith with a customer last week in Riverhead. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Talmage Agway worker Rachel Harrison-Smith with a customer in Riverhead. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Water quality advocates are up in arms over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to roll back a 1996 law that requires commercial users of pesticides to report information to the state. Instead, the governor is looking to “streamline” pesticide tracking by keeping tabs on sales.

Advocates statewide are saying the existing law should be strengthened, not revoked.

The Pesticide Reporting Law, which was spearheaded by Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), requires pesticide applicators such as landscapers and exterminators, to report to the state Department of Environmental Conservation each year, outlining exactly when, where and the type of pesticides they had used. It also requires large distributors who sell restricted pesticides to private users, such as farmers, to report similar information.

Mr. Cuomo wants to restructure that reporting system — requiring all retailers that sell pesticides, right down to the nearby hardware corner, to report their sales from major distributors — with the aim of getting an even better understanding of pesticide use within the state, according to an executive budget proposal.

The proposal, according to Mr. Cuomo’s office, would have the added benefit of tracking residential use, not just commercial.

But in a letter to state legislators, signed by representatives from 40 different environmental and heath advocacy groups, including Group for the East End, the North Fork Environmental Council, and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, the advocates called the change “grossly inadequate and represents a significant step back in the right-to-know principle that people expect.”

The 1996 law, championed in part by Long Island breast cancer advocacy groups, was meant to provide transparency in chemical use on Long Island — so researchers could better understand how pesticides might impact human illness, according to the letter signed by advocacy groups.

The information on chemical uses collected under the law was then compiled by the state DEC, and released publicly in an annual report — providing the public, researchers, and health professionals with information on chemicals being used within their communities, according to past reports.

Richard Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens, an environmental advocacy group, said the potential move would take away the public’s ability to see exactly where chemicals are being used, during a time when researchers are still trying to better understand such pesticides’ affects on water quality.

“You would not want to lose those information on those specific sites and uses,” Mr. Amper said.

But the last annual report was completed in 2005, according to the state DEC website, which also noted that there were “concerns regarding the quality of the data received from the regulated community.”

DEC officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Environmentalists say a strengthened law, improving the quality of the information applicators must report, would provide data not just for health studies, but also for agricultural, ecological, water and air quality research — which often goes on to be used in creating public policy at local, state, and national levels.

While large distributors may be used to reporting such information — since they have to do so under the current law — for smaller retailers, it could mean added paperwork and overhead, said Bill Van Schaick, manager of Talmage Farm Agway in Riverhead.

“The burden is just being shifted from users in the industry to the retailers who provide them with their products,” he said. “I understand the point behind it, we want pesticides to be used responsibly and we all want to protect the environment — but they are putting all that burden on us.”

Mr. Van Schaick said depending on what retailers will be required to report, it could ultimately mean a reduction in the number of options a store could offer to its customers.

“We may look to cut down the number of items we offer,” he said. “It may be easier to track 300 items, rather than 1,000 items.”

cmiller@timesreview.com