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

02/28/14 2:14pm
02/28/2014 2:14 PM
A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

After getting pushback from lawmakers and thousands of residents, state environmental officials are considering major changes to a management plan that called for the eradication of New York’s wild mute swan population by 2025.

Included in those changes is a plan to achieve newly revised population goals that are unique to various areas of the state, and to achieve those goals through “non lethal means,” state Department of Environmental Conservation officials said.

(more…)

12/11/13 9:35pm
12/11/2013 9:35 PM
COURTESY PHOTO | People skydiving in a vertical wind tunnel. Skydive Long Island is looking to build a new indoor skydiving facility in Calverton.

COURTESY PHOTO | People skydiving in a vertical wind tunnel. Skydive Long Island is looking to build a new indoor skydiving facility in Calverton.

The latest round of the New York Regional Economic Development Council awards were announced Wednesday and more than $4 million is coming directly to the North Fork.

A total of $715.9 million in state funds and tax credits were awarded to the 10 regional councils across New York. Long Island is receiving $83 million for a total of 98 projects, the most of any region in the state.

Nine of those projects are on the North Fork.

Below is a list of each of the local projects, the name of the applicant, the state’s description of the project and the amount awarded.

Projects are listed in descending order based on the total number of dollars received.

Town of Riverhead Community Development Agency

Project: EPCAL Sewer Treatment Upgrade

Funding: $1.34 million

Description: Upgrade of Calverton sewage treatment plant from secondary to tertiary treatment, which will provide both economic development and environmental benefits to this regionally significant project site with immediate potential for job creation benefit.

EBDK Research at Calverton 

Project: CARE NY (Calverton Addiction Research and Education Research Center)

Funding: $1 million

Description: CARE NY (Calverton Addiction Research Education), a substance addiction Research Center and a separate Recovery Center, will construct an addiction research and education center at the Calverton Enterprise Park to complement an adjacent proposed treatment center.

Peconic Landing

Project: Special Needs and Acute Rehabilitation Center

Funding: $800,000

Description: This $44 million project is the expansion of dementia care and rehabilitation facility in Greenport.

Long Island Wine Council

Project: Access East End

Funding: $285,000

Description: This program is a multimodal transportation and marketing initiative to generate visitor traffic from the NY metro area, east coast, national and international source markets during off-season and midweek periods. By opening the East End of Long Island to new customers from the NY metro area and other east coast population centers, we expect that this program will draw thousands of new visitors to the region.

Skydive Long Island 

Project: Altitude Express Indoor Skydiving Facility

Funding: $250,000

Description: Altitude Express Inc. will build an indoor skydiving attraction on Long Island which will operate year round. The company anticipates this attraction will draw another 50,000-100,000 visitors to the area annually.

East End Arts Humanities Council

Project: Long Island Winterfest

Funding: $162,000

Description: East End Arts is requesting grant funds to support an expanded marketing strategy and to hire a festival coordinator to support the implementation of a five-year strategic plan toward a goal of growth and sustainability of LIWinterfest: Live on the Vine, an award winning agricultural tourism program designed to generate tourism traffic to the East End of Long Island during the slowest months.

East End Arts Humanities Council

Project: Winterfest Expansion Project

Funding: $99,408

Description: East End Arts will expand marketing strategies and hire a festival coordinator to improve growth and sustainability of its LI Winterfest — an award winning agri-cultural tourism program. The six-week program of live music performances at wineries, theaters and area hotels, along with special promotions at restaurants, hotels, transportation companies and area businesses generates tourism traffic to East End of Long Island during the off-season months.

Sidor Farms 

Project: Business Expansion

Funding: $50,000

Description:  The Cutchogue company will expand its potato chip manufacturing operation and tour facility including a museum on the History of Long Island Potato Farming.

Ultra Motion 

Project: Advanced Manufacturing Skills Program

Funding: $30,000

Description: Ultra Motion LLC of Cutchogue will train six workers in IPC (Institute for Printed Circuits) J-STD-001D Soldering Certification, computer-aided design, inventory control, and supply chain management.

gparpan@timesreview.com

11/21/13 1:41pm
11/21/2013 1:41 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle at a previous Calverton Business Incubator event.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle at a previous Calverton Business Incubator event.

East End state legislators Ken LaValle and Fred Thiele are hosting a roundtable discussion on food-industry related topics at the Calverton Business Incubator Friday morning, Senator LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) announced.

The Senator said the following topics will be discussed:

• The impact of locally grown/artisanal foods on the local economy.

• Changes to New York State funding outlets — now done on a competitive, regional basis.

• State government has been successful in supporting the establishment of the necessary infrastructure to support the local agriculture/food industry (e.g. funding for cold storage facility, funding for establishment of small scale, shared-use food-processing facilities at Calverton, funding for farmland preservation) to allow the creativity, determination, and ambition of entrepreneurs to thrive. Determine other infrastructure needs and how to achieve those needs.

• How as a region can we work together to establish/support the food industry on Long Island as an economic cluster (to join IT, biotech, and energy) and overcome challenges/obstacles and allow it to flourish.

The Long island Farm Bureau, Long Island Wine Council, Peconic Land Trust and many other local businesses and non-profits are expected to participate.

The event will take place at 10 a.m. Click here for directions to the incubator.

10/24/13 1:57pm
10/24/2013 1:57 PM
Calverton EPCAL sign

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

The state bill to create a plan to fast track development projects at Enterprise Park at Calverton is now law.

The bill, which Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter has called “the single most important piece of economic development legislation for Long Island,” is seen as a key to the future redevelopment of the former Navy-owned property in Calverton, which was given to the town in 1998 for economic development to replace the jobs lost when the Grumman Corporation left the site in 1995.

Since that time, the town has only sold two pieces of the property it acquired, and much of the acreage remains undeveloped.

The fast track bill was signed into law Wednesday night, the last day Governor Andrew Cuomo had to act on it, according to Drew Biondo, a legislative aide to state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), the bill’s sponsor in the state Senate.

Fried Theile (I-Sag Harbor), who represents the South Fork, sponsored the Assembly bill.

Mr. Walter said Mr. Thiele worked tirelessly on getting the bill passed.

“Without him this would not have happened,” Mr. Walter said. “Assemblyman Theile had something to do with every single draft of this legislation and there were probably more than 50 drafts. The residents of the Town of Riverhead owe Fred Thiele  a great debt of gratitude.

“And this is a in district from which he can’t get one vote,” Mr. Walter continued. “It’s a true testament of not only working across party lines but across district lines to promote what is good for both the East End and New York State. It’s wonderful that the South Fork has him as a legislator.”

Mr. LaValle called EPCAL “the last major economic development site in Suffolk County. For the town of Riverhead it means tax relief and for all of the East End, it will spur economic development and create jobs.”

The bill was approved by both houses of the legislature in June and was delivered to the governor’s desk on Oct. 11. From there, he had 10 days to either approve it or veto it, excluding Sundays.

However, had he taken no action, the bill would have automatically become law after the 10 day period, which ended Wednesday, officials said.

The bill establishes the EPCAL Reuse and Revitalization Area, a 2,124-acre area for which Riverhead Town will develop an overall generic environmental impact study (GEIS) outlining what can and can’t be built there.

After the GEIS is complete and approved, any fully engineered development proposal for projects within the area covered by the study will be guaranteed approval within 90 days of the application’s filing. If an application isn’t approved in that time frame, it will receive a default approval.

The town must first complete that study before the fast track plan can take effect, but the study has already began and is expected to be done next year sometime, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

The study, done by VHB Engineering, will cost about $500,000, and includes zoning recommendations, a market study, an environment study and a 50-lot industrial subdivision map for the EPCAL property.

Once the subdivision is approved, town officials hope to be able to sell off smaller parcels of the land and begin to derive revenue off of it.

08/19/13 3:01pm
08/19/2013 3:01 PM

A new state re-registration program to catch residents defrauding the STAR property tax break kicked off this week in parts of New York.

But North Fork residents don’t need to worry: the program won’t start in Suffolk County until the end of next month, when mailings with instructions reach property owners, town and state officials said.

The state’s Basic and Enhanced School Tax Relief (STAR) programs were enacted in August 1997 and were intended to reduce property taxes on the primary residences of New York residents.

But the state now believes many property owners are double-dipping or defrauding the program, whether intentionally or not, said Riverhead Assessor Laverne Tennenberg.

A state audit of 47 municipalities across the state — including Riverhead — revealed examples of fraud, such as residents getting the benefits even though their primary residences are out of state.

The re-registration drive is a mechanism to “weed out” those who are getting their breaks illicitly, Ms. Tennenberg said.

Residents who are currently getting Basic STAR — the lesser of the two levels of tax breaks — will be required to fill out questions either electronically or over the phone.

Those enrolled in the Enhanced STAR program, which serves residents over 65 years old who are making less than $81,900 a year, will not be required to re-register, Ms. Tennenberg said.

The state is rolling out the re-registration program to the 2.6 million people currently receiving STAR breaks in stages, she said.

The re-registration process started in parts of the state Monday, but inaccurate media reports have implied that Suffolk County residents can now begin to apply, she said.

The Town Assessor’s office has already seen some residents come in or call, asking how to re-register, she said.

“The towns are not administering this,” Ms. Tennenberg said.

Southold Town Assessor Robert Scott Jr. said his office had already received about 20 calls from residents as of Monday afternoon asking about the program.

Suffolk County’s 600,000 eligible properties will get notices in the last week of September and first week of October, state officials said.

“Basically, Suffolk County is going to be the last region in the state to get it,” Mr. Scott said.

The notices from the state will include a unique STAR code and instructions on how residents should participate. If residents have not received their code by the second week in October, they can call the state’s hotline at (518) 457-2036 to get more information.

Residents will have until December 31st to re-register, state officials said.

“There’ll be plenty of time to register,” Ms. Tennenberg said. “[Residents] should sit tight and not worry about getting the mailing.”

psquire@timesreview.com

STAR program

07/26/13 8:00am
07/26/2013 8:00 AM

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | The Peconic Baykeeper is taking legal action against the state parks department and Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Peconic Baykeeper is taking legal action against the state parks department and Department of Environmental Conservation, saying they haven’t done enough to address sewage discharge pollution wreaking havoc on the bay waters they’re charged with protecting.

Last Tuesday, Peconic Baykeeper president Kevin McAllister announced his intent to sue the state parks department in federal court for failing to have sewage discharge permits for five state-operated facilities, including Wildwood State Park in Wading River. The advocacy group also filed a separate suit in state court against the state DEC May 30.

The discharge permit program is intended to control water pollutants — like nitrogen, which feeds bay-harming algal blooms — by regulating sources of pollutant discharge into U.S. waters, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency website.

“Wildwood on a hot July day, those parking lots are going to be filled,” Mr. McAllister said. “Some 1,000 toilet flushes a day are going into groundwater, going to bays.”

He said that Wildwood and other state parks are examples of areas where “wastewater discharge is not being adequately addressed, by virtue of the absence of any kind of permits.”

Permits became mandatory following the passage of the federal Clean Water Act in 1972, which requires facilities discharging pollutants into U.S. waters to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

In New York, the state DEC regulates permits and discharging pollutants without a permit is illegal, according to the EPA website.

Mr. McAllister said SUNY/Stony Brook’s Southampton campus — run by the state and home to the East End’s premier water quality research program — also lacks the required permit.

“They are here to identify and save the bays, when their own campus is not committed to clean water from wastewater discharges,” he said.

He added that the water quality researchers do not deserve the blame but SUNY/Stony Brook Southampton should be setting the standard for clean water.

“If they are the preeminent marine scientists and research center on protecting our waters, they have to walk the walk,” he said.

A Stony Brook spokesperson declined comment for this story.

In a press release, Peconic Baykeeper attorney Reed Super said the “DEC has failed to comply with the legal mandates of the Clean Water Act and state law, both of which require strict permit limits on the discharge of nitrogen, in order to protect water quality.”

The lawsuit filed in May charges that the state DEC failed to enforce permitting and regulation of the state parks, the Southampton campus and more than 1,300 sewage treatment plants and facilities. Mr. McAllister said these facilities all lack NPDES permits and some of their septic systems do not meet current wastewater standards.

Several of these facilities are on the North Fork, including the Enterprise Park at Calverton, Splish Splash Water Park, Southold Junior-Senior High School and Southold Town Hall, according to a petition Peconic Baykeeper sent to the state DEC.

“The DEC is the regulator for wastewater discharges,” Mr. McAllister said. “Our argument is there are inadequate regulations and deficient enforcement to provide for surface water protection.”

State DEC officials said that while they do not comment on pending litigation, the “DEC has a long history in working to address water quality on Long Island, recognizing the region’s reliance on a primary aquifer and the importance of high quality surface water to the local population. To achieve this goal, DEC has established rigorous restrictions on landfills, identified and protected special groundwater protection areas, and is in the process of implementing a pollution prevention strategy to address pesticides.”

By going after bigger state facilities, Mr. McAllister said, he hopes to drive the discussion toward widespread regulatory reform of wastewater discharges, particularly nitrogen.

Currently the nitrogen standard for drinking water protection is 10 milligrams of nitrogen per liter, or ten parts per million. Mr. McAllister said he would like to see regulations change to the ecological standard, .45 milligrams of nitrogen per liter, commonly agreed upon by experts.

“The state of New York and Suffolk County have been dragging their feet and ignoring the fact that they need to refine these standards to protect our bays,” Mr. McAllister said. “I think our region and Suffolk County in general does not recognize the urgency of this condition.”

Federal law requires 90 days advance notice of any intent to sue. The suit against the parks department cannot be filed before October, Mr. Super said.

The actions Peconic Baykeeper has filed against the state DEC and parks department are being undertaken in partnership with Long Island Soundkeeper, based in Connecticut.

cmiller@timesreview.com

06/03/13 10:03am
06/03/2013 10:03 AM
Great job Riverhead police

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | State troopers at a crime scene in Polish Town last month.

Online registration forms are now available for an upcoming state police officer examination, a job in which troopers are paid more than $70,000 after one year, officials announced Monday.

Exams are scheduled for Oct. 5, Oct. 12 and Oct. 26 and are being offered at several locations in New York State.

“The strength of the New York State Police comes from our diversity, said New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico. “ We are actively seeking qualified, committed and motivated candidates from all walks of life to take the trooper exam this fall.”

“To this end, I have dispatched recruiters from across the state to find those individuals.”

Starting annual salary for state troopers is $50,374 during academy training with a bump to $66,905 upon graduation.

Troopers earn $71, 261 annually after the first year on the job, with location compensation bumps for downstate officers, including those in Nassau and Suffolk counties, officials said.

Those interested in becoming a Trooper can apply on-line at www.NYTROOPER.com.

Examination results will establish an eligibility list that may remain in effect for a maximum of four years, officials said.

Read below for eligibility requirements and more information from New York State police officials.

 

Troopers Exam