07/16/13 3:16pm
07/16/2013 3:16 PM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop announces his new bill to lift the congressional mandate to sell Plum Island.

Congressman Tim Bishop (D- Southampton) Tuesday announced the introduction of “Save, don’t sell Plum Island,” a bill designed to overturn the 2008 congressional mandate for the federal government to sell the island, for decades the home of an animal disease research laboratory, at public auction.

The bipartisan legislation would help prevent non-research development on the 840-acre island, preserving what Mr. Bishop called a biodiversity “treasure.”

The federal General Services Administration recently released an environmental impact statement supporting construction of up to 500 dwellings on the island, which in addition to animal disease center is home to an abandoned military installation.

The congressman was joined at a morning press conference on the beach in Orient by state Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Southold Supervisor Scott Russell and representatives of several environmental groups, including the Group for the East End, the Nature Conservancy and Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Connecticut Democratic Congressmen Joe Courtney and Rep. Michael Grimm, a Staten Island Republican, have signed on as cosponsors. Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

Its purpose is to reverse the 2008 bill requiring the island’s sale to help finance a new $1.2 billion animal disease research center in Manhattan, Kan.

Mr. Bishop’s bill contends cleanup costs from past island activities, including the operation of Fort Terry, a WWI-era Army base, coupled with Southold’s pending island zoning prohibiting new development, would dramatically reduce the island’s commercial value.

Mr. Bishop said the Kansas research facility would “duplicate many of the research functions currently served well by other research facilities, including Plum Island,” and would be unaffordable given the nation’s budget constraints.

According to Mr. Bishop’s bill, the Plum Island facility has been well maintained.

He added that more than $23 million in federal funds have been invested in laboratory upgrades since January 2012, with additional significant expenditures likely in the future.

“If the federal government did not already own Plum Island, it would be seeking to purchase it for conservation,” Mr. Bishop said.

cmiller@timesreview.com

06/26/13 10:00am
06/26/2013 10:00 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | EPA environmental scientist Bernward Hay listens to the concerns of audience members Tuesday.

Local government officials blasted members of the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday for failing to properly notify them about a public meeting regarding the agency’s intentions to designate dredged spoil dumping sites in the eastern Long Island Sound.

The meeting, held at Suffolk Community College’s culinary center in Riverhead, outlined the EPA’s plans to conduct a supplemental environmental impact study evaluating potential dumping sites in the eastern portion of the Sound.

Four dredging sites currently exist in the Sound. Cornfield Shoals is the closest to the North Fork, located north of Greenport. The New London site is just west of Fishers Island. The other two sites are the western Suffolk site, south of Stamford, Conn. and the central Sound site, south of New Haven.

For the past 30 years dredged material from the eastern Long Island Sound has been disposed of primarily at the New London and Cornfield Shoals sites. Both are scheduled to close in 2016, prompting the EPA to seek out new dredge spoil disposal locations.

Alternative areas being considered are located off of Southold and Greenport.

“One of the things you said is if you want to get the public involved in this process, well, you first have to invited the public,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who told EPA members he was first notified of the meeting just 24 hours earlier.

Furthermore, Mr. Russell said he has not received answers to questions previously submitted to the agency on the issue.

“As supervisor of Southold Town I certainly should be involved in this process,” he said. “You need to make sure we are at the table for this discussion.”

Approximately 20 people attended the meeting, many echoing Mr. Russell’s statement about the short notice.

During the hour-long presentation representatives from EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, who helps designate and monitor the sites, outlined the process of choosing a new dumping area.

“This is a work in progress we are narrowing down locations that could work as a potential site,” said Bernward Hay, an EPA environmental scientist. Mr. Hay noted the environmental impact statement would not guarantee the approval of any proposed dumping site.

The new impact study will build on an evaluation conducted in 2005 when the agency established dumping sites in the western and central portion of the Sound, according to the presentation.

The study would analyze sediment, geographical position, depth of water, distance from the coastline and the history of dumping in the proposed areas, Mr. Hay said. The study would also take into account impacts on shellfish beds, fishing areas, shipping lanes and recreation areas.

But local lawmakers expressed frustration over the presentation.

“Suffolk County has an agriculture leasing program that’s not mentioned at all,” Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said.

Citizens agreed the proposal wasn’t comprehensive.

While the dredge material from Long Island is mostly sand that can be used for beach restoration, Connecticut dredge spoil is fine-grain silt or clay that’s not suitable for beach repairs. Because of that most of what is deposited in these sites comes from Connecticut, according to the EPA.

“Anything that comes from Connecticut ends up on Long Island’s beaches,” Mattituck resident Ron McGreevy said. “I think you need to collect more information from the Long Island side of the Sound.”

The Farmingdale-based nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment doesn’t believe any dredge spoil should be dumped in the Sound, according to its executive programs manager, Maureen Dolan Murphy.

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers agreed in 2005 to phase out open water dumping and to develop a dredged material management plan before deciding to move forward with this step, however that plan was never developed, Ms. Murphy said.

Elected officials also questioned the continued use of underwater dumping sites.

“It’s well documented that there is a high incidence of shell disease in crabs and lobster in the waters around these dump sites,” said James King, Southold Town Trustee and commercial lobster fisherman. “I think the bottom line here is that water disposal is the cheapest, easiest way to get rid of dredge spoil. There is a lot of game playing.”

The EPA said it would continue to assess the proposed sites in more detail and include more data.

Additional public meetings on the issue will be held in the winter.

A dredge spoil disposal map showing current dumping sites.

03/27/13 9:00am
03/27/2013 9:00 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Workers from Liberty Moving & Storage pack up the final items from Capital One Bank building in Mattituck, which is now vacant.

Nearly two years after Capital One Bank announced it was closing the doors of its Mattituck operations center, the Main Road building is officially on the market.

Local officials now have the daunting task of trying to find new tenants for a one-of-a-kind commercial space in an economy that still has yet to rebound from the “Great Recession.”

This week Supervisor Scott Russell floated the idea of a long-term pediatric care facility for the property.

“It’s something we don’t have in our area,” Mr. Russell said. “We are trying to find the right fit.”

He is currently working with county officials to find a new occupant, but admits that may not happen anytime soon.

“It’s a very large building in a very small town,” he said. “It’s going to be hard.”

The building originally housed a supermarket and later became the headquarters for North Fork Bank. When North Fork moved its headquarters to Melville, the space was used for back-office support services.

The company that would become North Fork Bank & Trust in 1950 started in 1905 as Mattituck Bank. From its humble beginnings, North Fork Bank acquired Southold Savings Bank in 1988. Under the direction of former president John Kanas, a one-time teacher and deli owner, North Fork then began an era of rapid expansion and acquired several New York City-area financial institutions.

North Fork was absorbed in 2006 by the much larger Capital One, which acquired it for $13.2 billion.

In August 2011, Capital One Bank made the decision to consolidate a majority of its back-office work, then located in Mattituck, to Richmond, Va., and Melville.

Moving trucks arrived late last week. Julie Rakes, a spokesperson for Capital One, said the Mattituck office is now vacant. The company is working with Melville-based broker Dan Oliver of Newmark Frank Knight and the town to fill the vacancy.

Mr. Russell said he wants a tenant that will bolster economic growth in Southold Town. When Capital One moved its offices in 2011, about 135 people were let go; another 65 or so were laid off in 2012.

Mr. Russell said creating a timetable to find a suitable tenant would be “foolish” under current economic conditions, but he also said he was “all ears” to any proposals.

cmurray@timesreview.com

03/06/13 10:00am
03/06/2013 10:00 AM
Riverhead braces for storm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A highway department plow before the start of last month’s blizzard.

As another winter storm bears down on the North Fork, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for eastern Suffolk County, saying the storm could bring as much as 10 inches to the area over the next two days.

But North Fork town officials said they’ll be prepared to take on this latest nor’easter.

The storm, which is building off the Carolinas, isn’t expected to move over the Northeast like most winter storms, but the sheer size of the nor’easter means the North Fork will see some of its effects, said David Stark, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Station in Upton.

A rain/snow mix will begin Wednesday afternoon, with the precipitation changing to snow as the sun goes down, Mr. Stark said. Snow will generally be light, though there could be “occasional moments of moderate snowfall” through Thursday morning, Mr. Stark said. The storm will dump between 3 to 5 inches on the area overnight, Mr. Stark said.

Temperatures will warm up on Thursday afternoon, possibly leading to a wintery mix, but snow will move back into the area overnight into Friday, adding another couple of inches to the totals by Friday morning, he added.

Depending on the intensity of the storm, the North Fork could see as much as 10 inches over the next 48 hours, Mr. Stark said. However there’s “still a great deal of uncertainty in the forecast,” which could mean the area could see less snowfall than predicted, he added.

A coastal flood warning is in effect for the North and South shore, as the storm could bring minor to moderate coastal flooding in susceptible areas, Mr. Stark said.

High winds are also a concern, with gusts near 50 mph overnight on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

By Saturday, the weather will have improved, Mr. Stark said.

“It looks like it’s going to be a very sunny weekend,” he said. “We just have to get through the next couple of days.”

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the town has already made preparations to clear away any snow from this storm.

“We’re ready,” he said. “[Highway superintendent] George [Woodson] has the equipment ready, the plows, the salt, we’re just waiting for it to snow,”

The town board’s work session may be cancelled due to the storm, he added.

In Southold, Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the town is taking a “wait and see” approach, but are ready in case the storm does bring its worst.

“We’ve been monitoring the storm,” he said. “If it does turn into snow, [Highway superintendent] Pete [Harris] has got the guys ready to go.”

psquire@timesreview.com

11/08/12 8:00am
11/08/2012 8:00 AM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Al Krupski and Congressman Tim Bishop at a March event in Southold.

Scott Russell vs. Al Krupski?

County Legislator Ed Densieski?

Faulk for Legislature?

These are some of the names being bounced around by party leaders to replace County Legislator Ed Romaine, who won a special election Tuesday for Brookhaven Town Supervisor.

Mr. Krupski was the only potential candidate named Tuesday night by Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer. He said Wednesday that he’s interested, but he can’t commit to running in a special election just yet.

“I can’t say yes but I’m not saying no,” said Mr. Krupski, the only Democrat to hold a Town Board post in Mr. Romaine’s district.  “I’m going to talk about it with Rich and then talk about it with my family. I certainly know the district and the county, so it’s not like I’m coming out of the cabbage patch.”

In that comment Mr. Krupski pokes fun at his life as a pumpkin farmer, and raises the question on whether he can run his family’s Peconic agricultural business while simultaneously representing a legislative district that stretches from Fishers Island to Center Moriches.

“That’s going to take a little bit of reflection,” he said.

Art Tillman, Southold Democratic leader, responded with enthusiasm on the prospect of councilman’s candidacy.

“I think it would be great to have a farmer serving in the County Legislature,” Mr. Tillman said.

Mr. Krupski, Southold’s only elected Democrat, has long been considered the heir-apparent to Republican Supervisor Scott Russell.

During the Southold Polish Democratic Club’s “roast” of Mr. Krupski earlier this year, Mr. Schaffer went as far as to describe the councilman as “Southold’s next supervisor.”

And he still could be. Especially if Mr. Russell ran for the open legislature seat. Sound like a stretch? Well, Suffolk County Republican chairman John Jay LaValle said Wednesday that Mr. Russell’s name has been discussed for the post, though he said he has not yet had a conversation with the supervisor about it.

Mr. Russell said that’s unlikely, especially with Mr. Krupski on the ballott.

“There’s no scenario whatsoever where I would be running against Albert for any elected office,” he said.

If Krupski wasn’t in the mix?.

“I’m pretty invested in Southold Town,” said Mr. Russell, who confirmed he hasn’t talked to Mr. LaValle. “There’s a lot of demands to being supervisor, but at the end of the day I’m still in Southold. I still get to go to my kid’s football game. The strains of covering four towns would hamper my ability to be a good dad. Politics is all about timing and the timing isn’t right.”

Mr. Russell noted that for a brief time in 1995 he actually was the expected GOP nominee for Legislature, but was replaced at the nominating convention by former Legislator Mike Caracciolo.

Mr. LaValle said he has been approached about the vacant seat by Bill Faulk, an aide to Mr. Romaine, and former Riverhead Town Councilman Ed Densieski.

Riverhead Town Councilmembers John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio have both expressed interest, among other Republicans about the job.

Riverhead GOP chairman John Galla said Republicans will have many options.

“I think you’re going to see a deep bench of candidates,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll hear from people who might come forward now that the people of Brookhaven made their decision.”

Anthony Coates, an aide to Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, said he plans to pursue a political office in 2013. He is expected to make an announcement next week.

Mr. Romaine said his replacement in the Legislature will have to fight hard to get the residents of the North Fork what they need. He said that person will need to stand up to others “for what is right” for the East End.

“If the issues are right and you can make a decent case, you can prevail,” said Mr. Romaine when asked what advice he’d give his replacement.

And what might those key issues be?

“Preserving farmland and open space,” he said. “Working on the Peconic Estuary to minimize nitrogen pollution and preventing red and brown tide. Working to preserve our coastline from erosion. And ensuring that taxes stay low. I can go on and on.”

Mr. Romaine secured about 57 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s special election to replace former supervisor Mark Lesko. He outperformed Democratic nominee Brian Beedenbender of Centereach by more than 20,000 votes.

Reporting by Jennifer Gustavson, Tim Kelly, Paul Squire and Michael White.

10/08/11 8:00am
10/08/2011 8:00 AM

A new study from a Manhattan-based environmental advocacy group suggests East End towns need to become more proactive with preservation efforts if natural resources are to survive here, but both North Fork town supervisors say their towns are already taking the necessary steps.

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund released its new “green check list” on Monday, insisting federal efforts to protect the environment are failing and local municipalities will need to pick up the slack.

The study, called “NYLCVEF’s Blueprint for a Greener East End,” focuses on five policy issues: smart growth; sustainable agriculture; water quality and aquifer protection; energy efficiency and renewables; and natural resource protection, such as banning the use of non-organic pesticides and fertilizers in sensitive aquifer recharge areas and near surface waters.

“The federal government can’t seem to get its act together on climate change and clean energy, but that doesn’t mean the East End should wait,” the group’s presiden, Marcia Bystryn, said in a press release. “Our ‘Blueprint for a Greener East End’ creates a framework that will lead to a more sustainable future for the East End, while also protecting its economy and high quality of life.”

In the study’s introduction, Ms. Bystryn writes that East End population growth has often been “poorly managed and not well integrated with transportation options,” and rising costs have made it difficult to preserve farmland and open space. Though Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said reduced real estate prices have actually helped towns purchase more open space in recent years.

The study also recommends local municipalities take measures to ensure farmers have access to protected farmland at affordable prices, and suggests towns and villages should enhance agricultural districts and offer farmers incentives in order for them to continue to use their land for agriculture.

The study also notes that towns and villages should implement a transfer of development rights program in order to move potential development away from environmentally sensitive areas and to redirect high density into downtown areas or commercial corridors.

Under a transfer of development rights program, residents that own farmland or open space could sell their development rights in the form of credits. Developers could then purchase those credits to add additional units to other building projects.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said while the town already has a transfer of development rights program, it hasn’t been utilized much.

“It stalled because of the economy,” he said. “That’s the main driver.”

But over the past decade Mr. Walter said Riverhead has “done its part in land preservation” by purchasing over 2,000 acres of open space.

“We’ve done the hard work,” he said. “When the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund was thinking about it, we were we’re actually doing it.”

In addition to protecting the East End through preservation efforts, the study recommends local municipalities secure funding for septic upgrades, replacement of faulty septic systems and alternative septic management initiatives. Mr. Russell and Mr. Walter both said they are working with Suffolk County on those issues.

Both North Fork supervisors said they believe their towns are doing all the right things in regards to the environment.

“Right now, if we stay the course, we’ll achieve what [New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund] is looking for,” Mr. Russell said.

For more information about the study, visit nylcvef.org.

jennifer@timesreview.com

 

NYLCVEF’s Blueprint for a Greener East End