11/01/11 8:37am
11/01/2011 8:37 AM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | The Southold Town Planning Board could vote on allowing the Mattituck 7-Eleven to open before the state DOT does required road work at a Nov. 14 meeting.

After some harsh words for the developers of the Mattituck 7-Eleven site, Southold Town Planning Board members seemed poised to allow them to open for business after a work session Monday night.

The board will likely vote on the matter in two weeks.

The convenience store was slated to open in early November, but the state Department of Transportation was to remove a telephone pole and do some road improvement work at the intersection of Factory Avenue and Route 25 before the opening.

7-Eleven representatives found out just recently that the DOT has not scheduled to do the work until spring.

The developers approached the Planning Board two weeks ago asking for help, but were only able to speak briefly because they were not on the agenda.

Chairman Martin Sidor told 7-Eleven attorney Patricia Moore this Monday that he took issue with her insinuation two weeks ago that the board was anti-business.

“As much as I respect you, Pat, for what you do for your clients, this one I’m going to give you some pushback about us being anti-business and all that garbage,” he said. “I do understand the business of it. There are situations on my farm where I need to do my homework. If I need parts, I need to know they’re there. Everyone knew up front what was expected. You came to us at the 11th hour and said ‘We need help.’”

“Sometimes I have to put money up front for something that I don’t need to keep the operation flowing and not have a stop or a hiccup,” he added.

Ms. Moore and 7-Eleven representatives, including property owner George Abi Zeid and franchisee Tony Cocheo, who runs the Southold 7-Eleven and will also run the Mattituck store, told the board that contractors building the store did not receive a work permit from the DOT until September, and could not begin to schedule that road work until they had the permit in hand.

Planning Board members were skeptical.

“George, do you have other commercial properties? Anybody who does any commercial work, one of the first priorities is to get utilities and DOT out of the way because they can hold up the process,” said Planning Board member Don Wilcenski.

Ms. Moore said they had believed until recently that the DOT would do the work this fall.

“Yeah, it would be nice if we had a crystal ball that could have anticipated that,” she said, adding that there’s very little time left this year that the DOT could do the work if it was rescheduled for earlier, because asphalt plants close when the temperature dips below freezing.

Mr. Abi Zeid said he’d recently received a clear letter from the DOT stating there were no issues with going ahead with the work, only to find out it had not been budgeted until the spring.

“None of us anticipated the DOT would delay the project,” he said. “We don’t know, maybe DOT has other priorities.”

Though many residents decried the 7-Eleven when it was originally proposed, citing traffic concerns, the developers said Monday that they believe the store will be safe if it opens now without the road work done.

Mr. Abi Zeid said he gave the small portion of the corner of his property where the telephone pole stands to the state in order to make it easier for trucks to negotiate the turn, not to make the intersection safer for the general public.

Mr. Abi Zeid said that, once the property is ready to open, he will turn it over to Mr. Cocheo, who will pay rent regardless of whether the store can open.

Mr. Cocheo, who is the president of the Southold Business Alliance, said he paid $100,000 up front to become the franchisee at the Mattituck store, and he has been training eight employees in his Southold store until they can begin work in Mattituck. He said he will likely now have to lay off those workers.

“From the standpoint of a local businessman who lives in the community … what I’m asking for is help from all of you, not for me to have the hardship of waiting months,” he said. “7-Eleven tells me I run the cleanest store with the highest standards in Suffolk County. I’m gonna have to lay off employees. This is a tremendous financial problem for us. None of us seem to have any control over the DOT.”

Mr. Sidor said his board has been made out to be the bad guys by community members who oppose the convenience store, and he believes the Planning Board will be demonized if they allow the store to open without the road work being done.

“We’re in a dilemma right now and I don’t feel like it’s our fault,” he said. “I’ve done all due diligence here but we still have the dilemma of how do we enforce our site plan?”

Planners asked the developers to provide information from the DOT and from their traffic study proving that the lack of work on the road won’t pose a safety hazard, and agreed to schedule the final site inspection of the property before they vote on allowing the store to open at their Nov. 14 meeting.

byoung@timesreview.com

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

09/05/11 7:34am
09/05/2011 7:34 AM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Ida Schouten and John Giordano met at Southold Human Resources Center in Mattituck.

Ida Schouten was only 11 when her home village of Nijmegen, Holland, was liberated by American paratroopers who dropped from the sky bringing a promise of the end of World War II and a brighter future. The date was Sept. 17, 1944.

Little did she know that 67 years later she would meet one of the paratroopers who changed her life so dramatically. And in Mattituck, of all places.

Like Ms. Schouten, John Giordano, 90, who served as a member of the 101st Airborne Division that joined the 82nd Airborne to liberate Nijmegen, is a regular at the Southold Human Resources Center in Mattituck. It’s a place where seniors come for a hot meal and some socializing. Their shared memories came to light this summer when friends learned Ms. Schouten hails from Holland. They happened to mention that Mr. Giordano was a paratrooper there during the war.

The two were introduced and began swapping war stories that quickly revealed their connection through history.

“If you hadn’t done this, maybe I wouldn’t be here,” Ms. Schouten told Mr. Giordano during a recent lunch.

“If I’d stayed in your area, we might have married,” the ever-flirtatous Mr. Giordano responded.

Ms. Schouten, who lives in Eastport with her husband, Chris, comes to the center twice a week so that her husband, who has suffered several strokes that have robbed him of some of his memories, can participate in activities at the town’s Katinka House adult day care center across the parking lot. Mr. Giordano and his wife, Vivianna, visit the center several times a week to meet friends and share meals.

Talking about their lives after the war, Ms. Schouten and Mr. Giordano learned that they lived not far from one another in the Bronx many years ago.

The Schoutens came to the United States 12 years after the war ended and moved to Eastport five years ago. Mr. Giordano was a longtime Bronx resident who began spending summers in Mattituck in the late 1970s. When he retired, he became a full-timer.

“It’s like yesterday,” Ms. Schouten said of the day her village was liberated. Her father had been active in the underground resistance movement and, while she was only 11, she understood much about the war and its dangers. Many in the underground had been shot in the streets right in front of their families, she said.

Because her family had a hidden radio and received BBC reports daily, they knew about the D-Day invasion at Normandy on June 6, 1944. They imagined that gradually, allied troops would make their way across Europe. But living just 15 kilometers from the German border and knowing that Nazi troops were occupying a village just across a bridge from theirs, they worried rescue might not come soon enough.

“It was a very, very scary, hectic time,” Ms. Schouten said. She recalled rockets shooting over Holland and being warned that as long as she could hear the sounds, it was safe. If the sounds stopped, she knew to take cover.

She remembers sleeping on a hard bench in a shelter on many a night seeking safety from the bombings.

The man she married when she was 24, just before they immigrated to the United States, was just a year older than she when he walked home from school instead of boarding a tram that was bombed, killing many of his classmates, Ms. Schouten said.

“As kids, we were taught Germans were bad,” Ms. Schouten said. But she came to realize that German troops, like allied troops, were just following orders. It was the Nazis she had to fear.

Mr. Giordano had a painful introduction to Nijmegen, landing hard on a windmill. He freed himself by grabbing one of the spinning blades, which lifted him up.

He wasn’t a paratrooper when joined the service, but after several run-ins with a lieutenant who had taken a dislike to him, he began to explore opportunities with the Army Air Corps, which after the war became the Air Force. Seeing no opportunities to train  a pilot or become a gunner, he followed a friend’s suggestion that he join the paratroopers.

“I should have been killed 100 times,” Mr. Giordano said. He made 177 jumps, including landing at Normandy the day before D-Day and several behind enemy lines.

One jump into the Hürtgen Forest in Germany landed him in a tree 60 feet off the ground. A Nazi trooper was on the ground below, looking all around, but not up, Mr. Giordano said. He planned to cut himself free, jump down and hit the soldier with his boot to break his neck. But the trooper moved and Mr. Giordano landed on his shoulder. The two men battled and Mr. Giordano was struck by a bayonet that “tore my stomach,” he said. But the fight continued and Mr. Giordano finally stabbed and killed the trooper.

“I got sick afterwards thinking about it,” he said.

“You have to do these things during war,” Ms. Schouten said.

jlane@timesreview.com

04/26/11 8:57am
04/26/2011 8:57 AM

SUFFOLK TIMES FILE PHOTO | Southold officials are planning to introduce zoning on Plum Island.

As the federal government’s plan to sell Plum Island continues along slowly, Southold Town is hoping to propose zoning for the island by this fall.

There is currently no zoning on the 840-acre island, which is within the town’s jurisdiction. Southold is hoping to prevent subdivisions and residential development on the island by zoning it for a variety of uses similar to ones that are currently there: research facilities, open space, government uses, mariculture, educational institutions, and perhaps alternative energy production.

The federal General Services Administration is the agency responsible for selling the island, but the GSA has not yet completed an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed sale that was expected last fall.

In the meantime, federal funding is in place this year to begin construction of a new bio and agro-defense laboratory in Manhattan, Kan. to replace the aging lab on Plum Island.

Southold Planning Director Heather Lanza said at Thursday’s code committee meeting that the town has been planning to use the GSA’s inventory of existing buildings on the island, which is part of the agency’s environmental impact statement, when drafting the zoning plan, but is unable to yet because the environmental document is not complete.

byoung@timesreview.com

02/15/11 4:15pm
02/15/2011 4:15 PM

Riverhead and Southold towns could come off the Long Island Power Authority grid and save residents money while making more electricity available to the rest of the island, where most consumers rely on LIPA.

Those are the thoughts of Greenport Mayor David Nyce, a longtime proponent of green energy. He sees wind turbines, which could be built in Greenport, giving the whole North Fork energy independence.

The concept drew applause from state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) at last Thursday’s annual environmental roundtable in Selden, an event he holds every year with elected and appointed officials, environmentalists, community members, sportsmen and others.

“I’ve always thought outside of the box and I appreciate people who are creative and think out of the box,” the senator said in praise of Mr. Nyce’s suggestion, which he pitched at the event.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, who did not attend, was skeptical. “I don’t think the technology is anywhere near doing anything like that,” he commented Tuesday.

Mr. Nyce has had discussions with Southold Supervisor Scott Russell, who says he has been eager to explore alternative and renewable energy sources.

“The village is in a good position because it owns its own distribution system,” Mr. Russell commented this week. “We’re certainly working together” to explore all options, he said.

What’s stopping Mr. Nyce from getting very far with his idea is a restriction imposed by the New York Power Authority, which regulates the village-owned utility, Greenport Electric. To protect the profitability of upstate hydroelectric suppliers, NYPA prohibits all municipal utilities from producing electricity for their own consumers.

Mr. Nyce said he has identified two sites in Greenport that he believes are well situated to produce enough energy to make the plan viable. One is the former scavenger waste plant on Moore’s Lane. Southold Town has removed the plant and restored the site. The second is at Clark’s Beach, near the Audubon Society’s Red House on Route 48. The village still owns part of the beach and could erect a tower there, the mayor said.

On another topic, Mr. Nyce suggested at the roundtable that East End villages and towns cooperate in creating a single design that could be employed at street endings throughout the area to handle stormwater runoff.

jlane@timesreview.com