06/06/14 10:00am
06/06/2014 10:00 AM
Eileen Kreiling, manager of the North Fork Animal Welfare League's Riverhead shelter, with 4-year-old pitbull Benny, who has been at the shelter since February. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Eileen Kreiling, manager of the North Fork Animal Welfare League’s Riverhead shelter, with 4-year-old pitbull Benny, who has been at the shelter since February. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

When speaking about his work as an animal advocate in town government, Councilman James Wooten will often repeat a quote widely attributed to Mahatma Ghandi: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

On this front, Riverhead Town and Suffolk County governments have each made great strides over the past few years to better care for and protect animals: this in a state that consistently ranks near the bottom in the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s annual report on animal protection laws in the U.S. (more…)

06/04/14 8:00am
06/04/2014 8:00 AM

Drainage at the North Fork Preserve is one issue the county is hoping to fix by borrowing money in this year’s proposed capital improvement plan.

The Suffolk County Legislature hopes to borrow more than $70 million over the next three years to fund capital improvements and educational expansion initiatives, including projects from Riverside to Southold Town.  (more…)

05/15/14 6:00am
05/15/2014 6:00 AM
The former Long Island Beagle Club off Edwards Avenue in Calverton. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The former Long Island Beagle Club off Edwards Avenue in Calverton. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

On Tuesday, Suffolk County legislators gave a nonprofit organization approval to use the vacant Long Island Beagle Club on Edwards Avenue, which the county purchased in 2012 for nearly $9 million. At first glance, it It seems to be a logical, mutually beneficial agreement — making use of vacant buildings and giving space to a nonprofit that needs it.

Questions remain, however, about whether it’s the best deal for the county and community.

Long Island ABATE — American Bikers for Awareness, Training & Education — approached the county directly for permission to operate at the property. And under the agreement, the property will be improved and maintained by the nonprofit, and be made open to the public. While members of the county and ABATE are both on board, it’s hard to tell if anyone else is.

Nobody else was ever brought into the loop.

Motorcycle noise can be a serious quality-of-life problem. And although Edwards Avenue is well-known as a busy road, the fact that no one reached out to the Greater Calverton Civic Association indicates a lack of consideration for the nearby Village Green neighborhoods, which will be affected. The fact that environmental groups that lobbied the county to preserve the parcel — using reserved Drinking Water Protection Program money — were not informed doesn’t seem right either. If they hadn’t banged the drum to buy the land in the first place, it wouldn’t be available today for anyone to lease. And while it’s nearly impossible to make everyone aware of everything that’s going on at the county level, the courtesy of a simple phone call or email to individuals who are sure to have a vested interest in certain matters should be expected.

It appears that ABATE has done everything by the book in getting the proper approvals to lease the former Beagle Club property. It’s the book itself — or the lack thereof — that’s troubling.

Nothing appears to have been done behind closed doors; the Suffolk County Parks Board of Trustees, the Legislature’s parks and recreation committee and the Legislature itself all voted on the measure, and the county executive still must sign it. But why wasn’t there some sort of request for proposals or bidding process? The county studies enough concepts to determine what is best for taxpayers. It should examine more thoroughly the question of whether a certain organization looking to lease county lands or buildings is best suited for the space.

If an open RFP to lease the former Beagle Club had been advertised, any number of other worthy organizations looking for space might at least have known the property was available.

05/12/14 2:00pm
05/12/2014 2:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Beagle Club's sign was in the barn as of 2005.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Beagle Club’s sign was in the barn as of 2005.

UPDATE: Suffolk County legislators unanimously approved the measure on Tuesday night to allow LI ABATE to use the former Beagle Club property.

ORIGINAL STORY: After Suffolk County bought 150 acres in Calverton nearly two years ago for $8.9 million using money from its Drinking Water Protection Fund, the county is now considering using the property to a nonprofit organization focused on motorcycle awareness and safety. (more…)

05/12/14 10:00am
A proposal to allow bowhunting on county property by non-Suffolk residents was recently withdrawn. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

A proposal to allow bowhunting on county property by non-Suffolk residents was recently withdrawn. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

A short-lived plan to allow Nassau County bowhunters onto Suffolk County lands was quickly shot down last week.

At Wednesday’s Suffolk County Parks & Recreation Committee, chairman Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) pulled a bill he had sponsored personally after it was clear to him that the proposal had nothing but opposition from area hunters — and little support from those who suggested it in the first place.


03/04/14 1:20pm
03/04/2014 1:20 PM
Entrance to the Eastern Campus of the Suffolk County Community College. (Credit: Gayle Sheridan)

Entrance to the Eastern Campus of the Suffolk County Community College. (Credit: Gayle Sheridan)

While the Suffolk County Legislature has been considering increasing the age for everyone throughout the county to purchase tobacco — from age 19 to 21 — another measure could ban smoking completely in a few areas around Suffolk: the community college campuses.

The proposal comes nearly two years after the State University of New York’s trustees voted to ban smoking on all state college campuses, a measure that is still waiting for state legislative approval in order to be enforced.

Because the fact that Suffolk County Community College isn’t regulated by the SUNY trustee board, college officials said that county approval of the measure would bring a smoke-free campus — actually, all three campuses — to the 26,000 students at the schools.

Ben Zwirn, director of legislative affairs at SCCC, said last week that SCCC would be the biggest college campus in the state to ban smoking entirely on its grounds should the measure pass.

Mr. Zwirn cited secondhand smoke as a health issue to those not smoking on campus, in addition to litter. He added that in an online survey of the student body, over 70 percent of respondents — over 2,800 people — were in favor of the regulation.

The move to ban smoking on campus comes on the heels of Legislator William Spencer’s effort to raise the age to buy tobacco products entirely throughout Suffolk. That proposal was subject to a public hearing last month, and will be debated again on Tuesday afternoon at the legislature’s general meeting.

He is expected to sponsor the legislation on Tuesday banning smoking on campus. After that, the measure would need committee approval, be subject to a public hearing, require approval from the entire legislative body, and need a signature from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Dr. Spencer (D-Centerport) said last week that “We’re looking to create a healthy, smoke-free environment within the the college’s jurisdiction. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to try that.”


03/03/14 10:00am
03/03/2014 10:00 AM

Cigarettes After a contentious public hearing in the middle of last month on raising the age to purchase tobacco from 19 to 21, the Suffolk County Legislature will hold a second hearing on Tuesday afternoon at its general meeting in Riverside.

Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport), a doctor himself, sponsored the measure, which saw plenty of support and opposition at the two-and-a-half hour long Feb. 11 public hearing.

Some opponents had argued that their civil liberties were being encroached upon with the raise, while business owners cited a predicted loss in sales revenue and Legislator Tom Barraga said that if health advocates were that afraid of the consequences of smoking, an outright ban on sales should be what legislators are after.

On Friday, Dr. Spencer said he respects the public’s right to purchase tobacco too much to ban sales outright — though he said developmentally, people under age 21 are still too susceptible to addiction. “I don’t think we have the right to tell an adult what to do,” he said.

“But I choose to define an adult based on the development of the brain, as opposed to to whether they can serve, they can vote, drink or work … As a public official, I think we should be making decisions based on medical evidence.”

Dr. Spencer said that 18-year-olds are three times less likely to smoke if they don’t smoke by then. He said for that 21-year-olds, the likelihood would be 10 times less.

In 2004, Suffolk passed legislation to raise the legal age to 19. It was one of the first municipalities in the country to do so. Violators could face a fine between $300 and $1,000 for a first time offense, and between $500 to $1,500 for subsequent offenses, according to the resolution.

If approved, the countywide law would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

The public hearing is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. at the County Center in Riverside

Scroll down to view the draft law.

Suffolk County proposed law to raise the legal age to 21 for tobacco purchases.

02/24/14 7:00am
02/24/2014 7:00 AM
Engorged ticks. (Courtesy photo from the University of Nebraska)

Engorged ticks. (Courtesy photo from the University of Nebraska)

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman is sponsoring a bill to create a tick control advisory committee.

The legislation is expected to be discussed at the county Legislature’s Public Works & Public Transportation Committee meeting at 2 p.m. in Hauppauge.