09/18/13 4:03pm
09/18/2013 4:03 PM
TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | A bird's eye view of Plum Island.

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | A bird’s eye view of Plum Island.

Lawmakers from New York, and one more from Connecticut, pitched a plea to the federal government yesterday, asking the head of the entity in charge of selling Plum Island to sign an executive order to block the island’s sale.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) joined Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Vernon) in calling for the order, writing that – considering recent zoning restrictions placed on the island by Southold Town leaders – a sale “would do virtually nothing to offset the cost” of a National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, which is slated to be constructed in Kansas. Costs of the new facility have reportedly ballooned to $1.2 billion, up from an original $450 million estimation.

At the end of August, the Southold Town Board voted unanimously to split the 850-acre island into three parcels, essentially keeping its existing uses as a research facility while conserving the majority of the untouched island. Also at the end of August, the federal government reaffirmed its decision to move its Animal Disease Research Facility to Kansas in a formal record of decision, also confirming its decision to sell the land to help defray new construction costs.

Despite the zoning restrictions, a Bishop spokesman clarified on Wednesday that while the congressman is not opposed to the sale of someone who would operate it as such, a high bidder with deep pockets could always challenge the town, possibly resulting in an outcome beside what’s currently in mind.

“If it’s sold to the highest bidder, potentially they could challenge the zoning instituted by Southold Town,” said Oliver Longwell, a Bishop spokesman. “It’s not a likelihood, but it’s a possibility.

“This is a way to get the administration on record about whether they believe a public sale is required by law, as the General Services Administration is contemplating now.”

Supervisor Scott Russell said he supported the letter to the head of the Office of Management and Budget, Sylvia Burwell, adding that the notions of selling the island and opening a new animal research facility should not be one in the same.

“The issue of Plum Island and its future should be separate and distinct from the construction of the NBAF facility,” Russell said. The construction of the Kansas lab, he said, “doesn’t mean NBAF has to pursue all research under that one roof.”

06/26/13 4:00pm
06/26/2013 4:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm officiated at the first gay marriage on the North Fork outside Riverhead Town Hall on July 28, 2011. There, Theresa Claudio (left) and Nancy Zaharick of Mastic were wed.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to extend federal benefits to married gay couples Wednesday in what same-sex marriage supporters have called a ”historic victory” for gay rights.

The 5-4 decision invalidated a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented same-sex couples from getting numerous health, retirement and tax benefits that were available to heterosexual couples.

The court also dismissed a case involving California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state. That decision leaves in place a lower court’s ruling that will invalidate that voter-approved mandate, making same-sex unions legal in California again.

The court’s rulings were hailed by elected leaders as an important step toward equal rights for citizens of all sexual orientations.

“The Supreme Court has confirmed that equal protection under the law for all Americans means having the ability to marry the person you love,” said Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). “This decision is also a victory for the families who will now be able to access the benefits and rights accorded to married partners by the federal government if they are legally married in a state.”

Mr. Bishop, whose daughter is in a same-sex marriage, has long been an opponent of the legislation and is a member of the House LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community) Caucus.

New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also praised the decision as a “victory for the quintessentially American principle of equal justice under the law.”

For Cutchogue residents Alan Santos and Michael Buckley, who became the first legally married gay couple in Southold Town in 2011, the decision was an “encouraging” step.

Mr. Buckley said news of the decision cut into the television show he was watching Wednesday morning.

“It felt different to be married [in 2011],” he said in an interview. “Now that we have federal recognition, it feels even more different … I think it’s a great day.”

Mr. Buckley said he and Mr. Santos, who are considering retiring and moving to the South, will feel more comfortable knowing that they have federal benefits as they get older.

Mr. Buckley said there is still a long way to go; the couple said some of the states to which they would considering moving still won’t recognize their marriage as legitimate.

But the Supreme Court’s decision will open up the path for more discussion and more cases on this issue, he said.

“I’m shocked and proud that this happened during my lifetime,” he said.

psquire@timesreview.com

06/25/13 8:00am
06/25/2013 8:00 AM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop discussing various issues with members of the Times/Review Newsgroup’s editorial board Monday.

Immigration reform and its anticipated effect on the local agricultural work force was among the many topics discussed during a Times/Review editorial board meeting with Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) Monday morning.

“Currently the [immigration] system, from almost every vantage point, is broken on Eastern Long Island,” Mr. Bishop said. “It has to do with access to a work force that our economy demands.”

About 60 percent of local farm workers are undocumented, Mr. Bishop said. Nationally, the number is 75 percent.

The congressman said he supports a comprehensive immigration reform bill pending on Capitol Hill.

“It would fix the visa system for farm workers,” he said. “The workers would basically have the status they need to come here and work.”

But the prospects for Congress passing such sweeping legislation are uncertain at best, the congressman added.

“It is the right thing to do and the Senate has worked very hard at it,” Mr. Bishop said. On the other hand, he said chances that a bill will make it through the House of Representatives “grow dimmer every day.”

If the bill dies in the Senate, the congressman said he would support a piece-by-piece approach to solve individual concerns, such as the workforce problems the agricultural market faces.

Other topics of discussion included increased boarder protection (the interview occurred before news broke that the Senate had approved such a bill), the recently defeated farm bill, and the Common Core program designed to set minimum education standards across the country. The Common Core effort is aimed at ensuring that high school graduates are fully prepared either to continue their education in college or find employment.

While saying the implementation of the Common Core standards has been “chaotic,” he praised states for coming together to press the issue.

“I think it’s admirable and it shows real leadership on the part of the governors,” Mr. Bishop said.

It’s less of an issue in New York, which has high education standards, he added, but in some states “it’s a sea change.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

04/29/13 6:30pm
04/29/2013 6:30 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | From left: John Turner from Huntington/Oyster Bay Audubon, Randy Parsons from The Nature Conservancy, Congressman Tim Bishop, Charles Rothenberger from Save the Sound.

Environmental groups from both sides of the Long Island Sound  hosted a public meeting in Orient Monday on protecting Plum Island’s undeveloped areas.

Group for the East End and the Save the Sound organization from Connecticut were  joined by Congressman Tim Bishop and dozens of concerned community members at Poquatuck Hall to address the future of the island.

Reporter Cyndi Murray blogged from the meeting. For a recap click on the link below.

04/29/13 8:00am

Environmental groups from both sides of Long Island Sound will host a public meeting on protecting Plum Island’s undeveloped areas in Orient tonight.

The Group for the East End and the Save the Sound organization from Connecticut will be joined by Congressman Tim Bishop at Poquatuck Hall on Skippers Lane for the session from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The fate of the 840-acre island off the North Fork’s eastern tip has been in question for several years as federal authorities consider the construction of a replacement animal disease research facility in Manhattan, Kan. That project, which Congress has yet to fully fund, calls for closing the Plum Island lab and selling the property.

The public forum comes just one week before Southold Town will hold a public hearing on the proposal would divide Plum Island into three zoning districts.

cmurray@timesreview.com

03/17/13 10:00am
03/17/2013 10:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop seated at the head of the table with Brookhaven fouth generation farmer and LIFB past president Bob Nolan as they met with farmers on issues of immigration reform, budget sequestration and the federal debt limit Saturday morning.

Congressman Tim Bishop and the Long Island Farm Bureau hosted the annual farmers ‘Coffee with the Congressman’ at farm bureau headquarters on Edwards Avenue in Calverton Saturday morning.

The annual discussion centers around the current status and the future of farming on Long Island.

The economy, including budget sequestration and the federal debt limit, and the issue of immigration took center stage this year.

Mr. Bishop (D-Southampton) said he believes that comprehensive immigration reform, including the ‘Dream Act’ and securing our borders, along with an agricultural visa program for farm workers will be addressed in a very realistic way.

“It is a huge issue for the agriculture community and their workforce,” said Mr. Bishop, now in his 11th year in office. “We have a real opportunity to get something done. It makes sense for it to be bipartisan.”

11/08/12 12:00pm

JOHN GRIFFIN PHOTO | The crowd goes wild at Suffolk County Democratic Committee Headquarters as they hear Obama won Tuesday night.

Times/Review contributing photographers John Griffin and Robert O’Rourk documented election night with their cameras Tuesday.

Griffin shot the Democratic gala at the Islandia Marriott. O’Rourk was with the GOP at its gala at Emporium in Patchogue.

Below are some photos from the events they covered:

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11/07/12 1:56pm
11/07/2012 1:56 PM

Riverhead Town made a clear choice for president, favoring Republican challenger Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama, according to unofficial county results provided by the Riverhead Republican Committee chairman John Galla.

But in the heavily contested race for the 1st Congressional district seat, Democratic incumbent Tim Bishop emerged the winner by a slim margin.

Mr. Romney held the edge over Mr. Obama in Riverhead Town, winning 7,035 to 6,214 with 53 percent of the vote, the numbers provided by Mr. Galla show.

But Republican candidate Randy Altschuler lost a close race here.

Mr. Bishop won Riverhead by just 158 votes, 6,491 to 6,333, according to the results.

Mr. Galla said he was surprised the local enthusiasm for Romney in the election didn’t translate into for success for Altschuler.

“I had people all around town calling me asking for Romney signs,” he said. “That’s never happened before, even under Reagan, to be honest.”

Mr. Galla said he thought Mr. Altschuler would be able to ride Romney’s coattails and “win big” in the town. Mr. Galla believed “deficiencies” in Mr. Altschuler’s campaign is to blame for their close race in Riverhead town.

“Every campaign is the difference about opportunities taken and opportunities missed,” said Mr. Galla, a longtime political activist who’s run several campaigns himself.

While Riverhead was a solid win for Romney, Suffolk County was a different story. Mr. Obama pulled ahead with just over 50 percent of the vote and won the county, 274,830 votes to 259,348 for the Republican challenger, according to the unofficial results.

The final results should be available in the next week to 10 days, Mr. Galla said.

psquire@timesreview.com