Letters to the Editor

09/22/2011 5:18 AM |


Way off base, again

Once again the TimesReview Newsgroup has published a factually inaccurate editorial based upon information that was one-sided and unbalanced.

We complained several weeks ago about an editorial written without the newspaper having first contacted our office to get our side of the story, which would have corrected some of the inaccurate facts upon which it built its editorial.

It’s déjà vu all over again.

The latest editorial criticizes the county’s new law that allows for millions of dollars to be infused into the building of sewers and improved septic systems to clean our environment. Incredibly, the editorial sought to analogize the county Legislature’s approved resolution to the behind-the-scenes bookkeeping maneuver implemented by East Hampton officials that took money from the community preservation fund. The two have nothing to do with each other. In East Hampton, the budget officials’ bookkeeping changes shifted money from the preservation fund into the general fund to show more cash available in one fund as opposed to another.

In Suffolk County, the amendment to the quarter-penny sales tax program was done in the light of day after public hearings, a vote from the Legislature and vetting from the county attorney, counsel to the Legislature and the major environmental groups across the county. In fact, environmental groups such as the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment and The Nature Conservancy helped draft this bill that the editorial is panning.

Gadfly Dick Amper once again stands alone in trying to shout down a worthy county program. He does not speak for other environmentalists who were fully on board with this proposal. Mr. Amper was lying when he said that money is being taken from open space funds or clean water funds. No money was taken from the open space fund. These monies were specifically segregated in the current quarter-penny sales tax program for sewer rate stabilization, not open space.

It was discovered that there is so much reserve in this fund that we can stabilize rates for all sewer residents throughout the county for the next 20 years and still have hundreds of millions left over. The environmentalists and county Legislature agreed that it would make far more sense to use it for the construction of sewers and upgraded septic systems today, rather than keeping this money idle for the next 20 years.

This is actually cleaning our water, contrary to Mr. Amper’s ridiculous politicized statements and the uneducated and unbalanced ideas floating in your editorial. Some of the money is also being used to defease county debt which is an appropriate thing to do since this was money that was intended to aid in mitigating people’s rates in the first place.

We respect your right to criticize things you disagree with, but we must reiterate our concerns that these factually inaccurate editorials are being written without you having done your homework or at least giving the opportunity for the other side to be heard.

Steve Levy
Suffolk County executive


Mr. Levy is wrong

The Long Island Pine Barrens Society was right to challenge the reallocation of voter-authorized funds from the county’s drinking water protection program.

The adopted text of this voter-approved conservation program was unambiguous in requiring that any amendments need to be placed before the voters for their approval, and that did not happen here. In fact, it does not appear that this recent amendment to the program was even subjected to a formal public hearing by the legislature before it was approved.

Clearly, the latitude to redirect scarce and necessary conservation funds for other projects, or to patch budget holes without public approval or scrutiny, could easily invite future mischief by lawmakers and diminish the value of, and faith in, this fund over time.

Group for the East End was part of the wide coalition of environmental organizations that supported the Suffolk County drinking water protection program, as well as its specified allocation of funds between land and water preservation, sewer rate stabilization and tax relief. We also strongly supported the voters’ right to decide how the funds should be spent when changes are considered.

Contrary to statements attributed to County Executive Levy, Group for the East End had no role in authoring, reviewing,

supporting, or advocating for the legislation that is now being challenged. I encourage The Suffolk Times to ask Mr. Levy’s office for an explanation of the remarks attributed to him in your article, as they are completely incorrect.

Robert DeLuca
president, Group for the East End

Editor’s note: A spokesman for Mr. Levy said the executive’s statement incorrectly identified the Group for the East End as a co-author of the controversial legislation. The Nature Conservancy was the organization involved.


Nothing in return

Broken promises and unfair budget practices are littering the North Fork and damaging the health of our environment and economy. Our voices, including those of our elected officials, need to be raised and heard in protest.

First, the MTA charges a commuter tax on business and charges commuters using the Greenport/Ronkonkoma line the LIRR’s highest ticket prices and yet the North Fork gets the least service in return.

Next, Suffolk County raises bus fares 50 cents on the main line to fund needed Sunday S92 bus service. Following a successful first summer season, this service is slated to be stopped after Columbus Day. However, the fare increase will remain intact, again making North Fork residents and employees pay for more for less service. And it doesn’t stop there.

Now Suffolk County is diverting monies, part of the quarter percent sales tax, which voters agreed to pay to fund programs to protect Suffolk County water quality, both drinking water and surface waters. As we are bounded by such waters on all sides, the issue of water quality affects the North Fork more than any other part of the county.

The county Legislature voted to use these funds to help balance its budget, an illegal act. As per the original referendum, only voters can change how these funds can be used through another referendum. The county Legislature not only thinks that it knows best, but that it is also above the law.

The North Fork Environmental Council joined with the Pines Barrens Society and other groups last week to announce a lawsuit to block and reverse the Legislature’s illegal act. We’re confident that the suit will prevail, but not so confident that our elected officials won’t keep trying to find new ways to divert tax monies and commuter fares, leaving the North Fork with little mass transit service and little improvement in protecting and cleaning up our waters, all key elements to a healthy local economy.

North Fork residents and businesses need to better understand how our wallets are being treated as the means to solve the MTA, Suffolk County Transit and county budget woes and that we’re getting nothing in return. We can’t stand idly by and watch our economy and environment be laid to ruin without saying or doing something.

Write to your legislator and the Legislature as a whole to register your displeasure and mistrust of what’s happening to the North Fork. Join us in the fight to protect our interests.

Bill Toedter
president, NFEC


Stay with the boat

In 50 years of teaching boating education, I have never read such a harebrained stunt as that about the two boaters who decided to swim to shore after their boat capsized. (“2 rescued after boat capsizes in the bay,” Aug. 26.) This action proved that they never took a boating course or, if they did, they must not have paid attention.

This stunt could have cost them their lives. One of the things stressed in a boating course is never try to swim to shore because it’s further than you think.

This fact was brought out to me many years ago when I attended a meeting of the 106th Air Rescue Group in Westhampton Beach.

They said looking for a person who did not stay with a capsized boat under choppy sea conditions is like looking for a needle in a haystack, even if they have a life jacket on.

A capsized boat under most conditions will float and is easier to see. Remember, stay with the boat.

I strongly recommend that if you plan on going boating, take a boating course when offered by the United States Power Squadron, the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the state.

Next time, this practice of swimming to shore could cost a life.

Leonard Llewellyn Jr.


Learn to coexist

Having lived on Nassau Point for 26 years, I am well aware that contact with wildlife is part of living in the “country.” There are deer, raccoons, squirrels and other creatures that share our space. Sometimes they’re a nuisance.

But hire hitmen to hunt and kill them?

When I think about it, there are some people I consider nuisances. Like the deer, they contribute to overcrowding and destroying the environment, spreading disease and causing accidents. However, I have learned to coexist with them and haven’t (yet) decided they need to be hunted.

Teresa Taylor


No understanding

In publishing my letter to the editor on the failure of Republican party lines to think across the lines, The Suffolk Times made an unfortunate mistake by publishing:

“Driving in Cutchogue on Pequash Avenue, signs of the degradation of natural features and common the harm to interests currently occurring all over Southold Town are evident.”

I had written: “Driving in Cutchogue on Pequash Avenue, signs of the degradation of natural features and the harm to common interests which are currently occurring all over Southold Town are evident.”

The error — it had to be a mistake since the published version is nonsense — is an example of an editor editing without understanding the meaning of the text being edited.

The mistake proves the point of my letter, that the problem with the thinking of Southold Town Republicans (including The Suffolk Times editors) is that they fail to understand common public interests.

Combinations of private interests do not add up to common public interests. For private citizens not to understand this principle is sad. For public officials and institutions like local press to be ignorant is tragic.

The editor’s note implying that I wrote as a representative of Southold Town Democrats further confuses the point of my letter. Let me try to be clear. I am not officially representing any political party. I personally believe that the Southold Town Republican Party is focused on itself and that the Southold Town Democratic Party is focused on serving the public interest.

Benja Schwartz

Editor Tim Kelly responds: I apologize to Mr. Schwartz for the error, resulting in part from his submission of two different versions of the letter. As to the suggestion that this publication is an arm of the local GOP, many in the Republican Party would suggest the opposite is true. Regarding the editor’s note, Mr. Schwartz has taken part in Southold Democratic Committee meeting discussions after identifying himself as a representative of Nancy Sawastynowicz, a committee member.


The wrong message

The Sept. 15 issue of The Suffolk Times contained three items that were seemingly unrelated, but illuminating nevertheless.

First, there was an opinion piece by Mr. Gustavson declaring the message that Southold Town has always been and will remain a farming community, an observation that the vast majority of our residents concur and support.

He writes, “If you don’t like living next to a farm (or a vineyard) then sell your house and move to Smithtown, where they managed to replace all farms with housing developments years ago.”

Farming, and especially vineyards, have saved the North Fork from economic malaise and extinction with even greater prospects for prosperity.

Next, in a political promotion using the backdrop of the vista of a vineyard field, the Southold GOP proclaims: “Remember the team that has kept Southold a great place to live.”

Yet, you also report on page 18 that the Planning Board is seeking injunctive court action to prevent a vineyard from continuing to operate its business because of a wine tasting “shed” located on preserved property.

While code violations should certainly be enforced, I am told that the Sherwood House owners are willing to relocate the “shed” and have also asked permission to construct a patio to host outdoor seasonal wine tastings. This seems to me to be a reasonable and sound solution consistent with Mr. Gustavson’s vision of Southold Town.

Yet, the Planning Board obstructs this vision and promotes a policy to litigate by hiring outside lawyers to sue Sherwood House instead of communicating to solve a problem.

Such a wrongheaded attitude does not keep Southold a great place to live. Shutting down a vineyard means the loss of critically needed jobs, which impacts the entire town. It means the expenditure of town funds to pay lawyers and clearly sends an anti-business message to our local businesses trying to operate within the town.

Bob Meguin
Democratic candidate for town supervisor


The price of liberty

I would like to thank those who made last week’s primaries possible. The voters in the respective primaries exercised their right to chose who will represent them in the November general elections.

My supporters and I sought those primaries because we strongly believe the people have the right, and the duty, to decide who will represent their party in the general election. In 1852 the noted abolitionist and orator Wendell Phillips uttered the famous quote: “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” This concept of vigilance and liberty rings true today as so many years ago.

Brian Hughes
Democratic town justice candidate


Outlandish property

The “dream home” on Meetinghouse Creek in Aquebogue is a nightmare for neighbors.

Property owners have the right to create a home as they wish, but did this one take into account the tranquility and tasteful properties that share this beautiful waterway? Clearly not.

The neighbors hate this house and are offended by the noise and circus grounds on the waterfront. When did Town of Riverhead let a residence turn into Club Med? Why would Times/Review feature this outlandish property which has so destroyed the peaceful nature of our community?

Marita Franzman


Doesn’t fit in here

Maybe Victor Ozeri and his Chinese lions and McMansion should stay on the South Shore. On the North Shore we do not need to see this gaudiness.

Just goes to show you can have all the money in the world and still not have class or taste.

Brenda Casey


A welcomed sign

I am writing to publicly thank those responsible for the installation of a new stop sign at the intersection of Bay Water Avenue and Main Bayview Road in Southold.

The stop sign replaces a yield sign at this intersection which was particularly dangerous for pedestrian traffic heading north on Main Bayview Road.

I suggest that a “stop ahead” sign and a broad white stop line be placed on Main Bayview Road so drivers are made aware of the new traffic rule.

A Southold Town police car at the intersection each day for the next few weeks might also be helpful in raising motorists’ awareness, and traffic violation funding for the town.

Celeste Flick