Letters: Gustavson’s criticism of Plum Island story off base

06/21/2012 4:00 AM |

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Plum Island.


What Plum Island is

I am a Shelter Island guy and always enjoyed The Suffolk Times and Troy Gustavson’s column. I enjoyed it a little less, maybe, last week.

First, Charles Kuralt is not rolling over in anything other than the bunk in the camper he is using to drive across heaven to tell stories from. And I am sure he is proud of CBS’ “Sunday Morning.”

Question: Can a guy who actually prints his deli sandwich order in his column actually critique another’s content for being less than scintillating?

But let’s get to the Plum Island piece. While yes, much of the Plum Island story might be well known to North Forkers and Shelter Islanders, the story was meant for a national audience — one that knows little or nothing about Plum Island, its history or future.

That said, even on the North Fork one only needs to have a beer at the bar at Claudio’s to learn this. All you have to do is bring up the subject of Plum Island and the stories and rumors abound. I tested this theory right there and you’d surprised what people still believe.

The job of the story was to tell what Plum Island is, what it is not and why it is interesting to so many. Still, thanks for the mention and please keep watching. “Sunday Morning” is one of the gems of CBS News.

John Miller

senior correspondent, CBS News


With a grain of salt

When I read Harry Katz’ heartfelt letter to the editor communicating the advantages of employment as a civil servant to recent high school graduates I thought, great, maybe he’ll inspire some good smart kids to apply their talents to the public sector.

It didn’t surprise me when Gunther Geiss had a different response. His answer starts with a distortion of reality and builds up to a frenzy of fantasy. By calling our current civil servants a “generation of unmotivated, uncommitted public servants only wanting job security and a rich retirement” Mr. Geiss lost my vote.

The Southold Town Board is writing a comprehensive plan for the entire town, but is refusing to include a chapter on government. This despite that data compiled for the plan showing that government is the leading industry powering the local economy. The top four industries in Southold, by output to the local economy, are government, with $143 million, followed by agriculture at $120 million. Retail generates $110 million and construction comes in at $109 million.

The town planning department’s view reflects a misunderstanding of the issue.

It concludes that “due to the economic climate, the town is not seeking to increase payroll with new positions. And also this isn’t generally covered in the comprehensive plan, which tends to look at bigger picture issues rather than the details.”

The issue is not expanding government; it’s to review the current municipal organization and revise it as appropriate. When government plans itself into an ivory tower it loses touch with the real world.

Mr. Katz is just telling it like it is and offering youngsters some practical advice. Mr. Geiss objects to the goal of retiring with a steady stream of income and health benefits.

We should tell graduates than any advice offered should be taken with a grain of salt. In other words, especially distrust those who tell you to just trust them.

Benja Schwartz


Consider the option

My advice to young people to explore government jobs was not intended to suggest that they not do their best, as Gunther Geiss suggests (“Just do your best,” June 14.)

Mr. Geiss also implies that government workers are less satisfied with their jobs than those in the private sector. No studies have shown this to be true, and anecdotally it’s certainly not true from my experiences.

I have not met a civil service retiree who regrets his decision to have worked for the government. But I have indeed met many bitter business owners and workers who regret not having had a civil service job.

If one has a passion I would encourage a young person to pursue it and accept the rewards, or risks, with grace. Our son, thanks in part to the Southold School District and his aptitudes and interests, has chosen a career path in aviation. He’s fully aware that pilots, even with their incredible skills and training, earn far less than half of a policeman’s salary, without the benefits.

Government jobs exist on every level — from housekeeping to teaching — and it’s an established fact that those who work in the public sector make more money and have better benefits than their counterparts in the private sector. Government, in one form or another, is the major employer on Long Island, and students must be made aware of possibilities in government by guidance counselors in high school and college.

Mr. Geiss also takes a swipe at health care reform, which is another reason I recommend working in the public sector. Health insurance, which is nothing to sneeze at, is not offered in most non-unionized private sector jobs. This is one safety net you don’t want to be without.

Civil service employees and their unions can look with smug indifference at issues involving health care reform, minimum wage, lost pensions due to the vicissitudes of the stock market, knowing they are above the fray and safe.

I’ll reaffirm that aside from those with exceptional talents or passions, the best investment you can make for yourself or your family is to invest in a job with the government, one that matches your basic interests and training.

Work for the government for 25 years or so and then let the government work for you.

Harry Katz


We have the tools

This is in response to Robert Villa’s “Don’t point fingers on water quality.” 

Now is not the time to blame and attack each other. It’s time to plan and act in a concerted way. Yes, the Department of Health Services has done a great job. In fact, it’s their water resources management plan that everyone quotes when saying new action is needed.

The amount of nitrogen accumulating in our aquifers is increasing. The major source of land-based nitrogen reaching the estuaries is human sourced, basically from wastewater leaching to groundwater then migrating to the seas. We know, too, that groundwater levels are rising due to climate change, thus compromising the distance needed to aerate and filter leachate.

Finally, nitrates feed harmful algal blooms that destroy shellfish and degrade waters.

While minimum lot sizes help water quality through dilution, the larger lots also promote sprawl and car usage. This is a suburban, not a rural, land-use pattern. The water resources management plan recommends a minimum lot of one acre throughout Suffolk, not just over deep recharge areas as exists now. But in areas impacting marine environments, the minimum acreage needed would be from 8 to 13 acres.

What about our historic hamlets and beachfront communities? These usually have lot sizes between 1/8th to a half acre. They are the places we treasure, that attract tourists and define our local character.

If we solve pollutant and nutrient loading in the densely built communities we will go a long way to improving water quality. Some suggestions don’t allow cesspools to be replaced with cesspools, as is the case currently, and increase required distances to groundwater.

Either require nitrogen mitigation or raise the minimum lot size to one acre everywhere, with two to three acres being a preferred alternative.

Require nitrogen mitigation or consider a more stringent minimum lot size of 5 to 10 acres for zones impacting surface water bodies.

We could also introduce clustered treatment for wastewater in our existing, densely built hamlets. New systems are less intrusive and are basically hybrid systems. They are designed for current needs only, not future growth.

Let’s work together to test different options and protect our very precious waters.

Glynis Berry


Count the copters

How about a great photo-op with Senator Chuck Schumer?

He can visit us at our place in Mattituck on July 7, then he can help us count the helicopters and seaplanes that go over.

Come on. I’ll invite the media.

Brian Dickerson


We have to act now

In “Don’t point fingers on water quality” Robert Villa suggests how little some well-intentioned environmentalists know about water. Moreover, he takes umbrage with my criticism of Suffolk County’s failing sewage management program.

Although Mr. Villa’s letter is riddled with erroneous contentions, I’ll stick to the facts.

The county’s Department of Health Services manages sewage wastewater as a public health issue, with the protection of drinking water the primary focus. For drinking water, the nitrogen standard is a maximum concentration of 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L). This is 20 times greater than our bays and ponds can withstand.

Currently, there is a major disconnect in the county’s septic code. Regulating wastewater discharges for drinking water protection is not remotely adequate for protecting our surface waters. Even when functioning properly, a conventional system removes only 20 percent of the nitrogen passing through it.

Typically, the concentration of nitrogen leaving the system is 40 mg/L or greater. With the thousands of homes existing within our region’s watersheds, the collective nitrogen loadings add up. The ill effects from the current approach to wastewater management have reached the tipping point.

Last spring’s release of the county’s water resources management plan illuminates the water quality crisis we find ourselves in. The study reveals that the nitrogen levels in groundwater have increased dramatically in the Upper Glacial and Magothy aquifers between 1987 and 2005, 40 percent and 200 percent respectively. It’s safe to assume the levels are even higher now.

Not only are these two distinctive groundwater reservoirs our sole source for drinking water, but also their quality relative to nitrogen concentrations and other contaminants is paramount to the health and productivity of our local bays.

With the failure to limit housing densities, the impacts from conventional septic systems were bound to catch up. Suffolk County has to stop kicking the can down the road and establish higher standards without further delay.

If the county doesn’t have the political mettle to do it then Southold Town must exercise the authority provided to them and other municipalities through state statute and enact more stringent standards to protect its water resources.

Our commercial and recreational fishing interests, real estate values, tourism and our use and enjoyment of maritime environment all depend on clean water. Clean water should not be a privilege but a right.

Our local waters are in trouble and if we let them continue to degrade we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Kevin McAllister

Peconic Baykeeper


Cheese, not popcorn

The Suffolk Times inadvertently attributed a letter to me in the June 14 paper.

Although I find the thought of sipping a 2008 Syrah and listening to Cat Stevens quite appealing, I would do it without the popcorn. I find that the flavor profiles of the popcorn and wine cause immense confusion for my palate and instead prefer to nosh on cheese and crackers when consuming the 2008 Syrah, or any wine for that matter.

Yet I think that Wallace Mahoney (the actual author of the letter) should continue to ingest popcorn in conjunction with the 2008 Syrah. It’s important for people to do what makes them feel good.

Gregory Wallace


It’s all about politics

Recently Ron McGreevy wrote again about the presumed problem at Mattituck Inlet and Congressman Bishop’s presumed neglect of a hot North Fork issue.

Congressman Bishop wrote a complete explanation of the issue in The Suffolk Times several weeks ago. The issue is simple enough. The inlet was dredged several years ago. The project came in under budget and Congress Bishop was able to use the leftover funds on another project.

Is it time to dredge again? The Army Corps of Engineers is looking into it.

What Ron McGreevy is really saying is “vote for Randy Altschuler” without naming the name or really confronting the issues.

Is Mr. Altschuler really all about supporting North Fork issues? Will he really get funds for things like Mattituck Inlet while he also supports cutting aid to education, cutting Medicare and Social Security and cutting taxes on the rich?

The Republican agenda is not about providing funding for local infrastructure projects.

Congressman Bishop has worked hard to provide funds for all areas of his district, including the North Fork. Ask Mayor Nyce about federal assistance for Greenport.

Mr. McGreevy is raising a false issue and trying to arouse false emotions against a fine congressman who deserves to be re-elected next fall.

Steve Curry


We think so

The Suffolk Times and Fox News have one thing (maybe others?) in common.

They are both fair and balanced.

Joel Reitman


It’s a joint effort

Southold Town should be in the game — an important game.

The newly formed Peconic Institute put together by Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele will be representing the five-town Peconic region. That’s something long overdue and needed.

Southold has to be represented. It’s a team effort and, as they say, “Ya gotta be in it to win it.” If not, and we leave it to others to do the heavy lifting and we wind up getting the short end of the stick in the long run, don’t be surprised when the fans of Southold Town cry for blood.

Southold is an important part of the Peconic five-town region. Let’s join the team and do our part.

Jack McGreevy


Us lefty pinkos

Shame on you, lefty pinko types, for trying to pollute the minds of right-thinking “conservative” subscribers.

The audacity of expressing your opinions via editorials smacks of a commie plot. Maybe some of those readers most offended by your editorial content can form a review board and censor what they don’t like, and for good measure teach your staff the goose step and have newspaper-burning rallies when they don’t like what they read.

Oh yeah, and that man in the White House …

Jack Gismondi


Thanks to the FD

My family and I wish to thank all of you in the Southold Fire Department for coming to our aid when we most needed you.

In minutes you were here. You’re all professional, courteous and caring.

We who live in Southold are fortunate to know you are our first responders.

Rita Cohen


Out to lunch

Once again, I’m reminded of Senator Moynihan’s observation about facts versus opinions.

Here are some facts:

During the Bush administration, the yearly federal deficit reached $161 billion in 2007, $459 billion in 2008 and $1.41 trillion in 2009.

In the Obama presidency, the debt increased by $1.29 trillion in 2010, $1.3 trillion in 2011, $1.32 trillion this year and $901 billion estimated for 2013.

In the last two years of the Bush administration, the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. In our federal government, Congress controls spending.

If the best argument anyone can muster for re-electing the current fool is that he was preceded by a bigger fool, they’re really out to lunch.

Kenneth Stein