06/13/15 5:59am
06/13/2015 5:59 AM
Bunker fish at Nassau Point Sunday morning. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Bunker fish at Nassau Point Sunday morning. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

We’ve been reminded a lot in recent weeks that fish kills are a regular occurrence in these parts, and aren’t anything new.

These comments are being made mostly to cast doubt on assertions by scientists and other researchers that high nitrogen levels and the resulting algal blooms are to blame for depleted oxygen levels in area waters — hence all the dead fish. Yes, local environmental organizations have used recent fish kills to push their agendas — albeit noble ones — and figure out how to prevent such high levels of nitrogen from reaching our waters moving forward. But they’re doing so for good reason.

There were bunker kills in 2008 and 2009 as well — and there’s no denying that massive kills have been happening for as long as anyone around here can remember. But it’s also a fact that for generations, Long Islanders from Brooklyn to Montauk have been polluting our waters with chemicals, fertilizers and, if you go back far enough, even raw sewage.

Just because people weren’t talking about nitrogen in the 1960s or 1970s doesn’t mean it didn’t play a part in fish kills back then, or even just a few years ago. It’s only relatively recently that researchers have been able to identify nitrogen — most of it coming from our wastewater — as the culprit responsible for the unhealthy state of our local estuaries and shellfish.

The passage and funding of the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the funding that came with it, along with fertilizer restrictions and more efficient sewer treatment plants, have improved the state of our bays and Long Island Sound. But it’s all been a zero-sum game in the face of nonstop residential and commercial development.

With development came people, and their outdated septic systems — all sending more waste into groundwater and surrounding surface waters. Deny that or not, but wouldn’t common sense dictate we shouldn’t go to the bathroom where we drink? People in Southold and more rural areas of Riverhead are right to be wary of installing more public sewers, because that does often lead to more housing, but they can’t have it both ways. The movement now is toward figuring out more efficient methods of filtering our residential waste, and doing so in a way that’s financially feasible.

Even if people are skeptical of the researchers, keeping our most precious resource as clean as possible is a goal worthy of time, attention and, most of all, government funding — because it’s clear that developing, installing and maintaining newer technologies is going to be expensive.

06/12/15 6:00am
06/12/2015 6:00 AM

(Credit: File photo)

“What do they want me to do, dress up like Donald Duck and wave to the crowd…” —David Kapell

Back in the day, in the late ’70s, I was involved in founding and organizing something called The Great North Fork Foot Race. In the early years, the race started in “downtown” Greenport and was thus criticized by some village merchants because Front and Main streets were closed to vehicular traffic during the start. For 10 minutes. On the weekend before Memorial Day.

Fast-forward to the July 4th weekend of 2015, when significant portions of Front and Main streets will be closed for eight hours a day for four days in connection with the Greenport Tall Ships Challenge 2015.

Had this year’s event been proposed during the administrations of Joe Townsend Jr., George Hubbard Sr., Steve Clarke or even David Kapell, it would have made very good sense. The village sorely needed to be promoted back then, even on holiday weekends. But in 2015, in the new and improved Greenport, on the otherwise busiest weekend of the year? I’m not so sure. (In fairness, I should note that Greenport officials did not have a say on the date the event would be held. It has to fit with the Tall Ships of America Challenge, which is stopping here between its stays in New York City and Newport, R.I.)

I also was involved in the formation of the Greenport Maritime Festival in the late ’80s, and we deliberately chose mid- to late September in order to extend “the season” beyond Labor Day. But does it make good sense to invite 40,000 visitors to the village on a midsummer weekend when “the average merchant can hardly do any more business than they already do,” in the words of one village merchant I spoke to this week? Again, I’m not so sure.

There are many, many good reasons for inviting the tall ships to Greenport. As one longtime village resident I surveyed put it: “I for one am looking forward to seeing [the tall ships] and having such magnificence come to me. Now there is really no need to leave the North Fork.”

The event also is clearly consistent with the village’s proud maritime heritage, which goes back hundreds of years and includes, more recently, the Regina Maris, the Simon Bolivar, America’s Sail and the tall ships races. And there’s no doubt, barring a weather catastrophe, that certain local businesses — restaurants, gift shops and the like — will benefit significantly. But what about the core businesses like the IGA and Colonial Drugs and Hoppy’s Cleaners? How will they fare when their regular customers are forced to walk several blocks to access them? For four days.

I asked Dave Kapell about this, largely because of his unique perspective as a former mayor and current business owner. And this is what he had to say: “I might as well shut [my antiques business] down. We’re used to it because of the Maritime Festival, and that event essentially shuts my business down. It’s one thing to do it the last weekend of September, but another on the Fourth of July. And this thing is four days long.”

He continued: “And if I don’t utilize the space in front of my business, they may rent it to an outside vendor. What do they want me to do, dress up like Donald Duck and wave to the crowd as it goes by?”

Another village merchant, Shelley Scoggin of The Market health food store, wrote in an email: “I will lose my big grocery shoppers, but I’m sure we will make a lot of money, but with a more intense crowd. One sandwich at a time … I hope the village is making money on this.”

Oh, yes, the money. As I understand it, the Village of Greenport is fronting $275,000 (of taxpayers’ dollars) to bring in the six tall ships, with the Business Improvement District committed to covering $100,000 of that amount via sponsorship fees. The village also will collect all revenues from ticket sales (ranging from $5 to $15 per ticket) and vendor fees (at $375 to $500 per day for food vendors, depending on the size of their booth; $250 per day for artisan/craft vendors; and $75 per day for nonprofit vendors). If the crowd estimates are accurate — an average 10,000 visitors a day over four days — the village’s investment may well turn out to be financially prudent, and that doesn’t take into account the goodwill generated and the fact that potentially thousands of first-time visitors will be introduced to the myriad attractions of Greenport.

But what if, as one of my friends has suggested, instead of investing in gala events like the tall ships fest, the village made comparable tourism-friendly investments in beautification, litter control, additional public parking and restrooms? Wouldn’t that be more beneficial in the long run?

I really, truly hope the Greenport Tall Ships Challenge 2015 is a huge success. I hope to view the procession of ships as they enter and depart the harbor, but, like most of the “locals” I’ve talked to, I’ll be avoiding Greenport’s business district that weekend.

TR080609_Gustavson_RThe author is the former co-owner and publisher of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at tgustavson@timesreview.com.

06/11/15 5:59am
06/11/2015 5:59 AM

I had a few things in mind when I left a good job at the Daily News in 2008 to write for a weekly newspaper in a place I was only vaguely familiar with. For one, I wanted to write stories longer than 600 words and The New York Times wasn’t exactly knocking on my door. I also wanted to write about the people of Long Island, a place to which I felt more of an attachment than any of New York City’s five boroughs. (more…)

06/08/15 7:00am
06/08/2015 7:00 AM

I’m not a dog. Just in case some of you might have thought … As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t want to come back as a dog. To be someone’s Chihuahua traveling in a woman’s purse or Great Dane to impress the neighbors’ hissing cat, no, no. If I do come back for a second try at life and happiness, let it be as a seagull, flying high and free over Long Island’s beaches and bays, yes, I’ll take that. As I am slaving away in my yard, I see the gulls gliding in sensuous abandon, carried by the wind, a mix of silent flight and piercing cries, ready to dive for that unfortunate fish or for a quick sweep by our picnic table left alone too long.  (more…)

06/06/15 9:00am
06/06/2015 9:00 AM

Over the past several weeks, the East End’s waterways have been inundated with toxic red and mahogany tides resulting in die-offs of diamondback terrapin (turtles), bunker and alewives. Our local media have done a good job of not only reporting on these occurrences but also speaking with the experts to explain them.

So I was infuriated when Riverhead Supervisor Walter, asked about these die-offs, was quoted as saying that previous rain “may have washed toxins into the water” and quickly backed away from the “toxic” idea, saying later when asked about scientists’ findings, “Yeah, well everybody has their own theory. Mine is that the bluefish are chasing them into the river.”

Yeah, the bluefish are to blame. (more…)

06/05/15 5:59am
06/05/2015 5:59 AM
Jack Van de Wetering and his son Kurt in a climate controlled greenhouse area that they would modify to grow medical marijuana. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Jack Van de Wetering and his son Kurt in a climate controlled greenhouse area that they would modify to grow medical marijuana. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The East End would be hard-pressed to find a more respected farmer and concerned community member than Jack Van de Wetering to be the face of a possible medical marijuana operation. (more…)

06/04/15 5:00am
06/04/2015 5:00 AM

To the editor:

On Sunday, May 24, our daughter was jogging with her 3-year-old son. Passing by a family renting a house for the weekend near First Baptist Church in Greenport, their large standard poodle/standard schnauzer mix lunged, biting my daughter deeply on the thigh, missing our grandson by inches.

I was on our porch and saw her running toward me, screaming in pain, blood coming down her thigh, jogging skirt shredded. Instead of attending a much-anticipated family birthday party, she immediately went to the ER.  (more…)

05/30/15 5:58am
05/30/2015 5:58 AM
The Southold Town Democratic Committee's 2015 slate: (from left) Brian Hughes for Justice, Debra O'Kane for Town Board, Matt Kapell for Trustee, Damon Rallis for Supervisor, Albie de Kerillis for Town Board, Nick Krupski for Trustee and Linda Goldsmith for Assessor. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

The Southold Town Democratic Committee’s 2015 slate: (from left) Brian Hughes for Justice, Debra O’Kane for Town Board, Matt Kapell for Trustee, Damon Rallis for Supervisor, Albie de Kerillis for Town Board, Nick Krupski for Trustee and Linda Goldsmith for Assessor. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Memorial Day has long been considered the official start of summer in these parts. It’s also fast becoming the unofficial start of silly season.  (more…)