03/02/13 8:00am
03/02/2013 8:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The Miss Nancy fishing boat moves through Greenport Harbor.

Life could get just a little easier for East End commercial fishermen if a bill Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-C-Port Jefferson) ushered through the New York State Senate has the same support in the Assembly.

The bill that passed the Senate with only a single negative vote would allow commercial fishermen to aggregate their daily catch limits over a seven-day period. A fisherman could, for example, catch three times his daily quota on Monday and two times the limit on Wednesday and then stay off the water until the following Monday, thereby conserving fuel. The bill that passed the Senate would also allow individuals, each of whom had a fishing license, to go out together in the same boat with each able to take a daily or aggregate limit.

“Fuel for running a fishing boat is extremely costly,” Mr. LaValle said, noting that it “significantly cuts into the already slim profits” fishermen get.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who is shepherding the bill through the Assembly, said he and Mr. LaValle drafted the bill together in consultation with local fishermen.

While the Assembly is focused on getting a budget passed by the April 1 deadline, Mr. Thiele said as soon as that’s accomplished, the fishing bill would move ahead.

“It’s a bill that is high on my list,” Mr. Thiele said.

Assuming the Assembly gives the legislation the go-ahead, it would go to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

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02/06/15 12:00pm
02/06/2015 12:00 PM

state leadersAlbany is in need of serious reform. It’s been known for years, even decades, and is obvious to anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to our state government.

There appeared to be hope with the 2010 election of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ran on a reform agenda. But he ended up shutting down his own highly touted investigative body, the Moreland Commission, when its members began to hone in on the root of all problems in Albany: outside money earned by lawmakers, and specifically lawyers who have long claimed they couldn’t disclose details of their work — including their clients — because that would be a breach of lawyer-client privilege. (more…)

03/12/12 1:04pm
03/12/2012 1:04 PM

COURTESY MAP | This map shows the new First district, which will include the southeastern Brookhaven, the South Fork and Shelter Island. Riverhead, Southold and northeastern Brookhaven would be represented in the Second Assembly District, according to this latest proposal.

A newly revised set of New York State Assembly District maps puts Southold back in the same district as Riverhead and places Shelter Island in the South Fork’s Assembly District.

An earlier proposal released by the state last month would have placed both Southold and Shelter Island in the South Fork district represented by Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).

Southold and Riverhead political leaders, and eventually Mr. Thiele as well, said the North Fork’s voice should not be divided in the state legislature.

The new proposal would rename Assemblyman Dan Losquadro’s (R-Shoreham) district, which currently includes Southold, Shelter Island, Riverhead and northeastern Brookhaven, from the First to the Second Assembly District. Mr. Thiele’s district, currently the Second Assembly District, would be renamed the First Assembly District.

“I look forward to representing the new First Assembly District. 98% of the district includes areas I already represent,” said Mr. Thiele in a release issued Monday. “Shelter Island, which will be added to my district, was part of my county legislative district in the late 1980’s. I have continued to work with Shelter Island on many regional issues and look forward to representing them again. Further, I am pleased that the redistricting task force listened to public opinion and kept Southold in the current district with northeast Brookhaven and Riverhead, as I had requested.”

Mr. Losquadro was not immediately available for comment.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years to reflect population statistics gathered during the U.S. Census.

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02/08/12 9:00am
02/08/2012 9:00 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | New smaller 'scoot' trains could be used to improve LIRR service to the East End.

For several years, a group called Five Town Rural Transit has been advocating for the creation of East End Shuttle, a coordinated shuttle train and bus network solely for the five East End towns. The plan was to use smaller, two-car shuttle trains on the existing East End railroad tracks, instead of Long Island Rail Road trains, to provide a more frequent rail service back and forth.

Now, the MTA appears to have embraced at least a part of that vision.

According to Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), the MTA has included a $37.2 million expenditure in its five-year capital plan for the purchase of smaller, more reliable diesel trains for LIRR.

The new trains, known as “diesel multiple units,” or “scoot” trains, have smaller engines, are lighter, more cost effective and will travel shorter distances, Mr. Thiele said.

“The Long Island Rail Road is committed to exploring the possibility of providing “scoot” service as a way to increase service opportunities and ridership in eastern Suffolk County,” said Salvatore Arena, a spokesman for the MTA.

“We’re glad to hear this,” said Vince Taldone of Riverhead, who is a member of Five Town Rural Transit. “These trains would be smaller, more energy efficient and would provide more frequent service to the East End.”

The other key component to Five Town Rural Transit’s plan is to establish a network of feeder buses that meet passengers at the trains, Mr. Taldone said. However, getting the so-called scoot trains in place is a good first step, he said.

The LIRR’s East End lines, which end at Montauk on the South Fork and Greenport on the North Fork, have far less frequent train service than points west of Ronkonkoma, and are mostly single-tracks that are not electrified, so only diesel engines can run on them.

The proposed expenditure will permit the LIRR to purchase five of the new trains, which come in sets of two cars, Mr. Thiele said.

When ridership is heavier, another pair of cars can be attached.

According to the LIRR the new trains could “increase frequency of service, increase reliability, and promote intra-island commuting. The new diesels will be ideal to provide additional service in the non-electrified areas of the LIRR east of Ronkonkoma.”

“We are closer than ever to increasing public transportation opportunities for East End residents,” Mr. Thiele said, adding that the region “has clamored for increased service through the implementation of an integrated rail/bus shuttle service.”

“This could be very significant if it happens, and we’re hoping it does,” said Jim Ellwood of Riverhead, who is also a member of Five Town Rural Transit. He said he’d like to get more information, along with confirmation that the LIRR is actually going to move forward with the plan.

But he said getting the shuttles in place is a first step.

“The East End Shuttle was really an ideal,” he said. “If we can get half of that, or even a third of that, it would be welcome.”

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02/01/12 2:00pm
02/01/2012 2:00 PM

A map showing the redistricting proposal's impact on Long Island.

Assemblyman Dan Losquadro doesn’t want to see Southold and Shelter Island towns removed from his Assembly district and he’s taking the fight against North Fork redistricting to a public hearing next week.

If the redistricting occurs as a state committee suggests, most of the East End will only have one representative, with Fred Thiele representing the South Fork, Shelter Island and Southold and Mr. Losquadro representing Riverhead.

Mr. Losquadro (R-Shoreham) currently represents the North Fork, and the South Fork is represented by Mr. Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).

“As the assemblyman representing the largest population of any district in New York State, I understand the new district lines would result in my district becoming smaller. That being said, it pains me to see the North Fork split up in the new redistricting plan put forward by the Majority,” Mr. Losquadro said in a statement. “The North Fork and the South Fork are very different districts, with the North Fork having a large winery and agricultural base and the majority of its homeowners acting as primary residents.”

Assemblyman Losquadro and other North Fork elected officials are encouraging residents to voice their concerns at a Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment public hearing at 11 a.m. next Thursday, February 9 at the W.H. Rogers Legislative Office Building in Happauge.

Read more about the redistricting plan in Thursday’s News-Review.

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01/29/12 1:00pm
01/29/2012 1:00 PM

FILE PHOTO | CPF dollars may have been down in Southold for 2011, but they were up overall on the East End thanks to a $5 million increase in East Hampton.

Four out of five East End towns, including Southold, saw a decrease in Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund revenues for 2011, according to information released this week by New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s office.

The revenue, generated through a 2 percent real estate transaction tax, is used to fund preservation of open space, historic landmarks, recreational facilities and farmland.

Southold’s CPF revenue decreased 7.5 percent from its 2010 totals, taking in $3.35 million last year, according to the data. Southold brought in $3.62 million in 2010.

Shelter Island’s CPF revenue decreased the most, down 39.7 percent to $820,000 in 2011 from $1.15 million in 2010.  He said Riverhead decreased 15.7 percent, collecting $1.93 million in 2011.

Despite the decreases, overall revenues collected by the CPF increased by .01 percent with $58.85 million generated in 2011.

That’s because Southampton saw an increase of 15.1 percent or $38.88 million in 2011, up from $33.79 million in 2010.

Mr.  Thiele said the Peconic Bay Regional Community Preservation Fund has generated $722 million for East End preservation since its inception in 1999.

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01/26/12 12:53pm
01/26/2012 12:53 PM

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | Assemblyman Fred Thiele speaking at a breast cancer awareness forum on Shelter Island in November.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) could become Southold and Shelter Island’s new representative in the State Assembly, if a redistricting proposal released today by the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment takes effect.

The redistricting, which could be in place by this November’s election, would change the boundaries of the First And Second Assembly Districts. The South Fork, Shelter Island and Southold would become the First District, which would be represented by Mr. Thiele, who currently represents the Second District, which is comprised only of the South Fork. First District Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) would see his new Second District start in Riverhead and head west.

If the proposal takes effect, Mr. Thiele would no longer represent the hamlets of Mastic, Mastic Beach, and Shirley.

A public hearing, which is required before the redistricting occurs, will take place at 11 a.m. on Feb. 9 in the auditorium of the William H. Rogers Legislative Building of the Suffolk County Legislature in Hauppauge.

In a statement Thursday, Mr. Thiele said he would have preferred if the redistricting had been drawn by an independent and non-partisan committee, but he found the end results acceptable.

“This district includes as much of the East End in the same district as was constitutionally possible. Further, it avoids dividing the Tri-Hamlet Area (Mastic, Mastic Beach, and Shirley), which is currently the existing situation where I share the peninsula with two other Assembly members. My Assembly District had to be reduced in population under the State and U.S. Constitution. This district plan does that without dividing communities in my district to serve the political needs of those to the west.”

He said the redistricting was done because there were too many people in his district as it was formerly drawn.

Using figures from the 2010 U.S. Census, each Assembly District should include 129,089 residents. Mr. Thiele’s district was 13,744 residents over the average. The new district will have 128,929, 160 less than the average.

“Based upon enrollment numbers, the district is politically competitive and does not discriminate against any minority group. It unites communities of interest and does not divide villages,” Mr. Thiele added.

A map showing the redistricting proposal's impact on Long Island. Click to enlarge.

Mr. Losquadro said Thursday afternoon he was surprised that the redistricting committee didn’t see fit to keep the North Fork intact on its new maps.

“I really think that the North Fork and South Fork issues vary pretty significantly. There are far more primary homeowners on the North Fork. They also have a lot more agriculture on the North Fork than the South Fork.

Mr. Losquadro said he knew his district was going to change substantially when the census figures showed it had 149,700 people in it.

“I knew I’d be losing 21,000 constituents just to reach a parity with the other districts, but that could have been done in a way to keep the geographic areas contiguous.

Mr. Losquadro said that, while he’s enjoyed representing Shelter Island, he believes residents there could be represented by an assemblyman from either fork.

“It’s not like I don’t want to represent them,” he said. “It was a real honor for me to represent those areas.”

Southold Republican Party chairman Denis Noncarrow said he’s disappointed in the redistricting, which he believes is “a done deal” in Albany.

“The South Fork and the North Fork have different concerns,” he said. “There are battles that the North Fork had exclusively that we’re not going to have somebody fighting for.”

He said that those issues range from helicopter noise en route to the East Hampton Airport to issues that Mr. Losquadro is working on for Fishers Island, including training emergency responders and helping to provide access to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

“A lot of individual things are exclusive North Fork problems,” he said.

Mr. Losquadro said, even though the boundary lines have changed, he will continue to pressure the Federal Aviation Administration to change its recommended helicopter routes to alleviate the noise of helicopter traffic on the North Shore.

“We have an FAA which has just been lax, wanting and delinquent in finding a solution and implementing a solution to this problem,” he said. “The area I’m still representing will still be the area on the North Shore most impacted. I will still continue to keep my pressure up on the federal representatives and the FAA.”

Mr. Noncarrow said he doesn’t know Mr. Thiele well.

“Only time will tell. We’ll have to see how it goes. It was nice having someone who handled just the North Fork and its concerns,” he said, adding that, since Mr. Thiele is a member of the Independence Party, not a Democrat, he doesn’t see the redistricting as a concern for Southold Republicans.

Mr. Thiele, a lawyer by trade, is a former Southampton Town Supervisor and member of the Suffolk County Legislature. He was raised in Sag Harbor, where he graduated from Pierson High School before attending Southampton College. He received his law degree from Albany Law School and was admitted to the bar in New York State in 1980. He was elected to the State Assembly in 1995.

He was not immediately available for comment.

Mr. Thiele is most widely known as the architect of the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund, a land preservation program in the five East End towns that is funded through a 2 percent real estate transfer tax.

He has been actively involved in land preservation and transportation issues on the South Fork.

Mr. Thiele had served in the Assembly as a Republican until he switched his party affiliation to the Independence Party in Oct. 2009, after briefly flirting with the idea of becoming a Democrat. He said at the time that his support of marriage equality put him at odds with Republican leadership. He was endorsed by the Democratic, Independence and Working Families parties in his 2010 re-election campaign.

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