03/11/18 5:58am
03/11/2018 5:58 AM

For many years afterward, it would be one of my favorite gambits at cocktail parties and other venues of idle gossip.

Whenever the conversation drifted into the area of misspent youth or military service or rock ‘n’ roll or adventures in Europe, I would mention that while serving a two-year hitch in the U.S. Army, I was stationed with Elvis Presley. It was a boast that delivered real cachet and, as Henry Kissinger liked to say, had the further virtue of being the truth.  READ

01/13/18 5:59am
01/13/2018 5:59 AM

How do we, as a community, begin to address the very real mental health disorders — acute and chronic episodes of anxiety and depression, and addiction — of our youth? How do we, as school and community leaders, ask and answer the right questions in grappling with the day-to-day mental and behavioral health issues our youth experience? How do we develop the strategies demanded by the moving target of increased suicidal thoughts, actions and self-harm events — including substance use in an effort to stop emotional pain?  READ

11/22/14 8:00am
11/22/2014 8:00 AM
(Credit: Grant Parpan)

The view behind Latham’s farm stand in Orient. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

“When I cross that causeway, my whole mood changes.”

My friend was referring to the emotional lift she gets every time she enters Orient from the west. No wonder. What greets her eyes is a sublime view of fertile farmland sloping down to wetlands and, beyond them, the ever-alluring waters of Orient Harbor with Shelter Island as a backdrop. (more…)

09/22/13 12:00pm
09/22/2013 12:00 PM


The significant issues surrounding Goldsmith Inlet in Peconic have led me to question the process of analysis and decision-making that has been in use to this point. I believe that if the community can focus on and accept the dynamic of a formal decision-making process rather than on the tactics of possible solutions, it will be able to arrive at a decision regarding the future of the inlet. Accordingly, this column is not about the various positions in this debate. My hope is that the community will be able to unlock the current impasse, because the heart of this issue is that the pond is dying.

I count maybe seven or more possible solutions for the pond: build a second jetty, shorten the existing jetty, eliminate the jetty, lengthen the jetty, do nothing, only address all natural and unnatural pollutants and various dredging solutions. And there are many permutations of these options. Therefore, the pros and cons of the variables must be parsed, and they fall into two categories: physical and biological.

Some of the physical variables are tide cycles and jetty effect, the characteristics of how the pond flushes, the depth of the pond, salinity and upland drainage and/or runoff. In addition the effects of storms, climate change and dredging must be added to this mix.

The biological variables are pathogen levels and both natural and unnatural pollutants. According to DEC records, the inlet generally has high coliform bacteria levels. However the records also state that insufficient data are available to determine the exact cause and effect of each point and non-point pollution source.

And that’s a problem. Insufficient data lead us to speculation — of which there is no shortage. For example, information on the possible impact of invasive plants, most alarming being the mile-a-minutes vine on Autumn Lake, lead residents to draw conclusions about how the vine threatens the inlet.

The third dimension of this decision matrix is the combination of human preferences and biases. The preferences of homeowners and the public run strong. Some residents and members of the public have concerns about the future of beach recreation, and of course the human danger presented by polluted waters. Others believe that nature should be left to take its course, and therefore to them, concerns about cost containment and tax hikes are moot.

The scope of possible solutions and their variables, makes the constraints under which eDesign Dynamics conducted their assessment too narrow to serve as the dominant analysis on which to base a decision. The computer model, DYNLET is a powerful model for assessing coastal problems, yet it is obviously not designed to model all variables. Consequently eDesign answered many questions from the community by saying, “we simply don’t know”. Former trustee Peggy Dickerson questioned the wisdom of their modeling a “steady state” by pointing out that the term, “normal dynamic state” should rather be used.

My point is that, unless we can rely on a range of unbiased scientific facts and sociological data to support all possible solutions, positive and negative, we will fall back on coalition-building, analysis-paralysis, groupthink and mythology. In the meantime, the pond slowly dies.

So what are the biases that we need to understand in order to not fall under their influence? Here are some that I have heard:

• The “sunk-cost trap” will bias the decision to not change the jetty. This bias will support the argument for no change. Why throw good money after bad?

• Another bias is the “anchoring bias” — in this case it is the estimated $1.5 million cost of the second jetty. Now, anything less will sound cheap at the price.

• Similarly, a “confirmation bias” would show how the littoral drift and tidal cycles always build sand bars on the facing side of the jetty — and erode the beach on the other side. Yet the geography is never identical, so can that conclusion be drawn?

These and other biases need to be acknowledged as influencers and not discounted. Once all the possible solutions and their variables have been subjected to science and analysis, and the biases have been weighed, the community will need to decide to decide.

So here are my parameters for a decision road map:

• Assess multiple alternatives. In progress, check that.

• Test all assumptions. Put that on the “to do” list.

• Foster vigorous debate and constructive conflict. No problem there — they are alive and well.

• Do not defer too strictly to the experts — question them, hold them accountable.

• Make decisions with a team of equals. There’s work that has to be done here.

• Question whether well-established norms have reached a tipping point — is it time to think outside the box?

• Encourage devil’s advocacy.

• Finally, take a comprehensive perspective on the issue.

Following a decision road map will not only help unlock the impasse, but a similar template for decision-making can also be applied to future complex problems that will arise as the town rides the tides of change.

Geoffrey Wells is a Democratic candidate running for Southold Town Trustee.

09/01/13 8:00am
09/01/2013 8:00 AM

STEVE ROSSIN PHOTO | LIRR riders board an eastbound train out of Riverhead earlier this summer.

It’s a summer Friday afternoon and you’re stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway, headed from the city to the North Fork. If you’re traveling by bus for Orient, where I live, delays on the LIE could make the trip take as long as four hours.

Think this is bad? It could be a lot worse.

Suppose there were no Long Island Rail Road. Last year, the LIRR ran a great ad on its trains that imagined just such a disastrous turn of events. “Up to nine Long Island Expressway Lanes would be needed to handle the additional traffic,” declared the ad, which ended with the word “cough.”

In fact, more than 260,000 people ride the LIRR on the average weekday.

Statistics like that make me a strong supporter of the nation’s second-busiest commuter railroad, Long Island’s best hope for increasing personal mobility while decreasing congestion, consumption of fossil fuels and air pollution.

I know, I know. Frequency of service on the LIRR’s Ronkonkoma-Greenport line — the service that matters most to us — is woefully inadequate. But that could change.

As previously reported in these pages, funding is now available for the purchase of “scoot” trains on this route. While the railroad has yet to select the equipment it will buy, it’s shopping for trains that would be smaller and cheaper to operate than the current equipment on the Greenport line — a locomotive and two double-deck coaches.

A railroad spokesman recently told Times/Review reporter Tim Gannon, “As envisioned by the LIRR, scoot trains would allow for more frequent train service than currently provided.”

Hey, maybe that widely reviled payroll tax for public transit isn’t so bad after all.

Even without such improvements, there are ways right now to take advantage of the LIRR that many North Forkers may not realize.

For instance, savvy summertime travelers who’ve had it with the LIE can catch the Friday-only 3:55 p.m. train out of Penn Station, fairly confident that they’ll reach their North Fork destination on time. Arrival at Greenport is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Moreover, on the Ronkonkoma-Greenport leg of the trip, passengers can unwind with a glass of one of the local wines sold aboard the Friday-only train.

Unfortunately, that train operates only between the Memorial Day and Columbus Day weekends. But Saturday and Sunday service, once offered year-around but scaled back in 2010 to the same operating period as the Friday-only train, has been extended and will run between April and November.

Did I mention the Ronkonkoma solution to getting to Kennedy Airport?

If you hire someone to drive you from Orient to JFK, it can cost as much as $150 each way.

I’ve got a cheaper way: Drive to the Ronkonkoma station (LIE exit 60), park your car free (for an unlimited time) in the LIRR’s huge outdoor parking lot and board one of the trains operating nearly hourly to Jamaica. Upon arriving there, take the escalator to the station’s mezzanine and walk a few hundred feet to the platform where the Port Authority’s AirTrain departs every seven to 20 minutes for JFK’s terminals.

Train fare from Ronkonkoma to Jamaica is $13.50 at peak hours and $9.75 off-peak. Add $5 for the AirTrain, and you’ve saved well over $100. I know; I’ve done it.

Some folks who’ve used the Ronkonkoma station tell me they’re worried about missing the train because of the time consumed finding a parking spot in the often crowded free lot. That worried me, too, until I began using THE TIMETABLE.

By consulting the Ronkonkoma Branch timetable, you can determine when the next train from the city is supposed to reach the station. I schedule my arrival at the station around that time so that I can pull into one of the parking spaces just vacated by disembarking passengers. (On weekdays, there’s usually a 15- to 30-minute window between trains arriving from the city and leaving for it.)

Some people also worry that their cars could be vandalized in the parking lot. Never in the 16 years we’ve left our car there (once for as long as seven weeks) has it been damaged. Our luck did run out last year, however, when two exterior accessories — a rooftop kayak rack and a rear-end bike rack — were stolen. Foolishly, neither had been locked to the car.

It seemed like a small price to pay for a service that has worked so well.

Orient resident John Henry has been commuting to Manhattan for 16 years, usually using the LIRR’s Ronkonkoma-New York City service.

02/02/12 6:00am
02/02/2012 6:00 AM

A meeting recently took place at Mattituck-Laurel Library regarding the Suffolk County Water Authority’s proposed wind turbine in Laurel. I was somewhat offended by the authority’s interest in having locals attend this meeting, as there was only a tiny public announcement in the papers calling for a public hearing on this topic.

How do they expect to get consensus from the community when many people were not aware this meeting was taking place?

As the former chairwoman for the Southold Town renewable energy committee, I understand the concerns of the community as it relates to wind turbines and I hope the following information will prove to be informative.

It was important to the committee to ensure we obtained input from the community addressing local concerns, including noise levels and bird migrations. In addressing public concerns, we collaborated with the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club and discovered they were not concerned about wind towers interfering with bird migration paths in Southold Town. As a result, the renewable energy committee received an endorsement from both organizations.

The committee then drafted the town’s first agricultural wind code. Today, there are several wind towers in Southold and more and more wineries are expressing interest in pursuing alternative energy solutions. They should be applauded for their interest in reducing their carbon footprint while becoming energy efficient.

Although noise is a valid concern, a wind turbine produces fewer decibels than a washing machine, which is in the 50-75 dBA range. Hair dryers produces 60 to 95 decibels, while a snow blowers can reach 105. A ringing telephone is 80 dBA and the sound of a shotgun being fired is about 170 dBA.

As for aesthetics, wind towers are much more attractive than the power lines LIPA has running through the Laurel Lake area and the rest of Long Island.

In 2004, wind energy in California produced 4.258 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, about 1.5 percent of the state’s total. That’s more than enough to light a city the size of San Francisco.

As for turbines catching fire, let’s be sure we’re comparing apples to apples. The wind turbine company in this case is Northern Power Systems, also the manufacturer of the turbine located on the Half Hollow Hills Nursery property in Laurel, which to date has had no fire issues. Palm Springs, Calif., has had hundreds of turbines for many, many years and I don’t recall reading of any fires.

Coal-burning plants are not the answer to our energy issues, as they contribute to the demise of our air quality and public health.

For the past 12 years Suffolk County has received an “F” air quality grade from the American Lung Association, so it is incumbent on all of us to ensure we do the right thing for the people of this community.

Wind and solar are the cleanest forms of alternative energy available and emit no emissions. The wind turbine proposed at Laurel Lake will reduce carbon emissions by 104 metric tons a year.

I agree with Southold Town that the SCWA cannot assume it is excluded from doing its due diligence and ensuring that the project is in line with town code requirements. That means conducting a comprehensive impact study before attempting to move ahead.

The SCWA cannot steamroll people and expect to gain community consensus.

In 2003, I installed a 6,900-watt solar system on my home. My November LIPA bill was $9.62, although my December bill was much higher due to the Christmas holidays, at $40. Alternative energy is the only solution to reduce our carbon emissions and reduce our reliance on foreign oil.

Ms. Domenici is a resident of Mattituck.

11/10/11 4:00am
11/10/2011 4:00 AM

It was, admittedly, a clever play on words.

“Occupy Wall Street animals go wild …ZOO-COTTI!” trumpeted the cover headline of last Friday’s New York Post. The headline referenced a story inside about a brawl between two men — “wackos” the paper called them — encamped at their lower Manhattan protest site.

“This is the new face of Zuccotti Park!” the story began before recounting the details of the fight and enumerating the (totally justified) complaints of nearby residents about the megaphones, incessant drumming, graffiti and public urination that have accompanied the seven-week-old protest.

But if there was anything good about this display of direct democracy — which has been emulated around the world  — the Post wasn’t telling you.

What a shame.

I visited the park last week and circulated for three hours among the dozens of tents crowding the site, which covers a city block and is about three-fifths the size of a football field. There, amid the occasional whiff of human waste and the occasional sophomoric sign (“Prosecute Ben Bernanke for TREASON”), the protesters I met spoke impressively on some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Not surprisingly, at the top of the protesters’ list was the widening income inequality between the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and the rest of us. “We are the 99 percent” was the message I kept hearing and seeing, and it couldn’t have been timelier.

Just last month, the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that between 1979 and 2007, the after-tax income of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans grew by 275 percent. In the same period, according to the report, the income of the three-fifths of Americans in the middle of the income scale increased by just under 40 percent.

This kind of news resonated with a 26-year-old protester named Dustin, who declined to give his last name. Dressed in a suit and tie, he displayed a poster with compelling charts on the country’s increasing concentration of wealth at the top.

“Now,” he told me, “people are actually discussing the way we’ve been robbed blind.”

“Middle America is feeling it and slowly waking up,” said Xiomara Hayes, a middle-aged teacher in the city and a daily protester.

Then she imparted this gem: “We are being forced to realize we are all one, but the 1 percent doesn’t know it yet,” because they’re still “locked in by power and money.”

Hmm. Locked in by power and money? Could this explain why the Post’s owner, Rupert Murdoch — whose net worth of $7.4 billion makes him the 37th wealthiest person in America, according to Forbes magazine — uses that paper and other properties like The Wall Street Journal and Fox News to disparage the protesters?

Indeed, dissatisfaction with press coverage of Occupy Wall Street inspired David Ippolito, 55, a self-described singer/songwriter, actor/playwright, to wield a homemade placard saying, “MEDIA please be honest about the spirit of the movement.”

News organizations, he told me, were focusing too much on “the fringes” of OWS, like a sole holder of anti-Semitic signs at Zuccotti Park, and not enough on “the thoughtful, kind, committed, informed people” who participate in the protests.

“Informed” would fit Joe, a 70-year-old New Jersey man. He sat beside his homemade sign, which asserted, “The Heart of the Problem: Corporate Financing of Political Campaigns Leads to Corporate Control of the Country.”

Alluding to last year’s disastrous 5-4 Supreme Court decision allowing corporations the same First Amendment rights as people when it comes to spending directly on political campaigns, Joe, who also declined to give his last name, joked to me, “They’ve got to get rid of personhood” for corporations “unless they want to be drafted or executed.” (He supports mandatory public campaign financing.)

Jenny Heinz, a protester sporting a tunic emblazoned with the message “Granny Peace Brigade,” said she thought Occupy Wall Street had changed the nature of the national discourse.

“It’s added words like inequality and democracy and injustice that the corporate media weren’t mentioning,” she said. “They can’t ignore it.”

And sometimes direct democracy really does make a difference. As the aforementioned David Ippolito reminded me, “Without protests, Richard Nixon would never have ended the Vietnam War.”

Yes, there are good and thoughtful people protesting with Occupy Wall Street. They deserve respect, not ridicule.

Mr. Henry is a former Times/Review copy editor and a resident of Orient.

05/18/11 11:58am
05/18/2011 11:58 AM

The recent Guest Spot about the misadventure of the Long Island Lighting Company with nuclear power in Northville offers but a single chapter. The full history of that saga involved so many others that this writer has to state, at the outset, that I can offer but just another chapter, though one worthy of our reflection. Indeed, my goal here is to recount only one of a number of heroes to the East End who played a vital role in stopping the nuclear plant — the late Riverhead Councilman Antone Regula.

First, a quick background. LILCO’s ambition to rise to the lucrative status of a national broker of nuclear power fell apart due in great measure to a popular uprising among the regular folks of the Town of Riverhead, wherein the Northville — which the state and LILCO referred to as Jamesport — plant was to be built. This uprising came to fruition thanks to Tony Regula, who led the charge in his quiet, mild-mannered way at a critical time by thinking out of the box in the face of intense pressure to back off.

With his tenacity, the whole idea of a Jamesport nuclear plant actually made its way to the voting booth, in the form of a ballot proposition in the 1979 town elections. The ballot question he and I drafted was simply worded, and was as well both proper and lawful. Riverhead Town’s voters resoundingly rejected the plant. In fact, federal agencies were in charge of nuclear plants, so this vote was not technically binding on the feds. But this vote by the people sent a crucial signal far and wide.

You see, up until that ballot vote, the Town Board of Riverhead, in the hope of tax revenues the plant would bring, strongly backed LILCO’s nuke plant plan.  Long before November 1979, board members made clear to all who would listen that which they sincerely believed: The nuke plant idea enjoyed strong local support.  This, in turn, convinced the county Legislature, and the local representatives in Albany and Washington, that a Jamesport nuclear power plant made political sense, simply because it was a popular idea. LILCO itself presumed local popularity for a Jamesport plant in its lobbying efforts in Albany and D.C., and its lobbyists carried this presumption to willing listeners in then County Executive John Klein and Governor Hugh Carey.

That is why Tony Regula met angry reaction, even political threats, when he openly pushed to have the plant project up for a vote. Some of his Town Board colleagues felt he was putting them on the spot. Their private and public discussions on a vote grew harsh. Yet he persisted. Finally the Town Board relented and approved Tony’s ballot proposition for the following November. The referendum and the controversy surrounding it gained much unexpected pre-vote publicity. This resulted in significantly higher voter turnout on Election Day.  When the votes were counted, the Jamesport nuclear project, without the first shovel in the ground, was dealt a resounding defeat. Democracy triumphed with the profound impact of this rejection, even contributing in great measure to the first election of a relatively unknown candidate for the office of Riverhead supervisor, Joe Janoski. Not unlike others, previous guest columnists included, the late supervisor preferred not to mention this referendum, or its real effect. But the repercussions of this vote, thanks to Mr. Regula, reached the heart of the issue.

The false weapon of community backing, shamelessly exploited by LILCO and its Wall Street and nuclear industry buddies, and the lobbyists, banks, insurance companies and the powerful construction trade unions, was dramatically snatched right out of their hands. The truth set Riverhead Town free. The people’s will carried to the Suffolk County Legislature, which reversed its support of LILCO’s Jamesport ambitions for the first time, within only weeks after and largely because of that referendum. Then the public hearings against nuclear power on Long Island showed new spirit as they raised the referendum’s dramatic outcome time and again. No one argues that this vote was the Jamesport plant’s downfall, yet in retrospect, it not only blunted the speed and self-assurance of the greedy special interests, but it also gave added focus to a grass-roots offensive that gained momentum.

We remember Tony Regula as a real gentleman, a truly good, ordinary, big-hearted guy who did what he knew had to be done and stuck with it, not unlike the people of Riverhead Town whom he represented. More important than his legacy of helping to spare us the Jamesport nuclear plant, and likely the others which were sure to dot the eastern Long Island landscape, was his inspiration for all of us, especially young people who seek role models for public service: that when you hold on to what you know is right and work hard, even struggle, to make the world a better place, you’re more than just an idealist, you’re someone who can make a real and lasting difference.

Greg Blass, who resides with his family in Jamesport, is a former U.S. Naval officer who has practiced law in Riverhead and represented the East End in the county Legislature, where he was also presiding officer, and where he chaired public hearings on health, safety and evacuation issues in connection with the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant. He also served 10 years as a family court judge and is now commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Social Services.