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Greenport wants control over cable project’s environmental review

Fifth Street beach

The Greenport Village Board had been prepared to give PSEG Long Island control over an environmental review of the power authority’s underground cable proposal.

But during the Village Board’s meeting Thursday night, members made a unanimous decision to become the lead agency after residents expressed concerns about the Greenport-Shelter Island cable project.

Village attorney Joe Prokop said the vote doesn’t guarantee the Greenport Village Board will lead the review. If PSEG contests the designation, Mr. Prokop explained, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will then have to decide if Greenport or the power authority becomes the lead agency.

In an email, PSEG spokesperson Elizabeth Flagler said the power authority will be in contact with village officials and residents to address their concerns.

“PSEG Long Island is committed to providing safe, reliable and resilient service to all of our customers, including those on Shelter Island,” she said. “We are confident that we will be able to work with the Village of Greenport on any concerns that they have regarding the SEQRA process and will continue to respect and protect the interests of the village and its residents.”

Mike Osinski, a former village trustee and owner of Widow’s Hole Oyster Farm, asked during the meeting’s public comment portion that work on the project be postponed until February, since the peak time for growing oysters is between September and December.

“If they shut us down, we can’t make that money back,” Mr. Osinski said, adding that it takes three years until an oyster can be harvested. “We’re booming — that’s our time of year.”

Mr. Osinski said he felt the village was “being used by Shelter Island.” He said a similar cable project proposed from Conkling Point in Southold to Shelter Island failed in 2013.

“Shelter Island refused to build a substation in their own town. Now they want to dangle some money in front of you and get you on the hook,” Mr. Osinski said. “We don’t need to be the patsy for Shelter Island and the South Fork and have their power generators here and have power lines run throughout the village.”

Bill Swiskey, a Fifth Street resident and Village Board critic, said he believes the Greenport Village Board should become the study’s lead agency and send the bill to PSEG.

“Who are you mayor for: Shelter Island or Greenport?” Mr. Swiskey asked Greenport Village Mayor George Hubbard Jr.

“I’m the mayor of Greenport and I always have been,” Mr. Hubbard responded. “I’ve lived all my life in this village and all I care about is this village. All I’m trying to do is bring in some revenue to try and help the village out. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

PSEG, which operates the Long Island power grid under contract with LIPA, is seeking to rent property at the southern end of Fifth Street for about three months while it drills the underground tunnel. Mr. Hubbard said PSEG officials told him they would go door to door to keep residents informed of the project.

While Mr. Hubbard acknowledged that construction will be disruptive, he said the PSEG deal “would be able to lower every property owner’s taxes next year by five percent.”

In addition, the mayor said, PSEG would repave Fifth Street, pay for village infrastructure repairs and add a new power cable between the Southold substation and Moores Lane in Greenport.

Mr. Hubbard added that three jurisdictions — Greenport Village, Shelter Island Town and the Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corporation — would need to sign off on PSEG’s proposal before it could move forward.

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Photo: Fifth Street Beach in Greenport. (Credit: Tim Gannon, file)