02/11/13 5:01pm

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | William Swiskey outside Greenport Village Hall Monday.

A familiar name in Greenport will be on the ballot in this year’s village trustee elections. Former trustee and utilities director William Swiskey turned in his petitions Friday to run for one of two seats to be decided in the March 19 village elections.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips has said she will seek reelection while Trustee Chris Kempner announced last fall that she’ll step down when her term ends this spring. Ms. Kempner said her decision was prompted by the pressures of having two young children at home and working full time as Riverhead Town’s community development director.

Potential candidates must file nominating petitions with the village clerk’s office by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13. The state set deadline was originally Feb. 12 before state officials realized that’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, a state holiday, said Village Clerk Sylvia Pirillo.

By Monday Mr. Swiskey was the only candidate who had yet filed petition, Ms. Pirillo said. Ms. Phillips confirmed two weeks ago that she intends to run again.

After serving as the village utilities director for more than a decade, Mr. Swiskey was elected in 2008 to fill the remaining term of the late trustee George Hubbard, Sr. He lost the seat in 2009 and ran another unsuccessful campaign in 2011.

“I don’t think people in the village have been given a fair shake or a voice,” Mr. Swiskey said. He argues that the village has devoted too much of its energy in recent years to Mitchell Park and the downtown business district, while giving short shrift to residential neighborhoods and outlying parks.

“Look at the condition of some of the side streets,” he said. “They’re just ignoring them.”

He also charges that the village, especially the utilities department, is out of touch with residents.

“If you call to complain about your light bill, no one calls back,” he said. “People have forgotten that government works for the people.”

Village residents can register to vote at Village Hall on March 7 from 8:30 to 5 and on March 9 from 11 to 5.
Polls will be open March 19 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Third Street firehouse.

02/05/13 9:58am
BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Police Chief James Burke (right) and Parents for Megan's Law director Laura Ahearn (left) before the public safety committee this morning.

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Police Chief James Burke (right) and Parents for Megan’s Law director Laura Ahearn (left) before the public safety committee this morning.

The 38 homeless sex offenders in Suffolk County who are currently living in construction trailers in Riverside and Westhampton would be spread out, one per shelter, at county-run shelters throughout the county and would be monitored more closely by county police.

That’s if the plan, crafted by the Suffolk County Police Department and the Parents for Megan’s Law advocacy group, is approved by the county Legislature today.

Police Chief James Burke and Parents for Megan’s Law director Laura Ahearn pitched the plan to the Legislature’s public safety Committee in Hauppauge last Thursday morning.

Chief Burke assured the committee that the sex offenders would not be housed in shelters that serve families.

“That is true and that is for the record,” said Chief Burke, when asked by committee members for assurance the offenders would not have contact with families.

The “terrible” policy of clustering sex offenders together must end, the chief insisted.

“Let’s face it. If I took 20 bank robbers and put them under the same roof, at the end of the week, what would I come up with?” he said. “Twenty better bank robbers.”

Chief Burke told the committee that the department’s intelligence database will be updated to include information on the activities of the more than 1,000 sex offenders throughout the county, which can be cross-referenced and easily searched by officers in the field.

Officers will check in with the homeless sex offenders each night to ensure that they are staying where they are assigned, he said.

“They’re gonna know that we know where they are,” he said.

Chief Burke said the department expects costs of the new program to be significantly less than the $4 million the county is currently spending to house the sex offenders on the East End, since the department will be utilizing police personnel who are already in the field.

Ms. Ahearn unveiled her group’s new eight-point plan, which includes hiring two teams of retired police officers to verify addresses of [non-homeless] sex offenders and verify the work addresses of Level 3 sex offenders. Offenders at lower levels are not required to report their work addresses to police.

She said 60 percent of Level 3 offenders don’t currently report their work addresses, even though they are required to by law.

Enforceability in the five East End towns, which all have their own police departments, would depend on local police chiefs signing on to the county’s plan, said Chief Burke.

He said the county’s resources and intelligence would be made available to any other police department that signs on to the plan.

“I think right now, this is the better way to go at this time,” said Public Safety Committee chairwoman Kate Browning of the plan. “We need to make sure that we’re doing right by our communities. I definitely think this is going to be a much stronger effort than the CHI shelters.”

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02/04/13 2:00pm

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | The sun rising over Orient Harbor in Orient.

It’s going to take a multi-pronged effort to secure the future of Southold’s drinking water and waterways, but some environmentalists fear the town’s draft plan of attack may be too overwhelming in size and scope to assure public acceptance and participation.

Last week the town’s planning staff unveiled the draft of the water resources section of its new comprehensive plan.
The 33-page document explores water conservation measures and methods of reducing pesticides, pharmaceuticals, petroleum-related pollutants and other hazards to drinking water. It also addresses protecting surface waters and marine habitats.

But the overwhelming number of suggestions for how to do that — there are more than 75 listed in the chapter and several sub-sections to many suggestions — had some in attendance at a public forum Jan. 31 concerned that it was too much information for the public.

Among the suggestions are increasing the non-turf buffer area between properties and wetlands and devoting more open space preservation funds to parcels important for aquifer protection. The plan also suggests the town institute odd-even day watering restrictions during droughts and participate in a Peconic Estuary Program homeowner rebate program for people who want to install rain gardens, gutter improvements and drywells.

Laura Klahre, a town land preservation specialist who helped develop the Peconic Estuary Program’s initial goals, called that “a huge undertaking. There were so many goals and objectives,” she said at the Jan. 31 forum at the Peconic Community Center. The Peconic Estuary Program had 280 goals.

“You need to prioritize… You need to say ‘in year one, we’ll do X, Y and Z,’” she said.

North Fork Environmental Council President Bill Toedter agreed that the chapter needs to be more user friendly.

“People can see rain gardens, but they can’t see what’s underground,” he said. “You’re asking people to change their behavior… You need to give them a basic understanding so they can move forward.”

He suggested that planners take a “USA Today” approach to the chapter, with charts and graphs and more easily digestible snippets of information on concrete steps they can take to improve water quality.

“Let this be a living document,” he said. “Update it every year so people can see what’s changing… How are you selling it to the public to get their buy-in?”

The second part of the chapter, on land resources, is due out in upcoming weeks.

02/04/13 8:00am

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Bob Freeman, who heads the state’s Committee on Open Government, speaking during a meeting in Greenport last year.

Greenport Village plans to start charging people who file excessively detailed Freedom of Information Law requests, in an attempt village officials hope will rein in the extensive amount of time their office staff spends honoring the requests.

Last fall Bob Freeman, executive director of the state committee on open government, advised the village that it could charge for excessively detailed requests.

Village Clerk Sylvia Pirillo told the village board at a work session Jan. 22 that requests that take up to two hours to fill would remain free, but any request that took more time than that would be billed at an hourly rate equal to the hourly pay of the lowest paid village worker who helps to fill the request.

Mr. Freeman suggested the village use that method to calculate the cost of extensive requests.

Ms. Pirillo provided the board with examples of three recent FOIL requests, including one that took eight hours of staff time on Nov. 27, another of three hours and forty-five minutes on Dec. 4 and one requiring two hours of staff time on Dec. 20.

“And there are more upcoming,” she said.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said she wants to ensure the village posts the new fees prominently online and in the office so that the public is aware of the changes.

 Read more, including reaction from the public, in next week’s issue of The Suffolk Times.

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02/02/13 12:06pm
DIANE BONDAREFF/INVISION FOR THE NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY/AP IMAGES PHOTO  |  Louis Bacon, center, is presented the Audubon Medal and is joined on stage with Paul Tudor Jones, left, Holt Thrasher, second left, Chairman, The National Audubon Society and David Yarnold, right, President & CEO, The National Audubon Society, at the organization's first gala.

DIANE BONDAREFF/INVISION FOR THE NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY/AP IMAGES PHOTO | Louis Bacon, center, is presented the Audubon Medal Jan. 17 and is joined on stage by (from left) Paul Tudor Jones, Holt Thrasher and David Yarnold.

Robins Island owner Louis Moore Bacon III was feted by the National Audubon Society for his conservation work at a gala at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan Jan. 17.

Mr. Bacon received the Audubon Medal, one of the highest honors in conservation, for his work preserving bird habitat on the 434-acre island and Cow Neck Farm in Southampton and restoring Clifton Point in the Bahamas and Springer’s Point on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Mr. Bacon recently helped the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund preserve its three-acres site adjacent to the New Suffolk docks where he keeps the boats used to access Robins Island.

“It is a wonderful honor to receive the Audubon Medal from the National Audubon Society, which for more than a century has fought tirelessly to protect and preserve our natural resources and environment for future generations,” Mr. Bacon said at the event. “Much like the conservationists who previously have received the Audubon Medal, including Stewart Udall, Rachel Carson and Ted Turner, I realize that this recognition cannot be a cause to rest, but a spur to continue our work.”

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01/31/13 4:15pm
M KELLY PHOTO | A man searches West Creek in New Suffolk for blue-claw crabs just after sunset this past summer.

TIM KELLY PHOTO | A man searches West Creek in New Suffolk for blue-claw crabs just after sunset this past summer.

Residents have a chance tonight to weigh in on part one of the natural resources chapter of Southold Town’s new comprehensive plan, which focuses on water resources.

The town will hold two public meetings — tonight and Saturday — at which residents can air their views on the chapter. Today’s meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Peconic Community Center on Peconic Lane and the Feb. 2 session starts at 10 a.m. at Poquatuck Hall in Orient.

The chapter deals with issues ranging from the quality and quantity of groundwater available for the use of Southold residents and on the quality of surfaces waters throughout town.

The draft of the full chapter is available below.

Southold Town Comprehensive Plan Natural Resources — water resources chapter

01/31/13 7:00am

With all village approvals in place, a retired New York City fireboat will likely be making its way from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Greenport in the coming weeks. 

The Greenport Village Board approved a contract Jan. 22 allowing the vessel, called Firefighter, to remain at the Mitchell Park Marina through June 15.

Now a nonprofit floating museum, the 120-foot fireboat is expected to move to a permanent berth at the railroad dock near the East End Seaport Museum in time for the summer season.

Until then, the museum will pay the village $200 per month for dockage at Mitchell Park and will also pay for electricity there.

Firefighter, one of the first boats designed by famed naval architect William F. Gibbs, served the FDNY from 1938 until 2010, said Jeffrey Jonap, the museum’s director of operations.

Mr. Jonap said Firefighter was retired because the department needed to upgrade to newer, faster and more fuel efficient boats after Sept. 11, 2001.

The ship requires a professional crew to make the 10-hour trip from Brooklyn to Greenport. Museum volunteers initially planned to make the voyage this Saturday, Jan. 26, but postponed it until Feb. 9, according to the group’s Facebook page.

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01/29/13 4:30pm

IMG_59839

 This afternoon’s town board meeting, which begins at 4:30 p.m., promises several lively public hearings, include one on dog policies on town-owned recreation areas and one on allowing limited retail in light industrial and light industrial office zoning districts.

The Suffolk Times will be live blogging from the meeting below.

Southold Town Board agenda, Jan. 29, 2013 by Suffolk Times

01/28/13 5:00pm

COURTESY PHOTO | Peconic Bay Water Jitney that had a trial run between Greenport and Sag Harbor last summer is unlikely to return this summer.

Organizers of the Peconic Water Jitney, which ran last summer between Greenport and Sag Harbor, will give a presentation before the Greenport Village Board at its meeting at 6 p.m. tonight at the Third Street firehouse.

Geoff Lynch, a partner in the project, told Times/Review reporters earlier this month that it would take a multi-million dollar infusion of money for the water taxi to run again this summer.

Mr. Lynch said about there were about 15,000 trips booked on the taxi last summer, fewer than the project’s organizers had hoped.

Read the full story here.

Also up for public hearing is a local law setting fines for delinquent parking tickets in the village. If the law is adopted, scofflaws would pay an additional $100 if they don’t pay their fines within 30 days, $200 if they don’t pay within 60 days and $300 if they don’t pay within 90 days.

Greenport Village Board agenda, Jan. 28, 2013 by Suffolk Times

01/28/13 1:02pm

The Southold Town Planning Board will discuss a site plan for an existing gas station on Main Street in Greenport, outside the Village boundary, at their work session this afternoon.

The work session will be held in the upstairs executive board room at the Southold Town Hall Annex at 2:30 p.m.

The gas station, at 1100 Main Road, is in a residential zoning district, but has been in existence for decades.

The town Zoning Board of Appeals will also need to approve a change of use application.

Also up for discussion during the work session are plans to build a 7,200-square-foot metal barn on a farm at 4735 Cox Lane in Cutchogue and a 5,000-square-foot addition to a maintenance building at Laurel Links in Laurel.

The full agenda is available below.

Southold Town Planning Board work session Jan. 28, 2013 by Suffolk Times