Southold Town, Suffolk County and environmentalists have a new ally in their fight to preserve Plum Island: New York State.
Southold Town, Suffolk County and environmentalists have a new ally in their fight to preserve Plum Island: New York State.
The Suffolk Times held its annual People of the Year reception this week, honoring those who were selected in our first issue of the new year.
You can read more about our 2012 People of the Year by clicking on the links below:
2012’s Public Servant of the Year for both The Suffolk Times and the Riverhead News-Review is someone who represented both Southold and Riverhead towns over the past seven years, but who won’t be representing either in 2013.
Ed Romaine, who was elected Brookhaven Town Supervisor in November, is our choice for Public Servant of the Year for his work as the North Fork’s representative in the Suffolk County Legislature from 2006 to 2012.
And a lot of people agree.
“I couldn’t think of anybody more deserving of this than Ed,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell. “As supervisor, I have worked with Ed on issues ranging from stormwater mitigation to erosion control to farmland preservation. Ed has been our go-to guy on just about any issue. He’s tireless. He’s got an institutional knowledge. He’s one of those guys that just tries to make a difference every day in as nonpartisan a fashion as possible.”
“He is probably one of the few remaining true statesmen that we have left in the county,” said Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in the Reeves Park area of Riverhead. “He works across party lines, he understands the importance of community and he understands the importance of representing his constituents without concern for party affiliation or party line.”
At the request of the Reeves Park community, Mr. Romaine worked to get the county to acquire a four-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue, where a shopping center had been proposed, in order to make a 9-11 Memorial there. At least two families in Reeves Park lost loved ones on Sept. 11.
“He took our cause right up to the end, at his last county legislative meeting,” when the acquisition was finally approved, Mr. Biegler said. “I couldn’t think of a better person for this award. We are sorry he is going over to Brookhaven.”
In the Legislature, Mr. Romaine and South Fork representative Jay Schneiderman were consistently outnumbered 16-2 by West End legislators.
Now it’s 16 to 1, said Mr. Schneiderman, who not only fought alongside Mr. Romaine on bills to benefit the East End, but also knew him before he entered public office.
“He was my seventh grade social studies teacher in Hauppauge,” Mr. Schneiderman said.
“Ed has been a tremendous fighter for the people of the East End,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “He’s got a great record on the environment and, for the past eight years, he’s been a great partner of mine in protecting the interests of the East End.”
Mr. Schneiderman, who was elected to the Legislature as a Republican but switched his enrollment to the Independence party, said Mr. Romaine “puts party interests aside and works for the good of the people.”
“Ed Romaine is going to be sorely missed by the Town of Riverhead,” said Mason Haas, a town assessor who has worked with Mr. Romaine on the issue of getting the homeless sex offender trailers removed from county property in Riverside and Westhampton. “He’s been a friend and advocate for us.”
Other issues Mr. Romaine worked on include getting fire wells put in the pine barrens, helping people who lost their homes to flooding on Horton Avenue in Riverhead, acquiring the North Fork Preserve in Northville for parkland, getting weekend bus service on the East End and fighting the MTA payroll tax.
Mr. Romaine’s successor will be chosen in a Jan. 15 special election between Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and Southold Councilman Al Krupski.
Suffolk County Community College’s proposed “Health and Wellness Center” at the Eastern Campus in Northampton, a project that would include an indoor swimming pool, will need to get an exemption from the state’s Central Pine Barrens Commission before it can move forward.
The Eastern Campus, which was built in 1977, is located within the core of the Central Pine Barrens, an area where the state’s 1993 Pine Barrens Protection Act places strict limits on new development.
But the college argues that the health and wellness center was part of a 1973 college master plan for the Eastern Campus, and that many other components of that plan have been allowed to be built by the Pine Barrens Commission.
The fitness center project, which would be similar to what the college has at its Brentwood campus, would include an eight lane indoor swimming pool, fitness center, meeting space and nursing laboratory, according to George Gatta, an executive vice president at the college.
The fitness center would include a strength training room, aerobic room, gymnasium, classroom space, office space, locker rooms and lobby, according to the county.
The Suffok County Legislature has included $17.75 million for the project in its capital budget.
The college plans to make the fitness center and pool opened for use by the general public when not being used by the college. At Brentwood, the fitness center and pool have more than 1,440 members, who pay a membership fee, and the pool is also used by local high schools and swim clubs that rent it for meets, according to Mary Lou Araneo, the college’s vice president for institutional advancement.
Mr. Gatta argued at a Dec. 21 meeting of the Pine Barrens Commission that the college’s 1973 master plan for the Eastern Campus included six buildings that the Pine Barrens Commission has allowed to be built on the campus since 1995, including the 40,000 square foot Montauk Learning Resource Center, which was formally opened last year.
In order to get an exemption to build in the Pine Barrens Core, a development must qualify as “non-development” under the guidelines of the 1993 law.
One category that the Pine Barrens law does not define as “development” is “public improvements undertaken for the health, safety and welfare of the public.”
The college is arguing that the health and fitness center falls under that category.
In 1995, the college submitted its 1993 master plan for the Eastern Campus, which included the health and wellness center in a “phase two,” and which included the Montaukett building in Phase One, to the Pine Barrens Commission.
The commission, on Jan. 3, 1995, ruled that Phase One of the master plan “constitutes non-development” under the Pine Barrens Act, but it made no mention of phase two or three of the college master plan.
“We never got an explanation why phase two and three were not included,” said Louis Petrizzo, the college’s general counsel.
“The college continued to inform the commission of its plans to implement the remaining elements of the 1973-76 and 1993 master plans, as well as the 2001 master plan update,” Mr. Gatta said. They sent letters to the commission in 2005 and 2006 and have received no response or explanation why the second and third phases of their master plan didn’t receive approval.
He said the college, “receiving no response to either communication, moved forward with the planning and contraction of the Learning Resource Center and continued to plan for the implementation of the Health and Wellness Center.”
The Pine Barrens Commission is made up of the supervisors of Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven towns, along with one representative each from Suffolk County and New York State.
“We’ve already passed judgment that this is non-development,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, alluding to the 1995 Pine Barrens ruling.
John Milazzo, the attorney for the commission, reminded him that the master plan was in three phases, and only the first one received commission approval in 1995.
“So, if the first phase was non-development, couldn’t we just pass a resolution at the next meeting saying this is non-development too?” Mr. Walter asked.
Richard Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society (which is not part of the pine barrens commission, although Mr. Amper was instrumental in developing the Pine Barrens Act), pointed that there were amendments to the Pine Barrens Act in 2005, and that there may be different criteria now than there was in 1995.
Mr. Milazzo concurred. He also said that the presentation at the Dec. 21 meeting was just for informational purposes, and that there is currently no formal application before the commission for the college’s plans, so they couldn’t approve them yet.
Mr. Amper later criticized commissioner members during a hearing that same day on Kent Animal Shelter’s proposal for a new shelter building at its River Road location, which needs an exception to build in the Pine Barrens core.
During that hearing, Mr. Walter praised Kent, saying they are “our defacto municipal shelter” and handle 50 percent of the dog needs for the town.
Mr. Amper said that “Kent’s providing a great public service is entirely irrelevant to the application.”
He said he’s been complaining lately that the commission members are judging applications based on whether they are a good use or provide a public service, rather then whether they meet the criteria set forth of the Pine Barrens legislation.
“Even if it were a place to honor saints, that doesn’t mean it qualifies for a hardship exemption,” Mr. Amper said.
In North Fork County Legislator Ed Romaine’s final meeting, the Legislature voted Tuesday to acquire a four-acre site on Sound Avenue and Park Road for use as a memorial park for first responders and victims of September 11.
The acquisition came more than a year after property owner Kenney Barra signed a contract to sell the land, and several months later than expected, Mr. Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said.
The county paid $1,277,645, or $305,000 per acre, for the 4.2 acre site on the northeast corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road (also known Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive). The vote was almost unanimous, but Legislator Tom Barraga (R-West Islip) voted against the acquisition and Legislator DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityvile)was not in the room when the vote was taken.
Eric Biegler, the president of the Sound Park Civic Association in the Reeves Park area, and Bob Kelly, a Reeves Park and retired New York City firefighter whose brother Tom was killed in the World Trade Center attack of Sept. 11, 2001, had urged the Legislature to approve the acquisition prior to the vote, as did Riverhead Town deputy supervisor Jill Lewis and Riverhead deputy town attorney Ann Marie Prudenti.
The town has committed $50,000 toward maintenance of the park, which will also have a reflecting pool, benches and a walking trail, according to Ms. Lewis. The $50,000 is not included in the acquisition cost, Mr. Romaine said.
“Riverhead has no funds available for acquisition because they were very aggressive in trying to prevent overdevelopment,” Mr. Romaine said.
The county will pay for the land through voter-approved drinking water protection money.
Reeves Park residents have been pushing for the acquisition for almost 10 years, after Mr Barra had proposed to build a shopping center there. The land was zoned for commercial use, but a town consultant had recommended it be rezoned for residential use as part of the town’s master plan update in 2003. Despite that recommendation, the town Planning Board, and later the Town Board at the time, adopted the Master Plan without the rezoning recommendation.
When the Town Board subsequently went back and rezoned the land to resident, under pressure from Reeves Park residents, Mr. Barra sued and later won.
Mr. Biegler told the legislators Tuesday that the value of maintaining open space farmland on the East End benefits the entire county.
“People come from all over Suffolk County to pick strawberries on the North Fork or to take tours at wineries,” he said, adding that there aren’t too many places in Smithtown or Huntington where they can do that anymore.
“This property is unique,” he said.
“This land acquisition means so much more than just the purchase of open space,” Bob Kelly told the legislators. In addition to helping to maintain the area’s rural character, “it would also serve as a true hamlet park and memorial to all those who perished in Sept. 11.”
Mr. Kelly said he lost a lot of friends in Sept. 11, as well as his brother Tom, who was a firefighter in Brooklyn and responded to the Twin Towers.
“If you spoke to the families of these people, they would acknowledge that this is a special place, and they would like for this memorial park to see the light of day, in honor of my brother and all those we lost that day,” he said.
Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) questioned the price per acre, which he though was “an awful lot of money
But he ended up voting for the acquisition.
“While I’m somewhat offended by the price of this, I’m humbled by your description of the purpose and the meaning behind this proposal,” he said.
He and others thanked Mr. Romaine, who was the sponsor of the bill to buy the land, and was in his last meeting as a county legislator.
His was elected Brookhaven Town Supervisor earlier this month, and will be sworn into that office on Monday afternoon.
“I’ll miss this body,” Mr. Romaine said.
“And we will miss you,” Bill Lindsay, the presiding officer of the legislator, told Mr. Romaine.
The Suffolk County Republican Party screened eight candidates — seven from Riverhead Town, including Supervisor Sean Walter and councilpeople Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy — to run as the Republican candidate in a special election this February to fill the county Legislature seat left vacant by Ed Romaine, a party official said.
Ms. Giglio, Mr. Dunleavy and Mr. Walter met with county party leadership and the chairs and vice chairs of the Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southold town Republican committees Monday night to screen for the position, said Riverhead town GOP chairman John Galla.
Others who screened Monday include Bill Faulk, who served as an aide to Mr. Romaine during his time in the Legislature; former Conservative Committee chair James Saladino; Catherine Stark, the daughter of former town supervisor and councilman Jim Stark who now serves as chief of staff to County Legislator Jay Schniederman; Frank Seabrook; a ZBA member and conservative blogger; and Ed Densieski, a town Planning Board member and former Riverhead councilman.
“They all did exceptionally well,” Mr. Galla said of the candidates. “Everyone was on their game.”
The Republican candidate will be decided by the party and not through a primary because the vote to fill Ed Romaine’s seat will be a special election.
Mr. Faulk of Manorville was the only person who screened who resides outside the town’s limits.
No other candidates from other towns screened for the position Monday night, Mr. Galla said, though he added it wasn’t too late.
Though he could not provide a timetable for when the party would reach a decision, Mr. Galla said it would have to be soon because of the upcoming election and holiday seasons.
“We would rather do this sooner as a opposed to later,” he said. “Going into the holidays, this is an interesting dynamic. Some people are going to be out of town.”
Suffolk County Republican Party chairman John Jay LaValle could not be reached for comment.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the GOP had screened seven candidates.
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter admitted Friday that his is one of several names being thrown around as the Suffolk GOP seeks candidates for the legislative seat being vacated by Republican Ed Romaine.
While Mr. Walter stopped well short of saying he would be interested in the position, he did say his party will need a strong candidate if it’s going to retain the seat — as longtime Southold Councilman Al Krupski, who is popular in the town, has emerged as the likely Democratic nominee.
“Al Krupski is going to be a formidable candidate and Republicans have to realize that,” he said. “And if the Republicans want to win that seat, they’re going to have to find somebody to carry Riverhead.
“To me, it’s got to be an elected official from Riverhead because I think in the end, as a Repbulican, you don’t want to throw in the towel. If you can’t carry Riverhead, you can’t carry out a win.
“That’s why all these names are being thrown around.”
Asked if he would want to serve the county’s First Legislative District, Mr. Walter said only that he’s focused now on running Riverhead Town.
“I have not been formally asked to do it, so I’m focusing on what I’m doing in the town and that’s it,” he said.
Mr. Romaine is now the supervisor-elect for Brookhaven Town and will step down soon from the Suffolk County Legislature.
A special election — which offers no primary opportunities — to fill the remaining year on Mr. Romaine’s term will likely be held in February.
Mr. Walter is serving his second two-year term as Riverhead supervisor.
Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine’s longtime chief of staff, Bill Faulk, said he’s delighted with his boss’s big win in running for Brookhaven Town supervisor on Election Day.
“But I’m not ready to leave [the district],” he told the News-Review on Friday.
Mr. Faulk is among a pool of potential Republican candidates, including Riverhead Town councilmembers Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy, who’ve publicly expressed interest in the seat.
Although his name had been mentioned, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said he has no interest in leaving town government.
“Right now I plan on staying in the district and serving the people,” said Mr. Faulk. “My heart’s here with the district and this is where I want to be, to make sure this the district remains the way it is, through preserving farmland and open space, protecting the estuaries, holding the line on taxes.
“These are things I believe in.”
Mr. Faulk, 35, of Manorville is a Southampton College graduate who earned a master’s degree from Stony Brook University in public policy. He ran unsuccessfully for the state Assembly in 2006.
He’s served as Mr. Romaine’s chief aide for seven years, since Mr. Romaine, of Center Moriches, took office in 2006.
Before that, he served as an aide to Joseph Caracappa while Mr. Caracappa was the presiding officer of the Legislature.
The only name mentioned out of the Democratic camp since Election Day has been Southold Councilman Al Krupski, who this week told The Suffolk Times he would consider a run.
It’s not clear yet how, exactly, the respective nominees will be picked, but since the race for the First Legislative District seat will come in the form of a special election to fill the remaining year on Mr. Romaine’s term, there are no options to run a primary.
Party leaders on both sides would likely pick the candidate. The district includes parts of Brookhaven, and all of Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island.
The vote will likely take place in February.
Mr. Faulk believes his knowledge of all issues of importance to Mr. Romaine’s constituents makes him a strong candidate.
“I know his district as well as he does,” he said. “And I think his sucessor should be someone who could carry on the mission of the district, and be a strong voice for its residents.”
“Ed was elected supervisor and he has leave, but I’m not ready to go,” he continued. “There’s still work to be done and I believe I can get it done.”
Times/Review contributing photographers John Griffin and Robert O’Rourk documented election night with their cameras Tuesday.
Griffin shot the Democratic gala at the Islandia Marriott. O’Rourk was with the GOP at its gala at Emporium in Patchogue.
Below are some photos from the events they covered:
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Scott Russell vs. Al Krupski?
County Legislator Ed Densieski?
Faulk for Legislature?
These are some of the names being bounced around by party leaders to replace County Legislator Ed Romaine, who won a special election Tuesday for Brookhaven Town Supervisor.
Mr. Krupski was the only potential candidate named Tuesday night by Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer. He said Wednesday that he’s interested, but he can’t commit to running in a special election just yet.
“I can’t say yes but I’m not saying no,” said Mr. Krupski, the only Democrat to hold a Town Board post in Mr. Romaine’s district. “I’m going to talk about it with Rich and then talk about it with my family. I certainly know the district and the county, so it’s not like I’m coming out of the cabbage patch.”
In that comment Mr. Krupski pokes fun at his life as a pumpkin farmer, and raises the question on whether he can run his family’s Peconic agricultural business while simultaneously representing a legislative district that stretches from Fishers Island to Center Moriches.
“That’s going to take a little bit of reflection,” he said.
Art Tillman, Southold Democratic leader, responded with enthusiasm on the prospect of councilman’s candidacy.
“I think it would be great to have a farmer serving in the County Legislature,” Mr. Tillman said.
Mr. Krupski, Southold’s only elected Democrat, has long been considered the heir-apparent to Republican Supervisor Scott Russell.
During the Southold Polish Democratic Club’s “roast” of Mr. Krupski earlier this year, Mr. Schaffer went as far as to describe the councilman as “Southold’s next supervisor.”
And he still could be. Especially if Mr. Russell ran for the open legislature seat. Sound like a stretch? Well, Suffolk County Republican chairman John Jay LaValle said Wednesday that Mr. Russell’s name has been discussed for the post, though he said he has not yet had a conversation with the supervisor about it.
Mr. Russell said that’s unlikely, especially with Mr. Krupski on the ballott.
“There’s no scenario whatsoever where I would be running against Albert for any elected office,” he said.
If Krupski wasn’t in the mix?.
“I’m pretty invested in Southold Town,” said Mr. Russell, who confirmed he hasn’t talked to Mr. LaValle. “There’s a lot of demands to being supervisor, but at the end of the day I’m still in Southold. I still get to go to my kid’s football game. The strains of covering four towns would hamper my ability to be a good dad. Politics is all about timing and the timing isn’t right.”
Mr. Russell noted that for a brief time in 1995 he actually was the expected GOP nominee for Legislature, but was replaced at the nominating convention by former Legislator Mike Caracciolo.
Mr. LaValle said he has been approached about the vacant seat by Bill Faulk, an aide to Mr. Romaine, and former Riverhead Town Councilman Ed Densieski.
Riverhead Town Councilmembers John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio have both expressed interest, among other Republicans, about the job.
Riverhead GOP chairman John Galla said Republicans will have many options.
“I think you’re going to see a deep bench of candidates,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll hear from people who might come forward now that the people of Brookhaven made their decision.”
Anthony Coates, an aide to Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, said he plans to pursue a political office in 2013. He is expected to make an announcement next week.
Mr. Romaine said his replacement in the Legislature will have to fight hard to get the residents of the North Fork what they need. He said that person will need to stand up to others “for what is right” for the East End.
“If the issues are right and you can make a decent case, you can prevail,” said Mr. Romaine when asked what advice he’d give his replacement.
And what might those key issues be?
“Preserving farmland and open space,” he said. “Working on the Peconic Estuary to minimize nitrogen pollution and preventing red and brown tide. Working to preserve our coastline from erosion. And ensuring that taxes stay low. I can go on and on.”
Mr. Romaine secured about 57 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s special election to replace former supervisor Mark Lesko. He outperformed Democratic nominee Brian Beedenbender of Centereach by more than 20,000 votes.
Reporting by Jennifer Gustavson, Tim Kelly, Paul Squire and Michael White.