East End Digest July 31


State Assembly: 4-Day School Week?

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. is requesting input from school districts in the Second Assembly District related to a bill currently pending in the New York State Assembly. This bill aims to provide financial relief for taxpayers by eliminating the state sales tax on diesel fuel used by school bus companies when the expense of the fuel exceeds the budgeted amount set forth by the school district. In addition, another potential energy cost saving measure would be the creation of a plan for the implementation of a four-day school week.

“As ranking minority member of the Assembly Education Committee, I believe it is important to solicit comments and recommendations from our school districts on this legislation,” said Thiele. “This proposal is well intended however, there may be issues regarding the impact to the quality of education that legislators may not be aware of.”

The bill remained in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee at the end of the 2008 legislative session.

RELI: Green Guide

A Long Island not-for-profit group, Renewable Energy Long Island, has seen such an increase in inquiries for green expert services and goods that it decided to compile and publish what it calls the region’s first annual LIGreenGuide.

The printed and online versions of the LIGreenGuide will offer practical information for consumers seeking greener choices, featuring tips on such topics as “Cool Lifestyles,” “Solar Roofs,” “How to Lose 5000 Pounds (of CO2) in 30 Days,” and “What To Look For in Carbon-Offsets.” The LIGreenGuide will also feature a directory of green businesses and professionals as a handy one-stop reference for anyone shopping for a greener future. “We have seen such an amazing growth in awareness and interest for green choices that we decided to publish an up-to-date directory of businesses which offer such services on Long Island,” said Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island. “For a number of years, RELI has been the go-to place if you wanted to find a qualified contractor to get solar energy systems installed; now we will provide that service for a much broader spectrum of green choices.”

The LIGreenGuide will be available starting in September, in time for RELI’s Annual Long Island Solar Tour and Open House on October 4. RELI will distribute the printed guide free of charge throughout Labor Day 2009 and have a continuously updated web version. The directory will list services in a number of categories, including building professionals such as green architects, builders, and landscapers, energy efficiency and renewable energy contractors, and retailers of green products.

Listings are free of charge but interested businesses must complete an online form at www.LIGreenGuide.org to be considered for inclusion in the directory. Deadline for the printed version is August 1.

CPF: Revenues Down

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. reported this week that cumulative Community Preservation Fund (CPF) revenues for the five East End towns were only $4.46 million, the lowest monthly total since 2003. Thiele also reported that the number of real estate transfers for the first six months had also declined from last year by 17.7 percent.

The Town of East Hampton has seen the greatest decline in revenue from the first six months of last year – by 49.6 percent. Southampton Town revenues are down 28 percent. Only the Town of Southold has seen an increase in revenue and transfers since 2007 – a modest one percent increase.

“It is clear that the national economic slowdown and housing crisis are finally impacting the real estate economy on the East End,” said Thiele. “We have been among the last to feel these negative impacts, but there can be no doubt that real estate activity has now slowed significantly. However, even with these problems, the Community Preservation Fund can still be expected to generate over $70 million for land preservation in 2008. The current market also present buying opportunities for environmentally sensitive land.”

East End Transportation Study: Thiele Urges Outreach

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. last week called for greater public outreach and elected official involvement in the East End Alternative Transportation Study, which is currently underway. The study is designed to investigate and evaluate whether a permanent rail/bus shuttle system is feasible for the East End and to identify and evaluate other alternatives such as bus rapid transit and expansion of existing rail and bus services. The concept of a rail/bus shuttle system was developed and presented by Five Town Rural Transit, Inc. (5TRT), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving mass transit on the East End.

Through the efforts of Assemblyman Thiele, the five East End towns received a $360,000 grant from the New York State Department of State under its Shared Municipal Services Incentive Program (SMSI) to study a permanent rail/shuttle service. The state is funding 90 percent of the study.

“The East End has been underserved by mass transit since forever,” said Thiele. “With increased traffic congestion only getting worse, the need for increased rail and bus service is critical. This past year, we proved that residents will use trains and buses to get to work. More than 40,000 passengers utilized the South Fork Commuter Shuttle from October to June during the reconstruction of County Road 39. Now we need to take steps to make this service permanent. We need to know what schedules will work best, what new infrastructure will be needed and how much it will cost. When the state funded this study, it was with the understanding that we would start to answer these questions for the people of the East End. The study must focus on this point.”

Thiele, a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee expressed concern about the current status of the study.

“Thus far, the study has been centered on data gathering and existing conditions. A competent job has been done in this regard,” he said. “The next phase is critical. It involves selecting alternatives and evaluation of the alternatives. There has been growing concern about the lack of public outreach and the involvement of public officials in the study. I share this concern.”

Thiele added public involvement is critical to the success of providing the right kind of transportation services on the East End.

 “Every East End town and village and elected officials from all levels of government must be invested in this process if it is to succeed,” said Thiele. “Otherwise we will end up with another transportation study that simply ends up on the shelf. Implementing mass transit takes money. We must involve those state and federal officials who will have to produce the finding to implement this program. In short, this study needs to now move from the bowels of government bureaucracies and consultant offices into the light of day where everyone can participate in creating the East End’s new, innovative mass transit system.”

American Cancer Society: East End Honors

The American Cancer Society, eastern division honored East End’s own breast surgeon Edna Kapenhas-Valdes MD, with the Dr. of Distinction Award. Dr. Valdes was chosen based on her commitment to providing quality care to cancer patients residing on the East End of Long Island and her interest in making a difference in the lives of those affected by cancer. The Denim & Diamonds Gala to benefit the society was held at the Diamond Ranch in Watermill.

Other honorees included Congressmen Timothy Bishop, recipient of the Linda Jasper award in recognition of his leadership in the American Cancer Society’s advocacy efforts, Count and Countess De Lesseps, recipient of the G.E.M. award (Gratitude for Excellence in our Mission) for their influence in the community and their personal interest in the fight against cancer. Roy Scheider, television and screen actor was recognized posthumously with the memorial award for his personal fight against cancer.

“The Denim & Diamond Gala allows the American Cancer Society the opportunity to raise awareness about the significant programs and services available before, during and after a diagnosis of cancer,” said Sylvia A. Diaz, Regional Vice President for Suffolk County. “It is important for people to know we are here and can help.”

Proceeds from the gala support the programs and services offered to those residing in Suffolk County. One of the programs showcased at the event was the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge. Hope Lodge is a free residential facility for individuals undergoing cancer treatment and their caregiver. More than just lodging, Hope Lodge provides patients and their caregivers with a supportive environment and sense of community. Since Hope Lodge opened its doors in November of 2007, it has housed 814 guests, many of which reside on the East End of Long Island. 

“Hope Lodge New York City-this house of hope-was my home for two and a half months and I was welcomed with open arms,” said East End resident and Hope Lodge guest Wendy Chamberlain. “I felt immediate relief-I didn’t have to explain myself or my condition to anyone.  All the Hope Lodge residents understand each other without words.  Every day was a positive one.  I gained more inspiration and strength with every interaction I had at Hope Lodge.  Staying here has been an incredible gift.” 

In addition to lodging, guests also have access to communal kitchens, activity rooms, and laundry facilities and are invited to participate in American Cancer Society programs, special shared meals and yoga classes.  All Hope Lodge services-lodging and support programs-are offered completely free of charge.