Environment & Nature

By Heidi Sutton

The Village of Port Jefferson hosted its first annual Arbor Day Celebration on April 24. The event, organized by the newly formed Tree Committee members Anne Leahey and Avril Coakley, was attended by local officials and community members.

Port Jefferson Village Deputy Mayor and Commissioner of Environmental Sustainability Rebecca Kassay served as Master of Ceremony and introduced speakers Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine, New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood, Suffolk County Legislator Steve Englebright and Port Jefferson Village Mayor Lauren Sheprow. Former Mayor Sandra Swenk, Leahey and Port Jefferson Village Trustee Bob Juliano also spoke at the event.

Port Jefferson Village school District fifth grader Michael Viviano read a poem that he wrote for the occasion titled “The Tree Stands Tall” followed by the planting of two native trees — an American Hornbeam (Carbines Carolinians) and a Hackberry tree (Celtis Occidentalis) in the Maple Street parking lot.  All attendees were given a native tree or shrub sapling to plant in their own yards.

Reached after the event, Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Kassay said, “As Port Jefferson Village’s first Commissioner of Environmental Sustainability, I’ve been honored to bring together and galvanize our community’s tree enthusiasts. Last year, I helped to form the Village’s first Tree Committee with a group of residents who shared the goal of making PJV a “Tree City, USA” under the Arbor Day Foundation canopy. We have successfully worked towards this goal, including creating a budget line for tree plantings, and an annual Arbor Day event. Their work to plant trees this year will serve their neighbors for decades to come. Many thanks to all who came out to celebrate the planting of two new trees in the Village, our young poet laureate of the event, and the distribution of native tree and shrub saplings.”

Sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation and the NYS Urban Forestry Council, Port Jefferson Village is now one step closer to achieving a Tree City USA designation.

The NexTrex project flyer. Photo courtesy Town of Smithtown

By Sabrina Artusa

Earth Day, April 22, is a great day to renew an appreciation for the environment, from the waterfronts of Northport and Port Jefferson to lush parks like Avalon Nature Preserve and Blydenburgh. Let us all reexamine obligations to the natural world.

Taking advantage of the eco-friendly practices and resources offered by our towns is an important way to get involved in sustainability.

Recycling is a well-known strategy to reduce our environmental impact. However, due to lack of resources, inconvenience or distrust in programs, many people pass up the opportunity to decrease the 5 pounds of waste, on average, each of us produces every day.

According to 2019 statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, only 4% of plastics are recycled in the United States while 73% are sent to landfills. 

Mistrust in recycling systems is not wholly unfounded, as plastics are difficult to recycle given the many different types. However, the Town of Smithtown’s recent partnership with Trex Company, a manufacturing corporation that upcycles household plastics for railings and deck construction, offers an outlet for our unwanted plastics.

Trex accepts polyethylene plastic film, such as bubble wrap, produce bags, bread bags, Ziplocs, newspaper sleeves and any other stretchable plastics. The plastic will be classified as either low- or high-density polyethylene, distinctions indicated by the recycling symbols 2 and 4. A 4 indicates low-density PE and a 2 indicates high-density PE.

Trex also accepts plastic bags and shipping wrap — plastics that aren’t accepted in curbside recycling.

Residents can recycle their plastic films at a drop-off container at the Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park.

“With the NexTrex program, you know exactly where your recycled plastics are going and how they will be used,” said Mike Engelmann, Smithtown solid waste coordinator. 

Paying more attention to our consumption habits can also help decrease the amount of waste we produce. For instance, avoiding single-use plastics, paying attention to your municipalities recycling protocol, signing up for a beach cleanup and carpooling.

There are several local organizations that support sustainability. For example, Coastal Steward Long Island, located in Port Jefferson Station, holds programs to educate the community on how to preserve our shoreline and the organisms that live on our coasts. This environmental organization is hosting a beach cleanup April 26 at Smith Point Beach. 

In addition, Avalon Nature Preserve offers a plethora of programs aimed at increasing youth involvement in nature. 

Earth Day reminds us of what actions we can take to preserve the beautiful landscape around us. Smithtown’s NexTrex program can only help the cause.

The Three Village Dads Foundation organize efforts to restore the Merritt-Hawkins House in Setauket. Photo courtesy David Tracy

By Serena Carpino

Three Village Dads Foundation recently finished refurbishing the outside area of the Merritt-Hawkins House in East Setauket. The renovations of the 9-acre property cost about $40,000.

The house, located on Pond Path, was leased to the Three Village Dads in 2021, after Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) approached the organization about a partnership. In July 2022, Three Village Dads began fixing up the house and after two years of work, the outdoor renovations were complete. 

After Kornreich was first elected, he began to identify properties owned by the town that needed to be fixed up and looked for stewards to repair these areas. Kornreich said that he chose the Three Village Dads organization for this project because he “figured these guys are going to put on their New Balance sneakers, go out there, and cut vines and be dads in the backyard of this place and clean it up.” Kornreich continued, “It was a good match because there’s a lot of volunteers who like to do this kind of hands-on project.” 

The first step of the restoration was to clean up the trails that led to the vernal pond at the back of the property. Volunteers cleared brushes, put down wood chips and built a parking lot increasing the accessibility for members of the community. In addition, they placed signs around the property that identify different plants and other unique factors of the house. 

Although much of the work was done by volunteers, Three Village Dads also enlisted the help of outside companies. David Tracy, president of the organization explained that they “used [about 30] volunteers from the group for the first year. However, there was a lot of heavy lifting and work to be done, so we hired a few companies to help with the remaining work.” 

The foundation hired Clovis Outdoor Services, a Stony Brook tree company to remove old or rotted trees. In addition, JM Troffa Hardscape, a masonry and building supply company from East Setauket, provided Three Village Dads with the materials for the parking lot. Furthermore, Sheep Pasture Landscaping of Port Jefferson Station helped finish remodeling the trails. Tracy added that they “had a Boy Scout complete his Eagle Scout project on the property by installing our educational signs and building benches.”

The house is near to Nassakeag Elementary School, and Tracy and Kornreich hope that students and teachers will be able to take advantage of the trails through nature walks. There are over 15 educational signs meant for student use. 

“The house is connected to Nassakeag and we’re going to put a gate in between the two, so students from other parts of the district can take a bus and go on guided nature walks and educational walks. So, it’s good for students and it’s good for people that want to just get out into nature,” Kornreich said.

Tracy confirmed there will be public access to the property. 

Having completed the outdoor renovations, Three Village Dads hope to finish work on the inside of the house within the next two to three years. Tracy said that their goal is “to transform it into something similar to the historical society building, with a small museum.”

Kornreich will spearhead a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the house May 1 to commemorate the finished work around the outside. “The reality is that these guys do so many things to support the community and they never really do it for the publicity or the recognition, so I think it’s a really good opportunity to highlight the good work they did and thank them for all their hard work,” the councilmember said.

File photo by Raymond Jani

By Aramis Khosronejad

In March, nearly 50 Long Island projects, totaling $87 million, were approved in both the first and second tranche of appropriations bills that the U.S. Congress approved. 

U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY1) was able to secure monies to carry through these projects with other local congressmen, Andrew Garbarino (R-NY2) and Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY4), and Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). 

According to LaLota, after “months of relentless advocacy, including the crafting of detailed proposals and concerted efforts directed at members of the House Appropriations Committee,” they were finally able to integrate various initiatives and final appropriations bills. 

For some time now, the water infrastructure on Long Island has been brought into question and, by extension, the quality of water available for citizens. Suffolk County has seen protests over the past year concerning the basic right each citizen has to clean water [See story, “Suffolk County Legislature recesses, blocks referendum on wastewater fund,” July 27, 2023, TBR News Media]. The conflict has evolved into a political issue. 

The FY2024 Consolidated Appropriations Act passed with “overwhelming” bipartisan support in the House. LaLota described the local funding as “a significant milestone in our commitment to serving the people of Suffolk County.”

Included are the Town of Brookhaven’s Port Jefferson Harbor dredging and wave wall construction projects, for which $1.5 million has been secured. “This funding will cover the costs of much-needed structural improvements to maintain the harbor,” LaLota said.

The town will benefit from another sum of $1.5 million for sewer treatment facility expansion secured by Garbarino. The congressman also secured $2 million for a Suffolk County sewer expansion project.

A further $1.25 million has been secured by LaLota for the Suffolk County Water Authority’s Westhampton Water Main Extension project. Old Country Road in Westhampton, which serves as an area housing 64 homes and families, has long been identified by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services for polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, contamination. An allocation of the federal monies will be used to ensure access to clean, regularly tested drinking water for affected households.

Charlie Lefkowitz, chairman of Suffolk County Water Authority, emphasized that “clean drinking water is the right of every New Yorker but making these projects affordable is critical to giving access to that resource.” 

“Thanks to this funding we will soon be able to extend high-quality public water to these families, giving them peace of mind every time they turn on the tap,” he added. 

LaLota and Lefkowitz, along with their teams, continue to “maintain our unwavering commitment to addressing water quality issues and prioritizing the well-being of every Long Island family,” LaLota explained in an email. With the passing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the considerable federal funding that comes with it, the future of the water infrastructure on Long Island looks brighter.

Community members cleaned up at Stony Brook train station for Earth Day in 2023. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Heidi Sutton

Get involved with your community by taking part in one of the following Earth Day events this weekend.

Train Station Beautification Project

The Three Village Community Trust invites the community to join them in The Stony Brook Train Station Beautification Project on Saturday, April 27 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. for Earth Day. The group will be weeding, clearing fallen branches, removing litter, de-vining trees, and other tasks to beautify the Station. Bring your gloves and garden tools and enjoy refreshments music and more. For more information, call 631-942-4558.

Greenway Trail Cleanup

Volunteers are wanted for a Friends of the Greenway trail clean-up at the Port Jefferson Station trailhead (parking lot by Rte. 112/Hallock Avenue) on Saturday, April 27 starting at 9 a.m. If you can not make the Saturday event, any time during that week if you can stop by your favorite Greenway spot and do a quick clean-up is appreciated, 

Community Beach Cleanup

Gallery North in Setauket hosts a Community Beach Clean-Up at Flax Pond Tidal Wetland Area (15 Shore Drive, Old Field) on Saturday, April 27 and Smith Point Beach (1 William Floyd Parkway, Shirley) on Sunday, April 28. Each cleanup will be conducted in two shifts starting at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. each day.  Held rain or shine. Pre-registration is encouraged by visiting www.gallerynorth.org. 631-751-2676

SWR 2024 Earth Day Cleanup

The Wading River Shoreham Chamber of Commerce invites the community to  participate in an Earth Day Clean-up event on Sunday, April 28 from 9 a.m. to noon. Meet at The Shoppes at East Wind, 5768 Route 25A, Wading River for a day of environmental stewardship. Supplies will be provided or feel free to bring you own. Community service credits available. This event is rain or shine. Sign up www.wadingrivershorehamchamber.com.

Volunteer Open House

Hallockville Museum Farm, 6038 Sound Ave., Riverhead will hold a Volunteer Recruitment and Orientation Day on Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteer roles include gardening, helping to organize and staff special events, maintaining the buildings and grounds, serving as tour docents, arranging and leading educational and children’s activities and adult workshops and assisting with marketing and fundraising. To register, email [email protected].

Send your News Around Town to [email protected]

Photo from TOB

On Arbor Day, Friday, April 26, the Town of Brookhaven will hold its annual tree seedling, mulch and compost give away in the South Parking Lot of Brookhaven Town Hall, located at 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. It’s all part of the Town’s “Greening Brookhaven” initiative.

Mulch and compost are available in bulk only, so residents must bring shovels and containers to load it into their vehicles. Free paper leaf bags and paper recycling bins will also be available free to residents at this event. All items will be distributed on a first come, first served basis while supplies last. Free seedlings available are Black Cherry, River Birch, Silver Maple, White Pine, Red Osier Dogwood, Ninebark, Witch Hazel and Beach Plum.

Residents of Brookhaven Town may also pick up free mulch and compost at the following Town facilities:

  • Brookhaven Town Hall, South Parking Lot, One Independence Hill in Farmingville (residents only)
  • Monday – Friday from 9:00 am to 7:30 pm and Saturday-Sunday 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Percy Raynor Park, Route 347 and Belle Mead Road in South Setauket (residents only)
    Monday – Friday from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Rose Caracappa Center, 739 Route 25A in Mt. Sinai (residents only)Monday – Friday from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Brookhaven Landfill, 350 Horseblock Road in Brookhaven Hamlet (residents only) Monday – Friday from 7:00 am to 2:45 pm and Saturday from 7:00 am to 12:00 noon.
  • Manorville Compost Facility, Papermill Road in Manorville (residents and commercial) Monday – Friday from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm (Closed for lunch 11:50 am – 12:30 pm)
  • Holtsville Ecology Site, 249 Buckley Road in Holtsville (residents only) Monday – Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
  • Robert E. Reid, Sr. Recreation Center, Rte. 25A and Defense Hill Road in Shoreham (residents only) Monday – Friday from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Commercial vehicles are permitted only at the Manorville Compost Facility, where a fee of $12 per yard will be charged

For more information, call 631-451-TOWN or visit the Town website.

 

The Town of Smithtown Department of Environment and Waterways and Municipal Services Facility collected over 20 tons of waste at the Earth Day Hazardous Household Waste event this past weekend. On Saturday, April 20th, 2024, 604 households within the Township participated in safely disposing of thousands of pounds of toxic items, which are prohibited in regular curbside waste pickups.

“As we celebrate Earth Day, there is no greater impact that residents can have on protecting our local environment than responsibly disposing of potentially hazardous chemicals and products through the Town’s household hazardous waste collection events. Proper use and disposal of these items helps to protect our drinking water, air and natural resources while helping the Town to maintain high quality parks, recreational facilities, roads and waterways for all residents to enjoy.   It is our hope that residents consider using safer and environmentally friendly alternatives for use in and around the home”. – Michael P. Engelmann, P.G. Solid Waste Coordinator

Smithtown Municipal Services Facility employees worked in conjunction with MSF staff, Public Safety Fire Marshalls, DEW staff and Reworld (formerly known as Covanta) staff supplementing the work by Radiac (the Hazardous Household Waste contractor), Environmental Director David Barnes and Solid Waste Coordinator Mike Engelmann to provide a safe and efficient service to residents.

A portion of the wastes collected for manifested disposal include: mercury, waste oil based paints/ flammable paints, gasoline, paint thinners, waste gases, petroleum distillates, flammable solids, oxidizers liquids and solids, sodium/potassium nitrates, acids, corrosives, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, misc. toxic liquids (i.e. Chlordane, etc.) and solids, lacquers, lithium batteries, battery acids and various other toxic compounds.

Reworld (formerly known as Covanta) provided $5 Home Depot gift cards to over 130 residents for recycling potentially dangerous lithium-ion and other batteries, propane tanks and mercury containing devices thereby preventing these harmful items from curbside disposal.  101 propane tanks were recovered at the event. The most recorded from a single collection event. Reusable bags were also provided to interested residents.

The next Household Hazardous Waste collection events are scheduled for July 14th, 2024 and October 5th, 2024. Hazardous Household Waste collection events are for Smithtown Township residents only. Proof of residency will be confirmed upon entry.

DID YOU KNOW?:

Residents can also dispose of electronic waste, free of charge, at the Town Recycling Center located at 85 Old Northport Road. Electronic waste, such as computers, printers, TV’s, monitors, automotive and household batteries, can be dropped off during regular hours for proper recycling.

FREE MULCH: Mulch is also available free of charge to residents. Smithtown residents can line up for pre-packaged bags of mulch with a maximum of 10 bags per visit. We offer free loading of loose mulch into your pick-up or dump truck. A cover is required.

The Smithtown Municipal Services Facility is located at 85 Old Northport Road in Kings Park, NY.

Regular Operating Hours: Monday through Saturday from 7:00 AM to 3:15 PM

Austin Williams, an award-winning full-service advertising agency, celebrated Earth Day in style by hosting its second annual, building-wide Spring Clothing Swap at AW’s headquarters at 80 Arkay Drive on April 18.

“The fast fashion industry produces over 92 million tons of textile waste every year, causing detrimental damage to our environment,” said Eva LaMere, president of Austin Williams. “What better way to decrease textile waste and raise awareness for sustainable practices than by creating our own thrift store – right here in our office building? Plus, it’s a fun way to build community and get everyone involved.”

Employees of Austin Williams and fellow corporations located at 80 Arkay Drive were encouraged to bring gently used clothing that needed a new home. Then, members of Austin Williams’ Culture Committee “set up shop,” creating a clothing display in the building’s café, where employees came to shop and find some new pieces for their wardrobes.

After the swap, all remaining clothes were donated to Long Island Lending A Helping Hand (LILAHH), a food pantry and community center serving low-income and food-insecure neighbors in Rocky Point.

“This is our second consecutive year hosting the Clothing Swap, and we are thrilled that so many people were willing to donate their clothes and show their dedication to protecting our environment,”  said Victoria Hilton and Courtney Stuber, senior digital analyst and digital data analyst at Austin Williams and both co-creators of the swap. “This year, we saved more than 200 items of clothing and donated 10 bags of gently used clothing to fellow Long Islanders in need, which is a huge accomplishment not only for Austin Williams but for our entire building!”

— Photos courtesy of Austin Williams

About Austin Williams

Austin Williams is a full-service advertising, marketing, digital, and public relations firm that creates ideas that inspire action for clients in the healthcare, higher education, financial services, and professional services industries. Certified as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE) by the State of New York, the Long Island-based firm was founded in 1992 and was named one of the 100 fastest-growing agencies in the nation. In 2023, it was listed as “Best Advertising Agency” by Long Island Business News in their “Reader Ranking Awards,” and in 2020 was named a Newsday “Top Places to Work.”

Pixabay photo

By John L. Turner

John Turner

Oh those lighter-than-air balloons! As the helium gas inside seeps away, causing them to lose their buoyancy, they come back to earth and their deflated outlines appear everywhere —  in natural places such as fields, forests, and the island’s wave-lapped shorelines — and human constructed landscapes like dangling from utility lines, even the support wires of traffic lights. Sometimes they’re single balloons tethered with nylon string, other times they’re in bunches — a half dozen or more tied together. Some find their way to the ground while more entangle themselves amidst tree branches.  

While most have generic messages, like the “Happy Birthday Princess” balloon I recently found in a hike in the Pine Barrens with 30 6th grade students, if they have a message at all, in a few cases I’ve been able to tell the original purpose of the balloon purchase: a Happy 40th Birthday to Beth! exclaimed one mylar balloon, dangling from a young understory oak tree while another mylar balloon announced “Todd’s 3rd Birthday” with a triangular cake wedge adorned with three candles. As these examples illustrate, buoyant balloons have become a common, unwelcome, and  unfortunate, presence in the environment.  

Photo by John Turner

The ubiquitous presence of balloons in the environment has real consequences beyond forming unsightly litter, and these effects are felt most acutely by marine animals — sea turtles, cetaceans (whales and dolphins), and a wide variety of seabirds. Websites, both governmental ones such as the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and conservation organizations like Ocean Conservancy, contain countless photos of dead sea turtles and stranded whales and dolphins, all having perished from ingesting  balloons, mistaking them for food. 

This deceit is especially telling for leatherback sea turtles for which jellyfish comprise a significant part of their diet. Compare photos of a deflated balloon floating on the ocean’s surface with a jellyfish and it’s easy to see why a sea turtle might easily mistake a balloon for an easy-to-capture meal. Well, mistake them they all too often do, with fatal results, when the balloon lodges in their digestive tract. The same results often occur with larger mammals. 

With marine birds entanglement, not ingestion, is the main cause of death. Tassels of long  string which ties balloons together are often made of nylon or other material which is  slow to degrade, easily wrapping around a seabird’s wings, neck, feet, or bill as it floats on the water.      

Photo by John Turner

There are two basic types of lighter-than-air balloons — latex and mylar. Both pose risks to wildlife: in the case of latex, a threat for many years, and for mylar many decades. Not surprisingly, balloon manufacturers have long claimed that balloon releases pose no risk to wildlife and the environment, and that latex balloons, especially, are biodegradable. This is a fact not borne out both by objective experiments and numerous observations. In fact, the biodegradable claims are largely an example of greenwashing (when a company presents a more environmentally favorable view of its activities than is warranted).  

A 1989 balloon industry study contended that most balloons pose no risk since they rise in the atmosphere to the point they burst due to low air pressure, creating “harmless” pieces of rubber, and those that don’t burst are so few as to be dispersed in a density of about one balloon per every 15 square miles (about a four mile square). From my anecdotal experience hiking and traveling around Long Island, the density of balloon landings is significantly greater than that, more like several balloons per square mile, an observational density borne out by coastal clean-ups.  

For example, according to a press account in a local paper, “the Eastern Long  Island Chapter of the Surfrider Organization collected 774 balloons on 38 beaches from June 2017 to December 2018.” Further, a New York Sea Grant newsletter indicated that in 2016 coastal clean-ups in the mid-Atlantic states produced 8,400 balloons and balloon fragments. 

Photo by John Turner

According to NOAA’s website: “In 2014, 236 volunteers found over 900 balloons in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia in a three-hour period. Recent surveys of remote islands on Virginia’s Eastern Shore documented up to 40 balloons per mile of beach.” Closer to home, a 2018 clean-up involving 33 volunteers at Jones Beach alone picked up 308 balloons or pieces of balloons. 

A colleague, Pete Osswald, to whom I was recently chatting with about the problem balloons pose to wildlife, sent me a comment which is especially illustrative of the problem: “I have been navigating the waters around Long Island both inshore and offshore for over 50 years as a fisherman and Seatown boat captain. I have seen many things both wondrous and appalling. One of the intolerable sights that bothers me the most is the abundance of balloons I see floating in the water on a daily basis. I had hopes for the problem being remedied a few decades back when there was an apparent push for educating the public about the dangers to marine life from releasing balloons. Unfortunately the defiling has become worse There are slick calm days out on the ocean where I see scores of downed launched balloons floating like foreboding headstones of the unwitting turtles and marine mammals that consume them.” 

All these observations and findings suggest a density a bit greater than one balloon every four square miles, don’t you think?  

Lawmakers have responded to the issue. Many municipalities throughout the country have enacted bans on the intentional release of balloons as have several Long Island municipalities. To its credit, the Suffolk County Legislature in September 2019 passed a law sponsored by then Legislator Sarah Anker banning the release of lighter-than-air balloons and requiring businesses which sell these items to post a statement indicating that intentional release of balloons is prohibited in the County; the County Executive soon signed it into law and it became a revised Chapter 310 of the Suffolk County Code.   

Several states have enacted release bans with Florida poised to become the next. Legislation has been introduced in New York State over the past several sessions but, to date, there’s been no action on the bills. 

Another problem with lighter-than-air balloons, especially mylar balloons which have a metallic coating, is contact with high voltage power lines. Contact can cause an explosion often shorting out electrical power. If you type in “Balloons Exploding on Powerlines” in the search box of the YouTube website you can see videos of such events. 

Some organizations think “release bans” don’t go far enough as it is impossible to monitor such behavior; rather supporting a prohibition on the sale of lighter-than-air balloons, understandably believing a ban on purchase is a much more effective strategy than banning their release.  

Many environmentally benign alternatives exist to replace balloons during special events. The “Balloon Blows” website lists the following options: streamers, kites, pinwheels, garden spinners, flags, ribbon dancers, bubble blowers, and inflatable, weighed-down characters.  

There is an old Greek adage, paraphrased here: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” While there are no shortage of malevolent acts intended to kill wildlife — the sickening, still legal use of leghold traps for trapping foxes, muskrats, skunks, and weasels on Long Island, comes to mind — the “stupidity” involved, to soften it a bit, is more often the purview of ignorance or thoughtlessness. 

The logical inference of this is if people knew the consequence of their thoughtless acts would be to cause animal suffering and death, they would not have acted this way in the first place.  This perspective gives great credence to the phrase as it relates to lighter-than-air balloons —“Say no to letting it go.” Better yet, in recognition of the countless wildlife species that make up the living fabric of our oceans, let’s commit on this Earth Day, to not buying lighter-than-air balloons. 

A resident of Setauket, author John L. Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

Photo from Gallery North

By Tara Mae

Beach trash becomes community treasure when Gallery North partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island, Atlantic Marine Conservancy, and Center for Environmental Education and Discovery (CEED) to sponsor beach cleanups at the Flax Pond Tidal Wetland Area, 15 Shore Drive, Old Field on Saturday, April 27, and Smith Point Beach, 1 William Floyd Parkway,  Shirley on Sunday, April 28. 

Each clean-up will be conducted in two shifts starting at 9 a.m. and 10:30 am each day. Atlantic Marine Conservancy will provide 50 buckets and trash pickers to volunteers on a first come, first serves basis. 

The cleanups are the brainchild of artist Jack D’Ambrosio, a native of Shirley, who will upcycle gathered plastic garbage into a found object sculpture. With the presentation of repurposed refuse, he hopes to bring awareness to the ongoing dangers of plastic pollution.

“Art is a great way to spread a message and support a cause,” he said. 

Primarily a printmaker, beach cleanups are just one element of D’Ambrosio’s interest in supporting communities through artistic expression. His artistry is immersed in an awareness of illuminating social issues by centering often overlooked subjects. While previous print projects have incorporated found plastic, he has never worked on a sculpture of this scale before. Such an undertaking of reinvention offers D’Ambrosio the chance to create poetic permanence out of problematic potential, an outcome that intrigues Gallery North. 

“The beach cleanup is an opportunity for Gallery North to impact and beautify the community in a different way,” Executive Director Ned Puchner said. “We have never done anything like this before…beyond that, we will be helping to preserve the ecology of the area, making the waterways and beaches cleaner.”

Once the trash has been amassed, D’Ambrosio will sort it and share the loot on Gallery North’s social media. After properly disposing of the non-plastic items, he will clean the plastic articles for the sculpture, the design of which has yet to take shape. 

“I am waiting to see what we find,” D’Ambrosio explained.  Intended to be a permanent installation, the sculpture’s final home is also yet to be determined. “This is a project of many partners, and once plans are drawn up, I will collaborate with one of them to find a location for the piece,” he added. 

A recipient of Gallery North’s 2023 Carmela Kolman Fellowship in Fine Art, in his application D’Ambrosio initially proposed the cleanup and its culmination. 

“Jack shared his desire to involve the community in a beach clean up when he applied for the fellowship and that excited the committee…We were moved by the conceptual aspect of Jack’s work. His idea to use art to educate the community on stewardship interested us,” Gallery North Education Director Larissa Grass said. 

At its core, the beach cleanup/sculpture exercise underscores the need for individual engagement and interpersonal cooperation to ensure the environment and art do not just survive, but thrive. 

“During the pandemic, I went to the beach seeking inspiration. Instead I found garbage. This experience made me want to do something with it, since it will never, ever go away,” D’Ambrosio said. “…I really encourage people to come join us on this journey.”

The clean-ups will be a rain or shine event. Pre-registration is encouraged by visiting www.gallerynorth.org. For more information, call 631-751-2676.