New York State Government

Gov. Kathy Hochul updates New Yorkers on Saturday, Sept. 30, the day after declaring a state of emergency for Long Island. Photo courtesy the New York State Executive Chamber

Flash flooding leveled much of the tri-state area last Friday, Sept. 29, prompting a state of emergency declaration for Long Island while unleashing damage and halting some services.

The National Weather Service issued a coastal flood watch for Long Island Friday, which remained in effect into the night. Heavy rainfall and intense flooding throughout the region prompted Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to declare a state of emergency for Long Island, as well as for New York City and portions of the Hudson Valley.

Heavy flooding caused roadway closures at state Route 110 in Huntington between Mill Lane and Prime Avenue near Madison Street at Heckscher State Park, according to a NWS report. In Commack, a stranded motorist on Town Line Road required an emergency service response, the same report indicated.

In an emailed statement, Town of Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth (R) maintained that much of the town’s infrastructure and services remained undisturbed despite the heavy rainfall.

“Highway Superintendent Andre Sorrentino and the Highway Department, along with our Environmental Waste Management Department, were out in full force with pumps and tree crews clearing and cleaning,” Smyth said. “Our sewage treatment plants received more than double their normal water flow without any reported spillage.”

He added that garbage collection continued as scheduled, though the storm had disrupted and canceled numerous local events. “However, normal government operations continued without interruption. Although there were no significant issues, the town is currently assessing all departments to determine any and all issues relating to the storm.”

Joana Flores, media liaison for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, indicated that operations along the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Jefferson Branch were largely undeterred.

“Friday’s weather event did not have any impact on MTA infrastructure in the Port Jefferson area or to Port Jefferson train service,” Flores said. “With the exception of one train that was momentarily delayed due to a non-weather-related matter, the Port Jefferson Branch operated on or close to schedule.”

“Crews did perform periodic patrols of the Port Jefferson Branch to monitor conditions of the infrastructure,” she added.

Electrical infrastructure had similarly avoided major damages, according to Jeremy Walsh, a spokesperson for PSEG Long Island. “Friday’s flooding did not impact the electric infrastructure,” he said in an email. “Overall, the system performed well. While we did experience scattered outage activity, it was mainly as a result of the heavy rains and gusty conditions impacting trees and tree limbs, not flood damage.”

Given projections for more frequent and intense storm events over the coming years, Walsh added that the utility company is continuing efforts toward mitigating the associated risks to the electrical grid.

“PSEG Long Island has been storm-hardening the electric grid since 2014, including elevating equipment at some substations to protect against flooding, and this has helped reduce the impact of severe weather events,” he noted. “We continue to storm-harden the infrastructure using the best projections for future flooding and wind conditions that are available to us.”

The storm’s impacts were not limited to public infrastructure, however. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation temporarily closed much of the North Shore to shellfishing due to “extremely heavy rainfall and extraordinary amounts of stormwater runoff and localized street flooding … which may result in conditions causing shellfish to be hazardous for use as food,” a NYSDEC report said.

At a press conference the following day, Sept. 30, Hochul announced that there had been no recorded fatalities due to the flooding, thanking the public for heeding emergency warnings.

“What had been described by myself as a potentially life-threatening event ended up being a time when people listened, they reacted properly, they took precautions and no lives were lost,” the governor said.

METRO photo

By Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Members of the community have been inquiring about how the courts have dealt with their calendars for personal injury cases caused mainly by motor vehicle accidents during more recent variants of COVID-19. Clients are naturally concerned about their health and the progress of their personal injury cases. 

Moreover, people who have gotten into various types of accidents while last year’s Omicron variant was raging wonder if they, or we, should be doing anything different. Finally, with the recent uptick in COVID-19 reported by the media, we are receiving additional inquiries of this nature over the summer. 

Just ‘how open’ were the courts before the Omicron variant became widespread?

Before the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus became prevalent, the courts in Suffolk County and throughout the state were beginning to “open up” and conduct “in person” appearances for conferences and other matters. 

Trials started when these appearances became more commonplace and seemingly conducted without danger to the court personnel, litigants, and lawyers. First, the court scheduled criminal trials in cases with incarcerated defendants, and then serious felony trials began in the fall of 2021. 

Next, the court started trying civil cases as a backlog of personal injury accident trials had developed. The judges throughout the state were encouraged to reduce the backlog, as it is well known that personal injury cases arising out of car accidents, slip and fall incidents, and medical malpractice usually settle only when a trial is about to begin. Therefore, the need to schedule trials became essential. 

What happened to trials that were scheduled before the Omicron variant became widespread? 

Just as civil trials for personal injury cases were beginning to be held with little or no noticeable spread of the virus, by the end of 2021, the Omicron variant hit New York State and most of the country. 

Several personal injury trials had been completed by jury verdict or settlement in Suffolk County; however, as 2022 began, the Omicron variant caused a pause in starting most civil personal injury trials. While a few such cases proceeded to trial while Omicron was spreading, the cases that involved several parties, such as multi-car accident matters, were postponed until the variant subsided.

What is the status of personal injury cases as of the Summer of 2023? 

Despite the emergence of the apparent new strain of COVID-19, the entire country clearly is enduring its spread. Whether it is a result of the vaccines, people developing immunity, or the availability of medications, most cases seem to be relatively mild. As a result, the courts are operating as they were in 2019, and trials are proceeding in virtually all personal injury cases. 

Needless to say, if you have a case pending or were involved in an accident that caused personal injury, be sure to keep in touch with your lawyer or consult with an attorney if you haven’t done so already, as no one can predict how new variants of the virus will evolve. 

According to epidemiologist Nathan Grubaugh of Yale University, “Delta was never going to be the last variant—and Omicron is not going to be the last one, as long as there is a COVID-19 outbreak somewhere in the world, there is going to be something new that emerges.” 

Shannon L. Malone, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket. She graduated from Touro Law, where she wrote and served as an editor of the Touro Law Review. Ms. Malone is a proud Stony Brook University alumna.

Photo courtesy Peter Gollon
By Peter Gollon

I commend this newspaper for its thorough and balanced Sept. 14 and Sept. 21 articles on the proposed conversion of the Long Island Power Authority into a fully municipal utility that would directly operate the electrical transmission and distribution system that it has owned for decades.

LIPA, which is the country’s third largest municipal utility, is legally required now to outsource its operation to another entity. Right now that is PSEG Long Island. Before that, it was National Grid.

LIPA’s staff of 60 experienced utility professionals supervises PSEGLI’s performance according to metrics taking 207 pages to outline. Each year, LIPA pays PSEGLI $80 million for just 18 executives to plan and direct the 2,500-line call center and other workers whose pay is provided by LIPA. That’s more than $4 million for each PSEGLI-supplied executive.

There is considerable overlap between the top PSEGLI staff and the LIPA staff that supervises and grades PSEGLI’s performance. Both the Legislative Commission on the Future of the Long Island Power Authority and LIPA agree that if LIPA hired a dozen more staffers, it could run the system itself, dispensing with PSEGLI’s management and saving about $75 million each year.

This savings would be real, even if PSEGLI were doing a good job. But it hasn’t been. Their performance in storm restoration after Tropical Storm Isaias in 2020 was so bad, and their reports on the causes of the failure of the outage management system were so dishonest, that LIPA considered PSEGLI to be in default of their contract.

Beyond PSEGLI’s shortcomings, the problem is the structure of the unique and convoluted “hybrid” system itself. Besides the extra cost, the inefficiency of this two-headed structure is why LIPA is the only large municipal utility in the country to be operated this way.

As a LIPA trustee for five years, I saw the difficulties, delays and expense that this structure results in. For example, it required three months and a resolution voted by the LIPA Board directing PSEGLI to develop and implement an accurate and modern asset management system for the billions of dollars of LIPA-owned assets before PSEGLI would take such action.

The delays and inefficiency of this management structure do not show up as a specific dollar cost in LIPA’s budget, but they are there and impede LIPA’s adaptation to the new reality of stronger storms and a faster transition to a renewable energy system.

LIPA needs the simple, common municipal utility structure recommended by the state’s Legislative Commission. The Board of Trustees should be reorganized so some trustees are appointed by both Suffolk and Nassau County executives, rather than now where all the trustees are appointed by the state’s political leadership in Albany.

Locally appointed trustees should give LIPA needed credibility with its Long Island customer base and might make it more responsive to local concerns. In recent years, there has been significant hostility resulting from inadequate understanding by both PSEGLI and LIPA of the impact of changes in tariffs, and from the location and details of new facilities or even just taller and thicker poles.

Finally, one trustee should be named by the union — IBEW Local 1049 — representing the utility’s workforce to ensure that their interests are represented at the highest level.

The legal structure in which the workforce is actually housed is critical. Their transfer from PSEGLI to LIPA must be done in a way that continues their employment under federal labor jurisdiction and preserves their well-earned pension rights. Any proposal that might put them under weaker state labor jurisdiction and possibly jeopardize their pensions has no chance of passing the Legislature, nor should it.

Long Islanders should support this once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix a broken utility structure.

The writer served on the Long Island Power Authority Board of Trustees from 2016 to 2021.

Public domain photo

The debate over the future of Long Island’s electrical grid picked up last week, Sept. 14, at the Nassau County legislative building, with officials, utility staff and members of the public offering competing visions.

The Legislative Commission on the Future of the Long Island Power Authority is a bipartisan panel of state legislators from Long Island and the Rockaways formed in 2022 to consider the potential municipalization of LIPA after its management agreement with PSEG Long Island expires in December 2025.


Chief among the concerns outlined during the hearing was public accountability by members of the LIPA Board.

Under the existing appointment structure, the New York State governor appoints five of the nine members, with the Legislature selecting the remaining four.

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor) suggested this appointment structure could change. “All of those appointments are made by individuals that don’t live on Long Island,” he said. “There has always been the consideration that there should be more local say about the governance of LIPA.”

But achieving that degree of local oversight remains an open question. Michael Menser, associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center, proposed creating a stakeholder advisory committee to make recommendations to the LIPA Board.

“We think a committee stakeholder board — possibly working with an independent research institute or observatory, supporting a fully public utility — could make this transition happen in a way that is speedy, democratic and beneficial both economically and ecologically,” he said.

Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, suggested that the county and city governments within LIPA’s service area should make appointments to the board.

“In some ways, there is an argument that some state appointments make sense as it’s a state entity,” Madden said. “But there should be more input or appointments from local jurisdictions.”

“There could be a situation where the governor gets appointments, the Senate and Assembly get appointments, the Nassau County executive working with the Legislature gets appointments, and the same with Suffolk,” he added.


Thiele said the commission had explored an elective LIPA Board in its first round of hearings but backtracked on this idea, favoring an appointed board instead.

“Especially when you’re talking about [the] National Labor Relations Act,” an appointed board “would better serve to protect labor,” the assemblyman said.

Madden nonetheless supported greater local oversight over the appointment process.

“Our recommendations are just to ensure that there is robust community participation and more local decision-making in whatever appointment process that we determine,” he said.

Tom Falcone, LIPA’s CEO, had attended the Nassau meeting and pushed back on earlier testimony from PSEGLI vice president of external affairs Christopher Hahn, who suggested that the friction between the two utilities creates checks and balances. [See story, “LIPA and PSEGLI wrestle for control over Long Island’s electrical grid,” Sept. 14, TBR News Media website.]

“There aren’t supposed to be checks and balances in management,” Falcone said. “Checks and balances at the management level means a lack of accountability of the vendor. It means the vendor can check what the board wants,” adding, “I think, fundamentally, the problem is that you have one vendor, and they can’t be fired.”

Other input

Luis Vazquez, president and CEO of the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber does not support the municipalization proposal due to the commission’s perceived lack of public outreach and education.

“Half of the problem is educating our communities and chambers,” he said. “So, if we don’t get the message and we don’t know what we’re voting on, I’d rather just not take a position.”

Guy Jacob, an at-large delegate of the Sierra Club, said his organization’s national, state and Long Island chapters all support municipalization.

“This so-called public-private partnership is unique among municipal electric utilities in the U.S., and the time is now at hand to terminate this decades-long, failed anomaly,” he said. “The moment has come to terminate the tyranny of shareholders over ratepayers.”

Jacob pointed to a perceived lack of alignment between the profit interests of the electric service provider and the LIPA customers, adding that “redundant” management positions within LIPA and PSEGLI add unnecessary costs for utility power.

Conversations over the restructuring of LIPA remain ongoing. To view the commission’s meetings, visit Written testimony can be submitted at

Sound Beach residents and public officials rally outside the hamlet’s post office on New York Avenue Wednesday, Sept. 6. Photo by Sabrina Artusa
By Sabrina Artusa

Sound Beach’s residents and political representatives are fed up over the prolonged closure of the hamlet’s post office on New York Avenue, which has been closed for repairs since May.

New York State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), among others, rallied outside the post office Wednesday, Sept. 6, putting pressure on the U.S. Postal Service and the property owner to expedite reopening of the complex.

Some 15 weeks ago, the Brooklyn-based property owner of the building posted a sign on the door informing of its immediate but temporary closure. Sound Beach residents, blindsided by the abruptness, were forced to wait over a week to receive mail from nearby offices.

The private property owner has largely been unreceptive to attempts to reach out, according to Chad Lennon, a representative of U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1).

“We’ve been communicating,” Lennon said. “We haven’t seen reciprocation.”

USPS replied once, informing LaLota that they expected the landowner to make repairs and reopen the post office by Sept. 8. Despite this, the property owner hasn’t filed any permits for work on the building to date. Needless to say the office was not opened on Sept. 8.

The town is prepared to conduct an analysis of the building, along with repairs, when permitted. There are “building engineers on staff to come in this building and know right away what it needs to be up to code,” Palumbo said. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”

Palumbo suggested the landowner is “slow walking” the process while continuing to get rent from the federal government.

“You should not have to pay for services you don’t get,” Romaine said. “Just as the federal government shouldn’t pay taxes for a building that’s closed.”

Palumbo, meanwhile, considered the town “the most important entity” in prompting action and incurring change.

“The owners of this property need to be held accountable and held responsible to do the right thing,” Bonner said. “Bring this post office back to the residents and the community of Sound Beach.”

Some residents had time-sensitive packages, such as medication, that they were not receiving. One woman said that the contents had melted by the time she did received her package.

“We walked by one day, and it was closed,” said Patty Blasberg, who has lived in Sound Beach for 33 years. “That should be public knowledge,” adding that the post office closure “is detrimental to our community.”

Many in attendance, including Bonner, said that in a small hamlet like Sound Beach, the post office is vital to the “community’s identity.”

Blasberg said she always enjoyed the social aspect of going to the post office, where she could see her neighbors. “We want the community to thrive,” she said. “You can’t do that without a post office.”

According to Shirley Smith, another Sound Beach resident, the post office has needed repairs for a while and mentioned a leaking ceiling.

Photo by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Long Island’s two primary utility companies are in a tug-of-war over the region’s electric future.

A management contract between the New York State-owned Long Island Power Authority and the investor-owned utility company PSEG Long Island expires in December 2025, prompting uncertainty over the future management of the regional grid.

The Legislative Commission on the Future of the Long Island Power Authority is a bipartisan panel of state legislators from Long Island, formed in 2022 to make recommendations to the state Legislature for future reorganization.

Conflict erupted during the commission’s public hearing at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge Tuesday, Sept. 12, during which LIPA and PSEGLI reps offered disparate visions.

Municipalization proposal

The legislative commission is considering implementing a full-scale municipalization of utility power on Long Island, empowering LIPA to provide electric service independently without contracting with a third-party vendor, such as PSEGLI.

During the hearing, Tom Falcone, LIPA’s CEO, addressed the commission, noting the complications of overlapping responsibilities between the separate management hierarchies of LIPA and PSEGLI.

“There is not one best governance model … but there are governance models that could result in duplicative roles and responsibilities or unnecessary conflict,” he said. “Multiple overlapping bodies with similar responsibilities can frustrate customers with a lack of clarity and accountability, much like our hybrid management structure between LIPA and PSEG.”

Falcone advised that consolidating management positions within LIPA would enable the state to reduce total management personnel by roughly 13 senior positions.

Falcone added that municipalization would deliver greater accountability from the electric service provider, empowering the LIPA Board to replace senior officials who fail to perform.

“The board can fire me,” the LIPA CEO indicated. “I can’t fire PSEG,” adding, “If PSEG is not delivering, we litigate and we hold back money.”

Checks and balances

But PSEGLI refused to go down without a fight, countering Falcone’s assessment of the existing dynamic between the two utilities.

Christopher Hahn, vice president of external affairs at PSEGLI, advocated for the existing public-private partnership between LIPA and PSEGLI.

“There’s real, built-in accountability to the public-private partnership,” he said. “It is something that has been working for Long Islanders and will continue to work for Long Islanders.”

Hahn maintained that the public-private partnership gives Long Island “the best of both worlds,” maximizing the potential for each utility company while creating checks and balances between LIPA and PSEGLI.

“Having a municipally owned grid gives us the benefit of that low [interest] bonding and, of course, access to [Federal Emergency Management Agency] funds in the event that we have storms,” he said. “And then having the private company and being held accountable.”

He added that accountability for PSEGLI is built into its contract structure, which is only 40% guaranteed. He maintained that PSEGLI continues to rank highly in reliability and customer satisfaction.

“Those are things that came here because of the public-private partnership, because of the push-pull between PSEG and LIPA,” he said.

Conversations over the restructuring of LIPA will continue this week as the commission is scheduled to meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, at the Nassau County Legislature in Mineola. To livestream the meeting, visit Register on-site to testify. Written testimony can be submitted at Other September meetings are due to be held at The Rockaways, Southampton and Farmingdale State College.

Labor leader Joseph James Ettor (1885-1948) speaks in Union Square during the Brooklyn barbers’ strike of 1913. Public domain photo
By Aramis Khosronejad

Amid Labor Day celebrations, Long Island is working through a labor shortage crisis, according to New York State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead), a member of the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Labor.

Like much of New York state, Suffolk County is navigating through various labor challenges such as its relatively high unemployment rate, lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, high cost of living and rising inflation. 

Labor shortages

According to the 2023 Long Island Economic Survey, “We are in the midst of one of the nation’s biggest labor crises on record, with significant labor shortages affecting all industries and geographies.” 

In an interview, Giglio expressed her concerns for Long Island’s labor, suggesting “a lot of businesses [are] putting up help wanted signs and looking for somebody to fill these positions.” 

This July, according to the New York State Department of Labor’s Jobs and Labor Force press release, the unemployment rate in New York state “held constant at 3.9%. The comparable rate for the U.S. was 3.5%.” 

When asked whether she would consider the current labor shortage a crisis, Giglio replied, “Absolutely, it is a crisis.”

Post-pandemic recovery

The Long Island workforce is still feeling the long-term impacts of the pandemic, according to Giglio. She said much of the financial hardships were brought on by malfeasance.

“I think there was a lot of money that was stolen from the state by unemployment, fraud, and people [who] were finding ways to live less expensively,” Giglio said. Additionally, “Businesses are really struggling to stay afloat.”

Cost of living

Attributing a cause to growing labor shortages, Giglio offered that fewer young people are staying put. 

“It seems as though the kids that are getting out of college are finding different states to live in and different states where they can get meaningful jobs,” she said. “The high cost of living in New York and the jobs that are available are not able to sustain life here in New York, especially on Long Island.”


While the high standard of living in New York may be one factor contributing to labor shortages on Long Island, stagnating wages present yet another barrier.

The founder of Long Island Temps, Robert Graber, explained the complications of wages and inflation. 

“Wages have gone up, but inflation is outpacing the wage increase,” he said. “That makes it harder to recruit and fill positions.”

Migrant labor

Since spring 2022, a wave of migrants have entered New York state, the majority arriving in New York City. When asked if this migrant surge could help resolve the labor shortages islandwide, Giglio expressed some doubts. 

“I’ve been talking to a lot of business owners and organizations that have been trying to help migrants that are coming into the city, and some even making their way out to Long Island,” the assemblywoman said. “Some of their biggest problems are that they don’t have any documents, identification from their countries, nor do they have a passport, and they don’t have a birth certificate.” 

Giglio added that this lack of information could undermine effective integration into the Long Island labor force. “It’s really putting a strain on the government and the workload,” she said.

A Long Island Rail Road train arrives at Stony Brook train station during rush hour. Photo by ComplexRational from Wikimedia Commons
By Samantha Rutt

The Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning recently released a survey asking respondents to share their thoughts and opinions on the potential modernization of the Port Jefferson Branch of the Long Island Rail Road. 

“Community input underpins all aspects of our approach to economic development in Suffolk County,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in a statement. “We look forward to hearing from all stakeholders on the opportunities presented by modernization to allow for a single-seat ride from Port Jefferson to both Grand Central and Penn Station for our communities along the North Shore.” 

The survey asks questions regarding the frequency of public transportation and LIRR ridership, the purpose of railway trips, specific and preferred branch use, among other questions.

Currently, the North Shore line offers limited direct train service to Penn Station with no direct service to Grand Central Madison. The decades-old proposal to modernize the line calls for electrification, double tracking and other rail yard improvements and modifications. 

If the project were approved, the Port Jefferson Branch could provide faster and more direct service options to Manhattan and more frequent service overall. 

Electrification of the Port Jefferson Branch was originally planned in the 1980s but stalled as the Ronkonkoma Branch took precedence. Critics and transit analysts regard the existing dual-mode diesel service as unreliable, inconsistent and environmentally hazardous. [See story, “Port Jeff Branch riders face potentially decades more electrification woes,” Feb. 9, 2023, TBR News Media website.] 

“It is vitally important that we electrify the Port Jefferson Branch to protect our environment from the polluting diesel trains, enhance service for our residents and create jobs for our hardworking men and women of union labor,” New York State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) said. “Our residents and our workers deserve to benefit from the funding provided to the MTA.”

A key objective of the electrification initiative is to mitigate the need for transfer services for those traveling to New York City. By eliminating transfer services, advocates for the project aim to increase ridership while promoting further development around each LIRR station. 

Updates could alleviate vehicular traffic congestion across the Island, according to New York State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), as commuters who regularly travel to alternate lines would have more local transit options.

Electrification would “alleviate traffic congestion, foster economic development and will help to achieve our climate goals,” the state senator said. “Clean, reliable and expanded transportation services are essential to meet Long Island’s growing population.”

The survey received nearly 2,500 responses in its opening week, according to the Department of Economic Development and Planning statement. Bellone encouraged all North Shore residents to complete the questionnaire, which takes an average of 5-10 minutes.

“I encourage everyone, including residents, businesses and students on the North Shore, to take the survey and demonstrate how important the modernization of the Port Jefferson Branch is to Suffolk County,” Bellone said.

The survey will remain open until Monday, Sept. 4. To fill it out, click on the link:

New York State public administrators present on the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act. Above, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. Photo courtesy NYSDEC

New York State officials capped off a statewide listening tour on Thursday, Aug. 24, at Suffolk County Community College to inform the public on expenditures related to the $4.2 billion New York State Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, passed last year.

Voters statewide passed the Environmental Bond Act via public referendum by 68-32%. Suffolk County residents had upvoted the ballot measure 64-36%.

Community members and public officials from the state to the local levels attended Thursday’s event as senior NYS administrators outlined their plans for dispersing the funds.

Basil Seggos, commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, offered recent historical context surrounding the bond act money.

The listening tour concludes “amid one of the most impactful summers ever when it comes to climate change,” he said. “I’m old enough in this job to remember when we had an incident or two a season. Now we’re seeing incredible impacts.”

From Canadian wildfire smoke impairing local air quality to rising temperatures to heightened and more intense precipitation events, Seggos maintained the pressing need to use bond act funding to remediate these challenges.

New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. Photo courtesy NYSDEC

The bond act funds will focus on four primary categories: climate change mitigation, restoration and fund risk, open space preservation and water quality improvement.

While state agencies are still refining eligibility guidelines, Seggos said the state government aims to direct at least 35%, with a goal of 40% of the funds, to disadvantaged communities.

However, “every community in New York state is eligible” for bond act subsidization, he added.

Suzanna Randall, chief resilience officer at NYSDEC, noted that a significant portion of the bond act funds would support restoration and flood risk, marsh restoration, municipal stormwater infrastructure and other related water infrastructure improvements.

New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid outlined how bond act funding would help support and promote Long Island’s parkland and open space. Funding areas include open space conservation, farmland protection and easements, fish hatcheries and other projects.

‘Please, please, please use the survey to give us your ideas, to give us your thoughts on how these dollars should be appropriated.’

— Suzanna Randall

Public feedback needed

Throughout the event, Randall stressed the need for public input on projects that may qualify for bond act funds. “Please, please, please use the survey to give us your ideas, to give us your thoughts on how these dollars should be appropriated,” she said.

Kulleseid also emphasized the importance of public feedback, noting the limited timeframe to gather public comment as the survey expires on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

“We have an online survey tool that will allow you to share ideas and information about projects you may have or the types of projects that we should fund in general,” the NYS park commissioner said. “It’s not an application or a request for proposal but a way to help us learn about the universal projects local governments, community organizations and the public” may require.

To complete the survey of initial project ideas, scan the QR code below. To learn more about the Environmental Bond Act, please visit

The Eastern box turtle, above, is a native species to Long Island. Photo by 37and7 from Wikimedia Commons

Through the years, there have been scattered reports of the Eastern box turtle, a native species to Long Island, seen along the Setauket-Port Jefferson Greenway Trail, particularly at a 1/8-mile strip adjacent to the Lawrence Aviation Superfund site.

Though not listed as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation considers the box turtle of “special concern,” a classification for native species that “warrants attention and consideration but current information, collected by the department, does not justify listing these species as either endangered or threatened.”

The New York State Department of Transportation, charged with mowing the Greenway three times per year, was alerted to the turtle presence earlier this summer by the Three Village Community Trust, the local organization supervising and stewarding the trail.

“We became aware that there were some turtles apparently in the area in and around the Lawrence Aviation site,” said Herb Mones, TVCT president. “As a result, we requested that the state, when it does its mowing program, not mow that section or that area.”

The Friends of the Greenway is a subsidiary of TVCT that works to maintain and upkeep the trail grounds. Charlie McAteer, the organization’s chair, held that the mowing operation does fulfill a public end, limiting tall grasses, which can often yield ticks.

“If the tall grass is right next to the paving, people worry about ticks as they go past,” McAteer said in an email. “So these few mowings do help with our human satisfaction.”

But, he added that the organization strives to keep “mowing to a minimum so meadow growth and places for turtles [and other wildlife] can flourish again and trail users can see and enjoy nature along the trail.”

Joshua Heller, public information specialist for NYSDOT, indicated that the department was made aware of the presence of turtles and halted mowing for the area in question. 

“The New York State Department of Transportation prides itself on being good stewards of the environment,” Heller said in a statement. “We have received the Three Village Community Trust’s letter and are reviewing it. In the meantime, we have temporarily halted mowing operations in this area.”

Aug. 22 walkthrough

A walk along the Greenway Tuesday, Aug. 22, painted a different picture.

Outside the Lawrence Aviation property, there was evidence of fresh mowing. However, there was no evidence of harm to wildlife observed during the walkthrough. 

Presented the photos of the recent mowing activities, Mones expressed possible miscommunication. 

“It’s unfortunate that the NYSDOT extended their mowing beyond the area we recommended to them,” the TVCT president said in an email. “In the past, the DOT has been responsive to our requests and recommendations. It’s obvious we’ll need to do more work to create a ‘protective zone’ in the future.”

NYSDOT did respond to a follow-up request for comment on the matter by clarifying that the recent mowing occurred prior to temporarily halting mowing in the area.

Possible solutions

A 2017 thesis paper by Margarete Walden explores the danger mowing activities pose to box turtles. 

To mitigate the potential risk of turtle mortality due to mowing, Walden suggests conducting “mowing activities [from] November to March, so as to coincide with the period of turtle hibernation,” during which they live underground. It is, however, difficult to mow during these months when there is heavy snowfall.

McAteer pledged that the Friends of the Greenway “will work with NYSDOT to try to work on the mowing distance/guidelines” for routine mowings.

For Mones, wildlife conservation and trail maintenance are not mutually exclusive. Rather, he indicated that both efforts could serve the coinciding interests of trail users and wildlife.

“Our motto is, ‘Protecting the places we love,’” Mones said. “We are the stewards of the Greenway, but we also have the residual responsibility to protect the open space and advance environmental protection.”