Letters to the Editor — May 25
Veterans for Peace Golden Rule sailing into Port Jeff Harbor
Veterans for Peace Golden Rule will be sailing into Port Jefferson Harbor on Friday, May 26, at approximately 6 p.m. and will be docked at Harborfront Park from May 26-28.
This historic small ship is currently on a journey along the Atlantic coast for educational conversations about peace, nuclear disarmament, clean water and collective consciousness for our environment.
In 1958, as atmospheric nuclear testing heightened the stakes in the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Golden Rule sailed toward the Marshall Islands aspiring to stop early atmospheric testing.
The Golden Rule was the first sailing vessel in American history to practice nonviolent activism on the high seas 65 years ago and was the forerunner for today’s better-known Greenpeace ships, as well as the template for every kayak, canoe and outboard motorboat that’s peacefully protested anything in the nearly seven decades since.
The Golden Rule helped ignite a worldwide movement to end nuclear testing and led to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by President John F. Kennedy [D] in October 1963, some five years after the initial action.
The boat has a significant connection to Long Island as its first crew included William Huntington, a Quaker from St. James. In homage to him, a true trailblazer, the Society of Friends, Conscience Bay Quakers Meeting will join members of the Setalcott Nation, the original stewards of our waterfront community, and many other peace and justice organizations in meeting the boat and welcoming its captain and crew.
North Country Peace Group with South Country Peace Group are the sponsors of this event with a special acknowledgment to the Conscience Bay Quakers. We hope everyone can join us.
Words matter in immigration dialogue
One of the most beautiful elements of America is diversity. The immigrants who live in our communities contribute to our economy, our culture and our public life. We are a better nation for it.
We have seen a vilification of those seeking asylum at our southern border. This past Sunday, local, state, and federal Suffolk County Republicans held a press conference, announcing a plan to hire legal counsel to block asylum seekers from entering Suffolk County.
Though seeking asylum is legal, county Legislature Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey [R-Lindenhurst] said, “We don’t know who’s coming over.” In doing so, McCaffrey implies that asylum seekers are a danger to us.
U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota [R-NY1] differentiated between documented and undocumented immigrants. Both ignore a basic truth: Asylum seekers are fleeing their countries because of climate change, poverty and political violence. They are not seeking to do us harm. Our federal government must provide assistance and address these root causes in our foreign policy. That is the direction we must take, rather than demonizing and “othering” asylum seekers.
Today’s asylum seekers remind me of my paternal grandfather. As a teenager, he fled Odessa [now in Ukraine] after his father, a practicing rabbi, was murdered in Siberia. My grandfather didn’t consider paperwork — he fled to survive. My grandfather may have had a different religion and skin color than the migrants at the border, but their stories and their humanity are quite similar. As a Jew who has had branches of my family tree cut off by political violence, I know that “Never Again” applies to every one of us, including asylum seekers.
Words matter. When our politicians use xenophobic rhetoric like the county Republicans are, it makes all of us less safe. Will the base they have riled up distinguish between which of their neighbors are documented or undocumented? Did the teenager who murdered Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue in 2008 check his immigration status before ending his life? Rather than learning from our history, the county Republicans seem intent on repeating that harm, all in the name of firing up their base for the November elections.
We cannot accept this in Suffolk. We must seek solutions that bring us all together, rather than divide us up. We must expect more from our elected leaders. If they cannot deliver, we must vote them out and replace them with moral leaders who can.
Concerns about proposed Maryhaven development
The 19 units in Canyon Creek, which were completed in 1999, are directly impacted by any activities on the former Maryhaven Center of Hope site on Myrtle Avenue.
All four Port Jefferson Village trustees have met with several of the Canyon Creek Home Owners Association members on-site, and we expressed to them our overall concerns about the proposed development of the site by Beechwood Homes.
Our biggest concern is the proposed nearly 200 units, on the 10-acre site, to be priced at approximately $1 million each, in buildings that would be allowed to be three stories in height, plus the requirement for two parking spaces per unit.
Canyon Creek is located on close to 10 acres and has 19 units. We would hope that the village Board of Trustees would change the zoning to include a requirement of an equal density in the adjoining property. Our quiet and peaceful neighborhood will be detrimentally impacted with the proposal now before the board.
The proposed development plan calls for preserving the old building on the former Maryhaven site, but Beechwood is seeking concessions from Port Jefferson Village to change the zoning code to allow for increased density of residences on the site. The consensus among the homeowners is that while there are positive considerations for preserving the historic building and converting it for residential and recreational use, as proposed by Beechwood, the allowance of an incentive of increased units and taller structures as a tradeoff is absolutely detrimental to the Canyon Creek community.
There are numerous serious adverse impacts on our community from such a development so close to our backyards: loss of privacy, noise, change in ambience of the surrounding area, increased traffic, water runoff into properties and many more.
We as a community are very concerned that there appears to be a rush to change the code to allow the development of a property that would be inconsistent with the surrounding area without submitting an environmental and traffic study for full public review and comment.
We recognize that the board’s only role is to alter the zoning code, and we hope that they will take into consideration how all of Port Jefferson will be impacted, as well as the devastating impact it will have on Canyon Creek.
Philip A. Velazquez, President
Canyon Creek Homeowners Association
Plan realistically for future of Port Jeff schools
In commenting in the May 18 issue of The Port Times Record about the third defeat of a 15-year bond proposed by the Port Jefferson School District, Mayor Margot Garant said she hoped the “community would have a little bit more vision and understanding of the consequences.”
Maybe it’s the mayor and school board that lack that vision and understanding. The community wants answers. Port Jefferson currently spends over $50,000 per student, well above other districts. Our enrollment is declining, with graduating classes projected to drop to near 60 students by 2031.
Taxes are already projected in the school district’s current financial plan to increase 34% by the 2027-28 school year. After the LIPA glide path expires in 2028, taxes would double if the plant is closed. Mayor Garant said “The norm is like another 10-year glide path to give you a chance to settle into another loss of revenue.” [“Powering down?” May 18, TBR News Media]. Really, another glide path — what norm?
Over 10 years, Shoreham saw its LIPA taxes — which represented 90% of its budget — drop 10% per year. There was no further assistance. If the mayor knows where Port Jeff would get yet another glide path, please let us know the source, and have their representatives confirm it. And will this white knight also provide additional benefits for Northport and Glenwood Landing, which are on similar glide paths to Port Jefferson?
As an alternative to hoping for a magical rescue, let’s plan appropriately and realistically, with every option considered before we are asked to commit to another long-term bond that would effectively remove several options from consideration. Let’s find out if other districts would be interested in a merger or tuitioning our students. Let’s have an impartial consultant analyze the numbers and determine what our taxes would be with LIPA gone if we continue alone, or with a merger or some combination.
Also, let’s discuss whether the opportunities for our projected 60-student per grade high school enrollment would be greater, and at less expense, in a merged or tuitioned district.
And will the mayor and school board please stop discounting the feasibility of a merger based on our current school tax rate being so much lower than neighboring districts. That projected rate is 190.11%, according to PJSD’s Summary of Estimated Revenues in the 2023-24 Draft Budget, an increase from 178.46%. Take out LIPA’s assessed value and by my calculations the rate jumps to 330.37% which is equal to or greater than surrounding districts.
Our vision and understanding needs answers.
Robert J. Nicols
The reality of closing local generating plants
Your editorial and lead article [TBR News Media, May 18] both address the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed stringent limitations on power plants’ emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that cause the climate change we already see here.
The EPA’s proposal is consistent with the existing state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act that mandates similar reductions in New York state of fossil fuel generation and its replacement with renewably generated electricity.
Both TBR pieces recognize that the Northport and the Port Jefferson plants cannot continue for too many more years to be powered by natural gas.
Your editorial correctly challenges local governments and school districts that have been subsidized by tens of millions of dollars annually that are indirectly paid by other Long Island residents through the taxes on these greatly overassessed properties to start “imagining a future in which those subsidies no longer exist.” These entities should certainly seek state aid to ease this transition, but that is not a long-term solution.
There could be other uses for these sites that are robustly connected to the grid, such as for landing power cables from offshore wind farms, or massive batteries to store electrical energy during times of low renewable generation.
Bruce Miller, former Port Jefferson Village trustee, suggested two possibilities for continued onsite electrical generation. One would be continuing to burn natural gas, while adding equipment to capture the resulting carbon dioxide. This possibility ignores the known substantial leakage of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — at the well, and all the way to the generating plant. Such carbon dioxide removal equipment does not now exist at scale, and would be rather expensive.
He also suggests burning hydrogen to produce electricity when renewable generation cannot meet demand. Such “green” hydrogen would be produced during the summer from water using renewably generated electricity, stored in large quantities, transported here by pipelines that could not leak even small amounts of climate-changing hydrogen, and burned to produce electricity. The main combustion product would be harmless water. However, the oxides of nitrogen and other polluting combustion products would have to be removed before being released, adding to the cost of the electricity generated.
There are no certain answers to continued use of these sites for electrical purposes to replace lost tax revenues. Just the opposite is true: The higher the taxes on any new facilities, the more expensive will be their operation and less likely they would be built here.
Editor’s note: The writer was a LIPA trustee from 2016-21.
EPA power plant standards are cost prohibitive
The EPA’s proposed rules for cutting emissions are so onerous that older generators, like Northport and Port Jefferson as well as hundreds around the country, will be shut down because the expense to upgrade would be prohibitive.
These power stations have operated since the 1960s with incredible reliability and cost-effectiveness. They have blessed Long Island and the communities that host them with tax income and life-sustaining, consistent energy. The developed world survives on this.
A main difference between our society and the third world is their lack of affordable, reliable energy. It is also a matter of survival. One can broil in the heat and freeze in the cold. One can starve for lack of food and water. One can die from inadequate health care facilities and resources.
Note well that these power plants have operated within EPA pollution regulations. Now the EPA is moving the goalposts. Companies, towns and cities that have relied on the energy for our civilization will be in mortal danger.
It is extremely difficult, costly and lengthy to site, plan, permit and build a new power station. The real estate is gone. The possibility of rebuilding an old power station to new standards, repowering, may not be cost-effective, especially if there are the preferential power purchase agreements that put wind and solar electricity ahead of fossil fuel generation.
Another consideration is China, Russia, India and the Global South in general are building fossil-fueled power plants, including coal, at a breathtaking rate — hundreds a year. Decarbonization of New York state and the U.S. power plant emissions will have no effect.
Furthermore, wind and solar power operate on average about 20% of the nameplate capacity of generation. Spinning reserves are mandatory. Battery backup, aside from the huge expense, child labor and devastation to the environment in obtaining rare earths, may work for a few hours. Where is that coming from if Northport, Port Jeff and other power stations are closed?
Planet Earth, throughout its billions of years, experienced much higher temperatures and CO2. In fact, the Holocene period, with the greatest explosion of flora and fauna in history, flourished with way higher temperatures and CO2. Life adapted and thrived. In fact, thousands of scientists confirm there is no CO2 crisis.
Buy some candles if this goes through.
Have you seen my wife?
If you live in the village of Port Jeff, I’m sure you have.
The kids and I, however … not so much. Since my wife, Kathianne Snaden, became village trustee in 2019 and deputy mayor in 2021, I sometimes think village residents get to see her more than we do.
When I get home from work, my first question to the kids is, “Where’s Mom?” Their answer in that typical teenage voice is usually, “At a meetinggggg… .”
It seems like my wife is always at a meeting. Board meetings, trustee work sessions, union negotiations, meetings with business owners, meetings with residents, meetings with Suffolk County Police Department brass, and on and on the list goes. When what she does as deputy mayor comes up in conversation and she explains all that she actually does here in the village most residents respond with some variation of “wow, I didn’t realize that you did so much.” All the nice flowers you see planted this week … Kathianne personally worked with the garden center and the parks department to make that happen and so much more.
Kathianne makes so many positive safety and quality-of-life improvements here in the village it would be difficult to list them all in under 400 words.
On top of all that, I think one of the things that really sets Kathianne apart is her willingness to meet with people, be approachable and be open to any inquiry from residents. On more than one occasion, Kathianne and I have been out in the village and she will post online where we are and anyone who wants to talk can come down and sit with us, whether we are at the Farmers Market, watching our kids play at Rocketship Park or even out to dinner. Kathianne makes herself available to everyone.
As a business owner, I recognize the drive and positive spirit my wife has to get anything done that she sets her mind to, and I’ve seen her do it. As a Port Jeff resident, I’m thankful for the great ideas, programs and initiatives she has brought to the village that benefit us all.
As a husband I’m so proud — she impresses me every day. And while it means I (and the kids) still won’t see her that much at home, I urge everyone to vote for Kathianne Snaden for mayor so she can continue to excel for us here in Port Jeff.
Sheprow will put residents first
It’s time for a change of direction in Port Jefferson. That’s why I’m proud to endorse my long-time friend, Lauren Sheprow, for mayor.
I’ve known Lauren since our days at Scraggy Hill Elementary. She’s always been bright, dedicated, focused and, most importantly, a great friend. As a single mom, she raised three wonderful children while pursuing a career that ultimately led to her becoming chief media relations officer at Stony Brook University.
I know running for mayor wasn’t in Lauren’s plan. But when she became a village trustee, she saw major decisions being made without any input from residents. So she did what Lauren always does — started asking the tough questions. The concerns she raised, however, even when they identified a potential conflict of interest or a question of ethics, were frequently met with denial or simply ignored. That’s part of the reason she decided to run.
With deep roots in Port Jeff, Lauren has a vision that’s focused on putting residents first. She wants to bring best business practices back, increase transparency and put an end to closed-door decision-making. Lauren is a communications professional and as mayor will work to improve our relationships with the business community — as well as our town, county and state governments — to ensure we’re making the most of all our resources.
She’ll also put an end to wasteful spending. On day one, Lauren will seek board consensus to enlist the expertise of a forensic accountant and an administrative consultant to help bring fiscal responsibility and operational excellence to Port Jefferson.
If, like me, you’re ready for new leadership and a fresh start for the village, I urge you to vote for Lauren Sheprow as our next mayor.
Exploiting bail reform is not a solution
In response to my letter on bail reform [“Eliminating bail reduces recidivism,” TBR News Media, May 4], Jim Soviero takes exception to my use of the term “crocodile tears” [“Local crime exposes bail reform dangers,” May 18] to describe his professed concern for “minorities” that “tragically . . . continue to suffer disproportionately from violent crime.”
This was not an attack on his person or behavior, or an attempt to question the sincerity of his political beliefs. My point was that it seems a trifle presumptuous for Soviero, who is white, to proffer ending bail reform as a cure for the suffering of “minorities” when they themselves overwhelmingly disagree.
The larger point is that exploiting bail reform to excite fear and division for political gain is the worst possible way to actually address the underlying issues behind violent crime. Bail reform isn’t something that was just dreamed up by “leftist think tanks” as Soviero puts it. It was to address a very real problem he ignores, namely, the inequity of a system that condemns people who have not been convicted to days, weeks or even months in jails such as Rikers Island, for, in effect, the crime of being poor. As I noted in my May 4 letter, it is overwhelmingly supported in the minority community. If it’s so harmful to them there’s a very simple remedy — they can vote out their representatives who support it.
Soviero scoffs at the data presented by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice study I cited, surrounding the word “data” with scare quotes. Naturally, since the data doesn’t support his contention that bail reform is terrible, he would much rather rely on anecdotal evidence that seems to. And for every horror story he could cite where someone was harmed by a person arraigned and released without bail, I could cite a horror story of someone who committed suicide or whose life was damaged beyond repair by being held in jail for days or weeks without being convicted. The point is, this is no way to formulate criminal justice policy. If we don’t use data, what do we use? Who can cite the most sensationalized anecdotes?
New York City Mayor Eric Adams [D], whom Soviero approvingly cited in his original letter denouncing bail reform, recently termed fixing it a “bumper sticker slogan.” Adams is right. Instead of politicians weaponizing this issue for political gain what we need is reasoned discussion of underlying issues. The problems with the criminal justice system are much deeper and more entrenched beyond the obsession with this one issue.
Editor’s note: This correspondence on bail reform is now closed.