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editorial

The LIPA Power Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

In recent years, Long Islanders have grown increasingly frustrated and alienated by our state government in Albany. This dynamic must change to move our region forward.

New York State has failed to meet our needs or fulfill our aspirations on various local issues. From stonewalling modernization of the Port Jefferson Branch of the Long Island Rail Road to lackluster maintenance of our state roadways to blatant negligence in protecting nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, our state government has come up short constantly.

While geographical proximity may make it difficult for Albany to be attuned to all of our needs, the state government has not made a proper effort to listen to and address our concerns.

Though the connection between Albany and Long Island remains decidedly frayed, one 2022 development should give our citizens hope: the Legislative Commission on the Future of the Long Island Power Authority.

Given the complexity of restructuring LIPA as its contract with PSEG-LI nears expiration in December 2025, a team of state legislators has moved around our Island to gather public feedback on the matter — and the people are speaking up.

At TBR News Media, we are committed to a bottom-up policymaking approach. The citizens of our communities should be guiding our state government toward representative policy outcomes — not the other way around, as is currently practiced. And our elected representatives in the state Legislature are the necessary agents to convert our collective will into sound policy.

This legislative commission on LIPA is a rare opportunity to see our state officials at work, generating local feedback that they will then share with the remainder of the Legislature. This commission is opening up meaningful conversations about a critical state policy that affects all of us.

Questions surrounding our electrical grid are complicated, and many of them will likely remain unresolved regardless of the commission’s final recommendations. Yet, for once, our citizens have been given a voice.

The promise of this legislative commission is its ability to give our residents a platform to help guide state policy. We need such legislative commissions to explore better relationships with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the NYS Department of Transportation and various other state agencies.

With this style of bottom-up democracy, we can begin to decentralize the power of Albany, restoring a connection between Long Island and New York State that has for years been severed.

We ask our state delegation to begin holding more commissions, and may we all start participating in a more representative legislative process moving forward. If we make our voices heard, we cannot be ignored.

METRO photo

As Election Day nears, it is becoming increasingly evident that our local elections here in Suffolk County will hinge upon the people’s vision for wastewater treatment.

The state of our wastewater systems is a crucial policy concern for residents and environmentalists alike. Our existing system of disparate sewer districts and individually operated septic tanks is inadequate, impairing our environment, drinking water and quality of life.

Responsible wastewater treatment countywide can ensure our communities remain clean, healthy and safe. However, as years pass, our county’s wastewater infrastructure will continue showing its age — and the consequences could be devastating.

The first and most immediate impact of deteriorating wastewater infrastructure is public health. A failure to address these issues could result in an uptick in health crises, increasing the demand for health care services and leading citizens to question the competence of local governments to meet even their most basic human needs.

Residents expect their elected officials to take proactive approaches in maintaining critical infrastructure. If this does not happen, it can erode trust in government.

Our people ask for clean drinking water. We desire fewer fish kills and algal blooms in our local surface waters. Perhaps above all, our citizens long for political representation that actually advances their needs over the wants of powerful, monied interests that finance political campaigns in this county.

Money talks in Suffolk County, as elsewhere. Powerful special interest groups here — notably developers and organized labor — often curry favor with politicians. For developers, sewers allow for increased building height and density. For labor unions, sewers produce lucrative government contracts.

As we inch closer to November, we remind prospective officeholders that they must be careful not to allow campaign contributors to drive policy, that the people are the prime movers of our democracy.

The paramount stakeholder group in this election is the taxpaying citizens of Suffolk County. Though not cutting large campaign checks, this group will be the ultimate judge deciding who ascends to county office.

Shamefully, the county Legislature failed to put the Suffolk County Water Quality Restoration Act on November’s ballot. So, this election season voters must listen carefully to candidates from both major parties. Only those who demonstrate a firm commitment to the popular will should earn our votes.

Candidates must develop a plan for modernizing our wastewater infrastructure. They should be prepared to answer difficult questions on this most critical issue, demonstrating their commitment to the betterment of our county.

To our fellow residents, listen closely during this election cycle, especially to conversations surrounding wastewater.

METRO photo

The opioid epidemic in Suffolk County remains unresolved among local families, policymakers, resource providers, drug prevention advocates and victims. Fortunately, for once, we see some reasons for hope.

Opioids remain a major killer, particularly of youth, in Suffolk. Hundreds of our fellow residents die each year from opioid overdoses, with a growing number of these deaths brought on by synthetic opioids — notably fentanyl.

While our community and society continue to grapple with the devastation of the drug epidemic, we are encouraged by several developments taking place here at home.

Last week, Suffolk County opened a second round of opioid settlement payments from a projected $200 million lawsuit won by the county government against opioid manufacturers, retailers, distributors and other entities that had compounded the problems and contributed to deaths. [See story, “Suffolk County opens application portal for second round of opioid settlement,” Aug. 31, TBR News Media].

We encourage all qualifying, interested parties and organizations to write an application for this money. While the $200 million cannot undo the damage inflicted upon our people, it can hopefully bring our citizens and nonprofits together around the common cause of ending the opioid epidemic here in Suffolk.

It is also necessary to consider recovery options for addicts. Prevention is critical, but recovery resources are an equally vital side of this conversation. With growing local concerns over a potential lack of space in treatment centers, those who ask for help should receive the necessary care.

Caught in the daily and weekly news cycles, we can sometimes forget that people among us are dying from opioids far too regularly. We are encouraged by the various demonstrations this week — namely at Brookhaven Town Hall and Northport Village Hall — for Opioid Awareness Month.

Still, we acknowledge that so much work must still be done. When September ends, this issue won’t go away.

Therefore, we must use this month as an opportunity to learn about the drug phenomenon here in Suffolk, educate ourselves and others, and apply those lessons during the remaining months of the year.

Public awareness combined with public funds can be a powerful deterrent to help combat the spread of addiction in our community. The actions we take today will impact generations to come.

To apply for opioid grant funding through Suffolk County, please visit www.suffolkcountyny.gov and search under “Opioid Grant Application.”

Sundown on the Bluffs, Kings Park Bluffs, Kings Park

New York State is preparing to distribute $4.2 billion to communities statewide, and Long Islanders must begin to make an aggressive push for that money.

Voters statewide approved the 2022 Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act by a more than 2:1 margin. Here in Suffolk County, our residents approved the referendum 64-36%.

During a listening tour event on Thursday, Aug. 24, state officials outlined their plans for dispersing the funds. Qualifying projects include flood mitigation, marshland restoration, stormwater infrastructure, farmland protection, open space preservation and much more.

Here in Suffolk County, we are experiencing all of these issues.

Vulnerable waterfront properties along the North Shore are increasingly at risk from harmful erosion at our bluffs. Low-lying areas are at ever-greater risk of flooding, compounded by more frequent and intense precipitation events and outdated stormwater infrastructure.

Too often, commercial corridors are developed with little or no community giveback. Consequently, communities along major state routes — such as 25 and 347 — are suffocated by overcommercialized lots with limited access to parks or recreation space.

Meanwhile, the few remaining farmlands and open spaces are in constant danger of deforestation, development and displacement.

This $4.2 billion state bond package represents a much-needed pool of cash that can help offset these regional trends. And while the state has committed to directing 35-40% of the pot to disadvantaged communities, competition for the remaining chunk of the pie will be even fiercer.

Residents and officials across Long Island have grown increasingly frustrated and alienated by our state government in Albany. Getting our hands on some of these funds could begin the path toward reconciliation.

Throughout the Aug. 24 meeting, the state officials present emphasized the collection of public input as a necessary component for identifying new projects. That is why we must all take the time to scan the code above and share the climate challenges we face. The survey remains open until Sept. 13.

Whether our particular hamlet or village is experiencing worsening flooding, heightened coastal erosion, limited open space or any other environmental hardship, we must take the time to alert the state and request funding.

The potential to tap into $4.2 billion doesn’t come around often. This money represents a generational opportunity to remediate some longstanding issues and counteract our regional decline. We cannot afford to squander this moment.

Let’s scan this code and share the extent of our challenges here at home. Let’s scan the code and tell our state government how desperately our community cares about and needs this funding.

Let’s all scan this code because our community’s future welfare and prosperity depend on how we act today. From the North Shore to Albany, may the voices of our people ring loudly.

METRO photo

When we shop, we often bring our valuables, which total hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars, with us.

Cell phones, wallets, purses and credit cards represent valuable commodities. They can be stolen to score sweet profits. And throughout our community, that is happening right now.

On Aug. 8, Suffolk County Police Department 4th Precinct Inspector David Regina informed the Smithtown Town Board of a pernicious crime happening across Suffolk County retail spaces.

“Criminals and thieves take the opportunity when someone is shopping at Costco or any of these other stores, and they walk by an unsuspecting victim’s shopping cart,” he said. “What they’ll do is they’ll just take out the credit cards or the wallet.”

A criminal can be out the door with our credit cards in the few seconds we may step away from our shopping carts.

At first, victims of this kind of theft do not know they have been victimized. In the time it can take for victims to discover they were robbed and cancel their accounts, the damage has already been done. For law enforcement, Regina noted, this kind of theft is “a very hard crime to target.”

Fortunately, we can all take some simple steps to protect our possessions. We should always keep our valuables in sight and within reach when we shop.

We also encourage our readers to shop lightly, leaving their possessions inside their locked vehicles or — even better — leaving their valuables at home.

If one shops with a handbag or purse, ensure these bags have secure closures. For purse thieves, an open handbag in a public space invites theft.

At TBR News Media, we helped to pioneer the Neighborhood Watch program in Suffolk County. We now advocate for a similar crime watch program for retail centers. As the adage goes, “If you see something, say something.”

Tell a store manager or similar authority about the nefarious activities you witness. Failure to report these incidents of purse theft signals to criminals our tacit approval of these behaviors, incentivizing recidivism. If we wish to see larcenies begin to drop, we must do our part.

Aware of the risks, we can and should shop without fear. Please take care to ensure that shopping can be a safe experience.

Stock photo

By Judy Patrick

Citizens have a right to know who they’re dealing with, whether it be in government or private enterprise. But that’s not the case when it comes to limited liability companies, or LLCs, which for example can own property, apply for grants, operate as landlords and donate to political campaigns. Holding government accountable for its actions demands a well-informed public. We need to know who, not what, is benefiting in order to do our jobs as citizens.

Discovering who’s behind the curtain isn’t easy. Cruise through your local property tax rolls or the state’s campaign finance disclosure database. You’ll see plenty of LLCs but you won’t see many names.

Anonymous shell companies have been a popular vehicle for money laundering, tax evasion, organized crime, terrorism and other forms of corruption for decades. Yet, as the proposed New York State bill notes, establishing an LLC requires less personal information than getting a library card. 

That’s why it’s imperative for Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to sign the LLC Transparency Act, passed in both the state Assembly and Senate, which would require these special kinds of business organizations to publicly identify the owners to the state and to the public registry run by the Department of State.

At the federal level, the Corporate Transparency Act, taking effect next year, seeks similar disclosures from businesses, including LLCs, but stops short of making the information publicly available. A wide variety of businesses, from pizza shops to mall developers and property buyers, use the LLCs as an organizing business structure.

The approach, sanctioned by state law, provides the owners some limits on liabilities the company could face. As a practical matter, LLCs also offer the people who actually own the company the ability to remain anonymous.

Under current reporting requirements, LLCs need only supply a company name, county of operation and a basic address where legal documents should be sent. Sometimes, the address is a P.O. Box, sometimes it’s an attorney’s office, sometimes it’s a registered agent.

For anyone interested in knowing more, the information provided is often frustratingly nondescript and consequently useless. We all have a well-established interest in this information, and the state Legislature should be commended for recognizing this by including solid public disclosure requirements.

The lack of transparency with campaign donations is just one of the reasons the LLC Transparency Act has the support of good government groups, such as Common Cause and the League of Women Voters. While a 2019 law change required LLCs making political donations to disclose their owners, many are ignoring the requirement, the groups say.

The Business Council of New York State opposes the law, saying it would violate the privacy of law-abiding businesses — including thousands of small businesses organized as LLCs — and put their security at risk. There are some provisions in the legislation for public disclosure to be waived when “a significant privacy interest exists.” The law’s efficacy will be determined in part in how waiver requests are handled.

Given the benefits state law confers upon LLCs, it’s not too much to ask that they at least let us know who they are. This is a good step toward much-needed transparency

Judy Patrick is vice president for editorial development of the New York Press Association, of which TBR News Media is a member.

 

Above, organizers outside the planned veterans museum in Rocky Point. From left, museum curator Rich Acritelli, VFW Post 6249 Cmdr. Joe Cognitore and museum committee member Frank Lombardi. Photo by Raymond Janis

Later this year, members of the Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 will launch a museum showcasing the lives and legacies of local vets.

Each of us has been touched by a veteran. Whether they are our family members, friends or remote acquaintances, American veterans have given much of themselves so that we may enjoy our freedoms.

After completing their military service at home and abroad, many have returned to Long Island to build up and enrich our community. Their examples of duty and sacrifice can offer powerful insight for civilian life. Now, our vets aspire to continue their service by educating us on the trials of war.

At TBR News Media, we uphold the adage that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. We also regret the anti-historical narrative sweeping our contemporary culture.

If we are to strive for peace, we must learn from war. If we are to endure as a community and nation, we must confront our history forthrightly.

Veterans can teach us — especially our youth — some of life’s most important lessons: How can the veteran experience inform our understanding of mental health and trauma? What can the confrontation with death teach us about life? What is the meaning of sacrifice? 

Our service members are an untapped fountain of history and wisdom. They possess firsthand knowledge of some of our nation’s most important events. We must hear these stories. But to get there, we must first lend a hand.

The curators of the Rocky Point veterans museum are actively soliciting donations. Whether by contributing monetarily, sending military gear or books or volunteering our time to build out the facility, we can all do our part to assist in this noble endeavor.

Long Island’s veterans have served our nation courageously, and this museum will soon stand as the next iteration in their long line of service. 

Let us channel and honor their example. May we, too, answer the call by showing our appreciation and sharing the stories of our local veterans. 

To learn more or how to donate, please contact the museum’s curator, Rich Acritelli, at [email protected].

METRO photo

Government exists to protect life, liberty and property. If we truly believe in these words, these protections must naturally extend to animals.

Municipalities within the TBR News Media coverage area are grappling with the complexities of maintaining their animal shelters. Though often overlooked, shelters fulfill a vital public need, offering a haven to stray and sometimes abused animals, providing medical treatment, limiting the number of stray animals on our streets and acting as a place where animals can be adopted. 

Without animal shelters, myriad strays would roam our streets. They would likely pose numerous public safety and health risks to the public and to themselves while putting considerable stress on budgets.

How we maintain our animal shelters is a reflection of our morality and the value we place on life itself. Our treatment of animals signals how we may treat our fellow man and the extent to which we value life. And both locally and nationally, we can do better.

We acknowledge this is a highly passionate, often controversial, issue among community members — the plight of unhoused animals tears at our heartstrings. 

Given the moral considerations at play, shelter volunteers are critical public servants. Their collective efforts keep our streets safe and unhoused animals sheltered.

A rift can form between the paid managers of municipal shelters — often selected by patronage or union status — and unpaid volunteers. We must endeavor to bridge this divide. 

We remind paid staff and unpaid volunteers that they are on the same team, united by a common cause. Hurling accusations or disparaging the opposite party will do little to advance animal welfare or the public good.

It is also incumbent upon local officials to be more transparent and accountable in their oversight of municipal shelters. These officials are elected to serve the public, and the public deserves answers to these pressing matters. 

If our municipal shelters are underfinanced or understaffed, then elected officials must explain what they are doing to remediate these challenges. And if the elected officials choose not to be accountable, then the public should vote them out of office. We appreciate the few incumbent or prospective officials who offered their perspectives on this matter.

Finally, citizens have a stake in this as well. To relieve the pressures on our local animal shelters, we must strive to increase shelter adoption rates. 

We will not vilify those who purchase a pet from a breeder. However, we ask prospective pet owners to start their search at their local municipal shelter.

Adopting from a shelter won’t just give a needy animal a home. It will lower the financial and operational strain on shelter resources and staff, lower euthanasia rates and save lives.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” It is time for residents and officials alike to heed these words. 

By doing our part to help our municipal shelters, we can contribute to the greatness of our community and nation. To be a just and humane society, we must begin by assessing how we treat animals.

Pixabay photo

From wildfire smoke to heat waves, Long Island has experienced significant impacts of climate change this summer like many parts of this country and the rest of the world.

People tend to ignore the problem until it directly affects them. Signs of climate change have been evident on Long Island for generations, such as water quality issues, rising sea levels and erosion. Some have overlooked newspaper articles covering these issues, dismissed local environmental activists and prioritized other concerns like affordability, cultural debates and health care.

However, the undeniable reality of a changing environment can no longer be ignored. The memory of walking outside within the past two months, suffocating in residual smoke from Canadian wildfires, remains vivid for many. The relentlessness of this summer’s heat and the overall warming trend throughout the year are hard to ignore.

The issues we face are not just anecdotal. Moody’s ranked Long Island as the fourth worst area among major American population centers regarding chronic physical risks associated with climate change. The consequences are not only on human health but are costly economically. 

While our area boasts beauty and affluence, a significant portion of this prosperity comes from shoreline businesses and homeowners. With rising sea levels threatening these properties, the potential for immense property damage looms, leading some to consider leaving the island before catastrophe strikes. 

This departure would not only impact local businesses but also philanthropic efforts and community engagement. Furthermore, the loss of beaches, parks and recreational spaces would profoundly affect the essence of the North Shore.

It is now imperative for our community and elected leaders to take this problem seriously. We don’t envy those in positions of power. With climate change on the brink, the decisions they make will affect future generations irreversibly.

Experts at every level of government, from federal to the village, must work diligently to assess the specific risks of climate change in our area and develop effective solutions to mitigate its impact.

We encourage our U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1) to advocate for federal funding to address environmental concerns in our district and to sponsor national legislation to combat climate change.

To protect the North Shore we cherish, we must invest in solutions like wind energy, the preservation of open spaces and beaches, safeguarding aquifers and water quality and monitoring toxic waste. 

Climate change does not offer an easy, one-size-fits-all solution. It requires extensive research and collective effort to both understand and address it. It falls on all of us to support experts in finding solutions, whether through financial support or spreading awareness.

Climate change is a scary prospect, especially when imagining how much Long Island could be affected according to expert projections. Change itself can be terrifying for the average person, making it tempting to push aside the problem. But avoiding the issue will only exacerbate the situation. Superficial solutions will not suffice in confronting the serious consequences of climate change.

This is not a political issue. It is a matter that impacts our community and economy — as well as the world at large. We urge everyone to treat climate change with deep respect and do their part in protecting the environment. Let’s unite in safeguarding the place we call home.

Photo by Elsa Olofsson: www.cbdoracle.com

Long Island saw its first recreational marijuana store open in Farmingdale last month. It understandably raises the question of many eager — or anxious — residents as to when a cannabis store will open near them.

We commend our local towns for taking reasonable steps to ensure that marijuana sales impact our quality of life as little as possible. While Smithtown and Huntington have opted out, Brookhaven voted to allow sales, with stringent zoning restrictions, as have Babylon, Riverhead and Southampton.

Cannabis sales can work in our community, but only if each of us stops and thinks about how our actions impact others. Smoking a joint on the beach or on a nature trail fills the air with the smell of cannabis, which is unpleasant. Those who choose to consume cannabis should keep the smoking to their homes, be considerate of neighbors and always be responsible when driving.

We remind parents and other adults to keep their cannabis products secure and out of the hands of children, as THC is proven to induce anxiety, paranoia and other harmful effects in minors.

We also must be considerate, taking steps to ensure we are not impacting each other’s quality of life. As Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) described in a story in our papers this week, people are already contacting the town to ask for exemptions to the strict zoning ordinance surrounding cannabis.

The rules and regulations are there for a reason, and we agree with Kornreich in being hesitant to grant exemptions. We understand that people want to make a living. Yet in trying to skate around the rules at such an early stage of legalization, it shows a lack of consideration to the rest of the community. 

We hope all of our community members reflect on our behaviors surrounding cannabis, and not forget there is enforcement for those who break the rules. They are there for a reason. Let’s follow them.