Tags Posts tagged with "New York State Department of Environmental Conservation"

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

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 www.ny.gov/bondact.

A satellite image of the Brookhaven Town landfill, located on Horseblock Road in Yaphank. Photo from Google Maps
By Nasrin Zahed

Several years after discovering “forever chemicals” leaking into Long Island’s groundwater near the Town of Brookhaven Landfill, located on Horseblock Road in Yaphank, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation calls for “corrective action.”

A plume of highly lethal PFAS, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane contamination has been uncovered in downgradient wells within the town landfill. The contaminants, commonly called “forever chemicals,” cannot be broken down by the human body or the environment.

According to a statement from the Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group, or BLARG, exposure to these chemicals “has been linked to some cancers, immune, fertility, thyroid and other health conditions.”

NYSDEC is requiring Brookhaven to begin assessing the current damage and determining a course of immediate action. The town is set to issue a notice to the public detailing the extent of the situation, its effect on local wildlife and communities and the next step in removing and properly disposing of the chemicals. Brookhaven will also hold a public forum to gather community feedback.

BLARG’s statement considered NYSDEC’s action “a day late and a dollar short.”

Kerim Odekon, a BLARG member, stated, “The only news is now DEC acknowledges the problem, which community members have raised to NYS and the town for years.”

Although NYSDEC determined the PFAS levels present “no new threats to drinking water,” community members are still concerned about the long-term effects on private water sources and wildlife.

Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) said he believes the fault should not be placed on the town exclusively, maintaining that “there is no question that the state has to step in as well,” he said.

Kornreich also noted the role of individual consumers and community members in remediating the issue. 

“We have to figure out our role in the larger question — that most of us dispose of large amounts of garbage every day,” he said, adding that consumers should consider how they as individuals contribute to the root problems.

The landfill is set to cease collection of certain trash and demolition debris by December 2024. Once the landfill reaches its capacity, the next step is to transfer out ash, potentially adding years to the timeline for full-scale closure.

BLARG continued to urge that the Brookhaven Landfill be shut down sooner rather than later, suggesting that the plume has gone too far.

“The first step is to set a closure date for the Brookhaven Landfill,” the BLARG statement reads, adding, “DEC must step in to set a date for the closure of the landfill.”

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.”

One of over a dozen derelict buildings that remain on the Lawrence Aviation Superfund site in Port Jefferson Station. File photo by Raymond Janis

UPDATE: The June 29 community availability session at the Port Jefferson Village Center for the Lawrence Aviation Industries Site is postponed. DEC will notify the public once a new community meeting date is scheduled.

To ensure careful and thorough cleanup efforts at the former Lawrence Aviation Industries Superfund Site in Port Jefferson Station, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation scheduled a community availability session at the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101 East Broadway, tonight, June 29, from 6-8:30 p.m. This event has been postponed to a later date.

Experts from NYSDEC, the state Department of Health, NYSDEC-contracted engineering and demolition firms, the Suffolk County Landbank Corporation and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services will be available for one-on-one interactions with community members. Multiple stations will be set up at the Village Center, with representatives available to discuss specific areas of interest. 

Participants can attend any time during the session.

The community availability session will present information about the planned demolition, cleanup activities and future use at the LAI Site. Handouts of the presentation materials will be made available during the session.

Eliminating possible exposure to site-related contamination in the local community will be a point of emphasis. The updates include the latest information regarding the planned demolition of derelict buildings and provide progress to address contaminated soils and groundwater on the property.

Pixabay photo

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), along with the State Department of Health (DOH) issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for Long Island on Thursday, June 8 as the smoke and haze from the Canadian wildfires continue to blanket the region. This air quality alert has been extended through this evening, June 8, until 11:59 p.m. and is potentially forecasted to continue into tomorrow as well.

The pollutant of concern is Fine Particulate Matter. Fine particulate matter consists of tiny solid particles or liquid droplets in the air made of many different types of particles. Exposure can cause short-term health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath. Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. People with heart or breathing problems, and children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to particle matter

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Wear masks outside (Preferably a K95)
  • Limit outdoor exposure (Pets too)
  • Keep windows closed and use air purifiers
  • Consider rescheduling or canceling any outdoor activities
  • Continuously monitor the air quality
    Check the Air Quality in Your Area Here


Mayor Margot Garant analyzes coastal engineering drawings during a public meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at Port Jefferson Village Hall. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees convened Tuesday, Jan. 17. The board tackled a range of subjects from upcoming coastal engineering projects to a rideshare service and school district facilities.

A proposed westerly wall

Mayor Margot Garant reported a development to the coastal engineering plans at the East Beach bluff, where erosion threatens the village-owned Port Jefferson Country Club’s clubhouse facility.

With $3.75 million in federal funds secured for an upland wall to protect the building [See story, “Schumer secures funds for upper wall at PJCC …” The Port Times Record, Jan. 12], the mayor announced her team is exploring ways to finalize its upland plans.

A proposed “westerly wall,” originally pitched as an add-on extension to the upper wall to accommodate racket sports, is now recommended as a possible erosion mitigation strategy. Huntington Station-based engineering firm GEI Consultants “did confirm that they definitely feel we need to do both the main wall and the extension wall,” Garant said.

The village board put the upper wall projects to bid in October, announcing the cost projections the following month. The upper wall bid came back at approximately $3.3 million, with the combined upper wall and westerly wall project costing roughly $4.5 million.

Considering which option is most suitable for the village, Garant outlined why she favors constructing the westerly wall: “I believe that putting that second wall in there, now unequivocally, if somebody else is paying 75% of that cost, I think the westerly wall should go in,” she said.

Forecasting how to organize the racket sports facilities once the westerly wall is complete, Garant suggested it will be a problematic decision-making calculus regarding which racket sports to prioritize.

“We may be wanting to install more than three pickleball courts because the demand is so high and trying to get maybe an instructional court, and maybe just have the two [tennis] courts in the back,” she said. “We have to figure out when, how, where, timing, materials, cost. It’s complicated.”

She added, “The good news is we’re going to be building a wall. I think that saves a major resource for this community. I think it allows us to reinstate a racket ball campus. And I think it gives us a reasonable timeline to come up with an alternate plan, god forbid in 20 years, we need to have something different in place.”

Ridesharing service

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden and Kevin Wood, director of economic development, parking administrator and communications committee head, jointly presented on a rideshare project. 

The benefits of the plan, as Snaden explained, are threefold: to offer residents easy access to downtown Port Jefferson, provide a safe means of return travel to their homes and ease traffic congestion.

“I think we have something that’s really going to work for the residents of Port Jefferson,” the deputy mayor said, adding that the goal is “to get them downtown, to save parking for the tourists and others, and to come down, have a nice evening and get home safely.”

Wood worked out how the village would implement such a rideshare program. “The plan that you have in front of you would be to combine world-class, Uber-like software with a black car service to be exclusively used and designed for Port Jefferson residents,” he said.

Offering a rough sketch of his vision, Wood said the service would operate Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. The village government would administer the software, which would be geofenced for Port Jefferson, meaning requests outside the 11777 zip code could not be possible. “If somebody wanted to go to Smith Haven Mall, they can’t,” Wood said. 

He proposed that rides could start at $5 per person and $12.50 for groups of three to seven people. These figures could be subject to change as the village would adjust the software and set its rates based on the community’s needs.

“The beautiful part about this is that if we find that $5 is literally not enough money or too much money, I think we have some leeway there and could change this stuff on a dime,” Wood said. “We can change things on demand. We can make new group rates. We could do special event rates.”

Village attorney Brian Egan inquired whether this program could create centralized drop-off locations for riders, preventing clutter of village roads and safety hazards from stopped vehicles. Responding, Wood said the village could train drivers to drop off and pick up riders to minimize these risks.

Garant put her support behind the effort, saying this will benefit residents who wish to access their downtown amid its busy season. “We all, I’ll speak for myself, feel we’re getting snowed out in the middle of the summertime,” the mayor said. “You can’t get down here, so I think this is going to be something that I’m really excited about.”


Egan updated the board on the ongoing negotiations with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The village is attempting to reclassify the Port Jefferson Clean Solid Waste Landfill as a transfer station, enabling the continued procedure of branch and leaf pickup services. [See story, “Garbage grief: PJ Village and DEC clash over landfill permit,” The Port Times Record, Dec. 1].

“I do think we have — at least with the DEC senior administrative staff — a very receptive ear,” he said. Referring to the permit dispute with DEC, he added, “I think we’ll have a cooperative resolution to it, and I am cautiously optimistic.”

Trustee Lauren Sheprow used her report to discuss a forthcoming capital bond at Port Jefferson School District. “The school district is looking at floating another bond in May,” she said.

Citing an article in Newsday, Sheprow said approximately 80% of federal COVID-19 relief funds have yet to be spent by public schools statewide. “$14 billion has not been used yet,” she said. “There’s $14 billion issued to New York State in COVID relief,” adding that the heating and ventilation systems proposed by PJSD may qualify under COVID relief conditions.

Sheprow added she might pitch her ideas to the school board during its upcoming meeting Tuesday, Jan. 24. She encouraged her fellow board members to attend.

Snaden reported on a meeting with the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District and the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. This year’s iteration of the Port Jefferson Ice Festival, hosted by the BID on Jan. 28 and 29, will feature 27 ice sculptures at various storefronts and other locations throughout Port Jeff.

Trustee Stan Loucks reported on winter projects at PJCC. He said 188 members have already signed up for this year as of the time of this meeting. Trustee Rebecca Kassay was absent and did not deliver a report by proxy.

The board of trustees will meet again Monday, Feb. 6, with a scheduled public hearing to amend the village code concerning dogs and other animals.

The Setauket Mill Pond is being considered for an upcoming alewife study. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Lisa Scott

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) mission is to “conserve, improve and protect New York’s natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution…” 

Within the newly created Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park, the DEC Division of Marine Resources has a state-of-the-art headquarters and laboratory to pursue these goals and ensure the conservation of our local marine life and habitats. All are welcome to visit their public lobby equipped with aquariums of local species and learn more ways to get involved and help monitor and protect marine life locally.

Shellfish have been a resource for Indigenous inhabitants of Long Island for thousands of years for a myriad of uses. In spite of massive human development over the past 400 years, shellfish are still an important resource today. Monitoring threats to shellfish and working to restore their populations and habitat is an important part of DEC’s work.

DEC Marine Resources Shellfish Microbiology Laboratory operates the only FDA-evaluated laboratory in the State for processing water samples to certify approved shellfish harvest areas. The laboratory features advanced equipment for processing and analyzing plankton, shellfish, and water samples, ensuring that shellfish harvested legally from approved areas in New York’s marine waters are safe for consumers and supports the State’s commercially important shellfish industry.

Year-round, the DEC conducts water quality sampling of over one million acres of shellfish harvesting areas across Long Island and the lab analyzes approximately 13,000 water samples annually to monitor water quality trends. As a result of continuous testing, the DEC classifies shellfish harvest areas as open year-round, seasonally open, or closed year-round. Use the DEC’s Public Shellfish Mapper to learn about harvest area boundaries, seasonally open dates, and water quality sampling locations: https://on.ny.gov/shellfishmapper

Under the Long Island Shellfish Restoration Program (LISRP), the DEC in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Stony Brook University, and the Town of Huntington completed the stocking of 13.6 million juvenile (seed) clams and (spat-on-shell) oysters and 650,000 adult clams in Huntington Harbor in October 2020 to improve water quality and enhance shellfish populations. The LISRP completed four additional stocking efforts at sanctuary sites in Bellport Bay, Hempstead Bay, Shinnecock Bay, and South Oyster Bay.

Monitoring of sanctuary sites is conducted by the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University to obtain biological and environmental information on shellfish growth, survival and spawning success, and to assess the effect on water quality, phytoplankton uptake and filtration and nitrogen cycling and removal. The results of the project will guide and support the success of future restoration efforts on Long Island.

Most Long Island tributaries once supported spring runs of returning alewife, a species of river herring native to Long Island. Like salmon, they split their life cycle between salt and freshwater. Alewife runs have been decimated by dams, habitat loss and declining water quality but remnant populations still exist in a few rivers and the public’s help is needed to learn more about their overall status across Long Island. 

Through the Long Island Volunteer Alewife Survey, volunteers help record observations of spawning alewife and documenting existing runs is an important step for restoration efforts. Monitoring efforts start mid-March and training workshops will be announced soon for Spring 2023. Suggested sites include: Frank Melville Memorial Park/Setauket Mill Pond in Setauket, Crab Meadow East Pond (Makamah Nature Preserve) in Fort Salonga, Stony Brook Grist Mill/Stony Brook Dam in Stony Brook, and Carlls River in Argyle Park, Babylon. Visit Seatuck’s website for workshop information and how to get involved: https://seatuck.org/volunteer-river-herring-survey/

The newly released Long Island Sound Marsh Migration Viewer is an online tool used to easily examine changes in marsh habitat along New York’s shores of the Long Island Sound watershed under various sea level rise scenarios over different time periods: http://warrenpinnacle.com/LIMaps.

New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), Long Island Sound Study (LISS), and DEC will be hosting virtual public workshops for community stakeholders to learn more about the Viewer in early 2023. These workshops will demonstrate how to use the Viewer and will highlight an additional 47 marsh complexes that are added to the Viewer.

Whether you want to get outside to observe alewife in local rivers, sit at your desk to see changes to  local marsh habitats with rising sea levels, or learn about shellfish monitoring, you have these and many other resources and opportunities available from our local DEC Marine Resources Headquarters. Check out more ways to get involved from DEC’s website: https://www.dec.ny.gov/ or contact them at 631 444-0450 or [email protected]. We all should be responsible, educated stewards of our beautiful island home. 

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860.

Coastal erosion endangers the Village of Port Jefferson's property atop the East Beach bluff. Formerly the place of wedding receptions, the gazebo pictured above was obliterated by the most recent landslide last year. File photo by Raymond Janis

The Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees met on Monday, Nov. 21, for a business meeting covering a range of pressing public business.

Mayor Margot Garant presented the cost estimates for the proposed upper wall to fortify the East Beach bluff, presenting figures ranging from $3.32 million to $4.52 million depending on the scope of the projects, such as add-ons to accommodate racket sports amenities. [See story, “Port Jeff … trustees debate erosion mitigation strategy at village country club.]

After presenting these cost estimates, Garant recommended that the board reject these bids. “I don’t think we should take any action on the upper wall, the steel wall, at this point,” she said. 

The plans for the upper wall were delayed for a variety of factors, according to Garant. In a text message, she maintained that the delay was not a change of posture but rather a change in the timeline for final approval, given the weather and the pending completion of the lower wall. 

“My position hasn’t changed,” she said. “Something has to be done, but the timeline for the lower wall to be completed, with the upland restoration and plantings not occurring now to the spring, is pushing this from being done within the next six to eight months, so we cannot approve the bid.”

The board also debated an ongoing permit dispute between the village and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regarding the Port Jefferson Village Clean Solid Waste Landfill. This kettle hole, which facilitates branch and leaf pickup services within the village, was affected by changes to state regulations in 2017.

The purpose of the deliberations was to decide whether to enable P.W. Grosser Consulting, a Bohemia-based environmental firm, to negotiate with the DEC to work out a permit agreement.

“We would like to get our permit back to what the state regs were prior to them changing them, which means we can put branches and leaves in there,” Garant said. “The challenge has become Mother Nature, really, with the large trees.” 

The mayor added, “Branch pickup, honestly, I don’t know if it’s sustainable for us in this community.”

With a looming Dec. 11 deadline, the future of the landfill and branch pickup in PJV hangs in the balance. After some debate, the board agreed to table the matter for a later meeting.

In her report, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden detailed the results of a recent survey conducted to determine the name of Station Street, a one-way corridor opening in Upper Port. Out of 134 submissions, “Station Street” was the highest vote-getter.

Trustee Rebecca Kassay reported on an event she has been coordinating with other sponsors called Walk Safe with a Doc. The event will be held sometime this spring to  promote the physical benefits of walking and the importance of pedestrian safety.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow reported two upcoming meetings, one with the Country Club Social/Hospitality Task Force and the other with the newly reestablished Parks and Recreation Advisory Council. The PRAC will assign roles and designate committee chairs at its next meeting.

The board of trustees will reconvene Monday, Dec. 12, at 5 p.m., the same day as the upcoming bond vote in Port Jefferson School District.

A sign inside Wild by Nature in East Setauket warns customers they will no longer supply plastic bags starting March 1. The store will also collect 5 cents for paper bags used. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Beginning March 1, Long Islander shoppers will have one less option when packing their groceries, as a New York State ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect. 

The ban would prohibit retailers from giving out plastic carryout bags to customers. State lawmakers hope that this will lead to more residents deciding to bring their own reusable bags and a decrease of plastic waste. 

The legislation is a step toward reducing the 23 billion plastic bags used by New Yorkers every year, reducing litter and helping the fight against climate change. 

According to a Siena College Research Institute poll conducted after the bill was passed, 62 percent of New Yorkers support the ban compared to 33 percent who don’t. 

“We are expecting a successful implementation.”

-Adrienne Esposito

While plastic bags will no longer be handed out at retailers, paper bags will still be available. In Suffolk County, consumers will be charged 5 cents for each paper carryout bag provided at a checkout. In areas that have the opted into the 5 cent charge, the fee does not apply for SNAP and WIC food benefit recipients. 

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the ban will have a positive impact in curbing plastic pollution. 

“This is a significant accomplishment — Suffolk County needs to be commended for implementing the 5 cent bag fee,” she said. “The state noticed the success of it and it led to this ban.”

Some environmentalists are concerned about some final tweaks in the legislation by the DEC that would allow usage of bags which are thicker and heavier. Esposito said they aren’t concerned about it as it won’t be widely distributed as regular bags and will only be used for packaging of certain foods. 

“If for some reason it needs to be tweaked further, we will be a part of those discussions,” she said. 

State lawmakers are hoping the ban will increase usage in reusable bags. Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced a campaign, dubbed BYOBagNY, which has been spearheaded by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. 

The agency has been running ads on the ban on TV, radio and social media. In addition, the DEC provided educational materials to its nine regional offices to use for outreach events and will be distributing more than 270,000 reusable bags to low- and moderate-income communities. 

Stop & Shop branches throughout the county began offering free reusable bags to customers who bring in one or more carryout plastic bags for recycling. 

Similarly, in the county, a plastic straw ban took effect this January, which required businesses to switch biodegradable alternatives. A Styrofoam ban was also implemented, prohibiting businesses from using items such as cups, trays and containers that are made from polystyrene. 

“We are expecting a successful implementation — we as a society can learn to bring a reusable bag when we go out shopping,” Esposito said. “Most people have already made the change, some have lagged behind, but this is one thing they can do to reduce plastic waste.”

A buck spotted on a lawn in Port Jefferson. Photo by Phil Shiavone

Drivers are regularly reminded that deer populations along the North Shore of Long Island are increasing as many of the animals graze alongside or dart across roadways. Some of these encounters unfortunately end in collisions. With deer and people on the move during the busy holiday season, TBR News Media is taking a look at issues to hopefully curb the impact.

Deer are spotted all over the North Shore. The one above is seen near Old Homestead Road in Belle Terre, Port Jefferson. Photo by Phil Schiavone

Destruction of vegetation

Christina Maffia, who has lived in Old Field South for 18 years, said she sees deer on her property every day, sometimes a lone buck and other times two or three animals. She described her property as “once lush, green, temperate forest that has been reduced to bare limbs below 5 feet.” She said her perennials don’t grow back due to being continuously eaten.

The appearance of depleted vegetation coincided with the arrival of the deer a few years ago. She said her neighborhood had been planted back when Frank Melville established the neighborhood in 1929. The grounds in Old Field South were designed by the landscape architecture firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, which also designed Central Park.

“These plantings are considered historical,” she said. “It’s such a shame that the historical part of this area that made it so beautiful is now being compromised.”

Maffia has sprayed her plants with a product called Deer Off, which incorporates rotten eggs in the ingredients. It deters deer, she said, but her experience has been that whenever it rains or she runs the sprinklers, she needs to reapply the product which she uses around the perimeter of her property.

The Village of Old Field recently sent an email to residents encouraging them to use deer repellent on their properties. Village officials reminded homeowners that a new generation of deer will establish their own feeding trails this time of the year. Because of these new trails, “it is a good time of year to use repellents to redirect these trails before they become solidly developed,” the village said.

According to the village email, deer repellent means less plant damage during fall and winter, and fewer deer in the village.

Kathy Schiavone, of Port Jefferson, said she and her husband also have problems with their landscaping due to the deer.

“We had tried the various remedies that have been suggested and have come to the conclusion that we will no longer buy and plant flowers to ornament our yard,” she said. “We did replace a number of yews with Japanese plum yews, which the deer do not bother. We had done this about five years ago. So far, so good.”

According to the DEC’s website, among the food deer prefer are cedar, sassafras, wintergreen, yew, mountain maple, flowering dogwood and more. A list of other vegetation they feed on can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7195.html.

There is evidence that deer are also altering forests across New York, according to the DEC. This can reduce diversity in the forest understory, enable invasive species to outcompete natives and prevent seedlings of many species from growing into the next generation of trees.

A couple of deer spotted on a lawn in Belle Terre, below. Photo by Jean Thomas

Lyme disease

Maffia and Schiavone said they are concerned about deer ticks and contracting Lyme disease due to the increased population of deer. Both have friends and neighbors who have suffered from the tick-borne disease. Schiavone said she also knows four people who have contracted babesiosis, three of whom had to be hospitalized. Maffia said she had one neighbor with Lyme disease who later got Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Another was hospitalized with a severe inflammation around his heart caused by Lyme disease.

“It’s not just aesthetics anymore,” Maffia said. “It’s people being impacted by the deer.”

Nancy Irvolino has lived near Brooksite Drive in Smithtown for more than 40 years and has noticed an increase of the animals in the area.

“Sometimes they are on the side [of Brooksite], but a lot of times they run out at night in front of my car and I slam the brakes,” she said.

While Blydenburgh County Park abuts the lane she lives on, she said it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that she started seeing deer walking down her street and eating plants. Recently, she has seen them every night near her house.

Irvolino said she worries about herself and her dogs contracting Lyme disease and doesn’t even walk in the park due to it.

According to the DEC website, deer are the primary food source for adult female ticks and reduction of deer populations to very low levels may reduce tick densities and infection rates.

The Village of Old Field email to residents claimed that deer over time can carry thousands of ticks.


Villages across the North Shore are debating the best way to cull the herds.

“My hope is that our elected officials will realize the overabundance of deer is an important enough public issue to take action against,” Schiavone said.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) is currently working to present a townwide forum on deer with the DEC in the near future, according to her office.

Belle Terre allows bow hunting, and Head of the Harbor last year joined Avalon Park & Preserve in Stony Brook with a contraceptive vaccine experiment to help with deer management. The DEC supports the use of sharpshooters, who aim for an instant kill, so the animal doesn’t suffer and also advocates donating the meat to food banks.

“I am not a fan of hunting just for the sake of demonstrating one’s prowess in killing any animal,” Schiavone said. “I have been convinced by information I have gotten that culling is the answer.”

Maffia, who has been a vegetarian for 30 years, agreed.

“At this point, because there are no natural predators, they’re attacking so many things people wouldn’t think of.”

— Christina Maffia

“At this point, because there are no natural predators, they’re attacking so many things people wouldn’t think of,” she said.

Maffia said she and her wife, Donna Crinnian, have been able to decrease the amount of bird seed they buy in the winter as nesting birds have disappeared since the deer have eaten the ground covering where the birds would nest.

“They’re impacting the ecosystem,” she said.

In the Village of Port Jefferson, where hunting is prohibited, residents are asked to call 631-774-0066 if they see a deceased deer on the road and 631-744-2507 if they see a wounded deer on their property. Those who spot hunter tree stands on private property can call Kathy Grady, DEC officer, at 631-744-2507 so the location can be checked to see if it qualifies as legal hunting ground.

Brookhaven residents can call the Animal Shelter at 631-451-6950 to report deceased deer on the road. In Smithtown, people can call the Animal Shelter at 631-360-7575 about dead or injured wildlife.

When it comes to roadways, the Department of Motor Vehicles advises drivers to be extra cautious during both dawn and dusk when deer are most active, especially in the autumn months.

Insurance company State Farm recently released its animal collision study from claims data from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, which estimated 1.9 million animal collision claims industrywide nationally, the large majority being with deer. During the same period, it was estimated there were 1.5 million deer claims.

“Remember, animals are unpredictable, especially when faced with glaring headlights, blowing horns and fast-moving vehicles,” said Billy Williams, Setauket State Farm agent. “They often dart into traffic.”

He added that drivers should remember that deer move in herds, so if one is seen on a roadway there may be more following.