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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone

From left, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Mount Sinai Miller Place Chamber of Commerce President Holly Bottiglieri reviewing Suffolk County Small Business Website Hub. Photo from Leg. Anker's office

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced the launch of a new website, www.suffolkcountyny.gov/BusinessHub, dedicated to assisting local small businesses and startups. The website, which was developed after the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution sponsored by Legislator Anker, will serve as the county’s center for business development needs and services by providing important information regarding how to start a business, what county, state and federal assistance and pandemic relief programs are available for businesses owners, and resources to help established businesses innovate and grow.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created incredible challenges for small business, and while large corporations have received substantial government support, our small businesses have not been given as many opportunities. This website hub will help to provide our local businesses with easy access to helpful resources including, grant and loan opportunities, potential funding sources, business administration information, small business related rules and regulations, relevant government department contacts, and COVID-19 related guidance information,” said Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker. “I would like to thank Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone for his support, and the Suffolk County Departments of Economic Development and Planning, and Information Technology for their work in developing and launching this much needed resource.”

“As we enter our new normal, we are working to build back stronger than ever and this website will allow us to provide the resources needed to ensure our local small businesses thrive,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “The hub will create a more collaborative effort with local small businesses and will help raise awareness of the many resources available to them.”

In addition to the website hub, the county is developing an Office of Business Development, which will serve to assist business owners with coordinating the various permitting processes required by the Suffolk County Departments of Health Services and Public Works, and if applicable, the New York State Department of Conservation and any other state, federal or local agencies.

“The Suffolk County Office of Business Development is truly a “one-stop website” that contains a wealth of information for individuals who are seeking to start or grow a business,” said Holly Bottiglieri, President of the Mt. Sinai-Miller Place Chamber of Commerce. “It provides valuable tools to aid in making educated decisions that include, choosing an industry to open a business, online workshops and all of the logistics to help new and seasoned businesses obtain accurate information to move forward in their business development process”.

The site will also offer an opportunity for local businesses to participate in Suffolk County’s procurement of services and goods. Local businesses will have the ability to more easily access and sign up for county bids and requests for proposals. This includes an emphasis on Minority- and Women- owned Business Enterprises (MWBE), as well as Veteran-owned businesses.

The website hub expands on the work of the county’s Business Recovery Unit (BRU), which County Executive Bellone launched in March of 2020 to serve as a one-stop-shop for businesses in Suffolk County that are looking for pandemic-related assistance. The unit consists of a comprehensive webpage, www.suffolkcountyny.gov/BRU, that continues to be updated with critical resources for businesses, and can be found under the “Pandemic Relief” tab on the new Business Hub website. In addition to the website, residents looking to be connected to the unit can call 311 or email [email protected].

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During his State of the County address, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) presented an ambitious vision for a state-of-the-art north terminal at Long Island MacArthur Airport that would connect to both a newly erected convention center and to the main line of the Long Island Rail Road. 

“Every great region must have a great regional airport and no one can deny that Long Island is one of the great regions in the nation,” Bellone said.  

While Bellone is correct that Long Island is a great region and that it could benefit from a modernized airport terminal at MacArthur, the staff of TBR News Media would like to remind the county executive that there is still so much work to be done before this dream can ever materialize. 

In its present form, Long Island’s prehistoric mass transit network is vastly unprepared to support Bellone’s grand vision. Look no further than the Long Island Expressway to discover the backward state of transportation affairs on the Island. 

If one is lucky enough to be on the road at an hour when the expressway is not crammed with cars and trucks, there still remains the herculean task of dodging potholes. Out-of-state residents are horrified by the medieval conditions of this roadway — and the carnage inflicted upon their tires and front axles. 

The LIRR offers little alternative. While railways around the nation and globe have modernized and expedited their services, Suffolk County residents ride home at a sluggish pace aboard rickety train cars. Riding the LIRR today is uncomfortable, exhausting and, frankly, not worth the price of the ticket. 

Our airways do require a modern renovation, but so do our railways and roadways. Policymakers and regional planners need to consider these projects in tandem. Airports and train stations are not standalone facilities but part of a broader, integrated transportation ecosystem. It is that ecosystem that needs an overhaul.

It makes little sense for Suffolk County residents to dodge potholes en route to their state-of-the-art regional airport. It is equally nonsensical to bring 20th-century train cars into a modernized transportation hub. 

In Suffolk County, leaders offer us bold visions for change without a roadmap to get us there. Our various public transit systems are remnants of a bygone way of life, artifacts of a time when the county had far fewer residents. 

The challenges of immobility are real, likely a result of failed planning some decades ago. Our residents require relief right now as their freedom of movement and quality of life are both dangerously impeded. 

TBR News Media sees the benefits of a modernized terminal at MacArthur, and believes Bellone’s idea is a good one. But there is a whole lot of work to be done before we can get there.

Photo from Suffolk County

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has announced that the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency will host its third annual Drive-thru Resource and Stand Down Event on Saturday, April 30 in the north parking lot of the H. Lee Dennison Building located at 100 Veterans Memorial Highway in Hauppauge from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

This year, 22 organizations and county agencies will participate, offering a variety of resources free-of-charge.

“Suffolk County is home to the largest veterans’ population in New York State and we must do all that we can to support our nations heroes,” said County Executive Bellone. As part of the event, our local veterans will have access to critical information about services currently available to them, along with a host of supplies, including COVID-19 test kits.”

Attending veterans and their families will have an opportunity to receive clothing, fresh produce, personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies, gift cards, blankets, and much more. Information on various nonprofit veteran services, including for physical and mental health, will also be available. Registration is encouraged, but not required. To register, click here.

Over the last two years, more than 200 veteran attendees have received resources from the various organizations and county agencies at the Drive-thru Resource and Stand Down Event. The County anticipates 200 to 300 veterans will attend this year.

Organizations participating in this year’s event include:

o   Suffolk County Veteran’s Services Agency

o   Suffolk County Traffic & Parking Violations Agency

o   Suffolk County Department of Labor

o   Suffolk County Community College

o   American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244

o   Catholic Health Services

o   Covanta

o   Dominican Village

o   Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk, Inc.

o   General Needs

o   Here to Help Veterans and Families

o   Home Depot

o   Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project

o   Long Island Cares, Inc.

o   New Ground

o   Phoenix House LI/NY

o   Project9line

o   St. Joseph’s College NY

o   Treehouse Group

o   United Veterans Beacon House

o   United Way of Long Island

o   US Dept. of Veterans Affairs

For more information, call 631-853-4000.

Lee Koppelman, sitting, in April 2018, was presented with a replica of the sign that marks a nature preserve dedicated in his honor by former Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo from 2018 by Alex Petroski

After the passing of Lee Koppelman, Suffolk County’s first regional planning board director, he is remembered fondly by those who knew him and his considerable work.

File photo/TBR News Media

Koppelman, of South Setauket, died on March 21, at age 94, at Stony Brook University Hospital.

“Lee Koppelman was a true pioneer whose comprehensive vision for sustainable development on Long Island was well ahead of his time and laid the foundation for countless initiatives we are still pursuing to this day,” said County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in a statement. “Lee’s push, against political backlash, to preserve open space, manage coastal erosion and improve water quality has had a lasting impact that spans generations.”

Bellone added, “As a county, we continue to pull his ideas ‘off the drawing board,’ with more than 20,000 acres of open space and farmland being preserved, as well as continued investments into downtown sewering, water quality improvements and public transit corridors.”

Before his illustrious career, Koppelman was born in Harlem on May 19, 1927. He grew up in Astoria and graduated from Bryant High School in Queens. His parents owned greenhouses in addition to a flower shop in Manhattan.

Koppelman was a Navy veteran who joined in 1945. He held a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from City College of New York and a master’s degree from Pratt Institute. He also earned a doctorate in public administration from New York University.

After he was married, Koppelman and his wife, Connie, moved to Hauppauge, where the planner, then president of the Hauppauge Civic Association, would play an instrumental role in the development of the Hauppauge Industrial Park.

In 1960 the Koppelmans moved to Smithtown and in the late 1980s to East Setauket. In 2014, he and his wife moved to Jefferson Ferry’s independent living in South Setauket. According to his son Keith, Koppelman designed and built his homes in Hauppauge, Smithtown and East Setauket. 

Koppelman served as the first Suffolk County regional planning board director for 28 years, from 1960 to 1988, and also served as the executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board from 1965 to 2006. He was an early advocate for preserving open space and was responsible for drawing up Suffolk’s first comprehensive master plan in 1970.

In an article by historian Noel Gish posted to the Stony Brook University website, he described Koppelman as “a planning gymnast, contorting and twisting his way through the development of the post-World War II period on Long Island.”

In addition to his accomplishments in his planning career, Koppelman was a professor emeritus at Stony Brook University, where he taught until last semester, according to his son. In 1988, he was appointed director of the Center for Regional Policy Studies at the school. The center handles research projects including governmental productivity, strategic economic planning and environmental planning.

“Lee Koppelman was a true pioneer whose comprehensive vision for sustainable development on Long Island was well ahead of his time and laid the foundation for countless initiatives we are still pursuing to this day.”

— Steve Bellone

According to his profile on the university’s website, his focus was “the environmental policy aspects of regional planning and has been specifically directed toward coastal zone management.”

Among his accomplishments listed on the SBU website, he was project manager for research “including coastal regional planning, comprehensive water management, shoreline erosion practices and related studies.” He was also involved “in the development of synthesis techniques for relating coastal zone science into the regional planning process.”

Leonie Huddy, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, said Koppelman was “a leading member of the Stony Brook Political Science Department for over five decades and trained generations of local and regional leaders and policy analysts. He will be sorely missed.”

Koppelman also served as executive director of the Long Island Regional Planning Board and was chairman emeritus of the Town of Brookhaven Open Space and Farmland Acquisition Advisory Committee.

A 46-acre parcel of woodlands near the Stony Brook campus was named after him during a ceremony in April of 2018. Now known as Lee E. Koppelman Nature Preserve, the property east of Nicolls Road and south of the university has been owned by the Town of Brookhaven for nearly 50 years and was used as passive open space.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), who was a county legislator in the 1980s, said in a phone interview he worked closely with Koppelman during his time in the Legislature working on open space acquisitions in Suffolk County. Romaine was able to get one of the largest acquisitions with the former Havens Estate in Center Moriches. The acquisition included 263 acres of land, now known as Terrell River County Park, that sits from Montauk Highway south to Moriches Bay. He also worked with Koppelman on other acquisitions.

In later years, Koppelman hired Romaine, a former full-time teacher, to teach a graduate course at SBU in 2005. He described Koppelman as gifted and intelligent. He said the two may not have always agreed on matters, “but I always thought his heart was in the right place.”

“I thought he was a visionary, and people say, ‘Well, what does it mean to be a visionary or to have vision,” Romaine said. “Well, vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. He made quite visible to us the possibility of things that we should be working on as a county in terms of farmland acquisition, preservation, where development should take place.”

Romaine said he counts himself among others who “are beginning to see that his vision was for the, most part, the correct vision for the future of Long Island, and we regret those things where past leaders did not have the same vision — it was invisible to them to see what he was saying, what his vision was.”

The town supervisor said many would visit Koppelman’s office at SBU to seek advice.

Lee Koppelman in a recent photo from Jefferson Ferry where he lived.

“He was a guy with a tremendous amount of knowledge,” Romaine said. “He will be missed for a long time, and his contributions will go on long after his passing, so I have nothing but absolute praise for Lee Koppelman and his efforts to make sure that Long Island was somewhat more rational than it is today.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said Koppelman was a superb administrator who knew how to surround himself with expert master planners. He said Koppelman and the planners “reflected a sense of mission and a sense of strength,” and he leaves behind a great legacy.

“In the years in which sprawl was a menace, every morning, there was Lee Koppelman and his cadre of top-flight planners who offered another vision for Long Island and made a difference, and enabled us to really bring thought into the experience of what appeared to be a daily exercise in chaos on the roadways and in the hallways where approvals for construction were being granted,” Englebright said. “He was a breath of fresh air.”

Englebright said Koppelman’s legacy will continue.

“The expectation, which is really built on of his legacy, is that we will plan, we will reason and we will make thoughtful decisions regarding our land use and natural resource uses,” Englebright said.

Koppelman is survived by his wife, Connie; four children Lesli, Claudia, Laurel and Keith; and three grandchildren Ezra, Ora and Dara. A funeral was held Thursday, March 24, at Shalom Memorial Chapels in Smithtown.

“We shared our father’s time and attention with the entire community of Long Island,” Keith Koppelman said in an email. “We have always been and will remain incredibly proud of him. Working for a rational future for Long Island did take him away from us at times, but now we have reminders of him everywhere we travel on the Island.”

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, at podium, and Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim at a press conference Feb. 25. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) stopped by Smithtown’s senior citizens center to talk about COVID-19 and distribute at-home tests to center visitors Friday, Feb. 25.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone talks with visitors at the senior citizen center. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Before the press conference, county Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) began delivering the 10,000 at-home COVID-19 test kits received by the town courtesy of the county. The kits were distributed on the day of the press conference and Monday to local assisted living communities, faith-based and small food pantries and community centers in the greater township.

Bellone said he reached out to New York Gov. Kathy Hocul (D) for help with continuing aid to vulnerable populations. 

“This was the time to really begin the conversation about how we transition back to normal, to the stage where we are living with the virus, essentially the endemic stage of the virus, and you’re seeing that conversation happening now around the country, as well, which I think is very important,” Bellone said. “As we do that, as we move to that different stage of the virus and manage that risk moving forward, we do still need to be making sure we’re doing everything we can to provide the resources necessary to protect vulnerable populations, senior citizens, those who may have issues with immunity, etc. We need to make sure that things that we know work that are available that they are easily accessible and available to those residents.”

Suffolk officials have been working with various partners such as nonprofits and law enforcement agencies since the beginning of the year to distribute at-home tests, masks and hand sanitizer to the most vulnerable. Bellone said the county has distributed at this point over 200,000 test kits and expects over the next six months that Suffolk will be distributing several hundred thousand more test kits, focusing on the most vulnerable populations.

Bellone added that vaccines, testing and therapeutics have been making a difference.

The county supervisor thanked Wehrheim for his help during the pandemic.  

“Supervisor Wehrheim has been an example of the kind of leadership that you need in unprecedented times, and I truly appreciate his partnership and the work that we were able to do together during the pandemic,” Bellone said.

Wehrheim also thanked Bellone for helping the town ensure that no one went without essentials during the pandemic and for the county’s continued support, especially for those on fixed incomes.

“Now families can visit loved ones in nursing homes with easy access to at-home test kits,” Wehrheim said. “Our older seniors can come back to a great senior community and our great senior citizens department to enjoy socializing. Most importantly, we can get back to living again, safer.”

New phase

Bellone said Suffolk County is moving into a new phase of the pandemic. 

“We just recently went through what I would characterize as the second most impactful wave of this virus,” he said, adding the omicron wave’s variant infection and hospitalization rates were as high as at the beginning of the pandemic and the county once again saw double-digit deaths.

“We know that this pandemic has caused incalculable devastation, and there will be impacts that we’ll be dealing with for a long time to come, no doubt,” he said. “But, what is clear now is — I think a couple things — we’re moving into a different phase, and this virus is not going to go away. It is going to be here with us. It is something that we are going to be living with.”

Medical healthcare holding COVID-19 , Coronavirus swab collection kit, wearing PPE protective suit mask gloves, test tube for taking OP NP patient specimen sample,PCR DNA testing protocol process

In an effort to expand access to testing, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced the opening of three new community based testing sites. Rapid Antigen COVID-19 tests, which will be administered by Baseline Health and Reef Technologies, will be on a first come, first served basis.

The first testing site at Hecksher State Park will open on Wednesday, December 29th, the second testing site at Red Creek Park, which was formerly located at Francis S. Gabreski Airport, will open on Monday, January 3rd, and the third testing site located at Cathedral Pines County Park will open on Tuesday, January 4th.

“What we have learned so far is that the Omicron variant is highly transmittable and causing a spike in our daily positivity rate,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Testing is one of the best tools we have when it comes to containing the spread of this virus. As we approach the New Year, these three new sites will provide quick and convenient results for our residents so that they can protect themselves and their loved ones.”

Rapid Testing sites include:

Hecksher State Park, Field 8 (Opening on Wednesday, December 29th)

1 Heckscher State Parkway

East Islip

Open every Monday through Thursday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Testing Capacity: Up 1,000 tests a day

 

Red Creek Park (Opening Monday, January 3rd)

102 Old Riverhead Rd

Hampton Bays

Open for school-required testing and community testing

Open on Mondays only from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Testing Capacity: Up to 500 tests per day

 

Cathedral Pines County Park (Opening on Tuesday, January 4th)

116 Yaphank Middle Island Rd

Middle Island

Open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Testing Capacity: Up to 500 tests per day

 

Residents with any questions can contact Suffolk311.

County Executive Steve Bellone during a press conference in Hauppauge. Photo from Suffolk County

Last week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the county’s comprehensive police reform and reinvention plan, which was approved by the Legislature back in March.

According to Bellone, the reform plan seeks cultural change in the Suffolk County Police Department, with enhanced civilian oversight, increased accountability and transparency through the use of body cameras, and an expanded mental health crisis response among many other initiatives and policy changes. 

The plan focuses on seven major points for reform: training and continuing education, recruitment and staffing, community policing, traffic stops, arrests and warrants, mental health response and police systems, accountability and body cameras. 

The body camera program has been a topic of debate not just locally, but nationally. While some believe that officers should not have to wear them, many think that it would be beneficial to not only those in uniform, but also to the county — it could save us money in terms of potential lawsuits or settlements.  

Right now, the county has a pilot program where a limited number of SCPD officers wear body cameras. In an effort to increase transparency and accountability, the police reform and reinvention plan proposed that body worn cameras be deployed as standard police worn equipment for all county police officers who engage with the public in the course of their professional duties. 

According to Bellone, starting in 2022, body-worn cameras will be deployed for approximately 1,600 SCPD officers with an incentive of $3,000 additional pay over the course of two years to wear them. Suffolk County has included, in its capital budget, $24 million over a five-year period for the purchase of the cameras, implementation of the program and maintenance of the body-worn cameras and data systems. 

Nassau County has implemented a similar program while other jurisdictions in the U.S. have already begun giving officers bonus pay, negotiated by the police unions, for wearing cameras.

While the financial incentive might seem unfair to some, it’s not the worst thing. 

If an officer gets a boost for wearing something that could help accountability and trust within the local police departments, then so be it. It would then create a domino effect, resulting in other officers jumping on board until each one is armed with a camera.

If all SCPD officers eventually sport a body cam, the bad apples will be weeded out and trust could come back to those who risk their lives on the job. 

Steve Bellone. Stock photo by Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) tested positive for COVID-19.

The County Executive, who is vaccinated and has been observing mask mandates, is unsure of how he contracted the virus.

Bellone has mild symptoms and is currently not receiving any medical treatment.

“I hope this serves as a reminder to all residents that while we are making incredible progress in the war against COVID-19, we are not done just yet,” Bellone said in a statement. “I encourage anyone who is eligible to receive their booster shot to do so.”

At this point, no other members of his office staff or his family has tested positive.

Bellone said he feels in “good health and spirits,” according to the statement. He will continue to carry out the duties of the County Executive.

Meanwhile, the percentage of positive tests on a seven-day average in Suffolk County fell below 3% on Oct. 20, dropping to 2.9%, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health.

Local health care providers have been encouraged by the overall decline in positive tests, which they attribute in part to ongoing vaccination efforts.

The Food and Drug Administration provided emergency use authorization for the Moderna booster for a specific groups of people who were fully vaccinated at least six months ago. Those groups include: people 65 years and older; people 18 through 64 who are considered at high risk; and people 18 through 64 with occupational exposure.

The FDA also approved the use of a single booster dose for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.

The FDA also allowed a mix and match approach to boosters, authorizing those who received one type of vaccination to choose a different booster. Local health care providers said studies have shown that people who received the J&J vaccine had a higher antibody response after receiving a Moderna booster.

“The available data suggest waning immunity in some populations who are fully vaccinated,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodccock said in a statement. “The availability of those authorized boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease.”

Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said the FDA would gather additional data as quickly as possible to assess the benefits and risks of the us of booster doses in additional populations and plans to update the healthcare community and the public in the coming weeks.

For more information on vaccines in the area, residents can go to the web site: suffolkcountyny.gov/vaccine.

The web site also includes answers to frequently asked questions, such as: what are the side effects after I get the COVID-19 vaccine, is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition, and what should I do if I am exposed to COVID-19 after being vaccinated.

Early in the pandemic, Bellone remained in quarantine and managed his responsibilities from home after Deputy County Executive Peter Scully tested positive for the virus. Bellone didn’t test positive at that point, although he, like so many others in the early days of the disease, waited days for the results of his COVID test.

$26 million facility opens at Nissequogue River State Park

Nissequogue River State Park is the home of the new DEC Division of Marine Resources headquarters. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Nissequogue River State Park has become the central hub for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Marine Resources headquarters.

Nissequogue River State Park is the home of the new DEC Division of Marine Resources headquarters. Photo by Rita J. Egan

DEC and state park officials as well as Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) gathered Oct. 7 at the state park for the ribbon cutting of a sustainability-focused facility.

Funding for the $26 million building came from New York Works, and the facility  will house a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-certified shellfish microbiology laboratory. The DEC anticipates the lab will be certified by the FDA by Spring 2022.

The division currently works out of an office in East Setauket and will continue doing so while the FDA-certification process for the new Kings Park laboratory is conducted. The building also has a lobby the public can visit with a marine permit office and restrooms.

Jim Gilmore, director of the division, said the project began more than 10 years ago. He said being located in a medical park in East Setauket made them a “fish out of water” as they had 20 boats but were five miles from the shore. He said one day after a meeting in Northport he took the scenic route back and decided to stop at the park.

“I drove by here and saw the sign, and I came in and I said, ‘What a beautiful park and what a great place with the water access. Maybe we could move the marine division instead of having a leased space, actually build something here and have a cooperative thing with the parks department and run our operations more efficiently,’” he said. “So, fast forward to today, and we have this beautiful complex, this building and this property that was a terrific, cooperative effort between two agencies.”

He added that apart from the new facility making it easier to get boats in the water than the East Setauket location, it is “designed for more efficient operation of DEC marine division” and furthers its mission to understand fisheries management and manage over 30 recreational and commercial species.

“Things we used to be able to take a day for us to do we could do in a half day,” Gilmore said.

The division annually also certifies 1.2 million acres of shellfish harvest area with its FDA lab.

Basil Seggos, DEC commissioner, congratulated Gilmore on the completion of the project and said Gilmore has taken the marine division to the next level.

Seggos said for years the marine district has been under threat.

“It’s pollution,” he said. “It’s overfishing. It’s developing down on the waterfront. Now we start to look at some of these really big sort of existential problems that we have to handle — there’s multistate issues and fish migration and, of course, climate change and the warming of our waters, the acidification of our waters.”

He said battling the issues is just not a result of policies created in Albany but also the groundwork done by the division on Long Island.

“This beautiful building supports the staff that are protecting 2,700 miles of shoreline,” Seggos said, adding that it includes Long Island, the Atlantic side, all the embayments, New York City and the Hudson River.

He added that 1.2 million acres of open water is taken care of by the staff, and nearly 350,000 jobs are dependent on the work that the division does.

A fish tank in the building’s lobby. Photo from DEC

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said the new DEC building and the recently opened Charles and Helen Reichert Administration Building and visitors center in the NRSP are a symbol of a relaunch of the park.

“I think this building and our building down the hill and the marina in the future are real signs that it’s time to reinvest in this park and make it into the place,” Kulleseid said, adding that the park covers 521 acres.

“It’s vitally important to aquifer recharge, all kinds of things, and in one of the most densely populated parts of the state,” he said.

Bellone said it was a joint commitment on all levels of government, including Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) who was unable to attend the event due to another commitment.

The county executive added that the protection of marine resources was critically important to the future of Long Island, and it was crucial to make sure those resources were sustainable.

“This is the state saying that these resources are critical and that we are committed to protecting them,” he said. “I’ve talked about this before: Water is everything here. It’s our quality of life, it’s our recreation, it’s our economy. The reason, or a large part of the reason, people live here is because of the extraordinary natural beauty, the assets, the bays, the Sound, the ocean, lakes and rivers. We have an obligation to protect it, but if we don’t we’re not going to have a prosperous future. And so this dedication of a building is a wonderful thing.”

After the press conference, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) sent out a press release announcing  the completion of the headquarters.

“From recreational anglers out for a day to commercial shellfish harvesters who have fished our state’s waters for generations, the health of New York’s marine ecosystem is critical to the economic health of our coastal communities,” Hochul said. “This new facility is evidence of our ongoing commitment to protecting New York’s diverse marine life while leading the way in the development of sustainable infrastructure.”

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Facility features

• Facility is LEED silver-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council for energy efficiency construction.

It includes water-use reduction and rainwater management features, environmentally conscious and low pollution-emitting building materials, and facilitates the production of solar-generated energy.

• Features at the new facility include:

Ground and roof-mounted solar panels equipped to generate about 100,000 kilowatt-hours of energy each year. 

LED lighting, energy-efficient electrical systems, and optimized water process used to reduce consumption. 

Indoor environmental air quality controls, outdoor heat-reduction materials, and reflecting paint to minimize
energy use. 

Low-impact refrigerants.    

Environmentally friendly, low-emitting, and recycled construction materials. 

High-quality indoor daylight and views of natural outdoor spaces to reduce the use of electrical lighting. 

Green and electric vehicle parking and charging stations for visitors and staff. 

Bike rack and a connection to a nature trail.

Rainwater bioretention and rain gardens to help reduce stormwater runoff.

Native and adaptive plants and trees to promote the health of the local ecosystem.

Photo from Pixabay

Working with the rideshare company Lyft, Suffolk County is offering free rides for senior citizens, veterans and people who are driving impaired to get their vaccinations for COVID-19 at county-run sites.

Starting on June 1, seniors who are over the age of 60, veterans and driving impaired residents can contact Suffolk 311 to schedule a pick-up and drop off to receive their inoculations.

The county would like residents to have an “equal ability to get their vaccines,” regardless of whether they have easy access to transportation, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said at a press conference announcing the program. “It’s not only good for them and their health: it’s good for all of us. It means that we will get closer to the numbers and the level of vaccinations we need to say that we have put this virus behind us.”

Suffolk County will be able to schedule and pay for the rides on behalf of residents, according to a Lyft spokeswoman.

The effort is a part of Lyft’s Universal Vaccine Access program, which started in December of 2020. Lyft has created more than 100 such partnerships and is facilitating access to rides throughout the country.

Lyft drivers will not wait outside while residents receive shots. County staff can arrange for pick up and drop off up to seven days in advance when residents call 311.

When seniors, veterans or driving impaired residents need transportation for their shots, county staff can request a ride using Lyft’s Concierge platform, which allows groups to request rides on behalf of those who may not have access to a smartphone or a bank account.

Bellone indicated that the county put out a competitive process to select a partner who could allow residents who don’t have access to a smartphone or who haven’t downloaded an app to secure a ride.

Lyft is committed to helping communities reach an “immunity that is going to get our economy back on track and our community back to normal,” Jen Hensley, head of government relations at Lyft said at the press conference.

Bellone shared his appreciation for the efforts of Senator Chuck Schumer (D).

“Without [Schumer’s] support, we wouldn’t be in a position to be able to offer a program like this,” Bellone said.

Vaccination efforts have helped reduce the spread of the virus, according to a recent interview with Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

Lyft has also partnered with the White House. 

From May 24 through July 4, anyone going to get their shots can get a ride code through the Lyft app or web site for two free rides during normal pharmacy hours of 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. of up to $15 each.

The county’s partnership with Lyft is the latest effort by Bellone to increase the number of people who have received the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Through a “Lift Your Spirit, Take Your Shot” campaign, residents who are 21 years old and over and who receive their shot at a Suffolk County run site during the month of May will get a ticket that they can redeem at a participating brewery, winery and distillery for a free beer, tasting, glass of wine or cocktail.

Eight businesses are participating in that effort, including Del Vino Vineyards in Northport.