Tags Posts tagged with "Yaphank"

Yaphank

Northport power plant. File photo

At the Long Island Power Authority’s July 24 board meeting, Larry Kelly, a trial attorney, described at a public comment session how LIPA in 2006 and 2007 instituted what he called “the largest tax fraud” he’s seen in his 35 years as a lawyer, according to Huntington Town councilman, Eugene Cook (R).

Cook has independently asked New York State’s Public Service Commission Chairman John Rhodes in a letter dated Aug. 6 to review and “forcibly address” the issues. 

According to Cook, Kelly alleged that LIPA used the tax system to extend tax exemptions and reductions to Caithness power plant, which was awarded a contract to build a new 350-megawatt power plant in Yaphank, and then used those low taxes to argue in court that National Grid’s four aging power plants on Long Island were overassessed.

“I also request the PSC review LIPA’s ‘unclean hands’ in the Northport filings, and the impact that should have on LIPA’s continued operations,” Cook’s four-page letter concluded. The letter was sent on a town letterhead, but was not signed by other town board members, the supervisor or the town attorney.  

Councilman Eugene Cook

The term “unclean hands” is a legal defense which essentially references a legal doctrine that states a plaintiff is unable to pursue tax equity through the courts if the plaintiff has acted unethically in relation to the subject of its complaint. 

The allegations are surfacing just weeks after closing arguments were presented July 30 in LIPA’s tax certiorari case with the Town of Huntington for the year 2014. It is unclear how the allegation could potentially impact the outcome of the case as post-trial deliberations continue. The unclean hands defense was not part of the town’s defense, according to the Town Attorney Nick Ciappetta, who offered no public comment on the allegations.  

Kelly, a Bayport resident who ran for a New York State Supreme Court judgeship in the 2018 election, is unaffiliated with Huntington’s case, but said his obligation as a trial lawyer is to act as a steward of the law. 

LIPA did not respond to email requests for comment on the public allegations. 

A LIPA press release dated Jan. 25, 2006, stated that the Caithness plant in Yaphank would include a $139 million payment in lieu of taxes agreement with $100 million over 20 years going to Bellport’s South Country school district. 

LIPA’s 2019 Property Tax Reduction pamphlet, which is publicly available and published on its website, highlights the value of Caithness plant in contrast to the Port Jefferson, Northport and three other plants. On page 14 of the report, LIPA stated that in 2016 Caithness paid $9.7 million annually in taxes, while the Northport plant paid “eight times” as much in taxes, or $81 million, and Port Jefferson paid “three times” as much in taxes, or $33 million.  

The report also stated on page 14 that LIPA reimburses National Grid under its contract more than it earns in power revenue, a sum that factors in property taxes. 

“Those losses, the amount by which costs exceed the value of power, are paid by all 1.1 million electric customers,” the report said. It indicated that LIPA’s goal for filing tax challenges in 2010 against Nassau County, the Town of Huntington, the Town of Brookhaven and the Village of Port Jefferson “in an attempt to obtain a fair tax assessment on the four legacy plants.” 

In a telephone interview, Kelly referred to a Feb. 15, 2012 meeting with the Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, which recorded a Caithness representative explaining that “LIPA pays the PILOT to Caithness who then makes the PILOT payment to the IDA, and then they get a check back from New York State which is then returned to LIPA.” 

The minutes further stated, “This is the only power plant on Long Island that the ratepayers are not paying any real property taxes net out of pocket for the first 10 years, resulting in a saving of $80 million.” 

Kelly and Cook, in presenting the allegations publicly and to the commission, claimed that Bellport’s school district, South Country, which Cook said in his letter is comprised of 40 percent minority populations, were shortchanged tax revenue that could have funded school programs. Representatives from the South Country school district did not respond to email and telephone inquiries about their tax revenue from Caithness. 

The Public Service Commission has said that it has received and is reviewing the letter from Cook. It offered no other response to questions related to its potential response.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and the town board have taken steps that would allow the construction of a power plant in Yaphank, complicating the status of Port Jefferson's LIPA-run plant. File photos by Alex Petroski

It’s one step forward, two steps back for Caithness Energy, LLC in Brookhaven.

After securing a win in its efforts to advance the construction of a 600-megawatt power plant in Yaphank earlier this month, Caithness Energy LLC, an independent, privately held power producer informed by Brookhaven Town its special use permit for the site expired July 15.

The special use permit, initially approved in 2014,  granted Caithness permission to build a power plant on the site, according to Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto. It was granted for two years and  one-year extensions were approved twice, which is the limit under town law.

“We’re looking into it, but believe it has no bearing and we look forward to the next steps before the Planning Board,” Caithness President Ross Ain said in a statement.

The possibility that the permit might have expired was first raised by Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) during a July 12 meeting. She abstained from voting on a motion to lift a restrictive covenant preventing the project’s advancement due to amendments made to Caithness’ original 2014 plans, which included a reduction to the plant’s output capacity and updated technology. The other five councilmembers and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) voted to remove the covenant.

“They’ll have to file a new application for the special permit and we’ll certainly accept it,” Eaderesto said.
The town attorney noted Caithness still has a pending site plan application before the Planning Board, which would remain as such as a new special use permit is sought.

The proposed project has drawn opposition for its potential environmental impact from groups like Sierra Club Long Island and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

In addition, Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant has spoken out against the proposal, warning the construction of a second Caithness plant could push her community “off the economic cliff.”

The village has argued a way to make good with Long Island Power Authority over its decreasingly needed plant — and LIPA’s legal contention its Port Jeff plant’s property tax value is over-assessed and has been for years — could be to increase its output capacity. If constructed, the Caithness II plant, which would be built nearby the company’s first Yaphank plant opened in 2009, could theoretically kill plans to repower the Port Jefferson plan, according to the village.

Port Jeff Village and the town have said a settlement is nearing in an eight-year-long legal fight with LIPA, that will likely result in a gradual decrease in revenue from the plant’s property taxes, which help fund budgets for the village, Port Jefferson School District, the fire department and the public library.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a Rocky Point woman in Yaphank May 2.

Tracyann Fields, 27, was driving a 1999 Nissan Altima northbound on County Road 101, north of Long Island Ave., at around 9:15 a.m. when she lost control of the vehicle, struck a post and a sign and her vehicle overturned, according to police.

Fields was transported by the Yaphank Fire Department to Long Island Medical Center in East Patchogue where she was pronounced dead.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is ongoing.

by -
0 1012
The Mary Louise Booth House. Photo by William P. Steele

By Rita J. Egan

On Jan. 27, the childhood home of a writer, editor and translator of the 1800s, Mary Louise Booth, was officially listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Members of the Yaphank Historical Society were anticipating the news since the New York State Board for Historic Preservation approved the house for submission in the beginning of December.

The Mary Louise Booth House exhibit room. Photo by William P. Steele
The Mary Louise Booth House exhibit room. Photo by William P. Steele

Tricia Foley, historian for the Yaphank Historical Society who is working on a book about Booth, said the house, located at the intersection of E. Main Street and Yaphank Avenue, was built in 1829.

“It’s an early house of the period at the beginning of Yaphank’s development. In 1800 there were only 20 houses here and by the 1840s there were 200,” she said.

Foley said the Long Island ½-house is a one-story structure with an attic, two windows in the front and a door on the left. This was so if the owners added an extension, the door could be in the middle, according to the historian. Foley said many of the ½-houses were custom built, and the Booth house features beaded edges around all the windows as well as fireplace mantles in the parlor and bedroom with an unusual detailed, carving style.

Its inclusion on the list means the historical society can apply for more grants and there’s increased protection against demolition in the future, according to Foley. The group hopes to apply for a grant in the near future for renovation.

“There is a bay window in the kitchen, in the keeping room, and when we get more funding we would like to remove it, because it’s not period appropriate. It was probably put on later in the 19th century or early 20th century,” the historian said.

An exhibit documenting Booth’s life, who was born in 1831, is on display at the house. The Yaphank native was one of the first female reporters for The New York Times and the author of “History of the City of New York.” Foley said this book was originally intended to be a school textbook, but once the publisher realized just how significant the work was, it was released for public distribution.

The Mary Louise Booth House parlor. Photo by William P. Steele
The Mary Louise Booth House parlor. Photo by William P. Steele

Booth was also the founding editor of Harper’s Bazaar when the magazine started as a weekly in 1867 and worked with the publication for 22 years until her death in 1889, according to Foley. The historian said the editor did her best to educate women about the pressing subjects of the era.

“She was a suffragist and abolitionist, and she quietly brought in women’s issues into the different features and columns every week to keep women apprised of what was happening. She didn’t express her opinions, but she let people know very quietly,” she said.

While Booth remained objective when it came to the articles she published, outside her office, the editor and her friend Susan B. Anthony were involved in working toward equal pay for teachers. The former Yaphank resident was also part of the Women’s Suffrage movement, and she was the secretary of the 1855 Women’s Rights Convention in Saratoga Springs. The writer and editor was considered an abolitionist as well, and during her research, Foley found that Abraham Lincoln sent Booth a letter for her efforts in the Union cause. The president was impressed by the writer’s personal work as well as inspired by a book she translated from French to English called “Uprising of a Great People” by Count Agénor de Gasparin.

Foley said Booth, who during her lifetime translated over 40 books from French to English, was also involved in the Statue of Liberty transaction due to her translating and networking abilities. The translator introduced the statue’s sculpture, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, to key players in New York City such as bankers and government officials. The historian said Booth showed a gift for language at a young age. After she and her family moved from Yaphank to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when she was 14 years old, the future translator taught Latin classes as a teenager and also attended a French academy to practice conversational French.

The Mary Louise Booth House. Photo by William P. Steele
The Mary Louise Booth House. Photo by William P. Steele

“She had such a gift for language. She picked up conversational French very easily,” Foley said.

The historian said she isn’t surprised that Booth’s childhood home, which is the last remaining residence of her lifetime, was recognized on the register considering her work, which influenced the country and New York State history. The house, which was originally located on E. Main Street across from where it stands today, had various owners throughout the years until it became the property of the Kinney family after World War II. When the family donated the house to Suffolk County Historic Services in 1998, it was moved to its current location, and the Yaphank Historical Society became the steward of the home, according to Foley.

The public can visit the Mary Louise Booth Childhood Home Sunday afternoons in July and August or by appointment. For more information, visit www.yaphankhistorical.org or call 924-3401.