Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Organic Farmer Looking for Volunteers

Gwynn and I met with Mark Ungar, a farmer working ten acres of land on Oregon Road in Mattituck. Propagating himself as example, His dream is to "get Long Island healthy", to spread his agricultural model from the North Fork throughout New York State

He is looking to build a cadre of volunteers--right now they are planting heirloom tomatoes--in return for a share of the harvest later on. These trained volunteers could also become an invaluable resource for other farmers.

We urge you to visit Mark and his group on the weekends--he is there from 10 am (he drives in from New Jersey), plant a few tomatoes, learn more about his operation and see how you can support his admirable project. They serve an excellent vegan lunch too!

More on his blog http://www.ny-natural-farm.blogspot.com/

Hazel Kahan

Friday, April 17, 2009

From the Ground Up: Building the East Marion Community Association

by Ruth Ann Bramson

This article describes the creation of the East Marion Community Association and offers suggestions to others looking to establish their own community groups.

Community Need
In June 2007, a group of strangers met to discuss the ‘Oki-do’ (now Shizen) project proposed for the Oyster Farm property in East Marion. They decided that the residents of East Marion not only needed to oppose the out-of-scale Shizen development but also to monitor other issues of concern to the hamlet. This same group eventually became the founding board for the East Marion Community Association.

From its inception, the East Marion Community Association (EMCA) has had enthusiastic support and participation from local residents. The prospect of a large hotel spa operation being developed in our small community raised people’s awareness: We needed to organize in order to have an effective political voice. Other local issues were also on people’s minds in the spring of 2007. Many East Marion residents were alarmed by the news that the town was developing a plan to purchase land adjacent to the East Marion Post Office for a small commercial area and by the fact that they had been out of the process. In addition, there were persistent concerns about the increased residential development in East Marion in recent years, about the loss of farmland, about traffic, noise, illegal housing and other issues that were impacting on people’s quality of life.

We recognized a need for building a community. East Marion lacks a hamlet center and does not have many local organizations to bring people together. Many newcomers and part-timers found it difficult to get to know people and feel part of a community in East Marion. Lifelong residents and more recent arrivals had no place to meet and get to know one another.

Developing a Core Group
EMCA has been fortunate in its initial leadership team. The founding board members are a diverse, talented and committed group with backgrounds and skills that include expertise in local environmental issues, communications technology, layout and design, database management, community development, and organizational management. The original founding board has been augmented by additional members who bring special skills and provide links to parts of the community not represented on the original board. By making board meetings fun as well as productive and including food and time for socializing, board members have become not just colleagues but friends.

Developing future leadership for EMCA is an on-going process. We have four committees: government, action, history project, and membership. We identify leaders through one-on-one meetings designed to learn what is important to residents and how they might want to become involved.

Telling the Story
In engaging community members, we believe that it is important for each of us to have a chance to tell our stories. We use this storytelling approach in recruiting new leaders and members, in how we talk about EMCA and its goals, and in engaging participants in discussion topics at meetings. We think of this in terms of three fundamental stories: the ‘story of me,’ (sharing our individual stories about who we are and what is important to us,); the ‘story of us,’ (who we are as a community and as an organization, and who we want to be); and the ‘story of now’ (why it is important for people to be involved at this particular time in our community’s history).

The Importance of Structure
Critical to building a new organization is work on its structure. This includes establishing how the group makes decisions; meeting locations and times; legal status; funding; membership guidelines and dues; mission goals and objectives; and group dynamics. Creating this structure was a major effort during EMCA’s first year.

EMCA’s purpose and mission were developed by the membership through a process that gave everyone a chance to be heard. While there were several community members who in EMCA's earliest days advocated for an organization in which a small number of leaders could make decisions quickly and speak out freely on public issues, this sort of top-down decision making by a small number of people is not the way we chose to structure our community organization. We felt that people support the decisions they have a part in making, so at EMCA we are committed to reaching positions on issues through a participative process using consensus, whenever possible.

After deciding what kind of group we wanted to be and starting to accept dues we needed to take legal steps to formalize the organization. (It is difficult enough taking on Town Hall without complicating life by adding the IRS to our problems!) There are various ways to go about this: You can consult a how-to-incorporate handbook (available in many local libraries), borrow the bylaws from a similar group to use as a guideline, or consult an attorney. EMCA actually did all three.

How We Engage
Community change is best initiated when community members are in a room together. It is then that a shift in expectations is noticed and reinforced. We try to create the experience of belonging at meetings, by utilizing both small and large group discussions, by posing questions that engage people in discussing possibilities and their own power to initiate change, and by making it safe to express doubts and dissent.

We design hospitality into our meetings. We greet people personally and always provide delicious home-baked refreshments. Before diving into the agenda we often pose a connection question such as asking people to introduce themselves to someone whom they do not know in the room by describing an experience they have had with the issue being discussed at that particular meeting. Our February Cabin Fever Potluck Lunch and our August Ice Cream Social seem likely to become community traditions.

History as an Organizing Tool
We realized early on that very little attention has been paid to preserving East Marion’s rich history, which goes back to 1661. A priority for EMCA has been rediscovering a shared sense of our community’s history and rebuilding East Marion’s pride in its heritage and culture. It is our belief that local residents need to know about East Marion’s past as a maritime and farming community in order to feel passionate about preserving what is left of it. So far, we have hosted three gatherings to share old photos and artifacts from East Marion’s past and to hear people’s stories about the community. We are also collecting videotaped oral histories from long time residents.

Taking Action
EMCA is an action organization committed to advocating for the interests of East Marion with Southold Town officials and other governmental agencies. Fundamental to our approach is our Meeting Monitoring Team made up of members who observe all meetings of the Town Board, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Trustees and report back to the organization about any issues that may impact East Marion. They are our early warning system. The meeting monitors have also given East Marion a visibility in Town Hall that the community did not have in the past.

When it comes to taking action on issues we take several approaches. When an issue is of significant and lasting concern to our community we engage in a community education process and work toward a consensus. That is what we did in regard to the proposed Shizen project. We distributed fact sheets and over 70 members participated in a consensus meeting. On some issues where we do not have a compelling vested interest or firm position, we feel we can still be effective community advocates by having an EMCA representative appear before a governmental body to ask probing questions. That is what we did in regard to the proposed expansion at Plum Island. On other issues, such as the Oysterponds School budget, we provide background information to members and urge them to take whatever individual action they see fit.

Ms. Bramson is the president of the East Marion Civic Association.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Action Alert:Natural Resources Division Dropped

by Anne Murray

The Town Board was set this week to vote on the establishment of the long-awaited Natural Resources Division – but a lack of support by three town board members meant the issue never even came to a vote.

The public has long sought a division to manage the town’s precious natural resources in a more efficient and science-based manner. We are very disappointed that the town cannot agree to enact such an important safeguard.

Board members Al Krupski, Bill Ruland and Vincent Orlando are opposed to the division, while Supervisor Scott Russell, Tom Wickham and Louisa Evans are in favor. The stalemate, after months of planning and discussion, led the disappointed supervisor to tell the board he would not bring up the issue again.

The proposed division within the planning department was discussed during many town board work sessions, and was the result of many months of work by principal planner Mark Terry and director of planning Heather Lanza.
"It's clear that the division of natural resources is a dead issue," Russell told the Suffolk Times. "I find it regrettable. The entire process turned out to be a monumental waste of time."
The Natural Resources Division was supposed to improve efficiency in application review by the various boards, such as the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Board and the Town Trustees, achieve greater continuity in the application processes, and establish a clear path of communication and accountability.

Although the measure was budget-neutral and would use existing staff, some board members said they feared the move might require civil service positions in the future.

If you agree that Southold needs a Natural Resources Division, you must act and make your voice heard to the town board members who are reluctant to establish this division. If enough voters pressure the town board they may revisit the issue;


Scott Russell- 765-1889
Vincent Orlando - 369-4900 x 215
Bill Ruland - 298-9159
Tom Wickham - 734-6441
Al Krupski - 734-7841
Louisa Evans - 788-7054

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Sponsored by The Riverhead Town Energy Advisory Committee

Riverhead Town Hall
Wednesday January 28th at 7:30 PM

The Public is Welcome to Attend

Clean Air NY is a dynamic collaboration of organizations and individuals in the New York metro area who are taking actions to improve our air quality. This initiative is sponsored by the New York State Department of Transportation and Clean Air NY wants to help New Yorkers live better and breathe easier by improving the air quality.

Clean Air NY’s presentation explains the following:

  • Specific travel choices that every individual can make to help improve the air quality on AQAD and year round.
    The causes of poor air quality in the New York metro area and the why we are working to improve it.
  • How the region’s poor air quality affects every New Yorker’s health, especially sensitive groups such as people with asthma, children, and the elderly.
  • Air Quality Action Days (AQAD) are days when the air quality is especially poor in the area and usually occur during the summer months.
  • When an individual, employer, or community organization joins the Clean Air NY network, they receive an e-mail or text message update the day before an AQAD.

    For more information on Clean Air NY, please visit CleanAirNY.org.


by Mark Haubner

As the subject of electronic recycling is very large, we're going to narrow this discussion to include Southold and Riverhead Towns' treatment of residential waste PCs and monitors. We will save our discussion of proper disposal of cell phones, TVs, microwaves, toner cartridges and batteries for a later time. Corporate electronic waste disposal also deserves a deeper look and we will search out the local businesses which are making an effort to make a difference by disposing of their many PCs and monitors properly.

It's 2009, and as far as electronic recycling is concerned, we're only slightly further ahead of where we were 15 years ago. A majority of American households now have more than one PC, and with ONE BILLION computers having been sold around the world by 2002 (Gartner Dataquest) and another BILLION at work today, each having an approximate lifespan of 3 years, they're turning to waste at a mind-boggling rate. We simply have to be much more conscientious about our disposal habits starting right now.

Keep in mind that 3-year-old PC may still be of some value to a non-profit organization of your choice—but by the time it reaches 5 years of age, it will be more of a liability than an asset to an organization. So let's focus on unusable PCs and the big, glass, CRT (glass screen) monitors that can’t even be used as boat anchors. Where do they all go? There are plenty of them going to the end of the driveway in residential settings, although many townships across the U.S. are working at un-curbing the flow going to the landfill.

Lead, heavy metals (selenium, chromium, etc.), silicon, PVC and a lot more are incorporated in the motherboard, power supply and various drives in a PC. If they are relegated to the landfill, the toxic metals leach out into the soil and find their way into the aquifer or run off into the bays, rivers or oceans.

When properly recycled, they are either shredded so that the components containing the desirable metals can be pulled out, or they are sent overseas (Pakistan, India, etc.) for people to unsolder the components by hand. (Some years ago these basic components--capacitors, transistors, etc.--were actually found being resold as new to computer manufacturers, leading to a lot of computer failures in the field and a high cost to the manufacturers in the way of customer service calls and parts replacements.)

If you have a Dell, HP, Gateway or Toshiba PC, their websites provide the following:

So what about a person who has the “worthless” 5-year-old PC and CRT (glass screen) monitor, can’t donate it, and doesn’t want to pay to ship it to New Hampshire but wants to dispose of it safely?

If you are a resident of Southold, you can take it to the Transfer Station (town dump).

According to the Town's Waste Management page: Electronic Waste (E-Waste) is now accepted at the Transfer Station daily during normal business hours. Residents may now dispose of their used computers, TVs, stereos, and other electronic trash safely on any regular business day, at no charge. This service is for Southold Town residents ONLY (proof of residency is required).

If you are a resident of Riverhead, you have two choices:

The Town of Riverhead has a S.T.O.P. (Stop Throwing Out Pollutants) program during which times (May 30th and Oct 10th, 2009) they will take e-Waste.

If you don’t want to wait until spring you can and don’t mind making the trek to e-Solutions’ (Nick Gerbino, owner) facility at 200 Engineers Road in Hauppauge, they will take PCs and servers free of charge. They are charging only 20 cents per pound for monitors and TVs (about $6.00 for a 15” CRT) in order to maintain a viable commercial enterprise. Here they actually dismantle, shred, test and resell various parts (among other data destruction services) and are not part of the dumping of boatloads of junk on the Third World at all.

It’s hard being conscientious, but we also need to make sure that our elected officials and Town Departments are also working toward solving this huge waste problem at a grassroots level.

For a more in-depth look at this subject, see:

http://earth911.com/http://www.eiae.org/ the Electronic Industries Alliance's Consumer Education InitiativeeRecycle.org

http://www.nrc-recycle.org/ the NationalRecyclingCoalition

http://www.dec.ny.gov/ the New York State environmental agency

http://www.iaer.org/search/iaersearch.cfm the International Association of Electronics Recyclers

http://pages.ebay.com/rethink/ the Rethink Initiative effort


by Hazel Kahan

This article first appeared as an op-ed in The Suffolk Times on Jan. 15, 2009; Reprinted by permission, Times/Review Newspapers Corp.

While the troubled national and global economy affects each Southolder in its own way, it also offers each one of us a role in sustaining our community.

My friends and I have been talking about the things we can do—or have done--to protect our community, regardless of how much we may have suffered (or gained?) in the financial downturn. We think of it as the new community economy, with some of the flavor of the underground economy but living firmly above ground, on home ground.

The unyielding torrent of dire information about the shrinking economy creates in us feelings of scarcity and pessimism, leading us to retreat, to keep ourselves to ourselves, to be less generous and outgoing.

But we don’t have to be like that.

Instead, we can change the lens through which we see things. What money things can we do without money? What if we look at money not as something for hoarding or buying but instead as a form of renewable energy, self-produced and transformative? What, to paraphrase Frosty the Snowman, can we do to let it flow, let it flow, let it flow?

My friends and I found that if we could replace our feelings of scarcity with sufficiency, we could start believing that we actually have enough. We find that our perspective changes once we shift from hoarding to sharing and once we discard the idea of life as a zero sum game in which I can only win if you lose and that your gain must mean my loss.

Here are some of the ways we are trying to build a community economy:

1. Spending as much of our money right here where we live. Almost everything we need is available right here and, if it’s not, maybe we can do without it. And if it’s not exactly what we were looking for, so what? And, of course, we can find things here we couldn’t find anywhere else—and not just in the summer!

2. We take an hour or two to visit locally-owned retailers, dropping in for a chat and finding out how they’re doing or buying something from them, even if we don’t actually need it right then. We can always tuck it away as a gift for later.

3. As factors in local businesses’ cash flow, we try to pay our bills on time, if we can. This helps them which helps us keep our community stable.

4. We raise the question to local fuel companies that have customers on locked-in rates: do you really have to insist on that agreement? What might you gain by reducing your customer-neighbors’ anxiety?

5. If we’re not feeling as financially stressed as a friend or neighbor, we consider asking if we could pay them to do a chore we might otherwise do ourselves. Encouraging money flow through our community will help us all.

6. We look to see what goods and services we can barter with each other. For example, I’ll cut your hair if you help me carry my stuff out of my basement to the dump. Time and energy replace money in the community economy.

7. We’ve thought of buying space in our local media when we have something to announce or celebrate. A weakened media would greatly affect the sustainability of our community.

8. If by good fortune or business sense one of us is presented with a lucrative project, we ask ourselves if we could share some of the work with a less fortunate friend or neighbor. This way more of the ‘lucre’ will flow through more lives. This can’t be a bad thing.

Contributing to Southold’s sustainability by recognizing and building the community economy will, of course, yes, save gas but, more significantly, will help preserve the quality of our town. We look at Riverhead and Patchogue and see how difficult it is to revitalize towns that forgot their people.

Finally, a community economy directly caters to our self-interest by protecting our investments in our own houses. One of us asks: “Who wants to buy a house in a community that looks like a ghost town?”


by Howard Meinke

Across the street from the Cutchogue Post Office is a site of great controversy. Forty-six acres of open land has been proposed for development of an over-55 condominium community known as The Heritage, consisting of 139 units -- each with over 2000 square feet living space plus a swimming pool, clubhouse and various amenities. This project is in an HD (hamlet density) zone, which allows one residence per quarter-acre, and it requires either public water or a sewage disposal system.

Since the SCWA (Suffolk County Water Authority) water map does not show public water at this location it is up to the town to request water if they think it is the best solution. The project’s developer can supply a private sewage plant in the absence of public water.

The surrounding residents are concerned about drastic traffic increases and the likelihood of subsurface pollution contaminating their private wells as well as nearby Wickham’s creek.

The rational for approval of this project by the Suffolk County Health Department (SCHD) is questionable. SCHD has assumed public water to be available. This may or may not come to pass. An argument for tighter scrutiny and realistic regulation appears below.

According to the Environmental Assessment Review of the plan for The Heritage of March 30, 2007, the maximum allowable sewage discharge for this property (if handled by individual septic systems) is 22,625 gallons per day. The original 150-unit proposal for The Heritage discharged just a small bit over the 22,625 gallons allowed and a Chromaglass sewage treatment system was proposed.

The current plan, which calls for 139 units, discharges 21,615 gallons, a very small amount under the maximum limit, and no treatment plant is required. This plan is based on the theory that retirement housing only produces 150 gallons of flow per day while standard housing produces 300 gallons.

Then in July, 2008 the SCHD regulations were changed so that:

Residential units less than 600 sq. ft. produce 100 gallons
Residential units 600 to 1200 sq. ft. produce 150 gallons
Residential units over 1200 sq. ft. produce 300 gallons

The Heritage residences are currently designed to be well over 2,000 sq. ft. per unit.

If you apply the July regulations to the current project;
139 units at 300 gallons - - - 41,700 gallons
Obviously Sewage treatment is required.

The project could support 74 units at the 300 gallon criterion without the necessity of on site sewage treatment.

Obviously, the sewage flow criteria listed above were developed by SCHD in order to protect public health and environmental health. Therefore, as our knowledge is increasing over time it is clear that as new refined regulations are developed, they should immediately be put into effect.

We believe that it is logical to conclude that over time the discharge of maximum levels of concentrated waste could well migrate downstream in the subsurface flow of ground water and pollute wells and pristine water bodies. Previous testimony about the pollution of the Forge River in Brookhaven is case in point. Why risk repeating this disaster?

There are many instances of foreign material in our Southold well water and subsurface water. Fertilizers and pesticides come to mind as does Temik.

Erring on the side of health and the environment is obviously the right direction to go. Our natural assets, like the underground aquifer are easy to pollute and difficult to fix.

Requiring a private sewage treatment for these high density discharge situations should be a “no brainer.” Another alternative would be to allow only the safe, lower density development.

It was suggested at the Town Board meeting on November 5, 2008 that a consultant, an expert in subsurface water flows, the migration of in-ground pollution and etc. might be able to add weight to these ideas. The SEQRA report, financed by the developer, is to be required to include a consultant’s investigation into this problem. The Board members discussed what they see as a pro development, pro public water, and pro sewer plant mentality at the SCHD.

This all gets very complicated as we try to sort out the best mix of development for the HD and HB zones, balancing the ability to achieve affordable housing with economic practicality, human health protection, environmental sensitivity and respect for our Southold’s rural character.

This debate is still raging.

We urge you to attend the Planning Board and Town Board meetings and make your voice heard on this issue. Meeting dates, times and agendas can be found on the town website at http://southoldtown.northfork.net/index.htm