08/03/13 8:20am
LIRR

STEVE ROSSIN PHOTO | LIRR riders board an train out of Riverhead about 1:30 p.m. last week.

The Long Island Rail Road will extend its summer schedule on the Greenport to Ronkonkoma line by 10 weeks, stretching into November, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said.

The Long Island Rail Road, through its parent company, the MTA,  has been discontinuing all weekend service between Greenport and Ronkonkoma after Columbus Day and before Memorial Day since 2010.

Summer service, as it’s now called, will now begin in April and end in November, said LIRR spokesman Sal Arena.

After November, there will again be no weekend service between Greenport and Ronkonkoma, he said.

“The MTA was able to identify additional money, revenue from dedicated state taxes as well as internal cost-savings, that could be used to enhance train service and other customer amenities,” Mr. Arena said. “The LIRR is making a number of improvements with its share of that money, including the extension of weekend service on the North Fork.

“It made this decision based on customer demand and specifically to expend service to the fall harvest period, an important tourist season for the region.”

About seven years ago, the LIRR was considering discontinuing service between Greenport and Ronkonkoma altogether, but backed off that plan.

“This service investment shows that the MTA and LIRR are committed to expanding and improving service to the East End,” South Fork state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said of the move.

Mr. Thiele has been an advocate for increasing train service on the East End, and one of the projects he has touted also got some money from the MTA. A proposal to establish a network of smaller “scoot” trains between Greenport and Ronkonkoma, as well as in other areas on Long Island, received $37.2 million from the state.

Currently, the LIRR is exploring the possibility of diesel-powered Scoot service on the Oyster Bay Branch and on the Main Line east of Ronkonkoma, Mr. Arena said.

The $37.2 million funding for such a purchase is in the current (2010-2014) MTA Capital Program, and will remain available even if it is not expended by the end of 2014, Mr. Arena said.

“Scoot” is a railroad industry term used to describe a train that would shuttle regularly between the first and last stops on a particular branch or branch segment, according to Mr. Arena.

Currently, the LIRR runs only about two trains per day in each directions between Greenport and Riverhead on weekends in the summer, and about three trains per day between Greenport and Riverhead during weekdays, prompting calls from East End residents and officials for better service.

“As envisioned by the LIRR, scoot service would allow for more frequent train service than currently provided,” Mr. Arena said. It “would encourage intra-branch and intra-Island travel, but also would require a transfer to electric trains for those traveling on to New York City.

“The LIRR is currently looking for alternate (smaller) diesel trains that would be more cost-effective to operate and maintain, as compared with both the LIRR’s existing diesel fleet and with electric trains.”

The LIRR does not have specific timeline or start date for either purchasing the alternate diesel fleet and/or initiating expanded Scoot service for East of Ronkonkoma, he said.

“The scoot train could be much smaller to than the standard 10 or 12 car consist,” Mr. Arena said, “perhaps just one, two cars or three coach cars, depending on demand.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/03/13 8:20am
LIRR

STEVE ROSSIN PHOTO | LIRR riders board an train out of Riverhead about 1:30 p.m. last week.

The Long Island Rail Road will extend its summer schedule on the Greenport to Ronkonkoma line by 10 weeks, stretching into November, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said.

The Long Island Rail Road, through its parent company, the MTA,  has been discontinuing all weekend service between Greenport and Ronkonkoma after Columbus Day and before Memorial Day since 2010.

Summer service, as it’s now called, will now begin in April and end in November, said LIRR spokesman Sal Arena.

After November, there will again be no weekend service between Greenport and Ronkonkoma, he said.

“The MTA was able to identify additional money, revenue from dedicated state taxes as well as internal cost-savings, that could be used to enhance train service and other customer amenities,” Mr. Arena said. “The LIRR is making a number of improvements with its share of that money, including the extension of weekend service on the North Fork.

“It made this decision based on customer demand and specifically to expend service to the fall harvest period, an important tourist season for the region.”

About seven years ago, the LIRR was considering discontinuing service between Greenport and Ronkonkoma altogether, but backed off that plan.

“This service investment shows that the MTA and LIRR are committed to expanding and improving service to the East End,” South Fork state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said of the move.

Mr. Thiele has been an advocate for increasing train service on the East End, and one of the projects he has touted also got some money from the MTA. A proposal to establish a network of smaller “scoot” trains between Greenport and Ronkonkoma, as well as in other areas on Long Island, received $37.2 million from the state.

Currently, the LIRR is exploring the possibility of diesel-powered Scoot service on the Oyster Bay Branch and on the Main Line east of Ronkonkoma, Mr. Arena said.

The $37.2 million funding for such a purchase is in the current (2010-2014) MTA Capital Program, and will remain available even if it is not expended by the end of 2014, Mr. Arena said.

“Scoot” is a railroad industry term used to describe a train that would shuttle regularly between the first and last stops on a particular branch or branch segment, according to Mr. Arena.

Currently, the LIRR runs only about two trains per day in each directions between Greenport and Riverhead on weekends in the summer, and about three trains per day between Greenport and Riverhead during weekdays, prompting calls from East End residents and officials for better service.

“As envisioned by the LIRR, scoot service would allow for more frequent train service than currently provided,” Mr. Arena said. It “would encourage intra-branch and intra-Island travel, but also would require a transfer to electric trains for those traveling on to New York City.

“The LIRR is currently looking for alternate (smaller) diesel trains that would be more cost-effective to operate and maintain, as compared with both the LIRR’s existing diesel fleet and with electric trains.”

The LIRR does not have specific timeline or start date for either purchasing the alternate diesel fleet and/or initiating expanded Scoot service for East of Ronkonkoma, he said.

“The scoot train could be much smaller to than the standard 10 or 12 car consist,” Mr. Arena said, “perhaps just one, two cars or three coach cars, depending on demand.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

03/30/13 8:00am

Aside from school aid bumps, other items in the New York State budget adopted Thursday include a “middle class” tax rebate for families with kids, a creation of a bar-type exam for prospective teachers and financial incentives for top-performing teaching.

The budget will also increase the state minimum wage, and provide more highway improvement funds for Shelter Island, Dering Harbor and towns and villages throughout the state.

The budget deal extends from last year a higher tax on top earners, which reportedly raises about $1.9 million annually.

The 2013-14 budget is the third consecutive state budget that’s been adopted before the April 1 deadline by which it’s supposed to be adopted. That hasn’t always been the case, as the state routinely missed the budget deadline for many years prior to that.

This is the first time since 1984 the state made the deadline three years in a row.

Overall, the $135 billion budget increases total state spending by under one percent, according to state documents.

“This budget agreement puts New York on track to have the third consecutive on-time, balanced, budget that holds increases in spending under 2 percent,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press release.

The adopted budget “includes direct tax relief for middle class families in the form of a $350 Family Tax Relief credit,” according to officials.

Over the next three years, each New York family with at least one dependent child and a household income between $40,000 and $300,000, will receive a “Family Tax Relief” credit in the amount of $350.  The statewide amount of these payments will be $1.23 billion over three years, beginning in 2014.

The budget extends the “middle class” personal income tax rate reductions enacted in 2011, which were due to expire in 2014. Those reductions will provide 4.4 million taxpayers with $707 million in tax relief per year, according to state officials

The new budget also calls for creation of “Bar Exam for Teachers,” officials said.

“To ensure the best and brightest are teaching our children, the State Education Department will increase the standards for teacher certification to require passage of a “bar exam,” in addition to longer, more intensive and high-quality student-teaching experience in a school setting,” Mr. Cuomo said.

The state also plans to reward “high performing teachers” under the new budget.

“To improve results and incentive high-performance, the budget implements a program that will offer $15,000 in annual stipends for four years to the most effective teachers beginning with math and science teachers,” the governor said.

A total of $11 million in incentives will be given statewide. Specifics were not available on how teacher performance will be judged.

Local municipalities on the North Fork will see an increase in Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding under the new budget, which increased that fund by $75 million statewide.

“This nearly $7 million in funding for towns and villages in the First Senatorial District will allow us to put New York back to work by repairing roads and bridges,” said state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

This is the first time since 2008 that CHIPS funding has increased.

Locally, Shelter Island Town will get $123,321, a 28 percent increase, the Village of Dering Harbor on Shelter Island, is getting $59,891, a 27 percent increase, and Greenport Village is getting $52,902, a 24 percent increase, and

The new budget also raises the minimum wage in New York State from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour, but over three years.

“Recognizing that New York’s minimum wage is unlivable and that 19 other states have higher minimum wages than New York, the budget raises the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour over three years, beginning with $8.00 by the end of 2013, $8.75 by the end of 2014, and $9.00 by the end of 2015,” the governor said.

The budget also provides hiring tax credits to businesses that hire returning veterans and young people.

The credit will equal 10 percent of wages paid for hiring veterans, and 15 percent of wages if the veteran is disabled, officials said.

The budget includes a refundable tax credit for businesses that hire people under the age of 20, which officials say will save those businesses a total of $112 million over three years, statewide.

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/18/13 5:11pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Assemblyman Dan Losquadro in 2011.

Members of a pro-gun Long Island web forum have been bombarding state Assemblyman Dan Losquadro’s Facebook page with comments critical of his vote in favor of stricter gun control measures in New York State.

They’re also complaining that their comments are getting deleted.

And at least one member has started a Facebook page called ”Dan Losquadro is Dishonest,” calling on people to protest the second-term assemblyman’s campaign events as he runs for Brookhaven Town highway superintendent.

“Dan has told everyone he is an avid shooter, supporter of the Second Amendment, and is against the rifle ban that was recently passed in New York and then only hours later he voted for it,” the “Dan Losquadro is Dishonest” page states.

The 6,000-member Long Island Firearms website reports comments members posted on the Brookhaven Town Republican Committee Facebook page have also been removed.

“What would we expect?” one poster wrote. “They don’t support the 2nd Amendement, why would they support the 1st?”

“Nothing worse than a politician who isn’t man enough to face the music for a vote he cast,” another stated.

Mr. Losquadro, a Republican from Shoreham and self-described pro-Second Amendment advocate, says he voted for the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act because there were sections the Republicans were able to negotiate into it which he feels will have more of an effect on gun crime that gun restrictions.

These include requirements that mental health care providers report threats made by patients, increased penalties for gun offenses, a section making gun ownership records no longer public, and measures streamlining the steps needed to get mental health care for people who need it.

He says he’s been taking phone calls about his vote and is happy to explain his position to anyone who calls.

As for the Facebook comments, he said “it’s a political page and I actually don’t manage that page.”

“I think, ultimately, there were comments that were inappropriate, there were comments that had nothing to do with the post they were attached to, and I think, ultimately, it was decided that instead of getting into a back and forth with individuals, the page was taken down for a period of time,” he said.

He said the people he’s spoken to about his vote have come to understand the process that went into it.

“The way this process was forced on the legislature by the governor, there were a lot of things negotiated into the bill by the Republicans that the Democrats did not want to give up,” he said. “Voting against those things we tried so hard to get in this bill that would have had a real effect on public safety, wasn’t something I wanted to do.”

“I have tried to call everybody back and speak about it,” Mr. Losquadro said.

Mr. Losquadro says there are things in the bill he disagrees with, such as the seven-round limit on magazine size,  but he believes the good parts of the bill were more important.

He’s also heard from a lot of people concerned about gun violence in the wake of the recents shootings at a Connecticut elementary school, he said, adding that he’s spoke at a lot of local school forums on the subject.

“There are a lot of people who are very nervous about [gun violence],” he said.

In a press release on his vote on the SAFE bill, issued earlier this week, Mr. Losquadro said:

“This is not a perfect world and at the end of the day I voted for the act because I do believe it will make a positive difference in making our communities and schools safer. As the husband of a teacher and the father of a 3 year old son, that is my top priority.”

And what about state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who also voted for the SAFE act?

He seems to have gotten off easier than Mr. Losquadro. There’s just a few mentions of him on the Long Island Firearms site, and some comments about the SAFE act posted on his Facebook page.

The senator, however, also had previously set up a strict policy for posting to his Facebook page, which says the page’s managers have the right to remove comments that are, among other things, derogatory, inappropriate, personal attacks, or not related to the original post or discussion.

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/13/13 10:00am

A dredge spoil disposal map showing current dumping sites.

Don’t dump dredge spoil in eastern Long Island Sound.

That was the message some speakers had for the federal Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday at a hearing on finding potential sites to replace two existing dredge disposal sites in eastern Long Island Sound.

Others argued that dredging is necessary to maintain a water-based economy.

The meeting, held at Suffolk County Community College’s culinary center in Riverhead, was billed as a “notice of intent to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the potential designation of one or more ocean-dredged material disposal sites to serve the eastern Long Island Sound region.”

There are four such dredge dumping sites in Long Island Sound now, one dubbed the Western Suffolk site, south of Stamford, Conn.; one called Central Long Island Sound, south of New Haven; one called Cornfield Shoals, north of Greenport; and one called the New London site, just west of Fishers Island.

The Cornfield Shoals and New London sites are scheduled to be closed on Dec. 23, 2016, and the EPA is looking for new sites for dredge disposal, which was the subject of the hearing.

Most of what is disposed in these sites comes from Connecticut, according to the EPA. That’s because the dredge material from Long Island is mostly sand, and can be used for beach restoration, whereas most of the dredge material from Connecticut is fine-grained silt or clay and cannot be used for beach restoration.

The Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment doesn’t think any dredge spoil should be dumped in Long Island Sound, according to the non-profit group’s executive programs manager, Maureen Dolan Murphy.

That group opposed the designation of the two western Long Island Sound sites in 2004 and opposes designating new sites, as well.

“It did not make logical sense that after millions of dollars spent on restoring the Sound, we would designate it as a long-term dumping ground,” she said.

She said CCE agrees that dredging for navigation safety is necessary, but that open water disposal for dredge materials is not.

She said EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2005 agreed to phase out open water dumping and to develop a “Dredged Material Management Plan” before deciding on its next step.

But that plan has never been developed, Ms. Murphy said.

“CCE believes it is risky and ill-advised to proceed with a long-term designation of an open-water disposal site before the final development of a DMMP,” she said. “Particularly since the goal and intent of the DMMP was to reduce open water disposal.”

Southold Town Councilman Al Krupski, who is running for Suffolk County Legislature in a special election being held Tuesday, echoed those sentiments.

“If Long Island Sound is a federally designated estuary, how do we propose to use it as a dump site for toxic spoil?” he said. “It just doesn’t’ make any sense.”

The Fishers Island Conservancy also objects to any further open water dumping sites in Long Island Sound, and feels EPA should look to areas outside of Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound for dump sites, according to Robert Evans of the FIC.

“We’ve been concerned for many years about the damage caused by the large-scale disposal at the New London site,” Mr. Evans said. “The Conservancy was party to the 1995 lawsuit that resulted in a 2002 settlement providing for the EPA’s formal designation process for dredged material disposal sites.”

He said the last large-scale dumping in the New London site was seven years ago, when about 400,000 cubic yards of dredge material was dumped there.

“The lobster population was greatly harmed and few believe the damage was coincidental,” Mr. Evans said, adding that the waters near the site have very strong currents and shallow depths.

“Dumping spoil in those waters is akin to throwing dirt into a fan,” Mr. Evans said.

Daniel Natchez, who owns a Mamaroneck-based environmental waterfront design company, took the opposite side of the argument, saying that people need to consider the economic impacts of not dredging.

“If you don’t dredge, the material that everyone is concerned about just sits there, and you swim in it, or have recreation in it,” he said, adding that people won’t have access to waterways.

“These are things that are going to have an adverse effect to quality of life,” he said.

And Bill Spicer, who owns Spicer’s Marina in Noack, CT, near Mystic, also feels that dredging is needed for the economy.

“Connecticut has billions of dollars at stake on the waterfront,” he said.

He suggested the dredge disposal sites be put in Connecticut waters, since Connecticut uses them more often.

tgannon@timesreview.com