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Thiele: Maybe it’s time for another look at Peconic County

Peconic County. The words are music to the ears of many in the five East End towns. Is there a chance that the idea of separating from Suffolk is possible now, when 20 years ago, when there was momentum for the concept, it failed to gain state legislature support?

The question came up at a recent East End Supervisors and Mayors Association meeting. East Hampton Mayor Paul Rickenbach Jr. asked Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) if it was time to reopen the discussion of an East End county.

“Maybe we should take a look at it again,” Mr. Thiele told Mayor Rickenbach. But before he commits to anything, Mr. Thiele said he wants to be sure there’s enough support to make an effort worthwhile.

Noting that Staten Island has restarted its exploration of separating from New York City, Mr. Thiele said he will speak to officials there.

An effort is being pushed by Assemblyman David DiPietro (R-East Aurora), who represents suburban Buffalo, to split the state into three self-governing entities: “New Amsterdam,” “New York City” and “Montauk.” The Montauk district would encompass Suffolk, Nassau, Westchester and Rockland counties.

But Assemblyman Michael Reilly, whose district includes the south shore of Staten Island, would like to amend that proposal to allow the borough to annex itself to upstate.

Whatever Staten Islanders decide, through the years it’s been linked with a desire to escape the tax burden and progressive politics of New York City, according to a December story in “City & State.”

In an interview Monday, Mr. Thiele said he thinks politics doesn’t play a major role in East End residents wanting to form their own county. Others have speculated that when Democrats took control of the government in Albany a few years ago, the chances of forming a Peconic County would be enhanced, since the East End has turned Democratic over the last few years. But voter registration has had little effect on a move to create Peconic County.

“People want less government and it’s not so much a partisan issue,” the legislator said.
There’s nothing wrong with Suffolk County, Mr. Thiele said. But the needs and interests of the five East End towns are simply different from those of the towns farther west, he said.

About 20 years ago, the idea of forming a new county won votes on the East End totalling 71%, Mr. Thiele said. But to get there, it took hundreds of volunteers putting in numerous hours.

Still, it failed to gain sufficient support in Albany that would be necessary for such a change.