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A Sign of Our Times




Grand Jury Report critical of Smithtown town
nments supervision
of commercial
property demolition…

The Grand Jury Report is public record and available at the link below. It is 40 pages, but double spaced, and well worth the few minutes it takes to read it.

Please feel free to share your comments with us.

Click on link for Full Report






Sign of our Times

By Eric Sailor

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Former SC Conservative Party Chairman Edward M. Walsh Sentenced To 24 Months In Prison

June 20, 2017 

Earlier today at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York, former Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman Edward M. Walsh, Jr. was sentenced to 24 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, $202,225 in restitution, and $245,811.21 in forfeiture. Walsh was convicted at trial in March 2016 on charges of theft of government funds and wire fraud in connection with his employment with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO). The sentencing proceeding was before United States District Judge Arthur D. Spatt.

The sentence was announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI).

As proven at trial, from January 2011 to April 2014, Walsh, a SCSO Correction Officer III Investigator, falsely represented to the SCSO that he had worked certain regular and overtime hours when in fact, he did not work those hours. Contrary to his representations, Walsh was, among other things, playing golf, gambling at Foxwoods Casino, or performing work on behalf of the Suffolk County Conservative Party. In reliance on Walsh’s false representations, the SCSO paid Walsh wages for hours he did not work. Over the course of the indictment period, Walsh was paid more than $200,000 for regular and overtime hours he did not work.

“The defendant, Edward Walsh, Jr., engaged in sports gambling and politics on the taxpayer’s dime to the tune of $200,000,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “We will continue to ensure that public officials who abuse their positions will be brought to justice.” Ms. Rohde extended her grateful appreciation to the FBI New York Office for its excellent work in the investigation that lead to Walsh’s trial conviction and the SCSO for its important assistance with the investigation.

“What Walsh did was steal taxpayer money, plain and simple. He misrepresented the hours he worked with the intent of deceiving his employer, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, which in turn netted him more than $200,000,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “We certainly expect more from our public servants. Today’s sentence should remind the public that nobody gets a free pass.” 

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Raymond A. Tierney, Catherine M. Mirabile, and Madeline O’Connor are in charge of the 


Legislator Kennedy Proposes IR 1542 Opting Out Of Ride Sharing


Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) held a press conference on Thursday, June 15 regarding her bill; Introductory Resolution 1542. This bill would temporarily opt out Suffolk County from ride sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, until a loophole is closed by New York State. The present version of the bill allows certain level 1 registered sex offenders to be eligible as drivers for Uber, or Lyft, or any other ride sharing service.

According to New York State DCJS Upon release to the community following a conviction for a registerable offense, a sex offender is required to register with the Division of Criminal Justice Services. In order to determine the level of community notification and duration of registration, a hearing is held by the sentencing court. After examining the facts in a particular case, including, but not limited to, the use of force, weapons, alcohol or drugs, victim’s age, number of victims, assault or injury of the victim and relationship to the victim, the court makes a determination regarding the offender’s level of notification, commonly called the risk level. The risk level is based on the court’s assessment regarding whether a particular offender is likely to repeat the same or similar registerable offense and the danger the offender poses to the community. Because the risk level reflects factors unique to a particular sex offender, offenders convicted of the same offense may receive different risk levels. A level 1 indicates there is a low risk of a repeat offense.

Level 2 and level 3 sex offenders are prohibited by state law from being Uber and Lyft drivers.

According to Politifact “The law requires ride-hailing companies to perform a background check on prospective drivers. They have to check New York’s Sex Offender Registry and the National Sex Offender Public Registry.

Those who are on the national registry are barred from ever driving for ride-hailing companies. But not all registered sex offenders are on it. New York state’s Level 2 and Level 3 offenders are listed on the national registry, and they remain on it for life. So they will never be able to drive for the companies.

New York state’s Level 1 offenders are not on the national registry. And, state law does not allow information about Level 1 sex offenders to be posted online. Federal agencies have access to the information but state law blocks it from being posted on the national registry.

That does not mean all Level 1 sex offenders can drive for the ride-hailing companies. Level 1 offenders must wait seven years after their release from jail or prison before they are allowed to drive. If the offenders are not incarcerated, the seven-year waiting period starts when they are convicted, according to state law.” 

Legislator Kennedy was joined at her press conference by Laura Ahearn, Executive Director of Parents for Megan’s Law, Ed Flood who was representing Assemblyman Dean Murray, Robert Cunningham of Suffolk TLC, as well as Legislators William Spencer, Kevin McCaffrey, and Tom Cilmi.

Laura Ahearn said that the “State law in its current form leaves women and children vulnerable to being driven around by licensed TNC drivers who are also registered sex offenders convicted of forcible violent sexual attacks against both women and children.  We are confident that state lawmakers will continue to work together to correct this dangerous situation immediately.”  

Kennedy’s bill has support from State Lawmakers such as Assemblyman Dean Murray who has said, “I applaud Legislator Kennedy’s Bill to put the brakes on accepting Uber and Lyft until this very dangerous loophole is closed. I am working hard with my colleagues in Albany to close this as soon as possible.”

And Senator Tom Croci who said “I have always been supportive of ride-sharing services such as of Uber and Lyft, and I recognize its importance as a transportation alternative. My NYS Senate colleagues and I are currently working with members of the Assembly on legislation to close this dangerous loophole. It is our hope that we will do so before the 2017 State Legislative session comes to a close next week.  I applaud S.C. Legislator Leslie Kennedy on her interim bill to keep Suffolk County residents safe until we can complete our work in Albany.”

“Uber and Lyft provide a very good service,” said Legislator Kennedy “But we need to make sure that our residents are safe while using these ride sharing services. I am confident that lawmakers in Albany will resolve this oversight, but until then we must opt out of ride sharing services.”



Legislature Appropriates $150,000 To Remediate Former Bavarian Inn Site

June 6, 2017 – On Tuesday the Suffolk County Legislature voted to approve Introductory Resolution 1347. This bill sponsored by Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset ), will appropriate $150,000 for remediation of the former Bavarian Inn site on the coast of Lake Ronkonkoma. The Bavarian Inn, which was a catering hall, was demolished four years prior, however the site still needs remediation to protect Lake Ronkonkoma. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recommends that natural vegetation with deep roots be planted along the berm to protect the lake.

“Protecting Lake Ronkonkoma is vitally important,” said Legislator Kennedy “Lake Ronkonkoma is the largest kettle hole lake on Long Island, and I am confident that with remediation we can ensure that Lake Ronkonkoma will be protected even when water levels rise.

The bill is now awaiting the signature of the County Executive in order to take effect.



Suffolk County is First to Bring Ride-sharing Services to Long Island

County Executive, Uber and Lyft Representatives, and Long Island Business Leaders Tout the Over $100 Million in Projected Economic Benefits of Alternative Transportation Services 

Suffolk County is First to Bring Ride-sharing Services to Long Island


Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced that Suffolk County will officially participate in the statewide ride-sharing program that was recently signed into law.  The program, which is expected to begin later this month, is anticipated to have a positive economic impact while improving transportation access for residents and visitors alike.

The County Executive was joined by elected officials, advocates against drunk driving, and community leaders. In addition, representatives from ride-sharing providers Uber and Lyft also discussed who would benefit from the services offered and prospective employment opportunities.

“The opportunity to provide access to ride-sharing for Suffolk County residents is a game-changer that will provide another added incentive for talented and young professionals to live and work in our region,” said County Executive Bellone.  “This is about transforming suburbia on Long Island so that we can improve the health and vibrancy of our downtowns, create good-paying jobs, and improve pedestrian safety on our roads.” 

 “Thanks to the County Executive Steve Bellone and the County Legislature for making a great decision to save lives by “opting in” to the statewide ride-sharing program. This will allow the citizens of Suffolk to go and enjoy themselves while out on the town, knowing that they have an additional way to get home safely – ride-sharing!” Richard Mallow, State Executive Director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving

According to state law, the counties of Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester were provided the option to “opt-out” of the ride-sharing program.  However, the County Executive’s decision to conform with the soon-to-be-announced state DMV regulations will allow companies such as Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services to operate throughout Suffolk County.

With 1.5 million residents, Suffolk County projects that ride-sharing can generate up to $120 million in additional spending by passengers contributing to the local economy, $57 million in earning through wages and tips, and $34 million in estimated value of time saved.

Ride-sharing can also provide a flexible job opportunity for residents who want to earn supplemental income in addition to either full or part-time employment. Studies show 86 percent of Lyft drivers are employed or actively seeking employment, and 61 percent of Uber drivers work full or part-time jobs in addition to driving with the company. Ride-sharing enables drivers to contribute to the local economy while also increasing their overall household income and quality of life.

Ride-sharing companies also provide significant benefits for small businesses. Ride-sharing serves as a critical mode of transportation for commuters to and from small businesses, and makes substantial contributions to the local economy.

New York State’s FY 2018 Budget authorizes Transportation Network Companies (TNC), and created uniform licensing standards for companies such as Uber and Lyft, to operate across New York. Under this program, the State Department of Motor Vehicles has oversight authority over ride-sharing companies that will ensure compliance with all laws, rules, and regulations required as part of a TNC’s operational license.

Ride-sharing companies are required to maintain minimum insurance coverage levels of $1.25 million, which remains in effect from when a driver is traveling to pick up a passenger and until the drop-off is completed. New York State also established extensive safety standards including mandatory background checks, ongoing monitoring for traffic safety, anti-discrimination protections, and zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policies to ensure passenger safety.

Further, New York State mandated that workers’ compensation coverage be provided to rideshare drivers through the Black Car Fund and established a statewide board to review the impact of this newly authorized industry.

Suffolk County is home to world-renowned assets that millions of people across the country come to visit and enjoy each year. Participation in New York State’s ride-sharing program also supports County Executive Bellone’s ‘Connect Long Island’ plan, which seeks to connect all of Suffolk County’s world-class assets in one comprehensive quality of life ecosystem. Suffolk County has something for everyone, from exploring the vibrant downtowns along the south shore to catching a professional baseball game or learning the historical impacts that Long Island has on the development of our country – there is a wide-range of diverse activities for all to enjoy.





Senate Bill S4407B Ending Child Marriages In NYS Goes To Governor

NYS Senators have sent a bill to Governor Cuomo ending child marriange in NYS.Senate Bill Ending Child Marriage In New York State. The bill increases the Age of Consent for purposes of marriage and protects vulnerable children from sexual predators

At least 3,850 children between the ages of 14 and 18 were legally married between 2000 and 2010 in New York State, and 84 percent of these marriages wed a girl to an adult man. Many of these marriages come with significant age differences, which can subsequently lead to negative effects on the child’s health and education, and an increased likelihood of domestic violence predominantly affecting girls.

Following passage in both houses, the New York State Senate recently delivered legislation to end child marriage to the Governor. The bill (S4407B), sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza (R-C-I, Staten Island) prohibits the marriage of minors under 17 years of age and requires 17-year-olds to get court approval for marriage.

Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said, “I applaud my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly for coming together to pass this important legislation ending child marriage in New York. We look forward to the Governor signing it and enacting it into law as soon as possible.”

While current law states that the minimum marriage age in New York is 18, children aged 14-17 may wed with parental consent, and 14 and 15-year-olds require judicial approval as well.

In addition to increasing the minimum age for marriage to 17, this bill puts checks in place to ensure that parental consent is not parental coercion. It also addresses concerns about the lack of meaningfulprocedures and guidelines in the current law’s judicial approval process to ensure that the minor is making an informed decision based only on her or his own views and wishes.




Vecchio's Got Friends And Support In High Places

On May 4th,  when Patrick R. Vecchio stood on the steps of Town Hall and declared his candidacy for town supervisor he was surrounded by Republican elected officials. Town board members Tom McCarthy, Lynne C. Nowick, Lisa Inzerillo, Legislator Rob Trotta, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy represented both himself and Legislator Leslie Kennedy, NYS Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, Congressman Lee Zeldin, unable to attend, sent a representative as did NYS Senator John Flanagan. Superintendent of Highways Robert Murphy who was appointed to fill the remaining term of Glenn Jorgenson. Those officicals who spoke and their representatives praised Vecchio’s leadership and the fiscal policies that according to speakers made Smithtown the best run town in Suffolk County. 

Electeds spoke about Smithtown’s economic stability, it’s famously low debt, its leadership on environmental issues. They praised Vecchio’s mindset of fiscal conservatism. On Tuesday, May 30th, the Smithtown Republican Committee denied the 40 year incumbent the Republican endorsement to run again. In addition, the Smithtown Republican Committee turned their backs on Councilman McCarthy and Councilwoman Nowick. In a bait-and-switch move they replaced candidate for supervisor John Zollo with Councilman Ed Wehrheim and jettisoned the incumbent councilmembers for newcomers Robert Doyle and Thomas Lohmann. 

Vecchio with friends and supporters at Commack Quick StopWhat’s next? Supervisor Vecchio, Councilman McCarthy and Councilwoman Nowick have promised to go directly to Republican voters and challange the Republican slate in a primary which will take place in September. 

Smithtown Matters has reached out to some of the electeds who were with Supervisor Vecchio at his announcement and asked if they are standing with Vecchio. All of those who were contacted, Assemblyman Fitzpatrick, Legislators Kennedy and Trotta, Suffolk County Comptroller Kennedy have reaffirmed their committment to Vecchio. 





Senator Schumer Tells MTA & Amtrak Use The $400 Million I Secured And Fix The Tunnels



After Huge Push, Schumer Successfully Secured $432M in Sandy Relief Funds For East River Tunnel Repairs; Says: “Tuesday’s Electrical Failure & Massive Delay Is A Sign Of What Can Happen If Action Is Delayed & Breakdowns Continue;” Since Superstorm Sandy, Disruptions Related to the East River Tunnels Have Increased by 72%, Schumer Says Salt Damage From Superstorm Sandy Will Continue To Erode The ERT For LIRR Riders; Despite Fed Funding Being in Place for Nearly a Year, ERT Repairs Sit In Waiting 

Schumer: ERT Repairs Have Been Stalled On The Tracks For Almost As Long As Long Island Commuters; We Need Amtrak and MTA To Detail A Real Plan ASAP 

On the heels of a massive Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) delay and electrical failure within the East River Tunnels, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and a bipartisan group of local elected officials and commuter advocates today demanded that Amtrak and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) set a plan with an ambitious deadline to use $432 million in federal funds Schumer secured to repair the East River Tunnels—before its festering issues get even worse. Despite Schumer successfully securing $432 million in unused Sandy relief funds for repairs to the East River Tunnels, Amtrak and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have yet to make any meaningful or real progress on dedicating the funding to the critically needed project and repairs.

“Plain and simple, the MTA and Amtrak need to repair the East River Tunnels, fast. The $430 million in federal dollars that I secured are sitting there and now we just need MTA and Amtrak to set a plan with real deadlines to put that money to work for LIRR commuters. Those tunnels are the most important link in the commute of hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders and a problem in one tunnel—-like we saw this week—creates a nightmarish domino effect for the entire LIRR system, and that’s not acceptable, especially considering we have the funds to fix this,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “With train delays and disruptions on the rise, it’s time for Amtrak and the MTA to immediately commit to repairing and upgrading the East River Tunnels and use the $432 million we’ve already secured.”

“Day after day, Long Island commuters are being harassed by massive service disruptions and system failures.  Amtrak and the MTA’s lack of effort to establish a clear and effective maintenance and infrastructure plan has directly led us to the transportation disaster we face now.  The East River Tunnels (ERT) repairs are a perfect example.  Thanks to Federal funding secured by Senator Schumer, the money needed to fix the ERT is available. The real question is why the MTA and Amtrak have not come together to access the funding and start the project?  They must put the needs of the ridership first and kick start these repairs immediately.  Our commuters are fed up with delays in the boardroom and at the train stations.  We demand action,” said New York State Senator Carl L. Marcellino (R-Syosset).

“The recurring nightmare LIRR riders are enduring right now will only get worse if the East River Tunnels are not fixed.  As we saw on Tuesday, malfunctions in the tunnels cripple LIRR service.  Repairing this vital link between Long Island and Penn Station is paramount to provide the over 300,000 daily LIRR commuters with the dependable, reliable service they expect and deserve.  The MTA and Amtrak must prioritize these repairs and work together to get them done, now.  I support Senator Schumer’s efforts to get these much needed improvements moving forward as quickly as possible,” said New York State Senator Elaine Phillips (R – Flower Hill). 

“Tuesday morning’s debacle in the East River Tunnels foreshadows the nightmarish summer that we’ve all been bracing for.  All entities must work together to use the federal funding  Sen. Schumer has already secured to fix the East River Tunnels immediately. Delays and breakdowns are frustrating commuters across Long Island and delaying work on the East River Tunnels just adds insult to injury. Our constituents expect and deserve action,” said New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky (D – Long Beach).

“Long Island Railroad commuters have suffered long enough and now it is urgent for the MTA and Amtrak to come together and begin the desperately needed repairs to the East River Tunnels once and for all. We are fortunate that Senator Schumer was able to secure $432 million in Sandy relief funds for this very purpose,” said New York State Assemblyman Chuck Lavine (D – Glen Cove).

“It’s been nearly five years since Superstorm Sandy devastated our communities and yet the rebuilding process continues at a painfully slow pace,” said Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre. “This is particularly true for the LIRR East River Tunnels which were severely damaged by floodwaters. This damage has led to headaches for commuters and it’s only going to get worse until we fix them. That’s why I’m joining Senator Schumer and all of my colleagues to call on the MTA and Amtrak to repair these critical tunnels as soon as possible,” said New York State Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D – Babylon).

“ABLI commends the Senator for ensuring vital repairs are made in the East River Tunnels.  LIRR is the spine of the Long Island economy and without a functioning mass transit infrastructure beneath the East River the island is faced with a choke point that creates devastating consequences,” said Laureen Harris, President, Association for a Better Long Island. 

“The Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council strongly supports Senator Schumer’s call to promptly repair Sandy related damage to the East River Tunnels. Long Island depends upon Amtrak’s East River tunnels, with LIRR riders making up the vast majority of the 300,000 passengers that pass through them each weekday. Although Amtrak faces substantial other needs, the project to repair the East River tunnels must keep moving forward to prevent an already  intolerable situation  from getting worse,” said Mark Epstein, Chairman, Long Island Railroad Commuter Council.

Schumer pointed out that, since Superstorm Sandy, the number of trains that were delayed, canceled or terminated because of issues with the East River Tunnel have increased by 72 percent, a problem that Schumer says is likely to get worse as time goes on. While not necessarily as a result of damage from Superstorm Sandy, given that salt water is corrosive to electrical systems and more, the prior damage to the tunnels from Sandy flooding will only lead to more problems in the future. This week’s third rail electrical problem led to a 3-hour LIRR delay and impacted thousands of commuters, a situation which will only repeat itself if repair work to the tunnel does not begin soon. Schumer has already written to Interim MTA Director Ronnie Hakim and Amtrak President Charles Moorman asking for an immediate update on the status of repairs to the East River Tunnels and said that the two agencies should quickly work together to address these desperately needed repairs. 

This week, problems along the electrified third rail inside one of the East River Tunnels resulted in long delays and the cancellation of 17 rush-hour LIRR trains, impacting approximately thousands of commuters. Two trains were stranded in the tunnel when the power failure occurred; one train had to be towed by a relief train.

Schumer said the East River Tunnels are a critical part of the transportation system in the New York metro area and carry more than 300,000 passengers daily. Despite being maintained and operated by Amtrak, the four single track tunnels are a shared regional asset and provide invaluable service to both the railroad and major regional transit agencies. Superstorm Sandy badly damaged the East River Tunnels with approximately 14 million gallons of floodwaters. According to Amtrak reports, corrosive salts and chlorides from the storm continue to impact the tunnels’ underground structures. Over time, delays and breakdowns involving the East River Tunnels have increased and Schumer said that this problem will undoubtedly get worse if repairs are not made immediately.

Schumer successfully secured $432 million in unused Sandy relief funds for repairs to the East River Tunnels; the federal funds were awarded as part of an $800 million allotment of funding for transportation infrastructure resiliency projects. Last summer, following Schumer’s push, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released these funds to the MTA. At the time, the MTA committed that they would use the funds to advance repairs in the East River Tunnels. In his letter, Schumer said that, since securing these funds, it appears as though no meaningful progress has been made by Amtrak or the MTA on the East River Tunnels project.

Schumer today called on Amtrak and the MTA to immediately use the $432 million federal funds to rebuild the East River Tunnels before disruptions related to the East River Tunnels continue to get worse. Schumer said that is unacceptable to allow the project to be delayed or stalled, especially given the fact that federal dollars have been secured from the FTA. Schumer said that Amtrak and the MTA must immediately work together to make sure this project advances in a timely fashion.


Republicans Toss Out The Supervisor And Incumbent Council Members - Keep Conservative Town Clerk

L-R Vincent Puleo, nominee Thomas Lohmann, nominee Robert Doyle and Edward WehrheimThe Smithtown Republican convention Tuesday evening resulted in Councilman Edward Wehrheim garnering more votes than long time supervisor Patrick R. Vecchio becoming the 2017 Republican candidate for Smithtown Town supervisor.

Councilman Wehrheim, employed by the town for 45 years, spoke briefly promising to continue serving the community with “honor and integrity.” Wehrheim’s comments were interrupted by very angry Vecchio supporters who accused Bill Ellis of betraying the committee.  Committee members supporting Vecchio allege that Ellis accepted proxies from absent committee people without informing them that John Zollo, the only announced candidate running for the office other than Patrick Vecchio, was being replaced by Ed Wehrheim. Ellis denied these charges. The anger was palatable. 

Also being side lined by the proxy votes were Councilman Tom McCarthy and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick. Both candidates screened before the nominating committee and were not informed by Bill Ellis that they were being dropped by the ticket. The Republicans, by proxy, replaced the incumbent councilmembers with two political newcomers Robert Doyle a retired detective sergeant, and Thomas Lohmann a retiree of the NYPD currently a Suffolk County district attorney. 

Town clerk Vincent Puleo, Conservative, is the only incumbent to be endorsed for re-election. Current superintendent of highways Robert Murphy was appointed two years ago replacing Glenn Jorgensen. Murphy received the Republican nomination to run for his first full term. 

Supervisor Vecchio, Councilman McCarthy, Councilwoman Nowick have promised a September primary. Conrad Chase, current planning board chairperson, is planning a primary against Town Clerk Vincent Puleo.


DEC Seeks Comments On How To Use Volkswagen Settlement Funds

Send DEC ideas for environmental mitigation projects for Volkswagen settlement funds


New York State is seeking comments and suggestions for the type and scope of environmental mitigation projects that would utilize funds efficiently to reduce excess nitrogen oxide emissions from Volkswagen (VW) vehicles equipped with “defeat device” software that allowed vehicles to exceed air pollution limits.

New York State expects to receive up to $127 million from a settlement with VW to be used for mitigation projects that will replace or repower older diesel vehicles and for the advancement of zero emission vehicles.  Eligible projects include:

  • School bus replacement
  • Snow plow truck replacement
  • Locomotive repowering
  • Electric vehicle charging station installations

Please visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/109784.html to learn more about the VW settlement, including how to submit comments.


NYS Promoting I BIRD NY 

State Unveils the Designs for a New Observation Viewing Tower in City Of Utica

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the launch of I BIRD NY, an initiative to build on increasing access to the state’s vast natural resources and promote low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and connect with nature. The program launch took place at the Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Oneida County where DEC unveiled recent improvements at the marsh and the designs for a new observation viewing tower.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Birding is a sport that can be enjoyed by New Yorkers of any age and ability, no matter where they live. With I BIRD NY, it’s now easier than ever to get outside and enjoy bird watching. I encourage residents and visitors alike to take a trip and connect with nature and experience some of the prime bird watching areas that are true natural treasures to the state.”

From Montauk to Buffalo, New York is home to a vast array of habitat that supports more than 450 different bird species. Bird watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and experiences in any community.

The need for outdoor recreation has never been greater. Childhood obesity has doubled over the past 20 years and the average American child spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen according to Putting Family First.org.

Accessible state lands, parks, and facilities can promote physical activity, an important element of overall wellness. These assets provide low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and to connect with nature. As announced under the 2017 State of the State, the I BIRD NY program is one of several initiatives aimed at ensuring New Yorkers have access to green spaces, including focus on unique opportunities close to urban and suburban areas.

State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “New York State Parks offers rich natural habitats for interesting and unique birds. As birding programs and events continue to grow in popularity, I BIRD NY will look to enhance these resources for public enjoyment today and into the future.”

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of International Migratory Bird Day, a day to celebrate the importance of stopover sites and their habitats to birds migrating between their nesting and wintering sites.

The announcement was made at the Utica Marsh WMA, a unique urban wetland in Oneida County. The mixture of cattail wetlands, wet meadows, open water pools and flooded willows create a diverse marsh habitat that harbors a tremendous variety of plants and animals, especially birds.

State Senator Joseph Griffo said, “Seated at the foot of the Adirondacks, the Mohawk Valley is fortunate to have many serene locations like the Utica Marsh that allow the public to really enjoy the exceptional beauty and natural diversity of our region. By enhancing the Utica Marsh, the state’s I BIRD NY initiative will provide greater access and opportunity for people to explore and experience all of the wonder that our birds and wildlife have to offer, right in our own backyard.”

“The Utica Marsh has long been recognized as one of the state’s best locations for birding. The new enhancements to the marsh, including an observation tower, will encourage visitors and local residents to visit this unique natural resource, and observe the amazing diversity of birds and other wildlife that are found just a short distance from downtown Utica,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica.

DEC recently completed the rehabilitation and enhancement of 75 percent of the one-mile trail, including the removal of several old structures, created a secondary overlook/observation area, formalized the new kiosk access and added interpretive signage at Utica Marsh WMA as part of this overall project. Designs for a new wildlife observation tower were also unveiled. A first and second view of the platform is available on DEC’s website. The tower is expected to be open to the public in September.

Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri said “The Utica Marsh is a tremendous quality of life asset to enjoy as DEC’s construction of the trail and future observation tower will provide residents better year round access to viewing wildlife and seasonal fishing. These types of recreational amenities are family friendly and are also a valuable part of the city’s revitalization efforts. I thank the DEC for their continued support and partnership.”

“We’re proud to partner in this effort as the Erie Canalway is a popular destination for birders,” said Brian U. Stratton, New York State Canal Corporation director. “Blue herons, bald eagles and kingfishers are among the many birds users of the Erie Canal and the Canalway trail often see.”

As part of I BIRD NY, the state launched a website portal, I Bird NY, with information on where and how to bird watch, including upcoming bird walks and additional resources. I BIRD NY also provides:

  • A new I BIRD NY kids booklet available at DEC Environmental Education Centers and official I BIRD NY bird walks and other events.
  • The launch of an I BIRD NY Beginners Birding Challenge open to kids 16 and younger through August 31. All participants will receive a completion certificate and be entered to win birding accessories.
  • I BIRD NY walks hosted by DEC and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will be held throughout the year.
  • Improved signage will be coming to priority Bird Conservation Areas near urban and suburban areas to better identify the opportunities for the public to bird watch. There are 59 Bird Conservation Areas across the state.

“Audubon New York applauds Governor Cuomo and the NYSDEC on launching the I BIRD NY campaign as a wonderful way to connect families to nature and help foster the next generation of conservation leaders,” said Audubon New York Director of Strategic Communications, Claudette Thornton. “We look forward to continue working with them on introducing more New Yorkers to the wonders of birding through our statewide network of nature centers, sanctuaries, and local Audubon chapter programs.”

More information on I BIRD NY, including the Kids Beginners Birding Challenge, can be found online.