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Friday
Apr202018

6th Annual Gospel Health Festival 

 

COUNTY EXECUTIVE BELLONE ANNOUNCES COUNTY’S SIXTH GOSPEL HEALTH FEST

Featuring the county’s finest Gospel choirs, dance ministries, and inspiring health presentations in recognition of Minority Health Month

 

Saturday, April 21, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk Health Commissioner James Tomarken, MD, MPH and Suffolk Community College announce Suffolk County’s Sixth Gospel Health Fest. The event will showcase the county’s finest Gospel choirs, dance ministries and choral groups, while providing health information and inspiring presentations in recognition of Minority Health Month.

“This event promises to be rich in culture while providing the community with health care information from leaders they trust and understand their culture and concerns,” said Executive Bellone.

“The mission of the Department of Health Services’ Office of Minority Health is to improve health outcomes by reducing the impact of the six major health conditions identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Cancer, Diabetes, Immunizations, Infant Mortality, Heart Disease/Stroke, and HIV/AIDS. The goal is to remove disparities effecting these diseases,” said Dr. James Tomarken.  “Events such as this give us the opportunity to serve minority communities in Suffolk County.”

Thursday
Apr192018

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - Enormous Opposition To Trump's Plan For Drilling Off LI

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grosssman

          Opposition to the Trump administration’s plan for oil drilling off Long Island has been enormous—and bipartisan. Whether the strong and broad-based opposition will make a difference and prevent drilling—as a series of moratoria passed by Congress in recent decades blocking Atlantic oil drilling have done—remains to be seen.

The first Long Island public official out with opposition to oil drilling offshore Long island, following the January announcement by U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of plans for oil drilling in the Atlantic and expanded drilling in the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Ocean, was Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine.      

Noting that Brookhaven “has the largest coastline of any town on Long Island.” Mr. Romaine, a Republican, wrote Secretary Zinke. “As town supervisor, I do not support drilling in waters off our coastline. Like most Americans, I am concerned about the huge risks offshore drilling carries. A spill anywhere on the Atlantic Coast could decimate large sections of coastline and negatively impact our coastal economy. The Long Island coastline supports nearly 350,000 jobs and generates millions of dollars through tourism, fishing, and other industries.”

         “This proposal,” he went on, “came just as the 9-cent per oil tax to fund emergency cleanup of oil spills expired” and, “in addition, the Trump administration has announced plans to roll back regulatory protections for deep-water drilling. These regulations deal with safety checks and equipment standards on oil.”

There have been a series of public hearings in Suffolk on the Trump administration plan.  

         At a hearing in Smithtown, led by New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, a Setauket Democrat and chairman of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, and including many public officials, environmentalists and scientists, Mr. Englebright said: “The Atlantic outer continental shelf is not an appropriate area for offshore drilling. Period. The risks associated with drilling, including oil spills, far out-weigh any potential benefits. Especially since the state is currently working to advance renewable energy projects on our continental shelf area rather than climate change inducing fossil fuel-oriented projects such as the drilling.”

          “Are we willing to industrialize our pristine coastlines?” demanded State Assemblyman Christine Pellegrino, a Democrat from West Islip, at another hearing, at Brookhaven Town Hall. “Long Islanders will not stand idly by as the federal government endangers our coastline.”

At that hearing, organized by U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin of Shirley, a Republican who is close personally and politically to GOPer Trump, Mr. Zeldin declared: “Protecting our environment goes hand in hand with protecting commerce in our region, where so many jobs and small businesses depend on scenic beaches, parks and clean water to attract visitors and economic growth.” 

          State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor, Independence Party chair in Southampton Town who also runs on the Democratic ticket, issued a statement declaring: “This leasing program seeks to make a majority of the United States Outer Continental Shelf open to oil and gas exploration and construction representing the first time in decades that many states’ coasts would be exposed to such development and potential harm….It is a reckless proposal that must be rejected out of hand. An oil spill off the coast of Long Island would destroy our economy and our quality of life.”

               Long Island environmental organizations have gotten involved. The Long Island chapter of the Sierra Club has stated that the “risks of offshore drilling to our marine habitat and coastline are far greater than any short-term profit that may be gained. New York is a coastal state and Long Island, especially, depends on tourism, fishing. And other commercial activities that involve the our use of the ocean. Most importantly, enjoying and protecting our waters and the life within them is part of our culture and the reason many come to live and work here.” It said the “current moratorium” on drilling in the Atlantic “should stay in place” and the “proper use” of federal government “resources is to encourage the development of clean and renewable energy sources, such as offshore wind.”

           New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called on Mr. Zinke to “exempt” Long Island waters from offshore drilling, Offshore drilling poses an unacceptable threat to New York’s ocean resources, to our economy and to the future of our children.  It introduces the unprecedented risk of extremely hazardous oil spills, contributes to the acceleration of climate change, and conflicts with New York’s ambitious agenda to develop offshore wind energy.  With this plan, the federal government is trampling on the interests of New Yorkers and threatening the future wellbeing of our state,” he declared. Top of Form

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has called on Mr. Zinke to “exempt” Long Island waters. “Offshore drilling poses an unacceptable threat to New York’s ocean resources,” he wrote. “It introduces the unprecedented risk of extremely hazardous oil spills, contribution to the acceleration of climate change, and conflicts with New York’s ambitious agenda to develop offshore wind energy.”

Meanwhile, beyond words, governmental action has begun to thwart the federal plan. In neighboring New Jersey last week, legislation to ban oil drilling in state waters and prohibit construction of infrastructure in them—pipes and so on—to support drilling in federal waters was approved unanimously in the State Senate. “This is a back-door way of blocking the offshore drilling that would be allowed by the federal action,” said co-sponsor Senator Jeff Van Drew, a Cape May Democrat. “We control the first three miles at the state level, so we will use that authority to try to hinder or block drilling along the Jersey coast.”

Karl Grossman is a veteran investigative reporter and columnist, the winner of numerous awards for his work and a member of the L.I. Journalism Hall of Fame. He is a professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury and the author of six books. 

Thursday
Apr122018

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - Visionary Farm Preservation Program Wins In Court

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

It’s a triumph for Suffolk County’s visionary Farmland Preservation Program!

The state’s Appellate Division last month rejected by 3-to-1 a ruling by a state Supreme Court justice in 2016 that hamstrung the program. Conceived by County Executive John V. N. Klein, the program, begun in 1974, is based on the brilliant and then novel idea of purchase of development rights. Farmers are paid the difference between the value of their land in agriculture and what they could get for it if they sold it off for development. In return, the land is kept in agriculture in perpetuity. 

The Suffolk program has since been emulated across the nation.

It has been central in keeping Suffolk a top agricultural county in New York State and so much of it green. Not only do the farms of the county, on some of the best soils on the planet, produce food and other agricultural products, but they are integral to the thriving tourism industry in Suffolk.

However, the Long Island Pine Barrens Society brought a misguided lawsuit which claimed that allowing “structures” on preserved farmland, as permitted by amendments to the program approved by the Suffolk Legislature, was not legal. And Justice Thomas Whelan supported the claim. 

Great credit for the successful appeal goes to current Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, the Suffolk Legislature and the County Farmland Committee. Once the lawsuit was brought, the county promptly arranged for the county to retain a law firm that has long fought for the environment, Riverhead-based Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley and Quartararo. Handling the appeal was a partner in the firm, Lisa Clare Kombrink, who has a specialty in farmland preservation as former Southampton Town attorney and in other public legal positions. In a statement, Twomey, Latham described the winning appeal as a “victory for Suffolk County agriculture…a big win.” The firm noted how it “fought back the efforts of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society to jeopardize the county program.”

If the ruling were allowed to stand it would “effectively gut the Farmland Preservation Program,” said Mr. Bellone. “If farmers can’t do the things necessary to run a successful operation, we can’t have farming here anymore.”

Legislator Al Krupski of Cutchogue, who is a fourth-generation Suffolk farmer, said: “There is great diversity in agriculture, and not everyone understands what is needed to operate a productive farm or agricultural operation. Agriculture is changing. Different farming techniques, new technology and methods are emerging, along with the opportunities they present. Infrastructure needs may change. We need to adapt to accommodate these changes if we want to preserve agriculture and farming.”

Legislator Bridget Fleming of Noyac said: “Our critically important agricultural industry will only survive if farmers can undertake the basic practices that make a farm work.”

The Appellate Division in its majority decision stated the county’s “special use permits” for accessory structures “all constitute or are sufficiently related to agricultural production.”

Justice Whelan “basically misconstrued what the county’s original intent was—to prevent the development of farmland but still allow typical and acceptable farm practices to be utilized,” explains State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor, an attorney. The Farmland Preservation Program “didn’t freeze in a moment of time” structures that could be on a farm. Farmers who have put their land into preservation under the program, said Mr. Thiele, have been
“entitled” to build sheds, barns and other structures “as long as they complied with the definition of agricultural practices. The idea was that farming is dynamic and that there would have to be changes in the future.” 

John v.H.Halsey, president of the Peconic Land Trust, said Suffolk’s “landmark” Farmland Preservation Program “is about assuring the future of farming and agricultural production first and foremost” and, “Agricultural production by definition includes structures like barns, greenhouses and fences.” The program, “the first of its kind in the country, was created to protect not only farmland but farming. Farm operations by definition are the land, the structures, the improvements and the practices necessary to perform agricultural production.”

Rob Carpenter, administrative director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, emphasized that “farmers need to have the ability to change with the times…Farming today is very sophisticated and complicated…No farmer is going to preserve their land if they can’t continue as a farm operation and that means with modern agriculture having the necessary infrastructure in order to farm.”

By bringing its lawsuit, the Long Island Pine Barrens Society broke a long tradition of environmental groups in Suffolk joining in a “big tent” approach, working cooperatively with each other. Whether it had to do with open space, farmland preservation, preserving the pine barrens, clean water, battling nuclear power in Suffolk and challenging offshore oil drilling, they have—until the Pine Barrens Society’s lawsuit—worked in harmony. 

Karl Grossman is a veteran investigative reporter and columnist, the winner of numerous awards for his work and a member of the L.I. Journalism Hall of Fame. He is a professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury and the author of six books. 

Thursday
Apr052018

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - How A Hard Fall Can Lead To Holes In Your Head

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

Your faithful columnist now has holes in his head.  

Through the years, I have written now and then about physical maladies I’ve suffered. 

This was a humdinger—I’m just out of out of Stony Brook University Hospital for the after-effects of a terrible accident. 

SPLAT!!!!! I fell hard on my left cheek on a tile floor in a motel room in Fort Lauderdale in January. I didn’t notice a leg on the bed sticking out, and I tripped over it in the dark. I never suffered a worse fall. I thought I fractured my cheek. But initially, other than having a black eye, there were no impacts. It happened after we went out to dinner with friends in Florida. The next day, Saturday, I was feeling OK and we went to lunch with other friends with whom I have worked on my TV show. Then we flew back to Long Island that afternoon. 

Still no impacts. Sunday we were home and Monday I had the every-six months bladder check-up I need to take.  The next week I began teaching journalism again at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury. Still, no impacts whatsoever.

Then, I had arranged a cataract operation for March 1 (I’ve been told I need this) and a couple of days earlier I saw my primary care physician, Dr. Allen Fein, a specialist in Family Medicine at Stony Brook University Hospital. Allen is also a friend. He said something was wrong—my gait was off, my retinas weren’t working the way they should, and he did other tests. His wife, Beverley, drove me to the emergency room at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. There they found in a CTscan two giant hematomas, deposits of blood, on both sides of my skull.

I was taken by ambulance to the Emergency Room at Stony Brook University Hospital (was never transported by ambulance before.) There I was given a choice—surgery or the use of steroids which, I was told, work some of the time to reduce hematomas. But these were very big ones. Still I opted for the steroids as a less invasive procedure. 

Things seem to be getting better for a couple of weeks, but then the slow gait and other symptoms came back, and Dr. Fein and Dr. Charles Mikell, the neurosurgeon I originally saw at the Stony Brook Emergency Room, strongly recommended surgery—what is called a “burr hole” procedure in which little holes are drilled in the top of your head to drain out the blood produced by the hematomas.  It is brain surgery, but in between the skull and brain and so ostensibly less invasive. Still, I was scared as could be about someone putting holes in my head, and after I was informed of possible unexpected adverse impacts, even more frightened.  However, at this point, a friend, also a doctor, whose wife as a nurse was involved with a lot of “burr hole” surgery, told me it is the main route in dealing with hematomas. 

Furthermore, a follow-up CTscan showed only a 15% to 20% reduction in the size of the hematomas with the steroids. The Feins told me how one of their sons had a comparable accident in a snowboard crash and was successfully operated on at Stony Brook with this “burr hole” procedure.

I had an appointment the next day with Dr. Mikell, arranged earlier, and we drove through the snowstorm from Sag Harbor to see him. Dr. Mikell had my wife, Janet, and me compare the two CTscans, and you could see my head was still full of this mass which was putting pressure on my brain and could cause a seizure. 

Further, Dr. Mikell, a young fellow, a graduate of Princeton and Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, said that with the snow it would be a good time to do the operation because Stony Brook was not too busy and he would be able to do it the next day. And that’s what happened. His team was highly proficient. I was left with tubes coming out of four holes in my head leading to two plastic containers collecting drained fluid from my head. It was extremely difficult functioning with the tubes and also the monitoring equipment all over my body. By far, it was the worst several days in my life. I didn’t know if I would get out of this life-threatening situation. 

But five days later, by Saturday, the hematomas had completely drained away. However, a CTscan showed that a spinal fluid deposit was now forming on the top of my skull. The doctors at Stony Brook were concerned as to whether this might increase. So they kept me under observation until Monday when a new CTscan found there was no increase. Flabbergasted and joyous, I was told I would be released. 

I will need follow-up medical attention. I’m not supposed to carry anything heavy, and there are other restrictions. The recovery time for this situation runs in the months. 

So that’s the (crazy and scary) story!!!!!

Incidentally, I have been told that this “burr hole” procedure goes back to cavemen time—that a caveman who was hit by another caveman on the head with a club would have holes drilled in his skull to drain off hematomas—that ancient skulls with such holes have been found. For me it wasn’t a caveman with a club—but a damn tile floor in a motel in Fort Lauderdale, not a caveman in sight.

Karl Grossman is a veteran investigative reporter and columnist, the winner of numerous awards for his work and a member of the L.I. Journalism Hall of Fame. He is a professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury and the author of six books. 

Thursday
Mar292018

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - Part 3 Leaf Blowers Health Risks

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

Last year, Long Island state Assemblyman Steve Englebright, chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Education, called on Basil Begos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, to include information on his department’s website “explaining the hazards” of gas-fired leaf blowers.

“Additionally, it would be important to explain the advantages of switching to battery-powered equipment to reduce any health risks and reduce greenhouse gases,” wrote the lawmaker from Setauket.

Mr. Englebright continued that “the EPA has noted that the fine particulate matter from the using gas-powered leaf blowers poses serious health threats including cardiovascular and respiratory harm.”

This is one avenue in challenging gas-fired leaf blowers. 

Also last year, the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution, sponsored by Legislator Bridget Fleming of Noyac and Sarah Anker of Mt. Sinai, calling on the Suffolk Department of Public Works “to study the feasibility of alternatives to gas powered maintenance equipment.”

The resolution began: “Whereas the County of Suffolk has made environmental protection…a top priority…and national organizations including the American Green Zone Alliance, as well as local organizations including Huntington CALM—

Citizens Appeal for Leafblower Moderation—have identified gas-powered leaf blowers as a concerning source of pollution.” 

 This is another avenue for Suffolk in challenging gas-fired leaf blowers. 

 As we have been writing in this series of articles: gas-fired leaf blowers constitute a huge health and environmental threat. As Dr. Ken Spaeth, MD, MPH, of the Hofstra School of Health Sciences, has written, they are “extremely harmful to the health and the environment…Gasoline-powered leaf blowers pose multiple health and environmental hazards.” The use of them “for clean-up and routine landscape maintenance is exposing us all unnecessarily to pollutants and noise…When compared to an average large car, one hour of a gas-powered leaf blower use emits 498 times as much hydrocarbons, 49 times as much particulate matter and 28 times as much carbon monoxide.”

As to noise, the noise they make are “are in orders of magnitude—since decibels are on a logarithmic scale.” The “fine particulate matter—under 2.5 microns” that they spread “which easily gets into the lungs and even into the blood stream can cause premature death,” stated Dr. Spaeth, “heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure, and lung disease—including asthma attacks—and can result in the increase of chronic lung disease in the elderly.” 

Moreover, he stated, “there is environmental degradation.” Their high velocity “can destroy nests and animal habitats, desiccate pollen, sap and other natural plant substances, and injure or destroy small birds, small mammals and beneficial insects.”

Furthermore, Dr. Spaeth emphasizes, there are “alternatives” to gas-fired leaf blowers. “Alternatives include commercial grade lithium ion batteries or other electrical equipment.”

Also calling for restrictions on gas-fired leaf blowers is the Sierra Club’s Long Island Group. “The Sierra Club’s motto is ‘Explore. Enjoy and Protect the Planet,’” it explains. “Part of enjoying the planet is to hear its natural sounds—singing of birds, wind in the trees, and children playing in a toxic-free environment.” Gas-fired leaf blowers “interfere with all these and more, both while they are running and afterwards as the dust settles. Many communities across America have recognized these issues and put some basic limits on the use of leaf-blowers.”

On the front line of those laboring with gas-fired leaf blowers are often low-income immigrant workers and their health is being impacted. Gas-fired leaf blowers “can make an infernal racket, and environmental officials say that exhaust from gas-powered lawn and garden equipment is a surprisingly big source of air pollution,” the organization FairWarning has written in a study. 

This non-profit investigative news organization focuses on public health, safety and environmental issues and related topics of government and business accountability. But are landscaping workers who use the equipment day in and day out exposed to harmful emissions?…With the help of a grant for the Fund for Investigative Journalism, FairWarning hired a health consulting firm and carried out testing among workers using gas-fired leaf blowers in Los Angeles. Among the conclusions: the gas-fired machines generated “far more” contaminants than “detected” at a “busy” LA highway intersection—“while the electric machines did not.”

From FairWarning and others, we’ve received plenty of fair warning about gas-fired leaf blowers. It’s high time for action—for widespread limits and bans on their use!