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Thursday
Aug292019

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - Climate Change Is Happening Right Here

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

It’s happening. Climate change is hitting this area. 

In Greenport on the North Fork, the dock for Shelter Island’s North Ferry terminal is to be raised in response to higher tides—a result of sea level rise caused by global warming and consequent climate change.

In western Suffolk County, in Smithtown, changes are being proposed in the town’s coastal management plan including restrictions on development in areas likely to be affected by sea level rise. The changes would require that sea level change be considered when siting, designing or approving waterfront projects. They would also require property owners to when “practical” move houses threatened by coastal erosion. Constructing “hard structures” on the shore—such as sea walls and rock groins—would only be allowed as a last resort. 

In Sag Harbor, the second annual “Living on the Edge in the Face of Climate Change” event pairing Kevin McAllister, founding president of the organization Defend H20, and actor and environmental activist Alec Baldwin of Amagansett, has just been held.

“We are making progress. The level of enlightenment has improved. If we keep the wave going, we’ll get there,” said Mr. McAllister at the event attended by 150 people. “If you read the …news, you see we’re in serious doo.” Over the past 40 years, waters surrounding Long Island, said Mr. McAllister, have risen by four inches. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is projecting that because of climate change, in the next 40 years “we can expect they’ll rise by 11 to 30 inches.” That seriously threatens this area.

“We know what we are facing. We know what we need to do,” said Mr. Baldwin. And a need is to “convince a critical mass of people as to what they have to do as well.” There’s been “a cascade of unsettling information about the environment,” said Mr. Baldwin, especially about last month’s record heat in the United States.

Indeed, as the Associated Press has just reported: “July was the hottest month measured on Earth since records began in 1880, the latest in a long line of peaks that scientists say back up predictions for man-made climate change.”

This is a world-wide climate change crisis. The headline of a just-out National Geographic article: “A heat wave is turning Greenland’s ice to slush. That’s bad news.” The headline of a June piece in The New York Times: “India Heat Wave, Soaring Up to 123 Degrees.” Also in June, the headline of a Washington Post article: “Potentially historic and deadly summer heat wave to roast Europe.” In February, summer in the Southern Hemisphere, the USA Today headline was: “Record-shattering ‘unprecedented’ heat scorches Australia, Chile and Argentina.”

Back to this July: “Dangerous Temperatures Grip New York City,” headlined a story in New York Times. The headline of an Associated Press dispatch last month: “Alaska records its warmest month ever; future records likely.” And in The New York Times two weeks ago: “An Ice-Free Iceland Is Not A Joke.”

Indeed, what’s happening is no joke!

Long Island is not among the places that will disappear because of climate change. Reader’s Digest has just put together a list of places that because of climate change are “likely to be submerged within the next 80 years.” These include these nations: 1,000-island Solomon Islands, Palau, Fiji, 600-island Micronesia, the Cook Islands and the Marshall Islands, all in the Pacific; the Maldives and also Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. And French Polynesia would be inundated. Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay off Maryland would be under water. And so on.

Yes, Long Island won’t vanish but sitting in a rising sea with its millions in population, it will be heavily impacted. “Sections will be submerged,” says Mr. McAllister, “including Napeague, Mastic Beach, the Dune Road area of Westhampton.”

A main point Mr. McAllister made at the “Living on the Edge in the Face of Climate Change” event was the importance of dealing with the cause of climate change in addition to its effects. He questioned the opposition to the South Fork Wind Project and its placement of 15 offshore wind turbines 30 miles out to sea by some people in the Town of East Hampton. This is preferable, said Mr. McAllister, to the U.S. government’s push for drilling in waters off Long Island for a substance that is among the fossil fuels central to why we have climate change: oil. Mr. McAllister said: “Let’s move to the sustainable frontier, and that’s critical.”

More next week.

 

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.   

Wednesday
Aug212019

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - The Letter That Changed The World

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

“If I had known that the Germans would not succeed in constructing an atom bomb, I never would have moved a finger,” wrote Albert Einstein in his 1950 book Out of My Later Years. 

He was speaking about a letter from his vacation home on Nassau Point on Suffolk’s North Fork that warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt of a breakthrough in Nazi Germany in nuclear fission which could “lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable…extremely powerful bombs of a new type.” Atom bombs. 

That letter from Einstein triggered the Manhattan Project crash program of the United States to build atomic weaponry—to construct atom bombs before Nazi Germany did. And it led to a widening of nuclear technology and what has been called the “Atomic Age.”

On this August 2nd, on the anniversary of the August 2, 1939 date on that letter, the current owners of Rothman’s Department Store in Southold unveiled Einstein Square in front of the store, centered around a bust of Einstein. The scientist was good friends in the 1930s with David Rothman, the store’s owner when he rented a house on Nassau Point.

I first saw the Einstein letter as a youngster in a display case in the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park.  I had the feeling then of its great importance. Now I think it might be the most important letter ever. I reprinted part of the letter as a facsimile in my 1980 book, Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power, and discuss it in other writings and in TV programs I’ve hosted.

(According to a December 20, 1986 Washington Post article, now online, the letter “was sold to publisher Malcom Forbes today at Christies for $220,000. The price was a record for a 20th century letter.”) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1986/12/20/einstein-letter-sold-to-forbes/1f5d23ff-47e3-43ba-a7c0-0199643f1933/

In fact, Einstein didn’t write the letter—although he signed and reviewed it. It was written by physicist Leo Szilard. Fission—the splitting of atoms—had just been done in December 1938 in Germany. Szilard realized the process could be used to create an atomic chain reaction. He made visits to Einstein at his vacation home on Nassau Point with fellow physicists Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller. 

The one-and-a-half page letter—with Albert Einstein, Old Grove Road, Nassau Point, Peconic, Long Island typed on top—cited the fission experiment in Germany and said “it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated.” 

“A single bomb of this type,” it goes on, “carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air. The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities. There is some good ore in Canada and the former Czechoslovakia, while the most important source of uranium is Belgian Congo.”

The letter continued, “I understand Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over”—an indication that Nazi Germany could be pursuing atomic weaponry.  It urged “government action” by the United States.

After receiving the letter, President Roosevelt acted and the Manhattan Project was formed with major secret laboratories at several locations in the United States, notably Los Alamos, New Mexico and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. 

By the time the Manhattan Project produced atom bombs, Germany was defeated. Two of 

the bombs were then dropped on its ally Japan. Szilard was opposed to this maintaining that dropping atom bombs on Japan “could not be justified, at least not until the terms which will be imposed after the war on Japan were made public in detail and Japan were given an opportunity to surrender.” Szilard put together a petition signed by hundreds of Manhattan Project scientists asking that atom bombs not be used on Japan. He and other scientists had earlier collaborated on a 1945 report in which Szilard and some of them called for the U.S. to conduct an atom bomb demonstration to make it clear to Japan the consequences of refusing to surrender. Other scientists involved in the report disagreed. As Manhattan Project physicist Arthur Compton wrote: “We see no acceptable alternative to direct military use.”

Einstein regretted signing the August 2nd letter and was critical, too, of how atom bombs had led to civilian atomic energy. He also wrote in Out of My Later Years: “Since I do not foresee that atomic energy is to be a great boon for a long time, I have to say that for the present time it is a menace.”

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.   

Wednesday
Aug212019

Eight New Mosquito Samples Test Positive For West Nile Virus

 

Additional Mosquito Samples Test Positive for West Nile Virus

The New York State Department of Health has informed Suffolk County health officials that eight additional mosquito samples tested positive for West Nile virus. The samples, all Culex pipiens-restuans, were collected on August 13 and August 15 from Lindenhurst (1), North Babylon (1), Nesconset (2), Bohemia (1), Farmingville (1), Huntington Station (1), and Selden (1). No new mosquito samples have tested positive for Easter Equine Encephalitis (EEE) at this time. 

To date, Suffolk County has reported 46 mosquito samples that have tested positive for West Nile virus and six that have tested positive for EEE. Three birds have tested positive for West Nile virus. No humans or horses have tested positive for West Nile virus in Suffolk County this year.

“The confirmation of West Nile virus in mosquito samples or birds indicates the presence of West Nile virus in the area,” said Dr. Tomarken. “While there is no cause for alarm, we advise residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to reduce their exposure to the virus, which can be debilitating to humans.”

West Nile virus may cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe. Symptoms may include fever, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, joint pain, and fatigue. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. Patients are treated with supportive therapy as needed.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services continues to ask residents to assist in controlling the mosquito population by eliminating standing water on their property.  With the finding of Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus in the county, Dr. Tomarken is asking the public to take steps to be even more vigilant, especially those who live in or visit the Manorville area.

Individuals, especially those aged 50 or over, or those with compromised immune systems, are urged to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.  To avoid mosquito bites, residents are advised to:

  • Minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.
  • Wear shoes and socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when mosquitoes are active.
  • Use mosquito repellent, following label directions carefully.
  • Make sure all windows and doors have screens, and that all screens are in good repair.
  • Keep mosquitoes from laying eggs inside and outside of your home. Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out containers that hold water, such as vases, pet water bowls, flowerpot saucers, discarded tires, buckets, pool covers, birdbaths, trash cans and rain barrels.
  • Download a copy of Suffolk County’s informational brochure “Get the Buzz on Mosquito Protection,” available in English and Spanish, and share it with your community.

Dead birds may indicate the presence of West Nile virus in the area. To report dead birds, call the Public Health Information Line in Suffolk County at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.

For further information on mosquito borne illnesses, visit the Department of Health Services’ website. 

Tuesday
Aug202019

County Offering Opioid Overdose Prevention Classes

 

SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE STEVE BELLONE ANNOUNCES UPCOMING OPIOID OVERDOSE PREVENTION CLASSES

Trainings Will Be Conducted in All 10 Towns Across Suffolk County During September

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced that the County has scheduled an Opioid Overdose Prevention Class in each town during the month of September. The training, which meets New York State Department of Health requirements, will enable participants to recognize an opioid overdose, administer intranasal naloxone, better known as Narcan™, and take additional time-dependent steps while Emergency Medical Service teams are in transit. Participants will receive a certificate of completion and an emergency resuscitation kit that includes the intranasal Narcan™

“My administration is committed to providing more resources, more education and more training to fight back against the scourge of the opioid epidemic,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “These training classes, which provide everyday citizens with the power to save lives, have proven to be a force multiplier, augmenting our robust public safety system, and they are an integral part of our multifaceted approach to dealing with the opioid epidemic.”

Since the inception of Suffolk County’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Program in 2013, Suffolk County Department of Health has trained 13,068 non-traditional responders, each of whom received a Narcan™ kit. In addition, local hospitals, which offer opioid overdose prevention training and Narcan™ kits under Suffolk County’s license with New York State, have dispensed 1,980 kits since they began in 2016, bringing the total to15,048.

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Tomarken said, “The CDC recently reported that only one naloxone prescription is dispensed for every 70 high-dose opioid prescriptions, which leaves vulnerable many individuals to overdose. We encourage health-care practitioners who prescribe opioids to their patients to also prescribe naloxone. At the same time, we encourage residents to come to one of our opioid-overdose-prevention classes to get trained so they will know what to do and feel comfortable dispensing naloxone should they have the opportunity to use it.” 

The Suffolk County Opioid Prevention Program classes will take place as follows below. Registration is required and space is limited. To register contact the Suffolk County Department of Health Services’ Division on Emergency Medical Services at 631-852-5080.

Smithtown Township

Monday September 9th, 2019 – 7 p.m.

The Smithtown Library, Smithtown Building, Room A, 1 North Country Road, Smithtown, NY 11787

 

For more information visit www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/HealthServices.

Thursday
Aug152019

Suffolk Closeup - Dowling College And Southampton College

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

Unflattering light has been cast in recent times on the shutdown of what had been a major private college in Suffolk County: Dowling College. Meanwhile, there have been developments involving a main figure at another private college in Suffolk that closed: Southampton College.

Dowling was the first four-year college in Suffolk County when it began operations in 1959 as Adelphi-Suffolk College in a former public school building, “Old 88,” in Sayville. In 1968, after a donation of more than $3 million by real estate investor Robert W. Dowling, it was spun off from Nassau County-based Adelphi and renamed Dowling College. 

I know it well having been a student at Adelphi-Suffolk in 1961 and 1962 during which I launched and was editor of the first newspaper at a four-year college in Suffolk which I named The New Voice. Decades later I would teach journalism at Dowling as an adjunct professor.

Dowling had much going for it. In 1963, as Adelphi-Suffolk, it moved to Oakdale with the former mansion of William K. Vanderbilt the centerpiece of its campus along the Connetquot River. Its faculty was terrific—and included my all-time favorite professor, the late Dr. Charles Raebeck, a brilliant teacher. With small classes, it billed itself as “The Personal College.” Nevertheless, in 2016 Dowling went bankrupt and shut down.  

A 92-page lawsuit charging “negligence” was recently filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court on behalf of Dowling creditors. The lawsuit alleges years of “waste, mismanagement and breach of fiduciary duty.” It seeks $50 million in damages to pay creditors. 

Dowling, it states, launched a second campus at Calabro Airport in Shirley as an aviation school “although it was obvious that Dowling could not sustain two campuses.” Dowling’s trustees “never streamlined Dowling’s operations, never underwent any significant self-examination to improve Dowling’s academic or support services, and never directed Dowling’s available resources toward selected programs intended to enhance Dowling’s success.” It charges the trustees “accepted the cockeyed optimism of their presidential hires and continued to operate Dowling as if its problems would simply disappear.”

As for presidents, Dowling had quite a number, at one point four in four years. They included Robert Gaffney, a former FBI agent, Suffolk County executive and state assemblyman. And there was Scott Rudolph, a trustee switched to being the college’s president although, says the lawsuit, he was “potentially the only college president in the United States who had not graduated from college.”

There’s been a “tentative settlement” of the lawsuit, Newsday has just reported, “that would nix a public airing of the institution’s 2016 bankruptcy and closure.”

I knew Southampton College well, too, serving as an adjunct journalism professor at it for 25 years, until it was closed by Long Island University in 2005. Opened in 1963, it was a fine teaching institution.

A key figure in Southampton’s last two decades was Robert F.X. Sillerman who became its chancellor in 1993. Mr. Sillerman “had amassed a huge fortune in the radio business by buying poorly performing stations, improving their management, and then selling them at a considerable profit,” notes Dr. John A. Strong, long-time Southampton history professor, in his excellent book, “Running on Empty, The Rise and Fall of Southampton College, 1963-2005.” 

Mr. Sillerman had no background in education. He contributed millions of dollars to keep the college going. Still, his push to establish “a new curriculum with an emphasis on innovative interdisciplinary courses” did not help. As a professor, I believe strongly in interdisciplinary education—not compartmentalizing academic areas but integrating them.

But most Southampton students preferred specific disciplines: English or art or business and so forth. The Strong book relates Professor Robert Pattison, long chair of its Humanities Department, dismissing Mr. Sillerman “as someone who may have read an article on interdisciplinary education in a Brandeis alumni magazine or had perhaps seen a program on PBS.” Still, Mr. Sillerman kept pushing this “core” concept declaring it would “revolutionize and redefine a liberal arts and sciences education in the 21st Century.” Southampton College didn’t make it far into the 2lst Century. And Mr. Sillerman’s personal fall in recent times was as extreme—from being a billionaire to corporate bankruptcy. 

As Newsday reported last month, “A onetime billionaire from Southampton has agreed never again to serve as an officer or director of a public company.” This was in settlement of a securities-fraud case brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Sillerman’s SFX Entertainment went into bankruptcy in 2016. He has sold his waterfront estate and other properties in Southampton and moved to New Hampshire. As an article in Forbes magazine put it, his “blueprint to take over the electronic dance music world is in shambles, the result of poor management, suspect financial planning and a certain hubris…” 

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.