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Wednesday
Mar272019

County Partners With Warrior Ranch Foundation Helping Veterans With PTSD 

 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced a 10-year agreement between Suffolk County and the Warrior Ranch Foundation, which works with veterans suffering from PTSD, to utilize the site of the former Beagle Club in Calverton as their new headquarters. The Warrior Ranch Foundation, which was established in 2016, provides military veterans and first-responders with workshops and opportunities to work with horses in a variety of ways including grooming, feeding, and ground exercises.

As participants engage in these activities, they develop bonds, give guidance, demonstrate leadership, and help horses overcome fears. In doing so, participants experience companionship and lower stress levels while participating in activities that are proven to reduce symptoms of PTSD. 

“I have seen first-hand the amazing work being done for veterans and first responders at the Warrior Ranch and couldn’t be more excited that they will be able to use this property, which has been vacant for decades, to help our heroes,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. “Our veterans and first responders go above and beyond, sacrificing both physically and mentally for the good of us all. We must continue to do all that we can to help repay our debt to these heroes.”

Through horse interaction, the Warrior Ranch provides a safe haven for the healing and well-being of veterans, first responders and horses. Various programs will be offered to Veterans, First Responders and their families with the key focus of reducing loneliness, depression and post-traumatic stress. All activities are done in a relaxing, calm manner in order to facilitate healing.

The terms of the license agreement does not include an annual lease payment but requires the 501-© (3) Foundation to be responsible for utility costs and ensuring that the property is maintained, cleaned, and operated safely at their own expense. The property, which currently has two barns on it that were formerly utilized as dog kennels, will be restored and retrofitted into horse stalls and paddocks to care for a maximum of fifteen horses. The Warrior Ranch Foundation will also establish pastures and rings for the grazing and training of the horses. 

This license agreement charges the foundation to complete $100,000 worth of capital improvements such as installation of an HVAC system and certified electrical wiring in addition to other investments. Under the agreement, the public will have equal access to the facility at no cost to the taxpayers. Suffolk County acquired the property in 2012 for $8.9 million.

The Warrior Ranch Foundation rehabilitates troubled horses, making them fit to return home or fit for adoption. In doing so, veterans are able to assist in repurposing these horses while also helping themselves. The Warrior Ranch Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.

Wednesday
Mar202019

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - Environment, Public Health And Plastic Policy

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

The good news is that the distribution of plastic—that petrochemical product that has polluted the planet—is being challenged worldwide. The European Parliament last month banned single-use plastic products—plastic bags, straws, plates, cups and so forth. In the United States, the Maryland State Senate this month approved a measure to ban polystyrene foam food containers and cups—it would become the first state to take such action.

And Suffolk County, which has led the U.S. in many environmental initiatives, is preparing to take action on a set of bills that, among other things, would ban polystyrene (often called Styrofoam) food containers, plates and cups and also plastic straws and stirrers. Several towns and villages in Suffolk—including Southampton and East Hampton Towns and the Villages of Patchogue—have been taking on plastic products including limiting the distribution by stores of single-use plastic bags. This was followed by Suffolk County last year passing its own law on single-use plastic bags.

Meanwhile, a number of stores have moved on plastics. Trader Joe’s has declared that it has “stopped offering single-use plastic carryout bags in all stores” and “replaced any remaining Styrofoam trays in our produce section with bio-based compostable trays.”

The bad news is that the petrochemical industry is still pushing plastic—and pushing hard. “A major push is underway and attracting hundreds of billions in investment, both foreign and domestic, to move in the opposite direction and produce more plastics and other petrochemicals,” declared an extensive article this month on the www.desmog.com website. “The goal? To create new demand from industry from raw materials produced by fracked shale wells.” Fracking, the breaking apart of underground shale deposits for gas and oil, a highly polluting process using 600 chemicals, many cancer-causing, and contaminating water supplies, is causing the U.S. to this year become the world’s top producer of petroleum, exceeding Saudi Arabia. The petrochemical industry is promoting more use of plastic which is made with oil.

“Today,” declared Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn last month, “we announce policies that will come to define our county’s environmental legacy for generations to come. The vast and growing scale of the worldwide plastics problem has become a growing threat to human health. We as a county have worked, in some cases decades, to address the challenges posed by these dangerous pollutants.  Now, with the backing of science and evolving public awareness, support for policies limiting and banning substances that threaten human health and our environment has reached a turning point. It’s time to take a stand against this growing threat.” 

“How do you conquer a world-wide crisis?” asked Legislator Hahn of Setauket. “One local county at a time if necessary. An island, like Long Island, surrounded by the ocean and the Sound with water so intricately tied to our life and our identity, should be at the forefront of this issue, not wait to be last in line.” 

With Ms. Hahn were members of the county’s Single-Use Plastic Reduction Task Force which she chairs and developed the proposed restrictions on plastic products. Also with her was Legislator William Spencer of Centerport, a medical doctor, who commented: “The negative impacts to our environment and public health, due to plastic pollution, is a problem that will continue to worsen with time. Taking action now is imperative if we are going to effectively reverse the growing crisis.”

As the proposed law on plastic straws and stirrers begins, the Suffolk Legislature “hereby finds and determines that the County of Suffolk is a national leader in environmental protection, as it strives to protect the natural resources and beauty of Long Island.” It notes the enactment of restrictions on single-use plastic bags. “The Legislature further finds that plastic straws are ubiquitous, often served automatically when a drink is ordered at a restaurant. Americans collectively use 500 million plastic straws per day…This is enough straws to wrap around the earth’s circumference 2.5 times every day.” Under the measure, plastic straws would only be available “by request” in Suffolk.

As for polystyrene food containers, the bill banning them explains that “polystyrene foam is a petroleum-based plastic made from the styrene monomer” and “styrene has been classified as a potential human carcinogen by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.” Further, the EPA “has determined that the polystyrene manufacturing process is the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste in the United States.” And, “There exists no practical method to recycle polystyrene and incineration of polystyrene releases toxic fumes.”

“This Legislature further determines that alternative biodegradable food service items are readily available to meet the vast majority of food service needs” and “the use of biodegradable and/or compostable food service products will reduce the waste stream in Suffolk County…”

All these plastic products—unnecessary other than to profit the petrochemical industry.

 

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
Mar132019

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - Spring Is Coming And So Are The Leaf Blowers

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

 Spring begins next week and with it the sweet songs of birds and the rush of warm weather…and the racket of gas-powered leaf blowers—unless their use is restricted.

All over the nation, moves to curtail the use of gas-powered leaf blowers are being made.  On Long Island, a law restricting the use of these noise-makers from mid-May to mid-September is on the table in Southampton Village and a vote could come very soon. The Town of North Hempstead in Nassau County, a major Long Island town (population 233,000), just passed a similar law. Its town board unanimously voted for it. Other municipalities on the island are also considering legislation.

In the United States, the list of cities, counties. towns and villages that have restricted the use of gas-powered leaf blowers has become enormous.

It includes Carmel, California, the first city in the nation to ban gas-powered leaf blowers back in 1975, now joined by places including: Aspen, Colorado; Beverly Hills, California; Boulder. Colorado; Brookline, Massachusetts; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Claremont, California; Del Mar, California; Dobbs Ferry, New York; Evanston, Illinois; Framingham, Massachusetts; Hastings, New York; Honolulu, Hawaii; Houston, Texas; Indian Wells, California; Key West, Florida; Los Altos, California; Los Angeles, California; Malibu, California; Mamaroneck, New York; Maplewood, New Jersey; Menlo Park, California; Mill Valley, California; Montclair, New Jersey; Palo Alto, California; Pelham Manor, New York; Portland, Oregon; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Rye, New York; Santa Barbara, California; Santa Monica, California; Scarsdale, New York; Scottsdale, Arizona; Sunnyvale, California; Tampa, Florida; most recently Washington, D.C.; White Plains, New York; Yonkers, New York. 

There should be action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency but considering how that agency has been decimated by the Trump administration, that can’t be expected now. So, it’s up to cities, counties, towns and villages to do what needs to be done—one by one.

In Southampton Village, its mayor, Michael Irving, and trustee, Kimberly Allan, are sponsoring the legislation. It cites activities causing “noise and other impacts negatively effecting the atmosphere and peace, comfort, repose and tranquility of the Village particularly during weekends, and throughout the summer season when most residents and tourists are enjoying their homes and properties.” It limits the months (no warmer weather months) and times (no earlier than 8 a.m. or later than 6 p.m.) and days (no use on Sundays and federal and state holidays) when gas-powered leaf blowers can be used.

The machines are extreme noisemakers—and they are also serious health hazards.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they typically produce 90 decibels of noise and exposure to two hours of such noise can cause permanent hearing loss.

Their engines produce as many hydrocarbons in 30 minutes as a Ford Raptor F-150 pick-up truck does driving 3,887 miles, according to research by Edmunds Automotive. Visit—

https://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/features/emissions-test-car-vs-truck-vs-leaf-blower.html

“It’s the new second-hand smoke,” comments Trustee Allan.

“Exhaust emissions from gas-powered leaf blowers can contain significant amounts of highly toxic compounds linked to certain cancers, asthma and other respiratory problems, as well as damage to the heart, lungs, and central nervous system,” notes the Long Island-based organization Grassroots Environmental Education on its fact sheet on them. Toxins in their engine exhaust include cancer-causing benzene, toluene and formaldehyde, among other poisons.

“Gas leaf blowers are a threat to our health and our environment,” says Bonnie Sager, co-founder of Huntington CALM, which began the struggle against gas-powered leaf blowers on Long Island. Its efforts have been endorsed by the Long Island Asthma Coalition, American Lung Association, Mt. Sinai Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit and the American Academy of Pediatrics LI.

As I have learned through the decades of writing about polluting processes and products, there are alternatives. For leaf blowers, machines utilizing the high-energy batteries are available today. They make less noise and it’s at a difference frequency that doesn’t carry anywhere as far—and there’s no exhaust. Where gas-powered leaf blower use has been restricted, this is what landscapers are commonly using. 

In Southampton, Jackson Dodds & Company has been “using battery-powered leaf blowers for years—we’re going into our fourth season,” Doreen Johnston, sales manager with the landscaping firm, told me last week. She said: “We’re very happy with them.”

Hopefully, Southampton Village will pass its law on gas-powered leaf blowers and this will spread to communities throughout Suffolk. And wouldn’t it be good if action follows, too, on the county and state levels. 

As the North Hempstead law puts it: the “use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers presents an environmental hazard that reduces the quality of life in the Town. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers endanger residents, passers-by and operators through the production of excessive noise and increase the risks of hearing loss” and otherwise constitute a “health hazard.”

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. 

 


Tuesday
Mar052019

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - Healthcare Is Preserving And Saving Life

 

SUFFOLK CLOSEUP

By Karl Grossman

Back when I started as a reporter on Long Island in 1962, my newspaper, the Babylon Town Leader, covered a story about a woman refused admittance to Lakeside Hospital in Copiague because she didn’t have medical insurance. She returned to her car—and died in it. 

That little private hospital is no more. Lakeside Hospital, which began as Nassau/Suffolk General Hospital in 1939, closed in 1975.  

Since then, there has been the rise of great, new medical centers here.

Stony Brook University Medical Center was the first and also became a multi-school site for health education. I reported on the creation of this at the daily Long Island Press in the 1960s and 70s. Stony Brook was directed by the state to establish a hospital as well as a School of Medicine, School of Nursing and School of Dental Medicine.

How to do this was beyond the knowledge of the university’s two top administrators, both nuclear physicists. Thus Dr. Edmund Pellegrino was hired as a university vice president and School of Medicine dean. He was a medical visionary. He told me he saw medicine as having become a business, a commodity. His dream for the proposed hospital was for it to be patient-centered, personal and nurturing. He said that medicine should be a moral enterprise with a doctor having a “covenant” with his or her patients. And he wanted health education not narrowly focused but embracing the humanities and social sciences.  

Before Dr. Pellegrino left Stony Brook to eventually become president of the Catholic University of America, he created the culture for health care and education at Stony Brook.

As the years have gone by, I’ve been treated by doctors at Stony Brook, and not for minor things. Last year, after falling on my head causing huge twin hematomas to form in my skull, I was operated on by a superb neurosurgeon, Dr. Charles Mikell. He drilled holes—as scary as that sounds—in my head to successfully drain the deposits of blood and fluid. 

Seven years ago I had two successful operations at Stony Brook for bladder cancer performed by world-class urologist Dr. Howard Adler. They were followed by treatments based on immunotherapy using—and this is a standard treatment—tuberculosis bacteria to stimulate the immune system and prevent a recurrence. There’s been no recurrence, most happily.

Now there’s been the rise of another medical center covering this region, Northwell Health. It came about with the merger of Long Island Jewish Medical Center and North Shore Health System in 1997. The private Northwell Health and the public Stony Brook compete—with Stony Brook in recent times merging with Southampton Hospital and affiliating with Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport. Northwell has a network today of 23 affiliated hospitals and other health facilities stretching throughout the New York Metro Area. It is linked to Hofstra University. Major hospitals part of the Northwell network in Suffolk include Mather in Port Jefferson; Southside Hospital in Bay Shore; Huntington Hospital; and Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

I was recently treated at Peconic Bay for cataract removal. Optometrists advised that I needed the surgery. Eyeglasses, even with new prescriptions, weren’t doing it.

I received a strong recommendation about East End Eye and its lead ophthalmologist, Dr. Scott Sheren. He has been president of the Suffolk County Ophthalmological Society and medical staff president at Peconic Bay. He’s director of the Robert Merriam Rogers Center for Eye Surgery at Peconic Bay. 

He’s an extraordinary physician, highly competent and warm. A concern I had involved taking the medicine Flomax. Google—that font of oft-alarming medical information—warns about complications in cataract surgery for people who take Flomax. Dr. Sheren assured me that he would take special care. And he did, removing the cataract from one eye in January, the cataract from the other two weeks ago. It was amazing how after the first cataract was removed and a new lens inserted, when the bandage over the eye was removed the next morning I could see through the “fixed” eye with perfect focus and white was bright white. Looking through the other eye, still with a cataract, everything was yellowish. Now, with both eyes cataract-free, the world is clear.

     There have not only been great advances in medical care—the emergence of two big medical centers here—but huge advances in medical science here and elsewhere. Two close friends—one fitted with a pacemaker, the other with two stents after a heart attack, both done at Stony Brook—say they would be dead without the treatments developed several decades ago.

    The burning issue about health care is how as a society we can best pay for it. (My preference is “Medicare for all.”) Health care is about the most important use of money that exists—preserving and saving life.

 

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. 
Sunday
Mar032019

Suffolk County Has First-In-State Drug, Alcohol And Reintegration Traffic Court

SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE BELLONE ANNOUNCES FIRST-IN-THE-STATE DRUG, ALCOHOL AND REINTEGRATION TRAFFIC COURT

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced the first Drug, Alcohol and Reintegration traffic court in New York State to help residents recovering from addiction retain or regain their driving privileges. The innovative program is designed to reeducate participants on safe driving practices and track the rehabilitation and recovery of defendants. In addition, it aims to increase road safety, remove a barrier to employment, and assists drivers in retaining or regaining their license.

“Driving an automobile is a privilege, not a right,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “Suffolk County will help those struggling with addiction get the treatment they need and make our roads safer.”

Statistics have shown that defendants with substance abuse, mental health and reintegration issues have a higher chance of violations, non-appearances and suspensions on their licenses. In traffic court, these issues often result in defendants not receiving plea offers, leading to increased fines and penalties, as well as significant penalties levied by the State Department of Motor Vehicles. People suffering from substance abuse issues also have a significantly higher chance of having judgments and steep outstanding fines against them upon completion of treatment, making license retention incredibly difficult.

The DAR traffic court helps address the needs of persons recovering from drug or alcohol addictions, mental illness, or those reintegrating into society from incarceration or a treatment program by providing special consideration that will best support their recovery or reintegration. Individuals participating in the program additionally will be required to take a safe driving education and protection course to reinforce safe driving habits and increase road safety in order to have their license restored.

DAR Traffic Court is held on the first Friday of every month at 2:00 P.M. in the Suffolk County Traffic Parking and Violations Agency located at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Judge Patricia Filiberto, the former presiding judge of the Suffolk County Drug Treatment Court, will be presiding over the court, which seeks to help defendants avoid and/or lift license suspensions and revocations and reeducate them on driver safety habits.  The program may include, but is not limited to, the following:

The primary purpose of the program is to reeducate, track rehabilitation and recovery of defendants, with the goal of regaining or retaining their driver’s license to become productive members of society and to continue/regain employment by gaining and retaining the ability to drive.

There are no additional costs to the public to implement this program.  However, there is a benefit to the public. Maintaining employment and attending treatment programs is a critical part of the recovery process. The DAR program concentrates on the long term recovery of defendants where they will not be returned to the road until their driving course is complete and the court receives verifiable results from a health professional certifying the person is in recovery, attending all required treatment, including a 12 step program, and on the way to being a responsible driver. In many circumstances, driving again will not be achieved in one or two visits to traffic court, but requires several updates on their recovery/reintegration status. Defendants restored privilege to drive will be linked to continued cooperation with the Traffic Court and treatment.

Last year, County Executive Bellone and the Suffolk County Traffic and Parking Violation Agency announced the first-in-the-nation Suffolk County Youth Traffic Court  to help drivers ages 18 and under avoid license suspensions. Youth Traffic Court provides safe driving education, protections from unsafe driving habits commonly associated with new drivers, and drastically reduces the likelihood that a young drivers becomes a repeat offender. The program has been overwhelmingly successful and less than 1% of the participants have returned with new violations after completing the Youth Traffic Court program to date.

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