The Suffolk County Legislature adjourned for 2019 following another busy and productive year. I served for the 4th consecutive year as Majority Leader and was again appointed to chair two committees and serve on an additional four. While there is always more to do, I am proud to be part of this incredibly thoughtful and caring body as we continued to advance forward-thinking policies to improve quality of life for all Suffolk residents. As we wrap up 2019 and look ahead to a new decade, I want to wish all residents of the Fifth District a happy and prosperous new year.
Taking Bold Action on Single Use Plastics and Polystyrene
This year, after extensive work of a plastics task force examining single-use plastics reduction, Suffolk County adopted a sweeping package of environmental regulations I authored. The package of bills are intended to reduce the use of plastic straws and water bottles as well as polystyrene takeout containers, cups, bowls, plates and packing peanuts across Suffolk County.
Innovative New Approach to Combating Teen Substance Abuse
This year marked the beginning of an innovative partnership with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD) to provide athletic coaches and trainers in Suffolk County schools with education uniquely designed to combat substance abuse among student athletes. The training that I developed in collaboration with Stony Brook University’s Center for Prevention and Outreach, LICADD, various athletic directors, coaches and trainers, and other advocates equips coaches with critical information on how the ongoing substance abuse epidemic impacts their players and the distinctive and vital role coaches can play in assisting at risk student athletes to get help. The program is now available to all public schools across the County, but began as a pilot in three school districts here in the Fifth Legislative District: Three Village, Comsewogue and Port Jefferson.
Three of four memorials identified through “Operation Remember” to be updated to recognize the sacrifices made by the latest generations of American service members were unveiled this year during ceremonies held on Memorial Day and Veterans Days. The idea to renovate the memorials, many of which had not been changed in decades, was suggested to me by veteran Jack Gozdziewski, a member of American Legion Post 432 and VFW Post 3054 during the Memorial Day ceremonies in 2018. With two of three phases now finished, attention turns to raising the rest of the funds necessary to complete the remaining updates by Memorial Day 2020. For more information about “Operation Remember” and sponsorship opportunities still available, please visit:
A Walk in the Park
This summer saw the completion of a new trail and parking area within Old Field Farm County Park that provides visitors with new opportunities to explore and enjoy this historic 13-acre equestrian show ground that runs along the bank of West Meadow Creek. The 0.4 of a mile crushed gravel multiuse trail runs from the park’s westernmost entrance to its easternmost gate along West Meadow Beach Road and links to both West Meadow Beach and nearly two mile, down and back trail maintained by the Town of Brookhaven. This new addition that I helped to plan allows more people to discover this underutilized public parkland and proves walkers, joggers and bicyclists with a safer and more scenic alternative to winding West Meadow Beach Road. Funding for the project was approved through legislation I sponsored and was leftover from other completed projects at Old Field Farm.
Stewarding Cleaner Parks
Caring for Suffolk County’s over 63,000 acers of parkland is a formidable task, but that may soon get a little easier thanks to a new parks stewardship pilot program that I created this year. The program, sparked by an idea brought to me by East Setauket Boy Scout Jake Butkevich, enlists individual volunteers and groups to assist with trash pickup, trail maintenance and monitoring of its selected park. “Park Stewards” will submit reports on the frequency of inspection, landscape work required, amount of litter collected from the grounds and any vandalism or illegal activity discovered. I/A systems remove nitrogen from wastewater protecting our bays, waterways and drinking water.
A Bid for Better Water Quality
This fall I passed a law requiring purchasers of properties taken for tax default and sold during County auctions to install an Innovative/Alternative On-site Wastewater Treatment System (I/A OWTS) within 15 months of the auction sale or, if vacant, upon development of the property.
Fighting For Equal Pay
On Equal Pay Day, I joined the Gender Equity Coalition, soccer coaches and student athletes to highlight workplace discrimination and unequal compensation in professional soccer. We called on the U.S. Soccer Federation to do the right thing by ending gender discrimination for the sake of future generations of young women athletes and the integrity of the sport. An online petition I created has garnered over 85,000 signatures from all over the country sending a message through the world of athletics and beyond.
An Encore for Stony Brook’s “Swing into Spring” Jazz Festival
The “Swing into Spring” Jazz Festival made its encore in Stony Brook village in late March. For its second act, the five-evening event treated visitors to live performances by local jazz artists at various locations throughout our beautiful and historic business district. The festival was launched last year as a way to attract and welcome back the locals, tourists, music lovers and foodies who seem to go into hibernation after the holiday season. Our office worked with Tom Manuel, President and Founder of The Jazz Loft, to create this festival which is funded, in part, through a cultural tourism grant provided by Suffolk County.
Looking Forward to 2020…
Thinking Globally, Acting Regionally on Recycling
Suffolk County will begin 2020 focusing on one of most pressing environmental issues locally. I created a Regional Recycling Assessment Task Force which will be comprised of municipal recycling professionals, County agencies and environmental advocates who will review existing recycling programs, develop strategies for increasing the efficiency of recycling regionally, and will develop mechanisms to encourage the streamlining of the local recycling process.
Focusing New Development on Needs and Community Plans
I look forward to continue working with the Port Jefferson Station – Terryville civic and chamber community and our Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright on finally implementing the vision of the community HUB study by working towards sewering the business district and helping ongoing planning efforts to bring electrification of the Long Island Rail Road to the Port Jefferson station.
Other items on my radar for 2020 include encouraging the development of micro apartments in vacant supermarkets, mall or big box stores; finding a way to track construction and demolition debris from projects that are too small to be regulated by the NYS DEC; completing the development of recommended Emergency Room protocols for opioid overdoses; working to reverse the loss of bird species and overall numbers by increasing lost bird habitats and making building materials safer for flying flocks.