|On this day, 51 years ago, the nation united for what was the very first Earth Day. Many of us may not remember what it was like before environmental concern became ingrained within American and global consciousness. In the decades before 1970 the impact of human activity on the Earth was barely an afterthought.|
Indeed, according to earthday.org:
“… Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. Until this point, mainstream America remained largely oblivious to environmental concerns and how a polluted environment threatens human health.”
But by 1970, Americans began to demand change.
So while today is set aside globally to mark the birth of the modern environmental movement, it is also a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come in protecting our environment and how far we still must go.
During my time in the Legislature, I have advanced the work begun by those who came before me to protect and enhance our environment. While there is still so much more to do, I am proud of the laws I have authored and what we have been able to accomplish during my tenure.
Established a Task Force to create a pollinator pathway across Suffolk County.
Secured $250,000 to study the feasibility of utilizing clean water technologies along the 25A Business Corridor through Stony Brook and Setauket.
Authorized appraisal of land under the Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection Program, as amended by Local Law No. 24-2007, Selleck property – Town of Brookhaven.
Ensured the protection of County Parkland from encroachment by adjoining property owners.
Established a Suffolk County Regional Recycling Assessment Task Force.
Developed long-range plans and priorities to connect all County-owned buildings to sewer systems or Innovative/Alternative On-Site Wastewater Treatment Systems.
Spearheaded legislation to identify County owned parcels located within sewer districts and to require the installation of Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems for those parcels located outside of a sewer district if auctioned by the County.
Created a Park Stewardship Pilot Program.
Amended Suffolk procurement policy to encourage sustainable packaging materials for goods purchased by the County.
Prohibited the distribution of single use plastics in County Parks.
Directed the installation of water fountains with bottle filling capabilities at County facilities.
Required single-use beverage straws and stirrers be distributed in Suffolk County “by request” only.
Prohibited the use of polystyrene foam containers in Suffolk County.
Approved notification signage to help consumers understand environmental impact of dry cleaning methods employed by dry cleaners in Suffolk County.
Established a Task Force to develop strategies to reduce single use plastic products in Suffolk County.
Authorized the appraisal of 62 separate environmentally sensitive properties within the Terryville Greenbelt for potential open space preservation.
Increased the penalties for illegal dumping in Suffolk County.
Established a Parks Watch Program for County Parkland.
Secured New York State economic development funding for the creation of a Suffolk County Blueway Trail.
Regulated the use of the term “Organic” by dry cleaning establishments in Suffolk County.
Increased awareness of dry cleaning chemical use.
Prohibited the sale of personal care products containing microbeads.
Added a 1.2 mile walking/hiking trail within the Nora Bredes Preserve at Forsythe Meadow County Park in Stony Brook.
Protected children from exposure to toxic chemicals (“The Toxic Free Toys Act”) by banning the sale of toys containing dangerous levels of cadmium, cobalt, lead, mercury and other toxins.
Protected County parkland from being permanently lost as a result of eminent domain.
Directed the Department of Health Services and the Division of Planning and Environment to evaluate the health, economic and other impacts of banning personal care products containing microbeads.
Added parking accommodations at McAllister County Park in Belle Terre to allow greater public access.
Directed the Department of Health Services to test groundwater for probable human carcinogen 1,4 Dioxane.
Directed the Division of Real Property Acquisition and Management to canvass the owners of Master List Properties for potential open space preservation.
Directed the Department of Public Works to assess the vulnerability of Suffolk County infrastructure to sea water rise.
Directed the Department of Economic Development and Planning to strengthen the Land Preservation Program and maximize environmental protection.
Added parking accommodations at Forsythe Meadow County Park in Stony Brook to allow greater public access.
Prohibited the acceptance of wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing at County sewage treatment facilities.
Required the County to consider the Planning Commission’s Green Methodologies Guidelines in relation to County parking lots and New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation's Grant Parameters.
"Crystal Clear" Goals in Corridor's Clean Water Feasibility Study
Suffolk County is set to begin a Clean Water Feasibility Study for the Setauket-Stony Brook business corridor. The study, which I and community members have long advocated for, will explore costs and benefits associated with improved wastewater treatment through sewer district extension or the installation of cluster Innovative Alternative Onsite Wastewater Systems in each shopping center along the corridor. Also being considered within the study are best practices from across the nation, the use of creative options that could be added to sewer infrastructure to improve energy efficiency and overall sustainability, and potential cost benefits through revenue generation or from state and federal grants.
In addition to sustaining and improving local water quality, the availability of sanitary sewers and/or advanced wastewater treatment service in this area has the potential to offer significant environmental benefits for the Setauket and Stony Brook harbors and increase the potential for improved health and long-term economic well-being of our community.
Suffolk Buzzing to Bee Helpful in Pollinator Protection
Populations of pollinating insects worldwide have been in steady decline over the past several decades, threatening both the global food supply and local ecosystems. It is often said that "without pollinators, we don’t eat" so this is one issue we can’t ignore. Therefore, through Legislation I sponsored, Suffolk intends to help reverse this dangerous trend by creating a task force to develop strategies that will support local pollinators on Suffolk’s more than sixty thousand acres of public land.
The bill approved this week will establish an advisory group comprised of County agencies, horticulturists and environmentalists who will develop a detailed plan to support local pollinators on County land by planting productive, indigenous plants, further reducing the application of pesticides and coordinating with nearby property owners to do the same.
With the help of the taskforce, it is my hope to create a web of pathways across county properties and neighboring lands. Many pollinators can’t fly very long distances, so they need safe places to rest and refuel as they travel. Creating a patchwork of “rest stops” along a “migratory highway” allows pollinators to survive and increases local biodiversity.
Pollinators like bees, butterflies and even bats, are integral to flowering plants’ fertilization process and are necessary for the propagation of most fruits we consume and for seed production of vegetables. However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, “During the past 30-plus years, our nation’s pollinator populations have suffered serious losses due to invasive pests and diseases, such as mites and viral and fungal pathogens, exposure to pesticides and other chemicals, loss of habitat, loss of species and genetic diversity, and changing climate.” It’s time we gave our pollinators the help they need to survive. In critical ways, our own survival will depend on it.
"Throwing a Bone" to Some of Earth's Other Inhabitants
I am honored to be lending my “paws” toward the effort to collect pet food and supplies for Baxter’s Pet Pantry. Across Suffolk County, families struggle to provide for their pets and often are forced to give them away or place them in shelters. Since 2009, Baxter’s Pet Pantry has distributed over one million pounds of pet food to families in need across our region to ensure that dogs, cats, rabbits and other pets remain in the family.
When circumstances prevent a home’s basic needs from being met it affects both the two-legged and four-legged members of that family. No family should have to pick and choose which lives within the household should be sustained. Because of the efforts of Baxter’s Pet Pantry, families do not have to sacrifice their beloved animals in order to survive.
From now until the first week of May, my office will be accepting the following donations:
- 5- or 10-pound bags of dog and cat food (larger bags always accepted)
- Canned dog and cat food
- Kitty litter
- NEW toys
- Food for ALL pets including reptiles, fish, ferrets, and hamsters!
All pet food must be unopened, and in its original packaging. No opened bags, ripped packaging or loose pet food will be accepted. Please bring all food and supplies collected to my office, located at: 306 Main Street in Port Jefferson, by 4pm on Friday, May 7th.