- The North Fork Environmental Council (NFEC) has been serving the people and residents of the North Fork for almost 40 years to help preserve the land, sea and air, as well as the way of life that makes this part of Long Island so special. Sound Avenue is one of those special places and its importance to the area as a tranquil, rural corridor dates back to the mid 1700s. But today, this unique and historic gateway to the North Fork is under attack by commercial developers. The NFEC is holding this "SOS Ave" event on Friday, May 13 at 7 p.m. in order to raise awareness and promote action to address the growing concern about how unwelcome commercial development could forever change this, the last rural corridor of the East End.
Efforts to mark the importance of this piece of the North Fork date back to the 1970s when current New York State Senator Ken LaValle
helped to pass a State Senate Proclamation designating Sound Avenue as a historic corridor. And more recently, the Riverhead Town Master Plan noted the unique nature of this area and the desire to protect its rural and historic character. But errors in the zoning code and eager developers looking to capitalize on increased tourist and seasonal resident traffic are slowly cutting down and paving over the very core - the wooded areas, the open space and the working farmland - of what draws people to this rural area.
"The bulldozers are coming," said Bill Toedter, NFEC president, "and once we lose what makes Sound Avenue so unique to the bulldozers, cement trucks and mini-malls of uncaring developers, we lose a special, irreplaceable part of our heritage and our future." Bill added, "People, residents and tourists alike, are drawn to this area because of the farms, the vineyards, the green and open spaces. To allow unwanted and unneeded commercial development along this last remaining rural corridor of Long Island would be devastating."
The NFEC's "SOS Ave" event is intended to bring together concerned area civic organizations, residents and businesses with elected officials at each level of local, county and state government to share current concerns and promote efforts to preserve the Sound Avenue corridor. Some insights to the past importance of Sound Avenue will be presented by local historian and author Richard Wines. Mr Wines will also be leading a bus tour of historic Sound Avenue in June as part of the NFEC's ongoing awareness campaign. New York State Senator Ken LaValle will speak to what he saw happening back in 1975 that prompted his successful efforts to get the Sound Avenue historic designation, and the threats he sees today. And the Concerned Citizens for the Preservation of Sound Avenue (CCPSA) and Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition (RNPC) will each be giving a short presentation on their groups and what they see are the issues that threaten not only Sound Avenue but other neighborhoods, communities and unique areas of Riverhead.
As a grassroots organization whose mission is to raise awareness and promote action by an educated public, the NFEC is planning to use a portion of the proceeds from this event to develop and execute a survey of Riverhead residents and businesses as to their vision for protecting the rural and historic nature of Sound Avenue for future generations. Results of this survey will be shared with the public and with all pertinent public officials so that the voices of the people can be clearly reported on and heard. In addition, the NFEC is working with the CCPSA and RNPC to see if there may be other meaningful uses of some of the proceeds that will help the realization of our mutual goal - the preservation of Sound Avenue as a scenic rural and historic corridor.
As part of this event, the NFEC will also be presenting its annual environmental awards. The recipient of the NFEC's Richard Noncarrow Environmentalist of the Year Award will be presented to Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine
for his long-standing and continued efforts to preserve the environment and the way of life of the North Fork. While praise for Ed's recent efforts to push for County purchase of some of the more critical parcels under pressure of commercial development along the Sound Avenue/Route 25A corridors is fitting for this event, the NFEC is bestowing this award on Ed for his full body of work in doing what is right for the North Fork's environment, residents and businesses, including:
• Supporting the efforts of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to define the extent of the toxic plume at the EPCAL facility and speaking out to raise public awareness and urge the federal government to fund the U.S. Navy's efforts to enact a timely and comprehensive remediation plan working with local, county and state agencies to improve commuter, weekend and general rail and bus service needed to maintain a viable economy and, at the same time, reduce traffic and associated pollution for the East End towns promoting the efforts of such organizations as the Peconic Baykeeper
to bring focus to the dangers antiquated and failing septic systems on the water table and our rivers, ponds, creeks and bays, and sponsoring public events to educate private residents as well as other public officials on new septic system technologies that can dramatically reduce the leeching of nitrogen and other pollutants into our waters, as well as provide the genesis for a new local environmental industry, and
backing legislation in support of research of environmentally safe methods to reduce the population of deer ticks and incidences of Lyme's disease through field treatments of deer.
• The NFEC will also be presenting its Environmental Champion of the Year to Chris Pickerell
, Cornell University Cooperative Extension (CCE). Chris, who has been working on coastal habitat restoration with CCE for the last 18 years, is being cited for his lead role in its Sea Grass Restoration Program. Together with his team, Chris has developed and implemented eelgrass restoration methods that have established multiple self-sustaining eelgrass meadows in Long Island Sound, the first time this has ever been possible. The team is currently looking to apply these same methods to eastern Peconic Estuary including Gardiners Bay. Without these eelgrass meadows, which serve as natural habitats and sources of food and protection for many fish and shellfish species, especially in their larval stage, long-term recovery of various local fish and shellfish stocks would be problematic.
This event is being held on Friday, May 13 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Martha Clara Vineyards
, and will feature wines from Martha Clara's new "wine-in-keg" service. As people are becoming more aware of local environmental issues, the move to a more eco-friendly packaging was desired, by both the customer and producer. This new concept, similar to a beer keg, was spearheaded by a local wine-making team of Juan E. Micieli-Martinez
and Robin Epperson-McCarthy
. The "wine-in-keg" method greatly reduces the use of glass bottles, thereby reducing raw material, water and energy needs to make, ship, clean and recycle them. This innovative service continues the drive of vineyards to be more environmentally sensitive, both locally and on a global scale.
Tickets for this event and for the June bus tour will be available online at the NFEC website beginning Friday, April 12 or can be purchased through the NFEC offices at 631-298-8880. People purchasing tickets for both the event and the bus tour will receive a discount, as will all NFEC members. Seating is limited, especially for the bus tour, so people are encouraged to purchase tickets early.
The NFEC is a grassroots organization dedicated to the preservation of land, sea, air and quality of life on Long Island's North Fork. Incorporated in 1972, the NFEC has a successful track record of over 39 years in raising public awareness of key environmental issues, increasing public participation in important town meetings and write-in campaigns, and continuing the fight to "Save What's Left."