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Baymen Speak At Civic Association

The Oyster Bay Civic Association held an impromptu forum as it held its 2014 induction of officers at their first meeting of the year. Nassau County Legislator for the newly created 18th district, Donald MacKenzie, inducted the board of directors at their March 20 meeting. The event was postponed in January due to health issues of President Bill von Novak. Inducted into office were George DiMartino, Gary Drury, Judith Barnett and Louise Rea. The board is down one member, as Cat Colvin has resigned.

“Cat has a big agenda,” explained Judith Barnett, vice president and acting chair.

“Our objective is to bring out information to the public. We don’t take sides until we take a vote of the membership,” said Barnett, adding that they do encourage discussions and were going to talk about the issues involved with the Baymen Vs. Flower's lease. She said Friends of the Bay was having a board meeting that night to determine their point of view. The town has pulled out of the lawsuit, she said, and added that should Flower's go out of business, the community is concerned that their loss would affect the water quality in the bay.

Newsday announced that on Friday, April 4, the Appellate Division Second Department of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn voted to allow Frank M. Flower & Sons, Inc. to have exclusive use of their leased land until the case is further heard. Their attorneys have a July 22 deadline to submit their briefs.

NOBBA member Bill Fetzer and several baymen surprised the board by attending the meeting to tell their side of the story and made several allegations about their case against Frank M. Flower & Sons and the effects of dredging, but there was no one from Flower’s to explain their view of the issues — something that might have happened if a forum had been planned.

The baymen said they stake their claim to harvesting the shellfish in that governments “can’t interfere with the individual’s right to fish the bounty of the sea.” They suggested Flower & Sons use grow bags that hold about 100 oysters, keeping them away from predators, eliminating the need for dredging to get their product back on land.

[The Flower’s company invests a great deal of time into their product. They spawns the oysters and clams in their hatchery in Bayville where they grow them in vats, feeding them nutrients, and when large enough, move them by the thousands onto flats, to grow in Mill Creek and over a three-year period move them around before they are big enough to harvest from the bay.]

In a telephone interview Friends of the Bay Executive Director Paul D’Orsay shared their belief that Flower’s shellfish farming supports the health of Oyster Bay and are concerned that “If the farm goes away it may suffer.” He added about the issues brought up by the baymen, “We don’t know enough about the very specific issues so we can’t say if anyone is right or wrong.”

FOB’s concern is that Oyster Bay could become like Hempstead Harbor and Northport and not be the clean body of water it is today. “We do not have a solution, but our assumption is both sides of the dispute have legitimate business concerns and they have to work out a negotiated settlement; that there will be a way for Flower’s and the baymen to find a way to make a living.”

With the 70 [or more] baymen and 50 people who work with FMF making a living on the bay, the rest of us enjoy the cleanest water with the only vibrant shellfish industry on Long Island,” said D’Orsay.

Previously the court had said the Flower’s lease is not valid but they can continue working the waters, and the baymen are being given access to the Flower’s acreage, where they are harvesting what they believe are natural setting oysters and clams.

As for the town, spokesperson Brian DeVine said, “The town never formally appealed the judge’s original decision from this past fall, but instead filed a notice of intent to appeal, which preserves our right to appeal for six months thereafter and offers the town a chance to truly examine a case from all angles.

“After examining this particular case, the town decided to withdraw our notice of intent to appeal, after it became apparent that this has become a dispute between two commercial entities. The town felt it best to let this commercial dispute play out in the courts, as ultimately, our interests as a landlord pales in comparison to our vested interests as stewards of the harbor.”

The discussion at the meeting was long and detailed and included many accusations by the baymen as they painted a picture of being misunderstood and their cause not taken seriously, which would appear has changed with recent court decisions. FYI: The town currently limits the number of licenses given out each year to 110 for commercial entities looking to collect shellfish from the harbor.

Induction of Officers

Legislator MacKenzie represents a newly created district which includes North Woodbury, North Syosset, Laurel Hollow, Oyster Bay Cove, Oyster Bay, Cove Neck, Centre Island, Bayville, Mill Neck, Lattingtown, Locust Valley, Matinecock, the Brookvilles, Muttontown, East Norwich, Greenvale, East Hills and Glen Head. He is the chair of the Veterans & Senior Affairs Committee, vice chair of the Public Safety Committee, vice chair of the Towns, Villages & Cities Committee, a member of the Public Works Committee, and a member of the Economic & Community Development & Labor Committee.

He said he has been working on the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant contract on the south shore, which costs about $1 billion and is going well and coming in under budget.

Locally, he said Shore Road would begin Phase 2, with work to begin in October on the area south of Cleft Road to the LIRR trestle. He said there will be small closings of the road but it will not be as inconvenient as Phase 1. The county will be meeting with local elected officials to discuss the details of the plan.

Caroline DuBois commented that the request for a bike lane was a lost battle but asked for the traffic to be slowed down. She said the Village of Mill Neck allows for 35 mph while Bayville allows for 30 mph and at the Mill Pond it is again 30 mph.

MacKenzie said the solution is enforcement, saying it works very well in Brookville on Route 107 and Muttontown on Route 106 and that people slow down as a result. Muttontown Mayor Julianne Beckerman attended the meeting.

Barbara Sullivan Parry asked about the safety of the Nassau and Suffolk County aquifers with the City of New York looking at tipping into them because of problems with their ancient water carrying infrastructure. MacKenzie said a contract for a geological survey is in the works to look into the issue. Parry countered with, “Timing is everything. April is the key period for testimony.”

A civic association member commented that the new railings along West Shore road block the view of the bay. MacKenzie said the country tried using vertical rails but “you couldn’t see through them at all.” He said the area from Cleft Road to the trestle will have a wider path, set further from the road which might help with the views. There will also be a turnaround at Cleft Road. “There is still some ownership of the land along Shore Road; where the property lines go; which will take about six months to settle,” he said.

Legislator MacKenzie has asked residents of the 18th L.D. to keep up with country legislative information by visiting him at nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Legals/LD/18/contact12.php

Firemen’s Field

Firemen’s Field was another issue of concern, and Rob Brusca said all the local stakeholders have signed a letter in support of the renovation of the field that is expected to be put on the 2015 Town of Oyster Bay budget in December.

Drive-by Mail Box

Caroline DuBois has requested the Oyster Bay Post Office add a drive-by mailbox to allow people to put their mail into a box without leaving their car, something that is possible in Locust Valley and other areas: the question is where to put it. One suggestion was the town parking lot opposite Sweet Tomato but DuBois said the town is going to put a generator in that lot after dealing with electrical problems caused by Hurricane Sandy.

There might be a location at Firemen’s Field when it is re-done, she added. The post office is concerned about either creating more work for the existing postal carriers or losing workers, which could happen after a survey of how many letters are left at each box, which might show the area doesn’t need all of its 18 boxes. The Melville office is in charge of the final decision.

Charlie Doering commented that most people like to go to the post office just to get out of the house: it becomes a community gathering place.

Big Sign At Hess

Rob Brusca brought up a new sign requested by Hess for its station on Lexington Avenue and South Street. He looked up at the area on the 32’ x 64’ wall of the Italian-American Club, behind and to the left of board member George DiMartino, and said that was the size of the sign, which would be on a pole and set back from the corner. All those in attendance agreed Hess needs no further signs to let people know of its location: it can’t be missed on its corner site opposite the Theodore Roosevelt Statue site. When the station was originally renovated the town was able to have Hess agree to not creating a white and green tile building, as at their other sites, but to maintain a more “country” atmosphere. The hope is that the decision about the mega-sign is a corporate one, which might be lessened for the Oyster Bay location, said Brusca.