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Woman Of Distinction

Patricia Aitken has been selected as a 2014 New York State “Woman of Distinction.” Aitken is a freelance writer for the Enterprise-Pilot.

“I am proud to honor Patricia as a Woman of Distinction, and prouder still of the recognition she earned from neighbors, colleagues and friends for her achievements on behalf of our community,” said Senator Carl L. Marcellino.

Born and raised in Oyster Bay, Aitken now lives in Syosset with her husband, Peter, an insurance company executive. Their sons Ben and Sam are graduates of Syosset High School. Sam has a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at University of Houston College of Pharmacy. Ben received a law degree from George Washington University Law School in 2013 and is furthering his education, pursuing an engineering degree.

Aitken is currently a planner at Nelson, Pope & Voorhis in Melville, an environmental planning firm with expertise in complex environmental project management and land use planning and analysis. In this capacity, Aitken continues to assist in the protection of the coastal environment through her work on a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan for the Town of Oyster Bay.

Prior to this position, she was executive director of Friends of the Bay, an environmental advocacy group in Oyster Bay, whose mission is to “preserve, protect and restore the ecological integrity and productivity of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Watershed.” During her tenure at Friends of the Bay, Aitken oversaw the development and implementation of the Watershed Action Plan and the State of the Watershed Report, as well as an EPA approved Quality Assurance Project Plan for Friends of the Bay’s water quality monitoring program.

Some of the projects initiated as a result of the Watershed Action Plan include the formation of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee, the development of the Theodore Roosevelt Blueway Trail, and a planned restoration of Beekman Creek, which will allow for fish passage upstream into the Mill River.

She served on the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee, Northport Harbor Water Quality Protection Committee, Eastern Waterfront Committee, the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Long Island Sound Study, and numerous civic and environmental committees and commissions. She is a member of the Long Island Water Quality Coordinating Committee.

Aitken has represented Friends of the Bay in Albany and Washington, speaking on behalf of the marine environment. While at Friends of the Bay, she supervised the citizen science water quality monitoring program, which was honored with an EPA Region 2 Environmental Quality Award in April of 2009. She was the author of “How’s the Water,” a weekly column on environmental issues which appeared in the Enterprise-Pilot. She continues to write periodic articles for Boating Times Long Island. Aitken was named as a “Trailblazer in Women’s History Month” by Nassau County Legislator Judith Jacobs in March of 2013.

Her current volunteer activities include serving on the board of directors of the Whaling Museum and Education Center at Cold Spring Harbor and the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District. These activities are both very close to her heart, as they combine her love of water and the marine environment, and dedication to her local community. The mission of the Whaling Museum of Cold Spring Harbor brings together three of her passions: Long Island, history, and the marine environment. The world’s oceans, and their inhabitants, are under siege from overfishing, pollution and climate change. Providing education about the importance of our oceans, and understanding of the ocean ecosystem is critical to improving the marine environment and has never been more important. Aitken represents the Whaling Museum and Education Center on the Citizen Advisory Committee to the Long Island Sound Study, which allows her to continue the work on the committee she began at Friends of the Bay.

The mission of the Conservation District of Nassau County—to provide healthy soil and clean water for Nassau County residents—is also a mission that resonates with Aitken. A healthy environment is vital to maintaining the quality of life on Long Island. Bringing municipal partners together with private residents and nonprofit organizations is an effective and efficient way of achieving these goals.

Aitken began her volunteer experience as a volunteer at The Nature Conservancy in Cold Spring Harbor. She was a Den Leader, Cubmaster, Assistant Scout Master and a Mate in Sea Scouts Ship 12, where she first learned to sail. She also enjoys birding, an activity which brings her into the outdoors on an almost daily basis and provides an opportunity for assessing the health of the environment through close observation. She is a member of Huntington Oyster Bay Audubon Society, and the Queens County Bird Club, and she is currently president of the Huntington Quilters Guild.

During the summer months, Aitken can often be found kayaking or sailing in Oyster Bay or another of Long Island’s beautiful embayments.

“Patricia is one of the success stories that we can proudly share with all New Yorkers. She serves as an example for achievement and excellence for our entire community. Her name now joins those of other women whose accomplishments, sacrifices and deeds on behalf of others are deserving of special honor,” said Marcellino.

Aitken was honored May 13 at an Albany reception, where the winners’ photographs and biographies are displayed in a special public exhibit at the Legislative Office Building.