Environmental Stewardship On Long Island

Adelphi University
Garden City, Long Island
March 14, 2002

GOOD MORNING PRESIDENT SCOTT AND HONORED GUESTS.I'M PLEASED TO BE HERE AT ADELPHI UNIVERSITY. ADELPHI IS A UNIQUE INSTITUTION, IN A UNIQUE LOCATION -- LONG ISLAND.

NEARLY 800 YEARS AGO, DANTE SAID: "NATURE IS THE ART OF GOD." IF THAT IS TRUE, THEN LONG ISLAND HAS TO BE ONE OF GOD'S MASTERPIECES.

A BEAUTIFUL COASTLINE WITH BROAD BEACHES. ROLLING SAND DUNES. FERTILE SOILS. LUSH VINEYARDS. VERDANT GARDENS. THE EXTRAORDINARY PINE BARRENS.

SO MUCH GRANDEUR.

SO MUCH BEAUTY.

AND, SO MUCH RESPONSIBILITY.

WE ARE THE STEWARDS OF NATURE'S BOUNTY ON LONG ISLAND. OUR CHARGE IS TO PRESERVE AND ENHANCE THE ISLAND'S ENVIRONMENT. OUR CHALLENGE IS TO LEAVE THIS ECO-SYSTEM BETTER THAN WE FOUND IT.

IS THAT POSSIBLE? IF SO, HOW? THAT IS WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO TALK ABOUT THIS MORNING. I'D LIKE TO FOCUS ON THREE CRITICAL AREAS SPECIFIC TO THE ISLAND:

  • PRESERVING OPEN SPACE;
  • MINIMIZING CHEMICAL EXPOSURE; AND,
  • PROTECTING LONG ISLAND'S DRINKING WATER.

IT MAY SEEM LIKE A DISTANT MEMORY, BUT NOT TOO LONG AGO , LONG ISLAND WAS THE EASTERN FRONTIER FOR NEW YORK CITY. UNBROKEN STRETCHES OF OPEN LAND BECKONED TO THOSE SEEKING A PLACE TO SETTLE DOWN AND RAISE A FAMILY.

NOW LONG ISLAND IS HOME TO 2.75 MILLION PEOPLE. AND THAT NUMBER IS INCREASING RAPIDLY PUTTING INCREASING PRESSURE ON THE ISLAND'S RESOURCES.

IN JUST A FEW GENERATIONS THOSE ENDLESS MILES OF OPEN LAND HAVE BEEN TRANSFORMED INTO BUSTLING, SPRAWLING COMMUNITIES , DOTTED HERE AND THERE WITH DWINDLING PATCHES OF OPEN SPACE.

THE STATE RECOGNIZED THE NEED TO PRESERVE OPEN LAND ON LONG ISLAND AND IN 1993 - - ACTING ON LEGISLATION SPONSORED BY LONG ISLAND LAWMAKERS - - THE LEGISLATURE PASSED THE PINE BARRENS PROTECTION ACT.

THIS LANDMARK LAW ESTABLISHED A 50,000-ACRE PRESERVE IN THE HEART OF THE PINE BARRENS IN SUFFOLK COUNTY WHERE NO DEVELOPMENT IS ALLOWED. IN ADDITION, THE LAW CREATED A 50,000-ACRE BUFFER ZONE WHERE ONLY ENVIRONMENTALLY COMPATIBLE DEVELOPMENT IS ALLOWED.

THE PINE BARRENS PROTECTION ACT RECOGNIZES THE UNIQUE CHARACTER OF THE PINE BARRENS AND SEEKS TO PRESERVE IT, WHILE PERMITTING ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND DEVELOPMENT AROUND THE PERIMETER OF THE CORE PRESERVE. THIS DEVELOPMENT IS CLOSELY COORDINATED BY STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS WITH AMPLE INPUT FROM THE PUBLIC AT LARGE.

MY OFFICE HAS BEEN DEEPLY INVOLVED IN DEFENDING THE PINE BARRENS PRESERVATION ACT AGAINST NUMEROUS LAWSUITS THAT CHALLENGE ITS CONSTITUTIONALITY. DETRACTORS OF THE LAW CLAIM THAT IT DEVALUES LAND THEY OWN IN THE PRESERVE.

I'M PLEASED TO SAY THAT WE HAVE SUCCESSFULLY DEFENDED THE LAW AT EVERY TURN. JUST TWO WEEKS AGO, MY OFFICE WON A MAJOR VICTORY IN FEDERAL COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK. IN THIS DECISION, THE FEDERAL JUDGE NOT ONLY UPHELD THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE LAW, BUT ALSO AFFIRMED THE STATE'S RIGHT TO PRESERVE HABITAT, PROTECT DRINKING WATER AQUIFERS, AND CONTROL URBAN SPRAWL.

MY OFFICE IS WORKING CLOSELY WITH LOCAL OFFICIALS IN DEFENDING THE PINE BARRENS PROTECTION ACT AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO DEFEND THIS IMPORTANT LAW AGAINST LEGAL CHALLENGES.

IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THIS LAW SURVIVES AND THAT WE CONTINUE ISLAND-WIDE EFFORTS TO BALANCE DEVELOPMENT AND PRESERVATION. THAT MUST BE ONE OF OUR PRIORITIES.


LET ME DESCRIBE ANOTHER PRIORITY.

WHEN SEEN FROM THE AIR, LONG ISLAND REVEALS ITSELF TO BE A VAST QUILT OF DIFFERENT SHADES OF GREEN. EVERY HOME, IT SEEMS, HAS ITS GARDEN AND WELL-TENDED LAWN. AND LONG ISLAND IS JUSTLY RENOWNED FOR THE BEAUTY OF ITS CHALLENGING GOLF COURSES.

THE LAWNS AND GOLF COURSES ON LONG ISLAND ARE MORE LUSH AND GREEN THAN ANYWHERE ELSE ... MAYBE TOO LUSH AND GREEN .

THIS VERDANCY IS DUE IN NO SMALL PART TO OUR RELIANCE ON CHEMICALS, ON HERBICIDES, PESTICIDES AND FERTILIZERS. BUT THE WEEDLESS, BUG-LESS BEAUTY OF OUR LAWNS, GARDENS AND GOLF COURSES COMES WITH A RISK TO PUBLIC HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT.

PESTICIDES AND HERBICIDES ARE TOXIC SUBSTANCES. THEY ARE PURPOSELY DESIGNED TO KILL LIVING THINGS, SUCH AS BUGS AND WEEDS. SO WE HAVE TO BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL AND JUDICIOUS IN THE WAY WE MANUFACTURE, STORE, USE AND DISPOSE OF THEM. IN ADDITION, WE MUST TAKE STEPS TO REDUCE EXPOSURE TO THESE CHEMICALS.

THAT IS WHY MY OFFICE STRONGLY SUPPORTED PASSAGE IN JUNE 2000 OF THE PESTICIDE NEIGHBOR NOTIFICATION LAW. THIS LAW - - AGAIN, SPONSORED BY LONG ISLAND LAWMAKERS - -GIVES COUNTIES THE OPTION TO PASS LOCAL LAWS REQUIRING THAT NEIGHBORS RECEIVE 48-HOUR ADVANCE NOTICE BEFORE PESTICIDES AND HERBICIDES ARE APPLIED. WITH SUCH NOTICE, PEOPLE CAN TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO REDUCE EXPOSURE TO THEMSELVES, THEIR CHILDREN AND PETS.

SUFFOLK AND NASSAU COUNTIES WERE THE FIRST IN THE STATE TO PASS SUCH LOCAL LAWS AND THEY HAVE SUCCESSFULLY WITHSTOOD LEGAL CHALLENGES BY THOSE WHO OPPOSE ANY REGULATION.

THE NEIGHBOR NOTIFICATION LAW IS THE BEST OF ITS KIND IN THE NATION, AND BECAUSE OF IT LONG ISLAND IS A BETTER AND SAFER PLACE TO LIVE.

GOLF COURSES, HISTORICALLY, ARE SOME OF THE MOST INTENSIVE USERS OF PESTICIDES. BUT, THANKFULLY, THAT PATTERN IS CHANGING.

I NOTE, FOR INSTANCE, THAT SUFFOLK COUNTY HAS ADOPTED A PIONEERING LAW REQUIRING ALL NEW MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSES TO BE ORGANIC - - NO PESTICIDES.

ALSO, ALL NEW ARNOLD PALMER GOLF COURSES IN THE NATION ARE ORGANIC. IT'S IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT ARNOLD PALMER, A CANCER SURVIVOR, RECOGNIZES THE RISK THAT PESTICIDES POSE TO HUMAN HEALTH AND TO THE ENVIRONMENT.

THERE ARE VIABLE NON-TOXIC ALTERNATIVES TO USING PESTICIDES, ALTERNATIVES THAT RESULT IN ATTRACTIVE, EYE-PLEASING RECREATIONAL FACILITIES THAT SAFEGUARD RATHER THAN THREATEN THE ENVIRONMENT.

SUCH NON-TOXIC ALTERNATIVES TO PESTICIDES CAN ALSO BE USED BY HOMEOWNERS TO MAINTAIN THEIR LAWNS AND GARDENS AT NO THREAT TO THE ENVIRONMENT.

LONG ISLANDERS CAN SHOW THE NATION THAT LIFE IN COMMUNITIES WITH BUCOLIC NAMES LIKE GARDEN CITY, DEER PARK, LOCUST GROVE AND VALLEY STREAM IS BETTER AND HEALTHIER WITH LESS RELIANCE ON CHEMICALS.

NOW, IN ADDITION TO REDUCING PRIMARY EXPOSURE TO CHEMICALS, THESE AND OTHER STEPS CAN HELP PROTECT LONG ISLAND'S AQUIFER.

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO OVERSTATE THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING THE ISLAND'S AQUIFER. THIS IS THE ONLY SOURCE OF DRINKING WATER ON THE ISLAND.

HERBICIDES AND PESTICIDES SPRAYED ON OUR LAWNS, GARDENS AND GOLF COURSES TODAY WILL PERCOLATE THROUGH LONG ISLAND'S SANDY SOILS AND EVENTUALLY WIND UP IN THE DRINKING WATER.

IN FACT, STUDIES BY THE SUFFOLK COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT FIND THAT PESTICIDES THAT WERE BANNED IN THE 1960s AND 1970s AND TAKEN OFF THE MARKET ARE SHOWING UP IN GROUNDWATER SAMPLES TODAY.

THE PINE BARRENS PRESERVATION ACT HELPS PROTECT THE AQUIFER BY SHARPLY LIMITING DEVELOPMENT AND HUMAN IMPACT ON A TRACT OF LAND THAT IS A KEY RECHARGE AREA FOR THE AQUIFER.

WE MUST DO MORE, HOWEVER.

WE MUST WEAN LONG ISLANDERS FROM EXCESSIVE USE OF PESTICIDES AND HERBICIDES. THIS IS ESSENTIAL TO LESSENING THE AMOUNT OF CHEMICALS PERCOLATING THROUGH THE SOIL TO THE GROUNDWATER.

IT IS IMPORTANT FOR LONG ISLANDERS TO REMEMBER THAT WHATEVER FALLS TO THE GROUND, BE IT RAIN, SNOW, PESTICIDES, OIL SPILLED BY A MECHANIC OR FERTILIZER SPREAD ON A LAWN EVENTUALLY WINDS UP MAKING ITS WAY TO THE AQUIFER WHERE IT COMPROMISES DRINKING WATER QUALITY FOR ALL LONG ISLANDERS.

THERE'S ONLY ONE LONG ISLAND AQUIFER. WE WOULD BE VERY WISE TO DO ALL WE CAN TO PROTECT IT

THERE ARE A OTHER IMPORTANT ENVIRONMENTAL STEPS FOR LONG ISLAND - INCLUDING REDUCING DISCHARGES INTO LONG ISLAND SOUND; REDUCING SOLID WASTE; PROMOTING RECYCLING AND ENCOURAGING GREATER CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES.

I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS NO SINGLE ACT THAT WILL RESOLVE ALL OF OUR ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS. STEWARDSHIP IS A LIFETIME JOB. WE MUST BE DEDICATED AND AGGRESSIVE, AND ALSO REASONED, CAREFUL AND BALANCED ADVOCATES FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.

LOCAL DIALOGUE IS A KEY. WE HAVE TO SEIZE EVERY OPPORTUNITY ON LONG ISLAND TO EDUCATE PEOPLE ON THE NEED FOR GREATER ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONS.

IN THE END, THIS MAY BE THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP IN PROTECTING THE MASTERPIECE OF LONG ISLAND.

I WANT TO THANK ADELPHI FOR GIVING ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK THIS MORNING. I WILL CONCLUDE NOW AND INVITE YOUR QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS.


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