Zachary Cohen

Responses to East Hampton Environmental Coalition questionaire

Running for East Hampton Town supervisor
Endorsements: Democratic, Working Families

(Mr. Cohen won the local East Hampton Independence Party endorsement, but this was taken away and switched to Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson by the party’s state chairman.)

EXPERIENCE, PHILOSPOHY AND RELATIONSHIPS
1. Please share with us accomplishments or experiences that would indicate your commitment to advancing an environmental agenda for East Hampton. These may be professional or personal.

I have served on the Town of East Hampton’s Nature Preserve Committee since 2002. From mid-year 2008, I have chaired the committee. We advise the Town Board on the management and stewardship of hundreds of properties that comprise thousands of acres of preserved land.

I have been the lead author or contributing writer for many Nature Preserve management plans from Montauk to Wainscott. Some plans that I have co-authored are Culloden (Montauk), Fresh Pond at Devon (Amagansett), Marina Lane (East Hampton), Jacobs Farm and Louse Point (Springs), and Buckskill (Wainscott). These plans and other Nature Preserve Committee plans have opened thousands of acres to recreational use while insuring that they will be preserved for future generations. The management plans become legal documents and are part of the Town Code.

My work on the Nature Preserve committee has brought me into contact with all users of our Nature Preserves and an understanding of the reasons for all 8 goals of a Nature Preserve as stipulated below:
(Excerpting from the Town code), the goals of East Hampton Nature Preserves are:
East Hampton Environmental Coalition 2011 Town Candidate Survey Page 3 of 7
(1): to protect natural areas which provide living museums of the original heritage of the Town and contribute to the public health and welfare of the inhabitants. (2) to protect the existing and, where desirable, to promote an improved environmental quality of natural areas in the Town(3) to preserve ecosystems and the rich diversity of flora and fauna living thereon, (4) to protect the diversity of unique geological features found within the Town, including beaches, dunes, bluffs, hoodoos, swales, kettleholes, kames, morainal highlands and outwash plains.(5) to protect wetlands as a means of flood control, water purification and breeding and nursery grounds(6) to provide opportunities for wilderness-like experiences, diverse recreational activities and environmental educational programs and academic research programs.(7) to provide buffer areas to existing natural areas.(8) to protect watershed areas critical to recharging precipitation into the Town's sole-source aquifer or maintaining surface water quality.

I always promote the importance of our preserved properties. I encourage our residents and our visitors to discover our wonderful and diverse open spaces but to do no activity that will diminish its value for the next user. My quote on the importance of open space is included in our Town’s pamphlet on Nature Preserves that we provide free to users of the Preserves.

I was also appointed to the Town’s Community Preservation Fund Management and Stewardship Committee. This committee was formed in 2008 to determine what management costs were appropriate Preservation Fund expenses. This work allowed me to use my financial and business background to help the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) program. After serving on this committee, I became a strong community advocate for proper finance in general and for the CPF, in particular. I went on to publish numerous papers and newspaper letters on the prior misuse of CPF funds. I believe my worked help guarantee that improperly used CPF monies would be repaid and that they are now used properly.
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My candidacy for Supervisor of East Hampton has been endorsed by Long Island Environmental Voters Forum who said:
Dear Candidate Cohen:
On behalf of the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum, I am pleased to announce that, based on your environmental advocacy and/or voting record, you have been selected for endorsement this election year.
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I have worked closely with many of the groups who make up the East Hampton Environmental Coalition. My Nature Preserve and CPF work has been informed by the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, the Group for the East End, and the Accabonac Protection Committee. My work has also brought me into contact with the Dark Sky Group, and the Northwest Alliance (through the numerous Nature Preserves in the Northwest). It has been a pleasure to work with all of them, and hopefully my, and the Nature Preserve Committee’s, work has been of benefit to them. I strongly support their work, and I support the work of the others in the Alliance as well.

It would require dozens of hours to answer all of the questions in the questionnaire to the level I prefer. Full answers, backed by thorough research and with the consultation of Town and other professionals, can be provided after election. For now, I direct readers of this questionnaire to some of our platform papers.

At the website you will find papers on many of the issues raised in this questionnaire, including ones on farming, airport issues, public beach access, and a paper on environmental and open space shortcomings of the current administration and how we would address those shortcomings.

2. What do you believe is the role of town government regulation and enforcement in maintaining a clean, sustainable environment? What, if any, changes are the most important?

Town government can provide a long view and a wider perspective through the planning process and including many citizen groups and individuals. The challenge is getting all Town boards and departments to use long term policies effectively and consistently to protect our environment. Strong enforcement comes through Town Board leadership and committed and competent Town staff and citizen boards. Innovative new standards of sustainability and energy efficiency like the LEEDS program will keep East Hampton at the forefront of environmental protection.

3. What resources, experts or opinions will you consult when making decisions that affect East Hampton Town’s environmental resources?

We already have tools like the Comprehensive Plan and the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. I would use the alliances and working relationships I have developed with our local environmental groups to bring in new ideas. I would also take advantage of experts from other levels of government in New York State and the latest scientific studies.

Coastal, Drinking and Surface Water
4. In view of the extreme weather conditions as of late, what should East Hampton Town, as a coastal community, do in the short and long term to prepare for these changes?

Emergencies from short term weather events should be addressed by cohesive emergency response plans. There is already existing legislation such as the emergency provisions of the 2006 Local Erosion Protection Law which says what can be done to replace damaged property and erosion structures in storm emergencies. We have an excellent emergency response team in Town government, but the plans need to be more detailed and comprehensive to give the Town better access to state and federal aid in the wake of a catastrophic storm.

Long term we need to address the consequences of sea level rise and climate change in coming decades in our planning process and the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, so that residents and builders have guidance for future development.

5. Do you believe current Town policies adequately protect drinking water quality and sustainability? If not, what, if any, policy changes would you support?

Current Town policies are adequate for present development but not for the future. More water recharge open space should be purchased to protect aquifers, and Water Recharge Overlay District regulations should be strengthened to maintain clean water. Clearing restrictions need to be enforced. Pesticides and fertilizer use should be reduced through public education and where necessary by regulation. Septic system regulations and designs which are dictated by the County Health Department need to be updated and improved to remove pollutants and excess nutrients like nitrogen.

6. Periodically, East Hampton Town’s bays and creeks are closed to shell fishing or swimming due to poor water quality. Some water bodies do not meet Federal EPA MS4 storm water protection standards. What concrete actions will you support to improve the quality of our surface waters?

The Town should actively participate and adopt the recommendations of the Peconic Estuary Program. In a Cohen-Overby-VanScoyoc administration East Hampton will have a robust MS4 stormwater remediation program with drainage and floodwater impoundment projects. This is a federal mandate that has been neglected under the present administration. There is federal and state grant money available for such projects through the state Environmental Protection Fund etc. which we will actively pursue. Enforcement of setbacks, easements and the Town’s Harbor Protection Overlay District will help clean up our harbors. We will also seek to have a regular dredging program for Town harbors to improve flushing in coordination with Suffolk County.

Land Preservation
Public land preservation protects our drinking water supply and improves drinking water quality, quality of life, tax rates and property values in the Town of East Hampton.
7. Should the Town continue to use the Community Preservation Fund to purchase land? If so, what changes, if any, would you support in land preservation policy or practice? If not, what funding mechanism do you propose ought to replace it?


The present administration has greatly reduced CPF purchases. With real estate prices low now is the time to aggressively pursue open space purchases with CPF money. The current administration has virtually abandoned maintenance of Town Nature Preserves. The Cohen-Overby-VanScoyoc administration will again hire a full-time land steward paid from CPF at no cost to the taxpayers.

Dark and Quiet Skies
8. In 2006 the Town passed the "Smart Lighting" law which enhanced previous legislation addressing light pollution. What are the most important benefits (if any) and shortcomings (if any) of the Smart Lighting law? What actions would you support to expand or modify the enforcement of this law?

The Smart Lighting law reduces energy costs to businesses, prevents glare that distracts drivers and pedestrians, and maintains the starry clarity of our night skies. Dark skies are part of our rural heritage, help migrating birds and enhance our quality of life. Our administration will implement the 2006 law, with fine-tuning and assistance to help local businesses comply with the new standards.

9. Noise pollution caused by aircraft, particularly helicopters, has been a source of complaints from residents for many years. Because of financial agreements with the FAA, the Town government currently has little control over East Hampton airspace. How will you address these complaints? What specific rules would you like to see enacted?

If elected we will support the installation of a seasonal control tower, support a study of operations including a full financial analysis for the next two years. We will use that data make an informed decision in 2014 about an airport plan with or without FAA assistance that will control noise and ensure local control of our airspace.

Government Planning and Enforcement
Historically, East Hampton has been a national leader in community and environmental planning and open space preservation.
10. What is your vision for the future of the Planning Department in East Hampton Town? What aspects of the Planning Department’s organization and function are most important for the Town’s future and what aspects, if any, would you change or strengthen?


Maintaining an expert and professional Planning Department is vital to informing the land planning decisions of every level of Town government. The interface between the public and Planning staff can be enhanced by better public education and outreach, for instance holding briefings for real estate agents so clients are better informed about overlay districts and zoning requirements before purchasing property.

11. Are the Town’s Comprehensive and Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans adequate in your opinion? If not, which specific policies or plan recommendations do you not support or would like to see changed? Which policies would you prioritize for implementation?

The Town’s Comp Plan and LWRP are living documents that were developed with many thousands of hours of citizen participation. I fully support their use and implementation. I would institute a process for updating and reviewing these plans to make sure they meet current needs of the community.

Solid Waste and Water Waste Management Facilities
The Town’s systems for the management of both solid waste (trash and recyclables) and water waste (sewage) have been the focus of critical discussion in recent years.
12. What is your assessment of the state of these systems, what are the major problems requiring correction, and what are the most urgently needed changes in policy and practice?


The Wednesday closure of the Town recycling centers is a false economy that has caused economic hardship to landscapers and carters who load their trucks on Tuesdays and have no place to empty them for the next day’s work. The exchange center at the recycling center should be reopened so excess items can be re-used and people can save money. The Town can save on transport by keeping things out of the waste stream and help needy families at little cost.

Air quality for businesses neighboring the Scavenger Waste Plant on Fireplace Road is an unpleasant fact of life. The NYS DEC has cited the plant for numerous violations. Management of the Scav Plant needs to be reformed through a transparent and non-partisan public process that examines both environmental and economic costs.


 

Comments

I'm disappointed that Mr Cohen offers no concrete proposals for drastically reducing helicopter and seaplane noise over East Hampton, and over the rest of Long Island. An unfortunate and unique confluence of circumstances (East Hampton's closeness to Manhattan combined with its inaccessibility, the extreme wealth of a few selfish New Yorkers, and above all the fact that intervening Long Island is one of the world's most densely populated islands) have created an intolerable noise problem for millions of people. Drastic action is needed, and Mr Cohen offers nothing more than vague monitoring. Accepting FAA money will certainly reduce still further already negligible local control over flights. Building a control tower does not sound like a real commitment to curtailing noise aircraft noise, but instead a sure route to yet more air traffic. Commercial flights into EHA should be discontinued and the Airport restored to the limited and valuable functions it once performed.