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Suffolk to vote on Open Space Act.

With Blydenburgh County Park's scenic rowboat launch area as the backdrop, Suffolk county executive Steve Levy was joined by a broad coalition of environmentalists, civic groups, business and labor leaders recently to announce that they are throwing their strong support to the county's $75 million Open Space Bond Act going before voters in November.

If successful, the new land preservation initiative will help the county preserve open space, purchase development rights on farmland and create new parks throughout the area.

Among the groups joining the county executive at the recent press conference were: The Long Island Pine Barrens Society, The Nature Conservancy, New York League of Conservation Voters, North Fork Environmental Council, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Long Island Neighborhood Network, Sustainable Long Island, Vision Long Island, Peconic Land Trust, Long island Farm Bureau, the Long Island Progressive Coalition, Community Health and Environment Coalition, the Long Island Federation of Labor and The Long Island Association.

"I am delighted that the environmental, civic, business and labor communities have all come together in support of this critically important preservation measure," said Levy "The support of these groups should markedly improve the chances of passing this important environmental legislation, which is crucial to the future of the county's open space preservation efforts."

Known as the Suffolk County Open Space, Farmland Preservation and Hamlet Parks Fund, the initiative, if passed, will provide $35 million to purchase development rights for farmland, $30 million for open space preservation and $10 million for the creation of hamlet parks. It will be an important tool for assisting county officials in achieving the goal of preserving as much of Suffolk county's remaining open space and farmland as possible in the race against development.

Levy and his environmental affairs staff worked closely with all environmental groups to ensure that the transfer of development rights provision of the legislation would in no way compromise the preservation program or allow for the development of any type of housing other than workforce housing.

"County executive Levy's leadership was critical in addressing earlier concerns over certain provisions of the Save Open Space Bond Act legislation and now ensures that approval by the voters will benefit the environment and not contribute to suburban sprawl," said Richard Amper, executive director of the Pine Barrens Society. "We enthusiastically urge a "YES!" vote on both the Suffolk and Brookhaven Bond Acts."

Suffolk county's open space and farmland preservation programs have preserved a total of 27,500 acres since 1977. Currently, there are more than 6,500 acres in the pipeline for preservation and only $36 million remaining in the preservation programs. Without the infusion of additional funds that would come with the passage of the Bond Act, it is estimated that the county would only be able to preserve between 500-700 acres before the money runs out.

"With money from this bond we can continue the county's proud tradition of protecting our drinking water, saving critical habitat for rare and endangered species and improving the water quality of our local harbors and bays," said Kevin G. McDonald, program director with the Nature Conservancy. "With matching funds available from the state and many towns, we'll be able to protect even more of the best of what remains in Suffolk county. After all, don't we owe it to our children and grandchildren to protect their environment now before it is lost to development?"

"These new monies are essential to preserving our rapidly dwindling open space and farmland," said Michael White, chair of the Long Island Chapter of the New York League of Conservation Voters. "The people of Suffolk recognize the benefit of this kind of investment to the environment, the economy and their quality of life. This referendum could be the catalyst to show that Suffolk will find a compatible solution to open space preservation and the development of workforce housing."

"The Long Island Association believes that the open space referendum can accomplish two very important responsibilities with one positive vote; provide funds for open space and farmland protection and provide the opportunity to use credits for workforce housing," said Mitch Pally, vice president of the Long Island Association. "We strongly endorse the referendum and urge all Suffolk county residents to vote YES on Election Day."

"From farm fields to the Pine Barrens, from the Sound to the seashore, Suffolk County has always been the region's leader in setting aside green spaces for the future," said Robert Yaro, president of Regional Plan Association. "With much of the county now approaching build out, it is now more important than ever that we protect open lands needed to preserve the County's quality of life," he said.
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Title Annotation:Long Island; Blydenburgh County Park
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Oct 20, 2004
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