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Locals Fight Fracking

David Brennan of Bethpage was among hundreds of vocal locals who took the fight against fracking to Albany last week, riding to the state capitol in buses to show their support for a ban at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address.

Long Islanders were joined by concerned citizens from across the state, who stood behind ropes before the entrance to the speech shouting, chanting and pumping “Ban Fracking” and “Save Our Water” signs. Attendees put the crowd at around 2,500; a separate protest, against gun restrictions, boasted about 20, they said. They did not see Gov. Cuomo himself, but some legislators, such as Assemblyman Charles Lavine, did come out to speak with the public.

For Amy Peters, the looming threat of hydrofracking—a process for extracting natural gas from rock—in New York State brings “a strong sense of dread.” As a member of Sustainable Sea Cliff Food Co-operative, she deals directly with the challenge of sourcing healthy fresh food. The co-op, which buys as much as it can from Long Island farmers before reaching out to producers north and west of the metro area, has already stopped sourcing from Pennsylvania, where fracking has been widespread.

“If fracking comes to New York, we’ll have a hard time purchasing locally,” she said.

As Julie Sullivan of Long Island’s Food and Water Watch describes it, “fracking”—formally known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing—is a dangerous method of drilling outward from deep wells into underground shale for gas, threatening drinking water, health, communities and the environment. Fracking in New York would involve injecting billions of gallons of fresh water, hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals and sand underground. Documented risks include earthquakes, contaminated groundwater, waste-water that contains radioactive elements, and air pollution.

“New York shale represents a nominal amount of the nation’s gas reserves. It’s simply not worth the known risks given what’s at stake in New York; not the least of which are the health risks to our children and families ranging from asthma to cancer,” said Sullivan. “There are alternatives to gas but there are no alternatives to plentiful clean water.”  

The impact on farm produce makes fracking a major concern for chefs and others in the food industry, as well as consumers. Chefs for the Marcellus, Slow Food and iEat Green were among the LI groups at the rally, which included tables showcasing (and selling) jellies, jams and baked goods from small producers. Jaroff, for example, is a natural foods chef and activist who has taught at Old Westbury’s Wheatley School and The Waldorf School in Garden City.

Anti-frackers recognize the challenge to politicians under pressure from commercial interests. New York has a moratorium on fracking, but not an outright ban; the trip was meant to stiffen the governor’s resolve.

“Cuomo’s been keeping fracking at arm’s length with the moratorium and we appreciate that, but feel at times it’s for political reasons,” said Peters.

“We understand it’s hard for him to be strong on fracking politically because of jobs, energy needs and the economy,” she added, “but the jobs will be few and transient.” Agriculture is a huge part of NYS economy.

“If we lose the water, we’ll lose the farms,” said John Burke, who leads Stop the Port Ambrose LNG Export. “Once the watershed is contaminated, it can’t be made nontoxic.”

More than a dozen Long Island organizations, including LI Sierra Club, North Shore Audubon Society and Citizens Campaign for the Environment, sent members to the rally to speak for those who could not be there.

“I get a lot of people saying ‘thank you for going and representing us,’” said Peters, about the reaction she has gotten from the public. “It’s not easy to take a day off to get on the bus, so I’m happy to represent.”

News

One local playwright and his company — The Plainview Project — seem to be headed to the big leagues.

Claude Solnik of Plainview, the Plainview Project’s writer, is married with two children. While he has a master’s degree in dramatic writing from New York University, after graduating he ended up going into journalism, which currently remains his day job. But in his free time he indulged in his true passion, hammering out numerous play scripts until the day they he realized that he needed to stop sitting on these works he was creating and put them in the hands of actors that could give them life.

Even as they hoped the parties would reach a last-minute settlement, commuters across Long Island were scrambling last week to devise alternate plans for getting to work if Long Island Rail Road’s 5,400 workers go on strike July 20. And they were vocal in their anger with the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The strike, it seems, has roused commuter ire over a wide range of LIRR issues, from timeliness to cleanliness to costs.

“I’ll have to figure out a new way home from work,” said Marco Allicastro, a 20-year-old Queens resident waiting for a train home at the Bethpage station after a day’s work at the local King Kullen. “Long Island doesn’t really have a lot of options in terms of transportation. Maybe I should get a new job.”


Calendar

Sonny And Perley

Saturday, July 26

Women Artists You Should Know

Thursday, July 31

Adult Summer Reading Club

Through Aug. 7



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com