Sue Fitzgerald, Land Use Chair for the League of Women Voters of Port Washington-Manhasset moderated an informative discussion on the subject of "Keeping Port Washington-Manhasset Green."
The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Port Washington-Manhasset recently sponsored a panel of experts to speak oN the subject of "Keeping Port Washington-Manhasset Green." Sue Fitzgerald, LWV's Land Use Chair, who moderated the meeting, pointed out "It is fitting that the panelists are named Pines [Jennifer Wilson-], Lake [April Brown], and Wood [Patti]."
Brown Lake, director of Community-Based Planning for the Town of North Hempstead, who is familiar to many of us from her role in the Port Washington visioning process, kicked off the panel discussion. She iterated how the town is working to improve the environment, and shared some of their plans for the future. Among other things, the town hall is being cleaned with non-toxic cleansers, and the lawns and plants are cared for without the use of toxic chemicals. The town is using hybrid vehicles and is exploring the possibility of hybrid buses. Lake said that they are actively pursuing a grant to cover the cost of the latter. She also pointed to the harbor trails, also grant funded, and to the cleaning up of debris on our roadways and trails. As well, the town examines the environmental impact of all new projects during the approval process. Lake added the town clerk's office is also very environmentally conscious.
The next speaker was Patricia (Patti) Wood, founder and executive director of Port Washington-based Grassroots Environmental Education, co-producer of the recent film Our Children at Risk, and a visiting professor at Adelphi University. Grassroots, as its name implies, operates under the philosophy that environmental issues can most effectively be addressed "from the bottom up." The group's mission statement reads, in part, "We seek to empower individuals to act as catalysts for change within their own communities." Wood said, "We work through education, advocacy, and consultation." The organization has successfully persuaded our local schools to refrain from using toxic chemicals on the lawns, plantings, and in cleaning indoors. They have also advocated for regulations restricting school bus idling, pointing out the very harmful impact of the fumes, particularly on children. She told the audience that homeowners should be aware that pesticides and other chemicals used on lawns and gardens run off into our waterways and cause algae vegetation and fish kills. She said, "We would like to suggest water-insoluble fertilizers where necessary."
Wood was excited about the education programs in the schools that Grassroots does in cooperation with Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington (RFMBPW). She said, "We go into every fifth grade and teach them where the water comes from." When the students learn about the three aquifer levels and that sometimes the first level is so polluted it is not even allowed to be used for irrigation, the fifth graders say, in effect, "We are stupid humans. We don't think about what we are doing." Frequently the students go home and teach and "nag" their parents. She said, "If we are protecting children, then we are protecting everyone."
Wood added, "Our initiatives are to educate the public on how the everyday things that they do has such a strong impact on the environment." As an example, she pointed to the plastic water bottles and Styrofoam cups (ironically, used at this meeting), which she said can take up to one million years to biodegrade and end up in landfills and in our waters.
Wood reinforced the statements that Brown Lake had made about the Town of North Hempstead. She said, "The town is doing some very innovative things." Wood added that they hope to legislate the current organic policy. "If it does become law," she said, it would be the third place in the country to implement such legislation."
Jennifer Wilson-Pines, chair of the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee (MBPC) described the activities of the committee, which is a coalition of 14 municipalities (the town, the county, and 12 villages) that comprise the Manhasset Bay watershed. Wilson-Pines provided a number of handouts and educational displays from the MBPC. She reported that the good news is that Manhasset Bay is considered "an improved body of water." Wilson-Pines said that the last beach cleanup produced far less debris than previous years. "It's gotten a lot cleaner," she said. "We used to pull up tons of stuff." But, there is still work to be done. Wilson-Pines said, "We need to educate people on the impact of their actions on the Bay."
Curt Trinko, chair of RFMBPW, introduced his remarks by saying, "For 38 years Residents has maintained and expanded our open space." He said, "It is clear from the visioning process that the public wants open space, recreational facilities, and access to the waterfront." He mentioned RFMBPW's role in helping to create and maintain local Port Washington parks and trails, including the Blumenfeld Family Park (adjacent to Landmark),the Barbara Johnson Park (on the bay on Shore Road), and Sunset Park (at the town dock), and the Hempstead Harbor trail (at Bar Beach). Looking towards the future, RFMBPW is working with the town to do a planning study comprising the parcels across the road from Bar Beach and Hempstead Harbor Park (which are scheduled to be combined and placed under TONH jurisdiction). Trinko noted that there are 200 acres of dedicated parkland across from the two beaches. Based on the results of the visioning process, some of the uses being looked at are stables, playing fields, an indoor sports center, a pool, waterfront dining, or a skateboard park. Other future projects that the organization is involved in include: ongoing enhancements to the town dock and Sunset Park (they have a $1 million. grant from LIPA for this purpose); extending the "shoreline to shoreline" trail planned to go from Hempstead Harbor in Roslyn to Manorhaven Park; working with Port Washington North on the Baywalk, including the possibility of moving the trail closer to the water; and looking at how the Danaher property might be utilized. Trinko pointed to the $100 million. environmental bond recently passed by the county legislature, saying, "I am hopeful that monies out of that bond can be used for that Danaher property. That would be an exciting addition to our parkland." He concluded by encouraging people to attend public forums, talk to public officials, and to form or join committees. He said, "We need to come together to effectively plan for our tomorrow."
During the discussion period that followed, a number of interesting issues were raised. One individual asked about the safety of our drinking water. Pines and Trinko were of the opinion that it is safe; Wood was not so sanguine. Another person asked about re-seeding the bay with clams to help clean it up. TONH Councilman Fred Pollack responded that the DEC had ruled against it, fearing that people would eat the clams. Pollack clearly did not agree with that decision, and said "We will try again next year." The question of building bike paths to encourage the use of bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation was raised. The responses mainly addressed the creation of bike trails as contrasted with bike paths along the main roads.
At the meeting's conclusion, Wilson-Pines invited interested individuals to attend a public meeting on Oct. 18 in Manorhaven to discuss the restoration of the Manorhaven preserve.