Over the past century, Long Island has grown into a nation first suburb into one of them most densely populated while New York City lies just inches to the east on the strip of glacial sand and rock that already contains his two most populous districts. But the beaches, shell huts and swampy, filled with trout streams who have made Suffolk County a tourist destination stretching from the center of the island to Montauk are now in danger of, to use the local slang, fail.
The outdated septic tanks, into which the toilets and showers in many single-family homes in the region drain, discharge large amounts of nitrogen into the water, triggering toxic blue-green algae blooms kills elephants – at twice as often another county in the state. fish are die by the thousands every year and washed up on beaches. Already threatened by salt water The subterranean freshwater aquifer that supplies Long Island’s drinking water comes from the rising sea contaminated with increasing nitrogen content.
The problem is that new “advanced” septic tanks that filter out nitrogen typically cost at least twice as much as traditional models — a difficult investment for homeowners paying part of it highest property tax And living costs in the country.
So Suffolk County went through a month-long process to seek state approval to hold a referendum on whether to raise money to offer a solution: a county-managed fund that will subsidize modern septic tanks and the sewage systems in cities where they exist would overtake. After receiving Albany’s blessing In May, the county planned to ask voters in November to vote on a sales tax increase of about 12 cents per $100. This would raise $56 million in the first year and allow the county to apply for matching funding from the state and federal governments, bringing the total to over $1 billion.
In an abrupt turn earlier this month, the Republican majority in the Suffolk County legislature removed the measure from the November vote – a move critics have said is a cynical ploy to quash the number of Democratic voters turning to the polls this off-year choice go choice.
The GOP, which controls 11 of the 18 seats in Parliament, stressed that its opposition to including the measure stemmed from a disagreement over how the money should be spent.
Only 25% of the funds would be earmarked for the sewage system. This includes consolidating Suffolk’s dozen separate systems into one statewide district and expanding infrastructure in urbanized areas where changes in precipitation patterns caused by warming are already overburdening gutters and drains. The other 75% would help up to 400,000 homeowners install advanced septic tanks, bringing the cost of the more expensive cesspool to around the price of a traditional model. Republicans said more of the money should go down the drain.
This is merely an excuse to block a referendum that the right believed would motivate more Democrats to vote in a local election where low turnout is likely to favor incumbent GOP lawmakers, said Keith Davies, a Democratic official at the Suffolk County.
“Republicans don’t want this referendum on the ballot because they know people who care about the environment are voting for Democrats,” Davies said by phone Tuesday.
The Conservative Party, a small national party that played the role of kingmaker in Suffolk’s hard-fought Republican election, this year pushed for abolishing the ballot referendum. accordingly news day.
“The Conservative Party does not want an environmental referendum on the ballot because they believe it would thwart the re-election of outlying Republicans,” an anonymous political insider told the prestigious Long Island newspaper.
The Conservative Party’s Suffolk County branch did not respond to questions emailed by HuffPost. A spokesman for the Suffolk County GOP agreed to forward an interview request to party leader Jesse Garcia on Thursday, but the call was not answered as of Friday afternoon.
It’s a dubious calculation. In last year’s election, Republican Lee Zeldin won New York’s gubernatorial election in his home county by over 58% of the vote, despite passing a statewide referendum on a $4 billion green bond bill by nearly 64%. “This appears to disprove the theory that green initiatives inspire party voting,” wrote Newsday opinion columnist Michael Dobie.
Still, all but one of the 18 Legislature seats are in play this year, including three held by first-time Republican congressmen Dominick Thorne, Manuel Esteban and Stephanie Bontempi, all of whom ousted Democrats in 2021. And three Democratic seats up for grabs Democrats Al Krupski and Bridget Fleming are dropping out of the running for re-election, and Sarah Anker, whose narrow victory was announced after a recount two years ago, faces a term limit.
Suffolk Republicans could still put the referendum on the ballot by starting a special legal process at the next legislature on July 25. If they don’t, the county must start the process again in the state’s next legislative year. By then, Suffolk may already have lost some of the potential antidotes it might be entitled to as federal agencies begin to allocate funds from President Joe Biden’s landmark infrastructure bills.
“These are all grants. They won’t sit around for us forever,” said Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief, a pediatrician and Democratic school boardwoman in Huntington who is running against Bontempi, the incumbent Republican, to represent the North Shore city of more than 100,000 people by 200,000 in the county legislature.
“If they don’t make progress with this referendum, it will have to be repeated in another legislature year. The state would have to agree to another referendum,” she said. “These funds are by no means guaranteed.”
In a suburban area notoriously separated Depending on race and income, it is workers who pay the highest price for inactivity, said Ryan Stanton, executive director of the AFL-CIO-affiliated Long Island Federation of Labor. His union is likely to benefit from construction jobs that could be funded with the new sales tax if the referendum goes through. But he said those same workers are also the ones dealing with the consequences of unmet infrastructure needs.
“Wealthy people will be fine,” Stanton said.
“They are not the ones who rehabilitate, rehabilitate and repair sewage treatment plants when they are overwhelmed due to storm surges. They are not the ones fixing the road when it rains 9 inches one evening and there is sudden utter destruction on state and local roads,” he added. “It’s working people who go out and fix our communities.”