On Sep. 8, a coalition of civic and environmental groups met on the Peconic Riverfront to advocate for the extension of the Community Preservation Fund. On the backs of ballots this November, East End voters will have the option to vote for or against extending the East End’s 2% real estate transfer tax from 2030 to 2050- a tax that goes toward protecting East End communities’ land and water. Paid at the close of the sale of land or property, the tax is collected by Suffolk County and redistributed to that property’s town’s Community Preservation Fund. This year, advocates for voting “yes” to the legislation, which would authorize East End towns to use up to 20% of their preservation funds on water quality projects, are emphasizing the need to protect the East End’s waterways from Nitrogen pollution.
Nitrogen pollution has been causing problems in eastern Long Island. An abundance of Nitrogen in aquatic ecosystems tends to cause algal blooms- events where masses of algae grow in response to the abundance of Nitrogen. In aquatic ecosystems, algal blooms suck up the oxygen supply in the water, asphyxiating fish populations. Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter cited that one year ago, in 2015, 750,000 pounds of dead or dying bunker fish had to be extracted from the Peconic waterways after suffocating.
In 1998, East End voters overwhelmingly approved of the original real estate transfer tax to go toward the Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund. In 2002 and 2006, the tax was respectively extended to 2020 and 2030. Since 1999, the 2% real estate transfer tax has raised over $1.1 billion, resulting in the protection of more than 10,000 acres in the East End according the legislation’s author, Assemblyman Fred Thiele.
This November, candidates for elected offices will appear on the fronts of the ballots, with legislative propositions on the backs. Advocates for maintaining the Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund’s power encourage voters to “flip over” their ballots in November, and vote “yes” to extending the 2% real estate transfer tax to 2050. The extension’s advocates feel that the Peconic Estuary’s threatened water quality is a crucial part of the East End community’s character.