Victory For Proposition 1: The Vital Extension of Eastern Long Island’s Community Preservation Fund

By: Anne Tewksbury

On Tuesday, November 8th, voters on the East End of Long Island had an important environmental decision to make on their ballots: whether or not to extend the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) in the five East End towns. Voters have spoken and the results showed a resounding desire to extend the CPF, the vital 2% real estate transfer tax that protects and preserves local farmland, water quality and open space. This ballot initiative to extend the CPF from 2030 to 2050 is important because of the environmental risks of inaction on the initiative were enormous. The revenue generated from the CPF goes toward protecting land and water out across Suffolk County, and by voting yes on Proposition 1, East End Towns are now authorized to use up to 20% of their Community Preservation Fund towards vital water quality projects.

The East End’s Community Preservation Fund has played a key role in pushing forth environmental preservation initiatives. Since the program’s inception in 1998, the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund has raised more than $1 billion and protected more than 6,000 acres of land that would have otherwise been developed. Protecting water quality can mitigate algal blooms and fish die-offs  caused by nitrogen pollution from failing septic systems and fertilizer runoff is critical, and the Preservation Fund has been used to directly protect the Peconic Bay’s water quality. With Prop 1 passed, more funding from the CPF can go directly towards water quality projects.

Additionally, the Preservation Fund has helped key projects to improve and restore the Peconic Estuary, protect drinking water, and preserve threatened agricultural lands for the East End’s farmers. Maintaining the CPF for an additional 20 years will help the East End towns protect and conserve one of Long Island’s most environmentally important areas. Voters generated overwhelming support for the CPF extension, with the measure passing in a landslide in all five East End towns: The proposal was supported by 78.2 percent of voters in Southold Town, 75.2 percent in Riverhead Town, 80.1 percent in Southampton Town, 78.2 percent in East Hampton Town and 69.5 percent on Shelter Island.

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund is proud to have contributed our efforts to this positive outcome. We made about 16,000 calls and knocked on approximately 2,000 doors in Riverhead over the weekend, and with the support of Scott’s Miracle Gro we were able to create educational materials to leave behind for local residents. We also partnered with the Verizon Foundation to create a microsite with more information about the campaign and about the CPF and reached out to 20,000 residents of Southold and Riverhead on their mobile phones. This outreach campaign informed local residents about the many benefits of the CPF and reminded them to show up to the polls.

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund commends all of the voters on the East End who extended this crucial program. We would also like to thank Scotts Miracle Gro and the Verizon Foundation for supporting our efforts to educate East End voters about this important program. This victory for the environment should serve as an example for other towns across New York and across the country, and we hope it will inspire similar measures to further ensure that local land and water preservation and remediation projects are funded and supported.