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New York Assemblyman Pushes For Review Of Eastern Long Island's Preservation Fund

Montauk Point Lighthouse
Kathy Kmonicek
Montauk Point Lighthouse

A fund that has generated over $1.7 billion for environmental and historic preservation in eastern Long Island is overdue for an audit, according to New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele of Sag Harbor.

Thiele wants the State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to review the Community Preservation Fund, which has become a model for conservation in the state.

“There is legislation that would allow basically any town or any city in the state to create a Community Preservation Fund," he said.

Voters approved a referendum in 1998 to create a 2% tax on real estate transactions to fund preservation in eastern Long Island. Thiele, and then-Assemblyman DiNapoli, drafted the fund's orginial legislation over 20 years ago.

The state found during its last audit in 2008 that the Town of East Hampton illegally raided the fund to pay its debts. Last year’s planned audit was delayed because of the pandemic.

“If we're going to spend those kinds of dollars on water quality, you want to know that you're getting the bang for your buck, that we're having an impact on water quality,” Thiele said.

The fund also helps residents pay for advanced septic systems that reduce that amount of nitrogen that pollutes waterways and drinking water wells.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.