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Hardy2
July 05, 2006

Farm Fracas Follow Up, Finish?


It was reverse thrusters on full for Legislator Jon Cooper (D. Lloyd Harbor) last week. The upIsland lawmaker suffered no small amount of chastisement in the press following his June 13 diatribe about the amount of money Suffolk County spends acquiring open space on the East End. Comments about so-called unfair distribution of open space money subsumed the issues surrounding a resolution sponsored by North Fork Legislator Ed Romaine, according to the Democratic caucus leader.

"It was never, ever about east v. west," said Cooper this week, admitting, "I said things at the horseshoe I probably shouldn't have." According to the lawmaker, Romaine's resolution looking to initiate the acquisition of 400 acres of farmland and open space on the North Fork was flawed. Cooper said he merely tried to table the bill until concerns could be addressed.

Speaking to The Independent this week, Cooper said he was goaded and reacted to "abuse" from Romaine. However, minutes of the meeting merely depict the East Ender asking why Cooper wanted to table the bill. He refused to say. The vote was subsequently called and the Democratic majority defeated the bill.

In an interview with The Independent three days after the fateful utterances, Cooper still did not explain why he wanted the bill tabled. Instead, he once again espoused a concern about inequities in open space spending.

This week, Cooper said Romaine's bill was flawed, listing properties that were ineligible for acquisition and not highly ranked for preservation. "I had legitimate concerns," he said.

The concerns were addressed in a similar Master List sponsored by County Executive Steve Levy at last week's session in Riverhead. Co-sponsor of the bill, which replaces some of the properties on Romaine's list and adds land from his district, Cooper made clear he didn't ask for the property to be added.

"There's so much land, we'll never be able to buy it all," Cooper said. The most environmentally significant land should be purchased first, the lawmaker opined, adding, "This is a better bill because it has better parcels."

At last week's session, the legislature adopted the revised resolution. Romaine said he looked forward to working with Levy to make sure the parcels on the new list are preserved.

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