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Source: Newsday

Town extends comment period on Forge River


Posted: January 18, 2012
Originally Published: January 17, 2012

A day after receiving a written request from publishing magnate Anna Wintour, Brookhaven's town board extended the public comment period for a much-anticipated plan to protect the polluted Forge River.

The decision prompted cheers from environmentalists but catcalls from some civic activists.

The letter from Vogue magazine's editor-in-chief, submitted electronically on Jan. 4, asked town officials to extend the comment period for the Draft Forge River Watershed Management Plan, which proposes management strategies for the waterway.

The letter described the document as "the foundation to the restoration and revitalization" of the 3.7-mile river, which courses through the Mastic area, where Wintour owns a 13-acre estate.

The next day, Brookhaven's town board voted to extend the public comment period until Jan. 19.

The town board had accepted the 325-page document produced by Cameron Engineering & Associates of Woodbury on Dec. 6 and set a Jan. 5 deadline on public comments.

Town officials said the timing of Wintour's letter and the extension were coincidental, as many town policymakers never saw the letter.

But Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the Wintour effect was clear. Esposito said the extra time will let more of the public -- including her group -- comment on the proposal.

"Stakeholders appealed to Anna Wintour to help to get the comment period extended, because she's been very active in the Forge River" preservation efforts, Esposito said.

Others, including Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization president MaryAnn Johnston, were not enamored of the town board's decision. Johnston said she supports the extension, but added the town should have reacted weeks earlier when civic groups requested an extension.

"Anna Wintour wrote a letter. [Town officials] didn't care how many civics wrote in -- that was the deal," Johnston said.

Several civics wrote letters but it "had no effect -- but the letter from Anna Wintour, badda bing, badda boom."

Brookhaven spokesman Jack Krieger said in a statement that the town board decided to extend the comment period "after discussion with stakeholders."

Town officials have said the plan could be turned into laws and regulations designed to protect the river, but its implementation could take months.

Wintour said in an email that she was "thrilled that the extension was granted."

The email also said: "As a resident, I obviously wanted to become involved after realizing how urgent this health issue was and how seriously it affected the Mastic community."