a vegetable farm that has two locations in Cutchogue and now on Middle Road in Calverton, from the New York State Regional Economic Development Council toward more machinery and equipment to expand its vegetable processing and packaging line at the Calverton location.
The farm is one of two dozen projects across the First State Senate District to receive grant funding, but some readers questioned the grant after Patch published the story of the awards last month.
Paulette Satur is a member of the economic advisory council, and for years now, the farm has been the subject of neighborhood conflict, located close to residential houses on the other side of the street on Alvah’s Lane in Cutchogue.
Though a dispute which made it to the courts involving dust, diesel pollution and noise created by the loading and unloading of large refrigerated trucks on Alvah's Lane has simmered down — the trucks have been relocated to the Calverton facility — another neighbor is now fighting to get a diesel generator removed or relocated.
Regarding the grant, Jason Conwall, senior press officer for Empire State Development, said that anyone can apply for funding from the economic development council and that decisions to grant the money is based only on merit — no matter if the person is on the council or not.
“Heads of influential organizations and businesses who might happen to be on the council are also looking for money from the state,” Conwall said. “It doesn’t necessarily look great but there is no conflict of interest.”
Joe Gergela, president of the Long Island Farm Bureau, agreed.
“It’s very expensive for farmers to chop vegetables for preparation purposes, which is what they are doing privately,” Gergela said. “And given the level of investment they are putting into their own farming operation, I don’t see this as a conflict of interest. Economic development grants are for expanding jobs and business and any farmer can apply.”
But neighbor Jim Best said he does not view Satur as just any farmer. Over the past year or so, he has written dozens of letters to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials and other governmental entities regarding the matter of a diesel generator located near the roadside across from his house — a house he grew up in and now lives in with his wife and elderly mother. He says he’s tired of the plastic bags and other debris blowing into his yard from Satur and says that the diesel generator used for cooling is interrupting and polluting his life every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“There is an extremely strong diesel smell in and around our house for 13 hours a day,” he said. “We have to shut the windows in the summer.”
Best said he is also getting a scientist from Brooklyn College to test the soil and water around his house for pollutants.
“The bottom line is this — why did they put that generator right next to the street and our house?” he said. “There are lots of farmers around here with the same types of generators who place them in fields away from everything else. LIPA uses generators too, but they enclose them in buildings so you don’t see or smell them.”
In a letter written this past April to Paulette Satur from Flavio Dobran, a researcher at Stony Brook University for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Air resources, Dobran states that several inspections of the area surrounding the engine “demonstrate that the engine’s emissions can adversely impact individuals too close to the engine and that an immediate action should be taken to reduce the emissions or relocated the engine to a location where this impact can be minimal.”
Dobran also recommended emissions testing on the engine but did not hear back from Satur and wrote this letter on May 3 of last year:
“Given that you did not respond by April 30 to my letter, I am submitting this issue to higher authorities … I am very disappointed that you keep insisting on your right to farm while the engine emissions are creating a nuisance and have potential to cause health problems to your neighbors.”
That same day, Paulette Satur responded to the DEC:
“We must respectfully disagree with your assertion that engine emissions can adversely impact the individuals too close to the engine … There is no evidence that any emissions adversely impact any individual and there is no qualification of the meaning of ‘too close.’ There is no evidence that any violation of the law or regulation has occurred. The engine in issue when purchased was fully compliant with all applicable regulations and was legally permitted to be operated. Similar engines are routinely used by other farming operations. We are not aware of any other farming operation being subjected to the treatment we are now being accorded.”
DEC Regional Director Peter Scully said in a letter written to Best on May 31 that the DEC’s Division of Air Resources established that “none of the equipment in use on the farm requires a permit under the New York State Air Regulations. This determination includes the diesel generator mentioned in your email, which due to its small size does not fall under DEC jurisdiction. Nonetheless, DEC staff have been working with the owners of the farm to alleviate potential impacts resulting from the generator and other equipment. These efforts have resulted in several modifications to the farm’s operations including the relocation of the six refrigerated trailers to an offsite location and the posting of no idling signs as a reminder of truck drivers visiting the farm.”
Scully recommended that Best send his concerns to the state Department of Health’s Bureau of Environmental Exposure, as the DEC’s staff “does not include public health professionals qualified to address the health risks and concerns raised in your email.”
Paulette Satur said that she thinks that the continued interest in the operation of her business is “amazing,” and the issue of her neighbor and the generator is a non-issue.
“I’m way too busy for any of this kind of nonsense,” she told Patch on Sunday. “Yes, we have a generator. We are running a very complicated business and things are in constant motion. It’s not like there is an answer for this and I can’t update you on everything. Part of the grant will be used to hire more people and create more jobs. We’re excited to keep agriculture moving on the North Fork but there are so many things that are just unknown at the moment.”
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