Meet CCOM’s Summer Intern Kelley Blieka

Kelley Blieka PicMy Grandparents started coming out to Montauk in the 60s. My grandfather loved to fish, and they both played golf at the Montauk Downs, and tennis at the Racquet club.   Though in the 70s they would build a beautiful house on East Lake Drive, my family had humble beginnings, living out of a tent in the trailer park by Ditch.  My grandparents eventually retired out here full time, and I have been coming out to Montauk since before I was born.  Every summer, as well as other random weekends throughout the year, has been spent here in Montauk.  When I was old enough to start working, I got my first jobs at White’s Drug Store and Pathfinder Country Day Camp. Though I may not have been “raised” in Montauk in the strictest sense of the word, I consider Montauk to be my true home.

Today, I am a junior at Northeastern University, where I am studying environmental studies with a minor in Political Science. Last summer, for the first time in my life, I decided to spend my summer months outside of Montauk – I took an internship in Manhattan.  I learned quickly that New York City is no Montauk, especially in the summer.  I missed the beaches.  I missed biking around Lake Montauk.  I missed my family and friends.  As I considered my options for this upcoming season, I knew I had to be back out here.

Despite the fact that my family has spent over 40 years out here, and I’ve spent the majority of my time out here, I had not heard of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk until a few months ago.  As I searched high and low for a way to spend my summer in Montauk, while still getting involved in environmental issues, my uncles mentioned CCOM as a possible option. This past spring, I spent some time learning about the Concerned Citizens of Montauk and the amazing conservation work that they have done here in Montauk.  After reading about the way that the CCOM has dedicated their work to preserving the integrity of Montauk for years, I knew what I wanted to do.  I contacted the CCOM about a possible internship position, and was lucky enough to receive a position with this organization.  As an intern this summer, I am excited to be working on the CCOM’s website and social media outlets to get more people involved in the conservation work that the Concerned Citizens do.

Big Industry to Industrialize the Atlantic Ocean

Like the Dracula Monster, Liberty Gas is Back
By Rav Freidel, Concerned Citizens of Montauk

Big energy isn’t fiddling around while New York and New Jersey rebuild the coastline after SandyThey’re, once again, trying to fast track both oil exploration and the industrialization of the Atlantic Ocean.
First they tried to place Broadwater, a 1200’ long Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal, in Long Island Sound.
LNG facilities proposed for the Bight are for exporting natural gas extracted by fracking — the process of sending pressurized fluids into the shale, and blasting the trapped gas out of the rock.  Fracking contaminates drinking water and pollutes the air we breathe.
What’s more, LNG has a carbon footprint that’s almost as dirty as coal.  It’s another greenhouse gas that’s helping to cook the life out of the planet, and by the way, helped cause super storms like Sandy, last summer’s drought, and the recent blizzard in the northeast.
But impossible to ignore resistance from both sides of the estuary thwarted the Broadwater LNG facility.  (To his credit, New York’s replacement Governor David Patterson vetoed it after his predecessor Eliot Spitzer had failed too.)
Undaunted, big energy tried to get a foothold in the ocean and build “Safe Harbor” an artificial island off Long Beach, New York. Plus two more Broadwater-type LNG terminals off the New Jersey shore — “Blue Ocean” and “Liberty Gas.”  Karl Rove himself couldn’t have come up with three better names to try and cloak the raping of the ocean.  The battle to protect the New York /New Jersey Bight from big energy continued.
Why it’s called “the Bight” I don’t know.  What I do know is that the Bight is one of the most bio diverse marine environments along the Atlantic Coast.  It’s home to more than 300 species of fish, 350 species of birds, 25 species of whales, dolphins and seals, and 5 species of endangered sea turtles.  It runs 256 miles from Cape May, NJ to Montauk Point, NY and miles out to the continental shelf in the ocean.
Due to soaring energy costs brought on by greed, big energy and proposed LNG projects in the NY/NJ Bight got an enormous amount of support from Washington.  Congress wanted to drill everywhere without environmental review.  Barack Obama, facing a difficult re-election, championed opening up more of the Arctic, the Gulf of Mexico, and even the Atlantic Ocean to oil and natural gas exploration.
Fate stepped in when BP’s Deep Water Horizon exploded and defiled the gulf.  Safe Harbor folded its tent.  So did Exxon’s Blue Ocean.  And NJ Governor Chris Christie kept his campaign promise and vetoed the last hold out — Liberty Gas.  LNG in the Bight was finally dead.
Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action based in Sandy Hook, New Jersey sensed an opportunity.  She dusted off legislation she had been working on for years and rekindled the campaign to create a Clean Ocean Zone (COZ) to protect the Bight.
The COZ had vision: Enough with all these endless meetings, late night hearings, and countless conference calls, once and for all we were going to get a federal law that made sure that the only energy development in the Bight would be renewables.  There would be no oil drilling, no LNG terminals, no BP type oil spills, no medical waste, no toxic dredge spoils or sludge and sewage disposal.  And both New York and New Jersey would have a greater say in what neighboring states wanted to do to the ocean.
Cindy got tremendous support from municipalities, commercial and recreational fishermen, surfers, boaters, businessmen, environmentalists, restaurants and resorts up and down the coast.  170 different business and environmental groups signed on to the COZ.
Cindy also launched the “Tour for the Shore” educational campaign in 2012.  It featured Margo Pellegrino, a world-class ocean kayaker paddling from Cape May to Montauk, Clean Ocean Action attorney Sean Dixon peddling his 10-speed all the way, and philanthropist Andrew Sabin, who calls himself a Teddy Roosevelt republican, wearing a GOP cycling suit, as he covered the last 100-mile leg of the journey.
The politicians on both sides of the isle started paying attention.  But it was an election year.  No new legislation would be possible until 2013.
Then fate stepped in again.  Super-storm Sandy devastated the coast and all bets were off on the COZ.  People were focused on getting the ocean out of their homes.  Not trying to protect an unfriendly sea.
As expected, Liberty Gas has resurfaced again with a new proposal to place another Broadwater type terminal off Atlantic Beach — the New York side of the Bight.  And once more we are playing whack-a-mole with LNG.
It’s time to take action.  Come together and support a clean and healthy NY/NJ Bight.
Fight Big Energy’s plans in the Bight.
For more information and how you can help drive a stake through the heart of big energy and protect the NY/NJ Bight, please contact Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action, at, or myself, Rav Freidel, director, Concerned Citizens of Montauk at

Storm Preparedness

By Bob Stern, President

Concerned Citizens of Montauk


No one likes being the one who blurts out that there is no Santa Claus —  least of all CCOM, which is a group of neighbors of low lying coastal properties being buffeted by the likes of the “Frankenstorm” Sandy.

It would be nice if we could maintain the fiction that just dumping hundreds of tons of boulders (or cement septic rings) in front of a property would save it — and without accelerating the erosion of a neighbor’s property.

But it just isn’t possible to do that. Wish it were.  How so?

The Dutch, with the most experience in dealing with these challenges — would have done it if they could.  We should learn from them and not deceive ourselves with expensive, short term “solutions” that will ruin our beaches while we attempt to save individual properties from the inevitable.

There are three methods that the Dutch have employed:

1.    Dikes – huge seawalls that keep the ocean out.  Of course, there is no beach outside that wall and there are no waves or beaches inside it.

2.    Design buildings that can survive flooding.  These include floatable buildings that elevate above surges.

3.    Retreat.

That’s it.  If there were another way, they would’ve found it and deployed it.  The Netherlands survives.  And not with small junk shots –just dumping some boulders in front of an individual property.

Any discussion of storm preparedness for Montauk has to rely on science and experience, not Santa Claus.

That’s why we urge reasoned discussion on how we can get together as a community and design a Storm Resiliency Plan that will preserve and protect the Montauk economy that depends on its dynamic beach environment.



Photographing Montauk by Michael Perini

In many ways photography is an exercise in fitting a thousand pounds of reality into a ten-pound bag.

One would think that in a place as beautiful as Montauk, great pictures would be easy. Montauk is full of great vistas, interesting places, wonderful people, and amazing light. But as photographers quickly find out, the more amazing the vista the harder it is to capture.

All cameras are puny and flawed compared to the human eye which sees brightness over a range of 1,000,000,000 to 1. No wonder, pictures are all too often dumbed-down, unsatisfying snippets of reality.

But cameras do have some advantages. A shooter’s first task is to learn a camera’s capabilities and attempt pictures that are within those capabilities. Camera phones and other small sensor point & shoot cameras are capable of taking wonderful pictures in medium to bright light. For these smaller units, it is best to avoid back lighting, bright sun and dark shadows. These conditions are difficult for any camera. If you have a choice, opt for the very early morning and late afternoon to early evening when the sun is softer and more diffused.

If you can’t wait for the ‘sweet light,’ try a reflector. For a few bucks, buy a K-mart white shower curtain liner, and lay it on the ground in front of your kids just out of the picture. It will fill in the shadows. Remember to keep it between the sun and the subject.

Make notes, on what works and what doesn’t. When a picture doesn’t work, keep at it until you find a combination that does. Always take along a small notebook or use the notes application on your smart phone. There is no faster way to get better.

Montauk is not just emotionally special, it is physically unique in that relative to the rest of the east coast from New Jersey to Florida, Montauk juts out 120 miles into the ocean, that changes things, our beaches are oriented east-west rather than north -south, our weather moves and changes more quickly, the air is cleaner, the light more revealing. It is a treasure shared by the east end of the south shore, and parts of The Vineyard, Nantucket, Block Island & parts of the Cape. Painters have long revered ‘Long Island Light”, it is light with great drama, great clarity, and great subtlety.

If you are patient you can teach yourself to see what many miss. It sounds overly obvious but you must see it before you can photograph it. In my experience it is almost as if the place repays your respect and patience by revealing its wonders slowly.

To see if you agree, stand in one spot at the ocean for one hour between 5-6 p.m. in the summer. Look around; really look, with an observer’s eye. You will see things change before your eyes. If you don’t see it, stay longer, or come back tomorrow. Learning to really look in an inquisitive and relentless way, teaches us to truly see.

Dorothea Lange said, “A camera is a device that teaches us how to see without a camera”, and learning to see without a camera helps us take better pictures. It is a virtuous circle. It can also help us and others better appreciate the gift of Montauk.

Above all, enjoy the experience.

Tail Costs: Part II


Lest we think that “tail costs — the true end cost of a human activity or error” is merely an abstract concept:

Estimate of total cost of Fukushima  — could be $300 billion and counting to Japan.  Tepco, the nuke company, is getting bailout money that could go to $137 billion.

Total cost of the Chernobyl disaster was put at $237 billion

 How safe is gas hydrofracking?  

 1.   The hydrofrackers themselves had little confidence in their own PR and sought an exemption from the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act (2005).  They received it in 2005, thanks to Halliburton’s ex-CEO, Vice President Dick Cheney.

 2.  How confident is the insurance industry in the safety of tracking?  Insurers are refusing to insure it.

3.  How confident are mortgage bankers in the safety of fracking?  Property owners signing fracking leases may be violating the terms of their mortgages.

We’ve experienced a series of significant Black Swan Events in the financial and energy sectors.  Why?  See The Peter Principle and Murphy’s Law.

Colin Powell referred to The Pottery Barn Rule:  “You break it, you buy it.”

The new Environmental Barnyard Rule is:  “THEY break it, YOU buy it.”

How does that relate to the prospects for a healthy East End and Montauk?

My grandmother used to say, “As long as you have your health….”

When our policies and priorities are designed to risk the health of the many to support the pursuit of short term gain for the few,  we are setting ourselves up for an “accident” — “an inevitable occurrence due to the action of immutable natural laws”. 

The kind of environmental risk taking we are witnessing is like skydiving without a parachute.  It is exhilarating in the short term, but doesn’t end well.

Bob Stern

Montauk’s Environmental Olympics

What leads some people to take irresponsible risks for unsustainable rewards?

Starting in the 1980s, researcher Bob Goldman surveyed elite athletes and found that 50% of them asserted that they would take a drug that would kill them within five years if it got them an Olympic gold medal. Goldman conducted the survey biannually for the next decade – and the results were consistent.

Interestingly, a newer survey (February 2009 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine) reports that less than 1% of the population at large would make that self-destructive deal.

How does that have anything to do with the environment?
Let me explain.

Our economy and environment has been victimized by an aggressive group of financial athletes (and their enablers) who energetically go for the gold, ignoring the all-too-likely consequences of their irresponsible risk taking. Here in East Hampton, people who have learned from these traumatic events (financial meltdown, Fukushima, BP oil disaster) and question the prudence of trading public wellbeing for private wealth are told to just “suck it up.”

If you own property on the ocean, bay, Fort Pond or Lake Montauk, you know what you are facing. As others play fast and loose in their quest for quick gold, your family’s property and health are being put at risk from more erosion, more water degradation, overwhelmed septic infrastructure, overwhelmed traffic infrastructure, and more environmental deterioration.

Many in East Hampton feel powerless to oppose this well financed, irresponsible risk taking. Nothing could be further from the truth. For more than 40 years, CCOM has been – and will continue to be – your boots on the ground, coupling volunteer action with professional science, law and due diligence to keep Montauk progressing into a healthy, sustainable, safe future.

You have the power to take a stand for prudent, conservative environmental stewardship. We will help you. Support CCOM with your membership, work and donations.

Bob Stern
President, CCOM

With Memorial Day Comes “The Season”

Memorial Day on the East End is an opportunity for all of us to express gratitude and appreciation for the men and women who died while serving our country. It’s also the beginning of what we call
“The Season,” when increasing numbers of people come to enjoy Montauk’s natural wonders.

That’s why CCOM participated in two events this Memorial Day, marching in Montauk’s Memorial Day parade and holding an earlier guided walk on the new trail to Amsterdam Beach. Memorial Day reminds us that preservation and protection doesn’t come easy. One significant way we can continue to honor those who have sacrificed for America the Beautiful is by doing our part in keeping what they fought and died for respectfully maintained and stewarded.

CCOM has an active schedule of expert guided explorations of the environment of Montauk. They reveal features of our natural paradise that will increase your enjoyment and appreciation of what we are privileged to have here now
and, hopefully, into the future.

Bob Stern

Putting Students in Charge of Preserving Montauk’s Environment

This Spring, CCOM launched an initiative to introduce local students to the natural wonders of our area. With funding from the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation and Parks & Trails New York, we began a four-month Environmental Internship program with seven sophomores and juniors from East Hampton High School. Our interns are working with National Park Rangers and natural experts here on the East End to host a series of bi-lingual trail walks for the community this summer. The East Hampton Press recently published an article about our internship program that we share with you here:

East Hampton High School Students Will Host Bilingual Trail Walks

The East Hampton Press
by Rohma Abbas
April 3, 2012

A rainy and windy Saturday in Montauk didn’t deter a group of East Hampton High School students from participating in a new program that will provide them with the tools to lead bilingual trail walks on the East End.
The program, hosted by the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, a 40-year-old non-profit organization, held a workshop on Saturday morning at the Montauk Library with rangers from the National Park Service to educate high school students on ways to lead successful and creative trail walks in both Spanish and English.

The students, who will be considered interns, were selected through a competitive application process open only to sophomores and juniors at the school, according to a February statement issued by CCOM announcing the program. The applications were due on February 13.

According to CCOM Outreach Coordinator Laurie Gordon, seven students were awarded the opportunity to take part in the program. Those students are sophomores Edisson Cabrera, Miles Todaro, Sarah-Jane Lynn, Shana Devlin, Carolina Brito Reyna, Serrana Mattiauda and junior Melissa Pena, she said in an email.

As part of the program, the students will learn how to research and write trail informational brochures and lead a series of walks in Montauk conducted in both English and Spanish, according to the statement.
Jeremy Samuelson, an environmental advocate for the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, said in a February interview announcing the initiative that the group’s goal is to make environmental programming available to all members of the community. With a Latino population that ranges somewhere between 20 and 25 percent, depending on what figures you look at, “environmental protection can’t 
afford to focus only on 75 percent of our community,” he said at the time.

“We have to find ways of inspiring the next generation to understand their role in environmental protection and then take that message home,” Mr. Samuelson said. “And that applies for all of us. Whether you speak English, Spanish or French—or any other language, the 
kids in school have to be inspired and then take the message home.”

The students will be paid a $500 stipend, Mr. Samuelson said. The funding is being provided as a donation from the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, he said. The students will host a minimum of five walks during the spring and summer seasons.

Last Saturday, the students began their education at Camp Hero State Park in Montauk. Clad in colorful coats, the students listened to presentations from Mr. Samuelson, Frank Quevedo, the executive director of the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center and National Park Service rangers while standing near the cliffs overlooking the ocean.

Before heading out to Camp Hero, the students were encouraged by National Park Service rangers in a training session to use their creativity and “sparkling talent” in hosting the trail walks.

“Expect to grow this summer,” said Sheridan Roberts, a National Park Service ranger. “That’s going to be the fun part.”

As for the students, many said they applied to the program because of a desire to keep the love of nature alive among their peers. Sarah-Jane, 15, said she grew up in Les Rouges-Eaux in France, where she fell in love with the area’s natural beauty. “It was always nice because every landmark we visited, there was a story my grandmother told,” she said. “I just wanted to experience and feel the same thing here in Montauk.”

Other students echoed Sarah-Jane’s sentiments about nature. Melissa, 16, who was born in and raised in Montauk, said she wanted to learn more about her hometown’s natural surroundings. She said she wanted to “experience more than just the beaches and what everyone else sees.”

The students also spoke to a declining interest in natural resources among their generation, who would rather watch television or play video games. “A lot of people just don’t care about the environment and nature,” said Miles, a 15-year-old student. He said his love for nature grew through various family vacations to national parks across the country.

Shana, 16, said she grew up walking the trails in Montauk. She also said she loves the area’s natural beauty—something she doesn’t think that her generation takes advantage of. “I think it’s important that there’s a next generation of land conservatives,” she said.

It’s an adult’s obligation to foster a love for nature among the youth, and that’s what the program aims to do, said Mr. Samuelson.

Spring has Sprung on Point Woods Trail

This week, we welcome guest blogger Jim Zajac, President of the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society, who is one of the mentors guiding our seven student interns from East Hampton High School as they learn about Montauk’s natural environment. Jim is a wealth of knowledge and we encourage you to get to know and join him on EHTPS’ regularly scheduled guided walks.

I recently hiked part of the Point Woods section of the Paumanok Path through Camp Hero and thought I’d share with you some of what I saw.

Three native plants — 2 evergreen and 1 deciduous — really stand out in mid-April. The two evergreens — American Holly and Mountain Laurel — both large shrubs or small trees, compete for space along much of the trail. Together they create a beautiful, low canopy just overhead, well below the larger deciduous trees that dominate the forest.

Leaves of the two evergreen trees are similar in size and both are glossy, but there the likenesses end. The leaves of the holly are scalloped, with sharp points, whereas Mountain Laurel leaves are oblong and smooth. Trunks of holly trees grow fairly straight and are colored off-white with tan accents; Mountain Laurel trunks twist and turn, their color is a beautiful cinnamon.

Mountain Laurel comes into flower in our area in early June, with subtle blossoms of small white flowers tinged with pink. American Holly is a dioecious, or sexed plant — trees are either male or female — and the female trees produce a small red berry. Both plants have been coveted and cultivated by gardeners for a long time; the native plants, as well as variants, can be found in our local plant nurseries and gardens.

The third plant now vividly on display is Skunk Cabbage. It can be found abundantly in more low-lying, wet areas; it looks like a cabbage or lettuce. If you break off a leaf, crush and smell it, then you’ll understand the rest of the name: I wouldn’t say it smells like a skunk, but the odor isn’t pleasant. To me, it smells like a new bicycle tire, and not in a good way.

About 15 minutes from where I parked, I encountered a large spill of what look to be erratic boulders, or glacial erratics — perhaps the largest collection in town? From the internet you can glean plenty of information about these geological oddities.

Jim Zajac
President, East Hampton Trails Preservation Society

Catch a Buzz: Beekeeping in Montauk

I am coming up on my first anniversary of beekeeping in Montauk. I started by taking a weekly, 8-month course at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead. (This same course is now being offered at South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton.) Through the class, I purchased 2 hive set-ups and 2 young colonies of bees. By the end of this first calendar year, my 2 hives have grown to 3.

Besides the obvious benefit of beekeeping — namely my own organic, local honey — there has been a more subtle upside: Keeping bees has given me a new lens through which to observe and appreciate the natural world. Never have I taken such a personal interest in the weather, for instance. Now, I watch precipitation and temperature patterns like a hawk: Too little rain means that nectar dries up, bees can’t feed and colonies can die if their diet isn’t supplemented; too much rain and the bees can’t leave the hive to forage, which leads to other potential complications.

One of the side effects of beekeeping is my new obsession with flowering plants. I’ve always loved flowers, but now I find myself planting ‘gifts’ for the bees all over my property. This winter, suspecting that the warm winter would mean that the bees would be flying earlier in the year than usual, I planted an Arnold’s Promise witch hazel at the back of the bee yard. It’s one of the earliest of our flowering shrubs and I was thrilled when its yellow frilly tassels started to unfurl in February. The bonus is its elegant, sweet fragrance.

And it’s not just the choice nursery plants that get my attention. I’m giving “weeds” a second look. When sunny dandelion faces start punctuating neighborhood lawns, I know that the abundant foraging opportunity they offer will soon spur the queen bees into an egg-laying frenzy. This, in turn, will build up the number of workers and ready the colony to take advantage of the nectar flow that will follow and, with luck, another bumper crop of honey for the bees and me to enjoy!

If you are interested in beekeeping, you can follow my first year’s experiences through my blog, MTK Buzz.

Jessica James
CCOM Board Member

The Tail Cost of Environmental Sloppiness

It appears that the “tail cost” – the true total cost of human activity — is a bill needing to be paid, even in space!

As reported in the New York Times this week, a new study warns that extraterrestrial clutter has reached a point where, if nothing is done to clean it up, a cascade of collisions will eventually make low-Earth orbit unusable. This will make the risks and expense of communication technology the world depends on much, much higher. All because people aren’t managing the junk they’ve produced. They’d rather lower their own expenses and just kick that can down the road for others to pay.

Sounds familiar?

Here’s more food for thought: Another recent study calculates that the pump price of gasoline does not reflect its true cost. When you factor in national taxes, national debt, environmental damage to industries like fishing and tourism (BP oil spill, Exxon Valdez), damage that precipitates other emergencies

(global climate change, health problems, etc.), military and veteran spending related to securing oil, the cost is much higher. As referenced by former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, the true cost at the pump is more accurately $13 per gallon!

Right here in Montauk and East Hampton there is pressure to loosen things up to allow more stress to be placed on an already degrading environment. The claim is that it is simply too costly for a few people and businesses to responsibly manage the by-products of their enterprises — light, solid and septic waste, and noise.

Rest assured, the “tail cost” for environmental sloppiness won’t just disappear. It will be presented to us — citizens and taxpayers — to be paid in full . . . with interest!

Bob Stern
President, CCOM

The Surf Lodge Shuffle

Thank goodness concerned citizens are showing up in court when the Surf Lodge case is on the docket, demonstrating their interest in its outcome. Three-plus years in and the bar/restaurant has yet to pay fines for the 686 charges filed against it. Violations include conducting work without a building permit, no certificate of occupancy, no site plan approval, illegal clearing of wetlands, and overcrowding. This case just keeps dragging on with another adjournment granted Monday. Next court date? March, if you can believe it.

Here’s what’s particularly disappointing: The Surf Lodge could have stopped amassing violations years ago. (For that matter, East Hampton Town could have put a stop to the violations back then as well.)

CCOM has been long monitoring this problem. In fact, we’ve been on these types of issues since we formed in 1970 to prevent 1,400 tract homes (and 1,400 septic tanks) from being developed in the irreplaceable aquifer that is now preserved as Theodore Roosevelt County Park.

Despite mischaracterizations by some, CCOM is PRO business and PRO property improvement. Here’s our directive: Whatever is done must not hurt Montauk’s preserved parkland, damage its wetlands, or pollute its water. That’s it.

In short: Good citizens don’t cram in more than the environment can safely handle and they don’t dump junk coming from their properties onto their neighbors’. That’s just basic decency, right? Are you listening Surf Lodge?

Bob Stern
President, CCOM

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