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New York Lawmakers Examine Possible Uses for Plum Island

Sep 29, 2015

Environmentalists and elected officials appear united in their desire to keep commercial development off New York's Plum Island.

A state Assembly subcommittee met Monday to discuss options for the 843-acre property. Environmentalists and others want Plum Island to become a nature preserve or park.

According to the East End Beacon, New York State Sen. Ken LaValle assured the subcommittee that Gov. Andrew Cuomo would like to see Plum Island preserved.

Scott Russell, Southold's town supervisor, toured the island last week. Two years ago, he helped Southold zone Plum Island to be used as a nature preserve, a research facility on the footprint of the existing lab, and for alternative energy, the only potential uses of the island.

During the subcommittee meeting, Russell expressed concern with implementing other ideas that he would like to keep off the table. From the East End Beacon:

“It’s a de facto preserve now. We’d like to see it remain that way,” Russell said. “Harebrained ideas like the golf courses that you’ve been reading about certainly aren’t permitted.”

Mr. Russell added that a research facility on the island could preserve many of the 200 jobs for Southold residents who currently work on Plum Island.

The future of the island off the eastern tip of Long Island has been the topic of a long-simmering debate. Congress voted in 2009 to close a laboratory there that studied infectious animal diseases.

Congress envisioned selling Plum Island to defray the costs of a laboratory now being built in Kansas. But the sale is not expected until at least 2020, and no one is sure how much Plum Island could fetch.

Presidential candidate and real estate mogul Donald Trump has mused about possibly buying it, although local zoning laws would restrict most development.

Leyda Quast is an intern at WNPR. This report includes information from The Associated Press.